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Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions of the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, vol. 3 (Virginia) [1827]

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The debates in the several state conventions on the adoption of the federal Constitution, as recommended by the general convention at Philadelphia, in 1787. Together with the Journal of the federal convention, Luther Martin’s letter, Yates’s minutes, Congressional opinions, Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of ‘98-‘99, and other illustrations of the Constitution … 2d ed., with considerable additions. Collected and rev. from contemporary publications, by Jonathan Elliot. Pub. under the sanction of Congress. (1836), 5 vols.

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About this Title:

Vol. 3 of an influential early 19th century edition of key documents about the ratification of the US Constitution by the states.

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The text is in the public domain.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [a]
Edition: current; Page: [b] Edition: current; Page: [i]
New York, N. Y.
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

Published by LENOX HILL Pub. & Dist. Co. (Burt Franklin)

235 East 44th St., New York, N Y. 10017

Reprinted: 1974

Printed in the U.S.A.

Burt Franklin: Research and Source Works Series 109

(American Classics in History and Social Sciences 13)

Library of Congress Cataloged the Former Reprint of this Title as Follows:

Elliot, Jonathan, 1784-1846, ed.

The debates in the several state conventions on the adoption of the federal Constitution, as recommended by the general convention at Philadelphia, in 1787. Together with the Journal of the federal convention, Luther Martin’s letter, Yates’s minutes, Congressional opinions, Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of ‘98-‘99, and other illustrations of the Constitution . . . 2d ed., with considerable additions. Collected and rev. from contemporary publications, by Jonathan Elliot. Pub. under the sanction of Congress. (1968? )

Vol. 5 has title. Debates on the adoption of the Federal Constitution in the convention held at Philadelphia in 1787, with a diary of the debates of the Congress of the Confederation as reported by James Madison. Rev. and newly arranged by Jonathan Elliot. Supplementary to Elliot’s Debates.

1. U.S. Constitution. I. U.S. Constitutional Convention, 1787. II. Madison, James, Pres. U.S., 1751-1836. III. Title.

JK141 1968 342.73’02 75-6334

Edition: current; Page: [iii]


  • Convention of VIRGINIA, . . . . . . . . . Pages. 1 to 663
    • Resolutions; proposed Ratification, . . . . . . . 653
    • The Question; Ayes and Noes, . . . . . 653, 54, 55
    • Ratification; Form, . . . . . . . . . . . . 656
    • Bill of Rights, . . . . . . . . . . . 657, 58, 59
    • Amendments proposed, . . . . . . . . 659, 60, 61
    • The Question; Ayes and Noes, . . . . . 662
Edition: current; Page: [iv] Edition: current; Page: [v]



JOHN BECKLEY appointed Secretary, 1
Mr. CORBIN — Introductory Expression, “We, the People,” 104. West India Trade; Debts; Requisitions, 105. Reference to History, 106. Confederate Government best for an extensive Country, 108. Representation, 110
Power over the Militia by the States, 417
Treaty-making not exceptionable in the Constitution, 509. Legislative Interference secured, 511
Mr. CLAY — Insurrection; Opposition to the Laws, 407
Mr. DAWSON — Defects of the Confederation; fears a Consolidated Government; most exceptionable; leading Parts, 605. Treaties; their Operation may hurt the Southern States; the Press; War; antique Governments not suited to the present Day, 610
Mr. GRAYSON — Judiciary not improved, 274. Dutch Loans; Spain friendly, 275. Barbary Powers; Portugal; Western Lands; Commutation, 276. Regulation of Commerce, &c., 278
State Influence; Imperfections of the Constitution, 279. Opposes the Ratio of Representation; 1500 Legislators annually throughout the Union, exclusive of 160 Senators, 280. Carrying and producing States; Ireland; Corruption of the Scotch Members, 282
Coördinate Authorities a political Absurdity, 284. Taxes should be uniform, 285. Requisitions; Loans, 286. Necessity of a full Representation in Congress; America not in a Situation to have a Fleet, from its limited Population, 287. Parties in Holland, 290. Paper Emissions; Danger of mercantile Privileges within the Ten Miles Square, 284. Mississippi; new States, &c., 290
Spanish Claims on Georgia and Kentucky, 341. Spanish Negotiation, 342. Fisheries and Mississippi, 343. Orleans a Deposit; Treaties paramount, 349. Maine Lands reduced to one Dollar an Acre, to prevent Emigration to the West, 350
Importance of the Mississippi Question, 365
British Parliament receive no Pay; most of the great Officers have been taken out of Congress, 371
Thirst for public Office, 374. Objects that the Senate propose or concur on Money Bills, 375
State Governments at the Mercy of the Generality; Militia, 417
Navy, its Maintenance at present dangerous; European maritime Powers; Cost of a Navy in America and Europe compared, 428
Northern States most interested in a Fleet; Privateers issue chiefly thence, 430
Anticipated Privileges of the Ten Miles Square, 430
The Capital, Fear of Aggrandizement there; Delivery of Fugitives, 433
“Ten Miles” not subject to the States, 435
Reserved Rights; Restrictions, 449
Presidency, a Minority may elect, 492
Mississippi Navigation, 501. Mississippi, giving up the Navigation, 505
Judicial Powers may interfere with the same Power in the States, Judges, &c., 563
Effect of Decisions on a foreign State, 566
Control over the Venue, 568
Explanation on Treaties, 613. Late Convention to amend, not alter; Resources of Virginia rich and flourishing; Ten Miles Square may be near Alexandria, &c., 614
Mr. HARRISON — recapitulates the Disproportion of the States on the Adoption of the Constitution; Amendments, 627
Report on Elections, 5, 35
Mr. PATRICK HENRY — moved the Reading of the Confederation, 6
Public Mind uneasy at the proposed Change, 21. The Constitution a consolidated Government; denies the Right of the Convention to say “We, the People,” instead of “We, the States.” Object of the Convention extended only to amend the old System, 23
Phraseology, “We, the People,” objectionable, 44. Liberty; Suspicion a Virtue; the Confederation, 45. Representation, 46. Amendments, 49. Militia, 52. Estimation abroad; Virginia Bill of Rights, 56. Taxgatherers, 57. Power of the President, 58. Elections, &c., 60. Opposition to the Constitution, 63
Amendments on Governor Randolph’s Letter, 138. Josiah Phillips’s Barbarities, 140. Spanish Transactions, 141. Refers to Europe, 143. Federal Convention confined to Revision only, 144. Glance at the Constitution, 145. Style of “We, the People,” to oblige those likened to a “Herd,” Governor Randolph’s Expression, 148. Implication, 149
Navigation of the Mississippi, 151. American Ambassador; France, 152. Holland; Maryland; Pennsylvania, 153. Ratifying and non-ratifying States, 157. Dictator, 160. North Carolina and Virginia, 161. Enthusiasm for Liberty in Virginia, 162. Checks, 165. Representation; Sheriffs, 167. Government, national — federal; State Legislatures shorn of their Consequence, 171. Albany Confederation; French Treaty, 172. Adopt first, and then amend, 174. Elections, 175
Dangers of the System real, 313. Refers to Jefferson’s Opinions; Virginia’s Rejection may procure Amendments, 314. Political Secrecy, &c. 316
No Declaration of Rights till the War of Charles I.; before that Time undefined; American Bill of Rights, 317. Requisitions, 320. Taxation; Elections, 321. Compared with England; Federal and State Officers, 322. State Representation virtual, not actual, 323. Judiciary, 324. Mississippi, determined to give it up, 325. Objects of Taxation create Confusion, 326
Mississippi and the Fisheries, 352. For retaining the Navigation, 354. Congressional Pay, without Limitation, 366. No Restraint on Corruption, 368
“Concurrent Power” relative to the Militia, an implied Power, 386
Eulogium on the British Government, 387
A National, not a Federal, Government, 395. Reversion of Power back to the People; a Republican Government, 396. Depreciated Currency; Responsibility, 397. Power of raising Armies alarming, 410
Europe enslaved by the Hands of its own People; Militia Officers; Riots, 411. Excisemen may call on the Militia, 412
States no Power over the Militia; Implication, 422
Danger of Abuse in the Legislation of the “Ten Miles Square;” admonishes that “when you give Power, you know not what you give,” 436. May bid Defiance to local Authority, &c., 437
Bill of Rights more necessary in this Government than in any other, 445. Common Law of England; Punishments, &c., 446
The Press, 449
Restrictive Clauses; Want of a Bill of Rights, 461
State Restrictions to be feared, 471
Paper Money; British Debts, 473
Quorum in Senate, 500
Treaty-making Power dangerous and destructive, 502
Treaties, — their Omnipotence, 503
Judiciary; State Judges; Appellate Jurisdiction; “Fact and Law;” Interpretation, 539. Precise Terms of the Constitution; Trial by Jury better struck out; Judges should be acquainted with all the Laws of the States, 542. Cognizance of Controversies, 543. Powers of Congress, 545
Juries may be summoned from distant Parts of the State, 578
Indians, — robbed of their Lands, 579
Ratification; dissents from; states the Omissions; implied Powers; 236,000 Blacks; may not Congress demand their Services? Slavery detested; Manumission; Abolition; Congress have the Power, — and may exercise it; Prudence forbids Abolition; Slave Property in Jeopardy; Manumission incompatible; a local Matter; no Propriety in submitting it to Congress, 587. Insists on subsequent Amendments, 591. Its Imperfections, 593. Defects of the Constitution, 622
Right to adopt Amendments, 649
End of Government, Liberty, &c., 651
Mr. INNES — Objections fully answered; Amendments; sectional Jealousy, 631. Union; foreign Dangers, 634. New Englanders, 635. No Good from another Convention, 636. Previous Amendments equal to Rejection, 637
Mr. ZACHARIAH JOHNSON — approves the Principle of Representation; Militia; Responsibility; Amendments, 644
Mr. H. LEE — thought the Convention ought to adiourn on 22d, as the Legislature meet on the 23d, June, 4
Persons bound to Labor could not take Refuge in the “Ten Miles,” being contrary to the Constitution, 435
Mr. LEE, of Westmoreland —
Phraseology of the Preamble, “We, the People,” 42. Representation, 43
Worth of the Militia, 177. Tender Laws, 179. Shays’s Rebellion, 180. Taxation, 181. Mississippi Transactions, 182. Pennsylvania efficient during the War, 183. Freeholds; Descents, 185. State Governments; Congress the Servants of the People, 186. Ratification, 187
Confidence alone can procure Election; Slavery, 272
Congress never intended to give up the Navigation of the Mississippi; positive Directions in the Treaty with Gardoqui not to assent to it, 333
Government, general; national Powers; Militia; Abuse of Power, 405
Mr. MADISON, (a Member of the Federal Convention) — Taxation; Representation; Consolidation; Watchfulness of the States salutary, 34
Replies to Mr. Henry, Rhode Island, 87. Exclusive Legislation, 89. Army, 91. Religion free, 93. Amendments; Taxation; Senators; Representatives, 96
Taxes, 128. Amphictyonic League resembled our Confederation, 129. Achæan; Germanic; Swiss; Holland; without Energy, Anarchy ensues, 130. Weakness; Merit of the War not attributable to the Confederation, 133. Notoriously feeble, 135
Necessity of a Change; Taxation, — is it necessary? 247. How far practicable? 253. How far it may be safe, as well with the public Liberty at large, as to the State Legislatures, 256
With Respect to Economy, 258. Powers of the General Government, in Contradistinction to that of the States, 259. Requisitions not economical, 260
Concurrent Collection of Taxes, 306. Uniformity of Taxes, 308. A Navy; a Security against Insults; Prospects of Population in twenty-five Years; Holland not a Republic, 309. Mississippi, its Navigation should be preserved; new Government secures our Rights, 311. Carrying and non-importing States, 312
Requisitions; Taxes, 328. Wishes Henry’s Words suppressed relative to Jefferson’s Opinion; that he knows he is captivated with the Equality of Suffrage in the Senate, which Henry calls the rotten Part of the Constitution; Religion, — not a shadow of Right to meddle with it; contradictory Arguments; Mississippi Navigation can only be had by an efficient Government, 329
Disclosure of the Mississippi Matters, 344. Confirms the Project to surrender the Navigation for twenty-five Years; New Jersey instructed her Delegates to oppose it, 346. Each State an equal Weight in Treaties, 347.
A weak System produced the Project to gave up the Mississippi, which will never be again revived in Congress, 348
Election of Senators and Representatives, 366
Congressional Compensation, how determined, and why left open to be fixed by Law, 369 to 372
Reasons why Members of Congress should accept Appointments, 372
Money Bills; Senate; Convention decides on confining their Origin to the House, 376
Militia to be employed rather than a standing Army, 378
Power to arm the Militia, &c., is concurrent between the General Government and the States, 381
Posse insufficient; then the Militia to be called, 384
Meaning of “Purse and Sword,” 393. Anxiety for a well-regulated republican Government, &c., 394
Situation of the Country, 399. Responsibility; Political Experiment must be made, 399
Elections; Objections explained; the President may adjourn the Senate, if they attempt to prevent an Adjournment of the House, 407
General Government should command the national Forces, 413
Militia Abuses; may quell Smugglers, 413
British Militia quell Riots; Virginia Militia, 414
Replies to Henry on the Militia Power, 424
Ten Miles Square; without exclusive Legislation there, Congress could not be secure from Insults, 432
Legislature not safe, when subject to the paramount Authority of a Part of the Community, 438
Slaves; Condition of the South to enter the Union; temporary Permission to carry on the Slave Trade; Congress cannot tax Slaves amounting to Manumission; Slave Property secured; Reclamation of Slaves; General Government has no Power to interpose in Slave Property, 453
Southern States satisfied with the Slave Compromise, 458
Publication of Receipts and Expenditures, 460
Validity of Claims, — nor Paper Money not affected, 471 to 473
Judiciary, 522
Value of the Continental Debt; Claims neither increased nor diminished, 480
Importing and exporting States, 483
Propriety in choosing the President from the People at large; Provision in Case of his Death, 487
Presidential Election, Difficulty of, in the Federal Convention, in pointing out the Mode; Objections, 494
Pardoning Power, 498
Treaties; paramount Law; cannot dismember the Union by them, 500
To regulate Commerce; external; Responsibility compared with that of the British Government, 514
Judiciary, Objections to, refuted, 530
Executive, peculiar Difficulty in prescribing its Duties, &c., 531
Treaties; Judiciary to expound them, 532
Supreme Court; general View; Jurisdiction, 532. Cognizance; Disputes between a foreign State and one of our States; Organization; Appellate Jurisdiction, &c., 533
Judiciary; Compensation; Trial by Jury, 537. Vexatious Appeals may be remedied by Congress; Confidence better than Money, 538
Flattering Prospects of free America; Gratification not to be looked for in all the States; awful Importance of Decision, 616. Difficulties in preparing the Constitution; Ratification of eight States a Failure, 618. New York Opposition; more than those Rights enumerated by Wythe, 619. Amendments, 620. Emancipation of Slaves; Constitution does not contemplate to strip their Owners of their Property; Claims of Maryland for Western Lands, 622
Amendments, previous and subsequent, 629
JOHN MARSHALL — Democracy, well regulated, idolized; Reply to Mr. Henry; Taxation, 222. Reference to Governor Randolph’s Remarks, 226. Government should have that Power in Peace necessary in War, 227. Confederation; Objects of Taxation, 229. People’s Affections the best Support of Government, 231. Advocates Adoption; equal Taxes, [Editor: illegible number]
Militia; State Governments do not derive their Powers from the General Government, but from the People; Powers not given not retained by Implication; Powers exclusive in the Ten Miles Square; States same Power over the Militia as under the Confederation; the System excellent, 419
Judicial System, its Benefits, 551. Erroneous Principle on which Objections are founded, 552. Examination of them; Cognizance; State Courts; Protection from Infringements on the Constitution, 553. Appeals; Disputes between States and Citizens, 555. Contracts, 556. Trial by Jury, 557. Challenging Jurors; Lord Fairfax’s Title, 558. Bill of Rights merely recommendatory, &c., 561
Mr. MASON — Full Investigation necessary, and not to be bound by general Rules; to be discussed Clause by Clause, 3
Mr. GEORGE MASON — Taxation; Representation, 29. For Amendments, 33
Composition of Parliament compared with Congress, 262. Taxes, 263. R. Morris’s Tax Proposition, 264. Constitution paramount; Aristocracy; Representation, 266. Reference to Europe; Maryland and the Potomac; back Lands, 270. Joins the warmest Friends of the Constitution, 271
Militia; for State Legislatures to limit their Services, &c., 378
Militia Punishments; Impeachment; Bribery; Treaty-making, 402
Election Districts, 403
Keeping the Journal; Publication, &c.; long Sessions; Danger of the Senate stopping the other House from adjourning, 404
State Governments should have the Control of the Militia, 415
Militia Classes; may grant Exclusion to the Rich, 425
Legislation in the “Ten Miles;” no Need of Implication; may be an Asylum for Felons and other Offenders, 431
“General Welfare” Powers not expressly granted are retained; Congress may abuse it, 441
Prohibitions of Slave Importations, (Article 7, Section 9;) Slave Population weakens the States; Slave Property not secured, 452
Taxes; Power of Congress over them; Runaways not protected in other States, 457
Paper Speculations; Depreciation, &c., 472
Ex post facto Laws, 479
Revenue; Tobacco Inspection, 481
President’s Election without Rotation, 483. Returns to the People from whence he was taken; Senate, its Defect that Senators are not ineligible, 484
Presidency; Mode of Election objectionable, 493
Army; pardoning Power, &c., 496
Treaty-making Power not sufficiently guarded, 507
Judiciary; State Courts, &c., 521
Jurisdiction; Operation of judicial Power; Federal Courts, &c., 523
Constitution; Arguments offered do not apply, 583
AMES MONROE — Fate of ancient Nations, 207. Review of ancient Leagues, Germany, Swiss, Netherlands, 209. Western Posts, 212. Confederation; Comparative Power in the Federal Constitution, 213. Division of Power, 218. Presidential Responsibility, 220. Its Connection with the Senate; Government in the Hands of States, and therefore dangerous, 221
Deplorable State of the Country at the Time of the Mississippi Negotiation, 334. Interest of the Western States to oppose the Constitution, 340
Project of the Spanish Treaty, 344. President ought to be responsible to the States; his Election; may continue for Life, 488. Vice-President unnecessary Office, 489
Conditional Ratification not dangerous to the Union, 630. Federal Convention met under a loose commission, 631
Mr. GEORGE NICHOLAS — Out-Door Interest opposing the Constitution; Reference to Mr. Henry’s Remarks; Western Posts; Treaty; Mississippi, 237. Western Lands and Emigration; Kentucky an independent State, 240. Scotch Union produced Peace, 242. Taxes, 244. Federal Constitution contains a British Bill of Rights, 246
“General Welfare” limited; no new Grant of Power; Extent, &c., 442
Bill of Rights; its Omission no Defect, 449
Obligation of Contracts; Claims under the Confederation, 476
Continental Money; Contracts: public Debts, 478
Tobacco; Taxes, 482
Treaties, Parallel between American and British, 506
British, more independent than federal, &c., 580
Mr. WILSON NICHOLAS — Qualifications of Electors; their Number; Continuance in Office; Powers; Responsibility, 7 to 20
Confederation defective; Collectors; Taxes, 98. Defence of the Constitution, 102
Rights of the Mississippi better secured under the Constitution than the Confederation, 356. Formation of Treaties, 357. New Jersey Instructions to vote against ceding the Mississippi; Dread of Recall might impair Senators’ Usefulness; Kentucky Interests rely on the new Constitution, 360
Inadequacy of the Militia System, 388. Defence of the Caprice of the State Governments; Martial Law, &c., 389
Militia may quell Slave Insurrections; Fourth Article introduced wholly for the Benefit of the States, 427
Seat of Government still subject to State Regulations, 434
Restriction on Slave Importation, and Compromise with the South; local Slave Tax, 456
Mr. PENDLETON — objects to the Reading of the Papers of the Confederation, 6
Situation before the Convention; no Cause of Alarm; “We, the People,” 35. Imbecility of the Confederation, 37. Necessity of the Constitution, 39. Taxes, 40. Relative political Weight of Virginia and Delaware, 41
Nature of a free Government, 293. The “Well-born:” regular Government essential to Liberty, 295. Education from the “public Purse” not strictly just; Suffrage in Europe, 296
People the Fountain of Power, 297. Difference between State and Federal Constitution, 299. Replies to Mr. Monroe, 300. Kentucky; Mississippi, 301. Amendments, 303. Cites Jefferson’s Authority for previous Amendments, 304
Ten Miles Square; Power of Congress in Legislation and local Police, 439. Militia, 440
Judiciary; Supreme and inferior Courts; Independence of Judges; as to Tenure and Salary Subjects; Classification, 517
Appeals; Criminal Cases; Jury Trials, 546. Jurisdiction, &c., 549
Gov. RANDOLPH, (a Member of the Federal Convention) — discloses his Motives why he refused to sign the Constitution, 23. For previous and not subsequent Amendments; Inefficacy of the Confederation discovered when Danger was over, 25. State in the Convention at Annapolis; its Doings, 26. Rhode Island; replies to the Inquiries relative to “We, the People,” 28
Picture of the Country, 65. Case of Josiah Phillips, 66. Adopting States, 67. Union necessary to Virginia; British Debts, 72. Mississippi; Bordering States; Paper Money; public Credit, 74. Want of a Navy, 77. Local Confederacy; Object of a Confederacy, 79. State of the Country, &c., 82
Powers necessary to be given to the General Government, 114
Requisitions. Loans, Taxes, &c., 118
Energetic Government necessary; Historical Reference corrected, 189 Bill of Rights in England; Six or seven States here have none, 191. Negroes numerous, 192. Ports, Potomac and Maryland; Josiah Phillips, 193
Previous or subsequent Amendments; presidential Responsibility, 194. Vermont, Admission into the Union, 195. Scotland benefited by Union; Spanish Apprehensions about Mexico and Peru; Separate Confederacy fatal, 197. Tribute to Jefferson, 199. Concurrence of the Senate, &c., 201. Religion, 204. Judiciary; Taxes; Militia; “Sweeping Clause,” 205
French Ambassador, in 1781, declared America had no Right to the Mississippi, but the United States will never relinquish it, 361
Militia to be governed by Congress only when in the Service of the United States, 400
Impeachment; Responsibility; standing Army, 400
Sweeping Clause; incidental Powers; Difference between the State and Federal Constitution; negative Restrictions, 463. Bill of Rights, 466. Excessive Bail, Fines, &c., 467. Jury Trial; Press; Religion; Common Law, 469
President, his Reëlection proper, 485. Restrained from receiving foreign Emolument, 486. Treaties; State Rights, or Property not affected by them, 504. Federal Judiciary, its Merits, 570. Fairfax’s Case of Quitrents, 574. Secession may create Anarchy, &c., 597. Replies to the Idea of Abolition of Slavery, &c., 598. Takes a general Glance at the Constitution, and the proposed Amendments, 600. Motives for refusing to subscribe to the Constitution again repeated, 652
Mr. STEPHEN — for a judicious Mixture of the three different Kinds of Government; Apostrophe to the Genius of America, &c., 643
Mr. TYLER — opposed to the Slave Traffic and exclusive Legislation in the “Ten Miles,” 454
Principles on which he disapproves, 637
Defects dangerous to Liberty, 641
Mr. WYTHE — Previous Amendments; for subsequent; proposed Ratification, 587
RESOLUTIONS submitted after the Committee had gone through the Constitution; Ayes, 80; Noes, 88, 652
Yeas and Nays on the main Question; — Ayes, 89; Noes, 79, 653
Ratification, Form agreed to, 656
Reported Amendments for the Consideration of Congress, 657
AMENDMENTS proposed to the Constitution, 659 to 661
The QUESTION; — Ayes, 65; Noes, 85, 662
AMENDMENTS ordered to be engrossed, 663
RATIFICATION — a fair engrossed Copy of the Federal Constitution, with Amendments, to be made and printed, 663
ADJOURNMENT, sine die, 663
Edition: current; Page: [xii] Edition: current; Page: [1]


This being the day recommended by the legislature for the meeting of the Convention, to take into consideration the proposed plan of federal government, a majority of the gentlemen delegated thereto assembled at the public buildings in Richmond; whereupon they proceeded to the choice of a secretary, when John Beckley was appointed to that office.

The Hon. EDMUND PENDLETON was nominated, and unanimously elected president; who, being seated in the chair, thanked the Convention for the honor conferred on him, and strongly recommended to the members to use the utmost moderation and temper in their deliberations on the great and important subject now before them.

On the recommendation of Mr. Paul Carrington, the Rev. Abner Waugh was unanimously elected chaplain, to attend, every morning, to read prayers, immediately after the bell shall be rung for calling the Convention.

The Convention then appointed William Drinkard, Sen., and William Drinkard, Jun., door-keepers.

On motion, —

Ordered, That a committee of privileges and elections be appointed and a committee was appointed, of —

Mr. Benjamin Harrison, Mr. George Mason, Gov. Randolph, Mr. George Nicholas, Mr. John Marshal, Mr. Paul Carrington, Mr. Tyler, Mr. Alexander White, Mr. Blair, Mr. Bland, Mr. Grayson, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Matthews, Mr. John Jones, Mr. Wythe, Mr. William Cabell, Mr. James Taylor, [of Caroline,] Mr. Gabriel Jones, Mr. Corbin, Mr. Innis, Mr. Monroe, Mr. Henry Lee, Mr. Bullitt.

Edition: current; Page: [2]

Ordered, That the committee of privileges and elections do examine and report the returns for electing delegates to serve in this Convention; and that, in cases where no returns are made, it be an instruction to the said committee to receive such evidence as the sitting member shall produce of his election, and report the same to the Convention.

On motion, —

Ordered, That Mr. Edmund Pendleton, Jun. be appointed clerk to the committee of privileges and elections.

Mr. P. CARRINGTON presented a petition of Thomas Stith, of the county of Brunswick, complaining of the undue election and return of Binnas Jones, one of the delegates returned to serve in this Convention, for the said county of Brunswick; which was ordered to be referred to the committee of privileges and elections.

On motion of Mr. CORBIN, —

Ordered, That Mr. Augustine Davis be appointed printer to the Convention, and that he cause to be printed, forthwith, two hundred copies of the plan of federal government; also two hundred copies of the resolutions of the General Assembly, of the 25th of October last, to be distributed among the members of this Convention.

On motion of Mr. GEORGE MASON, —

Ordered, That the Convention be adjourned until to-morrow morning, eleven o’clock, then to meet at the New Academy, on Shockœ Hill, in this city.

The Convention met at the New Academy, on Shockœ Hill, pursuant to adjournment.

Mr. LEE presented a petition of Richard Morris, of the county of Louisa, complaining of an undue election and return of William White, as one of the delegates to serve in this Convention, for the said county of Louisa; which was ordered to be referred to the committee of privileges and elections.

On motion of Mr. HARRISON, —

Ordered, That Mr. William Pierce be appointed serjeant-at-arms to the Convention.

On motion of Mr. JOHN JONES, —

Ordered, That Daniel Hicks be appointed door-keeper to the Convention.

Mr. HARRISON moved that all the papers relative to the Constitution should be read.

Mr. TYLER observed, that, before any papers were read, certain rules and regulations should be established to govern the Convention in their deliberations: which being necessary Edition: current; Page: [3] on all occasions, are more particularly so on this great and important one.

Gov. RANDOLPH said, that he was fully convinced of the necessity of establishing rules; but as this was on a subject which might involve the Convention in a debate which would take up considerable time, he recommended that the rules of the House of Delegates, as far as they were applicable, should be observed.

Mr. TYLER replied, that he had considered what the honorable gentleman had said, and the objection to the mode recommended by him.

Upon which the Convention came to the following resolution: —

Resolved, That the rules and orders for conducting business in the House of Delegates, so far as the same may be applicable to the Convention, be observed therein.

On motion, —

The resolution of Congress of the 28th of September last, together with the report of the federal Convention lately held in Philadelphia; the resolutions of the General Assembly of the 25th of October last, and the act of the General Assembly entitled, “An act concerning the Convention to be held in June next,” were read; —

Whereupon Mr. MASON addressed the president as follows: Mr. President, I hope and trust, sir, that this Convention, appointed by the people, on this great and important occasion, for securing, as far as possible, to the latest generation, the happiness and liberty of the people, will freely and fully investigate this important subject. For this purpose I humbly conceive the fullest and clearest investigation indispensably necessary, and that we ought not to be bound by any general rules whatsoever. The curse denounced by the divine vengeance will be small, compared to what will justly fall upon us, if from any sinister views we obstruct the fullest inquiry. This subject, therefore, ought to obtain the freest discussion, clause by clause, before any general previous question be put; nor ought it to be precluded by any other question.

Mr. TYLER moved that the Convention should resolve itself into a committee of the whole Convention, to-morrow, to take into consideration the proposed plan of government, in order to have a fairer opportunity of examining its merits.

Mr. MASON, after recapitulating his former reasons for having urged a full discussion, clause by clause, concluded by agreeing, with Mr. Tyler, that a committee of the whole Convention was the most proper mode of proceeding.

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Mr. MADISON concurred with the honorable gentleman in going into a full and free investigation of the subject before them, and said he had no objection to the plan proposed.

Mr. MASON then moved the following resolution, which was agreed to by the Convention unanimously: —

Resolved, That no question, general or particular, shall be propounded in this Convention, upon the proposed Constitution of government for the United States, or upon any clause or article thereof, until the said Constitution shall have been discussed, clause by clause, through all its parts.

Mr. TYLER said, he should renew his motion for the Convention to resolve itself into a committee of the whole Convention, the next day, to take under consideration the proposed plan of government.

Mr. LEE strongly urged the necessity and propriety of immediately entering into the discussion.

Mr. MASON. Mr. President, no man in this Convention is more averse to take up the time of the Convention than I am; but I am equally against hurrying them precipitately into any measure. I humbly conceive, sir, that the members ought to have time to consider the subject. Precious as time is, we ought not to run into the discussion before we have the proper means.

Mr. HARRISON urged, as a reason for deferring the discussion till to-morrow, that many of the members had not yet arrived, and that it would be improper to enter into the business until they should arrive.

Mr. LEE answered the two objections against entering immediately into the business. He begged gentlemen to consider that they were limited in point of time; that, if they did not complete their business on the 22d day of the month, they should be compelled to adjourn, as the legislature was to meet the 23d. He also begged gentlemen to consider the consequences of such an adjournment; that the Constitution, he believed, was very fully understood by every gentleman present, having been the subject of public and private consideration of most persons on the continent, and of the peculiar meditation of those who were deputed to the Convention.

The Convention then came to the following resolution: —

Resolved, That this Convention will, to-morrow, resolve itself into a committee of the whole Convention, to take into consideration the proposed Constitution of government for the United States.

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And then the Convention adjourned until to-morrow, eleven o’clock.

Mr. HARRISON reported, from the committee of privileges and elections, that the committee had, according to order, examined the returns for electing delegates to serve in this Convention, and had come to a resolution thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the clerk’s table, where the same was again twice read, and agreed to by the house, as followeth: —

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, That the returns for electing delegates to serve in this Convention for the counties of Albemarle, Amelia, Amherst, Bedford, Botetourt, Brunswick, Buckingham, Caroline, Charlotte, Charles City, Chesterfield, Culpepper, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Elizabeth City, Fauquier, Fairfax, Fayette, Fluvanna, Frederick, Gloucester, Goochland, Greenbrier, Greenesville, Halifax, Hampshire, Hardy, Harrison, Hanover, Henrico, Henry, James City, Jefferson, Isle of Wight, King George, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Lincoln, Loudon, Louisa, Lunenberg, Madison, Mecklenburgh, Mercer, Middlesex, Monongalia, Montgomery, Nansemond, New Kent, Nelson, Norfolk, Northampton, Northumberland, Ohio, Orange, Pittsylvania, Princess Anne, Prince George, Prince William, Prince Edward, Powhatan, Randolph, Richmond, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russell, Shenandoah, Southampton, Spottsylvania, Stafford, Surry, Sussex, Warwick, Washington, York, and of a delegate for the borough of Norfolk and city of Williamsburg, are satisfactory.

Mr. HARRISON reported, from the committee of privileges and elections, —

That the committee had inquired into the elections of delegates for the counties of Accomack and Franklin, and had agreed to a report, and come to several resolutions thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the clerk’s table, where the same were again twice read, and agreed to by the house, as followeth: —

It appears to your committee, that no returns have been made of the election of delegates to serve in this Convention for the counties of Accomack and Franklin; that, as to the election of delegates for the said county of Accomack, it appears from the information of Nathaniel Darby and Littletou Eyre, Esquires, that they were at the election of delegates for the said county of Accomack, in March last, and that George Parker and Edmund Custis, Esquires, (the sitting members,) were proclaimed by the sheriff, at the close of the poll, as duly elected delegates to represent the said county in this Convention.

That, as to the election of delegates for the said county of Franklin, it appears to your committee, from the information of Robert Williams, Esquire, that he was at the election of delegates for the said county of Franklin, in March last, and that John Early and Thomas Arthurs, Esquires, (the sitting members,) were proclaimed by the sheriff, at the close of the poll, as duly elected delegates to represent the said county of Accomack in this Convention.

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Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that John Early and Thomas Arthurs, Esquires, were elected delegates to represent the said county of Franklin in this Convention.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that Edmund Custis and George Parker, Esquires, were elected delegates to represent the said county of Accomack in this Convention.

Ordered, That Mr. Madison and Mr. Lawson be added to the committee of privileges and elections.

Mr. ARCHIBALD STUART presented a petition of Samuel Anderson, of the county of Cumberland, setting forth, —

That Thomas H. Drew, Esquire, one of the delegates returned for the said county to serve in this Convention, was not, at the time of his election, a freeholder in this commonwealth; and praying that the election of the said Thomas H. Drew may be set aside, and another election directed to supply his place; which was read, and ordered to be referred to the committee of privileges and elections.

The Convention, according to the order of the day, resolved itself into a committee of the whole Convention, to take into consideration the proposed plan of government, Mr. Wythe in the chair.

Mr. HENRY moved, —

That the act of Assembly appointing deputies to meet at Annapolis to consult with those from some other states, on the situation of the commerce of the United States — the act of Assembly appointing deputies to meet at Philadelphia, to revise the Articles of Confederation — and other public papers relative thereto — should be read.

Mr. PENDLETON then spoke to the following effect: Mr. Chairman, we are not to consider whether the federal Convention exceeded their powers. It strikes my mind that this ought not to influence our deliberations. This Constitution was transmitted to Congress by that Convention; by the Congress transmitted to our legislature; by them recommended to the people; the people have sent us hither to determine whether this government be a proper one or not. I did not expect these papers would have been brought forth. Although those gentlemen were only directed to consider the defects of the old system, and not devise a new one, if they found it so thoroughly defective as not to admit a revising, and submitted a new system to our consideration, which the people have deputed us to investigate, I cannot find any degree of propriety in reading those papers.

Mr. HENRY then withdrew his motion.

The clerk proceeded to read the preamble, and the two first sections of the first article.

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We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States.

House of Representatives.

Art. 1. Sect. 1. — All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Sect. 2. — The House of Representatives shall 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 for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

No person shall be a representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three. When vacancies happen in the representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers, and shall have the sole power of impeachment.

Mr. NICHOLAS. Mr. Chairman, the time being now come when this state is to decide on this important question, of rejecting or receiving this plan of government, it gave me great pleasure, yesterday, when the Convention determined to proceed with the fullest deliberation on the subject; as every gentleman will, in the course of the discussion, have an opportunity to urge every objection that may arise in his mind against this system. I beg gentlemen to offer all their objections here, and that none may be insisted on elsewhere; and I hope nothing urged without these walls will influence the mind of any one. If this part of the plan now under consideration be materially defective, I will readily Edition: current; Page: [8] agree it ought to be wholly rejected, because representation is the corner-stone on which the whole depends; but if, on investigation, it should be found to be otherwise, the highest gratitude should be shown to those gentlemen who framed it: although some small defects may appear in it, yet its merits, I hope, will amply cover those defects.

I shall take it into consideration, 1st, as it affects the qualifications of the electors; 2dly, as it affects the qualifications of the elected; 3dly, as to their number; 4thly, the time of their continuance in office; 5thly, their powers; and 6thly, whether this power be sufficient to enable them to discharge their duty without diminishing the security of the people — or, in other words, their responsibility.

I will consider it first, then, as to the qualifications of the electors. The best writers on government agree that, in a republic, those laws which fix the right of suffrage are fundamental. If, therefore, by the proposed plan, it is left uncertain in whom the right of suffrage is to rest, or if it has placed that right in improper hands, I shall admit that it is a radical defect; but in this plan there is a fixed rule for determining the qualifications of electors, and that rule the most judicious that could possibly have been devised, because it refers to a criterion which cannot be changed. A qualification that gives a right to elect representatives for the state legislatures, gives also, by this Constitution, a right to choose representatives for the general government. As the qualifications of electors are different in the different states, no particular qualifications, uniform through the states, would have been politic, as it would have caused a great inequality in the electors, resulting from the situation and circumstances of the respective states. Uniformity of qualifications would greatly affect the yeomanry in the states, as it would either exclude from this inherent right some who are entitled to it by the laws of some states at present, or be extended so universally as to defeat the admirable end of the institution of representation.

Secondly, as it respects the qualifications of the elected. It has ever been considered a great security to liberty, that very few should be excluded from the right of being chosen to the legislature. This Constitution has amply attended to this idea. We find no qualifications required except those of age and residence, which create a certainty of their judgment being matured, and of being attached to their state. It has been objected, that they ought to be possessed of landed Edition: current; Page: [9] estates; but, sir, when we reflect that most of the electors are landed men, we must suppose they will fix on those who are in a similar situation with themselves. We find there is a decided majority attached to the landed interest; consequently, the landed interest must prevail in the choice. Should the state be divided into districts, in no one can the mercantile interest by any means have an equal weight in the elections; therefore, the former will be more fully represented in the Congress; and men of eminent abilities are not excluded for the want of landed property. There is another objection which has been echoed from one end of the continent to the other — that Congress may alter the time, place, and manner of holding elections; that they may direct the place of elections to be where it will be impossible for those who have a right to vote, to attend; for instance, that they may order the freeholders of Albemarle to vote in the county of Princess Anne, or vice versa; or regulate elections, otherwise, in such a manner as totally to defeat their purpose, and lay them entirely under the influence of Congress. I flatter myself, that, from an attentive consideration of this power, it will clearly appear that it was essentially necessary to give it to Congress, as, without it, there could have been no security for the general government against the state legislatures. What, Mr. Chairman, is the danger apprehended in this case? If I understand it right, it must be, that Congress might cause the elections to be held in the most inconvenient places, and at so inconvenient a time, and in such a manner, as to give them the most undue influence over the choice, nay, even to prevent the elections from being held at all, — in order to perpetuate themselves. But what would be the consequence of this measure? It would be this, sir, — that Congress would cease to exist; it would destroy the Congress itself; it would absolutely be an act of suicide; and therefore it can never be expected. This alteration, so much apprehended, must be made by law; that is, with the concurrence of both branches of the legislature. Will the House of Representatives, the members of which are chosen only for two years, and who depend on the people for their reëlection, agree to such an alteration? It is unreasonable to suppose it.

But let us admit, for a moment, that they will: what would be the consequence of passing such a law? It would be, sir, that, after the expiration of the two years, at the next Edition: current; Page: [10] election they would either choose such men as would alter the law, or they would resist the government. An enlightened people will never suffer what was established for their security to be perverted to an act of tyranny. It may be said, perhaps, that resistance would then become vain; Congress are vested with the power of raising an army; to which I say, that if ever Congress shall have an army sufficient for their purpose, and disposed to execute their unlawful commands, before they would act under this disguise, they would pull off the mask, and declare themselves absolute. I ask, Mr. Chairman, is it a novelty in our government? Has not our state legislature the power of fixing the time, places, and manner of holding elections? The possible abuse here complained of never can happen as long as the people of the United States are virtuous. As long as they continue to have sentiments of freedom and independence, should the Congress be wicked enough to harbor so absurd an idea as this objection supposes, the people will defeat their attempt by choosing other representatives, who will alter the law. If the state legislature, by accident, design, or any other cause, would not appoint a place for holding elections, then there might be no election till the time was past for which they were to have been chosen; and as this would eventually put an end to the Union, it ought to be guarded against; and it could only be guarded against by giving this discretionary power, to the Congress, of altering the time, place, and manner of holding the elections. It is absurd to think that Congress will exert this power, or change the time, place, and manner established by the states, if the states will regulate them properly, or so as not to defeat the purposes of the Union. It is urged that the state legislature ought to be fully and exclusively possessed of this power. Were this the case, it might certainly defeat the government. As the powers vested by this plan in Congress are taken from the state legislatures, they would be prompted to throw every obstacle in the way of the general government. It was then necessary that Congress should have this power.

Another strong argument for the necessity of this power is, that, if it was left solely to the states, there might have been as many times of choosing as there are states. States having solely the power of altering or establishing the time of election, it might happen that there should be no Congress. Not Edition: current; Page: [11] only by omitting to fix a time, but also by the elections in the states being at thirteen different times, such intervals might elapse between the first and last election, as to prevent there being a sufficient number to form a house; and this might happen at a time when the most urgent business rendered their session necessary; and by this power, this great part of the representation will be always kept full, which will be a security for a due attention to the interest of the community; and also the power of Congress to make the times of elections uniform in all the states, will destroy the continuance of any cabal, as the whole body of representatives will go out of office at once.

I come now, sir, to consider that part of the Constitution which fixes the number of representatives. It is first necessary for us to establish what the number of representatives is to be. At present it only consists of sixty-five; but let us consider that it is only to continue at that number till the actual enumeration shall be made, which is to be within three years after the first meeting of Congress; and that the number of representatives will be ascertained, and the proportion of taxes fixed, within every subsequent term of ten years. Till this enumeration be made, Congress will have no power to lay direct taxes: as there is no provision for this purpose, Congress cannot impose it; as direct taxation and representation are to be regulated by the enumeration there directed, therefore they have no power of laying direct taxes till the enumeration be actually made. I conceive no apportionment can be made before this enumeration, there being no certain data to go on. When the enumeration shall be made, what will be the consequence? I conceive there will be always one for every thirty thousand. Many reasons concur to lead me to this conclusion. By the Constitution, the allotment now made will only continue till the enumeration be made; and as a new enumeration will take place every ten years, I take it for granted that the number of representatives will be increased, according to the progressive increase of population, at every respective enumeration; and one for every thirty thousand will amount to one hundred representatives, if we compute the number of inhabitants to be only three millions in the United States, which is a very moderate calculation. The first intention was only to have one for every forty thousand, which was afterwards estimated to be too few, and, according to this proportion, the present temporary Edition: current; Page: [12] number is fixed; but as it now stands, we readily see that the proportion of representatives is sufficiently numerous to answer every purpose of federal legislation, and even soon to gratify those who wish for the greatest number. I take it that the number of representatives will be proportioned to the highest number we are entitled to; and that it never will be less than one for every thirty thousand. I formed this conclusion from the situation of those who will be our representatives. They are all chosen for two years; at the end of which term they are to depend on the people for their reëlection. This dependence will lead them to a due and faithful discharge of their duty to their constituents: the augmentation of their number will conciliate the affections of the people at large; for the more the representatives increase in number, the greater the influence of the people in the government, and the greater the chance of reëlection to the representatives.

But it has been said, that the Senate will not agree to any augmentation of the number of representatives. The Constitution will entitle the House of Representatives to demand it. Would the Senate venture to stand out against them? I think they would not, sir. Were they ready to recede from the evident sense of the Constitution, and grasp at power not thereby given them, they would be compelled to desist. But, that I may not be charged with urging suppositions, let us see what ground this stands upon, and whether there be any real danger to be apprehended. The first objection that I shall consider is, that, by paucity of numbers, they will be more liable to depart from their duty, and more subject to influence. I apprehend that the fewer the number of representatives, the freer the choice, and the greater the number of electors, the less liable to the unworthy acts of the candidates will they be; and thus their suffrage, being free, will probably fall on men of the most merit. The practice of that country, which is situated more like America than any other country in the world, will justify this supposition. The British House of Commons consists, I believe, of five hundred and fifty-eight members; yet the greater number of these are supposed to be under the undue influence of the crown. A single fact from the British history illustrates these observations, — viz., that there is scarcely an instance, for a century past, of the crown’s exercising its undoubted prerogative of rejecting a bill sent up to it by the Edition: current; Page: [13] two houses of Parliament: it is no answer to say, that the king’s influence is sufficient to prevent any obnoxious bills passing the two houses; there are many instances, in that period, not only of bills passing the two houses, but even receiving the royal assent, contrary to the private wish and inclination of the prince.

It is objected, however, as a defect in the Constitution, that it does not prohibit the House of Representatives from giving their powers, particularly that respecting the support &c., of armies, out of their hands for a longer term than two years. Here, I think, the enemies to the plan reason unfairly; they first suppose that Congress, from a love of power natural to all, will, in general, abuse that with which they are invested; and then they would make us apprehend that the House of Representatives, notwithstanding their love of power, (and it must be supposed as great in a branch of Congress as in the whole,) will give out of their hands the only check which can insure to them the continuance of the participation of the powers lodged in Congress in general. In England, there is no restraint of this kind on the Parliament; and yet there is no instance of a money bill being passed for a longer term than one year; the proposed plan, therefore, when it declares that no appropriation for the support of an army shall be made for a longer term than two years, introduces a check unknown to the English constitution, and one which will be found very powerful when we reflect that, if the House of Representatives could be prevailed on to make an appropriation for an army for two years, at the end of that time there will be a new choice of representatives. Thus I insist that security does not depend on the number of representatives: the experience of that country also shows that many of their counties and cities contain a greater number of souls than will be entitled to a representation in America; and yet the representatives chosen in those places have been the most strenuous advocates of liberty, and have exerted themselves in the defence of it, even in opposition to those chosen by much smaller numbers. Many of the senatorial districts in Virginia also contain a greater number of souls; and yet I suppose no gentleman within these walls will pay the senators chosen by them so poor a compliment as to attribute less wisdom and virtue to them than to the delegates chosen from single Edition: current; Page: [14] counties; and as there is greater probability that the e’ectors in a large district will be more independent, so I think the representatives chosen in such districts will be more so too; for those who have sold themselves to their representatives will have no right to complain, if they, in their turn, barter away their rights and liberties; but those who have not themselves been bought, will never consent to be sold. Another objection made to the small number of representatives, is, that, admitting they were sufficient to secure their integrity, yet they cannot be acquainted with the local situation and circumstances of their constituents. When we attend to the object of their jurisdiction, we find this objection insupportable. Congress will superintend the great national interests of the Union. Local concerns are left to the state legislatures. When the members compare and communicate to one another their knowledge of their respective districts and states, their collective intelligence will sufficiently enable them to perform the objects of their cognizance. They cannot extend their influence or agency to any objects but those of a general nature; the representatives will, therefore, be sufficiently acquainted with the interests of their states, although chosen by large districts. As long as the people remain virtuous and uncorrupted, so long, we may fairly conclude, will their representatives, even at their present number, guard their interests, and discharge their duty with fidelity and zeal: when they become otherwise, no government can possibly secure their freedom.

I now consider the time of their continuance in office. A short continuance in office, and a return of the officers to the mass of the people, there to depend solely on their former good conduct for their reëlection, is of the highest security to public liberty. Let the power of the persons elected be what it may, they are only the trustees, and not the masters, of the people; yet the time ought not to be so short that they could not discharge their duty with ability. Considering this, a term of two years is short enough in this case. Many will have a considerable distance to travel from the places of their abode to the seat of the general government. They must take time to consider the situation of the Union, make themselves acquainted with the circumstances of our finances, and the relative situation of, and our connections with, foreign nations, and a variety of other objects of importance. Edition: current; Page: [15] Would it not be the height of impolicy that they should go out of their office just as they began to know something of the nature of their duty? Were this the case, the interest of their constituents could never be sufficiently attended to. Our representatives for the state legislature are chosen for one year, and it has never been thought too long a term. If one year be not too long to elect a state representative, give me leave to say, that two years ought not to be considered as too long for the election of the members of the general legislature. The objects of the former are narrow, and limited to state and local affairs; the objects of the latter are coëxtensive with the continent. In England, at the time they were most jealous of the prerogative of the king, triennial elections were their most ardent wish; they would have thought themselves perfectly happy in this acquisition; nor did they think of a shorter term of elections. Let gentlemen recollect that it is to septennial elections we owe our liberties. The elections were for seven years in most of the states before the late revolution.

I now consider their weight and power, and whether these will be sufficient to give them, as the representatives of the people, their due weight in the government. By the Constitution, they are one entire branch of the legislature, without whose consent no law can be passed; — all money bills are to originate in their house; — they are to have the sole power of impeachment; — their consent is necessary to all acts or resolutions for the appropriation of the public money; to all acts for laying and collecting duties, imposts, and excises; for borrowing money on the credit of the United States; for creating all officers, and fixing their salaries; for coining money; for raising and supporting armies; for raising and maintaining a navy; and for establishing rules for the government of the land and naval forces: these are the powers which will be fixed in the House of Representatives.

Hence, it appears, our representatives have more comparative power in the scale of government than the commons of England; and yet, in that country, the commons, possessing less powers, opposed with success much greater powers than our representatives have to encounter. In that country, the king is one entire branch of the legislature, and an hereditary monarch; can prorogue or dissolve, call or dismiss, the two houses at his pleasure. Besides his judicial influence, Edition: current; Page: [16] he is head of the church, fountain of honor, generalissimo of the forces by sea or land, may raise what fleets and armies he pleases, is rendered personally sacred by the constitutional maxim that he can do no wrong; and, besides several other great powers, has a grand revenue settled on him, sufficient to answer the ordinary ends of government; it being established as a custom, at the accession of every new king, to settle such a revenue on him for life; and can increase the House of Lords at any time, and thereby extend his legislative influence. Notwithstanding the enormity of these powers, it has been found that the House of Commons, with powers greatly inferior to those of our representatives, is a match for both the king and the nobles. This superiority resulted from their having the power of withholding or granting supplies. What will put this in a still clearer point of view, is, that the House of Commons were not originally possessed of these powers. The history of the English Parliament will show that the great degree of power which they now possess was acquired from beginnings so small, that nothing but the innate weight of the power of the people, when lodged with their representatives, could have effected it. In the reign of Edward I., in the year 1295, the House of Commons were first called by legal authority; they were then confined to giving their assent barely to supplies to the crown. In the reign of Edward II., they first annexed petitions to the bills by which they granted subsidies. Under Edward III., they declared they would not in future acknowledge any law to which they had not consented: in the same reign, they impeached and brought to punishment some of the ministers of the crown. Under Henry IV., they refused supplies until an answer had been given to their petitions; and have increased their powers, in succeeding reigns, to such a degree, that they entirely control the operation of government, even in those cases where the king’s prerogative gave him, nominally, the sole direction.

Let us here consider the causes to which this uncommon weight and influence may be assigned. The government being divided into branches, executive and legislative, in all contests between them the people have divided into the favorers of one or the other. From their dread of the executive, and affection to their representatives, they have always sided with the legislature. This has rendered the Edition: current; Page: [17] legislature successful. The House of Commons have succeeded also by withholding supplies; they can, by this power, put a stop to the operations of government, which they have been able to direct as they pleased. This power has enabled them to triumph over all obstacles; it is so important that it will in the end swallow up all others. Any branch of government that depends on the will of another for supplies of money, must be in a state of subordinate dependence, let it have what other powers it may. Our representatives, in this case, will be perfectly independent, being vested with this power fully. Another source of superiority is the power of impeachment. In England, very few ministers have dared to bring on themselves an accusation by the representatives of the people, by pursuing means contrary to their rights and liberties. Few ministers will ever run the risk of being impeached, when they know the king cannot protect them by a pardon. This power must have much greater force in America, where the President himself is personally amenable for his mal-administration; the power of impeachment must be a sufficient check on the President’s power of pardoning before conviction. I think we may fairly conclude, that, if the House of Commons, in England, have been able to oppose, with success, a powerful hereditary nobility, and an hereditary monarch, with all the appendages of royalty, and immense powers and revenues, our federal House of Representatives will be able to oppose, with success, all attempts by a President, only chosen for four years, by the people, with a small revenue, and limited powers, sufficient only for his own support; and a Senate chosen only for six years, (one third of whom vacate their seats every two years,) accountable to the state legislatures, and having no separate interest from them or the people.

I now come to consider their responsibility to the people at large. The probability of their consulting most scrupulously the interests of their constituents must be self-evident; this probability will result from their biennial elections, whether they wish to be reëlected or not. If they wish to be reëlected, they will know that on their good conduct alone their reëlection will depend: if they wish not to be reelected, they will not enter into a fixed combination against the people, because they return to the mass of the people, where they will participate in the disadvantages of bad laws. Edition: current; Page: [18] By the publication of the yeas and nays, the votes of the individual members will be known; they will act, therefore, as if under the eyes of their constituents. The state legislatures, also, will be a powerful check on them: every new power given to Congress is taken from the state legislatures; they will be, therefore, very watchful over them; for, should they exercise any power not vested in them, it will be a usurpation of the rights of the different state legislatures, who would sound the alarm to the people. Upon such an appeal from the states to the people, nothing but the propriety of their conduct would insure the Congress any chance of success. Should a struggle actually ensue, it would terminate to the disadvantage of the general government, as Congress would be the object of the fears, and the state legislatures the object of the affections, of the people. One hundred and sixty members, chosen in this state legislature, must, on any dispute between Congress and the state legislature, have more influence than ten members of Congress. One representative to Congress will be chosen by eight or ten counties; his influence and chance of reëlection will be very small when opposed by twenty men of the best interests in the district: when we add to this the influence of the whole body of the state officers, I think I may venture to affirm that every measure of Congress would be successfully opposed by the states. The experience of this state legislature hath fully satisfied me that this reasoning is just. The members of our Senate have never ventured to oppose any measure of the House of Delegates; and if they had, their chance of being reëlected, when opposed by the delegates of the different counties, would be small. But what demonstrates that there is sufficient responsibility in the representatives to the people, and what must satisfy the committee, is this — that it will be their own interest to attend to that of the people at large. They can pass no law but what will equally affect their own persons, their families, and property. This will be an additional influence to prevail with them to attend to their duty, and more effectually watch and check the executive. Their consequence as members will be another inducement. If they will individually signalize themselves in support of their constituents, and in curbing the usurpations of the executive, it will best recommend them to the people, secure their reëlection, and enhance their consequence. Edition: current; Page: [19] They therefore will become watchful guardians of the interests of the people.

The Constitution has wisely interposed another check, to wit: — that no person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office. No powers ought to be vested in the hands of any who are not representatives of the people, and amenable to them. A review of the history of those countries with which I am acquainted, will show, that, for want of representation and responsibility, power has been exercised with an intention to advance the interest of a few, and not to remove the grievances of the many. At the time the Romans expelled their kings, the executive authority was given to consuls, and the people did not gain by the change; for the plebeian interest declined, while that of the patricians rapidly advanced, till the oppressions of the latter caused the former to retire to the Sacred Mount; and even this struggle terminated only in the creation of the tribunes of the people. Another struggle produced only the advantage of their admission to the consular dignity, and permission to intermarry into patrician families; so that every success on the side of the people only produced a change in their tyrants. Under Louis XI., in France, a war took place between the king and his barons, professedly for the public good only; and, they being successful, a treaty was made for the securing that public good; but it contained stipulations only in favor of a few lords, — not a word in favor of the people. But in England, where the people had delegated all their power to a few representatives, all contests have terminated in favor of the people. One contest produced Magna Charta, containing stipulations for the good of the whole. This Great Charter was renewed, enlarged, and confirmed, by several succeeding kings: the Habeas Corpus under Charles II., and Declaration of Rights under William and Mary, — the latter limiting the prerogative of the crown, the former establishing the personal liberty of the subject, — were also in favor of the whole body of the people. Every revolution terminated differently in Rome and in England; in the first they only caused a change in their masters, in the second they ended in a confirmation of their liberties. The powerful influence of the people in gaining an extension of their liberties will appear more forcibly, and our confidence in our House of Edition: current; Page: [20] Representatives must be increased, when we come to consider the manner in which the House of Commons in England are elected. They consist of five hundred and fifty-eight members, two hundred of whom are chosen by about seven thousand freeholders in the counties, out of eight millions of people: the rest are chosen by towns, several of which, though small, elect five members; and even there are instances of two representatives being chosen by one elector. The most baneful elections procure seats; one half of the candidates purchase them: yet the people in England have ever prevailed when they persisted in any particular purpose. If, then, they have prevailed there when opposed by two other powerful branches of the legislature, and when elected so unduly, what may we not expect from our House of Representatives, fairly chosen by the people? If the people there prevail with septennial elections, what may we not expect from our representatives, chosen only for two years, and who only have to encounter the feeble power of the President, and a Senate whose interest will lead them to do their duty? The opposers of this plan of government dread the exercise of the most necessary, the most indispensable powers, and exercised by their own representatives. Magna Charta, and Declaration of Rights, only say that such powers shall not be exercised but with consent of Parliament; and experience has proved that the making their consent necessary has sufficiently secured a proper exercise of those powers. The best writers also agree that such powers may always be lodged with representatives. We have all the security which a people sensible and jealous of their liberties can wish for. Experience has evinced that mankind can trust those who have similar rights with themselves. Power lodged in the hands of representatives, chosen as ours must be, cannot be abused. The truth of this cannot but strike every gentleman in the committee: and still the people can, when they please, change the government, being possessed of the supreme power. Mr. Nicholas then quoted a passage from the celebrated Dr. Price,* who was so strenuous a friend to America, proving that, as long as representation and responsibility existed in any country, liberty could not be endangered; and concluded by saying he conceived the Constitution founded on the strictest principles of true policy Edition: current; Page: [21] and liberty, and that he was willing to trust his own happiness, and that of his posterity, to the operation of that system.

Mr. HENRY. Mr. Chairman, the public mind, as well as my own, is extremely uneasy at the proposed change of government. Give me leave to form one of the number of those who wish to be thoroughly acquainted with the reasons of this perilous and uneasy situation, and why we are brought hither to decide on this great national question. I consider myself as the servant of the people of this commonwealth, as a sentinel over their rights, liberty, and happiness. I represent their feelings when I say that they are exceedingly uneasy at being brought from that state of full security, which they enjoyed, to the present delusive appearance of things. A year ago, the minds of our citizens were at perfect repose. Before the meeting of the late federal Convention at Philadelphia, a general peace and a universal tranquillity prevailed in this country; but, since that period, they are exceedingly uneasy and disquieted. When I wished for an appointment to this Convention, my mind was extremely agitated for the situation of public affairs. I conceived the republic to be in extreme danger. If our situation be thus uneasy, whence has arisen this fearful jeopardy? It arises from this fatal system; it arises from a proposal to change our government — a proposal that goes to the utter annihilation of the most solemn engagements of the states — a proposal of establishing nine states into a confederacy, to the eventual exclusion of four states. It goes to the annihilation of those solemn treaties we have formed with foreign nations.

The present circumstances of France — the good offices rendered us by that kingdom — require our most faithful and most punctual adherence to our treaty with her. We are in alliance with the Spaniards, the Dutch, the Prussians; those treaties bound us as thirteen states confederated together. Yet here is a proposal to sever that confederacy. Is it possible that we shall abandon all our treaties and national engagements? — and for what? I expected to hear the reasons for an event so unexpected to my mind and many others. Was our civil polity, or public justice, endangered or sapped? Was the real existence of the country threatened, or was this preceded by a mournful progression of events? This proposal of altering our federal government is of a most alarming Edition: current; Page: [22] nature! Make the best of this new government — say it is composed by any thing but inspiration — you ought to be extremely cautious, watchful, jealous of your liberty; for, instead of securing your rights, you may lose them forever. If a wrong step be now made, the republic may be lost forever. If this new government will not come up to the expectation of the people, and they shall be disappointed, their liberty will be lost, and tyranny must and will arise. I repeat it again, and I beg gentlemen to consider, that a wrong step, made now, will plunge us into misery, and our republic will be lost. It will be necessary for this Convention to have a faithful historical detail of the facts that preceded the session of the federal Convention, and the reasons that actuated its members in proposing an entire alteration of government, and to demonstrate the dangers that awaited us. If they were of such awful magnitude as to warrant a proposal so extremely perilous as this, I must assert, that this Convention has an absolute right to a thorough discovery of every circumstance relative to this great event. And here I would make this inquiry of those worthy characters who composed a part of the late federal Convention. I am sure they were fully impressed with the necessity of forming a great consolidated government, instead of a confederation. That this is a consolidated government is demonstrably clear; and the danger of such a government is, to my mind, very striking. I have the highest veneration for those gentlemen; but, sir, give me leave to demand, What right had they to say, We, the people? My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, Who authorized them to speak the language of, We, the people, instead of, We, the states? States are the characteristics and the soul of a confederation. If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great, consolidated, national government, of the people of all the states. I have the highest respect for those gentlemen who formed the Convention, and, were some of them not here, I would express some testimonial of esteem for them. America had, on a former occasion, put the utmost confidence in them — a confidence which was well placed; and I am sure, sir, I would give up any thing to them; I would cheerfully confide in them as my representatives. But, sir, on this great occasion, I would demand the cause of their conduct. Even from that illustrious man who saved us Edition: current; Page: [23] by his valor, I would have a reason for his conduct: that liberty which he has given us by his valor, tells me to ask this reason; and sure I am, were he here, he would give us that reason. But there are other gentlemen here, who can give us this information. The people gave them no power to use their name. That they exceeded their power is perfectly clear. It is not mere curiosity that actuates me: I wish to hear the real, actual, existing danger, which should lead us to take those steps, so dangerous in my conception. Disorders have arisen in other parts of America; but here, sir, no dangers, no insurrection or tumult have happened; every thing has been calm and tranquil. But, notwithstanding this, we are wandering on the great ocean of human affairs. I see no landmark to guide us. We are running we know not whither. Difference of opinion has gone to a degree of inflammatory resentment in different parts of the country, which has been occasioned by this perilous innovation. The federal Convention ought to have amended the old system; for this purpose they were solely delegated; the object of their mission extended to no other consideration. You must, therefore, forgive the solicitation of one unworthy member to know what danger could have arisen under the present Confederation, and what are the causes of this proposal to change our government.

Gov. RANDOLPH. Mr. Chairman, had the most enlightened statesman whom America has yet seen, foretold, but a year ago, the crisis which has now called us together, he would have been confronted by the universal testimony of history; for never was it yet known, that, in so short a space, by the peaceable working of events, without a war, or even the menace of the smallest force, a nation has been brought to agitate a question, an error in the issue of which may blast their happiness. It is, therefore, to be feared, lest to this trying exigency the best wisdom should be unequal; and here (if it were allowable to lament any ordinance of nature) might it be deplored that, in proportion to the magnitude of a subject, is the mind intemperate. Religion, the dearest of all interests, has too often sought proselytes by fire rather than by reason; and politics, the next in rank, is too often nourished by passion, at the expense of the understanding. Pardon me, however, for expecting one exception to the tendency of mankind from the dignity of this Convention Edition: current; Page: [24] — a mutual toleration, and a persuasion that no man has a right to impose his opinions on others. Pardon me, too, sir, if I am particularly sanguine in my expectations from the chair: it well knows what is order, how to command obedience, and that political opinions may be as honest on one side as on the other. Before I press into the body of the argument, I must take the liberty of mentioning the part I have already borne in this great question; but let me not here be misunderstood. I come not to apologize to any individual within these walls, to the Convention as a body, or even to my fellow-citizens at large. Having obeyed the impulse of duty, having satisfied my conscience, and, I trust, my God, I shall appeal to no other tribunal: nor do I come a candidate for popularity; my manner of life has never yet betrayed such a desire. The highest honors and emoluments of this commonwealth are a poor compensation for the surrender of personal independence. The history of England from the revolution, and that of Virginia for more than twenty years past, show the vanity of a hope that general favor should ever follow the man who, without partiality or prejudice, praises or disapproves the opinions of friends or of foes: nay, I might enlarge the field, and declare, from the great volume of human nature itself, that to be moderate in politics forbids an ascent to the summit of political fame. But I come hither, regardless of allurements, to continue as I have begun; to repeat my earnest endeavors for a firm, energetic government; to enforce my objections to the Constitution, and to concur in any practical scheme of amendments; but I never will assent to any scheme that will operate a dissolution of the Union, or any measure which may lead to it.

This conduct may possibly be upbraided as injurious to my own views; if it be so, it is, at least, the natural offspring of my judgment. I refused to sign, and if the same were to return, again would I refuse. Wholly to adopt, or wholly to reject, as proposed by the Convention, seemed too hard an alternative to the citizens of America, whose servants we were, and whose pretensions amply to discuss the means of their happiness were undeniable. Even if adopted under the terror of impending anarchy, the government must have been without the safest bulwark — the hearts of the people; and, if rejected because the chance for amendments was cut off, the Union would have been irredeemably lost. This Edition: current; Page: [25] seems to have been verified by the event in Massachusetts; but our Assembly have removed these inconveniences, by propounding the Constitution to our full and free inquiry When I withheld my subscription, I had not even the glimpse of the genius of America, relative to the principles of the new Constitution. Who, arguing from the preceding history of Virginia, could have divined that she was prepared for the important change? In former times, indeed, she transcended every colony in professions and practices of loyalty; but she opened a perilous war, under a democracy almost as pure as representation would admit; she supported it under a constitution which subjects all rule, authority, and power, to the legislature; every attempt to alter it had been baffled; the increase of Congressional power had always excited an alarm. I therefore would not bind myself to uphold the new Constitution, before I had tried it by the true touchstone; especially, too, when I foresaw that even the members of the general Convention might be instructed by the comments of those who were without doors. But I had, moreover, objections to the Constitution, the most material of which, too lengthy in detail, I have as yet barely stated to the public, but shall explain when we arrive at the proper points. Amendments were consequently my wish; these were the grounds of my repugnance to subscribe, and were perfectly reconcilable with my unalterable resolution to be regulated by the spirit of America, if, after our best efforts for amendments, they could not be removed. I freely indulge those who may think this declaration too candid, in believing that I hereby depart from the concealment belonging to the character of a statesman. Their censure would be more reasonable, were it not for an unquestionable fact, that the spirit of America depends upon a combination of circumstances which no individual can control, and arises not from the prospect of advantages which may be gained by the arts of negotiation, but from deeper and more honest causes.

As with me the only question has ever been between previous and subsequent amendments, so will I express my apprehensions, that the postponement of this Convention to so late a day has extinguished the probability of the former without inevitable ruin to the Union, and the Union is the anchor of our political salvation; and I will assent to the Edition: current; Page: [26] lopping of this limb, (meaning his arm,) before I assent to the dissolution of the Union. I shall now follow the honorable gentleman (Mr. Henry) in his inquiry. Before the meeting of the federal Convention, says the honorable gentleman, we rested in peace; a miracle it was, that we were so: miraculous must it appear to those who consider the distresses of the war, and the no less afflicting calamities which we suffered in the succeeding peace. Be so good as to recollect how we fared under the Confederation. I am ready to pour forth sentiments of the fullest gratitude to those gentlemen who framed that system. I believe they had the most enlightened heads in this western hemisphere. Notwithstanding their intelligence, and earnest solicitude for the good of their country, this system proved totally inadequate to the purpose for which it was devised. But, sir, this was no disgrace to them. The subject of confederations was then new, and the necessity of speedily forming some government for the states, to defend them against the pressing dangers, prevented, perhaps, those able statesmen from making that system as perfect as more leisure and deliberation might have enabled them to do. I cannot otherwise conceive how they could have formed a system that provided no means of enforcing the powers which were nominally given it. Was it not a political farce to pretend to vest powers, without accompanying them with the means of putting them in execution? This want of energy was not a greater solecism than the blending together, and vesting in one body, all the branches of government. The utter inefficacy of this system was discovered, the moment the danger was over, by the introduction of peace; the accumulated public misfortunes that resulted from its inefficacy rendered an alteration necessary: this necessity was obvious to all America: attempts have accordingly been made for this purpose.

I have been a witness to this business from its earliest beginning. I was honored with a seat in the small Convention held at Annapolis. The members of that Convention thought, unanimously, that the control of commerce should be given to Congress, and recommended to their states to extend the improvement to the whole system. The members of the general Convention were particularly deputed to meliorate the Confederation. On a thorough contemplation Edition: current; Page: [27] of the subject, they found it impossible to amend that system. What was to be done? The dangers of America, which will be shown at another time by particular enumeration, suggested the expedient of forming a new plan. The Confederation has done a great deal for us, we all allow; but it was the danger of a powerful enemy, and the spirit of America, sir, and not any energy in that system, that carried us through that perilous war: for what were its best arms? The greatest exertions were made when the danger was most imminent. This system was not signed till March, 1781; Maryland having not acceded to it before, yet the military achievements and other exertions of America, previous to that period, were as brilliant, effectual, and successful, as they could have been under the most energetic government. This clearly shows that our perilous situation was the cement of our union. How different the scene when this peril vanished, and peace was restored! The demands of Congress were treated with neglect. One state complained that another had not paid its quotas as well as itself; public credit gone — for I believe, were it not for the private credit of individuals, we should have been ruined long before that time; commerce languishing; produce falling in value, and justice trampled under foot. We became contemptible in the eyes of foreign nations; they discarded us as little wanton bees, who had played for liberty, but had no sufficient solidity or wisdom to secure it on a permanent basis, and were therefore unworthy of their regard. It was found that Congress could not even enforce the observance of treaties. That treaty under which we enjoy our present tranquillity was disregarded. Making no difference between the justice of paying debts due to people here, and that of paying those due to people on the other side of the Atlantic, I wished to see the treaty complied with, by the payment of the British debts, but have not been able to know why it has been neglected. What was the reply to the demands and requisitions of Congress? — You are too contemptible; we will despise and disregard you.

I shall endeavor to satisfy the gentleman’s political curiosity. Did not our compliance with any demand of Congress depend on our own free will? If we refused, I know of no coercive force to compel a compliance. After meeting in Convention, the deputies from the states communicated Edition: current; Page: [28] their information to one another. On a review of our critical situation, and of the impossibility of introducing any degree of improvement into the old system, what ought they to have done? Would it not have been treason to return without proposing some scheme to relieve their distressed country? The honorable gentleman asks why we should adopt a system that shall annihilate and destroy our treaties with France and other nations. I think the misfortune is, that these treaties are violated already, under the honorable gentleman’s favorite system. I conceive that our engagements with foreign nations are not at all affected by this system; for the 6th article expressly provides that “all debts contracted, and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution as under the Confederation.” Does this system, then, cancel debts due to or from the continent? Is it not a well-known maxim that no change of situation can alter an obligation once rightly entered into? He also objects because nine states are sufficient to put the government in motion. What number of states ought we to have said? Ought we to have required the concurrence of all the thirteen? Rhode Island — in rebellion against integrity — Rhode Island plundered all the world by her paper money; and, notorious for her uniform opposition to every federal duty, would then have it in her power to defeat the Union; and may we not judge with absolute certainty, from her past conduct, that she would do so? Therefore, to have required the ratification of all the thirteen states would have been tantamount to returning without having done any thing. What other number would have been proper? Twelve? The same spirit that has actuated me in the whole progress of the business, would have prevented me from leaving it in the power of any one state to dissolve the Union; for would it not be lamentable that nothing could be done, for the defection of one state? A majority of the whole would have been too few. Nine states therefore seem to be a most proper number.

The gentleman then proceeds, and inquires why we assumed the language of “We, the people.” I ask, Why not? The government is for the people; and the misfortune was, that the people had no agency in the government before. The Congress had power to make peace and war under Edition: current; Page: [29] the old Confederation. Granting passports, by the law of nations, is annexed to this power; yet Congress was reduced to the humiliating condition of being obliged to send deputies to Virginia to solicit a passport. Notwithstanding the exclusive power of war given to Congress, the second article of the Confederation was interpreted to forbid that body to grant a passport for tobacco, which, during the war, and in pursuance of engagements made at Little York, was to have been sent into New York. What harm is there in consulting the people on the construction of a government by which they are to be bound? Is it unfair? Is it unjust? If the government is to be binding on the people, are not the people the proper persons to examine its merits or defects? I take this to be one of the least and most trivial objections that will be made to the Constitution; it carries the answer with itself. In the whole of this business, I have acted in the strictest obedience to the dictates of my conscience, in discharging what I conceive to be my duty to my country. I refused my signature, and if the same reasons operated on my mind, I would still refuse; but as I think that those eight states which have adopted the Constitution will not recede, I am a friend to the Union.

Mr. GEORGE MASON. Mr. Chairman, whether the Constitution be good or bad, the present clause clearly discovers that it is a national government, and no longer a Confederation. I mean that clause which gives the first hint of the general government laying direct taxes. The assumption of this power of laying direct taxes does, of itself, entirely change the confederation of the states into one consolidated government. This power, being at discretion, unconfined, and without any kind of control, must carry every thing before it. The very idea of converting what was formerly a confederation to a consolidated government, is totally subversive of every principle which has hitherto governed us. This power is calculated to annihilate totally the state governments. Will the people of this great community submit to be individually taxed by two different and distinct powers? Will they suffer themselves to be doubly harassed? These two concurrent powers cannot exist long together; the one will destroy the other: the general government being paramount to, and in every respect more powerful than the state governments, the latter must give Edition: current; Page: [30] way to the former. Is it to be supposed that one national government will suit so extensive a country, embracing so many climates, and containing inhabitants so very different in manners, habits, and customs? It is ascertained, by history, that there never was a government over a very extensive country without destroying the liberties of the people: history also, supported by the opinions of the best writers, shows us that monarchy may suit a large territory, and despotic governments ever so extensive a country, but that popular governments can only exist in small territories. Is there a single example, on the face of the earth, to support a contrary opinion? Where is there one exception to this general rule? Was there ever an instance of a general national government extending over so extensive a country, abounding in such a variety of climates, &c., where the people retained their liberty? I solemnly declare that no man is a greater friend to a firm union of the American states than I am; but, sir, if this great end can be obtained without hazarding the rights of the people, why should we recur to such dangerous principles? Requisitions have been often refused, sometimes from an impossibility of complying with them; often from that great variety of circumstances which retards the collection of moneys; and perhaps sometimes from a wilful design of procrastinating. But why shall we give up to the national government this power, so dangerous in its nature, and for which its members will not have sufficient information? Is it not well known that what would be a proper tax in one state would be grievous in another? The gentleman who hath favored us with a eulogium in favor of this system, must, after all the encomiums he has been pleased to bestow upon it, acknowledge that our federal representatives must be unacquainted with the situation of their constituents. Sixty-five members cannot possibly know the situation and circumstances of all the inhabitants of this immense continent. When a certain sum comes to be taxed, and the mode of levying to be fixed, they will lay the tax on that article which will be most productive and easiest in the collection, without consulting the real circumstances or convenience of a country, with which, in fact, they cannot be sufficiently acquainted.

The mode of levying taxes is of the utmost consequence; and yet here it is to be determined by those who have neither Edition: current; Page: [31] knowledge of our situation, nor a common interest with us, nor a fellow-feeling for us. The subject of taxation differs in three fourths, nay, I might say with truth, in four fifths of the states. If we trust the national government with an effectual way of raising the necessary sums, it is sufficient: every thing we do further is trusting the happiness and rights of the people. Why, then, should we give up this dangerous power of individual taxation? Why leave the manner of laying taxes to those who, in the nature of things, cannot be acquainted with the situation of those on whom they are to impose them, when it can be done by those who are well acquainted with it? If, instead of giving this oppressive power, we give them such an effectual alternative as will answer the purpose, without encountering the evil and danger that might arise from it, then I would cheerfully acquiesce; and would it not be far more eligible? I candidly acknowledge the inefficacy of the Confederation; but requisitions have been made which were impossible to be complied with — requisitions for more gold and silver than were in the United States. If we give the general government the power of demanding their quotas of the states, with an alternative of laying direct taxes in case of non-compliance, then the mischief would be avoided; and the certainty of this conditional power would, in all human probability, prevent the application, and the sums necessary for the Union would be then laid by the states, by those who know how it can best be raised, by those who have a fellow-feeling for us. Give me leave to say, that the sum raised one way with convenience and ease, would be very oppressive another way. Why, then, not leave this power to be exercised by those who know the mode most convenient for the inhabitants, and not by those who must necessarily apportion it in such manner as shall be oppressive? With respect to the representation so much applauded, I cannot think it such a full and free one as it is represented; but I must candidly acknowledge that this defect results from the very nature of the government. It would be impossible to have a full and adequate representation in the general government; it would be too expensive and too unwieldy. We are, then, under the necessity of having this a very inadequate representation. Is this general representation to be compared with the real, actual, substantial representation of Edition: current; Page: [32] the state legislatures? It cannot bear a comparison. To make representation real and actual, the number of representatives ought to be adequate; they ought to mix with the people, think as they think, feel as they feel, — ought to be perfectly amenable to them, and thoroughly acquainted with their interest and condition. Now, these great ingredients are either not at all, or in a small degree, to be found in our federal representatives; so that we have no real, actual, substantial representation: but I acknowledge it results from the nature of the government. The necessity of this inconvenience may appear a sufficient reason not to argue against it; but, sir, it clearly shows that we ought to give power with a sparing hand to a government thus imperfectly constructed. To a government which, in the nature of things, cannot but be defective, no powers ought to be given but such as are absolutely necessary. There is one thing in it which I conceive to be extremely dangerous. Gentlemen may talk of public virtue and confidence; we shall be told that the House of Representatives will consist of the most virtuous men on the continent, and that in their hands we may trust our dearest rights. This, like all other assemblies, will be composed of some bad and some good men; and, considering the natural lust of power so inherent in man, I fear the thirst of power will prevail to oppress the people. What I conceive to be so dangerous, is the provision with respect to the number of representatives: it does not expressly provide that we shall have one for every thirty thousand, but that the number shall not exceed that proportion. The utmost that we can expect (and perhaps that is too much) is, that the present number shall be continued to us; — “the number of representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand.” Now, will not this be complied with, although the present number should never be increased — nay, although it should be decreased? Suppose Congress should say that we should have one for every forty thousand; will not the Constitution be complied with? — for one for every forty thousand does not exceed one for every thirty thousand. There is a want of proportion that ought to be strictly guarded against. The worthy gentleman tells us that we have no reason to fear; but I always fear for the rights of the people. I do not pretend to inspiration; but I think it is apparent as the day, that the Edition: current; Page: [33] members will attend to local, partial interests, to prevent an augmentation of their number. I know not how they will be chosen, but, whatever be the mode of choosing, our present number will be ten; and suppose our state is laid off in ten districts, — those gentlemen who shall be sent from those districts will lessen their own power and influence in their respective districts if they increase their number; for the greater the number of men among whom any given quantum of power is divided, the less the power of each individual. Thus they will have a local interest to prevent the increase of, and perhaps they will lessen their own number. This is evident on the face of the Constitution: so loose an expression ought to be guarded against, for Congress will be clearly within the requisition of the Constitution, although the number of representatives should always continue what it is now, and the population of the country should increase to an immense number. Nay, they may reduce the number from sixty-five to one from each state, without violating the Constitution; and thus the number, which is now too small, would then be infinitely too much so. But my principal objection is, that the Confederation is converted to one general consolidated government, which, from my best judgment of it, (and which perhaps will be shown, in the course of this discussion, to be really well founded,) is one of the worst curses that can possibly befall a nation. Does any man suppose that one general national government can exist in so extensive a country as this? I hope that a government may be framed which may suit us, by drawing a line between the general and state governments, and prevent that dangerous clashing of interest and power, which must, as it now stands, terminate in the destruction of one or the other. When we come to the judiciary, we shall be more convinced that this government will terminate in the annihilation of the state governments: the question then will be, whether a consolidated government can preserve the freedom and secure the rights of the people.

If such amendments be introduced as shall exclude danger, I shall most gladly put my hand to it. When such amendments as shall, from the best information, secure the great essential rights of the people, shall be agreed to by gentlemen, I shall most heartily make the greatest concessions, and Edition: current; Page: [34] concur in any reasonable measure to obtain the desirable end of conciliation and unanimity. An indispensable amendment in this case is, that Congress shall not exercise the power of raising direct taxes till the states shall have refused to comply with the requisitions of Congress. On this condition it may be granted; but I see no reason to grant it unconditionally, as the states can raise the taxes with more ease, and lay them on the inhabitants with more propriety, than it is possible for the general government to do. If Congress hath this power without control, the taxes will be laid by those who have no fellow-feeling or acquaintance with the people. This is my objection to the article now under consideration. It is a very great and important one. I therefore beg gentlemen to consider it. Should this power be restrained, I shall withdraw my objections to this part of the Constitution; but as it stands, it is an objection so strong in my mind, that its amendment is with me a sine qua non of its adoption. I wish for such amendments, and such only, as are necessary to secure the dearest rights of the people.

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, it would give me great pleasure to concur with my honorable colleague in any conciliatory plan. The clause to which the worthy member alludes is only explanatory of the proportion which representation and taxation shall respectively bear to one another. The power of laying direct taxes will be more properly discussed, when we come to that part of the Constitution which vests that power in Congress. At present, I must endeavor to reconcile our proceedings to the resolution we have taken, by postponing the examination of this power till we come properly to it. With respect to converting the confederation to a complete consolidation, I think no such consequence will follow from the Constitution, and that, with more attention, we shall see that he is mistaken; and with respect to the number of representatives, I reconcile it to my mind, when I consider that it may be increased to the proportion fixed, and that, as it may be so increased, it shall, because it is the interest of those who alone can prevent it, who are our representatives, and who depend on their good behavior for their reëlection. Let me observe, also, that, as far as the number of representatives may seem to be adequate to discharge their duty, they will have sufficient information from the laws of particular states, from the state legislatures, from Edition: current; Page: [35] their own experience, and from a great number of individuals; and as to our security against them, I conceive, sir, that the general limitation of their powers, and the general watchfulness of the states, will be a sufficient guard. As it is now late, I shall defer any further investigation till a more convenient time.

The committee then rose, and on motion

Resolved, That this Convention will, to-morrow, again resolve itself into a committee of the whole Convention, to take into further consideration the proposed Constitution of government.

And then the Convention adjourned until to-morrow morning, eleven o’clock.

Mr. HARRISON reported, from the committee of privileges and elections, that the committee had, according to order, had under their consideration the petition of Samuel Anderson, to them referred, and had come to a resolution thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the clerk’s table, where the same was again twice read, and agreed to by the house, as followeth:—

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, That the petition of the said Samuel Anderson, praying that the election of Mr. Thomas H. Drew, a member returned to serve in this Convention for the county of Cumberland, may be set aside, and a new election had to supply his place, be rejected.

Mr. HARRISON reported, from the committee of privileges and elections, that the committee had, according to order, examined the returns of the election of delegates to serve in this Convention for the county of Westmoreland, and had come to a resolution thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the clerk’s table, where the same was again twice read, and agreed to by the house, as followeth: —

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, That the return of the election of delegates to serve in this Convention, for the said county of Westmoreland, is satisfactory.

The Convention, according to the order of the day, resolved itself into a committee of the whole Convention, to take into further consideration the proposed plan of government. Mr. Wythe in the chair.

The first and second sections still under consideration.

Mr. PENDLETON. Mr. Chairman, my worthy friend (Mr. Henry) has expressed great uneasiness in his mind, Edition: current; Page: [36] and informed us that a great many of our citizens are also extremely uneasy, at the proposal of changing our government; but that, a year ago, before this fatal system was thought of, the public mind was at perfect repose. It is necessary to inquire whether the public mind was at ease on the subject, and if it be since disturbed, what was the cause. What was the situation of this country before the meeting of the federal Convention? Our general government was totally inadequate to the purpose of its institution; our commerce decayed; our finances deranged; public and private credit destroyed: these and many other national evils rendered necessary the meeting of that Convention. If the public mind was then at ease, it did not result from a conviction of being in a happy and easy situation: it must have been an inactive, unaccountable stupor. The federal Convention devised the paper on your table as a remedy to remove our political diseases. What has created the public uneasiness since? Not public reports, which are not to be depended upon; but mistaken apprehensions of danger, drawn from observations on government which do not apply to us. When we come to inquire into the origin of most governments of the world, we shall find that they are generally dictated by a conqueror, at the point of the sword, or are the offspring of confusion, when a great popular leader, taking advantage of circumstances, if not producing them, restores order at the expense of liberty, and becomes the tyrant over the people. It may well be supposed that, in forming a government of this sort, it will not be favorable to liberty: the conqueror will take care of his own emoluments, and have little concern for the interest of the people. In either case, the interest and ambition of a despot, and not the good of the people, have given the tone to the government. A government thus formed must necessarily create a continual war between the governors and governed.

Writers consider the two parties (the people and tyrants) as in a state of perpetual warfare, and sound the alarm to the people. But what is our case? We are perfectly free from sedition and war: we are not yet in confusion: we are left to consider our real happiness and security: we want to secure these objects: we know they cannot be attained without government. Is there a single man, in this committee, of a contrary opinion? What was it that brought us from a Edition: current; Page: [37] state of nature to society, but to secure happiness? And can society be formed without government? Personify government: apply to it as a friend to assist you, and it will grant your request. This is the only government founded in real compact. There is no quarrel between government and liberty; the former is the shield and protector of the latter. The war is between government and licentiousness, faction, turbulence, and other violations of the rules of society, to preserve liberty. Where is the cause of alarm? We, the people, possessing all power, form a government, such as we think will secure happiness: and suppose, in adopting this plan, we should be mistaken in the end; where is the cause of alarm on that quarter? In the same plan we point out an easy and quiet method of reforming what may be found amiss. No, but, say gentlemen, we have put the introduction of that method in the hands of our servants, who will interrupt it from motives of self-interest. What then? We will resist, did my friend say? conveying an idea of force. Who shall dare to resist the people? No, we will assemble in Convention; wholly recall our delegated powers, or reform them so as to prevent such abuse; and punish those servants who have perverted powers, designed for our happiness, to their own emolument. We ought to be extremely cautious not to be drawn into dispute with regular government, by faction and turbulence, its natural enemies. Here, then, sir, there is no cause of alarm on this side; but on the other side, rejecting of government, and dissolving of the Union, produce confusion and despotism.

But an objection is made to the form: the expression, We, the people, is thought improper. Permit me to ask the gentleman who made this objection, who but the people can delegate powers? Who but the people have a right to form government? The expression is a common one, and a favorite one with me. The representatives of the people, by their authority, is a mode wholly inessential. If the objection be, that the Union ought to be not of the people, but of the state governments, then I think the choice of the former very happy and proper. What have the state governments to do with it? Were they to determine, the people would not, in that case, be the judges upon what terms it was adopted.

But the power of the Convention is doubted. What is the power? To propose, not to determine. This power Edition: current; Page: [38] of proposing was very broad; it extended to remove all defects in government: the members of that Convention, who were to consider all the defects in our general government, were not confined to any particular plan. Were they deceived? This is the proper question here. Suppose the paper on your table dropped from one of the planets; the people found it, and sent us here to consider whether it was proper for their adoption; must we not obey them? Then the question must be between this government and the Confederation. The latter is no government at all. It has been said that it has carried us, through a dangerous war, to a happy issue. Not that Confederation, but common danger, and the spirit of America, were bonds of our union: union and unanimity, and not that insignificant paper, carried us through that dangerous war. “United, we stand — divided, we fall!” echoed and reechoed through America — from Congress to the drunken carpenter — was effectual, and procured the end of our wishes, though now forgotten by gentlemen, if such there be, who incline to let go this stronghold, to catch at feathers; for such all substituted projects may prove.

This spirit had nearly reached the end of its power when relieved by peace. It was the spirit of America, and not the Confederation, that carried us through the war: thus I prove it. The moment of peace showed the imbecility of the federal government: Congress was empowered to make war and peace; a peace they made, giving us the great object, independence, and yielding us a territory that exceeded my most sanguine expectations. Unfortunately, a single disagreeable clause, not the object of the war, has retarded the performance of the treaty on our part. Congress could only recommend its performance, not enforce it; our last Assembly (to their honor be it said) put this on its proper grounds — on honorable grounds; it was as much as they ought to have done. This single instance shows the imbecility of the Confederation; the debts contracted by the war were unpaid; demands were made on Congress; all that Congress was able to do was to make an estimate of the debt, and proportion it among the several states; they sent on the requisitions, from time to time, to the states, for their respective quotas. These were either complied with partially, or not at all. Repeated demands on Congress distressed Edition: current; Page: [39] that honorable body; but they were unable to fulfil those engagements, as they so earnestly wished. What was the idea of other nations respecting America? What was the idea entertained of us by those nations to whom we were so much indebted? The inefficacy of the general government warranted an idea that we had no government at all. Improvements were proposed, and agreed to by twelve states; but were interrupted, because the little state of Rhode Island refused to accede to them. This was a further proof of the imbecility of that government. Need I multiply instances to show that it is wholly ineffectual for the purposes of its institution? Its whole progress since the peace proves it.

Shall we then, sir, continue under such a government, or shall we introduce that kind of government which shall produce the real happiness and security of the people? When gentlemen say that we ought not to introduce this new government, but strengthen the hands of Congress, they ought to be explicit. In what manner shall this be done? If the union of the states be necessary, government must be equally so; for without the latter, the former cannot be effected. Government must then have its complete powers, or be ineffectual; a legislature to fix rules, impose sanctions, and point out the punishment of the transgressors of these rules; an executive to watch over officers, and bring them to punishment; a judiciary, to guard the innocent, and fix the guilty, by a fair trial. Without an executive, offenders would not be brought to punishment; without a judiciary, any man might be taken up, convicted, and punished without a trial. Hence the necessity of having these three branches. Would any gentleman in this committee agree to vest these three powers in one body — Congress? No. Hence the necessity of a new organization and distribution of those powers. If there be any feature in this government which is not republican, it would be exceptionable. From all the public servants responsibility is secured, by their being representatives, mediate or immediate, for short terms, and their powers defined. It is, on the whole complexion of it, a government of laws, not of men.

But it is represented to be a consolidated government, annihilating that of the states — a consolidated government, which so extensive a territory as the United States canno. Edition: current; Page: [40] admit of, without terminating in despotism. If this be such a government, I will confess, with my worthy friend, that it is inadmissible over such a territory as this country. Let us consider whether it be such a government or not. I should understand a consolidated government to be that which should have the sole and exclusive power, legislative, executive, and judicial, without any limitation. Is this such a government? Or can it be changed to such a one? It only extends to the general purposes of the Union. It does not intermeddle with the local, particular affairs of the states. Can Congress legislate for the state of Virginia? Can they make a law altering the form of transferring property, or the rule of descents, in Virginia? In one word, can they make a single law for the individual, exclusive purpose of any one state? It is the interest of the federal to preserve the state governments; upon the latter the existence of the former depends: the Senate derives its existence immediately from the state legislatures; and the representatives and President are elected under their direction and control; they also preserve order among the citizens of their respective states, and without order and peace no society can possibly exist. Unless, therefore, there be state legislatures to continue the existence of Congress, and preserve order and peace among the inhabitants, this general government, which gentlemen suppose will annihilate the state governments, must itself be destroyed. When, therefore, the federal government is, in so many respects, so absolutely dependent on the state governments, I wonder how any gentleman, reflecting on the subject, could have conceived an idea of a possibility of the former destroying the latter. But the power of laying direct taxes is objected to. Government must be supported; this cannot be done without a revenue: if a sufficient revenue be not otherwise raised, recurrence must be had to direct taxation; gentlemen admit this, but insist on the propriety of first applying to the state legislatures.

Let us consider the consequence that would result from this. In the first place, time would be lost by it. Congress would make requisitions in December; our legislature do not meet till October; here would be a considerable loss of time, admitting the requisitions to be fully complied with. But suppose the requisitions to be refused; would it not be dangerous to send a collector, to collect the Congressional Edition: current; Page: [41] taxes, after the state legislature had absolutely refused to comply with the demands of Congress? Would not resistance to collectors be the probable consequence? Would not this resistance terminate in confusion, and a dissolution of the Union? The concurrent power of two different bodies laying direct taxes, is objected to. These taxes are for two different purposes, and cannot interfere with one another. I can see no danger resulting from this; and we must suppose that a very small sum more than the impost would be sufficient. But the representation is supposed too small. I confess, I think with the gentleman who opened the debate (Mr. Nicholas) on this subject; and I think he gave a very satisfactory answer to this objection, when he observed that, though the number might be insufficient to convey information of necessary local interests to a state legislature, yet it was sufficient for the federal legislature, who are to act only on general subjects, in which this state is concerned in common with other states. The apportionment of representation and taxation by the same scale is just; it removes the objection, that, while Virginia paid one sixth part of the expenses of the Union, she had no more weight in public counsels than Delaware, which paid but a very small portion. By this just apportionment she is put on a footing with the small states, in point of representation and influence in councils. I cannot imagine a more judicious principle than is here fixed by the Constitution — the number shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand. But it is objected that the number may be less. If Virginia sends in that proportion, I ask, Where is the power in Congress to reject them? States might incline to send too many; they are therefore restrained: but can it be doubted that they will send the number they are entitled to? We may be therefore sure, from this principle unequivocally fixed in the Constitution, that the number of our representatives will be in proportion to the increase or decrease of our population. I can truly say that I am of no party, nor actuated by any influence, but the true interest and real happiness of those whom I represent; and my age and situation, I trust, will sufficiently demonstrate the truth of this assertion. I cannot conclude without adding, that I am perfectly satisfied with this part of the system.

Mr. LEE, (of Westmoreland.) Mr. Chairman, I feel Edition: current; Page: [42] every power of my mind moved by the language of the honorable gentleman yesterday. The éclat and brilliancy which have distinguished that gentleman, the honors with which he has been dignified, and the brilliant talents which he has so often displayed, have attracted my respect and attention. On so important an occasion, and before so respectable a body, I expected a new display of his powers of oratory; but, instead of proceeding to investigate the merits of the new plan of government, the worthy character informed us of horrors which he felt, of apprehensions to his mind, which made him tremblingly fearful of the fate of the commonwealth. Mr. Chairman, was it proper to appeal to the fears of this house? The question before us belongs to the judgment of this house. I trust he is come to judge, and not to alarm. I trust that he, and every other gentleman in this house, comes with a firm resolution coolly and calmly to examine, and fairly and impartially to determine. He was pleased to pass a eulogium on that character who is the pride of peace and support of war; and declared that even from him he would require the reason of proposing such a system. I cannot see the propriety of mentioning that illustrious character on this occasion; we must be all fully impressed with a conviction of his extreme rectitude of conduct. But, sir, this system is to be examined by its own merit. He then adverted to the style of government, and asked what authority they had to use the expression, “We, the people,” and not We, the states. This expression was introduced into that paper with great propriety. This system is submitted to the people for their consideration, because on them it is to operate, if adopted. It is not binding on the people until it becomes their act. It is now submitted to the people of Virginia. If we do not adopt it, it will be always null and void as to us. Suppose it was found proper for our adoption, and becoming the government of the people of Virginia; by what style should it be done? Ought we not to make use of the name of the people? No other style would be proper. He then spoke of the characters of the gentlemen who framed it. This was inapplicable, strange, and unexpected: it was a more proper inquiry whether such evils existed as rendered necessary a change of government.

This necessity is evidenced by the concurrent testimony of almost all America. The legislative acts of different Edition: current; Page: [43] states avow it. It is acknowledged by the acts of this state under such an act we are here now assembled. If reference to the acts of the assemblies will not sufficiently convince him of this necessity, let him go to our seaports; let him see our commerce languishing — not an American bottom to be seen; let him ask the price of land, and of produce, in different parts of the country: to what cause shall we ascribe the very low prices of these? To what cause are we to attribute the decrease of population and industry, and the impossibility of employing our tradesmen and mechanics? To what cause will the gentleman impute these and a thousand other misfortunes our people labor under? These, sir, are owing to the imbecility of the Confederation; to that defective system which never can make us happy at home nor respectable abroad. The gentleman sat down as he began, leaving us to ruminate on the horrors which he opened with. Although I could trust to the argument of the gentleman who spoke yesterday in favor of the plan, permit me to make one observation on the weight of our representatives in the government. If the House of Commons, in England, possessing less power, are now able to withstnad the power of the crown, — if that House of Commons, which has been undermined by corruption in every age, and contaminated by bribery even in this enlightened age, with far less powers than our representatives possess, is still able to contend with the executive of that country, — what danger have we to fear that our representatives cannot successfully oppose the encroachments of the other branches of the government? Let it be remembered that, in the year 1782, the East India Bill was brought into the House of Commons. Although the members of that house are only elected in part by the landed interest, yet, in spite of ministerial influence, that bill was carried in that house by a majority of one hundred and thirty, and the king was obliged to dissolve the Parliament to prevent its effect. If, then, the House of Commons was so powerful, no danger can be apprehended that our House of Representatives is not amply able to protect our liberties. I trust that this representation is sufficient to secure our happiness, and that we may fairly congratulate ourselves on the superiority of our government to that I just referred to.

Mr. HENRY. Mr. Chairman, I am much obliged to the Edition: current; Page: [44] very worthy gentleman for his encomium. I wish I was possessed with talents, or possessed of any thing that might enable me to elucidate this great subject. I am not free from suspicion: I am apt to entertain doubts. I rose yesterday to ask a question which arose in my own mind. When I asked that question, I thought the meaning of my interrogation was obvious. The fate of this question and of America may depend on this. Have they said, We, the states? Have they made a proposal of a compact between states? If they had, this would be a confederation. It is otherwise most clearly a consolidated government. The question turns, sir, on that poor little thing — the expression, We, the people, instead of the states, of America. I need not take much pains to show that the principles of this system are extremely pernicious, impolitic, and dangerous. Is this a monarchy, like England — a compact between prince and people, with checks on the former to secure the liberty of the latter? Is this a confederacy, like Holland — an association of a number of independent states, each of which retains its individual sovereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely. Had these principles been adhered to, we should not have been brought to this alarming transition, from a confederacy to a consolidated government. We have no detail of these great considerations, which, in my opinion, ought to have abounded before we should recur to a government of this kind. Here is a resolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain. It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished: and cannot we plainly see that this is actually the case? The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change, so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans? It is said eight states have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve states and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful Edition: current; Page: [45] people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.

Having premised these things, I shall, with the aid of my judgment and information, which, I confess, are not extensive, go into the discussion of this system more minutely. Is it necessary for your liberty that you should abandon those great rights by the adoption of this system? Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings — give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else! But I am fearful I have lived long enough to become an old-fashioned fellow. Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned; if so, I am contented to be so. I say, the time has been when every pulse of my heart beat for American liberty, and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American; but suspicions have gone forth — suspicions of my integrity — publicly reported that my professions are not real. Twenty-three years ago was I supposed a traitor to my country? I was then said to be the bane of sedition, because I supported the rights of my country. I may be thought suspicious when I say our privileges and rights are in danger. But, sir, a number of the people of this country are weak enough to think these things are too true. I am happy to find that the gentleman on the other side declares they are groundless. But, sir, suspicion is a virtue as long as its object is the preservation of the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds: should it fall on me, I am contented: conscious rectitude is a powerful consolation. I trust there are many who think my professions for the public good to be real. Let your suspicion look to both sides. There are many on the other side, who possibly may have been persuaded to the necessity of these measures, which I conceive to be dangerous to your liberty. Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined. I am answered by gentlemen, that, though I might speak of terrors, yet the fact was, that we were surrounded by none of the Edition: current; Page: [46] dangers I apprehended. I conceive this new government to be one of those dangers: it has produced those horrors which distress many of our best citizens. We are come hither to preserve the poor commonwealth of Virginia, if it can be possibly done: something must be done to preserve your liberty and mine. The Confederation, this same despised government, merits, in my opinion, the highest encomium: it carried us through a long and dangerous war; it rendered us victorious in that bloody conflict with a powerful nation; it has secured us a territory greater than any European monarch possesses: and shall a government which has been thus strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility, and abandoned for want of energy? Consider what you are about to do before you part with the government. Take longer time in reckoning things; revolutions like this have happened in almost every country in Europe; similar examples are to be found in ancient Greece and ancient Rome — instances of the people losing their liberty by their own carelessness and the ambition of a few. We are cautioned by the honorable gentleman, who presides, against faction and turbulence. I acknowledge that licentiousness is dangerous, and that it ought to be provided against: I acknowledge, also, the new form of government may effectually prevent it: yet there is another thing it will as effectually do — it will oppress and ruin the people.

There are sufficient guards placed against sedition and licentiousness; for, when power is given to this government to suppress these, or for any other purpose, the language it assumes is clear, express, and unequivocal; but when this Constitution speaks of privileges, there is an ambiguity, sir, a fatal ambiguity — an ambiguity which is very astonishing. In the clause under consideration, there is the strangest language that I can conceive. I mean, when it says that there shall not be more representatives than one for every thirty thousand. Now, sir, how easy is it to evade this privilege! “The number shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand.” This may be satisfied by one representative from each state. Let our numbers be ever so great, this immense continent may, by this artful expression, be reduced to have but thirteen representatives. I confess this construction is not natural; but the ambiguity of the expression lays a good ground for a quarrel. Why was it not clearly and unequivocally Edition: current; Page: [47] expressed, that they should be entitled to have one for every thirty thousand? This would have obviated all disputes; and was this difficult to be done? What is the inference? When population increases, and a state shall send representatives in this proportion, Congress may remand them, because the right of having one for every thirty thousand is not clearly expressed. This possibility of reducing the number to one for each state approximates to probability by that other expression — “but each state shall at least have one representative.” Now, is it not clear that, from the first expression, the number might be reduced so much that some states should have no representatives at all, were it not for the insertion of this last expression? And as this is the only restriction upon them, we may fairly conclude that they may restrain the number to one from each state. Perhaps the same horrors may hang over my mind again. I shall be told I am continually afraid: but, sir, I have strong cause of apprehension. In some parts of the plan before you, the great rights of freemen are endangered; in other parts, absolutely taken away. How does your trial by jury stand? In civil cases gone — not sufficiently secured in criminal — this best privilege is gone. But we are told that we need not fear; because those in power, being our representatives, will not abuse the powers we put in their hands. I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers. I imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny. Happy will you be if you miss the fate of those nations, who, omitting to resist their oppressors, or negligently suffering their liberty to be wrested from them, have groaned under intolerable despotism! Most of the human race are now in this deplorable condition; and those nations who have gone in search of grandeur, power, and splendor, have also fallen a sacrifice, and been the victims of their own folly. While they acquired those visionary blessings, they lost their freedom. My great objection to this government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights, or of waging war against tyrants. It is urged by some gentlemen, that this new plan will bring us an acquisition of strength — an army, and the militia of the states. This is an idea extremely ridiculous: gentlemen cannot be earnest. This acquisition Edition: current; Page: [48] will trample on our fallen liberty. Let my beloved Americans guard against that fatal lethargy that has pervaded the universe. Have we the means of resisting disciplined armies, when our only defence, the militia, is put into the hands of Congress? The honorable gentleman said that great danger would ensue if the Convention rose without adopting this system. I ask, Where is that danger? I see none. Other gentlemen have told us, within these walls, that the union is gone, or that the union will be gone. Is not this trifling with the judgment of their fellow-citizens? Till they tell us the grounds of their fears, I will consider them as imaginary. I rose to make inquiry where those dangers were; they could make no answer: I believe I never shall have that answer. Is there a disposition in the people of this country to revolt against the dominion of laws? Has there been a single tumult in Virginia? Have not the people of Virginia, when laboring under the severest pressure of accumulated distresses, manifested the most cordial acquiescence in the execution of the laws? What could be more awful than their unanimous acquiescence under general distresses? Is there any revolution in Virginia? Whither is the spirit of America gone? Whither is the genius of America fled? It was but yesterday, when our enemies marched in triumph through our country. Yet the people of this country could not be appalled by their pompous armaments: they stopped their career, and victoriously captured them. Where is the peril, now, compared to that? Some minds are agitated by foreign alarms. Happily for us, there is no real danger from Europe; that country is engaged in more arduous business: from that quarter there is no cause of fear: you may sleep in safety forever for them.

Where is the danger? If, sir, there was any, I would recur to the American spirit to defend us; that spirit which has enabled us to surmount the greatest difficulties: to that illustrious spirit I address my most fervent prayer to prevent our adopting a system destructive to liberty. Let not gentlemen be told that it is not safe to reject this government. Wherefore is it not safe? We are told there are dangers, but those dangers are ideal; they cannot be demonstrated. To encourage us to adopt it, they tell us that there is a plain, easy way of getting amendments. When I come to contemplate this part, I suppose that I am mad, or that my Edition: current; Page: [49] countrymen are so. The way to amendment is, in my conception, shut. Let us consider this plain, easy way. “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a Convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by the Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress. Provided, that no amendment which may be made prior to the year 1808, shall in any manner affect the 1st and 4th clauses in the 9th section of the 1st article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”

Hence it appears that three fourths of the states must ultimately agree to any amendments that may be necessary. Let us consider the consequence of this. However uncharitable it may appear, yet I must tell my opinion — that the most unworthy characters may get into power, and prevent the introduction of amendments. Let us suppose — for the case is supposable, possible, and probable — that you happen to deal those powers to unworthy hands; will they relinquish powers already in their possession, or agree to amendments? Two thirds of the Congress, or of the state legislatures, are necessary even to propose amendments. If one third of these be unworthy men, they may prevent the application for amendments; but what is destructive and mischievous, is, that three fourths of the state legislatures, or of the state conventions, must concur in the amendments when proposed! In such numerous bodies, there must necessarily be some designing, bad men. To suppose that so large a number as three fourths of the states will concur, is to suppose that they will possess genius, intelligence, and integrity, approaching to miraculous. It would indeed be miraculous that they should concur in the same amendments, or even in such as would bear some likeness to one another; for four of the smallest states, that do not collectively contain one tenth part of the population of the United States, may obstruct the most salutary and necessary amendments. Nay, in these four states, six tenths of the people may reject Edition: current; Page: [50] these amendments; and suppose that amendments shall be opposed to amendments, which is highly probable, — is it possible that three fourths can ever agree to the same amendments? A bare majority in these four small states may hinder the adoption of amendments; so that we may fairly and justly conclude that one twentieth part of the American people may prevent the removal of the most grievous inconveniences and oppression, by refusing to accede to amendments. A trifling minority may reject the most salutary amendments. Is this an easy mode of securing the public liberty? It is, sir, a most fearful situation, when the most contemptible minority can prevent the alteration of the most oppressive government; for it may, in many respects, prove to be such. Is this the spirit of republicanism?

What, sir, is the genius of democracy? Let me read that clause of the bill of rights of Virginia which relates to this: 3d clause: — that government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community. Of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration; and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate, or contrary to those purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

This, sir, is the language of democracy — that a majority of the community have a right to alter government when found to be oppressive. But how different is the genius of your new Constitution from this! How different from the sentiments of freemen, that a contemptible minority can prevent the good of the majority! If, then, gentlemen, standing on this ground, are come to that point, that they are willing to bind themselves and their posterity to be oppressed, I am amazed and inexpressibly astonished. If this be the opinion of the majority, I must submit; but to me, sir, it appears perilous and destructive. I cannot help thinking so. Perhaps it may be the result of my age. These may be feelings natural to a man of my years, when the American spirit has left him, and his mental powers, like the members of the body, are decayed. If, sir, amendments Edition: current; Page: [51] are left to the twentieth, or tenth part of the people of America, your liberty is gone forever. We have heard that there is a great deal of bribery practised in the House of Commons, in England, and that many of the members raise themselves to preferments by selling the rights of the whole of the people. But, sir, the tenth part of that body cannot continue oppressions on the rest of the people. English liberty is, in this case, on a firmer foundation than American liberty. It will be easily contrived to procure the opposition of one tenth of the people to any alteration, however judicious. The honorable gentleman who presides told us that, to prevent abuses in our government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical, no longer a democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all? You read of a riot act in a country which is called one of the freest in the world, where a few neighbors cannot assemble without the risk of being shot by a hired soldiery, the engines of despotism. We may see such an act in America.

A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment? In what situation are we to be? The clause before you gives a power of direct taxation, unbounded and unlimited, exclusive power of legislation, in all cases whatsoever, for ten miles square, and over all places purchased for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, &c. What resistance could be made? The attempt would be madness. You will find all the strength of this country in the hands of your enemies; their garrisons will naturally be the strongest places in the country. Your militia is given up to Congress, also, in another part of this plan: they will therefore act as they think proper: all power will be in their own possession. You cannot force them to receive their punishment: of what service would militia be to you, Edition: current; Page: [52] when, most probably, you will not have a single musket in the state? for, as arms are to be provided by Congress, they may or may not furnish them.

Let me here call your attention to that part which gives the Congress power “to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States — reserving to the states, respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither — this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory. Our situation will be deplorable indeed: nor can we ever expect to get this government amended, since I have already shown that a very small minority may prevent it, and that small minority interested in the continuance of the oppression. Will the oppressor let go the oppressed? Was there ever an instance? Can the annals of mankind exhibit one single example where rulers overcharged with power willingly let go the oppressed, though solicited and requested most earnestly? The application for amendments will therefore be fruitless. Sometimes, the oppressed have got loose by one of those bloody struggles that desolate a country; but a willing relinquishment of power is one of those things which human nature never was, nor ever will be, capable of.

The honorable gentleman’s observations, respecting the people’s right of being the agents in the formation of this government, are not accurate, in my humble conception. The distinction between a national government and a confederacy is not sufficiently discerned. Had the delegates, who were sent to Philadelphia, a power to propose a consolidated government instead of a confederacy? Were they not deputed by states, and not by the people? The assent of the people, in their collective capacity, is not necessary to the formation of a federal government. The people have no right to enter into leagues, alliances, or confederations: Edition: current; Page: [53] they are not the proper agents for this purpose. States and foreign powers are the only proper agents for this kind of government. Show me an instance where the people have exercised this business. Has it not always gone through the legislatures? I refer you to the treaties with France, Holland, and other nations. How were they made? Were they not made by the states? Are the people, therefore, in their aggregate capacity, the proper persons to form a confederacy? This, therefore, ought to depend on the consent of the legislatures, the people having never sent delegates to make any proposition for changing the government. Yet I must say, at the same time, that it was made on grounds the most pure; and perhaps I might have been brought to consent to it so far as to the change of government. But there is one thing in it which I never would acquiesce in. I mean, the changing it into a consolidated government, which is so abhorrent to my mind. [The honorable gentleman then went on to the figure we make with foreign nations; the contemptible one we make in France and Holland; which, according to the substance of the notes, he attributes to the present feeble government.] An opinion has gone forth, we find, that we are contemptible people: the time has been when we were thought otherwise. Under the same despised government, we commanded the respect of all Europe: wherefore are we now reckoned otherwise? The American spirit has fled from hence: it has gone to regions where it has never been expected; it has gone to the people of France, in search of a splendid government — a strong, energetic government. Shall we imitate the example of those nations who have gone from a simple to a splendid government? Are those nations more worthy of our imitation? What can make an adequate satisfaction to them for the loss they have suffered in attaining such a government — for the loss of their liberty? If we admit this consolidated government, it will be because we like a great, splendid one. Some way or other we must be a great and mighty empire; we must have an army, and a navy, and a number of things. When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: liberty, sir, was then the primary object. We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty: our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation Edition: current; Page: [54] of every thing. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors: by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government. What can avail your specious, imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble. Would this constitute happiness, or secure liberty? I trust, sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects.

Consider our situation, sir: go to the poor man, and ask him what he does. He will inform you that he enjoys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig-tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of society, — you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances. Why, then, tell us of danger, to terrify us into an adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce? They are out of the sight of the common people: they cannot foresee latent consequences. I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower classes of people: it is for them I fear the adoption of this system. I fear I tire the patience of the committee; but I beg to be indulged with a few more observations. When I thus profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people, I shall be told I am a designing man, that I am to be a great man, that I am to be a demagogue; and many similar illiberal insinuations will be thrown out: but, sir, conscious rectitude outweighs those things with me. I see great jeopardy in this new government. I see none from our present one. I hope some gentleman or other will bring forth, in full array, those Edition: current; Page: [55] dangers, if there be any, that we may see and touch them. I have said that I thought this a consolidated government: I will now prove it. Will the great rights of the people be secured by this government? Suppose it should prove oppressive, how can it be altered? Our bill of rights declares, “that a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”

I have just proved that one tenth, or less, of the people of America — a most despicable minority — may prevent this reform or alteration. Suppose the people of Virginia should wish to alter their government; can a majority of them do it? No; because they are connected with other men, or, in other words, consolidated with other states. When the people of Virginia, at a future day, shall wish to alter their government, though they should be unanimous in this desire, yet they may be prevented therefrom by a despicable minority at the extremity of the United States. The founders of your own Constitution made your government changeable: but the power of changing it is gone from you. Whither is it gone? It is placed in the same hands that hold the rights of twelve other states; and those who hold those rights have right and power to keep them. It is not the particular government of Virginia: one of the leading features of that government is, that a majority can alter it, when necessary for the public good. This government is not a Virginian, but an American government. Is it not, therefore, a consolidated government? The sixth clause of your bill of rights tells you, “that elections of members to serve as representatives of the people in Assembly ought to be free, and that all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage, and cannot be taxed, or deprived of their property for public uses, without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good.” But what does this Constitution say? The clause under consideration gives an unlimited and unbounded power of taxation. Suppose every delegate from Virginia opposes a law laying a tax; what will it avail? They are opposed by a majority; eleven members can destroy their efforts: Edition: current; Page: [56] those feeble ten cannot prevent the passing the most oppressive tax law; so that, in direct opposition to the spirit and express language of your declaration of rights, you are taxed, not by your own consent, but by people who have no connection with you.

The next clause of the bill of rights tells you, “that all power of suspending law, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without the consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.” This tells us that there can be no suspension of government or laws without our own consent; yet this Constitution can counteract and suspend any of our laws that contravene its oppressive operation; for they have the power of direct taxation, which suspends our bill of rights; and it is expressly provided that they can make all laws necessary for carrying their powers into execution; and it is declared paramount to the laws and constitutions of the states. Consider how the only remaining defence we have left is destroyed in this manner. Besides the expenses of maintaining the Senate and other house in as much splendor as they please, there is to be a great and mighty President, with very extensive powers — the powers of a king. He is to be supported in extravagant magnificence; so that the whole of our property may be taken by this American government, by laying what taxes they please, giving themselves what salaries they please, and suspending our laws at their pleasure. I might be thought too inquisitive, but I believe I should take up very little of your time in enumerating the little power that is left to the government of Virginia; for this power is reduced to little or nothing: their garrisons, magazines, arsenals, and forts, which will be situated in the strongest places within the states; their ten miles square, with all the fine ornaments of human life, added to their powers, and taken from the states, will reduce the power of the latter to nothing.

The voice of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our struggles for freedom. If our descendants be worthy the name of Americans, they will preserve, and hand down to their latest posterity, the transactions of the present times; and, though I confess my exclamations are not worthy the hearing, they will see that I have done my utmost to preserve their liberty; for I never will give up the power of direct taxation but for a scourge. I am willing to give it conditionally; Edition: current; Page: [57] that is, after non-compliance with requisitions. I will do more, sir, and what I hope will convince the most skeptical man that I am a lover of the American Union — that, in case Virginia shall not make punctual payment, the control of our custom-houses, and the whole regulation of trade, shall be given to Congress, and that Virginia shall depend on Congress even for passports, till Virginia shall have paid the last farthing, and furnished the last soldier. Nay, sir, there is another alternative to which I would consent; — even that they should strike us out of the Union, and take away from us all federal privileges, till we comply with federal requisitions: but let it depend upon our own pleasure to pay our money in the most easy manner for our people. Were all the states, more terrible than the mother country, to join against us, I hope Virginia could defend herself; but, sir, the dissolution of the Union is most abhorrent to my mind. The first thing I have at heart is American liberty: the second thing is American union; and I hope the people of Virginia will endeavor to preserve that union. The increasing population of the Southern States is far greater than that of New England; consequently, in a short time, they will be far more numerous than the people of that country. Consider this, and you will find this state more particularly interested to support American liberty, and not bind our posterity by an improvident relinquishment of our rights. I would give the best security for a punctual compliance with requisitions; but I beseech gentlemen, at all hazards, not to give up this unlimited power of taxation. The honorable gentleman has told us that these powers, given to Congress, are accompanied by a judiciary which will correct all. On examination, you will find this very judiciary oppressively constructed; your jury trial destroyed, and the judges dependent on Congress.

In this scheme of energetic government, the people will find two sets of tax-gatherers — the state and the federal sheriffs. This, it seems to me, will produce such dreadful oppression as the people cannot possibly bear. The federal sheriff may commit what oppression, make what distresses, he pleases, and ruin you with impunity; for how are you to tie his hands? Have you any sufficiently decided means of preventing him from sucking your blood by speculations, commissions, and fees? Thus thousands of your people will be most shamefully robbed: our state sheriffs, those unfeeling blood-suckers, Edition: current; Page: [58] have, under the watchful eye of our legislature, committed the most horrid and barbarous ravages on our people. It has required the most constant vigilance of the legislature to keep them from totally ruining the people; a repeated succession of laws has been made to suppress their iniquitous speculations and cruel extortions; and as often has their nefarious ingenuity devised methods of evading the force of those laws: in the struggle they have generally triumphed over the legislature.

It is a fact that lands have been sold for five shillings, which were worth one hundred pounds: if sheriffs, thus immediately under the eye of our state legislature and judiciary, have dared to commit these outrages, what would they not have done if their masters had been at Philadelphia or New York? If they perpetrate the most unwarrantable outrage on your person or property, you cannot get redress on this side of Philadelphia or New York; and how can you get it there. If your domestic avocations could permit you to go thither, there you must appeal to judges sworn to support this Constitution, in opposition to that of any state, and who may also be inclined to favor their own officers. When these harpies are aided by excisemen, who may search, at any time, your houses, and most secret recesses, will the people bear it? If you think so, you differ from me. Where I thought there was a possibility of such mischiefs, I would grant power with a niggardly hand; and here there is a strong probability that these oppressions shall actually happen. I may be told that it is safe to err on that side, because such regulations may be made by Congress as shall restrain these officers, and because laws are made by our representatives, and judged by righteous judges: but, sir, as these regulations may be made, so they may not; and many reasons there are to induce a belief that they will not. I shall therefore be an infidel on that point till the day of my death.

This Constitution is said to have beautiful features; but when I come to examine these features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightful. Among other deformities, it has an awful squinting; it squints towards monarchy; and does not this raise indignation in the breast of every true American?

Your President may easily become king. Your Senate is so imperfectly constructed that your dearest rights may be sacrificed by what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue forever unchangeably this government, Edition: current; Page: [59] although horridly defective. Where are your checks in this government? Your strongholds will be in the hands of your enemies. It is on a supposition that your American governors shall be honest, that all the good qualities of this government are founded; but its defective and imperfect construction puts it in their power to perpetrate the worst of mischiefs, should they be bad men; and, sir, would not all the world, from the eastern to the western hemisphere, blame our distracted folly in resting our rights upon the contingency of our rulers being good or bad? Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty! I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has ever followed, with absolute certainty, every such mad attempt.

If your American chief be a man of ambition and abilities, how easy is it for him to render himself absolute! The army is in his hands, and if he be a man of address, it will be attached to him, and it will be the subject of long meditation with him to seize the first auspicious moment to accomplish his design; and, sir, will the American spirit solely relieve you when this happens? I would rather infinitely — and I am sure most of this Convention are of the same opinion — have a king, lords, and commons, than a government so replete with such insupportable evils. If we make a king, we may prescribe the rules by which he shall rule his people, and interpose such checks as shall prevent him from infringing them; but the President, in the field, at the head of his army, can prescribe the terms on which he shall reign master, so far that it will puzzle any American ever to get his neck from under the galling yoke. I cannot with patience think of this idea. If ever he violates the laws, one of two things will happen: he will come at the head of his army, to carry every thing before him; or he will give bail, or do what Mr. Chief Justice will order him. If he be guilty, will not the recollection of his crimes teach him to make one bold push for the American throne? Will not the immense difference between being master of every thing, and being ignominiously tried and punished, powerfully excite him to make this bold push? But, sir, where is the existing force to punish him? Can he not, at the head of his army, beat down every opposition? Away with your Edition: current; Page: [60] President! we shall have a king: the army will salute him monarch: your militia will leave you, and assist in making him king, and fight against you: and what have you to oppose this force? What will then become of you and your rights? Will not absolute despotism ensue?

[Here Mr. HENRY strongly and pathetically expatiated on the probability of the President’s enslaving America, and the horrid consequences that must result.]

What can be more defective than the clause concerning the elections? The control given to Congress over the time, place, and manner of holding elections, will totally destroy the end of suffrage. The elections may be held at one place, and the most inconvenient in the state; or they may be at remote distances from those who have a right of suffrage: hence nine out of ten must either not vote at all, or vote for strangers; for the most influential characters will be applied to, to know who are the most proper to be chosen. I repeat, that the control of Congress over the manner, &c., of electing, well warrants this idea. The natural consequence will be, that this democratic branch will possess none of the public confidence; the people will be prejudiced against representatives chosen in such an injudicious manner. The proceedings in the northern conclave will be hidden from the yeomanry of this country. We are told that the yeas and nays shall be taken, and entered on the journals. This, sir, will avail nothing: it may be locked up in their chests, and concealed forever from the people; for they are not to publish what parts they think require secrecy: they may think, and will think, the whole requires it. Another beautiful feature of this Constitution is, the publication from time to time of the receipts and expenditures of the public money.

This expression, from time to time, is very indefinite and indeterminate: it may extend to a century. Grant that any of them are wicked; they may squander the public money so as to ruin you, and yet this expression will give you no redress. I say they may ruin you; for where, sir, is the responsibility? The yeas and nays will show you nothing, unless they be fools as well as knaves; for, after having wickedly trampled on the rights of the people, they would act like fools indeed, were they to publish and divulge Edition: current; Page: [61] their iniquity, when they have it equally in their power to suppress and conceal it. Where is the responsibility — that leading principle in the British government? In that government, a punishment certain and inevitable is provided; but in this, there is no real, actual punishment for the grossest mal-administration. They may go without punishment, though they commit the most outrageous violation on our immunities. That paper may tell me they will be punished. I ask, By what law? They must make the law, for there is no existing law to do it. What! will they make a law to punish themselves?

This, sir, is my great objection to the Constitution, that there is no true responsibility — and that the preservation of our liberty depends on the single chance of men being virtuous enough to make laws to punish themselves.

In the country from which we are descended, they have real and not imaginary responsibility; for their mal-administration has cost their heads to some of the most saucy geniuses that ever were. The Senate, by making treaties, may destroy your liberty and laws for want of responsibility. Two thirds of those that shall happen to be present, can, with the President, make treaties that shall be the supreme law of the land; they may make the most ruinous treaties; and yet there is no punishment for them. Whoever shows me a punishment provided for them will oblige me. So, sir, notwithstanding there are eight pillars, they want another. Where will they make another? I trust, sir, the exclusion of the evils wherewith this system is replete in its present form, will be made a condition precedent to its adoption by this or any other state. The transition, from a general unqualified admission to offices, to a consolidation of government, seems easy; for, though the American states are dissimilar in their structure, this will assimilate them. This, sir, is itself a strong consolidating feature, and is not one of the least dangerous in that system. Nine states are sufficient to establish this government over those nine. Imagine that nine have come into it. Virginia has certain scruples. Suppose she will, consequently, refuse to join with those states; may not she still continue in friendship and union with them? If she sends her annual requisitions in dollars, do you think their stomachs will be so squeamish as to refuse her dollars? Will they not accept her regiments? Edition: current; Page: [62] They would intimidate you into an inconsiderate adoption, and frighten you with ideal evils, and that the Union shall be dissolved. ’Tis a bugbear, sir: the fact is, sir, that the eight adopting states can hardly stand on their own legs. Public fame tells us that the adopting states have already heart-burnings and animosity, and repent their precipitate hurry: this, sir, may occasion exceeding great mischief. When I reflect on these and many other circumstances, I must think those states will be found to be in confederacy with us. If we pay our quota of money annually, and furnish our ratable number of men, when necessary, I can see no danger from a rejection.

The history of Switzerland clearly proves that we might be in amicable alliance with those states without adopting this Constitution. Switzerland is a confederacy, consisting of dissimilar governments. This is an example which proves that governments of dissimilar structures may be confederated. That confederate republic has stood upwards of four hundred years; and, although several of the individual republics are democratic, and the rest aristocratic, no evil has resulted from this dissimilarity; for they have braved all the power of France and Germany during that long period. The Swiss spirit, sir, has kept them together; they have encountered and overcome immense difficulties with patience and fortitude. In the vicinity of powerful and ambitious monarchs, they have retained their independence, republican simplicity, and valor. [Here he makes a comparison of the people of that country and those of France, and makes a quotation from Addison illustrating the subject.] Look at the peasants of that country and of France; and mark the difference. You will find the condition of the former far more desirable and comfortable. No matter whether the people be great, splendid, and powerful, if they enjoy freedom. The Turkish Grand Signior, alongside of our President, would put us to disgrace; but we should be as abundantly consoled for this disgrace, when our citizens have been put in contrast with the Turkish slave. The most valuable end of government is the liberty of the inhabitants. No possible advantages can compensate for the loss of this privilege. Show me the reason why the American Union is to be dissolved. Who are those eight adopting states? Are they averse to give us a little time to consider, before we Edition: current; Page: [63] conclude? Would such a disposition render a junction with them eligible; or is it the genius of that kind of government to precipitate people hastily into measures of the utmost importance, and grant no indulgence? If it be, sir, is it for us to accede to such a government? We have a right to have time to consider; we shall therefore insist upon it. Unless the government be amended, we can never accept it. The adopting states will doubtless accept our money and our regiments; and what is to be the consequence, if we are disunited? I believe it is yet doubtful, whether it is not proper to stand by a while, and see the effect of its adoption in other states. In forming a government, the utmost care should be taken to prevent its becoming oppressive; and this government is of such an intricate and complicated nature, that no man on this earth can know its real operation. The other states have no reason to think, from the antecedent conduct of Virginia, that she has any intention of seceding from the Union, or of being less active to support the general welfare. Would they not, therefore, acquiesce in our taking time to deliberate — deliberate whether the measure be not perilous, not only for us, but the adopting states?

Permit me, sir, to say, that a great majority of the people, even in the adopting states, are averse to this government. I believe I would be right to say, that they have been egregiously misled. Pennsylvania has, perhaps, been tricked into it. If the other states who have adopted it have not been tricked, still they were too much hurried into its adoption. There were very respectable minorities in several of them; and if reports be true, a clear majority of the people are averse to it. If we also accede, and it should prove grievous, the peace and prosperity of our country, which we all love, will be destroyed. This government has not the affection of the people at present. Should it be oppressive, their affections will be totally estranged from it; and, sir, you know that a government, without their affections, can neither be durable nor happy. I speak as one poor individual; but when I speak, I speak the language of thousands. But, sir, I mean not to breathe the spirit, nor utter the language, of secession.

I have trespassed so long on your patience, I am really concerned that I have something yet to say. The honorable Edition: current; Page: [64] member has said, we shall be properly represented. Remember, sir, that the number of our representatives is but ten, whereof six is a majority. Will those men be possessed of sufficient information? A particular knowledge of particular districts will not suffice. They must be well acquainted with agriculture, commerce, and a great variety of other matters throughout the continent; they must know not only the actual state of nations in Europe and America, the situations of their farmers, cottagers, and mechanics, but also the relative situations and intercourse of those nations. Virginia is as large as England. Our proportion of representatives is but ten men. In England they have five hundred and fifty-eight. The House of Commons, in England, numerous as they are, we are told, are bribed, and have bartered away the rights of their constituents: what, then, shall become of us? Will these few protect our rights? Will they be incorruptible? You say they will be better men than the English commoners. I say they will be infinitely worse men, because they are to be chosen blindfolded: their election (the term, as applied to their appointment, is inaccurate) will be an involuntary nomination, and not a choice.

I have, I fear, fatigued the committee; yet I have not said the one hundred thousandth part of what I have on my mind, and wish to impart. On this occasion, I conceived myself bound to attend strictly to the interest of the state, and I thought her dearest rights at stake. Having lived so long — been so much honored — my efforts, though small, are due to my country. I have found my mind hurried on, from subject to subject, on this very great occasion. We have been all out of order, from the gentleman who opened to-day to myself. I did not come prepared to speak, on so multifarious a subject, in so general a manner. I trust you will indulge me another time. Before you abandon the present system, I hope you will consider not only its defects, most maturely, but likewise those of that which you are to substitute for it. May you be fully apprized of the dangers of the latter, not by fatal experience, but by some abler advocate than I!

Gov. RANDOLPH. Mr. Chairman, if we go on in this irregular manner, contrary to our resolution, instead of three or six weeks, it will take us six months to decide this question. I shall endeavor to make the committee sensible of Edition: current; Page: [65] the necessity of establishing a national government. In the course of my argument, I shall show the inefficacy of the Confederation. It is too late to enter into the subject now, but I shall take the first opportunity for that purpose. I mention this to show that I had not answered him fully, nor in a general way, yesterday.

The Convention, according to the order of the day, again resolved itself into a committee of the whole Convention, to take into further consideration the proposed plan of government. Mr. Wythe in the chair.

[The 1st and 2d sections still under consideration.]

Gov. RANDOLPH. Mr. Chairman, I am a child of the revolution. My country, very early indeed, took me under its protection, at a time when I most wanted it, and, by a succession of favors and honors, gratified even my most ardent wishes. I feel the highest gratitude and attachment to my country; her felicity is the most fervent prayer of my heart. Conscious of having exerted my faculties to the utmost in her behalf, if I have not succeeded in securing the esteem of my countrymen, I shall reap abundant consolation from the rectitude of my intentions: honors, when compared to the satisfaction accruing from a conscious independence and rectitude of conduct, are no equivalent. The unwearied study of my life shall be to promote her happiness. As a citizen, ambition and popularity are no objects with me. I expect, in the course of a year, to retire to that private station which I most sincerely and cordially prefer to all others. The security of public justice, sir, is what I most fervently wish, as I consider that object to be the primary step to the attainment of public happiness. I can declare to the whole world, that, in the part I take in this very important question, I am actuated by a regard for what I conceive to be our true interest. I can also, with equal sincerity, declare that I would join heart and hand in rejecting this system, did I not conceive it would promote our happiness; but, having a strong conviction on my mind, at this time, that by a disunion we shall throw away all those blessings we have so earnestly fought for, and that a rejection of the Constitution will operate disunion, pardon me if I discharge the obligation I owe to my country, by voting for its adoption. We are told that the report of dangers is false. The cry of Edition: current; Page: [66] peace, sir, is false: say peace, when there is peace; it is but a sudden calm. The tempest growls over you: look round — wheresoever you look, you see danger. Where there are so many witnesses in many parts of America, that justice is suffocated, shall peace and happiness still be said to reign? Candor, sir, requires an undisguised representation of our situation. Candor, sir, demands a faithful exposition of facts. Many citizens have found justice strangled and trampled under foot, through the course of jurisprudence in this country. Are those who have debts due to them satisfied with your government? Are not creditors wearied with the tedious procrastination of your legal process — a process obscured by legislative mists? Cast your eyes to your seaports; see how commerce languishes. This country, so blessed, by nature, with every advantage that can render commerce profitable, through defective legislation is deprived of all the benefits and emoluments she might otherwise reap from it. We hear many complaints on the subject of located lands; a variety of competitors claiming the same lands under legislative acts, public faith prostrated, and private confidence destroyed. I ask you if your laws are reverenced. In every well-regulated community, the laws command respect. Are yours entitled to reverence? We not only see violations of the constitution, but of national principles in repeated instances. How is the fact? The history of the violations of the constitution extends from the year 1776 to this present time — violations made by formal acts of the legislature: every thing has been drawn within the legislative vortex.

There is one example of this violation in Virginia, of a most striking and shocking nature — an example so horrid, that, if I conceived my country would passively permit a repetition of it, dear as it is to me, I would seek means of expatriating myself from it. A man, who was then a citizen, was deprived of his life thus: from a mere reliance on general reports, a gentleman in the House of Delegates informed the house, that a certain man (Josiah Philips) had committed several crimes, and was running at large, perpetrating other crimes. He therefore moved for leave to attaint him; he obtained that leave instantly; no sooner did he obtain it, than he drew from his pocket a bill ready written for that effect; it was read three times in one day, and carried to Edition: current; Page: [67] the Senate. I will not say that it passed the same day through the Senate; but he was attainted very speedily and precipitately, without any proof better than vague reports. Without being confronted with his accusers and witnesses, without the privilege of calling for evidence in his behalf, he was sentenced to death, and was afterwards actually executed. Was this arbitrary deprivation of life, the dearest gift of God to man, consistent with the genius of a republican government? Is this compatible with the spirit of freedom? This, sir, has made the deepest impression on my heart, and I cannot contemplate it without horror. There are still a multiplicity of complaints of the debility of the laws. Justice, in many instances, is so unattainable that commerce may, in fact, be said to be stopped entirely. There is no peace, sir, in this land. Can peace exist with injustice, licentiousness, insecurity, and oppression? These considerations, independent of many others which I have not yet enumerated, would be a sufficient reason for the adoption of this Constitution, because it secures the liberty of the citizen, his person and property, and will invigorate and restore commerce and industry. An additional reason to induce us to adopt it is that excessive licentiousness which has resulted from the relaxation of our laws, and which will be checked by this government. Let us judge from the fate of more ancient nations: licentiousness has produced tyranny among many of them: it has contributed as much (if not more) as any other cause whatsoever to the loss of their liberties. I have respect for the integrity of our legislatures; I believe them to be virtuous; but as long as the defects of the Constitution exist, so long will laws be imperfect.

The honorable gentleman went on further, and said that the accession of eight states is not a reason for our adoption. Many other things have been alleged out of order; instead of discussing the system regularly, a variety of points are promiscuously debated, in order to make temporary impression on the members. Sir, were I convinced of the validity of their arguments, I would join them heart and hand. Were I convinced that the accession of eight states did not render our accession also necessary to preserve the Union, I would not accede to it till it should be previously amended; but, sir, I am convinced that the Union will be lost by our rejection. Massachusetts has adopted it; she has recommended Edition: current; Page: [68] subsequent amendments; her influence must be very considerable to obtain them. I trust my countrymen have sufficient wisdom and virtue to entitle them to equal respect. Is it urged that, being wiser, we ought to prescribe amendments to the other states? I have considered this subject deliberately; wearied myself in endeavoring to find a possibility of preserving the Union, without our unconditional ratification; but, sir, in vain; I find no other means. I ask myself a variety of questions applicable to the adopting states, and I conclude, Will they repent of what they have done? Will they acknowledge themselves in an error? Or will they recede, to gratify Virginia? My prediction is, that they will not. Shall we stand by ourselves, and be severed from the Union, if amendments cannot be had? I have every reason for determining within myself that our rejection must dissolve the Union; and that that dissolution will destroy our political happiness. The honorable gentleman was pleased to draw out several other arguments out of order, — that this government would destroy the state governments, the trial by jury, &c. &c., — and concluded by an illustration of his opinion by a reference to the confederacy of the Swiss. Let us argue with unprejudiced minds. They say that the trial by jury is gone. Is this so? Although I have declared my determination to give my vote for it, yet I shall freely censure those parts which appear to me reprehensible.

The trial by jury in criminal cases is secured; in civil cases it is not so expressly secured as I should wish it; but it does not follow that Congress has the power of taking away this privilege, which is secured by the constitution of each state, and not given away by this Constitution. I have no fear on this subject. Congress must regulate it so as to suit every state. I will risk my property on the certainty that they will institute the trial by jury in such manner as shall accommodate the conveniences of the inhabitants in every state. The difficulty of ascertaining this accommodation was the principal cause of its not being provided for. It will be the interest of the individuals composing Congress to put it on this convenient footing. Shall we not choose men respectable for their good qualities? Or can we suppose that men tainted with the worst vices will get into Congress? I beg leave to differ from the honorable gentleman in another Edition: current; Page: [69] point. He dreads that great inconveniences will ensue from the federal court; that our citizens will be harassed by being carried thither. I cannot think that this power of the federal judiciary will necessarily be abused; the inconvenience here suggested being of a general nature, affecting most of the states, will, by general consent of the states, be removed: and, I trust, such regulations shall be made in this case as will accommodate the people in every state. The honorable gentleman instanced the Swiss cantons, as an example, to show us the possibility, if not expediency, of being in amicable alliance with the other states, without adopting this system. Sir, references to history will be fatal in political reasons unless well guarded. Our mental ability is often so contracted, and powers of investigation so limited, that sometimes we adduce as an example in our favor what in fact militates against us. Examine the situation of that country comparatively to us: the extent and situation of that country is totally different from ours; their country is surrounded by powerful, ambitious, and reciprocally jealous nations; their territory small, and soil not very fertile. The peculiarity, sir, of their situation, has kept them together, and not that system of alliance to which the gentleman seems to attribute the durability and felicity of their connection.

[Here his excellency quoted some passages from Stanyard, illustrating his argument, and largely commented upon it; the effect of which was, that the narrow confines of that country rendered it very possible for a system of confederacy to accommodate those cantons, that would not suit the United States; that it was the fear of the ambitious and warlike nations that surrounded them, and the reciprocal jealousy of the other European powers, that rendered their union so desirable; and that, notwithstanding these circumstances, and their being a hardy race of people, yet such was the injudicious construction of their confederacy, that very considerable broils interrupted their harmony sometimes.]

His excellency then continued: I have produced this example to show that we ought not to be amused with the historical references which have no kind of analogy to the points under our consideration. We ought to confine ourselves to those points, solely, which have an immediate and strict similitude to the subject of our discussion. The reference made by the honorable gentleman over the way is extremely inapplicable to us. Are the Swiss cantons circumstanced as we are? Are we surrounded by formidable Edition: current; Page: [70] nations? Or are we situated in any manner like them? We are not, sir. Then it naturally results, that no such friendly intercourse as he flattered himself with could take place, in a case of a dissolution of our union. We are remotely situated from powerful nations, the dread of whose attack might impel us to unite firmly with one another; nor are we situated in an inaccessibly strong position; we have to fear much from one another. We must soon feel the fatal effects of an imperfect system of union. The honorable gentleman attacks the Constitution, as he thinks it is contrary to our bill of rights. Do we not appeal to the people, by whose authority all government is made? That bill of rights is of no validity, because, I conceive, it is not formed on due authority. It is not a part of our Constitution; it has never secured us against any danger; it has been repeatedly disregarded and violated. But we must not discard the Confederation, for the remembrance of its past services. I am attached to old servants. I have regard and tenderness for this old servant; but when reason tells us, that it can no longer be retained without throwing away all that it has gained us, and running the risk of losing every thing dear to us, must we still continue our attachment? Reason and my duty tell me not. Other gentlemen may think otherwise.

But, sir, is it not possible that men may differ in sentiments, and still be honest? We have an inquisition within ourselves, that leads us not to offend so much against charity. The gentleman expresses a necessity of being suspicious of those who govern. I will agree with him in the necessity of political jealousy to a certain extent; but we ought to examine how far this political jealousy ought to be carried. I confess that a certain degree of it is highly necessary to the preservation of liberty; but it ought not to be extended to a degree which is degrading and humiliating to human nature; to a degree of restlessness, and active disquietude, sufficient to disturb a community, or preclude the possibility of political happiness and contentment. Confidence ought also to be equally limited. Wisdom shrinks from extremes, and fixes on a medium as her choice. Experience and history, the least fallible judges, teach us that, in forming a government, the powers to be given must be commensurate to the object. A less degree will defeat the intention, and a greater will subject the people to the depravity of rulers, Edition: current; Page: [71] who, though they are but the agents of the people, pervert their powers to their emoluments and ambitious views.

Mr. Chairman, I am sorry to be obliged to detain the house; but the relation of a variety of matters renders it now unavoidable. I informed the house yesterday, before rising, that I intended to show the necessity of having a national government in preference to the Confederation; also to show the necessity of conceding the power of taxation, and distinguishing between its objects; and I am the more happy that I possess materials of information for that purpose. My intention, then, is to satisfy the gentlemen of this committee that a national government is absolutely indispensable, and that a confederacy is not eligible, in our present situation: the introductory step to this will be, to endeavor to convince the house of the necessity of the Union, and that the present Confederation is actually inadequate and unamendable. The extent of the country is objected, by the gentleman over the way, as an insurmountable obstacle to the establishing a national government in the United States. It is a very strange and inconsistent doctrine, to admit the necessity of the Union, and yet urge this last objection, which I think goes radically to the existence of the Union itself. If the extent of the country be a conclusive argument against a national government, it is equally so against a union with the other states. Instead of entering largely into a discussion of the nature and effect of the different kinds of government, or into an inquiry into the particular extent of country that may suit the genius of this or that government, I ask this question — Is this government necessary for the safety of Virginia? Is the union indispensable for our happiness? I confess it is imprudent for any nation to form alliance with another whose situation and construction of government are dissimilar to its own. It is impolitic and improper for men of opulence to join their interest with men of indigence and chance. But we are now inquiring particularly whether Virginia, as contradistinguished from the other states, can exist without the union — a hard question, perhaps, after what has been said. I will venture, however, to say, she cannot. I shall not rest contented with asserting — I shall endeavor to prove.

Look at the most powerful nations on earth. England and France have had recourse to this expedient. Those Edition: current; Page: [72] countries found it necessary to unite with their immediate neighbors, and this union has prevented the most lamentable mischiefs. What divine preëminence is Virginia possessed of above other states? Can Virginia send her navy and thunder to bid defiance to foreign nations? And can she exist without a union with her neighbors, when the most potent nations have found such a union necessary, not only to their political felicity, but their national existence? Let us examine her ability. Although it be impossible to determine with accuracy what degree of internal strength a nation ought to possess to enable it to stand by itself, yet there are certain sure facts and circumstances which demonstrate that a particular nation cannot stand singly. I have spoken with freedom, and I trust I have done it with decency; but I must also speak the truth. If Virginia can exist without the union, she must derive that ability from one or other of these sources, — viz., from her natural situation, or because she has no reason to fear from other nations. What is her situation? She is not inaccessible: she is not a petty republic, like that of St. Marino, surrounded by rocks and mountains, with a soil not very fertile, nor worthy the envy of surrounding nations. Were this, sir, her situation, she might, like that petty state, subsist separated from all the world. On the contrary, she is very accessible: the large, capacious Bay of Chesapeake, which is but too excellently adapted for the admission of enemies, renders her very vulnerable.

I am informed — and I believe rightly, because I derive my information from those whose knowledge is most respectable — that Virginia is in a very unhappy position with respect to the access of foes by sea, though happily situated for commerce. This being her situation by sea, let us look at land. She has frontiers adjoining the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina. Two of those states have declared themselves members of the Union: will she be inaccessible to the inhabitants of those states? Cast your eyes to the western country, that is inhabited by cruel savages, your natural enemies. Besides their natural propensity to barbarity, they may be excited, by the gold of foreign enemies, to commit the most horrid ravages on your people. Our greatly-increasing population is one remedy to this evil; but being scattered thinly over so extensive a Edition: current; Page: [73] country, how difficult is it to collect their strength, or defend the country! This is one point of weakness. I wish, for the honor of my countrymen, that it was the only one. There is another circumstance which renders us more vulnerable. Are we not weakened by the population of those whom we hold in slavery? The day may come when they may make impression upon us. Gentlemen who have been long accustomed to the contemplation of the subject, think there is a cause of alarm in this case: the number of those people, compared to that of the whites, is an immense proportion: their number amounts to 236,000 — that of the whites only to 352,000. Will the American spirit, so much spoken of, repel an invading enemy, or enable you to obtain an advantageous peace? Manufactures and military stores may afford relief to a country exposed: have we these at present? Attempts have been made to have these here. If we shall be separated from the Union, shall our chance of having these be greater? — or will not the want of these be more deplorable?

We shall be told of the exertions of Virginia under the Confederation — her achievements when she had no commerce. These, sir, were necessary for her immediate safety; nor would these have availed without the aid of the other states. Those states, then our friends, brothers, and supporters, will, if disunited from us, be our bitterest enemies. If, then, sir, Virginia, from her situation, is not inaccessible or invulnerable, let us consider if she be protected by having no cause to fear from other nations. Has she no cause to fear? You will have cause to fear, as a nation, if disunited; you will not only have this cause to fear from yourselves, from that species of population I before mentioned, and your once sister states, but from the arms of other nations. Have you no cause of fear from Spain, whose dominions border on your country? Every nation, every people, in our circumstances, have already had abundant cause to fear. Let us see the danger to be apprehended from France. Let us suppose Virginia separated from the other states; as part of the former confederated states, she will owe France a very considerable sum. Will France be as magnanimous as ever? France, by the law of nations, will have a right to demand the whole of her, or of the others. If France were to demand it, what would become of the property of America? Could she not Edition: current; Page: [74] destroy what little commerce we have? Could she not seize our ships, and carry havoc and destruction before her on our shores? The most lamentable desolation would take place. We owe a debt to Spain also: do we expect indulgence from that quarter? That nation has a right to demand the debt due to it, and power to enforce that right. Will the Dutch be silent about the debt due to them? Is there any one who pretends that any of these nations will be patient? The debts due the British are also very considerable; these debts have been withheld contrary to treaty: if Great Britain will demand the payment of these debts peremptorily, what will be the consequence? Can we pay them if demanded? Will no danger result from a refusal? Will the British nation suffer their subjects to be stripped of their property? Is not that nation amply able to do her subjects justice? Will the resentment of that powerful and supercilious nation sleep forever? If we become one sole nation, uniting with our sister states, our means of defence will be greater; the indulgence for the payment of those debts will be greater, and the danger of an attack less probable. Moreover, vast quantities of lands have been sold by citizens of this country to Europeans, and these lands cannot be found. Will this fraud be countenanced or endured? Among so many causes of danger, shall we be secure, separated from our sister states? Weakness itself, sir, will invite some attack upon your country. Contemplate our situation deliberately, and consult history; it will inform you that people in our circumstances have ever been attacked, and successfully: open any page, and you will there find our danger truly depicted. If such a people had any thing, was it not taken? The fate which will befall us, I fear, sir, will be, that we shall be made a partition of. How will these our troubles be removed? Can we have any dependence on commerce? Can we make any computation on this subject? Where will our flag appear? So high is the spirit of commercial nations, that they will spend five times the value of the object, to exclude their rivals from a participation in commercial profits; they seldom regard any expenses. If we should be divided from the rest of the states, upon what footing would our navigation in the Mississippi be? What would be the probable conduct of France and Spain? Every gentleman may imagine, in his own mind, the natural consequences. To these considerations I might add many others of a similar nature Edition: current; Page: [75] Were I to say that the boundary between us and North Carolina is not yet settled, I should be told that Virginia and that state go together. But what, sir, will be the consequence of the dispute that may arise between us and Maryland, on the subject of Potomac River? It is thought Virginia has a right to an equal navigation with them in that river. If ever it should be decided on grounds of prior right, their charter will inevitably determine it in their favor. The country called the Northern Neck will probably be severed from Virginia: there is not a doubt but the inhabitants of that part will annex themselves to Maryland, if Virginia refuse to accede to the Union. The recent example of those regulations lately made respecting that territory will illustrate that probability. Virginia will also be in danger of a conflict with Pennsylvania, on the subject of boundaries. I know that some gentlemen are thoroughly persuaded that we have a right to those disputed boundaries: if we have such a right, I know not where it is to be found.

Are we not borderers on states that will be separated from us? Call to mind the history of every part of the world, where nations bordered on one another, and consider the consequences of our separation from the Union. Peruse those histories, and you find such countries to have ever been almost a perpetual scene of bloodshed and slaughter — the inhabitants of one escaping from punishment into the other — protection given them — consequent pursuit — robbery, cruelty, and murder. A numerous standing army, that dangerous expedient, would be necessary, but not sufficient, for the defence of such borders. Every gentleman will amplify the scene in his own mind.

If you wish to know the extent of such a scene, look at the history of England and Scotland before the union; you will see their borderers continually committing depredations, and cruelties of the most calamitous and deplorable nature, on one another. Mr. Chairman, were we struck off from the Union, and disputes of the back lands should be renewed, which are of the most alarming nature, and which must produce uncommon mischiefs, can you inform me how this great subject would be settled? Virginia has a large, unsettled country; she has at last quieted it. But there are great doubts whether she has taken the best way to effect it. If she has not, disagreeable consequences may ensue. I have Edition: current; Page: [76] before hinted at some other causes of quarrel between the other states and us; particularly the hatred that would be generated by commercial competitions. I will only add, on that subject, that controversies may arise concerning the fisheries, which may terminate in wars. Paper money may also be an additional source of disputes. Rhode Island has been in one continued train of opposition to national duties and integrity; they have defrauded their creditors by their paper money. Other states have also had emissions of paper money, to the ruin of credit and commerce. May not Virginia, at a future day, also recur to the same expedient? Has Virginia no affection for paper money, or disposition to violate contracts? I fear she is as fond of these measures as most other states in the Union. The inhabitants of the adjacent states would be affected by the depreciation of paper money, which would assuredly produce a dispute with those states. This danger is taken away by the present Constitution, as it provides “that no state shall emit bills of credit.” Maryland has counteracted the policy of this state frequently, and may be meditating examples of this kind again. Before the revolution, there was a contest about those back lands, in which even government was a party; it was put an end to by the war. Pennsylvania was ready to enter into a war with us, for the disputed lands near the boundaries, and nothing but the superior prudence of the man who was at the head of affairs in Virginia could have prevented it.

I beg leave to remind you of the strength of Massachusetts and other states to the north; and what would their conduct be to us, if disunited from them? In case of a conflict between us and Maryland, or Pennsylvania, they would be aided by the whole strength of the more northern states; in short, by that of the adopting states. For these reasons, I conceive that, if Virginia supposes she has no cause of apprehension, she will find herself in a fatal error.

Suppose the American spirit in the fullest vigor in Virginia; what military preparations and exertions is she capable of making? The other states have upwards of 330,000 men capable of bearing arms: this will be a good army, or they can very easily raise a good army out of so great a number. Our militia amounts to 50,000: even stretching it to the improbable amount (urged by some) of 60,000, — in case of an attack, what defence can we make? Who are militia? Can Edition: current; Page: [77] we depend solely upon these? I will pay the last tribute of gratitude to the militia of my country: they performed some of the most gallant feats during the last war, and acted as nobly as men inured to other avocations could be expected to do; but, sir, it is dangerous to look to them as our sole protectors. Did ever militia defend a country? Those of Pennsylvania were said to differ very little from regulars; yet these, sir, were insufficient for the defence of that state. The militia of our country will be wanted for agriculture. On this noblest of arts depend the virtue and the very existence of a country; if it be neglected, every thing else must be in a state of ruin and decay. It must be neglected if those hands which ought to attend to it are occasionally called forth on military expeditions. Some also will be necessary for manufactures, and those mechanic arts which are necessary for the aid of the farmer and planter. If we had men sufficient in number to defend ourselves, it could not avail without other requisites. We must have a navy, to be supported in time of peace as well as war, to guard our coasts and defend us against invasions. The impossibility of building and equipping a fleet in short time constitutes the necessity of having a certain number of ships of war always ready in time of peace: the maintaining a navy will require money; and where, sir, can we get money for this and other purposes? How shall we raise it? Review the enormity of the debts due by this country. The amount of the debt we owe to the continent for bills of credit, rating at forty for one, will amount to between 6 and 700,000 pounds. There is also due the continent the balance of requisitions due by us; and, in addition to this proportion of the old Continental debt, there are the foreign, domestic, state, military, and loan-office debts; to which when you add the British debt, where is the possibility of finding money to raise an army or navy? Review, then, your real ability. Shall we recur to loans? Nothing can be more impolitic; they impoverish a nation. We, sir, have nothing to repay them; nor, sir, can we procure them. Our numbers are daily increasing by immigration; but this, sir, will not relieve us when our credit is gone and it is impossible to borrow money. If the imposts and duties in Virginia, even on the present footing, be very unproductive, and not equal to our necessity, what would they be if we were separated Edition: current; Page: [78] from the Union? From the first of September to the first of June, the amount put into the treasury is only £59,000, or a little more. But, sir, if smuggling be introduced in consequence of high duties, or otherwise, and the Potomac should be lost, what hope is there of getting money there? Shall we be asked if the impost would be bettered by the Union? I answer that it will, sir. Credit being restored, and confidence diffused in the country, merchants and men of wealth will be induced to come among us, immigration will increase, and commerce will flourish; the impost will therefore be more sure and productive.

Under these circumstances, can you find men to defend you? If not men, where can you have a navy? It is an old observation, that he who commands the sea will command the land; and it is justified by modern experience in war. The sea can only be commanded by commercial nations. The United States have every means, by nature, to enable them to distribute supplies mutually among one another; to supply other nations with many articles, and to carry for other nations. Our commerce would not be kindly received by foreigners, if transacted solely by ourselves. As it is the spirit of commercial nations to engross as much as possible the carrying trade, this makes it necessary to defend our commerce. But how shall we compass this end? England has arisen to the greatest height, in modern times, by her navigation act, and other excellent regulations. The same means would produce the same effects. We have inland navigation. Our last exports did not exceed £1,000,000. Our export trade is entirely in the hands of foreigners. We have no manufactures — depend for supplies on other nations — and so far are we from having any carrying trade, that, as I have already said, our exports are in the hands of foreigners. Besides the profit that might be made by our natural materials, much greater gains would accrue from their being first wrought before they were exported. England has reaped immense profits by this, nay, even by purchasing and working up those materials which their country did not afford: her success in commerce is generally ascribed to her navigation act. Virginia would not, encumbered as she is, agree to have such an act. Thus, for the want of a navy, are we deprived of the multifarious advantages of our natural situation; nor is it possible that, Edition: current; Page: [79] if the Union was dissolved, we ever should have a navy sufficient either for our defence or the extension of our trade.

I beg gentlemen to consider these things — our inability to raise and man a navy, and the dreadful consequences of the dissolution of the Union. I will close this catalogue of the evils of the dissolution of the Union by recalling to your mind what passed in the year 1781. Such was the situation of our affairs then, that the power of dictator was given to the commander-in-chief, to save us from destruction. This shows the situation of the country to have been such as to make it ready to embrace an actual dictator. At some future period, will not our distresses impel us to do what the Dutch have done — throw all power into the hands of a stadtholder? How infinitely more wise and eligible than this desperate alternative, is a union with our American brethren! I feel myself so abhorrent to any thing that will dissolve our Union, that I cannot prevail with myself to assent to it directly or indirectly. If the Union is to be dissolved, what step is to be taken? Shall we form a partial confederacy? Or is it expected that we shall successfully apply to foreign alliance for military aid? This last measure, sir, has ruined almost every nation that used it: so dreadful an example ought to be most cautiously avoided; for seldom has a nation recurred to the expedient of foreign succor, without being ultimately crushed by that succor. We may lose our liberty and independence by an injudicious scheme of policy. Admitting it to be a scheme replete with safety, what nation shall we solicit? — France? She will disdain a connection with a people in our predicament. I would trust every thing to the magnanimity of that nation; but she would despise a people who had, like us, so imprudently separated from their brethren; and, sir, were she to accede to our proposal, with what facility could she become mistress of our country! To what nation, then, shall we apply? To Great Britain? Nobody has as yet trusted that idea. An application to any other must be either fruitless or dangerous. To those who advocate local confederacies, and at the same time preach up for republican liberty, I answer that their conduct is inconsistent: the defence of such partial confederacies will require such a degree of force and expense as will destroy every feature of republicanism. Give Edition: current; Page: [80] me leave to say, that I see nought but destruction in a local confederacy. With what state can we confederate but North Carolina? — North Carolina, situated worse than ourselves. Consult your own reason; I beseech gentlemen most seriously to reflect on the consequences of such a confederacy; I beseech them to consider whether Virginia and North Carolina, both oppressed with debts and slaves, can defend themselves externally, or make their people happy internally. North Carolina, having no strength but militia, and Virginia, in the same situation, will make, I fear, but a despicable figure in history. Thus, sir, I hope that I have satisfied you that we are unsafe without a union; and that in union alone safety consists.

I come now, sir, to the great inquiry, whether the Confederation be such a government as we ought to continue under — whether it be such a government as can secure the felicity of any free people. Did I believe the Confederation was a good thread, which might be broken without destroying its utility entirely, I might be induced to concur in putting it together; but I am so thoroughly convinced of its incapacity to be mended or spliced, that I would sooner recur to any other expedient.

When I spoke last, I endeavored to express my sentiments concerning that system, and to apologize (if an apology was necessary) for the conduct of its framers; that it was hastily devised to enable us to repel a powerful enemy, that the subject was novel, and that its inefficacy was not discovered till requisitions came to be made by Congress. In the then situation of America, a speedy remedy was necessary to ward off the danger, and this sufficiently answered that purpose; but so universally is its imbecility now known, that it is useless for me to exhibit it at this time. Has not Virginia, as well as every other state, acknowledged its debility, by sending delegates to the general Convention? The Confederation is, of all things, the most unsafe, not only to trust to in its present form, but even to amend.

The object of a federal government is to remedy and strengthen the weakness of its individual branches, whether that weakness arises from situation or from any external cause. With respect to the first, is it not a miracle that the Confederation carried us through the last war? It was our unanimity, sir, that carried us through it. That system Edition: current; Page: [81] was not ultimately concluded till the year 1781. Although the greatest exertions were made before that time, when came requisitions for men and money, — its defects then were immediately discovered: the quotas of men were readily sent; not so those of money. One state feigned inability; another would not comply till the rest did; and various excuses were offered: so that no money was sent into the treasury — not a requisition was fully complied with. Loans were the next measure fallen upon: upwards of 80,000,000 of dollars were wanting, beside the emissions of dollars forty for one. These show the impossibility of relying on requisitions.

[Here his excellency enumerates the different delinquencies of different states, and the consequent distresses of Congress.] If the American spirit is to be depended upon, I call him to awake, to see how his Americans have been disgraced; but I have no hopes that things will be better hereafter. I fully expect things will be as they have been, and that the same derangement will produce similar miscarriages. Will the American spirit produce money or credit, unless we alter our system? Are we not in a contemptible situation? Are we not the jests of other nations?

But it is insinuated by the honorable gentleman, that we want to be a grand, splendid, and magnificent people: we wish not to become so: the magnificence of a royal court is not our object. We want a government, sir — a government that will have stability, and give us security; for our present government is destitute of the one and incapable of producing the other. It cannot, perhaps, with propriety, be denominated a government, being void of that energy requisite to enforce sanctions. I wish my country not to be contemptible in the eyes of foreign nations. A well-regulated community is always respected. It is the internal situation, the defects of government, that attract foreign contempt: that contempt, sir, is too often followed by subjugation. Advert to the contemptuous manner in which a shrewd politician speaks of our government.

[Here his excellency quoted a passage from Lord Sheffield, the purport of which was, that Great Britain might engross our trade on her own terms; that the imbecility and inefficacy of our general government were such, that it was impossible we could counteract her policy, however rigid or illiberal towards us her commercial regulations might be.]

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Reflect but a moment on our situation. Does it not invite real hostility? The conduct of the British ministry to us is the natural effect of our unnerved government. Consider the commercial regulations between us and Maryland. Is it not known to gentlemen that the states have been making reprisals on each other — to obviate a repetition of which, in some degree, these regulations have been made? Can we not see, from this circumstance, the jealousy, rivalship, and hatred that would subsist between them, in case this state was out of the Union? They are importing states, and importing states will ever be competitors and rivals. Rhode Island and Connecticut have been on the point of war, on the subject of their paper money; Congress did not attempt to interpose. When Massachusetts was distressed by the late insurrection, Congress could not relieve her. Who headed that insurrection? Recollect the facility with which it was raised, and the very little ability of the ring-leader, and you cannot but deplore the extreme debility of our merely nominal government. We are too despicable to be regarded by foreign nations. The defects of the Confederation consisted principally in the want of power: it had nominally powers, powers on paper, which it could not use. The power of making peace and war is expressly delegated to Congress; yet the power of granting passports, though within that of making peace and war, was considered by Virginia as belonging to herself. Without adequate powers vested in Congress, America cannot be respectable in the eyes of other nations. Congress, sir, ought to be fully vested with power to support the Union, protect the interests of the United States, maintain their commerce, and defend them from external invasions and insults, and internal insurrections; to maintain justice, and promote harmony and public tranquillity among the states.

A government not vested with these powers will ever be found unable to make us happy or respectable. How far the Confederation is different from such a government, is known to all America. Instead of being able to cherish and protect the states, it has been unable to defend itself against the encroachments made upon it by the states. Every one of them has conspired against it; Virginia as much as any. This fact could be proved by reference to actual history. I might quote the observations of an able modern author, not Edition: current; Page: [83] because he is decorated with the name of author, but because his sentiments are drawn from human nature, to prove the dangerous impolicy of withholding necessary powers from Congress; but I shall at this time fatigue the house as little as possible. What are the powers of Congress? They have full authority to recommend what they please; this recommendatory power reduces them to the condition of poor supplicants. Consider the dignified language of the members of the American Congress. May it please your high mightinesses of Virginia to pay your just proportionate quota of our national debt: we humbly supplicate that it may please you to comply with your federal duties. We implore, we beg your obedience! Is not this, sir, a fair representation of the powers of Congress? Their operations are of no validity when counteracted by the states. Their authority to recommend is a mere mockery of government. But the amendability of the Confederation seems to have great weight on the minds of some gentlemen. To what point will the amendments go? What part makes the most important figure? What part deserves to be retained? In it one body has the legislative, executive, and judicial powers; but the want of efficient powers has prevented the dangers naturally consequent on the union of these. Is this union consistent with an augmentation of their power? Will you, then, amend it by taking away one of these three powers? Suppose, for instance, you only vested it with the legislative and executive powers, without any control on the judiciary; what must be the result? Are we not taught by reason, experience, and governmental history, that tyranny is the natural and certain consequence of uniting these two powers, or the legislative and judicial powers, exclusively, in the same body? If any one denies it, I shall pass by him as an infidel not to be reclaimed. Whenever any two of these three powers are vested in one single body, they must, at one time or other, terminate in the destruction of liberty. In the most important cases, the assent of nine states is necessary to pass a law. This is too great a restriction, and whatever good consequences it may, in some cases, produce, yet it will prevent energy in many other cases. It will prevent energy, which is most necessary on some emergencies, even in cases wherein the existence of the community depends on vigor and expedition. It is incompatible with that secrecy which Edition: current; Page: [84] is the life of execution and despatch. Did ever thirty or forty men retain a secret? Without secrecy no government can carry on its operations on great occasions; this is what gives that superiority in action to the government of one. If any thing were wanting to complete this farce, it would be, that a resolution of the Assembly of Virginia, and the other legislatures, should be necessary to confirm and render of any validity the Congressional acts; this would openly discover the debility of the general government to all the world. But, in fact, its imbecility is now nearly the same as if such acts were formally requisite. An act of the Assembly of Virginia, controverting a resolution of Congress, would certainly prevail. I therefore conclude that the Confederation is too defective to deserve correction. Let us take farewell of it, with reverential respect, as an old benefactor. It is gone, whether this house says so or not. It is gone, sir, by its own weakness.

I am afraid I have tired the patience of this house; but I trust you will pardon me, as I was urged by the importunity of the gentleman in calling for the reasons of laying the groundwork of this plan. It is objected by the honorable gentleman over the way (Mr. George Mason) that a republican government is impracticable in an extensive territory, and the extent of the United States is urged as a reason for the rejection of this Constitution. Let us consider the definition of a republican government, as laid down by a man who is highly esteemed. Montesquieu, so celebrated among politicians, says, that “a republican government is that in which the body, or only a part, of the people is possessed of the supreme power; a monarchical, that in which a single person governs by fixed and established laws; a despotic government, that in which a single person, without law and without rule, directs every thing by his own will and caprice.” This author has not distinguished a republican government from a monarchy by the extent of its boundaries, but by the nature of its principles. He, in another place, contradistinguishes it as a government of laws, in opposition to others which he denominates a government of men.

The empire or government of laws, according to that phrase, is that in which the laws are made with the free-will of the people; hence, then, if laws be made by the assent of the people, the government may be deemed free. When Edition: current; Page: [85] laws are made with integrity, and executed with wisdom, the question is, whether a great extent of country will tend to abridge the liberty of the people. If defensive force be necessary in proportion to the extent of country, I conceive that, in a judiciously-constructed government, be the country ever so extensive, its inhabitants will be proportionably numerous, and able to defend it. Extent of country, in my conception, ought to be no bar to the adoption of a good government. No extent on earth seems to be too great, provided the laws be wisely made and executed. The principles of representation and responsibility may pervade a large as well as small territory; and tyranny is as easily introduced into a small as into a large district. If it be answered, that some of the most illustrious and distinguished authors are of a contrary opinion, I reply, that authority has no weight with me till I am convinced; that not the dignity of names, but the force of reasoning, gains my assent.

I intended to show the nature of the powers which ought to have been given to the general government, and the reason of investing it with the power of taxation; but this would require more time than my strength, or the patience of the committee, would now admit of. I shall conclude with a few observations, which come from my heart. I have labored for the continuance of the Union — the rock of our salvation. I believe that, as sure as there is a God in heaven, our safety, our political happiness and existence, depend on the union of the states; and that without this union, the people of this and the other states will undergo the unspeakable calamities which discord, faction, turbulence, war, and bloodshed, have produced in other countries. The American spirit ought to be mixed with American pride, to see the Union magnificently triumphant. Let that glorious pride, which once defied the British thunder, reanimate you again. Let it not be recorded of Americans, that, after having performed the most gallant exploits, after having overcome the most astonishing difficulties, and after having gained the admiration of the world by their incomparable valor and policy, they lost their acquired reputation, their national consequence and happiness, by their own indiscretion. Let no future historian inform posterity that they wanted wisdom Edition: current; Page: [86] and virtue to concur in any regular, efficient government. Should any writer, doomed to so disagreeable a task, feel the indignation of an honest historian, he would reprehend and criminate our folly with equal severity and justice. Catch the present moment — seize it with avidity and eagerness — for it may be lost, never to be regained! If the Union be now lost, I fear it will remain so forever. I believe gentlemen are sincere in their opposition, and actuated by pure motives; but, when I maturely weigh the advantages of the Union, and dreadful consequences of its dissolution; when I see safety on my right, and destruction on my left; when I behold respectability and happiness acquired by the one, but annihilated by the other, — I cannot hesitate to decide in favor of the former. I hope my weakness, from speaking so long, will apologize for my leaving this subject in so mutilated a condition. If a further explanation be desired, I shall take the liberty to enter into it more fully another time.

Mr. MADISON then arose — [but he spoke so low that his exordium could not be heard distinctly.] I shall not attempt to make impressions by any ardent professions of zeal for the public welfare. We know the principles of every man will, and ought to be, judged, not by his professions and declarations, but by his conduct; by that criterion I mean, in common with every other member, to be judged; and should it prove unfavorable to my reputation, yet it is a criterion from which I will by no means depart. Comparisons have been made between the friends of this Constitution and those who oppose it: although I disapprove of such comparisons, I trust that, in point of truth, honor, candor, and rectitude of motives, the friends of this system, here and in other states, are not inferior to its opponents. But professions of attachment to the public good, and comparisons of parties, ought not to govern or influence us now. We ought, sir, to examine the Constitution on its own merits solely: we are to inquire whether it will promote the public happiness: its aptitude to produce this desirable object ought to be the exclusive subject of our present researches. In this pursuit, we ought not to address our arguments to the feelings and passions, but to those understandings and judgments which were selected by the people of this country, to Edition: current; Page: [87] decide this great question by a calm and rational investigation. I hope that gentlemen, in displaying their abilities on this occasion, instead of giving opinions and making assertions, will condescend to prove and demonstrate, by a fair and regular discussion. It gives me pain to hear gentlemen continually distorting the natural construction of language; for it is sufficient if any human production can stand a fair discussion. Before I proceed to make some additions to the reasons which have been adduced by my honorable friend over the way, I must take the liberty to make some observations on what was said by another gentleman, (Mr. Henry.) He told us that this Constitution ought to be rejected because it endangered the public liberty, in his opinion, in many instances. Give me leave to make one answer to that observation: Let the dangers which this system is supposed to be replete with be clearly pointed out: if any dangerous and unnecessary powers be given to the general legislature, let them be plainly demonstrated; and let us not rest satisfied with general assertions of danger, without examination. If powers be necessary, apparent danger is not a sufficient reason against conceding them. He has suggested that licentiousness has seldom produced the loss of liberty; but that the tyranny of rulers has almost always effected it. Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations; but, on a candid examination of history, we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power, by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions, which, in republics, have, more frequently than any other cause, produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes. If we consider the peculiar situation of the United States, and what are the sources of that diversity of sentiment which pervades its inhabitants, we shall find great danger to fear that the same causes may terminate here in the same fatal effects which they produced in those republics. This danger ought to be wisely guarded against. Perhaps, in the progress of this discussion, it will appear that the only possible remedy for those evils, and Edition: current; Page: [88] means of preserving and protecting the principles of republicanism, will be found in that very system which is now exclaimed against as the parent of oppression.

I must confess I have not been able to find his usual consistency in the gentleman’s argument on this occasion. He informs us that the people of the country are at perfect repose, — that is, every man enjoys the fruits of his labor peaceably and securely, and that every thing is in perfect tranquillity and safety. I wish sincerely, sir, this were true. If this be their happy situation, why has every state acknowledged the contrary? Why were deputies from all the states sent to the general Convention? Why have complaints of national and individual distresses been echoed and reechoed throughout the continent? Why has our general government been so shamefully disgraced, and our Constitution violated? Wherefore have laws been made to authorize a change, and wherefore are we now assembled here? A federal government is formed for the protection of its individual members. Ours has attacked itself with impunity. Its authority has been disobeyed and despised. I think I perceive a glaring inconsistency in another of his arguments. He complains of this Constitution, because it requires the consent of at least three fourths of the states to introduce amendments which shall be necessary for the happiness of the people. The assent of so many he urges as too great an obstacle to the admission of salutary amendments, which, he strongly insists, ought to be at the will of a bare majority. We hear this argument, at the very moment we are called upon to assign reasons for proposing a constitution which puts it in the power of nine states to abolish the present inadequate, unsafe, and pernicious Confederation! In the first case, he asserts that a majority ought to have the power of altering the government, when found to be inadequate to the security of public happiness. In the last case, he affirms that even three fourths of the community have not a right to alter a government which experience has proved to be subversive of national felicity! nay, that the most necessary and urgent alterations cannot be made without the absolute unanimity of all the states! Does not the thirteenth article of the Confederation expressly require that no alteration shall be made without the unanimous consent of all the states? Could any thing in theory be more perniciously improvident and injudicious than this submission of Edition: current; Page: [89] the will of the majority to the most trifling minority? Have not experience and practice actually manifested this theoretical inconvenience to be extremely impolitic? Let me mention one fact, which I conceive must carry conviction to the mind of any one: the smallest state in the Union has obstructed every attempt to reform the government; that little member has repeatedly disobeyed and counteracted the general authority; nay, has even supplied the enemies of its country with provisions. Twelve states had agreed to certain improvements which were proposed, being thought absolutely necessary to preserve the existence of the general government; but as these improvements, though really indispensable, could not, by the Confederation, be introduced into it without the consent of every state, the refractory dissent of that little state prevented their adoption. The inconveniences resulting from this requisition, of unanimous concurrence in alterations in the Confederation, must be known to every member in this Convention; it is therefore needless to remind them of them. Is it not self-evident that a trifling minority ought not to bind the majority? Would not foreign influence be exerted with facility over a small minority? Would the honorable gentleman agree to continue the most radical defects in the old system, because the petty state of Rhode Island would not agree to remove them?

He next objects to the exclusive legislation over the district where the seat of government may be fixed. Would he submit that the representatives of this state should carry on their deliberations under the control of any other member of the Union? If any state had the power of legislation over the place where Congress should fix the general government, this would impair the dignity, and hazard the safety, of Congress. If the safety of the Union were under the control of any particular state, would not foreign corruption probably prevail, in such a state, to induce it to exert its controlling influence over the members of the general government? Gentlemen cannot have forgotten the disgraceful insult which Congress received some years ago. When we also reflect that the previous cession of particular states is necessary before Congress can legislate exclusively any where, we must, instead of being alarmed at this part, heartily approve of it.

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But the honorable member sees great danger in the provision concerning the militia. This I conceive to be an additional security to our liberty, without diminishing the power of the states in any considerable degree. It appears to me so highly expedient that I should imagine it would have found advocates even in the warmest friends of the present system. The authority of training the militia, and appointing the officers, is reserved to the states. Congress ought to have the power to establish a uniform discipline throughout the states, and to provide for the execution of the laws, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions: these are the only cases wherein they can interfere with the militia; and the obvious necessity of their having power over them in these cases must convince any reflecting mind. Without uniformity of discipline, military bodies would be incapable of action: without a general controlling power to call forth the strength of the Union to repel invasions, the country might be overrun and conquered by foreign enemies: without such a power to suppress insurrections, our liberties might be destroyed by domestic faction, and domestic tyranny be established.

The honorable member then told us that there was no instance of power once transferred being voluntarily renounced. Not to produce European examples, which may probably be done before the rising of this Convention, have we not seen already, in seven states, (and probably in an eighth state,) legislatures surrendering some of the most important powers they possessed? But, sir, by this government, powers are not given to any particular set of men; they are in the hands of the people; delegated to their representatives chosen for short terms: to representatives responsible to the people, and whose situation is perfectly similar to their own. As long as this is the case we have no danger to apprehend. When the gentleman called our recollection to the usual effects of the concession of powers, and imputed the loss of liberty generally to open tyranny, I wish he had gone on farther. Upon his review of history, he would have found that the loss of liberty very often resulted from factions and divisions; from local considerations, which eternally lead to quarrels; he would have found internal dissensions to have more frequently demolished civil liberty, than a tenacious disposition in rulers to retain any stipulated powers.

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[Here Mr. Madison enumerated the various means whereby nations had lost their liberties.]

The power of raising and supporting armies is exclaimed against as dangerous and unnecessary. I wish there were no necessity of vesting this power in the general government. But suppose a foreign nation to declare war against the United States; must not the general legislature have the power of defending the United States? Ought it to be known to foreign nations that the general government of the United States of America has no power to raise and support an army, even in the utmost danger, when attacked by external enemies? Would not their knowledge of such a circumstance stimulate them to fall upon us? If, sir, Congress be not invested with this power, any powerful nation, prompted by ambition or avarice, will be invited, by our weakness, to attack us; and such an attack, by disciplined veterans, would certainly be attended with success, when only opposed by irregular undisciplined militia. Whoever considers the peculiar situation of this country, the multiplicity of its excellent inlets and harbors, and the uncommon facility of attacking it, — however much he may regret the necessity of such a power, cannot hesitate a moment in granting it. One fact may elucidate this argument. In the course of the late war, when the weak parts of the Union were exposed, and many states were in the most deplorable situation by the enemy’s ravages, the assistance of foreign nations was thought so urgently necessary for our protection, that the relinquishment of territorial advantages was not deemed too great a sacrifice for the acquisition of one ally. This expedient was admitted with great reluctance, even by those states who expected advantages from it. The crisis, however, at length arrived, when it was judged necessary for the salvation of this country to make certain cessions to Spain; whether wisely or otherwise is not for me to say; but the fact was, that instructions were sent to our representative at the court of Spain, to empower him to enter into negotiations for that purpose. How it terminated is well known. This fact shows the extremities to which nations will go in cases of imminent danger, and demonstrates the necessity of making ourselves more respectable. The necessity of making dangerous cessions, and of applying to foreign aid, ought to be excluded.

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The honorable member then told us that there are heart-burnings in the adopting states, and that Virginia may, if she does not come into the measure, continue in amicable confederacy with the adopting states. I wish as seldom as possible to contradict the assertions of gentlemen; but I can venture to affirm, without danger of being in an error, that there is the most satisfactory evidence that the satisfaction of those states is increasing every day, and that, in that state where it was adopted only by a majority of nineteen, there is not one fifth of the people dissatisfied. There are some reasons which induce us to conclude that the grounds of proselytism extend every where; its principles begin to be better understood; and the inflammatory violence wherewith it was opposed by designing, illiberal, and unthinking minds, begins to subside. I will not enumerate the causes from which, in my conception, the heart-burnings of a majority of its opposers have originated. Suffice it to say, that in all they were founded on a misconception of its nature and tendency. Had it been candidly examined and fairly discussed, I believe, sir, that but a very inconsiderable minority of the people of the United States would have opposed it. With respect to the Swiss, whom the honorable gentleman has proposed for our example, as far as historical authority may be relied on, we shall find their government quite unworthy of our imitation. I am sure, if the honorable gentleman had adverted to their history and government, he never would have quoted their example here; he would have found that, instead of respecting the rights of mankind, their government (at least of several of their cantons) is one of the vilest aristocracies that ever was instituted: the peasants of some of their cantons are more oppressed and degraded than the subjects of any monarch in Europe; nay, almost as much so as those of any Eastern despot. It is a novelty in politics, that from the worst of systems the happiest consequences should ensue. Their aristocratical rigor, and the peculiarity of their situation, have so long supported their union: without the closest alliance and amity, dismemberment might follow; their powerful and ambitious neighbors would immediately avail themselves of their least jarrings. As we are not circumstanced like them, no conclusive precedent can be drawn from their situation. I trust the gentleman does not carry his idea so far as to recommend a separation from the Edition: current; Page: [93] adopting states. This government may secure our happiness; this is at least as probable as that it shall be oppressive. If eight states have, from a persuasion of its policy and utility, adopted it, shall Virginia shrink from it, without a full conviction of its danger and inutility? I hope she will never shrink from any duty: I trust she will not determine without the most serious reflection and deliberation.

I confess to you, sir, were uniformity of religion to be introduced by this system, it would, in my opinion, be ineligible; but I have no reason to conclude that uniformity of government will produce that of religion. This subject is, for the honor of America, perfectly free and unshackled. The government has no jurisdiction over it: the least reflection will convince us there is no danger to be feared on this ground.

But we are flattered with the probability of obtaining previous amendments. This calls for the most serious attention of this house. If amendments are to be proposed by one state, other states have the same right, and will also propose alterations. These cannot but be dissimilar, and opposite in their nature. I beg leave to remark, that the governments of the different states are in many respects dissimilar in their structure; their legislative bodies are not similar; their executive are more different. In several of the states, the first magistrate is elected by the people at large; in others, by joint ballot of the members of both branches of the legislature; and in others, in other different manners. This dissimilarity has occasioned a diversity of opinion on the theory of government, which will, without many reciprocal concessions, render a concurrence impossible. Although the appointment of an executive magistrate has not been thought destructive to the principles of democracy in many of the states, yet, in the course of the debate, we find objections made to the federal executive: it is urged that the President will degenerate into a tyrant. I intended, in compliance with the call of the honorable member, to explain the reasons of proposing this Constitution, and develop its principles; but I shall postpone my remarks till we hear the supplement which, he has informed us, he intends to add to what he has already said.

Give me leave to say something of the nature of the government, and to show that it is safe and just to vest it with the power of taxation. There are a number of opinions; but the Edition: current; Page: [94] principal question is, whether it be a federal or consolidated government. In order to judge properly of the question before us, we must consider it minutely in its principal parts. I conceive myself that it is of a mixed nature; it is in a manner unprecedented; we cannot find one express example in the experience of the world. It stands by itself. In some respects it is a government of a federal nature; in others, it is of a consolidated nature. Even if we attend to the manner in which the Constitution is investigated, ratified, and made the act of the people of America, I can say, notwithstanding what the honorable gentleman has alleged, that this government is not completely consolidated, nor is it entirely federal. Who are parties to it? The people — but not the people as composing one great body; but the people as composing thirteen sovereignties. Were it, as the gentleman asserts, a consolidated government, the assent of a majority of the people would be sufficient for its establishment; and, as a majority have adopted it already, the remaining states would be bound by the act of the majority, even if they unanimously reprobated it. Were it such a government as is suggested, it would be now binding on the people of this state, without having had the privilege of deliberating upon it. But, sir, no state is bound by it, as it is, without its own consent. Should all the states adopt it, it will be then a government established by the thirteen states of America, not through the intervention of the legislatures, but by the people at large. In this particular respect, the distinction between the existing and proposed governments is very material. The existing system has been derived from the dependent derivative authority of the legislatures of the states; whereas this is derived from the superior power of the people. If we look at the manner in which alterations are to be made in it, the same idea is, in some degree, attended to. By the new system, a majority of the states cannot introduce amendments; nor are all the states required for that purpose; three fourths of them must concur in alterations; in this there is a departure from the federal idea. The members to the national House of Representatives are to be chosen by the people at large, in proportion to the numbers in the respective districts. When we come to the Senate, its members are elected by the states in their equal and political capacity. But had the government been completely consolidated, Edition: current; Page: [95] the Senate would have been chosen by the people in their individual capacity, in the same manner as the members of the other house. Thus it is of a complicated nature; and this complication, I trust, will be found to exclude the evils of absolute consolidation, as well as of a mere confederacy. If Virginia was separated from all the states, her power and authority would extend to all cases: in like manner, were all powers vested in the general government, it would be a consolidated government; but the powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.

But the honorable member has satirized, with peculiar acrimony, the powers given to the general government by this Constitution. I conceive that the first question on this subject is, whether these powers be necessary; if they be, we are reduced to the dilemma of either submitting to the inconvenience or losing the Union. Let us consider the most important of these reprobated powers; that of direct taxation is most generally objected to. With respect to the exigencies of government, there is no question but the most easy mode of providing for them will be adopted. When, therefore, direct taxes are not necessary, they will not be recurred to. It can be of little advantage to those in power to raise money in a manner oppressive to the people. To consult the conveniences of the people will cost them nothing, and in many respects will be advantageous to them. Direct taxes will only be recurred to for great purposes What has brought on other nations those immense debts, under the pressure of which many of them labor? Not the expenses of their governments, but war. If this country should be engaged in war, — and I conceive we ought to provide for the possibility of such a case, — how would it be carried on? By the usual means provided from year to year? As our imports will be necessary for the expenses of government and other common exigencies, how are we to carry on the means of defence? How is it possible a war could be supported without money or credit? And would it be possible for a government to have credit without having the power of raising money? No; it would be impossible for any government, in such a case, to defend itself. Then, I say, sir, that it is necessary to establish funds for extraordinary Edition: current; Page: [96] exigencies, and to give this power to the general government; for the utter inutility of previous requisitions on the states is too well known. Would it be possible for those countries, whose finances and revenues are carried to the highest perfection, to carry on the operations of government on great emergencies, such as the maintenance of a war, without an uncontrolled power of raising money? Has it not been necessary for Great Britain, notwithstanding the facility of the collection of her taxes, to have recourse very often to this and other extraordinary methods of procuring money? Would not her public credit have been ruined, if it was known that her power to raise money was limited? Has not France been obliged, on great occasions, to use unusual means to raise funds? It has been the case in many countries, and no government can exist unless its powers extend to make provisions for every contingency. If we were actually attacked by a powerful nation, and our general government had not the power of raising money, but depended solely on requisitions, our condition would be truly deplorable: if the revenue of this commonwealth were to depend on twenty distinct authorities, it would be impossible for it to carry on its operations. This must be obvious to every member here; I think, therefore, that it is necessary, for the preservation of the Union, that this power shall be given to the general government.

But it is urged that its consolidated nature, joined to the power of direct taxation, will give it a tendency to destroy all subordinate authority; that its increasing influence will speedily enable it to absorb the state governments. I cannot think this will be the case. If the general government were wholly independent of the governments of the particular states, then, indeed, usurpation might be expected to the fullest extent. But, sir, or whom does this general government depend? It derives its authority from these governments, and from the same sources from which their authority is derived. The members of the federal government are taken from the same men from whom those of the state legislatures are taken. If we consider the mode in which the federal representatives will be chosen, we shall be convinced that the general will never destroy the individual governments; and this conviction must be strengthened by an attention to the construction of the Senate. The representatives Edition: current; Page: [97] will be chosen probably under the influence of the members of the state legislatures; but there is not the least probability that the election of the latter will be influenced by the former. One hundred and sixty members represent this commonwealth in one branch of the legislature, are drawn from the people at large, and must ever possess more influence than the few men who will be elected to the general legislature.

The reasons offered on this subject, by a gentleman on the same side, (Mr. Nicholas,) were unanswerable, and have been so full that I shall add but little more on the subject. Those who wish to become federal representatives must depend on their credit with that class of men who will be the most popular in their counties, who generally represent the people in the state governments; they can, therefore, never succeed in any measure contrary to the wishes of those on whom they depend. It is almost certain, therefore, that the deliberations of the members of the federal House of Representatives will be directed to the interest of the people of America. As to the other branch, the senators will be appointed by the legislatures; and, though elected for six years, I do not conceive they will so soon forget the source from whence they derive their political existence. This election of one branch of the federal by the state legislatures, secures an absolute dependence of the former on the latter. The biennial exclusion of one third will lessen the facility of a combination, and may put a stop to intrigues. I appeal to our past experience, whether they will attend to the interests of their constituent states. Have not those gentlemen, who have been honored with seats in Congress, often signalized themselves by their attachment to their seats? I wish this government may answer the expectation of its friends, and foil the apprehension of its enemies. I hope the patriotism of the people will continue, and be a sufficient guard to their liberties. I believe its tendency will be, that the state governments will counteract the general interest, and ultimately prevail. The number of the representatives is yet sufficient for our safety, and will gradually increase; and, if we consider their different sources of information, the number will not appear too small.

Mr. NICHOLAS. Mr. Chairman, if the resolution taken by the house of going regularly through the system, clause Edition: current; Page: [98] by clause, had been followed, I should confine myself to one particular paragraph; but as, to my surprise, the debates have taken a different turn, I shall endeavor to go through the principal parts of the argument made use of by the gentlemen in opposition to the proposed plan of government. The worthy gentleman entertained us very largely on the impropriety and dangers of the powers given by this plan to the general government; but his argument appears to me inconclusive and inaccurate; it amounts to this — that the powers given to any government ought to be small. I believe this, sir, is a new idea in politics: — powers, being given for some certain purpose, ought to be proportionate to that purpose, or else the end for which they are delegated will not be answered. It is necessary to give powers, to a certain extent, to any government. If a due medium be not observed in the delegation of such powers, one of two things must happen: if they be too small, the government must moulder and decay away; if too extensive, the people must be oppressed. As there can be no liberty without government, it must be as dangerous to make powers too limited as too great. He tells us that the Constitution annihilates the Confederation. Did he not prove that every people had a right to change their government when it should be deemed inadequate to their happiness? The Confederation being found utterly defective, will he deny our right to alter or abolish it? But he objects to the expression, “We, the people,” and demands the reason why they had not said, “We, the United States of America.” In my opinion, the expression is highly proper: it is submitted to the people, because on them it is to operate: till adopted, it is but a dead letter, and not binding on any one; when adopted, it becomes binding on the people who adopt it. It is proper on another account. We are under great obligations to the federal Convention, for recurring to the people, the source of all power. The gentleman’s argument militates against himself: he says that persons in power never relinquish their powers willingly. If, then, the state legislatures would not relinquish part of the powers they now possess, to enable a general government to support the Union, reference to the people is necessary.

We are, in the next place, frightened by two sets of collectors, who, he tells us, will oppress us with impunity. Edition: current; Page: [99] The amount of the sums to be raised of the people is the same, whether the state legislatures lay the taxes for themselves, or for the general government; whether each of them lays and collects taxes for its own exclusive purposes: the manner of raising it only is different. So far as the amount of the imposts may exceed that of the present collections, so much will the burdens of the people be less. Money cannot be raised in a more judicious manner than by imposts; it is not felt by the people; it is a mode which is practised by many nations: nine tenths of the revenues of Great Britain and France are raised by indirect taxes; and were they raised by direct taxes, they would be exceedingly oppressive. At present, the reverse of this proposition holds in this country; for very little is raised by indirect taxes.

The public treasuries are supplied by means of direct taxes, which are not so easy for the people. But the people will be benefited by this change. Suppose the imposts will only operate a reduction of one fifth of the public burdens; then, sir, out of every ten shillings we have now to pay, we shall only have to pay eight shillings: and suppose this to be apportioned so that we pay four shillings to the federal and four shillings to the state collector, — what inconvenience or oppression can arise from it? Would this be as oppressive as the payment of ten shillings to the state collector? Our constituents do not suspect our delegates to the state legislature, but we suspect the members of the future Congress.

But, sir, they tell us this power of direct taxation ought not to be intrusted to the general government, because its members cannot be acquainted with the local situation of the people. Where do the members of the state legislatures get their information? It is by their own experience, and intercourse with the people. Cannot those of the general government derive information from every source from which the state representatives get theirs, so as to enable them to impose taxes judiciously? We have the best security we can wish for: if they impose taxes on the people which are oppressive, they subject themselves and their friends to the same inconvenience, and to the certainty of never being confided in again. And what will be the consequence of laying taxes on improper objects? Will the funds be increased by it? By no means. I may venture to say, the amount of the taxes will diminish in proportion to the difficulty Edition: current; Page: [100] and impropriety of the mode of levying them. What advantage, then, would it be to the members of Congress to render the collection of taxes oppressive to the people? They would be certainly out of their senses to oppress the people without any prospect of emolument to themselves.

But another objection is made, which I never heard of before. The gentleman has told us that the number of representatives may be reduced to one for every state. Is this a just surmise, even supposing it to be only said, that the number should not exceed one for every thirty thousand? Had it stopped there, any state, by his doctrine, might have no representative at all. Is it possible that this interpretation could ever be thought of? for the worthy gentleman allowed it was not a natural construction. But the Constitution says that representation and taxation shall be in proportion to the number of the people, and that each state shall have at least one representative. What will be the consequence of this? Each state must pay its proportion of taxes; and its representation is to be equal to its taxes. I ask gentlemen if this be not a safe mode of representation. The gentleman then told us the representatives would never wish their number to be increased. But, sir, the increase of their number will increase their importance. How will it affect their interest in elections? The greater their number, the greater their chance of reëlection. It is a natural supposition that every one of them will have the greatest interest with the people in that part of his district where he resides; the more their number, the more districts will there be, and the greater certainty of their being reëlected, as it will be easier for them to have influence in small than in large districts. But this power of direct taxes is not to be got over; the gentleman will try every thing in alternative. What will be the consequence of these alternatives? It will lead Congress to have a contest with particular states. After refusal and opposition, what is to be done? Must force be used for the purpose? How is it to be procured? It would, in a little time, expend more money than the sum which it was intended to procure; and the fatal consequences of such a scheme, provided it were practicable, are self-evident. I am astonished that gentlemen should wish to put it on this footing; for the consequences would assuredly be, in the first place, a disappointment to Congress. Would this previous Edition: current; Page: [101] alternative diminish or retrench the powers of Congress, if ultimately they are to have recourse to this power? One thing will be the certain consequence: Congress, in making requisitions, must reckon on a disappointment, and will therefore increase them according to the expected disappointment: by these means, the burdens of the people must be enlarged. He then wonders that gentlemen could come to so sudden a resolution of adopting it. As to the time, it will require as much to reject as to adopt it; and if a deliberate discussion be the most rational mode of proceeding, a precipitate rejection will, at least, be as imprudent as a sudden adoption. He declares that he would, in despite of an erring world, reject it, and wishes this state to continue in opposition. Were our country separated by nature from the other states, we might be safe without the Union; but as we are bordered on the adopting states, security can be found in union only. Consider the consequences of disunion: attend to the situation of those citizens who are contiguous to Maryland; look at the country called the Northern Neck; if we reject the Constitution, will not its inhabitants shake off their dependence on us? But, sir, the worthy member has declared, as a reason for not changing our government, that no terrors had been experienced, that no insurrections had happened, among us. It was indeed a wonder that this was the case, considering the relaxation of the laws. Tumults have happened in other states. Had they been attempted here by an enterprising adventurer, I believe he could hardly have been prevented by the laws; for I believe every citizen in this country has complained of their want of energy. The worthy member has exclaimed, with uncommon vehemence, against the mode provided for securing amendments. He thinks amendments can never be obtained, because so great a number is required to concur. Had it rested solely with Congress, there might have been danger. The committee will see that there is another mode provided, besides that which originates with Congress. On the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, a convention is to be called to propose amendments, which shall be a part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof. It is natural to conclude that those states who will apply for calling the convention Edition: current; Page: [102] will concur in the ratification of the proposed amendments.

There are strong and cogent reasons operating on my mind, that the amendments, which shall be agreed to by those states, will be sooner ratified by the rest than any other that can be proposed. The conventions which shall be so called will have their deliberations confined to a few points; no local interest to divert their attention; nothing but the necessary alterations. They will have many advantages over the last Convention. No experiments to devise; the general and fundamental regulations being already laid down.

He makes another objection — that, contrary to the articles of our bill of rights, we may be taxed without our own consent; that taxes may be imposed, although every member from Virginia should oppose the measure. The argument is not accurate. A tax imposed on the people of this state, by our legislature, may be opposed by the members from the county of Albemarle, without being repugnant to our bill of rights; because Albemarle is represented, and the act of the majority is binding on the minority. In like manner, our privilege of representation in the federal government will prevent any of the general laws from being unconstitutional although contrary to the individual opinions of our representatives.

But it is complained that they may suspend our laws. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is only to take place in cases of rebellion or invasion. This is necessary in those cases; in every other case, Congress is restrained from suspending it. In no other case can they suspend our laws; and this is a most estimable security. But the influence of New England and the other Northern States is dreaded; there are apprehensions of their combining against us. Not to advert to the improbability and illiberality of this idea, it must be supposed that our population will, in a short period, exceed theirs, as their country is well settled, and we have very extensive uncultivated tracts. We shall soon outnumber them in as great a degree as they do us at this time: therefore this government, which, I trust, will last to the remotest ages, will be very shortly in our favor. Treason consists in levying war against the United States, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. Edition: current; Page: [103] The punishment of this well-defined crime is to be declared by Congress; no oppression, therefore, can arise on this ground. This security does away the objection that the most grievous oppressions might happen under color of punishing crimes against the general government. The limitation of the forfeiture to the life of the criminal is also an additional privilege.

We are next told that there is wanting in this government that responsibility which has been the salvation of Great Britain, although one half of the House of Commons purchase their seats. It has been already shown that we have much greater security from our federal representatives than the people in England can boast. But the worthy member has found out a way of solving our difficulties. He tells us that we have nothing to fear, if separated from the adopting states; but to send on our money and men to Congress. In that case, can we receive the benefits of the union? If we furnish money at all, it will be our proportionate share. The consequence will be, that we shall pay our share, without the privilege of being represented. So that, to avoid the inconvenience of not having a sufficient number of representatives, he would advise us to relinquish the number we are entitled to, and have none at all. I believe, sir, there is a great and decided majority of the people in favor of the system; it is so in that part of the country wherein I reside. It is true, sir, that many of the people have declared against a government, which, they were told, destroyed the trial by jury; against a government, sir, which established a standing army; against a government which abridged the liberty of the press; against a government which would tax all their property from them; against a government which infringed the rights of conscience; and against a government, sir, which should banish them to France, to be common soldiers, and which would eventually destroy all their rights and privileges. This, sir, is the government of which they have given their disapprobation. Still, sir, a majority have considered this government in a different light, and have given their approbation of it. I believe, sir, that, on a fair and candid investigation, very few would oppose it. Those who think that the evils I have enumerated will result from it, exceed me in point of credulity.

Edition: current; Page: [104]

[The first and second sections still under consideration.]

Mr. CORBIN. Mr. Chairman, permit me to make a few observations on this great question. It is with great difficulty I prevail on myself to enter into the debate, when I consider the great abilities of those gentlemen who have already spoken on the subject. But as I am urged by my duty to my constituents, and as I conceive that the different manner of treating the subject may make different impressions, I shall offer my observations with diffident respect, but with firmness and independence. I will promise my acknowledgments to those honorable gentlemen who were in the federal Convention, for the able and satisfactory manner in which they discharged their duty to their country. The introductory expression of “We, the people,” has been thought improper by the honorable gentleman. I expected no such objection as this. Ought not the people, sir, to judge of that government whereby they are to be ruled? We are, sir, deliberating on a question of great consequence to the people of America, and to the world in general. We ought, therefore, to decide with extreme caution and circumspection: it is incumbent upon us to proceed without prejudice or prepossession. No member of the committee entertains a greater regard than myself for the gentleman on the other side, who has placed himself in the front of opposition, (Mr. Henry.) No man admires more than I do his declamatory talents; but I trust that neither declamation nor elegance of periods will mislead the judgment of any member here, and that nothing but the force of reasoning will operate conviction. He has asked, with an air of triumph, whether the Confederation was not adequate to the purposes of the federal government: permit me to say, No. If, sir, perfection existed in that system, why was the federal Convention called? Why did every state except Rhode Island send deputies to that Convention?

Was it not from a persuasion of its inefficacy? If this be not sufficient to convince him, let me call the recollection of the honorable gentleman to other circumstances. Let him go into the interior parts of the country, and inquire into the situation of the farmers. He will be told that tobacco, and other produce, are miserably low, merchandise dear, and taxes high. Let him go through the United States. He Edition: current; Page: [105] will perceive appearances of ruin and decay every where. Let him visit the sea-coast — go to our ports and inlets. In those ports, sir, where we had every reason to see the fleets of all nations, he will behold but a few trifling little boats; he will every where see commerce languish; the disconsolate merchant, with his arms folded, ruminating, in despair, on the wretched ruins of his fortune, and deploring the impossibility of retrieving it. The West Indies are blocked up against us. Not the British only, but other nations, exclude us from those islands; our fur trade gone to Canada; British sentinels within our own territories; our posts withheld. To these distresses we may add the derangement of our finances: yet the honorable gentleman tells us they are not sufficient to justify so radical a change. Does he know the consequences of deranged finances? What confusions, disorders, and even revolutions, have resulted from this cause, in many nations! Look at France at this time: that kingdom is almost convulsed; ministers of state, and first princes of the blood, banished; manufacturers and merchants become bankrupt, and the people discontented; all owing to the derangement of their finances.

The honorable gentleman must be well acquainted with the debts due by the United States, and how much is due to foreign nations. Has not the payment of these been shamefully withheld? How long, sir, shall we be able, by fair promises, to satisfy these creditors? How long can we amuse, by idle words, those who are amply possessed of the means of doing themselves justice? No part of the principal is paid to those nations; nor has even the interest been paid as honorably and punctually as it ought. Nay, we were obliged to borrow money last year to pay the interest. What! borrow money to discharge the interest of what was borrowed, and continually augment the amount of the public debt! Such a plan would destroy the richest country on earth. What is to be done? Compel the delinquent states to pay requisitions to Congress? How are they to be compelled? By the instrumentality of such a scheme as was proposed to be introduced in the year 1784?* Is this cruel mode of compulsion eligible? Is it consistent with the Edition: current; Page: [106] spirit of republicanism? This savage mode, which could be made use of under the Confederation, leads directly to civil war and destruction. How different is this from the genius of the proposed Constitution! By this proposed plan, the public money is to be collected by mild and gentle means; by a peaceable and friendly application to the individuals of the community: whereas, by the other scheme, the public treasury must be supplied through the medium of the sword, by desolation and murder — by the blood of the citizens. Yet we are told that there is too much energy in this system. Coercion is necessary in every government. Justice, sir, cannot be done without it. It is more necessary in federal governments than any other, because of the natural imbecility of such governments.

The honorable gentleman is possessed of much historical knowledge. I appeal to that knowledge therefore. Will he not agree that there was a coercive power in the federal government of the Amphictyonics? The coercive power of the Amphictyonic council was so great as to enable it to punish disobedience and refractory behavior in the most severe manner. Is there not an instance of its carrying fire and sword through the territories, and levelling to the ground the towns, of those who disobeyed it? [Here Mr. Corbin mentions particular instances.] Is there no coercion in the Germanic body? This body, though composed of three hundred different component sovereignties, principalities, and cities, and divided into nine circles, is controlled by one superintending power, the emperor. Is there no coercive power in the confederate government of the Swiss? In the alliance between them and France, there is a provision whereby the latter is to interpose and settle differences that may arise among them; and this interposition has been more than once used. Is there none in Holland? What is the stadtholder? This power is necessary in all governments; a superintending coercive power is absolutely indispensable. This does not exist under the present Articles of Confederation. To vest it with such a power, on its present construction, without any alteration, would be extremely dangerous, and might lead to civil war. Gentlemen must, before this, have been convinced of the necessity of an alteration. Our state vessel has sprung a leak; we must embark in a new bottom, or sink into perdition.

The honorable gentleman has objected to the Constitution, Edition: current; Page: [107] on the old worn-out idea that a republican government is best calculated for a small territory. If a republic, sir cannot be accommodated to an extensive country, let me ask, How small must a country be to suit the genius of republicanism? In what particular extent of country can a republican government exist? If contracted into as small a compass as you please, it must labor under many disadvantages. Too small an extent will render a republic weak, vulnerable, and contemptible. Liberty, in such a petty state, must be on a precarious footing; its existence must depend on the philanthropy and good nature of its neighbors. Too large an extent, it is said, will produce confusion and tyranny. What has been so often deprecated will be removed by this plan. The extent of the United States cannot render this government oppressive. The powers of the general government are only of a general nature, and their object is to protect, defend, and strengthen the United States; but the internal administration of government is left to the state legislatures, who exclusively retain such powers as will give the states the advantages of small republics, without the danger commonly attendant on the weakness of such governments.

There are controversies even about the name of this government. It is denominated by some a federal, by others a consolidated government. The definition given of it by my honorable friend (Mr. Madison) is, in my opinion, accurate. Let me, however, call it by another name — a representative federal republic, as contradistinguished from a confederacy. The former is more wisely constructed than the latter; it places the remedy in the hands which feel the disorder: the other places the remedy in those hands which cause the disorder. The evils that are most complained of in such governments (and with justice) are faction, dissension, and consequent subjection of the minority to the caprice and arbitrary decisions of the majority, who, instead of consulting the interest of the whole community collectively, attend sometimes to partial and local advantages. To avoid this evil is perhaps the great desideratum of republican wisdom; it may be termed the philosopher’s stone. Yet, sir, this evil will be avoided by this Constitution: faction will be removed by the system now under consideration, because all the causes which are generally productive Edition: current; Page: [108] of faction are removed. This evil does not take its flight entirely; for were jealousies and divisions entirely at an end, it might produce such lethargy as would ultimately terminate in the destruction of liberty, to the preservation of which, watchfulness is absolutely necessary. It is transferred from the state legislatures to Congress, where it will be more easily controlled. Faction will decrease in proportion to the diminution of counsellors. It is much easier to control it in small than in large bodies. Our state legislature consists of upwards of one hundred and sixty, which is a greater number than Congress will consist of at first. Will not more concord and unanimity exist in one than in thirteen such bodies? Faction will more probably decrease, or be entirely removed, if the interest of a nation be entirely concentrated, than if entirely diversified. If thirteen men agree, there will be no faction. Yet if opposite, and of heterogeneous dispositions, it is impossible that a majority of such clashing minds can ever concur to oppress the minority. It is impossible that this government, which will make us one people, will have a tendency to assimilate our situations, and is admirably calculated to produce harmony and unanimity, can ever admit of an oppressive combination by one part of the Union against the other.

A confederate government is, of all others, best calculated for an extensive country. Its component individual governments are, of all others, best calculated for an extensive country. Its component individual governments administer and afford all the local conveniences that the most compact governments can do; and the strength and energy of the confederacy may be equal to those of any government. A government of this kind may extend to all the western world; nay, I may say, ad infinitum. But it is needless to dwell any longer on this subject; for the objection that an extensive territory is repugnant to a republican government applies against this and every state in the Union, except Delaware and Rhode Island. Were the objection well founded, a republican government could exist in none of the states, except those two. Such an argument goes to the dissolution of the Union, and its absurdity is demonstrated by our own experience.

But an objection is urged against this government because of its power of laying direct taxes. Let me ask the honorable Edition: current; Page: [109] gentleman who opposes it on this ground, if he reflects whether this power be indispensable or not. Sir, if it be not vested with the power of commanding all the resources of the state when necessary, it will be trifling. Wars are as much (and more) carried on by the length of the purse, as by that of the sword. They cannot be carried on without money. Unless this power be given to Congress, foreign nations may crush you. The concession of this power is necessary to do Virginia justice, by compelling the delinquent states to pay as well as she: while she paid her quotas, and her citizens were much distressed to pay their taxes, other states most shamefully neglected or refused to pay their proportions. I trust gentlemen need not be alarmed on the subject of taxation, nor intimidated by the idea of double collectors, who, they tell us, will oppress and ruin the people. From our attention to our situation, we shall see that this mode of levying money, though indispensably necessary on great emergencies, will be but seldom recurred to. Let us attend to the finances of this country.

Mr. CORBIN then stated the probable annual amount of duties on imported articles throughout the continent, including West India produce, which, he said, from the best calculation he could procure, would exceed the annual expenses of the administration of the general government, including the civil list, contingent charges, and the interest of the foreign and domestic debts, by eighty or ninety thousand pounds; that, he said, would enable the United States to discharge, in a few years, the principal debts due to foreign nations; that, in the course of thirty years, that surplus would enable the United States to perform the most splendid enterprises. He then concluded that no danger was to be apprehended from the power of direct taxation, since there was every reason to believe it would be very seldom used. He then made an estimate of the state debt, and clearly proved that, with economical regulations, all the demands of the internal administration of government would be paid with facility and ease from the different resources of the state; and that there would also be a considerable surplus, which, with prudence and economy, might answer many valuable purposes.

Mr. Corbin then continued as follows: The honorable gentleman declared in the most solemn manner, that, if he could see one single trait in that government to secure liberty, Edition: current; Page: [110] he would not object to it. I meet him on this ground. Liberty is secured, sir, by the limitation of its powers, which are clearly and unequivocally defined, and which are to be exercised by our own representatives freely chosen. What power is given that will endanger liberty? I consider all the traits of this system as having a tendency to the security of our liberty. I consider all its powers necessary, and only given to avoid greater evils; and if this conclusion of mine be well founded, let me ask if public liberty is not secured by bars and adamantine bolts — secured by the strongest guards and checks which human ingenuity can invent. Will this dread power of taxation render liberty insecure? Sir, without this power, other powers will answer no purpose. Government cannot exist without the means of procuring money. My honorable friend told us he considered this clause as the vitals of the Constitution. I will change the phrase, and say that I consider this part as the lungs of the Constitution. If it be sick, the whole system is consumptive, and must soon decay; and this power can never be dangerous if the principles of equal and free representation be fully attended to. While the right of suffrage is secured, we have little to fear. This government, sir, fully secures us this noble privilege, on the purest and simplest principles of equality. That number which, in any one part of the country, has a right to send a representative, has the same right in another part. What does the Constitution say? That thirty thousand shall have one representative, no matter where. If this be not equal representation, what, in the name of God, is equal representation? But, says the honorable gentleman, the Constitution may be satisfied by one from each state. I conceive there is no fear of this. There is not a power to diminish the number. Does it not say that representatives shall be apportioned according to the number of the people, and that direct taxes shall be regulated by the same rules? Virginia, in the first instance, will have ten times as many as Delaware, and afterwards in proportion to their numbers. What is the criterion of representation? Do the people wish land only to be represented? They have their wish: for the qualifications which the laws of the states require to entitle a man to vote for a state representative are the qualifications required by this plan to vote for a representative to Congress; and in this state, and most of the others, the Edition: current; Page: [111] possession of a freehold is necessary to entitle a man to the privilege of a vote. Do they wish persons to be represented? Here also they are indulged; for the number of representatives is determined by the number of people: this idea is so well attended to, that even three fifths of those who are not free are included among those of whom thirty thousand shall have a right to elect one representative; so that, in either point of view, their wish is gratified. Is not liberty secured on this foundation? If it be not secured by one or the other mode, or by both, I am totally without reason. Liberty seems intrenched on this ground.

But the gentleman objects that the number is not sufficient. My opinion, with deference to that gentleman, and others who may be of different opinion from me, is, that it is fully sufficient. Being delegated solely for general purposes, a few intelligent men will suffice; at least one for every thirty thousand, aided by the Senate, seems sufficient. Are combinations, or factions, so often formed in small as in numerous bodies? Are laws better made in large than in small assemblies? Is not the influence of popular declaimers less in small than in great bodies? Would not a more numerous representation be very expensive? Is economy of no consideration? We ought, sir, to attend to the situation of the people; and our measures should be as economical as possible, without extending, however, our parsimony to a dangerous length. Objections should be founded on just and real grounds, and ought not to be urged out of a mere obstinacy. Besides, it is by no means certain that a very numerous body is more independent, or upright, than a small one. Why should the number of our representatives be greater, Mr. Chairman? The county of Middlesex, in England, which includes the cities of London and Westminster, contains upwards of nine hundred and ninety thousand souls, and yet sends to Parliament no more than eight members. Among all the clamors of the people there, it never entered into the brain of any of them that these eight were not enough. They complain that the boroughs of Old Sarum, Newton, and Gatton, and other such places, should send each two members to Parliament, although without houses or inhabitants, while the richest city sends but four. They also complain of the influence of the landed interest in some cases; that the county of Cornwall sends forty members to Parliament, Edition: current; Page: [112] although it pays but eighteen parts, out of five hundred and thirteen, to the subsidy and land tax, when the county of Middlesex, which is calculated to pay two hundred and fifty parts out of five hundred and thirteen, sends but eight members. In that country, it has been uniformly found that those members, who are chosen by numerous respectable electors, make the greatest opposition to oppression and corruption, and signalize themselves for the preservation of liberty. The collective body of the commons there have generally exerted themselves in the defence of freedom, and have been successful in their exertions, notwithstanding the inequality of their election. Our representatives are chosen in the fairest manner; their election is founded in absolute equality. Is the American spirit so degenerated, notwithstanding these advantages, that the love of liberty is more predominant and warm in the breast of a Briton than in that of an American? When liberty is on a more solid foundation here than in Britain, will Americans be less ready to maintain and defend it than Britons? No, sir; the spirit of liberty and independence of the people of this country, at present, is such that they could not be enslaved under any government that could be described. What danger is there, then, to be apprehended from a government which is theoretically perfect, and the possible blemishes of which can only be demonstrated by actual experience?

The honorable gentleman then urges an objection respecting the militia, who, he tells us, will be made the instruments of tyranny to deprive us of our liberty. Your militia, says he, will fight against you. Who are the militia? Are we not militia? Shall we fight against ourselves? No, sir; the idea is absurd. We are also terrified by the dread of a standing army. It cannot be denied that we ought to have the means of defence, and be able to repel an attack.

If some of the community are exclusively inured to its defence, and the rest attend to agriculture, the consequence will be, that the arts of war and defence, and of cultivating the soil, will be understood. Agriculture will flourish, and military discipline will be perfect. If, on the contrary, our defence be solely intrusted to militia, ignorance of arms and negligence of farming will ensue: the former plan is, in every respect, more to the interest of the state. By it we shall have good farmers and soldiers; by the latter we shall have Edition: current; Page: [113] neither. If the inhabitants be called out on sudden emergencies of war, their crops, the means of their subsistence, may be destroyed by it. If we are called in the time of sowing seed, or of harvest, the means of subsistence might be lost; and the loss of one year’s crop might have been prevented by a trivial expense, if appropriated to the purpose of supporting a part of the community, exclusively occupied in the defence of the whole. I conceive that this idea, if it be a new one, is yet founded on solid and very substantial reasons. But, sir, we are told of the expediency and propriety of previous amendments. What end would it answer to attempt it? Will the states which have adopted the Constitution rescind their adopting resolutions? Had we adopted it, would we recede from it to please the caprice of any other state? Pride, sir, revolts at the idea. Admitting this state proposes amendments previous to her adoption, must there not be another federal convention? Must there not be also a convention in each state? Suppose some of our proposed conditions to be rejected; will not our exclusion out of the Union be the consequence? Or would other conventions again be called, and would be eternally revolving and devising expedients, without coming to a final decision? The loss of the union, sir, must be the result of a pertinacious demand of precedent conditions. My idea is, that we should go hand in hand with Massachusetts: adopt it first, and then propose amendments of a general nature; for local ones cannot be expected. Consider the situation of Massachusetts, commanding the north, and the importance and respectability of Virginia to the south. These, sir, are the two most populous, wealthy, and powerful states in the Union. Is it not very probable that their influence would have very great weight in carrying any amendments? Would any gentleman turn a deaf ear to their solicitations? By union alone can we exist: by no other means can we be happy. Union must be the object of every gentleman here. I never yet have heard any gentleman so wild and frantic in his opposition as to avow an attachment to partial confederacies. By previous adoption, the union will be preserved; by insisting on alterations previous to our adoption, the union may be lost, and our political happiness destroyed by internal dissensions. I trust, therefore, that this Convention, after deliberate discussion, will not hesitate to determine on a previous ratification Edition: current; Page: [114] of a system which, even in its present form, seems competent to the perpetual preservation of our security and happiness.

Mr. HENRY then arose, and expressed a desire that the honorable gentleman on the other side (Gov. Randolph) should continue his observations on the subject he had left unfinished the day before; that he had before, and would now, give him a patient hearing, as he wished to be informed of every thing that gentlemen could urge in defence of that system which appeared to him so defective.

Gov. RANDOLPH. Mr. Chairman, as the gentleman who was last up has given us an opportunity of continuing our observations, I shall, in resuming the subject, endeavor to put this question in a more correct and accurate point of view than it has yet been put in.

I took the liberty, yesterday, of declaring to the house the necessity of a national rather than a federal government, and that the union was necessary for Virginia for many powerful reasons; that this necessity arose from the certainty of her being involved in disputes and war with the adjoining states, and the probability of an attack by foreign nations, particularly by those nations to which she is greatly in debt, and which she is unable to pay; from her inability to raise an army to protect her citizens from internal seditions and external attacks, and her inability to raise a navy to protect her trade and her coasts against descents and invasions. I also, in the course of my argument on this occasion, showed the imbecility of the present system, in order to obviate and detect the sophistry of that truly delusive opinion, which has taken possession of the minds of some gentlemen, that this shipwrecked vessel is sufficiently strong and safe for us to embark in. Whether I have succeeded or not, I have given the full effusions of my soul, in my attempt to prove the futility of that opinion. Permit me now to pursue the object of my inquiry respecting the powers necessary to be given to the general government. I shall discard general considerations at present, as I wish to be as brief as possible, and take up the particular idea of direct taxation. Is it necessary that the legislative power of the United States should be authorized to levy taxes? A strange question to be agitated in this house, after hearing the delinquency of other states, and even of Edition: current; Page: [115] Virginia herself! Money is the nerve — the life and soul of a government. It is the utmost folly to say that a government could be carried on without this great agent of human affairs. Wars cannot be carried on without a full and uncontrolled discretionary power to raise money in an eligible manner. Nay, sir, government cannot be administered in time of peace without this power. For how is it to be done? It is needless to impress any further on the minds of the gentlemen who hear me the necessity of this power in governments. If so, ought the general government to be more circumscribed in the power of providing for its own safety and existence than any other government? Ought it to depend for the means of its preservation on other bodies? This is actually the case with the Confederation. The power of raising money was nominally vested in that system. In March, 1781, even Maryland, the most backward state then, conceded that Congress should have the power of receiving and demanding their proportionate quotas of the states. This was an acknowledgment of the necessity of vesting a power in Congress to raise such sums as emergencies might require; but the means which were proposed have been found inadequate to compass the end: the propriety of the means is alone disputed. No doubt it is the universal opinion of the people of this commonwealth, that its legislature should have the power of raising money at its own will and pleasure. There are two ways whereby this may be effected — by requisitions, or taxation: there is no other manner; for it surpasses the ingenuity of man to devise any other mode of raising money than by one of these two methods. If the alternative of requisitions be determined upon, as more eligible, it will not avail without coercion. If that of taxation be preferred, it will be sufficient without any coercion. If our legislature were to depend on requisitions for money to answer the ends of government, then, sir, the absurdity and sophistry of the arguments urged in defence of such a mode of procuring money would strike the weakest intellect. If the mere pleasure of individuals were alone to be consulted, if it were left to the choice of your people to pay or not, your treasury would be much poorer than it is; and the advocates of this pernicious policy would perhaps be ashamed of their pertinacity. Suppose, for a moment, the only existing Edition: current; Page: [116] mode of raising a revenue in Virginia to be that of requisitions; suppose your requisitions sent on to every county; say that money is wanted; assume the most pressing language — “We earnestly entreat you; we humbly supplicate and solicit you would furnish us with one thousand or one hundred pounds, to defray the necessary charges of our government!” What would be the result of such applications for voluntary contributions? You would be laughed at for your folly, for thinking human nature could be thus operated upon. From my knowledge of human nature, and of my countrymen, I am perfectly certain this would be the case. The argument will be found good in all cases; it will admit of any extension. I ask any gentleman in this house, if states would comply with what even a few individuals would refuse? Would not the requisitions of Congress meet a similar fate? This, sir, has as often happened as it has been the pleasure of the states to withhold the quotas. Not a shilling has been put into the Continental treasury but with the utmost reluctance. The probable delinquency of other states has been the pretext of non-compliance, with every state. It has been thought hard that our General Assembly should pay when Congress ordered us. Our representatives have been supposed careless of our interest in paying the demands of Congress, while delinquencies happened in other states. Punctuality, sir, instead of being held in that estimation which it really merits, has been looked upon as an improvident expenditure of the substance of the people, and a subjection of the inhabitants to grievances and burdens to which the people of delinquent states were not exposed. This idea has been held in many states, and would hold again. Whosoever depends on the mere right to demand their respective proportions of the states, shows a total ignorance of human actions, and betrays an unacquaintance with the principles of sure policy. The principal ends of all political institutions are the happiness and safety of the community: but a reliance on congressional requisitions would leave the country exposed and open to those who should choose to invade us, or lead to such sedition and confusion among ourselves as must subvert and destroy every object of human society. If requisitions be not faithfully complied with, military coercion seems necessary: coercion, judiciously and moderately Edition: current; Page: [117] used, is proper; but, if severely and cruelly inflicted, begets unconquerable aversion and hatred. If the spirit of resentment actuates individuals, will not states be equally vindictive? What species of military coercion could the general government adopt for the enforcement of obedience to its demands? Either an army sent into the heart of a delinquent state, or blocking up its ports. Have we lived to this, then, that, in order to suppress and exclude tyranny, it is necessary to render the most affectionate friends the most bitter enemies? — set the father against the son, and make the brother slay the brother? Is this the happy expedient that is to preserve liberty? Will it not destroy it? If an army be once introduced to force us, if once marched into Virginia, figure to yourself what the dreadful consequence will be: the most lamentable civil war must ensue. Have we any troops but militia to confront those disciplined bands that would be sent to force our compliance with requisitions? The most virulent railings are vented against the federal executive. We are told that the President can fix himself in the chair of state, establish himself as a monarch, and destroy the liberties of the people.

It has too often happened that powers delegated for the purpose of promoting the happiness of a community have been perverted to the advancement of the personal emoluments of the agents of the people; but the powers of the President are too well guarded and checked to warrant this illiberal aspersion. Let us candidly consider the consequences of the favorite plan of requisitions, and see whether, instead of imaginary or problematical, there be not real, palpable dangers. To compel your obedience, a rapacious army will penetrate into the bosom of your country, carrying destruction and desolation before it. The commander of such an army will be liable to the corruptions and passions incident to other men. If he be possessed of military genius, address, and ambition, he may procure this army to proclaim him king. Who can tell the result? Who can oppose him with success? Who can say to him, Sir, you shall not be a despot! The reasoning, however inconclusive or illogical it may appear to some, is, in my estimation, more accurate than arguments drawn from the possibility of a President’s becoming a tyrant.

Mr. Chairman, I should object to the so-much-admired alternative Edition: current; Page: [118] of gentlemen, were there no other reason than the danger of an army to enforce requisitions, and the danger of its general becoming our master. I will not mention those nations that might be applied to for aid in such a case: it could easily be procured, but the remedy would be worse than the disease. I speak with respect to Virginia alone. Suppose our trade was to be taken into the hands of Congress; they would find little to satisfy their demands. If permitted by other nations, the compensation they could derive from the exclusive control of our trade would be but trivial. Great Britain, France, and Holland, are intimately concerned to carry on trade with us: those nations would disapprove of the measure; and such evasions would be practised on such an occasion as would render it totally ineffectual. If Congress were then to block up our ports, or send an army into our country, Virginia would be in such a horrid situation as would induce her to call for the aid of foreign nations: they have their eyes fixed on us; they watch every opportunity to avail themselves of our divisions. It is their interest we should be weak and divided. Any of them would readily engage in our dissensions; none of them would be displeased at our distractions. But what would be their object in assisting us? On what principles have auxiliaries ever been sent to the aid of a country? Show me an instance (except the conduct of France to America) where auxiliaries have not either attempted or actually made themselves masters of those they assisted. With respect to France, her magnanimity to America is almost unprecedented. She has displayed a degree of disinterestedness and generosity not often exemplified in the annals of mankind. Till France joined us, our troops were not able to withstand the enemy. Yet the fate of many other nations ought to convince us that the assistance of foreigners is the most dangerous and the last experiment that ought to be recurred to. Yet the predilection for retaining the power of direct taxation is not to be overcome.

An expedient, proposed by a gentleman whom I do not now see in the house, (Mr. George Mason,) is, that this power shall be only given to the general government as an alternative after requisitions shall have been refused. The most positive requisitions will be unavailable, and failure will produce war. A formal refusal, or negligent non-compliance Edition: current; Page: [119] with the demands of Congress, under a knowledge of the existence of this execrated alternative, would be a prelude to active opposition. I consider this expedient very little better than the ineffectual mode of simple requisitions. The only difference is, that it gives a little more time to a retractory state to provide itself with arms and foreign alliance, to enable it to oppose the operation of this alternative, and resist federal collectors, as was observed by the honorable gentleman in the chair. The proper time will be picked for the commencement of opposition, and for putting the bayonet to the breasts of their fellow-citizens. Suppose a requisition to be made on Virginia for two hundred thousand pounds: she fails to comply: taxes are then to be collected in the common manner. Is it not probable that the aversion to the exercise of this power by the general government will incite discontented minds to oppose it? Then, sir, the dogs of war are to be let loose, and inconceivable mischief to ensue. If the inability of the people requires an extension of the time of payment, let them be indulged as far as may be consistent with a regard for the public exigencies; but let us not be so infatuated as to choose an expedient which must either be inadequate to the destined purpose, or eventuate in bloodshed and war. Requisitions, sir, however modified, must come within this description; they strike me with horror and disgust. I would as soon see a separation from the Union, and trust to the genius, patriotism, vigilance, and activity — to the morals and natural uprightness — of the people, as ask a government with no other powers than those whereof our present system is possessed. This is an improvement on that system; and if we reject it, we are ruined.

Our credit is depressed and irretrievably gone, without a change of that system which has caused its depression. It is humiliating and disgraceful to recur to loans, situated as we are. It is ruinous on any condition on which our credit could be competent to obtain them; though, under a regular, judicious system of administration, they may be very salutary and beneficial. If some accounts be believed, your ambassador has received from the king of France those stipends which have supported him. Is this honorable? Is it safe for America? Safety, sir, forbids so dishonorable and despicable a conduct as to leave our representatives in a state of absolute dependence on another power. Will not this situation be Edition: current; Page: [120] freely and forcibly represented to him? — “Remember, sir, the bread you eat to-morrow depends on the bounty of the Count de Vergennes!” Is it possible that, in our present circumstances, we can inspire any one with confidence in our engagements? Where, in the hour of distress and calamity, shall Congress be able to borrow money? The present revenues are appropriated to different purposes, and are, from the incompetency of requisitions, inadequate to the public exigencies. Admitting the impost will be sufficiently productive to enable Congress to discharge its engagements, and answer all the demands of government, in case of a war, will not necessity and the fear of danger render it necessary for the general government to divert the revenues, from the usual appropriations, to the defence of the Union? The necessity of such a diversion does not lessen the certainty that the public credit would be destroyed by it. The interest on the public debt could not be paid; foreign and domestic creditors would be disappointed and irritated; and the displeasure of the former might lead to the most serious consequences. What could the general government do, in such a situation, without the power of providing money by taxation? Requisitions would be fruitless and ineffectual; nor could a government, which depended on such a slender and inefficient force, meet with credulity enough any where to trust it. Will you expose the Continental Congress to such a critical distress? Do you consult public liberty by reducing it to an extremity, whereof none can with certainty foretell the dangerous consequences? Is it not laying a train by which liberty is to be blown up? By withholding a necessary power, you may unwarily lay the foundation of usurpation itself.

I conclude with my firm belief, that I show my friendship for Virginia more steadfastly by discarding these requisitions, than by any proposition I could suggest.

The benefits arising from loans are innumerable. Every nation, even the most wealthy and the oldest nations, have found it necessary to recur to loans in time of war. This country has found it so even in time of peace; but on a supposition of war, we must borrow money. It will be inevitable. How can Congress have credit to borrow any sum to a considerable amount, on any reasonable conditions, unless it have full scope and complete command over the resources of Edition: current; Page: [121] the Union? Whatever may be the visionary and fanciful conclusions of political skeptics, the credit of a nation will be found to be coëxtensive with its ability. If Congress have an uncontrolled power to raise money as contingencies may render it necessary, it can borrow with ease; but if it have not this power, it is not possible that any confidence can be put in it.

The difficulty of justly apportioning the taxes among the states, under the present system, has been complained of; the rule of apportionment being the value of all lands and improvements within the states. The inequality between the rich lands of James River and the barrens of Massachusetts has been thought to militate against Virginia. If taxes could be laid according to the real value, no inconvenience could follow; but, from a variety of reasons, this value was very difficult to be ascertained; and an error in the estimation must necessarily have been oppressive to a part of the community. But in this new Constitution, there is a more just and equitable rule fixed — a limitation beyond which they cannot go. Representatives and taxes go hand in hand: according to the one will the other be regulated. The number of representatives is determined by the number of inhabitants; they have nothing to do but to lay taxes accordingly. I will illustrate it by a familiar example. At present, before the population is actually numbered, the number of representatives is sixty-five. Of this number, Virginia has a right to send ten; consequently she will have to pay ten parts out of sixty-five parts of any sum that may be necessary to be raised by Congress. This, sir, is the line. Can Congress go beyond the bounds prescribed in the Constitution? Has Congress a power to say that she shall pay fifteen parts out of sixty-five parts? Were they to assume such a power, it would be a usurpation so glaring, that rebellion would be the immediate consequence. Congress is only to say on what subject the tax is to be laid. It is a matter of very little consequence how it will be imposed, since it must be clearly laid on the most productive article in each particular state. I am surprised that such strong objections should have been made to, and such fears and alarms excited by, this power of direct taxation, since experience shows daily that it is neither inconvenient nor oppressive. A collector goes to a man’s house; the man pays him with freedom, or makes an Edition: current; Page: [122] apology for his inability to do it then: at a future day, if payment be not made, distress is made, and acquiesced in by the party. What difference is there between this and a tax imposed by Congress? Is it not done by lawful authority? The distinction is between a Virginian and Continental authority. Yet, in both cases, it is imposed by ourselves, through the medium of our representatives. When a tax will come to be laid by Congress, the collector will apply in like manner, and in the same manner receive payment, or an apology; at a future day, likewise, the same consequences will result from a failure. I presume, sir, there is a manifest similarity between the two cases. When gentlemen complain of the novelty, they ought to advert to the singular one that must be the consequence of the requisitions — an army sent into your country to force you to comply. Will not this be the dissolution of the Union, if ever it takes effect? Let us be candid on this subject: let us see if the criterion here fixed be not equal and just. Were the tax laid on one uniform article through the Union, its operation would be oppressive on a considerable part of the people. When any sum is necessary for the general government, every state will immediately know its exact proportion of it, from the number of their people and representatives; nor can it be doubted that the tax will be laid on each state, in the manner that will best accommodate the people of such state, as thereby it will be raised with more facility; for an oppressive mode can never be so productive as the most easy for the people.

The system under consideration is objected to in an unconnected and irregular manner: detached parts are attacked without considering the whole: this, sir, is disingenuous and unreasonable. Ask if the powers be unnecessary. If the end proposed can be obtained by any other means, the powers may be unnecessary. Infallibility was not arrogated by the Convention: they included in the system those powers they thought necessary. If you do not think the ceding those powers indispensable, never give them up. But, I trust, this power of imposing direct taxes has been proved to be essential to the very existence of the Union. The advocates for the national government, circumstanced as they are, with the accession of so many states, never will give their assent to leave it in the power of the states Edition: current; Page: [123] to sacrifice the Union. It has been observed, by an honorable gentleman over the way, (Mr. George Mason,) that there could not be a fellow-feeling between the national representatives and their constituents, and that oppression must be inseparable from their exercise of the power of imposing taxes. I beg leave to remind you of a similar complaint made on a similar occasion. I allude to the Scotch union. If gentlemen cast their eyes to that period, they will find there an instructive similitude between our circumstances and the situation of those people. The advocates for a union with England declared that it would be a foundation of lasting peace, remove all jealousies between them, increase their strength and riches, and enable them to resist more effectually the efforts of the Pretender. These were irresistible arguments, one would be inclined to believe; arguments a priori, which challenge conviction, and which appear perfectly conclusive, since now verified by actual events. Yet the opposers of that union declaimed that the independence of Scotland was gone; that the peerage of Scotland was degraded; that the people of England would alone be gainers; and that the people of Scotland would be the losers. How are the facts? Both kingdoms have derived great benefits from that union, and the predictions of the advocates for that union have been fully verified. The arguments used on that occasion apply with more cogency to our situation.

The people of Rhode Island may say their independence will be lost by a union with the other states; that they will be degraded, their consequence lost, and their liberties endangered. Many such specious and plausible arguments may be urged by their great men, who would no longer retain the importance which their paper money, and other causes, give them in a single state; yet the topographical situation of that state renders union more essential to its existence than to that of any other state. It is urged that the independence of Virginia will be gone by the union. Will not all the happy effects of the union I have just mentioned, and more, redound to Virginia from this union? But our representatives are suspected. On a further inspection of the system before you, this objection must vanish. Ten representatives will have no fellow-feeling for their constituents! Will not the people choose men of integrity, and in similar Edition: current; Page: [124] circumstances with themselves, to represent them? What laws can they make that will not operate on themselves and friends, as well as on the rest of the people? Will the people reëlect the same men to repeat oppressive legislation? Will the people commit suicide against themselves, and discard all those maxims and principles of interest and self-preservation which actuate mankind in all their transactions? Will the ten miles square transform our representatives into brutes and tyrants? I see no grounds to distrust them: but suppose they will be inclined to do us mischief; how can they effect it? If the federal necessities call for the sum of sixty-five thousand pounds, our proportion of that sum is ten thousand pounds. If, instead of this just proportion, they should require a greater sum, a conflict would ensue. What steps could they take to enforce the payment of the unjust and tyrannical demand? They must summon up all the genius of better men; but in case of actual violence, they could not raise the thousandth part of ten thousand pounds. In case of a struggle, sir, the people would be irresistible. If they should be so liable to lapse from virtue, yet would not one man be found, out of a multitude, to guard the interests of the people — not one man to hold up his head to discover the tyrannical projects of a corrupt and depraved majority?

Suppose the House of Representatives all equally infatuated, and determined on so wicked an intention as to infringe the rights of the people; they have not the whole authority in their own hands. There are twenty-six senators, distinguished for their wisdom, not elevated by popular favor, but chosen by a select body of intelligent men: will they also be corrupt? Will their honor and virtue be contaminated and disgraced in one instant? Sixty-five representatives and twenty-six senators are then to be suddenly changed from upright men to monsters: ninety-one persons, selected for superior qualities, are to compose this Pandemonium of iniquity. The supposition of their degenerating to such a degree is unwarrantable, and inconsistent with an admission of their being freely chosen by a people capable of discerning merit; and should a majority ever be so forgetful of their duty as to wish to trample on the immunities of the people, there is no reason to doubt that some of them will be so far inspired with a zeal for liberty as to warn their country of Edition: current; Page: [125] any dangerous combinations against their privileges. The people, to heighten their security, may send those to the general government who have been signalized for their wisdom and virtue. What security have the people of Virginia against the possible abuses of their legislature, that is not here? But their number is objected to, as being too small. I should reluctantly assent to this representative body, did I conceive it consisted of too few.

It is an established maxim, that such a body ought to be numerous enough to be well acquainted with the interest of the people, to prevent corruption, and give a chance to men of merit to be elected. If the number be not sufficient for these purposes, I confess it to be a defect. The number is sixty-five, of which ten represent this state. Cannot they inform themselves of the situation of America? I appeal to those who hear me, if they could not rely on the intelligence of ten men they could fix upon, sooner than upon any crowd they could have. I do not reflect on my countrymen; but there is a certain listlessness and inattention to the interest of the community, such indecision or faction in numerous bodies, that I would rather depend on the virtue and knowledge of some few men than on ever so many. The mode of their election must induce us to believe that they will be men of experience and information. The state will be laid off and divided into ten districts: from each of these a man is to be elected. He must be really the choice of the people, not the man who can distribute the most gold; for the riches of Crœsus would not avail. The qualifications of the electors being the same as those of the representatives for the state legislatures, and the election being under the control of the legislature, the prohibitory provisions against undue means of procuring votes to the state representation extend to the federal representatives: the extension of the sphere of election to so considerable a district will render it impossible for contracted influence, or local intrigues, or personal interest, to procure an election. Inquiries will be made, by the voters, into the characters of the candidates. Greater talents, and a more extensive reputation, will be necessary to procure an election for the federal than for the state representation. The federal representatives must therefore be well known for their integrity, and their knowledge of the country they represent. We shall have ten men thus elected Edition: current; Page: [126] What are they going yonder for? Not to consult for Virginia alone, but for the interest of the United States collectively. Will not such men derive sufficient information from their own knowledge of their respective states, and from the codes of the different states? The want of information ought no longer to be urged as an objection.

With respect to merit, sir, the house must be satisfied that there is ample room for it. A cottager will receive the votes of this country, as well as the descendant of any aristocrat of this country. Is it not notorious that virtue and ability have been preferred generally, here, to virtue and connections? The present number, sixty-five, is to be increased according to the progressive augmentation of the number of the people. From the present number of inhabitants, which is estimated at three hundred and fifty-two thousand whites, and two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, we shall be entitled to fifteen representatives. But here another objection will be offered: it will be complained that the taxes will be increased according to the number of representatives; on which I will only observe here, that the same rule operates in all the states, and that it is not more unjust or oppressive in one state than in another. The number of representatives is as great as can be paid by America at this time; and whatever other gentlemen may conclude on that subject, I think, for my part, that it would be fortunate if the number was to continue as it is at present for a long time; or, at least, that it should be limited not to exceed a certain amount; for, if you swell the legislative list to such a degree as the increase of population, at a reasonable calculation, will, at a period not very remote, entitle the people to send, it will introduce corruption and confusion, and prevent that secrecy without which success can never be expected in negotiations or other transactions. It was my purpose to answer the objections against the power of the national government to lay direct taxes, and against the mode of representation.

It is needless to dwell much longer on the subject. Were one to rise from the dead to declare the expediency of that power, I could not be more firmly persuaded than I am now of its propriety. To dissuade us from conceding this power, gentlemen alarm us with apprehensions that the most intolerable oppressions will be committed by the federal collectors. Edition: current; Page: [127] Let us consider this dispassionately, and whether the idea be well founded, which is suggested, that a conflict will frequently happen between the state and congressional collector for property seized and claimed by both. If there be no necessity, or strong temptation, to increase the present number of officers, no addition will be made to them. Congress will have every inducement, and, from the mode of their appointment, must be inclined, to lighten the burdens of the people. They can derive no advantage from a contrary conduct. In other countries, where the fate of the poor is wretched, officers are created merely for the emolument of certain individuals; but, by the structure of this government, the interest of the people must always be considered; nor will any but necessary officers be created. The number of officers, and their compensations, will be as inconsiderable as the nature of their business will admit of. With respect to collectors of the general taxes, I have not the least doubt that Congress will employ the state officers and sheriffs, because it will be economical, and agreeable to the people; a considerable sum will be saved by it. They will employ such men, Mr. Chairman, unless they determine to throw away the public money in an unjustifiable manner. They will never adopt measures which may produce discontent in the country, when they can effect the same purpose by peaceable and satisfactory means. With regard to any personal abuse or misconduct of a collector, such an officer would be amenable to the laws, like any other citizen. He is only protected by the law where he acts lawfully: in such cases, the evil would not be repeated; it would not continue. Congress can take away their offices from such men as abuse them, and give them to others. It cannot be believed that they will carry their wickedness so far as to trust men of this stamp.

As to the mode of paying the taxes, little need be said: it is immaterial which way they are to be paid; for they are to be paid only once. I had an objection which pressed heavily on my mind: I was solicitous to know the objects of taxation. I wished to make some discrimination with regard to the demands of Congress, and of the states, on the same object. As neither can restrain the other in this case — as the power of both is unlimited — it will be their interest mutually to avoid interferences: it will most certainly be the Edition: current; Page: [128] interest of either to avoid imposing a tax on an article which shall have been previously taxed by the other. This consideration, and the structure of the government, satisfy me. I cannot foretell, in the course of human events, what Virginia and the United States may be exposed to, blindfolded as I am with respect to futurity; but I would not restrain Congress in this case, unless I meant to destroy the government itself. What will be the consequence of withholding this power from Congress? Will it not be reduced to the most dangerous distress, if a war should happen? The case has happened, and may again. In case of domestic war, or an invasion, every shilling they could lay their hands on would be necessary, but not sufficient, to carry it on. What could the general government do without this force to procure money, for the prosecution of the war and its other exigencies? I beg the friends of the Union to consider the necessity of this power: without it we may abandon the government altogether: it is the soul of the government; no substitute will answer in its stead. The history of other confederacies will instruct us that the general government must operate on the individuals of the community, or else be totally insufficient. Not ancient confederacies only, but certain modern ones, will point out to us the horrid situation in which these states must be involved, unless the general government be vested with this power. The history of those confederacies will discover to us the dreadful misfortunes which their people will have suffered by the imbecility of their governments. If some other gentleman will not, I shall discover, at another opportunity, that mournful history.

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, in considering this great subject, I trust we shall find that part which gives the general government the power of laying and collecting taxes indispensable, and essential to the existence of any efficient or well-organized system of government: if we consult reason, and be ruled by its dictates, we shall find its justification there: if we review the experience we have had, or contemplate the history of nations, here we find ample reasons to prove its expediency. There is little reason to depend for necessary supplies on a body which is fully possessed of the power of withholding them. If a government depends on other governments for its revenues — if it must depend on the voluntary contributions of its members — its Edition: current; Page: [129] existence must be precarious. A government which relies on thirteen independent sovereignties for the means of its existence, is a solecism in theory and a mere nullity in practice. Is it consistent with reason that such a government can promote the happiness of any people? It is subversive of every principle of sound policy, to trust the safety of a community with a government totally destitute of the means of protecting itself or its members. Can Congress, after the repeated unequivocal proofs it has experienced of the utter inutility and inefficacy of requisitions, reasonably expect that they would be hereafter effectual or productive? Will not the same local interests, and other causes, militate against a compliance? Whoever hopes the contrary must ever be disappointed. The effect, sir, cannot be changed without a removal of the cause. Let each county in this commonwealth be supposed free and independent; let your revenues depend on requisitions of proportionate quotas from them; let application be made to them repeatedly: — is it to be presumed that they would comply, or that an adequate collection could be made from partial compliances? It is now difficult to collect the taxes from them: how much would that difficulty be enhanced, were you to depend solely on their generosity! I appeal to the reason of every gentleman here, whether he is not persuaded that the present Confederation is as feeble as the government of Virginia would be in that case: to the same reason I appeal, whether it be compatible with prudence to continue a government of such manifest and palpable debility.

If we recur to history, and review the annals of mankind. I undertake to say that no instance can be produced, by the most learned man, of any confederate government that will justify a continuation of the present system, or that will not demonstrate the necessity of this change, and of substituting, for the present pernicious and fatal plan, the system now under consideration, or one equally energetic. The uniform conclusion drawn from a review of ancient and modern confederacies is, that, instead of promoting the public happiness, or securing public tranquillity, they have, in every instance, been productive of anarchy and confusion, ineffectual for the preservation of harmony, and a prey to their own dissensions and foreign invasions.

The Amphictyonic league resembled our Confederation in Edition: current; Page: [130] its nominal powers; it was possessed of rather more power. The component states retained their sovereignty, and enjoyed an equality of suffrage in the federal council. But, though its powers were more considerable in many respects than those of our present system, yet it had the same radical defect. Its powers were exercised over its individual members, in their political capacities. To this capital defect it owed its disorders and final destruction. It was compelled to recur to the sanguinary coercion of war to enforce its decrees. The struggles consequent on a refusal to obey a decree, and an attempt to enforce it, produced the necessity of applying to foreign assistance. By complying with such an application, together with his intrigues, Philip of Macedon acquired sufficient influence to become a member of the league. This artful and insidious prince soon after became master of their liberties.

The Achæan league, though better constructed than the Amphictyonic, in material respects, was continually agitated with domestic dissensions, and driven to the necessity of calling in foreign aid; this, also, eventuated in the demolition of their confederacy. Had they been more closely united, their people would have been happier; and their united wisdom and strength would not only have rendered unnecessary all foreign interpositions in their affairs, but would have enabled them to repel the attack of an enemy. If we descend to more modern examples, we shall find the same evils resulting from the same sources.

The Germanic system is neither adequate to the external defence nor internal felicity of the people. The doctrine of quotas and requisitions flourishes here. Without energy, without stability, the empire is a nerveless body. The most furious conflicts, and the most implacable animosities, between its members, strikingly distinguish its history. Concert and cooperation are incompatible with such an injudiciously constructed system.

The republic of the Swiss is sometimes instanced for its stability; but even there, dissensions and wars of a bloody nature have been frequently seen between the cantons. A peculiar coincidence of circumstances contributes to the continuance of their political connection. Their feeble association owes its existence to their singular situation. There is a schism, this moment, in their confederacy, which, without Edition: current; Page: [131] the necessity of uniting for their external defence, would immediately produce its dissolution.

The confederate government of Holland is a further confirmation of the characteristic imbecility of such governments. From the history of this government we might derive lessons of the most important utility.

[Here Mr. Madison quoted sundry passages from De Witt respecting the people of Holland, and the war which they had so long supported against the Spanish monarch, showing the impolitic and injudicious structure of their confederacy; that it was entirely destitute of energy, because their revenues depended chiefly on requisitions; that, during that long war, the provinces of Guelderland and Overyssel had not paid their respective quotas, but had evaded, altogether, their payments; in consequence of which, two sevenths of the resources of the community had never been brought into action, nor contributed in the least towards the prosecution of the war; that the fear of pressing danger stimulated Holland and the other provinces to pay all the charges of the war; that those two provinces had continued their delinquencies; that the province of Holland alone paid more than all the rest — still those provinces who paid up their proportional shares claimed from the failing states the amount of their arrearages; that the most fatal consequences had nearly resulted from the difficulty of adjusting those claims, and from the extreme aversion of the delinquent states to discharge even their most solemn engagements; that there are existing controversies between the provinces on this account at present; and, to add to the evils consequent upon requisitions, that unanimity, and the revision and sanction of their constituents, were necessary to give validity to the decisions of the States-General.]

Mr. Madison then added, that these radical defects in their confederacy must have dissolved their association long ago, were it not for their peculiar position — circumscribed in a narrow territory; surrounded by the most powerful nations in the world; possessing peculiar advantages from their situation — an extensive navigation and a powerful navy — advantages which it was clearly the interest of those nations to diminish or deprive them of; and that their late unhappy dissensions were manifestly produced by the vices of their system. He then continued: We may derive much benefit from the experience of that unhappy country. Governments destitute of energy will ever produce anarchy. These facts are worthy the most serious consideration of every gentleman here. Does not the history of these confederacies coincide with the lesson drawn from our own experience? I most earnestly pray that America may have sufficient wisdom to avail herself of the instructive information she may derive from a contemplation of the sources of Edition: current; Page: [132] their misfortunes, and that she may escape a similar fate by avoiding the causes from which their infelicity sprang. If the general government is to depend on the voluntary contribution of the states for its support, dismemberment of the United States may be the consequence. In cases of imminent danger, the states more immediately exposed to it only would exert themselves; those remote from it would be too supine to interest themselves warmly in the fate of those whose distresses they did not immediately perceive. The general government ought, therefore, to be empowered to defend the whole Union.

Must we not suppose that those parts of America which are most exposed will first be the scenes of war? Those nations whose interest is incompatible with an extension of our power, and who are jealous of our resources to become powerful and wealthy, must naturally be inclined to exert every means to prevent our becoming formidable. Will they not be impelled to attack the most exposed parts of the Union? Will not their knowledge of the weakness of our government stimulate them the more readily to such an attack? Those parts to which relief can be afforded with most difficulty are the extremities of the country, and will be the first objects of our enemies. The general government, having no resources beyond what are adequate to its existing necessities, will not be able to afford any effectual succor to those parts which may be invaded.

America, in such a case, would palpably perceive the danger and folly of withholding from the Union a power sufficient to protect the whole territory of the United States. Such an attack is far from improbable; and if it be actually made, it is difficult to conceive a possibility of escaping the catastrophe of a dismemberment. On this subject we may receive an estimable and instructive lesson from an American confederacy — from an example which has happened in our country, and which applies to us with peculiar force, being most analogous to our situation: I mean that species of association or union which subsisted in New England. The colonies of Massachusetts, Bristol, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, were confederated together.

The object of that confederacy was, primarily, to defend themselves against the inroads and depredations of the Indians. They had a common council, consisting of deputies Edition: current; Page: [133] from each party, with an equality of suffrage in their deliberations. The general expenditures and charges were to be adequately defrayed. Its powers were very similar to those of the Confederation. Its history proves clearly that a government founded on such principles must ever disappoint the hopes of those who expect its operation to be conducive to the public happiness.

There are facts on record to prove that, instead of answering the end of its institution, or the expectation of its framers, it was violated with impunity, and only regarded when it coincided perfectly with the views and immediate interests of the respective parties.

The strongest member of the union availed itself of its circumstances to infringe their confederacy. Massachusetts refused to pay its quotas. In the war between England and Holland, it was found particularly necessary to make exertions for the protection of that country.

Massachusetts, being then more powerful and less exposed than the other colonies, refused its contributions to the general defence. In consequence of this, the common council remonstrated against the council of Massachusetts. This altercation terminated in the dissolution of their union. From this brief account of a system perfectly resembling our present one, we may easily divine the inevitable consequences of a longer adherence to the latter.

[Mr. Madison then recapitulated many instances of the prevalent persuasion of the wisest patriots of the states, that the safety of all America depended on union, and that the government of the United States must be possessed of an adequate degree of energy, or that otherwise their connection could not be justly denominated a union. He likewise enumerated the expedients that had been attempted by the people of America to form an intimate association, from the meeting at New York, in the year 1754, downwards; that their sentiments on this subject had been uniform, both in their colonial and independent conditions; and that a variety of causes had hitherto prevented the adoption of an adequate system.]

He then continued thus: If we take experience for our guide, we shall find still more instructive direction on this subject. The weakness of the existing articles of the Union showed itself during the war. It has manifested itself, since the peace, to such a degree as admits of no doubt, to a rational, intelligent, and unbiased mind, of the necessity of alteration; nay, this necessity is obvious to all America; it has forced itself on the minds of the people. Edition: current; Page: [134] The committee has been informed that the Confederation was not completed till the year 1781, when a great portion of the war was ended; consequently, no part of the merit of the antecedent operations of the war could justly be attributed to that system. Its debility was perceived almost as soon as it was put in operation. A recapitulation of the proofs which have been experienced of its inefficacy is unnecessary. It is most notorious that feebleness universally marked its character. Shall we be safe, in another war, in the same situation? That instrument required the voluntary contributions of the states, and thereby sacrificed some of our best privileges. The most intolerable and unwarrantable oppressions were committed on the people during the late war. The gross enormity of those oppressions might have produced the most serious consequences, were it not for the spirit of liberty, which preponderated against every consideration.

A scene of injustice, partiality, and oppression, may bring heavenly vengeance on any people. We are now, by our suffering, expiating the crimes of the otherwise glorious revolution. Is it not known to every member of this committee, that the great principles of a free government were reversed through the whole progress of that scene? Was not every state harassed? Was not every individual oppressed, and subjected to repeated distresses? Was this right? Was it a proper form of government that warranted, authorized, or overlooked, the most wanton deprivation of property? Had the government been vested with complete power to procure a regular and adequate supply of revenue, those oppressive measures would have been unnecessary. But, sir, can it be supposed that a repetition of such measures would ever be acquiesced in? Can a government that stands in need of such measures secure the liberty, or promote the happiness or glory, of any country? If we do not change this system, consequences must ensue that gentlemen do not now apprehend. If other testimony were necessary, I might appeal to that which I am sure is very weighty, but which I mention with reluctance. At the conclusion of the war, the man who had the most extensive acquaintance with the nature of the country, who well understood its interests, and who had given the most unequivocal and most brilliant proofs of attachment to its welfare, when he laid down his arms, wherewith he had so nobly Edition: current; Page: [135] and successfully defended his country, publicly testified his disapprobation of the present system, and suggested that some alteration was necessary to render it adequate to the security of our happiness. I did not introduce that great name to bias any gentleman here. Much as I admire and revere the man, I consider these members as not to be actuated by the influence of any man; but I introduced him as a respectable witness to prove that the Articles of the Confederation were inadequate, and that we must resort to something else. His modesty did not point out what ought to be done, but said that some great change was necessary. But, sir, testimony, if wished for, may be found in abundance, and numerous conclusive reasons urged for this change. Experience was daily producing such irresistible proofs of the defects of this system, this commonwealth was induced to exert her influence to meliorate it: she began that noble work, in which I hope she will persist: she proposed to revise it; her proposition met with that concurrence which that of a respectable party will always meet. I am sure, if demonstration were necessary on the part of this commonwealth, reasons have been abundantly heard, in the course of this debate, manifold and cogent enough, not only to operate conviction, but to disgust an attentive hearer. Recollect the resolution of the year 1784. It was then found that the whole burden of the Union was sustained by a few states. This state was likely to be saddled with a very disproportionate share. That expedient was proposed (to obviate this inconvenience) which has been placed in its true light. It has been painted in sufficient horrors by the honorable gentleman who spoke last.

I agree with the honorable gentleman (Mr. Henry) that national splendor and glory are not our objects; but does he distinguish between what will render us secure and happy at home, and what will render us respectable abroad? If we be free and happy at home, we shall be respectable abroad.

The Confederation is so notoriously feeble, that foreign nations are unwilling to form any treaties with us; they are apprized that our general government cannot perform any of its engagements, but that they may be violated at pleasure by any of the states. Our violation of treaties already entered into proves this truth unequivocally. No nation will, therefore, make any stipulations with Congress, conceding Edition: current; Page: [136] any advantages of importance to us: they will be the more averse to entering into engagements with us, as the imbecility of our government enables them to derive many advantages from our trade, without granting us any return. But were this country united by proper bands, in addition to other great advantages, we could form very beneficial treaties with foreign states. But this can never happen without a change in our system. Were we not laughed at by the minister of that nation, from which we may be able yet to extort some of the most salutary measures for this country? Were we not told that it was necessary to temporize till our government acquired consistency? Will any nation relinquish national advantages to us? You will be greatly disappointed, if you expect any such good effects from this contemptible system. Let us recollect our conduct to that country from which we have received the most friendly aid. How have we dealt with that benevolent ally? Have we complied with our most sacred obligations to that nation? Have we paid the interest punctually from year to year? Is not the interest accumulating, while not a shilling is discharged of the principal? The magnanimity and forbearance of that ally are so great that she has not called upon us for her claims, even in her own distress and necessity. This, sir, is an additional motive to increase our exertions. At this moment of time a very considerable amount is due from us to that country and others.

[Here Mr. Madison mentioned the amount of the debts due to different foreign nations.]

We have been obliged to borrow money even to pay the interest of our debts. This is a ruinous and most disgraceful expedient. Is this a situation on which America can rely for security and happiness? How are we to extricate ourselves? The honorable member told us we might rely on the punctuality and friendship of the states, and that they will discharge their quotas for the future. The contributions of the states have been found inadequate from the beginning, and are diminishing instead of increasing. From the month of June, 1787, till June, 1788, they have only paid 276,641 dollars into the federal treasury for the purposes of supporting the national government, and discharging the interest of the national debts — a sum so very insufficient, that it must greatly alarm the friends of their country. Suggestions Edition: current; Page: [137] and strong assertions dissipate before these facts. I shall no longer fatigue the committee at this time, but will resume the subject as early as I can.

Mr. HENRY. I have thought, and still think, that a full investigation of the actual situation of America ought to precede any decision on this great and important question. That government is no more than a choice among evils, is acknowledged by the most intelligent among mankind, and has been a standing maxim for ages. If it be demonstrated that the adoption of the new plan is a little or a trifling evil, then, sir, I acknowledge that adoption ought to follow; but, sir, if this be a truth, that its adoption may entail misery on the free people of this country, I then insist that rejection ought to follow. Gentlemen strongly urge, its adoption will be a mighty benefit to us; but, sir, I am made of so incredulous materials, that assertions and declarations do not satisfy me. I must be convinced, sir. I shall retain my infidelity on that subject till I see our liberties secured in a manner perfectly satisfactory to my understanding.

There are certain maxims by which every wise and enlightened people will regulate their conduct. There are certain political maxims which no free people ought ever to abandon — maxims of which the observance is essential to the security of happiness. It is impiously irritating the avenging hand of Heaven, when a people, who are in the full enjoyment of freedom, launch out into the wide ocean of human affairs, and desert those maxims which alone can preserve liberty. Such maxims, humble as they are, are those only which can render a nation safe or formidable. Poor little humble republican maxims have attracted the admiration, and engaged the attention, of the virtuous and wise in all nations, and have stood the shock of ages. We do not now admit the validity of maxims which we once delighted in. We have since adopted maxims of a different, but more refined nature — new maxims, which tend to the prostration of republicanism.

We have one, sir, that all men are by nature free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into society, they cannot by any compact deprive or divest their posterity. We have a set of maxims of the same spirit, which must be beloved by every friend to liberty, to virtue, to mankind: our bill of rights contains those admirable maxims.

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Now, sir, I say, let us consider whether the picture given of American affairs ought to drive us from those beloved maxims.

The honorable gentleman, Governor Randolph, has said that it is too late in the day for us to reject this new plan. That system which was once execrated by the honorable member must now be adopted, let its defects be ever so glaring. That honorable member will not accuse me of want of candor, when I cast in my mind what he has given the public,* and compare it to what has happened since. It seems to me very strange and unaccountable that that which was the object of his execration should now reveive his encomiums. Something extraordinary must have operated so great a change in his opinion. It is too late in the day! Gentlemen must excuse me if they should declare, again and again, that it was too late, and I should think differently. I never can believe, sir, that it is too late to save all that is precious: if it be proper, and, independently of every external consideration, wisely constructed, let us receive it: but, sir, shall its adoption by eight states induce us to receive it, if it be replete with the most dangerous defects? They urge that subsequent amendments are safer than previous amendments, and that they will answer the same ends.

At present we have our liberties and privileges in our own hands. Let us not relinquish them. Let us not adopt this system till we see them secure. There is some small possibility that, should we follow the conduct of Massachusetts, amendments might be obtained. There is a small possibility of amending any government; but, sir, shall we abandon our most inestimable rights, and rest their security on a mere possibility? The gentleman fears the loss of the Union. If eight states have ratified it unamended, and we should rashly imitate their precipitate example, do we not thereby disunite from several other states? Shall those who have risked their lives for the sake of the Union be at once thrown out of it? If it be amended, every state will accede to it; but by an imprudent adoption in its defective and dangerous state, a schism must inevitably be the consequence. Edition: current; Page: [139] I can never, therefore, consent to hazard our most unalienable rights on an absolute uncertainty.

You are told there is no peace, although you fondly flatter yourselves that all is peace; no peace; a general cry and alarm in the country; commerce, riches, and wealth, vanished; citizens going to seek comforts in other parts or the world; laws insulted; many instances of tyrannical legislation. These things, sir, are new to me. He has made the discovery. As to the administration of justice, I believe that failures in commerce, &c., cannot be attributed to it. My age enables me to recollect its progress under the old government. I can justify it by saying that it continues in the same manner in this state as it did under the former government. As to other parts of the continent, I refer that to other gentlemen. As to the ability of those who administer it, I believe they would not suffer by a comparison with those who administered it under the royal authority. Where is the cause of complaint if the wealthy go away? Is this, added to the other circumstances, of such enormity, and does it bring such danger over this commonwealth, as to warrant so important and so awful a change, in so precipitate a manner? As to insults offered to the laws, I know of none. In this respect, I believe this commonwealth would not suffer by a comparison with the former government. The laws are as well executed, and as patiently acquiesced in, as they were under the royal administration. Compare the situation of the country — compare that of our citizens to what it was then — and decide whether persons and property are not as safe and secure as they were at that time. Is there a man in this commonwealth whose person can be insulted with impunity? Cannot redress be had here for personal insults or injuries, as well as in any part of the world — as well as in those countries where aristocrats and monarchs triumph and reign? Is not the protection of property in full operation here? The contrary cannot with truth be charged on this commonwealth. Those severe charges, which are exhibited against it, appear to be totally groundless. On a fair investigation, we shall be found to be surrounded by no real dangers.

We have the animating fortitude and persevering alacrity of republican men to carry us through misfortunes and calamities. It is the fortune of a republic to be able to Edition: current; Page: [140] withstand the stormy ocean of human vicissitudes. I know of no danger awaiting us. Public and private security are to be found here in the highest degree. Sir, it is the fortune of a free people not to be intimidated by imaginary dangers. Fear is the passion of slaves. Our political and natural hemisphere are now equally tranquil. Let us recollect the awful magnitude of the subject of our deliberation; let us consider the latent consequences of an erroneous decision; and let not our minds be led away by unfair misrepresentations and uncandid suggestions. There have been many instances of uncommon lenity and temperance used in the exercise of power in this commonwealth. I could call your recollection to many that happened during the war and since; but every gentleman here must be apprized of them.

The honorable member has given you an elaborate account of what he judges tyrannical legislation, and an ex post facto law, (in the case of Josiah Philips.) He has misrepresented the facts. That man was not executed by a tyrannical stroke of power. Nor was he a Socrates. He was a fugitive murderer and an outlaw — a man who commanded an infamous banditti, and at a time when the war was at the most perilous stage. He committed the most cruel and shocking barbarities. He was an enemy to the human name. Those who declare war against the human race may be struck out of existence as soon as they are apprehended. He was not executed according to those beautiful legal ceremonies which are pointed out by the laws in criminal cases. The enormity of his crimes did not entitle him to it. I am truly a friend to legal forms and methods; but, sir, the occasion warranted the measure. A pirate, an outlaw, or a common enemy to all mankind, may be put to death at any time. It is justified by the laws of nature and nations.

The honorable member tells us, then, that there are burnings and discontents in the hearts of our citizens in general, and that they are dissatisfied with their government. I have no doubt the honorable member believes this to be the case, because he says so. But I have the comfortable assurance that it is a certain fact that it is not so. The middle and lower ranks of people have not those illuminated ideas which the well-born are so happily possessed of; they cannot so readily perceive latent objects. The microscopic eyes of modern statesmen can see abundance of defects in old systems; Edition: current; Page: [141] and their illuminated imaginations discover the necessity of a change. They are captivated by the parade of the number ten — the charms of the ten miles square. Sir, I fear this change will ultimately lead to our ruin. My fears are not the force of imagination; they are but too well founded. I tremble for my country; but, sir, I trust, I rely, and I am confident, that this political speculation has not taken so strong a hold of men’s minds as some would make us believe.

The dangers which may arise from our geographical situation will be more properly considered a while hence. At present, what may be surmised on the subject, with respect to the adjacent states, is merely visionary. Strength, sir, is a relative term. When I reflect on the natural force of those nations that might be induced to attack us, and consider the difficulty of the attempt, and uncertainty of the success, and compare thereto the relative strength of our country, I say that we are strong. We have no cause to fear from that quarter; we have nothing to dread from our neighboring states. The superiority of our cause would give us an advantage over them, were they so unfriendly or rash as to attack us. As to that part of the community, which the honorable gentleman spoke of as being in danger of being separated from us, — what excitement or inducement could its inhabitants have to wish such an event? It is a matter of doubt whether they would derive any advantage to themselves, or be any loss to us, by such a separation. Time has been, and may yet come, when they will find it their advantage and true interest to be united with us. There is no danger of a dismemberment of our country, unless a Constitution be adopted which will enable the government to plant enemies on our backs. By the Confederation, the rights of territory are secured. No treaty can be made without the consent of nine states. While the consent of nine states is necessary to the cession of territory, you are safe. If it be put in the power of a less number, you will most infallibly lose the Mississippi. As long as we can preserve our unalienable rights, we are in safety. This new Constitution will involve in its operation the loss of the navigation of that valuable river.

The honorable gentleman cannot be ignorant of the Spanish transactions. A treaty had been nearly entered into with Spain, to relinquish that navigation. That relinquishment Edition: current; Page: [142] would absolutely have taken place, had the consent of seven states been sufficient. The honorable gentleman told us then, that, eight states having adopted the system, we cannot suppose they will recede on our account. I know not what they may do; but this I know — that a people of infinitely less importance than those of Virginia stood the terror of war. Vermont, sir, withstood the terror of thirteen states. Maryland did not accede to the Confederation till the year 1781. These two states, feeble as they are comparatively to us, were not afraid of the whole Union. Did either of these states perish? No, sir, they were admitted freely into the Union. Will not Virginia, then, be admitted? I flatter myself that those states which have ratified the new plan of government will open their arms and cheerfully receive us, although we should propose certain amendments as the conditions on which we should ratify it. During the late war, all the states were in pursuit of the same object. To obtain that object, they made the most strenuous exertions. They did not suffer trivial considerations to impede its acquisition. Give me leave to say that, if the smallest states in the Union were admitted into it, after having unreasonably procrastinated their accession, the greatest and most mighty state in the Union will be easily admitted, when her reluctance to an immediate accession to this system is founded on the most reasonable grounds. When I call this the most mighty state in the Union, do I not speak the truth? Does not Virginia surpass every state in the Union, in number of inhabitants, extent of territory, felicity of position, and affluence and wealth? Some infatuation hangs over men’s minds, that they will inconsiderately precipitate into measures the most important, and give not a moment’s deliberation to others, nor pay any respect to their opinions. Is this federalism? Are these the beloved effects of the federal spirit, that its votaries will never accede to the just propositions of others? Sir, were there nothing objectionable in it but that, I would vote against it. I desire to have nothing to do with such men as will obstinately refuse to change their opinions. Are our opinions not to be regarded? I hope that you will recollect that you are going to join with men who will pay no respect even to this state.

Switzerland consists of thirteen cantons expressly confederated Edition: current; Page: [143] for national defence. They have stood the shock of four hundred years; that country has enjoyed internal tranquillity most of that long period. Their dissensions have been, comparatively to those of other countries, very few. What has passed in the neighboring countries? War, dissensions, and intrigues; — Germany involved in the most deplorable civil war thirty years successively, continually convulsed with intestine divisions, and harassed by foreign wars! France, with her mighty monarchy, perpetually at war. Compare the peasants of Switzerland with those of any other mighty nation: you will find them far more happy: for one civil war among them, there have been five or six among other nations: their attachment to their country and freedom, their resolute intrepidity in their defence, the consequent security and happiness which they have enjoyed, and the respect and awe which these things produced in the bordering nations, have signalized those republicans. Their valor, sir, has been active; every thing that sets in motion the springs of the human heart engaged them to that protection of their inestimable privileges. They have not only secured their own liberty, but have been the arbiters of the fate of other people. Here, sir, contemplate the triumph of the republican governments over the pride of monarchy. I acknowledge, sir, that the necessity of national defence has prevailed in invigorating their councils and arms, and has been, in a considerable degree, the means of keeping these honest people together. But, sir, they have had wisdom enough to keep together, and render themselves formidable. Their heroism is proverbial. They would heroically fight for their government and their laws. One of the illumined sons of these times would not fight for those objects. Those virtuous and simple people have not a mighty and splendid President, nor enormously expensive navies and armies, to support. No, sir; those brave republicans have acquired their reputation no less by their undaunted intrepidity than by the wisdom of their frugal and economical policy. Let us follow their example, and be equally happy. The honorable member advises us to adopt a measure which will destroy our bill of rights; for, after having his picture of nations, and his reasons for abandoning all the powers retained to the states by the Confederation, Edition: current; Page: [144] I am more firmly persuaded of the impropriety of adopting this new plan in its present shape.

I had doubts of the power of those who went to the Convention, but now we are possessed of it, let us examine it. When we trusted the great object of revising the Confederation to the greatest, and best, and most enlightened, of our citizens, we thought their deliberations would have been solely confined to that revision. Instead of this, a new system, totally different in its nature, and vesting the most extensive powers in Congress, is presented. Will the ten men you are to send to Congress be more worthy than those seven were? If power grew so rapidly in their hands, what may it not do in the hands of others? If those who go from this state will find power accompanied with temptation, our situation must be truly critical. When about forming a government, if we mistake the principles, or commit any other error, the very circumstance promises that power will be abused. The greatest caution and circumspection are therefore necessary; nor does this proposed system, on its investigation here, deserve the least charity.

The honorable gentleman says that the national government is without energy. I perfectly agree with him; and when he cries out, Union, I agree with him; but I tell him not to mistake the end for the means. The end is union; the most capital means, I suppose, are an army and navy. On a supposition, I will acknowledge this; still the bare act of agreeing to that paper, though it may have an amazing influence, will not pay our millions. There must be things to pay debts. What these things are, or how they are to be produced, must be determined by our political wisdom and economy.

The honorable gentleman alleges that previous amendments will prevent the junction of our riches from producing great profits and emoluments, which would enable us to pay our public debts, by excluding us from the Union. I believe, sir, that a previous ratification of a system notoriously and confessedly defective will endanger our riches, our liberty, our all. Its defects are acknowledged; they cannot be denied. The reason offered by the honorable gentleman for adopting this defective system, is its adoption by the eight states. I say, sir, that, if we present nothing but what is Edition: current; Page: [145] reasonable in the shape of amendments, they will receive us Union is as necessary for them as for us. Will they, then, be so unreasonable as not to join us? If such be their disposition, I am happy to know it in time.

The honorable member then observed, that nations will expend millions for commercial advantages; that is, that they will deprive you of every advantage if they can. Apply this another way. Their cheaper way, instead of laying out millions in making war upon you, will be to corrupt your senators. I know that, if they be not above all price, they may make a sacrifice of our commercial interests. They may advise your President to make a treaty that will not only sacrifice all your commercial interests, but throw prostrate your bill of rights. Does he fear that their ships will outnumber ours on the ocean, or that nations whose interest comes in contact with ours, in the progress of their guilt, will perpetrate the vilest expedients to exclude us from a participation in commercial advantages? Does he advise us, in order to avoid this evil, to adopt a Constitution, which will enable such nations to obtain their ends by the more easy mode of contaminating the principles of our senators? Sir, if our senators will not be corrupted, it will be because they will be good men, and not because the Constitution provides against corruption; for there is no real check secured in it and the most abandoned and profligate acts may with impunity be committed by them.

With respect to Maryland, what danger from thence? I know none. I have not heard of any hostility premeditated or committed. Nine tenths of the people have not heard of it. Those who are so happy as to be illumined have not informed their fellow-citizens of it. I am so valiant as to say that no danger can come, from that source, sufficient to make me abandon my republican principles. The honorable gentleman ought to have recollected that there were no tyrants in America, as there are in Europe. The citizens of republican borders are only terrible to tyrants. Instead of being dangerous to one another, they mutually support one another’s liberties. We might be confederated with the adopting states without ratifying this system. No form of government renders a people more formidable. A confederacy of states joined together becomes strong as the United Netherlands. The government of Holland, execrated as it is, proves that Edition: current; Page: [146] the present Confederation is adequate to every purpose of human association. There are seven provinces confederated together for a long time, containing numerous opulent cities, and many of the finest ports in the world. The recollection of the situation of that country would make me execrate monarchy. The singular felicity and success of that people are unparalleled: freedom has done miracles there in reclaiming land from the ocean. It is the richest spot on the face of the globe. Have they no men or money? Have they no fleets or armies? Have they no arts or sciences among them? How did they repel the attacks of the greatest nations in the world? How have they acquired their amazing influence and power? Did they consolidate government, to effect these purposes, as we do? No, sir, they have trampled over every obstacle and difficulty, and have arrived at the summit of political felicity, and of uncommon opulence, by means of a confederacy — that very government which gentlemen affect to despise. They have, sir, avoided a consolidation as the greatest of evils. They have lately, it is true, made one advance to that fatal progression. This misfortune burst on them by iniquity and artifice. That stadtholder, that executive magistrate, contrived it, in conjunction with other European nations. It was not the choice of the people. Was it owing to his energy that this happened? If two provinces have paid nothing, what have not the rest done? And have not these two provinces made other exertions? Ought they, to avoid this inconvenience, to have consolidated their different states, and have a ten miles square? Compare that little spot, nurtured by liberty, with the fairest country in the world. Does not Holland possess a powerful navy and army, and a full treasury? They did not acquire these by debasing the principles and trampling on the rights of their citizens. Sir, they acquired these by their industry, economy, and by the freedom of their government. Their commerce is the most extensive in Europe; their credit is unequalled; their felicity will be an eternal monument of the blessings of liberty: every nation in Europe is taught by them what they are, and what they ought to be. The contrast between those nations and this happy people is the most splendid spectacle for republicans — the greatest cause of exultation and triumph to the sons of freedom. While other nations, precipitated by the rage of Edition: current; Page: [147] ambition or folly, have, in the pursuit of the most magnificent projects, riveted the fetters of bondage on themselves and descendants, these republicans secured their political happiness and freedom. Where is there a nation to be compared to them? Where is there now, or where was there ever, a nation of so small a territory, and so few in number, so powerful, so wealthy, so happy? What is the cause of this superiority? Liberty, sir, the freedom of their government. Though they are now, unhappily, in some degree consolidated, yet they have my acclamations, when put in contrast with those millions of their fellow-men who lived and died like slaves. The dangers of a consolidation ought to be guarded against in this country. I shall exert my poor talents to ward them off. Dangers are to be apprehended in whatever manner we proceed; but those of a consolidation are the most destructive. Let us leave no expedient untried to secure happiness. But, whatever be our decision, I am consoled if American liberty will remain entire only for half a century; and I trust that mankind in general, and our posterity in particular, will be compensated for every anxiety we now feel.

Another gentleman tells us that no inconvenience will result from the exercise of the power of taxation by the general government; that two shillings out of ten may be saved by the impost; and that four shillings may be paid to the federal collector, and four to the state collector. A change of government will not pay money. If, from the probable amount of the imposts, you take the enormous and extravagant expenses which will certainly attend the support of this great consolidated government, I believe you will find no reduction of the public burdens by this new system. The splendid maintenance of the President, and of the members of both houses, and the salaries and fees of the swarm of officers and dependants of the government, will cost this continent immense sums. Double sets of collectors will double the expenses; to those are to be added oppressive excisemen and custom-house officers. Sir, the people have an hereditary hatred to custom-house officers. The experience of the mother country leads me to detest them. They have introduced their baneful influence into the administration, and destroyed one of the most beautiful systems that ever the world saw. Our forefathers enjoyed liberty there while that system was in its purity; but it is now contaminated by influence of every kind.

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The style of the government (We, the people) was introduced perhaps to recommend it to the people at large; to those citizens who are to be levelled and degraded to the lowest degree; who are likened to a herd;* and who, by the operation of this blessed system, are to be transformed from respectable, independent citizens, to abject, dependent subjects or slaves. The honorable gentleman has anticipated what we are to be reduced to, by degradingly assimilating our citizens to a herd.

[Here Governor Randolph arose, and declared that he did not use that word to excite any odium, but merely to convey an idea of a multitude.]

Mr. Henry replied, that it made a deep impression on his mind, and that he verily believed that system would operate as he had said. He then continued: I will exchange that abominable word for requisitions. Requisitions, which gentlemen affect to despise, have nothing degrading in them. On this depends our political prosperity. I never will give up that darling word requisitions: my country may give it up; a majority may wrest it from me, but I will never give it up till my grave. Requisitions are attended with one singular advantage. They are attended by deliberation. They secure to the states the benefit of correcting oppressive errors. If our Assembly thought requisitions erroneous, if they thought the demand was too great, they might at least supplicate Congress to reconsider — that it was a little too much. The power of direct taxation was called by the honorable gentleman the soul of the government: another gentleman called it the lungs of the government. We all agree that it is the most important part of the body politic. If the power of raising money be necessary for the general government, it is no less so for the states. If money be the vitals of Congress, is it not precious for those individuals from whom it is to be taken? Must I give my soul, my lungs, to Congress? Congress must have our souls; the state must have our souls. This is dishonorable and disgraceful. These two coördinate, interfering, unlimited powers of harassing the community are unexampled: it is unprecedented in history. They are the visionary projects of modern politicians. Tell me not of imaginary means, but of reality; this political Edition: current; Page: [149] solecism will never tend to the benefit of the community. It will be as oppressive in practice as it is absurd in theory. If you part from this, which the honorable gentleman tells you is the soul of Congress, you will be inevitably ruined I tell you, they shall not have the soul of Virginia. They tell us that one collector may collect the federal and state taxes. The general government being paramount to the state legislatures, if the sheriff is to collect for both, — his right hand for Congress, his left for the state, — his right hand being paramount over the left, his collections will go to Congress. We shall have the rest. Deficiencies in collections will always operate against the states. Congress, being the paramount, supreme power, must not be disappointed. Thus Congress will have an unlimited, unbounded command over the soul of this commonwealth. After satisfying their uncontrolled demands, what can be left for the states? Not a sufficiency even to defray the expense of their internal administration. They must therefore glide imperceptibly and gradually out of existence. This, sir, must naturally terminate in a consolidation. If this will do for other people, it never will do for me.

If we are to have one representative for every thirty thousand souls, it must be by implication. The Constitution does not positively secure it. Even say it is a natural implication, — why not give us a right to that proportion in express terms, in language that could not admit of evasions or subterfuges? If they can use implication for us, they can also use implication against us. We are giving power; they are getting power; judge, then, on which side the implication will be used! When we once put it in their option to assume constructive power, danger will follow. Trial by jury, and liberty of the press, are also on this foundation of implication. If they encroach on these rights, and you give your implication for a plea, you are cast; for they will be justified by the last part of it, which gives them full power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper to carry their power into execution.” Implication is dangerous, because it is unbounded: if it be admitted at all, and no limits be prescribed, it admits of the utmost extension. They say that every thing that is not given is retained. The reverse of the proposition is true by implication. They do not carry their implication so far when they speak of the Edition: current; Page: [150] general welfare — no implication when the sweeping clause comes. Implication is only necessary when the existence of privileges is in dispute. The existence of powers is sufficiently established. If we trust our dearest rights to implication, we shall be in a very unhappy situation.

Implication, in England, has been a source of dissension. There has been a war of implication between the king and people. For a hundred years did the mother country struggle under the uncertainty of implication. The people insisted that their rights were implied; the monarch denied the doctrine. The Bill of Rights, in some degree, terminated the dispute. By a bold implication, they said they had a right to bind us in all cases whatsoever. This constructive power we opposed, and successfully. Thirteen or fourteen years ago, the most important thing that could be thought of was to exclude the possibility of construction and implication. These, sir, were then deemed perilous. The first thing that was thought of was a bill of rights. We were not satisfied with your constructive, argumentative rights.

Mr. Henry then declared a bill of rights indispensably necessary; that a general positive provision should be inserted in the new system, securing to the states and the people every right which was not conceded to the general government; and that every implication should be done away. It being now late, he concluded by observing, that he would resume the subject another time.

[The 1st and 2d sections still under consideration.]

Mr. HENRY. Mr. Chairman, I find myself again constrained to trespass on the patience of this committee. I wish there was a prospect of union in our sentiments: so much time would not then be taken up. But when I review the magnitude of the subject under consideration, and of dangers which appear to me in this new plan of government, and compare thereto my poor abilities to secure our rights, it will take much more time, in my poor, unconnected way, to traverse the objectionable parts of it; there are friends here who will be abler than myself to make good those objections which to us appear well founded. If we recollect, on last Saturday, I made some observations on some of those dangers which these gentlemen would fain Edition: current; Page: [151] persuade us hang over the citizens of this commonwealth to induce us to change the government, and adopt the new plan. Unless there be great and awful dangers, the change is dangerous, and the experiment ought not to be made. In estimating the magnitude of these dangers, we are obliged to take a most serious view of them — to see them, to handle them, and to be familiar with them. It is not sufficient to feign mere imaginary dangers; there must be a dreadful reality. The great question between us is, Does that reality exist? These dangers are partially attributed to bad laws, execrated by the community at large. It is said the people wish to change the government. I should be happy to meet them on that ground. Should the people wish to change it, we should be innocent of the dangers. It is a fact that the people do not wish to change their government. How am I to prove it? It will rest on my bare assertion, unless supported by an internal conviction in men’s breasts. My poor say-so is a mere nonentity. But, sir, I am persuaded that four fifths of the people of Virginia must have amendments to the new plan, to reconcile them to a change of their government. It is a slippery foundation for the people to rest their political salvation on my or their assertions. No government can flourish unless it be founded on the affection of the people. Unless gentlemen can be sure that this new system is founded on that ground, they ought to stop their career.

I will not repeat what the gentlemen say — I will mention one thing. There is a dispute between us and the Spaniards about the right of navigating the Mississippi. This dispute has sprung from the federal government. I wish a great deal to be said on this subject. I wish to know the origin and progress of the business, as it would probably unfold great dangers. In my opinion, the preservation of that river calls for our most serious consideration. It has been agitated in Congress. Seven states have voted, so that it is known to the Spaniards that, under our existing system, the Mississippi shall be taken from them. Seven states wished to relinquish this river to them. The six Southern States opposed it. Seven states not being sufficient to convey it away, it remains now ours. If I am wrong, there is a number on this floor who can contradict the facts; I will readily retract. This new government, I conceive, will enable those Edition: current; Page: [152] states who have already discovered their inclination that way, to give away this river. Will the honorable gentleman advise us to relinquish its inestimable navigation, and place formidable enemies on our backs? This weak, this poor Confederation cannot secure us. We are resolved to take shelter under the shield of federal authority in America. The southern parts of America have been protected by that weakness so much execrated. I hope this will be explained. I was not in Congress when these transactions took place. I may not have stated every fact. I may have misrepresented matters. I hope to be fully acquainted with every thing relative to the object. Let us hear how the great and important right of navigating that river has been attended to, and whether I am mistaken in my opinion that federal measures will lose it to us forever. If a bare majority of Congress can make laws, the situation of our western citizens is dreadful.

We are threatened with danger for the non-payment of our debt due to France. We have information come from an illustrious citizen of Virginia, who is now in Paris, which disproves the suggestions of such danger. This citizen has not been in the airy regions of theoretic speculation: our ambassador is this worthy citizen. The ambassador of the United States of America is not so despised as the honorable gentleman would make us believe. A servant of a republic is as much respected as that of a monarch. The honorable gentleman tells us that hostile fleets are to be sent to make reprisals upon us: our ambassador tells you that the king of France has taken into consideration to enter into commercial regulations, on reciprocal terms, with us, which will be of peculiar advantage to us. Does this look like hostility? I might go farther; I might say, not from public authority, but good information, that his opinion is, that you reject this government. His character and abilities are in the highest estimation; he is well acquainted, in every respect, with this country; equally so with the policy of the European nations. This illustrious citizen advises you to reject this government till it be amended. His sentiments coincide entirely with ours. His attachment to, and services done for, this country are well known. At a great distance from us, he remembers and studies our happiness. Living in splendor and dissipation, he thinks yet of bills of rights — thinks of those little, despised things called maxims. Let us follow the sage advice Edition: current; Page: [153] of this common friend of our happiness. It is little usual for nations to send armies to collect debts. The house of Bourbon, that great friend of America, will never attack her for her unwilling delay of payment. Give me leave to say, that Europe is too much engaged about objects of greater importance, to attend to us. On that great theatre of the world, the little American matters vanish. Do you believe that the mighty monarch of France, beholding the greatest scenes that ever engaged the attention of a prince of that country, will divert himself from those important objects, and now call for a settlement of accounts with America? This proceeding is not warranted by good sense. The friendly disposition to us, and the actual situation of France, render the idea of danger from that quarter absurd. Would this countryman of ours be fond of advising us to a measure which he knew to be dangerous? And can it be reasonably supposed that he can be ignorant of any premeditated hostility against this country? The honorable gentleman may suspect the account; but I will do our friend the justice to say, that he would warn us of any danger from France.

Do you suppose the Spanish monarch will risk a contest with the United States, when his feeble colonies are exposed to them? Every advance the people make to the westward, makes him tremble for Mexico and Peru. Despised as we are among ourselves, under our present government, we are terrible to that monarchy. If this be not a fact, it is generally said so.

We are, in the next place, frightened by dangers from Holland. We must change our government to escape the wrath of that republic. Holland groans under a government like this new one. A stadtholder, sir, a Dutch president, has brought on that country miseries which will not permit them to collect debts with fleets or armies. The wife of a Dutch stadtholder brought one hundred thousand men against that republic, and prostrated all opposition. This President will bring miseries on us like those of Holland. Such is the condition of European affairs, that it would be unsafe for them to send fleets or armies to collect debts. But here, sir, they make a transition to objects of another kind. We are presented with dangers of a very uncommon nature. I am not acquainted with the arts of painting. Some gentlemen have a peculiar talent for them. They are practised with Edition: current; Page: [154] great ingenuity on this occasion. As a counterpart to what we have already been intimidated with, we are told that some lands have been sold, which cannot be found; and that this will bring war on this country. Here the picture will not stand examination. Can it be supposed, if a few land speculators and jobbers have violated the principles of probity, that it will involve this country in war? Is there no redress to be otherwise obtained, even admitting the delinquents and sufferers to be numerous? When gentlemen are thus driven to produce imaginary dangers, to induce this Convention to assent to this change, I am sure it will not be uncandid to say that the change itself is really dangerous. Then the Maryland compact is broken, and will produce perilous consequences. I see nothing very terrible in this. The adoption of the new system will not remove the evil. Will they forfeit good neighborhood with us, because the compact is broken? Then the disputes concerning the Carolina line are to involve us in dangers. A strip of land running from the westward of the Alleghany to the Mississippi, is the subject of this pretended dispute. I do not know the length or breadth of this disputed spot. Have they not regularly confirmed our right to it, and relinquished all claims to it? I can venture to pledge that the people of Carolina will never disturb us. The strength of this despised country has settled an immense tract of country to the westward. Give me leave to remark, that the honorable gentleman’s observations on our frontiers, north and south, east and west, are all inaccurate.

Will Maryland fight against this country for seeking amendments? Were there not sixty members in that state who went in quest of amendments? Sixty, against eight or ten, were in favor of pursuing amendments. Shall they fight us for doing what they themselves have done? They have sough amendments, but differently from the manner in which I wish amendments to be got. The honorable gentleman may plume himself on this difference. Will they fight us for this dissimilarity? Will they fight us for seeking the object they seek themselves? When they do, it will be time for me to hold my peace. Then, sir, comes Pennsylvania, in terrible array. Pennsylvania is to go in conflict with Virginia. Pennsylvania has been a good neighbor heretofore. She is federal — something terrible — Virginia cannot look her in the face. If we sufficiently attend to the actual situation of things, we Edition: current; Page: [155] shall conclude that Pennsylvania will do what we do. A number of that country are strongly opposed to it. Many of them have lately been convinced of its fatal tendency. They are disgorged of their federalism. I beseech you to bring this matter home to yourselves. Was there a possibility for the people of that state to know the reasons of adopting that system, or understand its principles, in so very short a period after its formation? This is the middle of June. Those transactions happened last August. The matter was circulated by every effort of industry, and the most precipitate measures taken to hurry the people into adoption. Yet now, after having had several months to investigate it, a very large part of this community, a great majority of this community, do not understand it. I have heard gentlemen of respectable abilities declare they did not understand it. If, after great pains, men of high learning, who have received the aids of a regular education, do not understand it, — if the people of Pennsylvania understood it in so short a time, it must have been from intuitive understandings, and uncommon acuteness of perception. Place yourselves in their situation; would you fight your neighbors for considering this great and awful matter? If you wish for real amendments, such as the security of the trial by jury, it will reach the hearts of the people of that state. Whatever may be the disposition of the aristocratical politicians of that country, I know there are friends of human nature in that state. If so, they will never make war on those who make professions of what they are attached to themselves.

As to the danger arising from borderers, it is mutual and reciprocal. If it be dangerous for Virginia, it is equally so for them. It will be their true interest to be united with us. The danger of our being their enemies will be a prevailing argument in our favor. It will be as powerful to admit us into the Union, as a vote of adoption, without previous amendments, could possibly be.

Then the savage Indians are to destroy us. We cannot look them in the face. The danger is here divided; they are as terrible to the other states as to us. But, sir, it is well known that we have nothing to fear from them. Our back settlers are considerably stronger than they. Their superiority increases daily. Suppose the states to be confederated all around us; what we want in numbers, we shall Edition: current; Page: [156] make up otherwise. Our compact situation and natural strength will secure us. But, to avoid all dangers, we must take shelter under the federal government. Nothing gives a decided importance but this federal government. You will sip sorrow, according to the vulgar phrase, if you want any other security than the laws of Virginia.

A number of characters, of the greatest eminence in this country, object to this government for its consolidating tendency. This is not imaginary. It is a formidable reality. If consolidation proves to be as mischievous to this country as it has been to other countries, what will the poor inhabitants of this country do? This government will operate like an ambuscade. It will destroy the state governments, and swallow the liberties of the people, without giving previous notice. If gentlemen are willing to run the hazard, let them run it; but I shall exculpate myself by my opposition and monitory warnings within these walls. But then comes paper money. We are at peace on this subject. Though this is a thing which that mighty federal Convention had no business with, yet I acknowledge that paper money would be the bane of this country. I detest it. Nothing can justify a people in resorting to it but extreme necessity. It is at rest, however, in this commonwealth. It is no longer solicited or advocated.

Sir, I ask you, and every other gentleman who hears me, if he can retain his indignation at a system which takes from the state legislatures the care and preservation of the interest of the people. One hundred and eighty representatives, the choice of the people of Virginia, cannot be trusted with their interests. They are a mobbish, suspected herd. This country has not virtue enough to manage its own internal interests. These must be referred to the chosen ten. If we cannot be trusted with the private contracts of the citizens, we must be depraved indeed. If he can prove that, by one uniform system of abandoned principles, the legislature has betrayed the rights of the people, then let us seek another shelter. So degrading an indignity, so flagrant an outrage on the states, so vile a suspicion, is humiliating to my mind, and many others.

Will the adoption of this new plan pay our debts? This, sir, is a plain question. It is inferred that our grievances are to be redressed, and the evils of the existing system to Edition: current; Page: [157] be removed, by the new Constitution. Let me inform the honorable gentleman that no nation ever paid its debts by a change of government, without the aid of industry. You never will pay your debts but by a radical change of domestic economy. At present you buy too much, and make too little, to pay. Will this new system promote manufactures, industry, and frugality? If, instead of this, your hopes and designs will be disappointed, you relinquish a great deal, and hazard indefinitely more, for nothing. Will it enhance the value of your lands? Will it lessen your burdens? Will your looms and wheels go to work by the act of adoption? If it will, in its consequence, produce these things, it will consequently produce a reform, and enable you to pay your debts. Gentlemen must prove it. I am a skeptic, an infidel, on this point. I cannot conceive that it will have these happy consequences. I cannot confide in assertions and allegations. The evils that attend us lie in extravagance and want of industry, and can only be removed by assiduity and economy. Perhaps we shall be told by gentlemen that these things will happen, because the administration is to be taken from us, and placed in the hands of the few, who will pay greater attention, and be more studiously careful than we can be supposed to be.

With respect to the economical operation of the new government, I will only remark, that the national expenses will be increased; if not doubled, it will approach it very nearly. I might, without incurring the imputation of illiberality or extravagance, say that the expense will be multiplied tenfold. I might tell you of a numerous standing army, a great, powerful navy, a long and rapacious train of officers and dependants, independent of the President, senators, and representatives, whose compensations are without limitation. How are our debts to be discharged unless the taxes are increased, when the expenses of the government are so greatly augmented? The defects of this system are so numerous and palpable, and so many states object to it, that no union can be expected, unless it be amended. Let us take a review of the facts. New Hampshire and Rhode Island have rejected it. They have refused to become federal. New York and North Carolina are reported to be strongly against it. From high authority, give me leave to tell that New York is in high opposition. Will any gentleman say that Edition: current; Page: [158] North Carolina is not against it? They may say so; but I say that the adoption of it in those two states amounts to entire uncertainty. The system must be amended before these four states will accede to it; besides, there are several other states which are dissatisfied, and wish alterations. Massachusetts has, in decided terms, proposed amendments; but, by her previous ratification, has put the cart before the horse. Maryland instituted a committee to propose amendments. It then appears that two states have actually refused to adopt; two of those who have adopted have a desire of amending; and there is a probability of its being rejected by New York and North Carolina. The other states have acceded without proposing amendments. With respect to them, local circumstances have, in my judgment, operated to produce its unconditional, instantaneous adoption. The locality of the seat of government, ten miles square, and the seat of justice, with all their concomitant emoluments, operated so powerfully with the first adopting state, that it was adopted without taking time to reflect. We are told that numerous advantages will result, from the concentration of the wealth and grandeur of the United States in one happy spot, to those who will reside in or near it. Prospects of profits and emoluments have a powerful influence on the human mind. We, sir, have no such projects as that of a grand seat of government for thirteen states, and perhaps for one hundred states hereafter. Connecticut and New Jersey have their localities also. New York lies between them. They have no ports, and are not importing states. New York is an importing state, and, taking advantage of its situation, makes them pay duties for all the articles of their consumption: thus these two states, being obliged to import all they want through the medium of New York, pay the particular taxes of that state. I know the force and effect of reasoning of this sort, by experience. When the impost was proposed, some years ago, those states which were not importing states readily agreed to concede to Congress the power of laying an impost on all goods imported, for the use of the Continental treasury. Connecticut and New Jersey, therefore, are influenced by advantages of trade in their adoption. The amount of all imposts is to go into one common treasury. This favors adoption by the non-importing states, as they participate in the profits which were before exclusively enjoyed by the importing states. Edition: current; Page: [159] Notwithstanding this obvious advantage to Connecticut, there is a formidable minority there against it. After taking this general view of American affairs, as respecting federalism, will the honorable gentleman tell me that he can expect union in America? When so many states are pointedly against it; when two adopting states have pointed out, in express terms, their dissatisfaction as it stands; and when there is so respectable a body of men discontented in every state, — can the honorable gentleman promise himself harmony, of which he is so fond? If he can, I cannot. To me it appears unequivocally clear that we shall not have that harmony. If it appears to the other states that our aversion is founded on just grounds, will they not be willing to indulge us? If disunion will really result from Virginia’s proposing amendments, will they not wish the reëstablishment of the union, and admit us, if not on such terms as we prescribe, yet on advantageous terms? Is not union as essential to their happiness as to ours? Sir, without a radical alteration, the states will never be embraced in one federal pale. If you attempt to force it down men’s throats, and call it union, dreadful consequences must follow. He has said a great deal of disunion, and the dangers that are to arise from it. When we are on the subject of disunion and dangers, let me ask, how will his present doctrine hold with what has happened? Is it consistent with that noble and disinterested conduct which he displayed on a former occasion? Did he not tell us that he withheld his signature? Where, then, were the dangers which now appear to him so formidable? He saw all America eagerly confiding that the result of their deliberations would remove their distresses. He saw all America acting under the impulses of hope, expectation, and anxiety, arising from their situation, and their partiality for the members of that Convention; yet his enlightened mind, knowing that system to be defective, magnanimously and nobly refused its approbation. He was not led by the illumined, the illustrious few. He was actuated by the dictates of his own judgment; and a better judgment than I can form. He did not stand out of the way of information. He must have been possessed of every intelligence. What alteration has a few months brought about? The eternal difference between right and wrong does not fluctuate. It is immutable. I ask this question as Edition: current; Page: [160] a public man, and out of no particular view. I wish, as such, to consult every source of information, to form my judgment on so awful a question. I had the highest respect for the honorable gentleman’s abilities. I considered his opinion as a great authority. He taught me, sir, in despite of the approbation of that great federal Convention, to doubt of the propriety of that system. When I found my honorable friend in the number of those who doubted, I began to doubt also. I coincided with him in opinion. I shall be a stanch and faithful disciple of his. I applaud that magnanimity which led him to withhold his signature. If he thinks now differently, he is as free as I am. Such is my situation, that, as a poor individual, I look for information every where.

This government is so new, it wants a name. I wish its other novelties were as harmless as this. He told us we had an American dictator in the year 1781. We never had an American President. In making a dictator, we followed the example of the most glorious, magnanimous, and skilful nations. In great dangers, this power has been given. Rome had furnished us with an illustrious example. America found a person for that trust: she looked to Virginia for him. We gave a dictatorial power to hands that used it gloriously; and which were rendered more glorious by surrendering it up. Where is there a breed of such dictators? Shall we find a set of American Presidents of such a breed? Will the American President come and lay prostrate at the feet of Congress his laurels? I fear there are few men who can be trusted on that head. The glorious republic of Holland has erected monuments of her warlike intrepidity and valor; yet she is now totally ruined by a stadtholder, a Dutch president.

The destructive wars into which that nation has been plunged, have since involved her in ambition. The glorious triumphs of Blenheim and Ramillies were not so conformable to the genius, nor so much to the true interest of the republic, as those numerous and useful canals, and dikes, and other objects, at which ambition spurns. That republic has, however, by the industry of its inhabitants, and policy of its magistrates, suppressed the ill effects of ambition. Notwithstanding two of their provinces have paid nothing, yet I hope the example of Holland will tell us that we can live Edition: current; Page: [161] happily without changing our present despised government Cannot people be as happy under a mild as under an energetic government? Cannot content and felicity be enjoyed in republics as well as in monarchies, because there are whips, chains, and scourges, used in the latter? If I am not as rich as my neighbor, if I give my mite — my all — republican forbearance will say that it is sufficient. So said the honest confederates of Holland — You are poor, we are rich. We will go on, and do better than be under an oppressive government. Far better will it be for us to continue as we are, than to go under that tight, energetic government.

I am persuaded of what the honorable gentleman says, that separate confederacies will ruin us. In my judgment, they are evils never to be thought of till a people are driven by necessity. When he asks my opinion of consolidation, of one power to reign over America with a strong hand, I will tell him I am persuaded of the rectitude of my honorable friend’s opinion, (Mr. Mason,) that one government cannot reign over so extensive a country as this is, without absolute despotism. Compared to such a consolidation, small confederacies are little evils; though they ought to be recurred to but in case of necessity. Virginia and North Carolina are despised. They could exist separated from the rest of America. Maryland and Vermont were not overrun when out of the confederacy. Though it is not a desirable object, yet I trust that, on examination, it will be found that Virginia and North Carolina would not be swallowed up, in case it was necessary for them to be joined together.

When we come to the spirit of domestic peace, the humble genius of Virginia has formed a government suitable to the genius of her people. I believe the hands that formed the American Constitution triumph in the experiment. It proves that the man who formed it, and perhaps by accident, did what design could not do in other parts of the world. After all your reforms in government, unless you consult the genius of its inhabitants, you will never succeed; your system can have no duration. Let me appeal to the candor of the committee, if the want of money be not the source of all our misfortunes. We cannot be blamed for not making dollars. This want of money cannot be supplied by changes in government. The only possible remedy, as I have before asserted, is industry, aided by economy. Compare the Edition: current; Page: [162] genius of the people with the government of this country. Let me remark, that it stood the severest conflict, during the war, to which ever human virtue has been called. I call upon every gentleman here to declare, whether the king of England had any subjects so attached to his family and government, so loyal, as we were? But the genius of Virginia called on us for liberty — called us from those beloved endearments, which, from long habits, we were taught to love and revere. We entertained, from our earliest infancy, the most sincere regard and reverence for the mother country. Our partiality extended to a predilection for her customs, habits, manners, and laws. Thus inclined, when the deprivation of our liberty was attempted, what did we do? What did the genius of Virginia tell us? Sell all, and purchase liberty! — This was a severe conflict. Republican maxims were then esteemed. Those maxims, and the genius of Virginia, landed you safe on the shore of freedom.

On this awful occasion, did you want a federal government? Did federal ideas possess your minds? Did federal ideas lead you to the most splendid victories? I must again repeat the favorite idea, that the genius of Virginia did, and will again, lead us to happiness. To obtain the most splendid prize, you did not consolidate. You accomplished the most glorious ends by the assistance of the genius of your country. Men were then taught by that genius, that they were fighting for what was most dear to them. View the most affectionate father, the most tender mother, operated on by liberty, nobly stimulating their sons — their dearest sons — sometimes their only son — to advance to the defence of their country. We have seen sons of Cincinnatus, without splendid magnificence or parade, going, with the genius of their great progenitor, Cincinnatus, to the plough; men who served their country without ruining it — men who had served it to the destruction of their private patrimonies — their country owing them amazing amounts, for the payment of which no adequate provision was then made. We have seen such men throw prostrate their arms at your feet. They did not call for those emoluments which ambition presents to some imaginations. The soldiers, who were able to command every thing, instead of trampling on those laws which they were instituted to defend, most strictly obeyed them. The hands of justice have not been laid on a single American soldier.

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Bring them into contrast with Europeans. You will see an astonishing superiority over the latter. There has been a strict subordination to the laws. The honorable gentleman’s office gave him an opportunity of viewing if the laws were administered so as to prevent riots, routs, and unlawful assemblies. From his then situation, he could have furnished us with the instances in which licentiousness trampled on the laws. Among all our troubles, we have paid almost to the last shilling for the sake of justice; we have paid as well as any state: I will not say better. To support the general government and our own legislature — to pay the interest of the public debts and defray contingencies — we have been heavily taxed. To add to these things, the distresses produced by paper money, and by tobacco contracts, were sufficient to render any people discontented. These, sir, were great temptations; but in the most severe conflict of misfortunes, this code of laws, this genius of Virginia — call it what you will — triumphed over every thing.

Why did it please the gentleman (Mr. Corbin) to bestow such epithets on our country? Have the worms taken possession of the wood, that our strong vessel — our political vessel — has sprung a leak? He may know better than I, but I consider such epithets to be the most illiberal and unwarrantable aspersions on our laws. The system of laws under which we have lived has been tried and found to suit our genius. I trust we shall not change this happy system I cannot so easily take leave of an old friend. Till I see him following after and pursuing other objects, which can pervert the great objects of human legislation, pardon me if I withhold my assent.

Some here speak of the difficulty in forming a new code of laws. Young as we were, it was not wonderful if there was a difficulty in forming and assimilating one system of laws. I shall be obliged to the gentleman if he would point out those glaring, those great faults. The efforts of assimilating our laws to our genius have not been found altogether vain. I shall pass over some other circumstances which I intended to mention, and endeavor to come to the capital objection which my honorable friend made. My worthy friend said that a republican form of government would not suit a very extensive country; but that, if a government were judiciously organized, and limits prescribed to it, an attention Edition: current; Page: [164] to these principles might render it possible for it to exist in an extensive territory. Whoever will be bold to say that a continent can be governed by that system, contradicts all the experience of the world. It is a work too great for human wisdom. Let me call for an example. Experience has been called the best teacher. I call for an example of a great extent of country, governed by one government, or Congress, call it what you will. I tell him that a government may be trimmed up according to gentlemen’s fancy, but it never can operate; it would be but very short-lived. However disagreeable it may be to lengthen my objections, I cannot help taking notice of what the honorable gentleman said. To me it appears that there is no check in that government. The President, senators, and representatives, all, immediately or mediately, are the choice of the people. Tell me not of checks on paper; but tell me of checks founded on self-love. The English government is founded on self-love. This powerful, irresistible stimulus of self-love has saved that government.

It has interposed that hereditary nobility between the king and commons. If the host of lords assist or permit the king to overturn the liberties of the people, the same tyranny will destroy them; they will therefore keep the balance in the democratic branch. Suppose they see the commons encroach upon the king: self-love, that great energetic check, will call upon them to interpose; for, if the king be destroyed, their destruction must speedily follow. Here is a consideration, which prevails, in my mind, to pronounce the British government superior, in this respect, to any government that ever was in any country. Compare this with your congressional checks. I beseech gentlemen to consider whether they can say, when trusting power, that a mere patriotic profession will be equally operative and efficacious as the check of self-love. In considering the experience of ages, is it not seen that fair, disinterested patriotism, and professions of attachment to rectitude, have never been solely trusted to by an enlightened, free people? If you depend on your President’s and senators’ patriotism, you are gone. Have you a resting-place like the British government? Where is the rock of your salvation? The real rock of political salvation is self-love, perpetuated from age to age in every human breast, and manifested in every action. If Edition: current; Page: [165] they can stand the temptations of human nature, you are safe. If you have a good President, senators, and representatives, there is no danger. But can this be expected from human nature? Without real checks, it will not suffice that some of them are good. A good President, or senator, or representative, will have a natural weakness. Virtue will slumber.

The wicked will be continually watching: consequently you will be undone. Where are your checks? You have no hereditary nobility — an order of men to whom human eyes can be cast up for relief; for, says the Constitution, there is no title of nobility to be granted — which, by the by, would not have been so dangerous as the perilous cession of powers contained in this paper; because, as Montesquieu says, when you give titles of nobility, you know what you give; but when you give power, you know not what you give. If you say that, out of this depraved mass, you can collect luminous characters, it will not avail, unless this luminous breed will be propagated from generation to generation, and even then, if the number of vicious characters will preponderate, you are undone.

And that this will certainly be the case is, to my mind, perfectly clear. In the British government there are real balances and checks: in this system there are only ideal balances. Till I am convinced that there are actual efficient checks, I will not give my assent to its establishment. The President and senators have nothing to lose. They have not that interest in the preservation of the government that the king and lords have in England. They will, therefore, be regardless of the interests of the people. The Constitution will be as safe with one body as with two. It will answer every purpose of human legislation. How was the constitution of England when only the commons had the power? I need not remark, that it was the most unfortunate era when that country returned to king, lords, and commons, without sufficient responsibility in the king. When the commons of England, in the manly language which be came freemen, said to their king, You are our servant, then the temple of liberty was complete. From that noble source have we derived our liberty: that spirit of patriotic attachment to one’s country, that zeal for liberty, and that enmity to tyranny, which signalized the then champions of liberty Edition: current; Page: [166] we inherit from our British ancestors. And I am free to own that, if you cannot love a republican government, you may love the British monarchy; for, although the king is not sufficiently responsible, the responsibility of his agents, and the efficient checks interposed by the British Constitution, render it less dangerous than other monarchies, or oppressive tyrannical aristocracies. What are the checks of exposing accounts? The checks upon paper are inefficient and nugatory. Can you search your President’s closet? Is this a real check? We ought to be exceedingly cautious in giving up this life, this soul, of money, this power of taxation, to Congress. What powerful check is there here to prevent the most extravagant and profligate squandering of the public money? What security have we in money matters? Inquiry is precluded by this Constitution. I never wish to see Congress supplicate the states. But it is more abhorrent to my mind to give them an unlimited and unbounded command over our souls, our lives, our purses, without any check or restraint. How are you to keep inquiry alive? How discover their conduct? We are told, by that paper, that a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time. Here is a beautiful check! What time? Here is the utmost latitude left. If those who are in Congress please to put that construction upon it, the words of the Constitution will be satisfied by publishing those accounts once in one hundred years. They may publish or not, as they please. Is this like the present despised system, whereby the accounts are to be published monthly?

I come now to speak something of requisitions, which the honorable gentleman thought so truly contemptible and disgraceful. That incorrigible gentleman, being a child of the revolution, must recollect with gratitude the glorious effects of requisitions. It is an idea that must be grateful to every American. An English army was sent to compel us to pay money contrary to our consent — to force us, by arbitrary and tyrannical coercion, to satisfy their unbounded demands. We wished to pay with our own consent. Rather than pay against our consent, we engaged in that bloody contest which terminated so gloriously. By requisitions we pay with our own consent; by the means we have triumphed in the most arduous struggle that ever tried the virtue of man. Edition: current; Page: [167] We fought then for what we are contending for now — to prevent an arbitrary deprivation of our property, contrary to our consent and inclination. I shall be told in this place that those who are to tax us are our representatives. To this I answer, that there is no real check to prevent their ruining us. There is no actual responsibility. The only semblance of a check is the negative power of not reëlecting them. This, sir, is but a feeble barrier, when their personal interest, their ambition and avarice, come to be put in contrast with the happiness of the people. All checks founded on any thing but self-love will not avail. The Constitution reflects in the most degrading and mortifying manner on the virtue, integrity, and wisdom of the state legislatures; it presupposes that the chosen few who go to Congress will have more upright hearts, and more enlightened minds, than those who are members of the individual legislatures. To suppose that ten gentlemen shall have more real, substantial merit than one hundred and seventy, is humiliating to the last degree. If, sir, the diminution of numbers be an augmentation of merit, perfection must centre in one. If you have the faculty of discerning spirits, it is better to point out at once the man who has the most illumined qualities. If ten men be better than one hundred and seventy, it follows of necessity that one is better than ten — the choice is more refined.

Such is the danger of the abuse of implied power, that it would be safer at once to have seven representatives, the number to which we are now entitled, than depend on the uncertain and ambiguous language of that paper. The number may be lessened, instead of being increased; and yet, by argumentative, constructive, implied power, the proportion of taxes may continue the same, or be increased. Nothing is more perilous than constructive power, which gentlemen are so willing to trust their happiness to.

If sheriffs prove now an overmatch for our legislature, if their ingenuity has eluded the vigilance of our laws, how will the matter be amended when they come clothed with federal authority? A strenuous argument offered by gentlemen is, that the same sheriffs may collect for the Continental and state treasuries. I have before shown that this must have an inevitable tendency to give a decided preference to the federal treasury in the actual collections, and to throw all deficiencies on the state. This imaginary remedy for the evil of Edition: current; Page: [168] congressional taxation will have another oppressive operation. The sheriff comes to-day as a state collector. Next day he is federal. How are you to fix him? How will it be possible to discriminate oppressions committed in one capacity from those perpetrated in the other? Will not this ingenuity perplex the simple and honest planter? This will at least involve in difficulties those who are unacquainted with legal ingenuity. When you fix him, where are you to punish him? for I suppose they will not stay in our courts: they must go to the federal court; for, if I understand that paper right, all controversies arising under that Constitution, or under the laws made in pursuance thereof, are to be tried in that court. When gentlemen told us that this part deserved the least exception, I was in hopes they would prove that there was plausibility in their suggestions, and that oppression would probably not follow. Are we not told that it shall be treason to levy war against the United States? Suppose an insult offered to the federal laws at an immense distance from Philadelphia, — will this be deemed treason? And shall a man be dragged many hundred miles, to be tried as a criminal, for having, perhaps justifiably, resisted an unwarrantable attack upon his person or property? I am not well acquainted with federal jurisprudence; but it appears to me that these oppressions must result from this part of the plan. It is at least doubtful; and where there is even a possibility of such evils, they ought to be guarded against.

There are to be a number of places fitted out for arsenals and dockyards in the different states. Unless you sell to Congress such places as are proper for these, within your state, you will not be consistent after adoption: it results, therefore, clearly, that you are to give into their hands all such places as are fit for strongholds. When you have these fortifications and garrisons within your state, your legislature will have no power over them, though they see the most dangerous insults offered to the people daily. They are also to have magazines in each state. These depositories for arms, though within the state, will be free from the control of its legislature. Are we at last brought to such an humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defence? Where is the difference between having our arms in our own possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? Edition: current; Page: [169] If our defence be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands? If our legislature be unworthy of legislating for every foot in this state, they are unworthy of saying another word.

The clause which says that Congress shall “provide for arming, organizing, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively the appointment of the officers,” seemed to put the states in the power of Congress. I wished to be informed, if Congress neglected to discipline them, whether the states were not precluded from doing it. Not being favored with a particular answer, I am confirmed in my opinion, that the states have not the power of disciplining them, without recurring to the doctrine of constructive implied powers. If, by implication, the states may discipline them, by implication, also, Congress may officer them; because, in a partition of power, each has a right to come in for part; and because implication is to operate in favor of Congress on all occasions, where their object is the extension of power, as well as in favor of the states. We have not one fourth of the arms that would be sufficient to defend ourselves. The power of arming the militia, and the means of purchasing arms, are taken from the states by the paramount powers of Congress. If Congress will not arm them, they will not be armed at all.

There have been no instances shown of a voluntary cession of power, sufficient to induce me to grant the most dangerous power; a possibility of their future relinquishment will not persuade me to yield such powers.

Congress, by the power of taxation, by that of raising an army, and by their control over the militia, have the sword in one hand, and the purse in the other. Shall we be safe without either? Congress have an unlimited power over both: they are entirely given up by us. Let him candidly tell me, where and when did freedom exist, when the sword and purse were given up from the people? Unless a miracle in human affairs interposed, no nation ever retained its liberty after the loss of the sword and purse. Can you prove, by any argumentative deduction, that it is possible to be safe without retaining one of these? If you give them up, you are gone. Give us at least a plausible apology why Edition: current; Page: [170] Congress should keep their proceedings in secret. They have the power of keeping them secret as long as they please, for the provision for a periodical publication is too inexplicit and ambiguous to avail any thing. The expression from time to time, as I have more than once observed, admits of any extension. They may carry on the most wicked and pernicious of schemes under the dark veil of secrecy. The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. The most iniquitous plots may be carried on against their liberty and happiness. I am not an advocate for divulging indiscriminately all the operations of government, though the practice of our ancestors, in some degree, justifies it. Such transactions as relate to military operations or affairs of great consequence, the immediate promulgation of which might defeat the interests of the community, I would not wish to be published, till the end which required their secrecy should have been effected. But to cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man, and every friend to his country.

[Mr. Henry then, in a very animated manner, expatiated on the evil and pernicious tendency of keeping secret the common proceedings of government, and said that it was contrary to the practice of other free nations. The people of England, he asserted, had gained immortal honor by the manly boldness wherewith they divulged to all the world their political disquisitions and operations, and that such a conduct inspired other nations with respect. He illustrated his arguments by several quotations.]

He then continued: I appeal to this Convention if it would not be better for America to take off the veil of secrecy. Look at us — hear our transactions! If this had been the language of the federal Convention, what would have been the result? Such a constitution would not have come out to your utter astonishment, conceding such dangerous powers, and recommending secrecy in the future transactions of government. I believe it would have given more general satisfaction, if the proceedings of that Convention had not been concealed from the public eye. This Constitution authorizes the same conduct. There is not an English feature in it. The transactions of Congress may be concealed a century from the public, consistently with the Constitution. This, sir, is a laudable imitation of the transactions of the Edition: current; Page: [171] Spanish treaty. We have not forgotten with what a thick veil of secrecy those transactions were covered.

We are told that this government, collectively taken, is without an example; that it is national in this part, and federal in that part, &c. We may be amused, if we please, by a treatise of political anatomy. In the brain it is national; the stamina are federal; some limbs are federal, others national. The senators are voted for by the state legislatures; so far it is federal. Individuals choose the members of the first branch; here it is national. It is federal in conferring general powers, but national in retaining them. It is not to be supported by the states; the pockets of individuals are to be searched for its maintenance. What signifies it to me that you have the most curious anatomical description of it in its creation? To all the common purposes of legislation, it is a great consolidation of government.

You are not to have the right to legislate in any but trivial cases; you are not to touch private contracts; you are not to have the right of having arms in your own defence; you cannot be trusted with dealing out justice between man and man. What shall the states have to do? Take care of the poor, repair and make highways, erect bridges, and so on, and so on? Abolish the state legislatures at once. What purposes should they be continued for? Our legislature will indeed be a ludicrous spectacle — one hundred and eighty men marching in solemn, farcical procession, exhibiting a mournful proof of the lost liberty of their country, without the power of restoring it. But, sir, we have the consolation that it is a mixed government; that is, it may work sorely on your neck, but you will have some comfort by saying, that it was a federal government in its origin.

I beg gentlemen to consider: lay aside your prejudices. Is this a federal government? Is it not a consolidated government for almost every purpose? Is the government of Virginia a state government after this government is adopted? I grant that it is a republican government, but for what purposes? For such trivial domestic considerations as render it unworthy the name of a legislature. I shall take leave of this political anatomy, by observing that it is the most extraordinary that ever entered into the imagination of man. If our political diseases demand a cure, this is an unheard-of medicine. The honorable member, I am convinced Edition: current; Page: [172] wanted a name for it. Were your health in danger, would you take new medicine? I need not make use of these exclamations: for every member in this committee must be alarmed at making new and unusual experiments in government. Let us have national credit and a national treasury in case of war. You never can want national resources in time of war, if the war be a national one — if it be necessary, and this necessity be obvious to the meanest capacity. The utmost exertions will be used by the people of America in that case. A republic has this advantage over a monarchy, that its wars are generally founded on more just grounds. A republic can never enter into a war, unless it be a national war — unless it be approved of, or desired, by the whole community. Did ever a republic fail to use the utmost resources of the community when war was necessary? I call for an example. I call also for an example where a republic has been engaged in a war contrary to the wishes of its people. There are thousands of examples where the ambition of its prince has precipitated a nation into the most destructive war. No nation ever withheld power when its object was just and right. I will hazard an observation: I find fault with the paper before you, because the same power that declares war has the power to carry it on. Is it so in England? The king declares war; the House of Commons gives the means of carrying it on. This is a strong check on the king. He will enter into no war that is unnecessary; for the commons, having the power of withholding the means, will exercise that power, unless the object of the war be for the interest of the nation. How is it here? The Congress can both declare war and carry it on, and levy your money, as long as you have a shilling to pay.

I shall now speak a little of the colonial confederacy which was proposed at Albany. Massachusetts did not give her consent to the project at Albany, so as to consolidate with the other colonies. Had there been a consolidation at Albany, where would have been their charter? Would that confederacy have preserved their charter from Britain? The strength and energy of the then designed government would have crushed American opposition.

The American revolution took its origin from the comparative weakness of the British government — not being concentrated in one point. A concentration of the strength and Edition: current; Page: [173] interest of the British government, in one point, would have rendered opposition to its tyrannies fruitless. For want of that consolidation do we now enjoy liberty, and the privilege of debating at this moment. I am pleased with the colonial establishment. The example which the honorable member has produced, to persuade us to depart from our present confederacy, rivets me to my former opinion, and convinces me that consolidation must end in the destruction of our liberties.

The honorable gentleman has told us of our ingratitude to France. She does not intend to take payment by force. Ingratitude shall not be laid to my charge. I wish to see the friendship between this country and that magnanimous ally perpetuated. Requisitions will enable us to pay the debt we owe to France and other countries. She does not desire us to go from our beloved republican government. The change is inconsistent with our engagements with those nations. It is cried out that those in opposition wish disunion. This is not true. They are the most strenuous enemies to it. This government will clearly operate disunion. If it be heard, on the other side of the Atlantic, that you are going to disunite and dissolve the confederacy, what says France? Will she be indifferent to an event that will so radically affect her treaties with us? Our treaty with her is founded on the federation — we are bound to her as thirteen states confederated. What will become of the treaty? It is said that treaties will be on a better footing. How so? Will the President, Senate, and House of Representatives, be parties to them? I cannot conceive how the treaties can be as binding if the confederacy is dissolved as they are now. Those nations will not continue their friendship then; they will become our enemies. I look on the treaties as the greatest pillars of safety. If the house of Bourbon keeps us, we are safe. Dissolve that confederacy — who has you? The British. Federalism will not protect you from the British. Is a connection with that country more desirable? I was amazed when gentlemen forgot the friends of America. I hope that this dangerous change will not be effected. It is safe for the French and Spaniards that we should continue to be thirteen states; but it is not so that we should be consolidated into one government. They have settlements in America: will they like schemes of popular Edition: current; Page: [174] ambition? Will they not have some serious reflections? You may tell them you have not changed your situation; but they will not believe you. If there be a real check intended to be left on Congress, it must be left in the state governments. There will be some check, as long as the judges are incorrupt. As long as they are upright, you may preserve your liberty. But what will the judges determine when the state and federal authority come to be contrasted? Will your liberty then be secure, when the congressional laws are declared paramount to the laws of your state, and the judges are sworn to support them?

I am constrained to make a few remarks on the absurdity of adopting this system, and relying on the chance of getting it amended afterwards. When it is confessed to be replete with defects, is it not offering to insult your understandings to attempt to reason you out of the propriety of rejecting it till it be amended? Does it not insult your judgments to tell you, Adopt first, and then amend! Is your rage for novelty so great, that you are first to sign and seal, and then to retract? Is it possible to conceive a greater solecism? I am at a loss what to say. You agree to bind yourselves hand and foot — for the sake of what? Of being unbound. You go into a dungeon — for what? To get out. Is there no danger, when you go in, that the bolts of federal authority shall shut you in? Human nature never will part from power. Look for an example of a voluntary relinquishment of power, from one end of the globe to another: you will find none. Nine tenths of our fellowmen have been, and are now, depressed by the most intolerable slavery, in the different parts of the world, because the strong hand of power has bolted them in the dungeon of despotism.

Review the present situation of the nations of Europe, which is pretended to be the freest quarter of the globe. Cast your eyes on the countries called free there. Look at the country from which we are descended, I beseech you; and although we are separated by everlasting, insuperable partitions, yet there are some virtuous people there, who are friends to human nature and liberty. Look at Britain: see there the bolts and bars of power: see bribery and corruption defiling the fairest fabric that ever human nature reared! Can a gentleman who is an Englishman, or who is acquainted Edition: current; Page: [175] with the English history, desire to prove these evils? See the efforts of a man descended from a friend of America — see the efforts of that man, assisted even by the king, to make reforms. But you find the faults too strong to be amended. Nothing but bloody war can alter them. See Ireland! That country groaned, from century to century, without getting their government amended. Previous adoption was the fashion there. They sent for amendments from time to time, but never obtained them, though pressed by the severest oppression, till eighty thousand volunteers demanded them, sword in hand — till the power of Britain was prostrate; when the American resistance was crowned with success. Shall we do so? If you judge by the experience of Ireland, you must obtain the amendments as early as possible. But, I ask you again, where is the example that a government was amended by those who instituted it? Where is the instance of the errors of a government rectified by those who adopted them?

I shall make a few observations to prove that the power over elections, which is given to Congress, is contrived by the federal government, that the people may be deprived of their proper influence in the government, by destroying the force and effect of their suffrages. Congress is to have a discretionary control over the time, place, and manner of elections. The representatives are to be elected, consequently, when and where they please. As to the time and place, gentlemen have attempted to obviate the objection by saying, that the time is to happen once in two years, and that the place is to be within a particular district, or in the respective counties. But how will they obviate the danger of referring the manner of election to Congress? Those illumined genii may see that this may not endanger the rights of the people; but in my unenlightened understanding, it appears plain and clear that it will impair the popular weight in the government. Look at the Roman history. They had two ways of voting — the one by tribes, and the other by centuries. By the former, numbers prevailed; in the latter, riches preponderated. According to the mode prescribed, Congress may tell you that they have a right to make the vote of one gentleman go as far as the votes of a hundred poor men. The power over the manner admits of the most dangerous latitude. They may modify it as they Edition: current; Page: [176] please. They may regulate the number of votes by the quantity of property, without involving any repugnancy to the Constitution. I should not have thought of this trick or contrivance, had I not seen how the public liberty of Rome was trifled with by the mode of voting by centuries, whereby one rich man had as many votes as a multitude of poor men. The plebeians were trampled on till they resisted. The patricians trampled on the liberties of the plebeians till the latter had the spirit to assert their right to freedom and equality. The result of the American mode of election may be similar. Perhaps I may be told that I have gone through the regions of fancy — that I deal in noisy exclamations and mighty professions of patriotism. Gentlemen may retain their opinions; but I look on that paper as the most fatal plan that could possibly be conceived to enslave a free people. If such be your rage for novelty, take it, and welcome; but you never shall have my consent. My sentiments may appear extravagant, but I can tell you that a number of my fellow-citizens have kindred sentiments; and I am anxious, if my country should come into the hands of tyranny, to exculpate myself from being in any degree the cause, and to exert my faculties to the utmost to extricate her. Whether I am gratified or not in my beloved form of government, I consider that the more she has plunged into distress, the more it is my duty to relieve her. Whatever may be the result, I shall wait with patience till the day may come when an opportunity shall offer to exert myself in her cause.

But I should be led to take that man for a lunatic, who should tell me to run into the adoption of a government avowedly defective, in hopes of having it amended afterwards. Were I about to give away the meanest particle of my own property, I should act with more prudence and discretion. My anxiety and fears are great lest America, by the adoption of this system, should be cast into a fathomless bottom. — Mr. Henry then concluded that, as he had not gone through all he intended to say, he hoped he would be indulged another time.

Mr. LEE, (of Westmoreland.) Mr. Chairman, when I spoke before, and called on the honorable gentleman (Mr. Henry) to come forward and give his reasons for his opposition in a systematic manner, I did it from love of order, Edition: current; Page: [177] and respect for the character of the honorable gentleman; having no other motives but the good of my country. As he seemed so solicitous that the truth should be brought before the committee on this occasion, I thought I could not do more properly than to call on him for his reasons for standing forth the champion of opposition. I took the liberty to add, that the subject belonged to the judgments of the gentlemen of the committee, and not to their passions. I am obliged to him for his politeness in this committee; but as the honorable gentleman seems to have discarded, in a great measure, solid argument and strong reasoning, and has established a new system of throwing those bolts which he has so peculiar a dexterity at discharging, I trust I shall not incur the displeasure of the committee by answering the honorable gentleman in the desultory manner in which he has treated the subject. I shall touch a few of those luminous points which he has entertained us with. He told us, the other day, that the enemies of the Constitution were firm supporters of liberty, and implied that its friends were not republicans. This may have been calculated to make impressions disadvantageous to those gentlemen who favor this new plan of government; and impressions of this kind are not easily eradicated. I conceive that I may say with truth that the friends of that paper are true republicans, and by no means less attached to liberty than those who oppose it. The verity of this does not depend on my assertion, but on the lives and well-known characters of different gentlemen in different parts of the continent. I trust the friends of that government will oppose the efforts of despotism as firmly as its opposers.

Much is said by gentlemen out of doors. They ought to urge all their objections here; I hope they will offer them here; I shall confine myself to what is said here. In all his rage for democracy, and zeal for the rights of the people, how often does he express his admiration of that king and Parliament over the Atlantic! But we republicans are contemned and despised. Here, sir, I conceive that implication might operate against himself.

He tells us that he is a stanch republican, and that he adores liberty. I believe him; and when I do so, I wonder that he should say that a kingly government is superior to that system which we admire. He tells you that it cherishes Edition: current; Page: [178] a standing army, and that militia alone ought to be depended upon for the defence of every free country. There is not a gentleman in this house, (not even the gentleman himself,) there is no man without these walls, who admires the militia more than I do. Without vanity, I may say I have had different experience of their service from that of the honorable gentleman. It was my fortune to be a soldier of my country. In the discharge of my duty, I knew the worth of militia. I have seen them perform feats that would do honor to the first veterans, and submitting to what would daunt German soldiers. I saw what the honorable gentleman did not see — our men fighting with the troops of that king whom he so much admires. I have seen proofs of the wisdom of that paper on your table. I have seen incontrovertible evidence that militia cannot always be relied upon. I could enumerate many instances, but one will suffice. Let the gentleman recollect the action of Guildford. The American regular troops behaved there with the most gallant intrepidity. What did the militia do? The greatest number of them fled. Their abandonment of the regulars occasioned the loss of the field. Had the line been supported that day, Cornwallis, instead of surrendering at Yorktown, would have laid down his arms at Guildford.

This plan provides for the public defence as it ought to do. Regulars are to be employed when necessary, and the service of the militia will always be made use of. This, sir, will promote agricultural industry and skill, and military discipline and science.

I cannot understand the implication of the honorable gentleman, that, because Congress may arm the militia, the states cannot do it: nor do I understand the reverse of the proposition. The states are, by no part of the plan before you, precluded from arming and disciplining the militia, should Congress neglect it. In the course of Saturday, and some previous harangues, from the terms in which some of the Northern States were spoken of, one would have thought that the love of an American was in some degree criminal, as being incompatible with a proper degree of affection for a Virginian. The people of America, sir, are one people. I love the people of the north, not because they have adopted the Constitution, but because I fought with them as my countrymen, and because I consider them as such. Does it Edition: current; Page: [179] follow from hence that I have forgotten my attachment to my native state? In all local matters I shall be a Virginian: in those of a general nature, I shall not forget that I am an American.

He has called on the house to expose the catalogue of evils which would justify this change of the government. I appeal to gentlemen’s candor — has not a most mournful detail been unfolded here?

In the course of the debates, I have heard from those gentlemen who have advocated the new system, an enumeration which drew groans from my very soul, but which did not draw one sigh from the honorable gentleman over the way. Permit me to ask if there be an evil which can visit mankind so injurious and oppressive, in its consequence and operation, as a tender-law? If Pandora’s box were on one side of me, and a tender-law on the other, I would rather submit to the box than to the tender-law. The principle, evil as it is, is not so base and pernicious as the application. It breaks down the moral character of your people, robs the widow of her maintenance, and defrauds the orphan of his food. The widow and orphan are reduced to misery, by receiving, in a depreciated value, money which the husband and father had lent out of friendship. This reverses the natural course of things. It robs the industrious of the fruits of their labor, and often enables the idle and rapacious to live in ease and comfort at the expense of the better part of the community.

Was there not another evil but the possibility of continuing such palpable injustice, I would object to the present system. But, sir, I will, out of many more, mention another. How are your domestic creditors situated? I will not go to the general creditors. I mean the military creditor — the man who, by the vices of your system, is urged to part with his money for a trivial consideration — the poor man, who has the paper in his pocket for which he can receive little or nothing. There is a greater number of these meritorious men than the honorable gentleman believes. These unfortunate men are compelled to receive paper instead of gold — paper which nominally represents something, but which in reality represents almost nothing. A proper government could do them justice, but the present one cannot do it. They are therefore forced to part from that paper which they Edition: current; Page: [180] fought for, and get less than a dollar for twenty shillings. I would, for my part, and I hope every other gentleman here would, submit to the inconvenience; but when I consider that the widows of gallant heroes, with their numerous offspring, are laboring under the most distressing indigence, and that these poor, unhappy people will be relieved by the adoption of this Constitution, I am still more impressed with the necessity of this change.

But, says the honorable gentleman, we are in peace. Does he forget the insurrection in Massachusetts? Perhaps he did not extend his philanthropy to that quarter. I was then in Congress, and had a proper opportunity to know the circumstances of this event. Had Shays been possessed of abilities, he might have established that favorite system of the gentleman — king, lords, and commons. Nothing was wanting to bring about a revolution but a great man to head the insurgents; but, fortunately, he was a worthless captain. There were thirty thousand stand of arms, nearly, in his power, which were defended by a pensioner of this country. It would have been sufficient had he taken this deposit. He failed in it; but, even after that failure, it was in the power of a great man to have taken it. But he wanted design and knowledge. Will you trust to the want of design and knowledge? Suppose another insurrection, headed by a different man: what will follow? Under a man of capacity, the favorite government of that gentleman might have been established in Massachusetts, and extended to Virginia.

But, sir, this is a consolidated government, he tells us; and most feelingly does he dwell on the imaginary dangers of this pretended consolidation. I did suppose that an honorable gentleman, whom I do not now see, (Mr. Madison,) had placed this in such a clear light that every man would have been satisfied with it.

If this were a consolidated government, ought it not to be ratified by a majority of the people as individuals, and not as states? Suppose Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, had ratified it; these four states, being a majority of the people of America, would, by their adoption, have made it binding on all the states, had this been a consolidated government. But it is only the government of those seven states who have adopted it. If the honorable gentleman will attend to this, we shall hear no more of consolidation.

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Direct taxation is another objection on which the honorable gentleman expatiates. This has been answered by several able gentlemen; but as the honorable gentleman reverts to the subject, I hope I shall be excused in saying a little on it. If union be necessary, direct taxes are also necessary for its support. If it be an inconvenience, it results from the union; and we must take its disadvantages with it: besides, it will render it unnecessary to recur to the sanguinary method which some gentlemen are said to admire. Had the Amphictyonic council had the power contained in that paper, would they have sent armies to levy money? Will the honorable gentleman say that it is more eligible and humane to collect money by carrying fire and sword through the country, than by the peaceable mode of raising money of the people, through the medium of an officer of peace, when it is necessary?

But says he, “The President will enslave you; Congress will trample on your liberties; a few regiments will appear; Mr. Chief Justice must give way; our mace-bearer is no match for a regiment.” It was inhuman to place an individual against a whole regiment. A few regiments will not avail; I trust the supporters of the government would get the better of many regiments. Were so mad an attempt made, the people would assemble in thousands, and drive thirty times the number of their few regiments. We would then do as we have already done with the regiments of that king whom he so often tells us of.

The public liberty, says he, is designed to be destroyed. What does he mean? Does he mean that we, who are friends to that government, are not friends to liberty? No man dares to say so. Does he mean that he is a greater admirer of liberty than we are? Perhaps so. But I undertake to say that, when it will be necessary to struggle in the cause of freedom, he will find himself equalled by thousands of those who support this Constitution. The purse of the people of Virginia is not given up by that paper: they can take no more of our money than is necessary to pay our share of the public debts, and provide for the general welfare. Were it otherwise, no man would be louder against it than myself.

He has represented our situation as contradistinguished from the other states. What does he mean? I ask if it be Edition: current; Page: [182] fair to attempt to influence gentlemen by particular applications to local interests? I say, it is not fair. Am I to be told, when I come to deliberate on the interest of Virginia, that it obstructs the interest of the county of Westmoreland? Is this obstruction a sufficient reason to neglect the collective interests of Virginia? Were it of a local nature, it would be right to prefer it; but, being of a general nature, the local interest must give way. I trust, then, that gentlemen will consider that the object of their deliberations is of a general nature. I disregard the argument which insinuated the propriety of attending to localities; and I hope that the gentlemen to whom it was addressed regard too much the happiness of the community to be influenced by it.

But he tells you that the Mississippi is insecure unless you reject this system, and that the transactions relating to it were carried on under a veil of secrecy. His arguments on this subject are equally as defective as those I have just had under consideration. But I feel myself called on by the honorable gentleman to come forward and tell the truth about the transactions respecting the Mississippi. In every action of my life in which I have been concerned, whether as soldier or politician, the good of my country was my first wish. I have attended not only to the good of the United States, but also to that of particular districts. There are men of integrity and truth here who were also then in Congress. I call on them to put me right with respect to those transactions. As far as I could gather from what was then passing, I believe there was not a gentleman in that Congress who had an idea of surrendering the navigation of that river. They thought of the best mode of securing it: some thought one way, and some another way. I was one of those men who thought the mode which has been alluded to the best to secure it. I shall never deny that it was my opinion. I was one peculiarly interested. I had a fortune in that country, purchased, not by paper money, but by gold, to the amount of eight thousand pounds. But private interest could not have influenced me. The public welfare was my criterion in my opinion. I united private interest to public interest, not of the whole people of Virginia, but of the United States. I thought I was promoting the real interest of the people. But, says he, it was under the veil of secrecy. There was no peculiar or uncommon Edition: current; Page: [183] desire manifested of concealing those transactions. They were carried on in the same manner with others of the same nature, and consonant to the principles of the Confederation. I saw no anxiety on the occasion. I wish he would send to the president to know their secrets. He would be gratified fully.

The honorable member, this day, among other things, gave us a statement of those states that have passed the new system, of those who have not, and of those who would probably not pass it. He called his assertions facts; but I expected he would show us something to prove their existence.

He tells us that New Hampshire and Rhode Island have refused it. Is that a fact? It is not a fact. New Hampshire has not refused it. That state postponed her ultimate decision till she could know what Massachusetts would do; and whatever the gentleman may say of borderers, the people of that state were very right in conducting themselves as they did. With respect to Rhode Island, I hardly know any thing. That small state has so rebelled against justice, and so knocked down the bulwarks of probity, rectitude, and truth, that nothing rational or just can be expected from her.

She has not, however, I believe, called a convention to deliberate on it, much less formally refused it. From her situation, it is evident that she must adopt it, unless she departs from the primary maxims of human nature, which are those of self-preservation. New York and North Carolina are so high in opposition, he tells us, that they will certainly reject it. Here is another of his facts; and he says he has the highest authority. As he dislikes the veil of secrecy, I beg he would tell us that high authority from which he gets this fact. Has he official communications? Have the executives of those states informed him? Has our executive been apprized of it? I believe not. I hold his unsupported authority in contempt.

Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, have adopted; but, says he, they were governed by local considerations. What are these local considerations? The honorable gentleman draws advantages from every source; but his arguments operate very often against himself. I admire the state of Pennsylvania, she deserves the attachment of every lover Edition: current; Page: [184] of his country. Poor Pennsylvania, says he, has been tricked into it. What an insult! The honorable gentleman would not say so of an individual: I know his politeness too well. Will he insult the majority of a free country? Pennsylvania is a respectable state. Though not so extensive as Virginia, she did as much as any state, in proportion, during the war; and has done as much since the peace. She has done as much in every situation, and her citizens have been as remarkable for their virtue and science, as those of any state. The honorable gentleman has told you that Pennsylvania has been tricked into it; and in so saying has insulted the majority of a free country, in a manner in which I would not dare to insult any private gentleman. The other adopting states have not been tricked into it, it seems. Why? The honorable gentleman cannot tell us why these have not been tricked into it, any more than he can tell why Pennsylvania has been tricked into it. Is it because of their superior power and respectability? or is it the consequence of their local situation? But the state of New York has too much virtue to be governed by local considerations. He insinuates this by his assertion that she will not regard the examples of the other states. How can he, without being inconsistent, and without perverting facts, pretend to say that New York is not governed by local considerations in her opposition? Is she not influenced by the local consideration of retaining that impost of which he says Connecticut and New Jersey wish to get a participation? What does he say of North Carolina? How will local considerations affect her? If the principle be uniform, she will be led by the local consideration of wishing to get a participation of the impost of the importing states. Is it to be supposed that she will be so blind to her own interest as to depart from this principle?

When he attempted to prove that you ought not to adopt that paper which I admire, he told you that it was untrodden ground. This objection goes to the adoption of any government. The British government ought to be proposed perhaps. It is trodden ground. I know not of any reason to operate against a system, because it is untrodden ground.

The honorable gentleman objects to the publication from time to time, as being ambiguous and uncertain. Does not from time to time signify convenient time? If it admits of Edition: current; Page: [185] an extension of time, does it not equally admit of publishing the accounts at very short periods? For argument sake, say they may postpone the publications of the public accounts to the expiration of every ten years: will their constituents be satisfied with this conduct? Will they not discard them, and elect other men, who will publish the accounts as often as they ought? It is also in their power to publish every ten days. Is it not more probable that they will do their duty than that they will neglect it, especially as their interest is inseparably connected with their duty? He says they may conceal them for a century. Did you ever hear so trivial and so captious an argument? I felt when the great genius of the gentleman nodded on that occasion. Another objection of the honorable gentleman (whom I cannot follow through all his windings and turnings) is, that those parts of the Constitution which are in favor of privileges, are not so clearly expressed as those parts which concede powers. I beg your attention, because this is a leading distinction. As long as the privilege of representation is well secured, our liberties cannot be easily endangered. I conceive this is secured in this country more fully than in any other. How are we, the people of America, as landholders, compared to the people of all the world besides? Vassalage is not known here. A small quantity of land entitles a man to a freehold: land is pretty equally divided, and the law of descents, in this country, will carry this division farther and farther — perhaps even to an extreme. This, of itself, secures this great privilege. Is it so in any other country? Is it so in England? We differ in this from all other countries. I admire this paper in this respect. It does not impair our right of suffrage. Whoever will have a right to vote for a representative to our legislature, will also have a right to vote for a federal representative. This will render that branch of Congress very democratic. We have a right to send a certain proportion. If we do not exert that right, it will be our folly.

It was necessary to provide against licentiousness, which is so natural to our climate. I dread more from the licentiousness of the people than from the bad government of rulers. Our privileges are not, however, in danger: they are better secured than any bill of rights could have secured them.

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I say that this new system shows, in stronger terms than words could declare, that the liberties of the people are secure. It goes on the principle that all power is in the people, and that rulers have no powers but what are enumerated in that paper. When a question arises with respect to the legality of any power, exercised or assumed by Congress, it is plain on the side of the governed: Is it enumerated in the Constitution? If it be, it is legal and just. It is otherwise arbitrary and unconstitutional. Candor must confess that it is infinitely more attentive to the liberties of the people than any state government.

[Mr. Lee then said, that, under the state governments, the people reserved to themselves certain enumerated rights, and that the rest were vested in their rulers; that, consequently, the powers reserved to the people were but an inconsiderable exception from what were given to their rulers; but that, in the federal government, the rulers of the people were vested with certain defined powers, and that what were not delegated to those rulers were retained by the people. The consequence of this, he said, was, that the limited powers were only an exception to those which rested in the people, and that they knew what they had given up, and could be in no danger. He exemplified the proposition in a familiar manner. He observed, that, if a man delegated certain powers to an agent, it would be an insult upon common sense to suppose that the agent could legally transact any business for his principal which was not contained in the commission whereby the powers were delegated; but that, if a man empowered his representative or agent to transact all his business except certain enumerated parts, the clear result was, that the agent could lawfully transact every possible part of his principal’s business except the enumerated parts; and added, that these plain propositions were sufficient to demonstrate the inutility and folly (were he permitted to use the expression) of bills of rights.]

He then continued: I am convinced that that paper secures the liberty of Virginia, and of the United States. I ask myself if there be a single power in it which is not necessary for the support of the Union; and, as far as my reasoning goes, I say that, if you deprive it of one single power contained in it, it will be “vox et præterea nihil.” Those who are to go to Congress will be the servants of the people. They are created and deputed by us, and removable by us. Is there a greater security than this in our state government? To fortify this security, is there not a constitutional remedy in the government, to reform any errors which shall be found inconvenient? Although the honorable gentleman has dwelt so long upon it, he has not made it appear otherwise. The Confederation can neither render us happy at home nor respectable abroad. I conceive this system will Edition: current; Page: [187] do both. The two gentlemen who have been in the grand Convention have proved, incontestably, that the fears arising from the powers of Congress are groundless. Having now gone through some of the principal parts of the gentleman’s harangue, I shall take up but a few moments in replying to its conclusion.

I contend, for myself and the friends of the Constitution, that we are as great friends to liberty as he or any other person, and that we will not be behind in exertions in its defence when it is invaded. For my part, I trust that, young as I am, I shall be trusted, in the support of freedom, as far as the honorable gentleman. I feel that indignation and contempt, with respect to his previous amendments, which he expresses against posterior amendments. I can see no danger from a previous ratification. I see infinite dangers from previous amendments. I shall give my suffrage for the former, because I think the happiness of my country depends upon it. To maintain and secure that happiness is the first object of my wishes. I shall brave all storms and political dangers.

Gov. RANDOLPH. Having consumed heretofore so much of your time, I did not intend to trouble you again so soon. But now I call on this committee, by way of right, to permit me to answer some severe charges against the friends of the new Constitution. It is a right I am entitled to, and shall have. I have spoken twice in this committee. I have shown the principles which actuated the general Convention; and attempted to prove that, after the ratification of the proposed system by so many states, the preservation of the Union depended on its adoption by us. I find myself attacked in the most illiberal manner by the honorable gentleman, (Mr. Henry.) I disdain his aspersions and his insinuations. His asperity is warranted by no principle of parliamentary decency, nor compatible with the least shadow of friendship; and if our friendship must fall, let it fall, like Lucifer, never to rise again! Let him remember that it is not to answer him, but to satisfy his respectable audience, that I now get up. He has accused me of inconsistency in this very respectable assembly. Sir, if I do not stand on the bottom of integrity, and pure love for Virginia, as much as those who can be most clamorous, I wish to resign my existence. Consistency consists in actions, Edition: current; Page: [188] and not in empty, specious words. Ever since the first entrance into that federal business, I have been inevitably governed by an invincible attachment to the happiness of the people of America. Federal measures had been before that time repudiated. The augmentation of congressional powers was dreaded. The imbecility of the Confederation was proved and acknowledged. When I had the honor of being deputed to the federal Convention, to revise the existing system, I was impressed with the necessity of a more energetic government, and thoroughly persuaded that the salvation of the people of America depended on an intimate and firm union. The honorable gentlemen there can say, that, when I went thither, no man was a stronger friend to such a union than myself. I informed you why I refused to sign.

I understand not him who wishes to give a full scope to licentiousness and dissipation — who would advise me to reject the proposed plan, and plunge us into anarchy.

[Here his excellency, Governor Randolph, read the conclusion of his public letter, (wherein he says, that, notwithstanding his objections to the Constitution, he would adopt it rather than lose the Union,) and proceeded to prove the consistency of his present opinion with his former conduct; when Mr. Henry arose, and declared that he had no personal intention of offending any one; that he did his duty, but that he did not mean to wound the feelings of any gentleman; that he was sorry if he offended the honorable gentleman without intending it; and that every gentleman had a right to maintain his opinion. His excellency then said that he was relieved by what the honorable gentleman said; that, were it not for the concession of the gentleman, he would have made some men’s hair stand on end, by the disclosure of certain facts. Mr. Henry then requested that, if he had any thing to say against him, he would disclose it. His excellency then continued, that as there were some gentlemen there who might not be satisfied by the recantation of the honorable gentleman, without being informed, he should give them some information on the subject; that his ambition had ever been to promote the Union; that he was no more attached to it now than he always had been; and that he could in some degree prove it by the paper which he held in his hand, which was his public letter. He then read a considerable part of his letter, wherein he expressed his friendship to the Union. He then informed the committee, that, on the day of election of delegates for the Convention, for the county of Henrico, it being incumbent upon him to give his opinion, he told the respectable freeholders of that county his sentiments — that he wished not to become a member of that Convention; that he had not attempted to create a belief that he would vote against the Constitution; that he did really unfold to them his actual opinion, which was perfectly reconcilable with the suffrage he was going to give in favor of the Constitution. He then read part of a letter which he Edition: current; Page: [189] had written to his constituents on the subject, which was expressive of sentiments amicable to a union with other states. He then threw down the letter on the clerk’s table, and declared that it might lie there for the inspection of the curious and malicious.]

He then proceeded thus: I am asked why I have thought proper to patronize this government. Not because I am one of those illuminated, but because the felicity of my country requires it. The highest honors have no allurements to charm me. If he be as little attached to public places as I am, he must be free from ambition. It is true that I am now in an elevated situation; but I consider it as a far less happy or eligible situation than that of an inconsiderable landholder. Give me peace — I ask no more. I ask no honor or gratification. Give me public peace, and I will carve the rest for myself. The happiness of my country is my first wish. I think it necessary for that happiness that this Constitution be now adopted; for, in spite of the representation of the honorable gentleman, I see a storm growling over Virginia. No man has more respect for Virginia, or a greater affection for her citizens, than I have; but I cannot flatter you with a kinder or more agreeable representation, while we are surrounded by so many dangers, and when there is so much rancor in the hearts of your citizens.

I beg the honorable gentleman to pardon me for reminding him that his historical references and quotations are not accurate. If he errs so much with respect to his facts, as he has done in history, we cannot depend on his information or assertions. He had, early in the debates, instanced Holland as a happy democracy, highly worthy of our imitation. From thence he went over the mountains to Switzerland, to find another democracy. He represented all those cantons as being of the democratic kind. I wish he had reflected a little more, and distinguished those that are democratical from those which are aristocratical. He has already been reminded of his errors. I should not now put him right with respect to history, had he not continued his mistakes. Consult all writers — from Sir William Temple to those of modern times — they will inform you, that the republic of Holland is an aristocracy. He has inveighed against the stadtholder. I do not understand his application of this to the American President. It is well known that, but for the Edition: current; Page: [190] stadtholder, the republic would have been ruined long ago. Holland, it seems, has no ten miles square. But she has the Hague, where the deputies of the states assemble. It has been found necessary to have a fixed place of meeting. But the influence which it has given the province of Holland to have the seat of the government within its territory, subject in some respects to its control, has been injurious to the other provinces. The wisdom of the Convention is therefore manifest in granting the Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the place of their session. I am going to correct a still greater error which he has committed, not in order to show any little knowledge of history I have, (for I am by no means satisfied with its extent,) but to endeavor to prevent any impressions from being made by improper and mistaken representations.

He said that Magna Charta destroyed all implication. This was not the object of Magna Charta, but to destroy the power of the king, and secure the liberty of the people. The bill of rights was intended to restore the government to its primitive principles.

We are harassed by quotations from Holland and Switzerland, which are inapplicable in themselves, and not founded in fact.

I am surprised at his proposition of previous amendments, and his assertion that subsequent ones will cause disunion. Shall we not lose our influence and weight in the government to bring about amendments, if we propose them previously? Will not the senators be chosen, and the electors of the President be appointed, and the government brought instantly into action, after the ratification of nine states? In this disunion, when will the effect proposed be produced? But no man here is willing to believe what the honorable gentleman says on this point. I was in hopes we should come to some degree of order. I fear that order is no more. I believe that we should confine ourselves to the particular clause under consideration, and to such other clauses as might be connected with it.

Why have we been told that maxims can alone save nations; that our maxims are our bill of rights; and that the liberty of the press, trial by jury, and religion, are destroyed? Give me leave to say, that the maxims of Virginia are union and justice.

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The honorable gentleman has passed by my observations with respect to British debts. He has thought proper to be silent on this subject. My observations must therefore have full force. Justice is, and ought to be, our maxim; and must be that of every temperate, moderate, and upright man. I should not say so much on this occasion, were it not that I perceive that the flowers of rhetoric are perverted, in order to make impressions unfavorable and inimical to an impartial and candid decision. What security can arise from a bill of rights? The predilection for it has arisen from a misconception of its principles. It cannot secure the liberties of this country. A bill of rights was used in England to limit the king’s prerogative; he could trample on the liberties of the people in every case which was not within the restraint of the bill of rights.

Our situation is radically different from that of the people of England. What have we to do with bills of rights? Six or seven states have none. Massachusetts has declared her bill of rights as no part of her Constitution. Virginia has a bill of rights, but it is no part of her Constitution. By not saying whether it is paramount to the Constitution or not, it has left us in confusion. Is the bill of rights consistent with the Constitution? Why, then, is it not inserted in the Constitution? Does it add any thing to the Constitution? Why is it not in the Constitution? Does it except any thing from the Constitution? Why not put the exceptions in the Constitution? Does it oppose the Constitution? This will produce mischief. The judges will dispute which is paramount. Some will say, the bill of rights is paramount: others will say, that the Constitution, being subsequent in point of time, must be paramount. A bill of rights, therefore, accurately speaking, is quite useless, if not dangerous to a republic.

I had objections to this Constitution. I still have objections to it. [Here he read the objections which appeared in his public letter.] The gentleman asks, How comes it to pass that you are now willing to take it? I answer, that I see Virginia in such danger, that, were its defects greater, I would adopt it. These dangers, though not immediately present to our view, yet may not be far distant, if we disunite from the other states. I will join any man in endeavoring Edition: current; Page: [192] to get amendments, after the danger of disunion is removed by a previous adoption.

The honorable gentleman says that the federal spirit leads to disunion. The federal spirit is not superior to human nature, but it cannot be justly charged with having a tendency to disunion. If we were to take the gentleman’s discrimination as our guide, the spirit of Virginia would be dictatorial. Virginia dictates to eight states. A single amendment, proposed as the condition of our accession, will operate total disunion. Where is the state that shall conceive itself obliged to aid Virginia? The honorable gentleman says there is no danger — great in imagination, but nothing in reality. What is the meaning of this? What would this state do, if opposed alone to the arms of France or Great Britain? Would there be no danger in such a case? Was not the assistance of France necessary to enable the United States to repel the attack of Great Britain? In the last war, by union and judicious concert of measures, we were triumphant. Can this be the case in a future war, if we be disunited from our sister states? What would have been the consequence, if, in the late war, we had reposed on our arms, and depended on Providence alone? Shall we ever be at peace, because we are so now? Is it unnecessary to provide against future events? His objection goes to prove that Virginia can stand by herself. The advice that would attempt to convince me of so pernicious an error I treat with disdain. Our negroes are numerous, and are daily becoming more so. When I reflect on their comparative number, and comparative condition, I am the more persuaded of the great fitness of becoming more formidable than ever.

It seems that republican borderers are peaceable. This is another lapse in history. Did he never know that a number of men were as much inspired with ambition as any individual? Had he consulted history, he would have known that the most destructive wars have been carried on, with the most implacable hatred, between neighboring republics. It is proved by his favorite Roman history, that republican borderers are as apt to have rancor in their hearts as any. The institutions of Lycurgus himself could not restrain republican borderers from hostility. He treats the Edition: current; Page: [193] idea of commercial hostility as extravagant. History might inform him of its reality. Experience might give him some instruction on the subject.

Go to the Potomac, and mark what you see. I had the mortification to see vessels within a very little distance from the Virginian shore, belonging to Maryland, driven from our ports by the badness of our regulations. I take the liberty of a freeman in exposing what appears to me to deserve censure. I shall take that liberty in reprehending the wicked act which attainted Josiah Phillips. Because he was not a Socrates, is he to be attainted at pleasure? Is he to be attainted because he is not among the high of reputation? After the use the gentleman made of a word innocently used to express a crowd, I thought he would be careful himself. We are all equal in this country. I hope that, with respect to birth, there is no superiority. It gives me pleasure to reflect that, though a man cannot trace up his lineage, yet he is not to be despised. I shall always possess these sentiments and feelings. I shall never aspire at high offices. If my country should ever think my services worth any thing, it shall be in the humble capacity of a representative: higher than this I will not aspire.

He has expatiated on the turpitude of the character of Josiah Phillips. Has this any thing to do with the principle on which he was attainted? We all agree that he was an abandoned man. But if you can prepare a bill to attaint a man, and pass it through both houses in an instant, I ask you, who is safe? There is no man on whom a cloud may not hang some time or other, if a demagogue should think proper to take advantage of it to his destruction. Phillips had a commission in his pocket at that time. He was, therefore, only a prisoner of war. This precedent may destroy the best man in the community, when he was arbitrarily attainted merely because he was not a Socrates.

He has perverted my meaning with respect to our government. I spoke of the Confederation. He took no notice of this. He reasoned of the Constitution of Virginia. I had said nothing of it on that occasion. Requisitions, however, he said, were safe and advisable, because they give time for deliberation. Will not taxation do this? Will not Congress, when laying a tax, bestow a thought upon it? But he means to say, that the state itself ought to say Edition: current; Page: [194] whether she pleases to pay or not. Congress, by the Confederation, has power to make any requisitions. The states are constitutionally bound to pay them. We have seen their happy effects. When the requisitions are right, and duly proportioned, it is in the power of any state to refuse to comply with them.

He says that he would give them the impost. I cannot understand him, as he says he has an hereditary hatred to custom-house officers. Why despise them? Why should the people hate them? I am afraid he has accidentally discovered a principle that will lead him to make greater opposition than can be justified by any thing in the Constitution. I would undertake to prove the fallacy of every observation he made on that occasion; but it is too late now to add any more. At another opportunity I shall give a full refutation to all he has said.

[The 1st and 2d sections still under consideration.]

Gov. RANDOLPH. Mr. Chairman, I was restrained yesterday, by the lateness of the day, from making those observations which I intended to make in answer to the honorable gentleman who had gone before me. I shall now resume that subject. I hope we shall come at last to a decision. I shall not forever wander from the point, or transgress the rules of this house; but, after making answer to him, shall go on in regular order.

He observed that the only question was, with respect to previous and subsequent amendments. Were this the only question, sir, I am sure this inconsiderable matter would not long retard a decision. I conceive the preservation of the Union to be a question of great magnitude. This must be a peculiar object of my attention, unless I depart from that rule which has regulated my conduct since the introduction of federal measures. Suppose, contrary to my expectation, this Convention should propose certain amendments previous to its ratification, — mild and pliant as those states may be who have received it unanimously; flexible as those may be who have adopted it by a majority; I had rather argue, from human nature, that they will not recede from their resolutions, to accommodate our caprice. Is there no jealousy existing between the states? They discover no superiority, Edition: current; Page: [195] in any one state, of arrogating to itself a right to dictate what ought to be done. They would not see the reasons of such amendments, for some amendments in themselves are really dangerous. The same reasons could not be impressed on all the states. I shall mention one example: I shall suppose, for instance, that we shall propose, as an amendment, that the President shall have a council. I conceive a council to be injurious to the executive. The counsellors will either impede or clog the President; or, if he be a man of dexterity, they will be governed by him. They will also impair his responsibility. Is it probable that all the other states would think alike on the subject, or agree to such an alteration? As there is a mode in the Constitution itself to procure amendments, not by reference to the people, but by the interposition of the state legislatures, will the people of Virginia bind themselves not to enter into the Union till amendments shall have been obtained? I refer it to any gentleman here, whether this may not entirely exclude us from the Union.

The honorable gentleman then told us, that Maryland held out, and that there can be no danger from our holding out of the Union; that she refused to come into the Confederation until the year 1781, when she was pressed by the then Congress. Is this a proper comparison? The fear of the British army and navy kept the states together. This fear induced that state to come into the Union then, otherwise the Union would have been destroyed. We are also told that Vermont held out. His information is inaccurate. Pardon me for saying that it is not to be found in the history of those times. The right to that territory was long in dispute between New York and Connecticut. The inhabitants took that opportunity of erecting themselves into a state. They pressed Congress for admission into the Union. Their solicitations were continually opposed till the year 1781, when a kind of assent was given. Can it be said, from this, that the people of Vermont held out against the Confederation of twelve states? Were they sufficiently wealthy and numerous to do so? Virginia is said to be able to stand by herself. From her situation she has cause to fear. She has also cause to fear from her inability to raise an army, a navy, or money. I contend that she is not able to stand by herself. I am sure that every man who comes from the exposed Edition: current; Page: [196] parts of this country is well convinced of this truth. As these have been enumerated, it would be useless to go over them again. He then told us that an error in government never can be removed. I will acknowledge, with him, that there are governments in Europe, whereof the defects have a long time been unaltered, and are not easily changed.

We need not go farther than the war to find a willing relinquishment of power. Look at the Confederation: you will find there such a voluntary relinquishment. View the convention at Annapolis: the object of its delegation involved in its nature some relinquishment of power. It produced this effect — all the states, except Rhode Island, agreed to call a general Convention, to revise the Confederation, and invest Congress with more power. A general Convention has been called; it has proposed a system which concedes considerable powers to Congress. Eight states have already assented to this concession. After this, can we say that men will not voluntarily relinquish power? Contrast this country with Scotland, blessed with union. The circumstances of the two countries are not dissimilar. View Scotland: that country is greatly benefited by union. It would not be now in its present flourishing situation without the auspices of England. This observation brings us to the necessity of union.

Were we not to look to futurity, have we nothing to fear from the present state of Europe? We are exposed at sea. The honorable gentleman tells us we have no hostility to fear from that quarter; that our ambassador at Paris would have informed us if there were any combustibles preparing. If he has not done any such thing, it is no conclusive evidence of safety. Nations have passions like men. It is the disposition of nations to attack where there is a demonstrable weakness. Are you weak? Go to history; it will tell you, you will be insulted. One insult will produce another, till at last it produces a partition. So, when they tell us there is no storm gathering, they ought to support their allegations by some probable evidence. The honorable gentleman then told us that armies do not collect debts; but armies make reprisals. If the debts which we owe continue on the disgraceful footing they have been on hitherto, without even the payment of interest, we may well expect such reprisals. The seizure of our vessels in foreign ports must be Edition: current; Page: [197] the certain consequence of the continuance of such a disgraceful conduct. He then informed us that no danger was to be apprehended from Spain — that she trembles for Mexico and Peru. That nation, sir, is a powerful nation, and has immense resources. What will she be when united with France and other nations who have cause of complaint against us? Mr. Chairman, Maryland seems, too, to be disregarded. The loss of the Union would not bring her arms upon our heads: — look at the Northern Neck! If the Union is dissolved, will it adhere to Virginia? Will the people of that place sacrifice their safety for us? How are we to retain them? By force of arms? Is this the happy way he proposes for leaving us out of the Union?

We are next informed that there is no danger from the borders of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and that my observations upon the frontiers of England and Scotland are inapplicable. He distinguishes republican from monarchical borderers, and ascribes pacific meekness to the former, and barbarous ferocity to the latter. There is as much danger, sir, from republican borderers as from any other. The danger results from the situation of borderers, and not from the nature of the government under which they live. History will show that as much barbarity and cruelty have been committed upon one another by republican borderers as by any other. We are borderers upon three states, two of which are ratifying states. I therefore repeat, sir, that we have danger to apprehend from this quarter.

As to the people’s complaints of the government, the gentleman must either have misunderstood me, or went over very slightly what I said of the Confederation. He spoke of the Constitution of Virginia, concerning which I said nothing. The Confederation, sir, on which we are told we ought to trust our safety, is totally void of coercive power and energy. Of this the people of America have been long convinced; and this conviction has been sufficiently manifested to the world. Of this I spoke, and now I repeat, that if we trust to it, we shall be defenceless. The general government ought to be vested with powers competent to our safety, or else the necessary consequence must be, that we shall be defenceless.

The honorable gentleman tells us that, if the project at Albany for the colonial consolidation, as he terms it, had Edition: current; Page: [198] been completed, it would have destroyed all union and happiness. What has that to do with this paper? It tells us what the present situation of America is. Can any man say he could draw a better picture of our situation than that paper? He says that, by the completion of that project, the king of Great Britain might have bound us so tight together, that resistance would have been ineffectual. Does it not tell us that union is necessary? Will not our united strength be more competent to our defence, against any assault, than the force of a part? If, in their judgment alone who could decide on it, it was judged sufficient to secure their happiness and prosperity, why say that that project would have destroyed us? But the honorable gentleman again recurs to his beloved requisitions, on which he advises us to trust our happiness. Can any thing be more imprudent than to put the general government on so humiliating and disgraceful a footing? What are they but supplications and entreaties to the states to do their duty? Shall we rely on a system of which every man knows the inefficacy? One cannot conceive any thing more contemptible than a government which is forced to make humble applications to other governments for the means of its common support — which is driven to apply for a little money to carry on its administration a few months. After the total incapacity of the Confederation to secure our happiness has been fully experienced, what will be the consequence if we reject this Constitution? Shall we recur to separate confederacies? The honorable gentleman acknowledges them to be evils which ought not to be resorted to but on the last necessity — they are evils of the first magnitude.

Permit me to extract out of the confederation of Albany a fact of the highest authority, because drawn from human nature, which clearly demonstrates the fatal impolicy of separate confederacies. [Here he made a quotation to that effect.] If there is a gentleman here who harbors in his mind the idea of a separate confederacy, I beg him to consider the consequence. Where shall we find refuge in the day of calamity? The different confederacies will be rivals in power and commerce, and therefore will soon be implacable enemies of one another. I ask if there be any objection to this system, that will not come with redoubled energy against any other plan. See the defects in this Constitution, Edition: current; Page: [199] and examine if they do not appear with tenfold force in separate confederacies. After having acknowledged the evil tendency of separate confederacies, he recurs to this — that this country is too extensive for the system. If there be an executive dependent for his election on the people, a judiciary which will administer the laws with justice, no extent of country will be too great for a republic.

Where is there a precedent to prove that this country is too extensive for a government of this kind? America cannot find a precedent to prove this. Theoretic writers have adopted a position that extensive territories will not admit of a republican government. These positions were laid down before the science of government was as well understood as it is now. Where would America look for a precedent to warrant her adoption of that position? If you go to Europe, before arts and sciences had arrived at their present perfection, no example worthy of imitation can be found. The history of England, from the reign of Henry VII.; of Spain, since that of Charles V.; and of France, since that of Francis I., prove that they have greatly improved in the science of politics since that time. Representation, the source of American liberty and English liberty, was a thing not understood in its full extent till very lately.

The position I have spoken of was founded upon an ignorance of the principles of representation. Its force must be now done away, as this principle is so well understood. If laws are to be made by the people themselves, in their individual capacities, it is evident that they cannot conveniently assemble together, for this purpose, but in a very limited sphere; but if the business of legislation be transacted by representatives, chosen periodically by the people, it is obvious that it may be done in any extent of country. The experience of this commonwealth, and of the United States, proves this assertion.

Mr. Chairman, I am astonished that the rule of the house to debate regularly has not been observed by gentlemen. Shall we never have order? I must transgress that rule now, not because I think the conduct of the gentleman deserves imitation, but because the honorable gentleman ought to be answered. In that list of facts with which he would touch our affections, he has produced a name (Mr. Jefferson) which will ever be remembered with gratitude by this commonwealth. Edition: current; Page: [200] I hope that his life will be continued, to add, by his future actions, to the brilliancy of his character. Yet I trust that his name was not mentioned to influence any member of this house. Notwithstanding the celebrity of his character, his name cannot be used as authority against the Constitution. I know not his authority. I have had no letter from him. As far as my information goes, it is only a report circulated through the town, that he wished nine states to adopt, and the others to reject it, in order to get amendments. Which is the ninth state to introduce the government? That illustrious citizen tells you, that he wishes the government to be adopted by nine states, to prevent a schism in the Union. This, sir, is my wish. I will go heart and hand to obtain amendments, but I will never agree to the dissolution of the Union. But unless a ninth state will accede, this must inevitably happen. No doubt he wished Virginia to adopt. I wish not to be bound by any man’s opinion; but, admitting the authority which the honorable gentleman has produced to be conclusive, it militates against himself. Is it right to adopt? He says, no; because there is a President. I wish he was eligible after a given number of years.

I wish also some other changes to be made in the Constitution. But am I therefore obliged to run the risk of losing the Union, by proposing amendments previously, when amendments without that risk can be obtained afterwards? Am I to indulge capricious opinions so far as to lose the Union? The friends of the Union will see how far we carry our attachment to it, and will therefore concur with our amendments. The honorable gentleman has told us, that Holland is ruined by a stadtholder and a stadtholder’s wife. I believe this republic is much indebted to that execrated stadtholder for her power and wealth. Recur to the history of Holland, and you will find that country never could have resisted Spain, had it not been for the stadtholder. At those periods when they had no stadtholder, their government was weak and their public affairs deranged. Why has this been mentioned? Was it to bias our minds against the federal executive? Are we to have no executive at all, or are we to have eight or ten? An executive is as necessary, for the security of liberty and happiness, as the two other branches of government. Every state in the Union has an executive.

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Let us consider whether the federal executive be wisely constructed. This is a point in which the constitution of every state differs widely as to the mode of electing their executives, and as to the time of continuing them in office. In some states the executive is perpetually eligible. In others he is rendered ineligible after a given period. They are generally elected by the legislature. It cannot be objected to the federal executive that the power is executed by one man. All the enlightened part of mankind agree that the superior despatch, secrecy, and energy, with which one man can act, render it more politic to vest the power of executing the laws in one man, than in any number of men. How is the President elected? By the people — on the same day throughout the United States — by those whom the people please. There can be no concert between the electors. The votes are sent sealed to Congress. What are his powers? To see the laws executed. Every executive in America has that power. He is also to command the army: this power also is enjoyed by the executives of the different states. He can handle no part of the public money except what is given him by law. At the end of four years, he may be turned out of his office. If he misbehaves he may be impeached, and in this case he will never be reëlected. I cannot conceive how his powers can be called formidable. Both houses are a check upon him. He can do no important act without the concurrence of the Senate. In England, the sword and purse are in different hands. The king has the power of the sword, and the purse is in the hands of the people alone. Take a comparison between this and the government of England.

It will prove in favor of the American principle. In England, the king declares war. In America, Congress must be consulted. In England, Parliament gives money. In America, Congress does it. There are consequently more powers in the hands of the people, and greater checks upon the executive here, than in England. Let him pardon me, when I say he is mistaken in passing a eulogium on the English government to the prejudice of this plan. Those checks which he says are to be found in the English government, are also to be found here. Our government is founded upon real checks. He ought to show there are no checks in it. Is this the case? Who are your representatives? Edition: current; Page: [202] They are chosen by the people for two years. Who are your senators? They are chosen by the legislatures, and a third of them go out of the Senate at the end of every second year. They may also be impeached. There are no better checks upon earth. Are there better checks in the government of Virginia? There is not a check in the one that is not in the other. The difference consists in the length of time, and in the nature of the objects. Any man may be impeached here — so he may there. If the people of Virginia can remove their delegates for misbehavior, by electing other men at the end of the year, so, in like manner, the federal representatives may be removed at the end of two, and the senators at the end of six years.

The honorable gentleman has praised the Virginia government. We can prove that the federal Constitution is equally excellent. The legislature of Virginia may conceal their transactions as well as the general government. There is no clause in the Constitution of Virginia to oblige its legislature to publish its proceedings at any period. The clause in this Constitution which provides for a periodical publication, and which the honorable gentleman reprobates so much, renders the federal Constitution superior to that of Virginia in this respect. The expression, from time to time, renders us sufficiently secure: it will compel them to publish their proceedings as often as it can conveniently and safely be done; and must satisfy every mind, without an illiberal perversion of its meaning. His bright ideas are very much obscured by torturing the explication of words. His interpretation of elections must be founded on a misapprehension. The Constitution says, that “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 regulation, except as to the place of choosing senators.” It says, in another place, “that the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.” Who would have conceived it possible to deduce, from these clauses, that the power of election was thrown into the hands of the rich? As the electors of the federal representatives are to have the same qualifications with those of the representatives of this state legislature, — or, in other words, as the electors of the one are Edition: current; Page: [203] to be electors of the other, — this suggestion is unwarrantable, unless he carries his supposition farther, and says that Virginia will agree to her own suicide, by modifying elections in such manner as to throw them into the hands of the rich. The honorable gentleman has not given us a fair object to be attacked; he has not given us any thing substantial to be examined.

It is also objected that the trial by jury, the writ of habeas corpus, and the liberty of the press, are insecure. But I contend that the habeas corpus is at least on as secure and good a footing as it is in England. In that country, it depends on the will of the legislature. That privilege is secured here by the Constitution, and is only to be suspended in cases of extreme emergency. Is this not a fair footing? After agreeing that the government of England secures liberty, how do we distrust this government? Why distrust ourselves? The liberty of the press is supposed to be in danger. If this were the case, it would produce extreme repugnancy in my mind. If it ever will be suppressed in this country, the liberty of the people will not be far from being sacrificed. Where is the danger of it? He says that every power is given to the general government that is not reserved to the states. Pardon me if I say the reverse of the proposition is true. I defy any one to prove the contrary. Every power not given it by this system is left with the states. This being the principle, from what part of the Constitution can the liberty of the press be said to be in danger?

[Here his excellency read the 8th section of the 1st article, containing all the powers given to Congress.]

Go through these powers, examine every one, and tell me if the most exalted genius can prove that the liberty of the press is in danger. The trial by jury is supposed to be in danger also. It is secured in criminal cases, but supposed to be taken away in civil cases. It is not relinquished by the Constitution; it is only not provided for. Look at the interest of Congress to suppress it. Can it be in any manner advantageous for them to suppress it? In equitable cases, it ought not to prevail, nor with respect to admiralty causes; because there will be an undue leaning against those characters, of whose business courts of admiralty will have cognizance. I will rest myself secure under this reflection Edition: current; Page: [204] — that it is impossible for the most suspicious or malignant mind to show that it is the interest of Congress to infringe on this trial by jury.

Freedom of religion is said to be in danger. I will candidly say, I once thought that it was, and felt great repugnance to the Constitution for that reason. I am willing to acknowledge my apprehensions removed; and I will inform you by what process of reasoning I did remove them. The Constitution provides that “the senators and representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be found, by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” It has been said that, if the exclusion of the religious test were an exception from the general power of Congress, the power over religion would remain. I inform those who are of this opinion, that no power is given expressly to Congress over religion. The senators and representatives, members of the state legislatures, and executive and judicial officers, are bound, by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution. This only binds them to support it in the exercise of the powers constitutionally given it. The exclusion of religious tests is an exception from this general provision, with respect to oaths or affirmations. Although officers, &c., are to swear that they will support this Constitution, yet they are not bound to support one mode of worship, or to adhere to one particular sect. It puts all sects on the same footing. A man of abilities and character, of any sect whatever, may be admitted to any office or public trust under the United States. I am a friend to a variety of sects, because they keep one another in order. How many different sects are we composed of throughout the United States! How many different sects will be in Congress! We cannot enumerate the sects that may be in Congress! And there are now so many in the United States, that they will prevent the establishment of any one sect, in prejudice to the rest, and will forever oppose all attempts to infringe religious liberty. If such an attempt be made, will not the alarm be sounded throughout America? If Congress should be as wicked as we are foretold they will be, they would not run the risk of Edition: current; Page: [205] exciting the resentment of all, or most, of the religious sects in America.

The judiciary is drawn up in terror. Here I have an objection of a different nature. I object to the appellate jurisdiction as the greatest evil in it. But I look at the Union — the object which guides me. When I look at the Union, objects of less consideration vanish, and I hope that the inconvenience will be redressed, and that Congress will prohibit the appeal with respect to matters of fact. When it respects only matters of law, no danger can possibly arise from it. Can Congress have any interest in continuing appeals of fact? If Pennsylvania has an interest in continuing it, will not Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, New York, and the Eastern States, have an interest in discontinuing it? What advantage will its continuance be to Maryland, New Jersey, or Delaware? Is there not unanimity against it in Congress almost? Kentucky will be equally opposed to it. Thus, sir, all these will be opposed to one state. If Congress wish to aggrandize themselves by oppressing the people, the judiciary must first be corrupted! No man says any thing against them; they are more independent than in England.

But they say that the adoption of this system will occasion an augmentation of taxes. To object to it on this ground, is as much as to say, No Union — stand by yourselves! An increase of taxes is a terror that no friend to the Union ought to be alarmed at. The impost must produce a great sum. The contrary cannot be supposed. I conceive the particular expense of particular states will be diminished, and that diminution will, to a certain extent, support the Union. Either disunion, or separate confederacies, will enhance the expense. A union of all the states will be, even on economical principles, more to the interest of the people of Virginia than either separate confederacies or disunion. Had the states complied with the obligations imposed upon them by the Confederation, this attempt would never have been made. The unequivocal experience we have had of their inefficacy renders this change necessary. If union be necessary for our safety, we ought not to address the avarice of this house. I am confident that not a single member of this committee would be moved by such unworthy considerations. We are told that the people do not understand Edition: current; Page: [206] this government. I am persuaded that they do not — not for the want of more time to understand it, but to correct the misrepresentations of it. When I meditated an opposition to previous amendments, I marked the number of what appeared to me to be errors, and which I wished to be subsequently removed. But its real errors have been exaggerated; it has not met with a fair decision. It must be candidly acknowledged that there are some evils in it which ought to be removed. But I am confident that such gross misrepresentations have been made of it, that, if carried before any intelligent men, they would wonder at such glaring attempts to mislead, or at such absolute misapprehension of the subject. Though it be not perfect, any government is better than the risk which gentlemen wish us to run.

Another construction he gives is, that it is exclusively in the power of Congress to arm the militia, and that the states could not do it if Congress thought proper to neglect it. I am astonished how this idea could enter into the gentleman’s mind, whose acuteness no man doubts. How can this be fairly deduced from the following clause? — “To provide for the organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia, according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” He complains much of implication; but in this case he has made use of it himself, for his construction of this clause cannot possibly be supported without it. It is clear and self-evident that the pretended danger cannot result from the clause. Should Congress neglect to arm or discipline the militia, the states are fully possessed of the power of doing it; for they are restrained from it by no part of the Constitution.

The sweeping clause, as it is called, is much dreaded. I find that I differ from several gentlemen on this point. This formidable clause does not in the least increase the powers of Congress. It is only inserted for greater caution, and to prevent the possibility of encroaching upon the powers of Congress. No sophistry will be permitted to be used to explain away any of those powers; nor can they possibly assume any other power, but what is contained in the Constitution, without absolute usurpation. Another security is Edition: current; Page: [207] that, if they attempt such a usurpation, the influence of the state governments will nip it in the bud of hope. I know this government will be cautiously watched. The smallest assumption of power will be sounded in alarm to the people, and followed by bold and active opposition. I hope that my countrymen will keep guard against every arrogation of power. I shall take notice of what the honorable gentleman said with respect to the power to provide for the general welfare. The meaning of this clause has been perverted, to alarm our apprehensions. The whole clause has not been read together. It enables Congress “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; but all duties, imposts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States.” The plain and obvious meaning of this is, that no more duties, taxes, imposts, and excises, shall be laid, than are sufficient to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare, of the United States.

If you mean to have a general government at all, ought it not to be empowered to raise money to pay the debts, and advance the prosperity, of the United States, in the manner that Congress shall think most eligible? What is the consequence of the contrary? You give it power by one hand, and take it away from it by the other. If it be defective in some parts, yet we ought to give due credit to those parts which are acknowledged to be good. Does not the prohibition of paper money merit our approbation? I approve of it because it prohibits tender-laws, secures the widows and orphans, and prevents the states from impairing contracts. I admire that part which forces Virginia to pay her debts. If we recur to the bill of rights, which the honorable gentleman speaks so much of, we shall find that it recommends justice. Had not this power been given, my affection for it would not have been so great. When it obliges us to tread in the path of virtue, when it takes away from the most influential man the power of directing our passions to his own emolument, and of trampling upon justice, I hope to be excused when I say, that, were it more objectionable than it is, I should vote for the Union.

Mr. MONROE. Mr. Chairman, I cannot avoid expressing the great anxiety which I feel upon the present occasion Edition: current; Page: [208] — an anxiety that proceeds not only from a high sense of the importance of the subject, but from a profound respect for this august and venerable assembly. When we contemplate the fate that has befallen other nations, whether we cast our eyes back into the remotest ages of antiquity, or derive instruction from those examples which modern times have presented to our view, and observe how prone all human institutions have been to decay; how subject the best-formed and most wisely organized governments have been to lose their checks and totally dissolve; how difficult it has been for mankind, in all ages and countries, to preserve their dearest rights and best privileges, impelled as it were by an irresistible fate of despotism; — if we look forward to those prospects that sooner or later await our country, unless we shall be exempted from the fate of other nations, even to a mind the most sanguine and benevolent some gloomy apprehensions must necessarily crowd upon it. This consideration is sufficient to teach us the limited capacity of the human mind — how subject the wisest men have been to error. For my own part, sir, I come forward here, not as the partisan of this or that side of the question, but to commend where the subject appears to me to deserve commendation; to suggest my doubts where I have any; to hear with candor the explanation of others; and, in the ultimate result, to act as shall appear for the best advantage of our common country.

The American states exhibit at present a new and interesting spectacle to the eyes of mankind. Modern Europe, for more than twelve centuries past, has presented to view one of a very different kind. In all the nations of that quarter of the globe, there hath been a constant effort, on the part of the people, to extricate themselves from the oppression of their rulers; but with us the object is of a very different nature — to establish the dominion of law over licentiousness — to increase the powers of the national government to such extent, and organize it in such manner, as to enable it to discharge its duties, and manage the affairs of the states, to the best advantage. There are two circumstances remarkable in our colonial settlement: — 1st, the exclusive monopoly of our trade; 2nd, that it was settled by the commons of England only. The revolution, in having emancipated us from the shackles of Great Britain, has put the entire government in the hands of one order of people only — Edition: current; Page: [209] freemen; not of nobles and freemen. This is a peculiar trait in the character of this revolution. That this sacred deposit may be always retained there, is my most earnest wish and fervent prayer. That union is the first object for the security of our political happiness, in the hands of gracious Providence, is well understood and universally admitted through all the United States. From New Hampshire to Georgia, (Rhode Island excepted,) the people have uniformly manifested a strong attachment to the Union. This attachment has resulted from a persuasion of its utility and necessity. In short, this is a point so well known, that it is needless to trespass on your patience any longer about it. A recurrence has been had to history. Ancient and modern leagues have been mentioned, to make impressions. Will they admit of any analogy with our situation? The same principles will produce the same effects. Permit me to take a review of those leagues which the honorable gentleman has mentioned; which are, 1st, the Amphictyonic council; 2d, the Achæan league; 3d, the Germanic system; 4th, the Swiss cantons; 5th, the United Netherlands; and 6th, the New England confederacy. Before I develop the principles of these leagues, permit me to speak of what must influence the happiness and duration of leagues. These principally depend on the following circumstances: 1st, the happy construction of the government of the members of the union; 2d, the security from foreign danger. For instance, monarchies united would separate soon; aristocracies would preserve their union longer; but democracies, unless separated by some extraordinary circumstance, would last forever. The causes of half the wars that have thinned the ranks of mankind, and depopulated nations, are caprice, folly, and ambition: these belong to the higher orders of governments, where the passions of one, or of a few individuals, direct the fite of the rest of the community. But it is otherwise with democracies, where there is an equality among the citizens; and a foreign and powerful enemy, especially a monarch, may crush weaker neighbors. Let us see how far these positions are supported by the history of these leagues, and how far they apply to us. The Amphictyonic council consisted of three members — Sparta, Thebes, and Athens. What was the construction of these states? Sparta was a monarchy more analogous to the constitution of England than any I Edition: current; Page: [210] have heard of in modern times. Thebes was a democracy, but on different principles from modern democracies. Representation was not known then. This is the acquirement of modern times. Athens, like Thebes, was generally democratic, but sometimes changed. In these two states, the people transacted their business in person; consequently they could not be of any great extent. There was a perpetual variance between the members of this confederacy, and its ultimate dissolution was attributed to this defect. The weakest were obliged to call for foreign aid, and this precipitated the ruin of this confederacy. The Achæan league had more analogy to ours, and gives me great hopes that the apprehensions of gentlemen with respect to our confederacy are groundless. They were all democratic, and firmly united. What was the effect? The most perfect harmony and friendship subsisted between them, and they were very active in guarding their liberties. The history of that confederacy does not present us with those confusions and internal convulsions which gentlemen ascribe to all governments of a confederate kind. The most respectable historians prove this confederacy to have been exempt from those defects.

[Here Mr. Monroe read several passages in Polybius, tending to elucidate and prove the excellent structure of the Achæan league, and the consequent happy effects of this excellency.]

He then continued: This league was founded on democratical principles, and, from the wisdom of its structure, continued a far greater length of time than any other. Its members, like our states, by their confederation, retained their individual sovereignty, and enjoyed a perfect equality. What destroyed it? Not internal dissensions. They were surrounded by great and powerful nations — the Lacedemonians, Macedonians, and Ætolians. The Ætolians and Lacedemonians making war on them, they solicited the assistance of Macedon, who no sooner granted it than she became their oppressor. To free themselves from the tyranny of the Macedonians, they prayed succor from the Romans, who, after relieving them from their oppressors, soon totally enslaved them.

The Germanic body is a league of independent principalities. It has no analogy to our system. It is very injudiciously organized. Its members are kept together by the Edition: current; Page: [211] fear of danger from one another, and from foreign powers, and by the influence of the emperor.

The Swiss cantons have been instanced, also, as a proof of the natural imbecility of federal governments. Their league has sustained a variety of changes; and, notwithstanding the many causes that tend to disunite them, they still stand firm. We have not the same causes of disunion or internal variance that they have. The individual cantons composing the league are chiefly aristocratic. What an opportunity does this offer to foreign powers to disturb them by bribing and corrupting their aristocrats! It is well known that their services have been frequently purchased by foreign nations. Their difference of religion has been a source of divisions and animosity between them, and tended to disunite them. This tendency has been considerably increased by the interference of foreign nations, the contiguity of their position to those nations rendering such interference easy. They have been kept together by the fear of those nations, and the nature of their association; the leading features of which are a principle of equality between the cantons, and the retention of individual sovereignty. The same reasoning applies nearly to the United Netherlands. The other confederacy which has been mentioned has no kind of analogy to our situation.

From a review of these leagues, we find the causes of the misfortunes of those which have been dissolved, to have been a dissimilarity of structure in the individual members, the facility of foreign interference, and recurrence to foreign aid After this review of those leagues, if we consider our comparative situation, we shall find that nothing can be adduced, from any of them, to warrant a departure from a confederacy to a consolidation, on the principle of inefficacy in the former to secure our happiness. The causes which, with other nations, rendered leagues ineffectual and inadequate to the security and happiness of the people, do not exist here. What is the form of our state governments? They are all similar in their structure — perfectly democratic. The freedom of mankind has found an asylum here which it could find nowhere else. Freedom of conscience is enjoyed here in the fullest degree. Our states are not disturbed by a contrariety of religious opinions, and other causes of quarrels which other nations have. They have no causes of internal variance. Causes of war between the states have been represented Edition: current; Page: [212] in all those terrors which splendid genius and brilliant imagination can so well depict. But, sir, I conceive they are imaginary — mere creatures of fancy. I will admit that there was a contrariety of sentiments — a contest in which I was a witness in some respects — a contest respecting the western unsettled lands. Every state, having a charter for the lands within its colonial limits, had its claims to such lands confirmed by the war. The other states contended that those lands belonged not to a part of the states, but to all; that it was highly reasonable and equitable that all should participate in what had been acquired by the efforts of all. The progress of this dispute gave uneasiness to the true friends of America; but territorial claims may now be said to be adjusted. Have not Virginia, North Carolina, and other states, ceded their claims to Congress? The disputes between Virginia and Maryland are also settled; nor is there an existing controversy between any of the states at present. Thus, sir, this great source of public calamity has been terminated without the adoption of this government.

Have we any danger to fear from the European countries? Permit me to consider our relative situation with regard to them, and to answer what has been suggested on the subject. Our situation is relatively the same to all foreign powers. View the distance between us and them: the wide Atlantic — an ocean three thousand miles across — lies between us. If there be any danger to these states to be apprehended from any of those countries, it must be Great Britain and Spain, whose colonies are contiguous to our country. Has there been any thing on the part of Great Britain, since the peace, that indicated a hostile intention towards us? Was there a complaint of a violation of treaty? She committed the first breach. Virginia instructed her delegation to demand a reparation for the negroes which had been carried away contrary to treaty. Being in Congress, I know the facts. The other states were willing to get some compensation for their losses, as well as Virginia. New York wished to get possession of the western posts situated within her territory. We wished to establish an amicable correspondence with that country, and to adjust all differences. The United States sent an ambassador for this purpose. The answer sent was, that a compliance with the treaty on our part must precede it on theirs. These transactions Edition: current; Page: [213] are well known in every state, and need hardly be mentioned. Certain it is that Great Britain is desirous of peace, and that it is her true interest to be in friendship with us: it is also so with Spain. Another circumstance which has been dwelt upon is, the necessity of the protection of commerce. What does our commerce require? Does it want extension and protection? Will treaties answer these ends? Treaties, sir, will not extend your commerce. Our object is the regulation of commerce, and not treaties. Our treaties with Holland, Prussia, and other powers, are of no consequence. It is not to the advantage of the United States to make any compact with any nation with respect to trade. Our trade is engrossed by a country with which we have no commercial treaty. That country is Great Britain. That monopoly is the result of the want of a judicious regulation on our part. It is as valuable and advantageous to them, on its present footing, nay, more so, than it could be by any treaty. It is the interest of the United States to invite all nations to trade with them; to open their ports to all, and grant no exclusive privilege to any, in preference to others. I apprehend no treaty that could be made can be of any advantage to us. If those nations opened any of their ports to us in the East or West Indies, it would be of advantage to us; but there is no probability of this. France and Holland have been said to be threatening for the payment of the debts due to them. I understand that Holland has added to her favors to us by lending us other sums lately. This is a proof that she has no hostile intent against us, and that she is willing to indulge us. France has made no pressing demand. Our country has received from that kingdom the highest proof of favors which a magnanimous power can show: nor are there any grounds to suspect a diminution of its friendship. Having examined the analogy between the ancient leagues and our confederacy, and shown that we have no danger to apprehend from Europe, I conclude that we are in no danger of immediate disunion, but that we may calmly and dispassionately examine the defects of our government, and apply such remedies as we shall find necessary.

I proceed now to the examination of the Confederation, and to take a comparative view of this Constitution. In examining either, a division into two heads is proper, viz. Edition: current; Page: [214] 1st, the form, and, 2d, the powers, of the government. I consider the existing system defective in both respects. Is the Confederation a band of union sufficiently strong to bind the states together? Is it possessed of sufficient power to enable it to manage the affairs of the Union? Is it well organized, safe, and proper? I confess that, in all these instances, I consider it as defective; I consider it to be void of energy, and badly organized.

What are the powers which the federal government ought to have? I will draw the line between the powers necessary to be given to the federal, and those which ought to be left to the state governments. To the former I would give control over the national affairs; to the latter I would leave the care of local interests. Neither the Confederation, nor this Constitution, answers this discrimination. To make the first a proper federal government, I would add to it one great power — I would give it an absolute control over commerce. To render the system under consideration safe and proper. I would take from it one power only — I mean that of direct taxation. I conceive its other powers are sufficient without this. My objections to this power are, that I conceive it not necessary, impracticable under a democracy, (if exercised,) as tending to anarchy, or the subversion of liberty, and probably the latter. In the first place, it is unnecessary, because exigencies will not require it. The demands and necessities of government are now greater than they will be hereafter, because of the expenses of the war in which we were engaged, which cost us the blood of our best citizens, and which ended so gloriously.

There is no danger of war, as I have already said. Our necessities will therefore in a short time be greatly diminished. What are the resources of the United States? How are requisitions to be complied with? I know the government ought to be so organized as to be competent to discharge its engagements and secure the public happiness. To enable it to do these things, I would give it the power of laying an impost, which is amply sufficient with its other means. The impost, at an early period, was calculated at nearly a million of dollars. If this calculation was well founded, if it was so much at five per centum, what will it not amount to, when the absolute control of commerce will be in the hands of Congress? May we not suppose, when Edition: current; Page: [215] the general government will lay what duties it may think proper, that the amount will be very considerable? There are other resources. The back lands have already been looked upon as a very important resource. When we view the western extensive territory, and contemplate the fertility of the soil, the noble rivers which penetrate it, and the excellent navigation which may be had there, may we not depend on this as a very substantial resource?

In the third place, we have the resource of loans. This is a resource which is necessary and proper, and has been recurred to by all nations. The credit of our other resources will enable us to procure, by loans, any sums we may want. We have also, in the fourth place, requisitions, which are so much despised. These, sir, have been often productive. As the demands on the states will be but for trivial sums, after Congress shall be possessed of its other great resources, is it to be presumed that its application will be despised? If the government be well administered, or possess any part of the confidence of the people, is it presumed that requisitions, for trivial sums will be refused? I conclude, sir, that they will be readily complied with; and that they, with the imposts, back lands, and loans, will be abundantly sufficient for all the exigencies of the Union. In the next place, it appears to me that the exercise of the power of direct taxation is impracticable in this country, under a democracy.

Consider the territory lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi. Its extent far exceeds that of the German empire. It is larger than any territory that ever was under any one free government. It is too extensive to be governed but by a despotic monarchy. Taxes cannot be laid justly and equally in such a territory. What are the objects of direct taxation? Will the taxes be laid on land? One gentleman has said that the United States would select out a particular object, or objects, and leave the rest to the states. Suppose land to be the object selected by Congress: examine its consequences. The landholder alone would suffer by such a selection. A very considerable part of the community would escape. Those who pursue commerce and arts would escape. It could not possibly be estimated equally. Will the taxes be laid on polls only? Would not the landholder escape in that case? How, then, Edition: current; Page: [216] will it be laid? On all property? Consider the consequences. Is it possible to make a law that shall operate alike in all the states? Is it possible that there should be sufficient intelligence for the men of Georgia to know the situation of the men of New Hampshire? Is there a precise similitude of situation in each state? Compare the situation of the citizens in different states.

Are there not a thousand circumstances showing clearly that there can be no law that can be uniform in its operation throughout the United States? Another gentleman said that information would be had from the state laws. Is not this reversing the principles of good policy? Can this substitution of one body to thirteen assemblies, in a matter that requires the most minute and extensive local information, be politic or just? They cannot know what taxes can be least oppressive to the people. The tax that may be convenient in one state may be oppressive in another. If they vary the objects of taxation in different states, the operation must be unequal and unjust. If Congress should fix the tax on some mischievous objects, what will be the tendency? It is to be presumed that all governments will, some time or other, exercise their powers, or else why should they possess them? Inquire into the badness of this government. What is the extent of the power of laying and collecting direct taxes? Does it not give to the United States all the resources of the individual states? Does it not give an absolute control over the resources of all the states? If you give the resources of the several states to the general government, in what situation are the states left? I therefore think the general government will preponderate.

Besides its possession of all the resources of the country, there are other circumstances that will enable it to triumph in the conflict with the states. Gentlemen of influence and character, men of distinguished talents, of eminent virtue, and great endowments, will compose the general government. In what a situation will the different states be, when all the talents and abilities of the country will be against them?

Another circumstance will operate in its favor, in case of a contest. The oath that is to be taken to support it will aid it most powerfully. The influence which the sanction Edition: current; Page: [217] of oaths has on men is irresistible. The religious authority of divine revelation will be quoted to prove the propriety of adhering to it, and will have great influence in disposing men’s minds to maintain it.

It will also be strongly supported by the last clause in the 8th section of the 1st article, which vests it with the power of making all laws necessary to carry its powers into effect. The correspondent judicial powers will be an additional aid. There is yet another circumstance which will throw the balance in the scale of the general government. A disposition in its favor has shown itself in all parts of the continent, and will certainly become more and more predominant. Is it not to be presumed that, if a contest between the state legislatures and the general government should arise, the latter would preponderate? The Confederation has been deservedly reprobated for its inadequacy to promote the public welfare. But this change is, in my opinion, very dangerous. It contemplates objects with which a federal government ought never to interfere. The concurrent interfering power of laying taxes on the people will occasion a perpetual conflict between the general and individual governments; which, for the reasons I have already mentioned, must terminate to the disadvantage, if not in the annihilation, of the latter. Can it be presumed that the people of America can patiently bear such a double oppression? Is it not to be presumed that they will endeavor to get rid of one of the oppressors? I fear, sir, that it will ultimately end in the establishment of a monarchical government. The people, in order to be delivered from one species of tyranny, may submit to another. I am strongly impressed with the necessity of having a firm national government; but I am decidedly against giving it the power of direct taxation, because I think it endangers our liberties. My attachment to the Union and an energetic government is such, that I would consent to give the general government every power contained in that plan, except that of taxation.

As it will operate on all states and individuals, powers given it generally should be qualified. It may be attributed to the prejudice of my education, but I am a decided and warm friend to a bill of rights — the polar star and great support of American liberty; and I am clearly of opinion Edition: current; Page: [218] that the general powers conceded by that plan, such as the impost, &c., should be guarded and checked by a bill of rights.

Permit me to examine the reasoning that admits that all powers not given up are reserved. Apply this. If you give to the United States the power of direct taxation, in making all laws necessary to give it operation, (which is a power given by the last clause in the 8th section of the 1st article,) suppose they should be of opinion that the right of the trial by jury was not one of the requisites to carry it into effect; there is no check in this Constitution to prevent the formal abolition of it. There is a general power given to them to make all laws that will enable them to carry their powers into effect. There are no limits pointed out. They are not restrained or controlled from making any law, however oppressive in its operation, which they may think necessary to carry their powers into effect. By this general, unqualified power, they may infringe not only on the trial by jury, but the liberty of the press, and every right that is not expressly secured or excepted from that general power. I conceive that such general powers are very dangerous. Our great unalienable rights ought to be secured from being destroyed by such unlimited powers, either by a bill of rights, or by an express provision in the body of the Constitution. It is immaterial in which of these two modes rights are secured.

I fear I have tired the patience of the committee; I beg, however, the indulgence of making a few more observations. There is a distinction between this government and ancient and modern ones. The division of power in ancient governments, or in any government at present in the world, was founded on different principles from those of this government. What was the object of the distribution of power in Rome? It will not be controverted, that there was a composition or mixture of aristocracy, democracy, and monarchy, each of which had a repellent quality which enabled it to preserve itself from being destroyed by the other two; so that the balance was continually maintained. This is the case in the English government, which has the most similitude to our own. There they have distinct orders in the government, which possess real, efficient repellent qualities. Let us illustrate it. If the commons prevail, may they not vote the king useless? If the king prevails, will not the commons Edition: current; Page: [219] lose their liberties? Without the interposition of a check, without a balance, the one would destroy the other. The lords, the third branch, keep up this balance. The wisdom of the English constitution has given a share of legislation to each of the three branches, which enables it effectually to defend itself, and which preserves the liberty of the people of that country.

What is the object of the division of power in America? Why is the government divided into different branches? For a more faithful and regular administration. Where is there a check? We have more to apprehend from the union of these branches than from the subversion of any; and this union will destroy the rights of the people. There is nothing to prevent this coalition; but the contest which will probably subsist between the general government and the individual governments will tend to produce it. There is a division of sovereignty between the national and state governments. How far, then, will they coalesce together? Is it not to be supposed that there will be a conflict between them? If so, will not the members of the former combine together? Where, then, will be the check to prevent encroachments on the rights of the people? There is not a third essentially distinct branch, to preserve a just equilibrium, or to prevent such encroachments. In developing this plan of government, we ought to attend to the necessity of having checks. I can see no real checks in it.

Let us first inquire into the probability of harmony between the general and individual governments; and, in the next place, into the responsibility of the general government, either to the people at large or to the state legislatures. As to the harmony between the governments, communion of powers, legislative and judicial, forbids it.

I have never yet heard or read, in the history of mankind, of a concurrent exercise of power by two parties, without producing a struggle between them. Consult the human heart. Does it not prove that, where two parties, or bodies, seek the same object, there must be a struggle? Now, sir, as to the responsibility. Let us begin with the House of Representatives, which is the most democratic part. The representatives are elected by the people; but what is the responsibility? At the expiration of the time for which they are elected, the people may discontinue them: but if Edition: current; Page: [220] they commit high crimes, how are they to be punished? I apprehend the general government cannot punish them, because it would be a subversion of the rights of the people. The state legislatures cannot punish them, because they have no control over them in any one instance. In the next, consider the responsibility of the senators. To whom are they amenable? I apprehend, to none. They are punishable neither by the general government nor by the state legislatures. The latter may call them to an account, but they have no power to punish them.

Let us now consider the reponsibility of the President. He is elected for four years, and not excluded from reëlection. Suppose he violates the laws and Constitution, or commits high crimes. By whom is he to be tried? — By his own council — by those who advise him to commit such violations and crimes? This subverts the principles of justice, as it secures him from punishment. He commands the army of the United States till he is condemned. Will not this be an inducement to foreign nations to use their arts and intrigues to corrupt his counsellors? If he and his counsellors can escape punishment with so much facility, what a delightful prospect must it be for a foreign nation, which may be desirous of gaining territorial or commercial advantages over us, to practise on them! The certainty of success would be equal to the impunity. How is he elected? By electors appointed according to the directions of the state legislatures. Does the plan of government contemplate any other mode? A combination between the electors might easily happen, which would fix on a man in every respect improper. Contemplate this in all its consequences. Is it not the object of foreign courts to have such a man possessed of this power as would be inclined to promote their interests? What an advantageous prospect for France and Great Britain to secure the favor and attachment of the President, by exerting their power and influence to continue him in the office! Foreign nations may, by their intrigues, have great influence, in each state, in the election of the President; and I have no doubt but their efforts will be tried to the utmost. Will not the influence of the President himself have great weight in his reelection? The variety of the offices at his disposal will acquire him the favor and attachment of those who aspire after them, and of the officers and their friends. He will have some Edition: current; Page: [221] connection with the members of the different branches of government. They will esteem him, because they will be acquainted with him, live in the same town with him, and often dine with him. This familiar and frequent intercourse will secure him great influence. I presume that when once he is elected, he may be elected forever. Besides his influence in the town where he will reside, he will have very considerable weight in the different states. Those who are acquainted with the human mind, in all its operations, can clearly foresee this. Powerful men in different states will form a friendship with him. For these reasons, I conceive, the same President may always be continued, and be in fact elected by Congress, instead of independent and intelligent electors. It is a misfortune, more than once experienced, that the representatives of the states do not pursue the particular interest of their own state. When we take a more accurate view of the principles of the Senate, we shall have grounds to fear that the interest of our state may be totally neglected; nay, that our legislative influence will be as if we were actually expelled or banished out of Congress. The senators are amenable to, and appointed by, the states. They have a negative on all laws, may originate any except money bills, and direct the affairs of the executive. Seven states are a majority, and can in most cases bind the rest; from which reason, the interest of certain states alone will be consulted. Although the House of Representatives is calculated on national principles, and should they attend (contrary to my expectations) to the general interests of the Union, yet the dangerous exclusive powers given to the Senate will, in my opinion, counterbalance their exertions. Consider the connection of the Senate with the executive. Has it not an authority over all the acts of the executive? What are the acts which the President can do without them? What number is requisite to make treaties? A very small number. Two thirds of those who may happen to be present, may, with the President, make treaties that shall sacrifice the dearest interests of the Southern States — which may relinquish part of our territories — which may dismember the United States. There is no check to prevent this; there is no responsibility, or power to punish it. He is to nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, Edition: current; Page: [222] judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States. The concurrence of a bare majority of those who may be present will enable him to do these important acts. It does not require the consent of two thirds even of those who may be present. Thus I conceive the government is put entirely into the hands of seven states; indeed, into the hands of two thirds of a majority. The executive branch is under their protection, and yet they are freed from a direct charge of combination.

Upon reviewing this government, I must say, under my present impression, I think it a dangerous government, and calculated to secure neither the interests nor the rights of our countrymen. Under such a one, I shall be averse to embark the best hopes and prospects of a free people. We have struggled long to bring about this revolution, by which we enjoy our present freedom and security. Why, then, this haste — this wild precipitation?

I have fatigued the committee; but, as I have not yet said all that I wish upon the subject, I trust I shall be indulged another day.

Mr. JOHN MARSHALL. Mr. Chairman, I conceive that the object of the discussion now before us is, whether democracy or despotism be most eligible. I am sure that those who framed the system submitted to our investigation, and those who now support it, intend the establishment and security of the former. The supporters of the Constitution claim the title of being firm friends of the liberty and the rights of mankind. They say that they consider it as the best means of protecting liberty. We, sir, idolize democracy. Those who oppose it have bestowed eulogiums on monarchy. We prefer this system to any monarchy, because we are convinced that it has a greater tendency to secure our liberty and promote our happiness. We admire it, because we think it a well-regulated democracy. It is recommended to the good people of this country: they are, through us, to declare whether it be such a plan of government as will establish and secure their freedom.

Permit me to attend to what the honorable gentleman (Mr. Henry) has said. He has expatiated on the necessity of a due attention to certain maxims — to certain fundamental principles, from which a free people ought never to depart. I concur with him in the propriety of the observance Edition: current; Page: [223] of such maxims. They are necessary in any government, but more essential to a democracy than to any other. What are the favorite maxims of democracy? A strict observance of justice and public faith, and a steady adherence to virtue. These, sir, are the principles of a good government. No mischief, no misfortune, ought to deter us from a strict observance of justice and public faith. Would to Heaven that these principles had been observed under the present government! Had this been the case, the friends of liberty would not be so willing now to part with it. Can we boast that our government is founded on these maxims? Can we pretend to the enjoyment of political freedom or security, when we are told that a man has been, by an act of Assembly, struck out of existence without a trial by jury, without examination, without being confronted with his accusers and witnesses, without the benefits of the law of the land? Where is our safety, when we are told that this act was justifiable because the person was not a Socrates? What has become of the worthy member’s maxims? Is this one of them? Shall it be a maxim that a man shall be deprived of his life without the benefit of law? Shall such a deprivation of life be justified by answering, that the man’s life was not taken secundum artem because he was a bad man? Shall it be a maxim that government ought not to be empowered to protect virtue?

The honorable member, after attempting to vindicate that tyrannical legislative act to which I have been alluding, proceeded to take a view of the dangers to which this country is exposed. He told us that the principal danger arose from a government which, if adopted, would give away the Mississippi. I intended to proceed regularly, by attending to the clause under debate; but I must reply to some observations which were dwelt upon to make impressions on our minds unfavorable to the plan upon the table. Have we no navigation in, or do we derive no benefit from, the Mississippi? How shall we retain it? By retaining that weak government which has hitherto kept it from us? Is it thus that we shall secure that navigation? Give the government the power of retaining it, and then we may hope to derive actual advantages from it. Till we do this, we cannot expect that a government which hitherto has not been able to protect it, will have the power to do it hereafter. Have we Edition: current; Page: [224] attended too long to consider whether this government would be able to protect us? Shall we wait for further proofs of its inefficacy? If, on mature consideration, the Constitution will be found to be perfectly right on the subject of treaties, and containing no danger of losing that navigation, will he still object? Will he object because eight states are unwilling to part with it? This is no good ground of objection.

He then stated the necessity and probability of obtaining amendments. This we ought to postpone until we come to that clause, and make up our minds whether there be any thing unsafe in this system. He conceived it impossible to obtain amendments after adopting it. If he was right, does not his own argument prove that, in his own conception, previous amendments cannot be had? for, sir, if subsequent amendments cannot be obtained, shall we get amendments before we ratify? The reasons against the latter do not apply against the former. There are in this state, and in every state in the Union, many who are decided enemies of the Union. Reflect on the probable conduct of such men. What will they do? They will bring amendments which are local in their nature, and which they know will not be accepted. What security have we that other states will not do the same? We are told that many in the states were violently opposed to it. They are more mindful of local interests. They will never propose such amendments as they think would be obtained. Disunion will be their object. This will be attained by the proposal of unreasonable amendments. This, sir, though a strong cause, is not the only one that will militate against previous amendments. Look at the comparative temper of this country now, and when the late federal Convention met. We had no idea then of any particular system. The formation of the most perfect plan was our object and wish. It was imagined that the states would accede to, and be pleased with, the proposition that would be made them. Consider the violence of opinions, the prejudices and animosities which have been since imbibed. Will not these operate greatly against mutual concessions, or a friendly concurrence? This will, however, be taken up more properly at another time. He says, we wish to have a strong, energetic, powerful government. We contend for a well-regulated democracy. He insinuates that the power of the government has been enlarged by the Convention, and Edition: current; Page: [225] that we may apprehend it will be enlarged by others The Convention did not, in fact, assume any power.

They have proposed to our consideration a scheme of government which they thought advisable. We are not bound to adopt it, if we disapprove of it. Had not every individual in this community a right to tender that scheme which he thought most conducive to the welfare of his country? Have not several gentlemen already demonstrated that the Convention did not exceed their powers? But the Congress have the power of making bad laws, it seems. The Senate, with the President, he informs us, may make a treaty which shall be disadvantageous to us; and that, if they be not good men, it will not be a good Constitution. I shall ask the worthy member only, if the people at large, and they alone, ought to make laws and treaties? Has any man this in contemplation? You cannot exercise the powers of government personally yourselves. You must trust to agents. If so, will you dispute giving them the power of acting for you, from an existing possibility that they may abuse it? As long as it is impossible for you to transact your business in person, if you repose no confidence in delegates, because there is a possibility of their abusing it, you can have no government; for the power of doing good is inseparable from that of doing some evil.

We may derive from Holland lessons very beneficial to ourselves. Happy that country which can avail itself of the misfortunes of others — which can gain knowledge from that source without fatal experience! What has produced the late disturbances in that country? The want of such a government as is on your table, and having, in some measure, such a one as you are about to part with. The want of proper powers in the government, the consequent deranged and relaxed administration, the violence of contending parties, and inviting foreign powers to interpose in their disputes, have subjected them to all the mischiefs which have interrupted their harmony. I cannot express my astonishment at his high-colored eulogium on such a government. Can any thing be more dissimilar than the relation between the British government and the colonies, and the relation between Congress and the states? We were not represented in Parliament. Here we are represented. Arguments Edition: current; Page: [226] which prove the impropriety of being taxed by Britain, do not hold against the exercise of taxation by Congress.

Let me pay attention to the observation of the gentleman who was last up, that the power of taxation ought not to be given to Congress. This subject requires the undivided attention of this house. This power I think essentially necessary; for without it there will be no efficiency in the government. We have had a sufficient demonstration of the vanity of depending on requisitions. How, then, can the general government exist without this power? The possibility of its being abused is urged as an argument against its expediency. To very little purpose did Virginia discover the defects in the old system; to little purpose, indeed, did she propose improvements; and to no purpose is this plan constructed for the promotion of our happiness, if we refuse it now, because it is possible that it may be abused. The Confederation has nominal powers, but no means to carry them into effect. If a system of government were devised by more than human intelligence, it would not be effectual if the means were not adequate to the power. All delegated powers are liable to be abused. Arguments drawn from this source go in direct opposition to the government, and in recommendation of anarchy. The friends of the Constitution are as tenacious of liberty as its enemies. They wish to give no power that will endanger it. They wish to give the government powers to secure and protect it. Our inquiry here must be, whether the power of taxation be necessary to perform the objects of the Constitution, and whether it be safe, and as well guarded as human wisdom can do it. What are the objects of the national government? To protect the United States, and to promote the general welfare. Protection, in time of war, is one of its principal objects. Until mankind shall cease to have ambition and avarice, wars will arise.

The prosperity and happiness of the people depend on the performance of these great and important duties of the general government. Can these duties be performed by one state? Can one state protect us, and promote our happiness? The honorable gentleman who has gone before me (Governor Randolph) has shown that Virginia cannot do these things. How, then, can they be done? By the national government only. Shall we refuse to give it power to do them? Edition: current; Page: [227] We are answered, that the powers may be abused; that, though the Congress may promote our happiness, yet they may prostitute their powers to destroy our liberties. This goes to the destruction of all confidence in agents. Would you believe that men who had merited your highest confidence would deceive you? Would you trust them again after one deception? Why then hesitate to trust the general government? The object of our inquiry is, Is the power necessary, and is it guarded? There must be men and money to protect us. How are armies to be raised? Must we not have money for that purpose? But the honorable gentleman says that we need not be afraid of war. Look at history, which has been so often quoted. Look at the great volume of human nature. They will foretell you that a defenceless country cannot be secure. The nature of man forbids us to conclude that we are in no danger from war. The passions of men stimulate them to avail themselves of the weakness of others. The powers of Europe are jealous of us. It is our interest to watch their conduct, and guard against them. They must be pleased with our disunion. If we invite them by our weakness to attack us, will they not do it? If we add debility to our present situation, a partition of America may take place.

It is, then, necessary to give the government that power, in time of peace, which the necessity of war will render indispensable, or else we shall be attacked unprepared. The experience of the world, a knowledge of human nature, and our own particular experience, will confirm this truth. When danger shall come upon us, may we not do what we were on the point of doing once already — that is, appoint a dictator? Were those who are now friends to this Constitution less active in the defence of liberty, on that trying occasion, than those who oppose it? When foreign dangers come, may not the fear of immediate destruction, by foreign enemies, impel us to take a most dangerous step? Where, then, will be our safety? We may now regulate and frame a plan that will enable us to repel attacks, and render a recurrence to dangerous expedients unnecessary. If we be prepared to defend ourselves, there will be little inducement to attack us. But if we defer giving the necessary power to the general government till the moment of danger arrives, we shall give it then, and with an unsparing hand. America, Edition: current; Page: [228] like other nations, may be exposed to war. The propriety of giving this power will be proved by the history of the world, and particularly of modern republics. I defy you to produce a single instance where requisitions on several individual states, composing a confederacy, have been honestly complied with. Did gentlemen expect to see such punctuality complied with in America? If they did, our own experience shows the contrary.

We are told that the Confederation carried us through the war. Had not the enthusiasm of liberty inspired us with unanimity, that system would never have carried us through it. It would have been much sooner terminated had that government been possessed of due energy. The inability of Congress, and the failure of states to comply with the constitutional requisitions, rendered our resistance less efficient than it might have been. The weakness of that government caused troops to be against us which ought to have been on our side, and prevented all resources of the community from being called at once into action. The extreme readiness of the people to make their utmost exertions to ward off solely the pressing danger, supplied the place of requisitions. When they came solely to be depended on, their inutility was fully discovered. A bare sense of duty, or a regard to propriety, is too feeble to induce men to comply with obligations. We deceive ourselves if we expect any efficacy from these. If requisitions will not avail, the government must have the sinews of war some other way. Requisitions cannot be effectual. They will be productive of delay, and will ultimately be inefficient. By direct taxation, the necessities of the government will be supplied in a peaceable manner, without irritating the minds of the people. But requisitions cannot be rendered efficient without a civil war — without great expense of money, and the blood of our citizens. Are there any other means? Yes, that Congress shall apportion the respective quotas previously, and if not complied with by the states, that then this dreaded power shall be exercised. The operation of this has been described by the gentleman who opened the debate. He cannot be answered. This great objection to that system remains unanswered. Is there no other argument which ought to have weight with us on this subject? Delay is a strong and pointed objection to it.

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We are told by the gentleman who spoke last, that direct taxation is unnecessary, because we are not involved in war. This admits the propriety of recurring to direct taxation if we were engaged in war. It has not been proved that we have no dangers to apprehend on this point. What will be the consequence of the system proposed by the worthy gentleman? Suppose the states should refuse!

The worthy gentleman who is so pointedly opposed to the Constitution, proposes remonstrances. Is it a time for Congress to remonstrate, or compel a compliance with requisitions, when the whole wisdom of the Union, and the power of Congress, are opposed to a foreign enemy? Another alternative is, that, if the states shall appropriate certain funds for the use of Congress, Congress shall not lay direct taxes. Suppose the funds appropriated by the states for the use of Congress should be inadequate; it will not be determined whether they be insufficient till after the time at which the quota ought to have been paid; and then, after so long a delay, the means of procuring money, which ought to have been employed in the first instance, must be recurred to. May they not be amused by such ineffectual and temporizing alternatives from year to year, until America shall be enslaved? The failure in one state will authorize a failure in another. The calculation in some states that others will fail, will produce general failures. This will also be attended with all the expenses which we are anxious to avoid. What are the advantages to induce us to embrace this system? If they mean that requisitions should be complied with, it will be the same as if Congress had the power of direct taxation. The same amount will be paid by the people.

It is objected, that Congress will not know how to lay taxes so as to be easy and convenient for the people at large. Let us pay strict attention to this objection. If it appears to be totally without foundation, the necessity of levying direct taxes will obviate what the gentleman says; nor will there be any color for refusing to grant the power.

The objects of direct taxes are well understood: they are but few: what are they? Lands, slaves, stock of all kinds, and a few other articles of domestic property. Can you believe that ten men selected from all parts of the state, chosen because they know the situation of the people, will Edition: current; Page: [230] be unable to determine so as to make the tax equal on, and convenient for, the people at large? Does any man believe that they would lay the tax without the aid of other information besides their own knowledge, when they know that the very object for which they are elected is to lay the taxes in a judicious and convenient manner? If they wish to retain the affections of the people at large, will they not inform themselves of every circumstance that can throw light on the subject? Have they but one source of information? Besides their own experience — their knowledge of what will suit their constituents — they will have the benefit of the knowledge and experience of the state legislature. They will see in what manner the legislature of Virginia collects its taxes. Will they be unable to follow their example? The gentlemen who shall be delegated to Congress will have every source of information that the legislatures of the states can have, and can lay the taxes as equally on the people, and with as little oppression, as they can. If, then, it be admitted that they can understand how to lay them equally and conveniently, are we to admit that they will not do it, but that, in violation of every principle that ought to govern men, they will lay them so as to oppress us? What benefit will they have by it? Will it be promotive of their reëlection? Will it be by wantonly imposing hardships and difficulties on the people at large, that they will promote their own interest, and secure their reëlection? To me it appears incontrovertible that they will settle them in such a manner as to be easy for the people. Is the system so organized as to make taxation dangerous? I shall not go to the various checks of the government, but examine whether the immediate representation of the people be well constructed. I conceive its organization to be sufficiently satisfactory to the warmest friend of freedom. No tax can be laid without the consent of the House of Representatives. If there be no impropriety in the mode of electing the representatives, can any danger be apprehended? They are elected by those who can elect representatives in the state legislature. How can the votes of the electors be influenced? By nothing but the character and conduct of the man they vote for. What object can influence them when about choosing him? They have nothing to direct them in the choice but their own good. Have you not as pointed and strong a security as you can possibly have? Edition: current; Page: [231] It is a mode that secures an impossibility of being corrupted. If they are to be chosen for their wisdom, virtue, and integrity, what inducement have they to infringe on our freedom: We are told that they may abuse their power. Are there strong motives to prompt them to abuse it? Will not such abuse militate against their own interest? Will not they and their friends feel the effects of iniquitous measures: Does the representative remain in office for life? Does he transmit his title of representative to his son? Is he secured from the burden imposed on the community? To procure their reëlection, it will be necessary for them to confer with the people at large, and convince them that the taxes laid are for their good. If I am able to judge on the subject, the power of taxation now before us is wisely conceded, and the representatives are wisely elected.

The honorable gentleman said that a government should ever depend on the affections of the people. It must be so. It is the best support it can have. This government merits the confidence of the people, and, I make no doubt, will have it. Then he informed us again of the disposition of Spain with respect to the Mississippi, and the conduct of the government with regard to it. To the debility of the Confederation alone may justly be imputed every cause of complaint on this subject. Whenever gentlemen will bring forward their objections, I trust we can prove that no danger to the navigation of that river can arise from the adoption of this Constitution. I beg those gentlemen who may be affected by it, to suspend their judgment till they hear it discussed. Will, says he, the adoption of this Constitution pay our debts? It will compel the states to pay their quotas. Without this, Virginia will be unable to pay. Unless all the states pay, she cannot. Though the states will not coin money, (as we are told,) yet this government will bring forth and proportion all the strength of the Union. That economy and industry are essential to our happiness, will be denied by no man. But the present government will not add to our industry. It takes away the incitements to industry, by rendering property insecure and unprotected. It is the paper on your table that will promote and encourage industry. New Hampshire and Rhode Island have rejected it, he tells us. New Hampshire, if my information be right, will certainly adopt it. The report spread in this country, of Edition: current; Page: [232] which I have heard, is, that the representatives of that state having, on meeting, found they were instructed to vote against it, returned to their constituents without determining the question, to convince them of their being mistaken, and of the propriety of adopting it.

The extent of the country is urged as another objection, as being too great for a republican government. This objection has been handed from author to author, and has been certainly misunderstood and misapplied. To what does it owe its source? To observations and criticisms on governments, where representation did not exist. As to the legislative power, was it ever supposed inadequate to any extent? Extent of country may render it difficult to execute the laws, but not to legislate. Extent of country does not extend the power. What will be sufficiently energetic and operative in a small territory, will be feeble when extended over a wide-extended country. The gentleman tells us there are no checks in this plan. What has become of his enthusiastic eulogium on the American spirit? We should find a check and control, when oppressed, from that source. In this country, there is no exclusive personal stock of interest. The interest of the community is blended and inseparably connected with that of the individual. When he promotes his own, he promotes that of the community. When we consult the common good, we consult our own. When he desires such checks as these, he will find them abundantly here. They are the best checks. What has become of his eulogium on the Virginia Constitution? Do the checks in this plan appear less excellent than those of the Constitution of Virginia? If the checks in the Constitution be compared to the checks in the Virginia Constitution, he will find the best security in the former.

The temple of liberty was complete, said he, when the people of England said to their king, that he was their servant. What are we to learn from this? Shall we embrace such a system as that? Is not liberty secure with us, where the people hold all powers in their own hands, and delegate them cautiously, for short periods, to their servants, who are accountable for the smallest mal-administration? Where is the nation that can boast greater security than we do? We want only a system like the paper before you, to strengthen and perpetuate this security.

The honorable gentleman has asked if there be any safety Edition: current; Page: [233] or freedom, when we give away the sword and the purse. Shall the people at large hold the sword and the purse without the interposition of their representatives? Can the whole aggregate community act personally? I apprehend that every gentleman will see the impossibility of this. Must they, then, not trust them to others? To whom are they to trust them but to their representatives, who are accountable for their conduct? He represents secrecy as unnecessary, and produces the British government as a proof of its inutility. Is there no secrecy there? When deliberating on the propriety of declaring war, or on military arrangements, do they deliberate in the open fields? No, sir. The British government affords secrecy when necessary, and so ought every government. In this plan, secrecy is only used when it would be fatal and pernicious to publish the schemes of government. We are threatened with the loss of our liberties by the possible abuse of power, notwithstanding the maxim, that those who give may take away. It is the people that give power, and can take it back. What shall restrain them? They are the masters who give it, and of whom their servants hold it.

He then argues against the system, because it does not resemble the British government in this — that the same power that declares war has not the means of carrying it on. Are the people of England more secure, if the Commons have no voice in declaring war? or are we less secure by having the Senate joined with the President? It is an absurdity, says the worthy member, that the same man should obey two masters — that the same collector should gather taxes for the general government and the state legislature. Are they not both the servants of the people? Are not Congress and the state legislatures the agents of the people, and are they not to consult the good of the people? May not this be effected by giving the same officer the collection of both taxes? He tells you that it is an absurdity to adopt before you amend. Is the object of your adoption to mend solely? The objects of your adoption are union, safety against foreign enemies, and protection against faction — against what has been the destruction of all republics. These impel you to its adoption. If you adopt it, what shall restrain you from amending it, if, in trying it, amendments shall be found necessary? The government is not Edition: current; Page: [234] supported by force, but depending on our free will. When experience shall show us any inconveniences, we can then correct it. But until we have experience on the subject, amendments, as well as the Constitution itself, are to try. Let us try it, and keep our hands free to change it when necessary. If it be necessary to change government, let us change that government which has been found to be defective. The difficulty we find in amending the Confederation will not be found in amending this Constitution. Any amendments, in the system before you, will not go to a radical change; a plain way is pointed out for the purpose. All will be interested to change it, and therefore all exert themselves in getting the change. There is such a diversity of sentiment in human minds, that it is impossible we shall ever concur in one system till we try it. The power given to the general government over the time, place, and manner of election, is also strongly objected to. When we come to that clause, we can prove it is highly necessary, and not dangerous.

The worthy member has concluded his observations by many eulogiums on the British constitution. It matters not to us whether it be a wise one or not. I think that, for America at least, the government on your table is very much superior to it. I ask you if your House of Representatives would be better than it is, if a hundredth part of the people were to elect a majority of them. If your senators were for life, would they be more agreeable to you? If your President were not accountable to you for his conduct, — if it were a constitutional maxim, that he could do no wrong, — would you be safer than you are now? If you can answer, Yes, to these questions, then adopt the British constitution. If not, then, good as that government may be, this is better. The worthy gentleman who was last up, said the confederacies of ancient and modern times were not similar to ours, and that consequently reasons which applied against them could not be urged against it. Do they not hold out one lesson very useful to us? However unlike in other respects, they resemble it in its total inefficacy. They warn us to shun their calamities, and place in our government those necessary powers, the want of which destroyed them. I hope we shall avail ourselves of their misfortunes, without experiencing them. There was something Edition: current; Page: [235] peculiar in one observation he made. He said that those who governed the cantons of Switzerland were purchased by foreign powers, which was the cause of their uneasiness and trouble.

How does this apply to us? If we adopt such a government as theirs, will it not be subject to the same inconvenience? Will not the same cause produce the same effect? What shall protect us from it? What is our security? He then proceeded to say, the causes of war are removed from us; that we are separated by the sea from the powers of Europe, and need not be alarmed. Sir, the sea makes them neighbors to us. Though an immense ocean divides us, we may speedily see them with us. What dangers may we not apprehend to our commerce! Does not our naval weakness invite an attack on our commerce? May not the Algerines seize our vessels? Cannot they, and every other predatory or maritime nation, pillage our ships and destroy our commerce, without subjecting themselves to any inconvenience? He would, he said, give the general government all necessary powers. If any thing be necessary, it must be so to call forth the strength of the Union when we may be attacked, or when the general purposes of America require it. The worthy gentleman then proceeded to show, that our present exigencies are greater than they will ever be again.

Who can penetrate into futurity? How can any man pretend to say that our future exigencies will be less than our present? The exigencies of nations have been generally commensurate to their resources. It would be the utmost impolicy to trust to a mere possibility of not being attacked, or obliged to exert the strength of the community. He then spoke of a selection of particular objects by Congress, which he says must necessarily be oppressive; that Congress, for instance, might select taxes, and that all but landholders would escape. Cannot Congress regulate the taxes so as to be equal on all parts of the community? Where is the absurdity of having thirteen revenues? Will they clash with, or injure, each other? If not, why cannot Congress make thirteen distinct laws, and impose the taxes on the general objects of taxation in each state, so as that all persons of the society shall pay equally, as they ought?

He then told you that your Continental government will Edition: current; Page: [236] call forth the virtue and talents of America. This being the case, will they encroach on the power of the state governments? Will our most virtuous and able citizens wantonly attempt to destroy the liberty of the people? Will the most virtuous act the most wickedly? I differ in opinion from the worthy gentleman. I think the virtue and talents of the members of the general government will tend to the security, instead of the destruction, of our liberty. I think that the power of direct taxation is essential to the existence of the general government, and that it is safe to grant it. If this power be not necessary, and as safe from abuse as any delegated power can possibly be, then I say that the plan before you is unnecessary; for it imports not what system we have, unless it have the power of protecting us in time of peace and war.

Mr. HARRISON then addressed the chair, but spoke so low that he could not be distinctly heard. He observed, that the accusation of the General Assembly, with respect to Josiah Phillips, was very unjust; that he was a man who, by the laws of nations, was entitled to no privilege of trial, &c.; that the Assembly had uniformly been lenient and moderate in their measures; and that, as the debates of this Convention would probably be published, he thought it very unwarrantable to utter expressions here which might induce the world to believe that the Assembly of Virginia had committed murder. He added some observations on the plan of government; that it certainly would operate an infringement of the rights and liberties of the people; that he was amazed that gentlemen should attempt to misrepresent facts to persuade the Convention to adopt such a system; and that he trusted they would not ratify it as it then stood.

Mr. GEORGE NICHOLAS, in reply to Mr. Harrison, observed, that the turpitude of a man’s character was not a sufficient reason to deprive him of his life without a trial; that such a doctrine as that was a subversion of every shadow of freedom; that a fair trial was necessary to determine whether accusations against men’s characters were well-founded or not; and that no person would be safe, were it once adopted as a maxim, that a man might be condemned without a trial. Mr. Nicholas then proceeded: Although we have sat eight days, so little has been done, that we have hardly begun to discuss the question regularly. The rule Edition: current; Page: [237] of the house to proceed clause by clause has been violated. Instead of doing this, gentlemen alarm us by declamations without reason or argument — by bold assertions that we are going to sacrifice our liberties. It is a fact known to many members within my hearing, that several members have tried their interest without doors to induce others to oppose this system. Every local interest that could affect their minds has been operated upon.

Can it be supposed that gentlemen elected, for their ability and integrity, to represent the people of Virginia in this Convention, to determine on this important question, whether or not we shall be connected with the other states in the Union — can it be thought, I say, that gentlemen in a situation like this will be influenced by motives like these? An answer which has been given is, that, if this Constitution be adopted, the western countries will be lost. It is better that a few countries should be lost, than all America. But, sir, no such consequence can follow from its adoption. They will be much more secure than they are at present. This Constitution, sir, will secure the equal liberty and happiness of all. It will do immortal honor to the gentlemen who formed it. I shall show the inconsistency of the gentleman who entertained us so long, (Mr. Henry.) He insisted that subsequent amendments would go to a dissolution of the Union; that Massachusetts was opposed to it in its present state. Massachusetts has absolutely ratified it, and has gone further, and said that such and such amendments shall be proposed by their representatives.

But such was the attachment of that respectable state to the Union, that, even at that early period, she ratified it unconditionally, and depended on the probability of obtaining amendments hereafter. Can this be a dissolution of the Union? Does this indicate an aversion to the Union on the part of that state? or can an imitation of her conduct injure us? He tells us that our present government is strong. How can that government be strong which depends on humble supplications for its support? Does a government which is dependent for its existence on others, and which is unable to afford protection to the people, deserve to be continued? But the honorable gentleman has no objections to see little storms in republics; they may be useful in the political as well as in the natural world. Every thing the great Creator Edition: current; Page: [238] has ordained in the natural world is founded on consummate wisdom: but let him tell us what advantages convulsions, dissensions, and bloodshed, will produce in the political world. Can disunion be the means of securing the happiness of the people in this political hemisphere? The worthy member has enlarged on our bill of rights.

Let us see whether his encomiums on the bill of rights be consistent with his other arguments. Our declaration of rights says that all men are by nature equally free and independent. How comes the gentleman to reconcile himself to a government wherein there are an hereditary monarch and nobility? He objects to this change, although our present federal system is totally without energy. He objects to this system, because he says it will prostrate your bill of rights. Does not the bill of rights tell you that a majority of the community have an indubitable right to alter any government which shall be found inadequate to the security of the public happiness? Does it not say “that no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles”? Have not the inadequacy of the present system, and repeated flagrant violations of justice, and the other principles recommended by the bill of rights, been amply proved? As this plan of government will promote our happiness and establish justice, will not its adoption be justified by the very principles of your bill of rights?

But he has touched on a string which will have great effect. The western country is not safe if this plan be adopted. What do they stand in need of? Do they want protection from enemies? The present weak government cannot protect them. But the exercise of the congressional powers, proposed by this Constitution, will afford them ample security, because the general government can command the whole strength of the Union, to protect any particular part. There is another point wherein this government will set them right. I mean the western posts. This is a subject with which every gentleman here is acquainted. They have been withheld from us, since the peace, by the British. The violation of the treaty on our part authorizes this detention in some degree. The answer of the British minister to our demand of surrendering the posts was, that, as soon as Edition: current; Page: [239] America should show a disposition to comply with the treaty on her part, Great Britain would do the same. By this Constitution, treaties will be the supreme law of the land. The adoption of it, therefore, is the only chance we have of getting the western posts.

As to the navigation of the Mississippi, it is one of the most unalienable rights of the people, and which ought to be relinquished on no consideration. The strength of the western people is not adequate to its retention and enjoyment. They can receive no aid from the Confederation. This navigation can only be secured by one of two ways — by force or by treaty. As to force, I apprehend that the new government will be much more likely to hold it than the old. It will be also more likely to retain it be means of treaties; because, as it will be more powerful and respectable, it will be more feared; and as they will have more power to injure Spain, Spain will be more inclined to do them justice, by yielding it, or by giving them an adequate compensation.

It was said that France and Spain would not be pleased to see the United States united in one great empire. Shall we remain feeble and contemptible to please them? Shall we reject our own interest to protect theirs? We shall be more able to discharge our engagements. This may be agreeable to them. There are many strong reasons to expect that the adoption of this system will be beneficial to the back country, and that their interest will be much better attended to under the new than under the old government. There are checks in this Constitution which will render the navigation of the Mississippi safer than it was under the Confederation. There is a clause which, in my opinion, will prohibit the general government from relinquishing that navigation. The 5th clause of the 9th section of the 1st article provides “that no preference shall be given, by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to the ports of one state over those of another.” If Congress be expressly prohibited to give preference to the ports of one state over those of another, there is a strong implication that they cannot give preference to the ports of any foreign nation over those of a state. This will render it unconstitutional to give Spain a preference to the western country in the navigation of that river. They may say that this is a constrained construction, but it appears to me rational. It would be a violation of true policy to give such a Edition: current; Page: [240] preference. It would be a departure from natural construction to suppose that an advantage withheld from the states should be given to a foreign nation.

Under the Confederation, Congress cannot make a treaty without the consent of nine states. Congress, by the proposed plan, cannot make a treaty without the consent of two thirds of the senators present, and of the President. Two thirds will amount to nine states, if the senators from all the states be present. Can it be candidly and fairly supposed that they will not all, or nearly all, be present when so important a subject as a treaty is to be agitated? The consent of the President is a very great security. He is elected by the people at large. He will not have the local interests which the members of Congress may have. If he deviates from his duty, he is responsible to his constituents. He will be degraded, and will bring on his head the accusation of the representatives of the people — an accusation which has ever been, and always will be, very formidable. He will be absolutely disqualified to hold any place of profit, honor, or trust, and liable to further punishment if he has committed such high crimes as are punishable at common law. From the summit of honor and esteem he will be precipitated to the lowest infamy and disgrace. Although the representatives have no immediate agency in treaties, yet, from their influence in the government, they will direct every thing. They will be a considerable check on the Senate and President. Those from small states will be particularly attentive, to prevent a sacrifice of territory.

The people of New England have lately purchased great quantities of lands in the western country. Great numbers of them have moved thither. Every one has left his friends, relations, and acquaintances, behind him. This will prevent those states from adopting a measure that would so greatly tend to the injury of their friends. Has not Virginia, in the most explicit terms, asserted her right to that navigation? Can she ever enjoy it under so feeble a government as the present? This is one reason why she should assent to ratify this system. A strong argument offered by the gentleman last up, against the concession of direct taxation, is, that the back lands and impost will be sufficient for all the exigencies of government, and calculates the impost as a considerable amount. The impost will be affected by this business. The Edition: current; Page: [241] navigation of that river will increase the impost. Are not the United States as much interested as the people of Kentucky to retain that navigation? Congress will have as much interest in it as any inhabitant of that country, and must exert themselves for it. Kentucky will have taxes to pay.

How can they pay them without navigation? It will be to their interest to have it in their power to navigate the Mississippi, and raise money by imposts. It will be to the interest of all the states, as it will increase the general resources of the united community. Considering Kentucky as an independent state, she will, under the present system, and without the navigation of that river, be furnished with the articles of her consumption through the medium of the importing states. She will, therefore, be taxed by every importing state. If the new Constitution takes place, the amounts of duties on imported articles will go into the general treasury, by which means Kentucky will participate an equal advantage with the importing states. It will, then, be clearly to the advantage of the inhabitants of that country that it should take place. He tells us that he prays for union. What kind of union? A union of the whole, I suppose, if it could be got on his terms. If on such terms, he will adopt it. If not, he will recur to partial confederacies. He will attempt amendments. If he cannot obtain them, then he will choose a partial confederacy. Now, I beg every gentleman in this committee, who would not sacrifice the union, to attend to the situation in which they are about to place themselves.

I beg gentlemen seriously to reflect on this important business. They say amendments may be previously obtained, but acknowledged to be difficult. Will you join in an opposition that so directly tends to disunion? Can any member here think of disunion, or a partial confederacy, without horror? Yet both are expressly preferred to union, unless this system be amended previously. But, says the worthy member, why should not previous amendments be obtained? Will they not be agreed to, as the eight adopting states are friends to the union? But what follows? If they are so, they will agree to subsequent amendments. If you recommend alterations after ratifying, the friendship of the adopting states to the union, and the desires of several of them to have amendments, will lead them to gratify every Edition: current; Page: [242] reasonable proposal. By this means you secure the government and union. But if you reject the Constitution, and say you must have alterations as the previous condition of adoption, you sacrifice the union, and all the valuable parts of it.

Can we trust, says he, our liberty to the President — to the Senate — to the House of Representatives? We do not trust our liberty to a particular branch: one branch has not the whole power. One branch is a check on the other. The representatives have a controlling power over the whole. He then told us that republican borderers are not disposed to quarrels. This controverts the uniform evidence of history. I refer the gentleman to the history of Greece. Were not the republics of that country, which bordered on one another, almost perpetually at war? Their confederated republics, as long as they were united, were continually torn by domestic factions. This was the case with the Amphictyons. They called to their assistance the Macedonian monarch, and were subjected themselves by that very prince. This was the fate of the other Grecian republics. Dissensions among themselves rendered it necessary for them to call for foreign aid, and this expedient ultimately ended in their own subjugation. This proves the absolute necessity of the union.

There is a country which affords strong examples, which may be of great utility to us: I mean Great Britain. England, before it was united to Scotland, was almost constantly at war with that part of the island. The inhabitants of the north and south parts of the same island were more bitter enemies to one another than to the nations on the Continent. England and Scotland were more bitter enemies, before the union, than England and France have ever been, before or since. Their hatred and animosities were stimulated by the interference of other nations. Since the union, both countries have enjoyed domestic tranquillity, the greatest part of the time, and both countries have been greatly benefited by it. This is a convincing proof that union is necessary for America, and that partial confederacies would be productive of endless dissensions, and unceasing hostilities between the different parts.

The gentleman relies much on the force of requisitions. I shall mention two examples which will show their inutility. Edition: current; Page: [243] They are fruitless without the coercion of arms. If large states refuse, a complete civil war, or dissolution of the confederacy, will result. If small states refuse, they will be destroyed, or obliged to comply. From the history of the United Netherlands, the inutility of requisitions, without recurring to force, may be proved. The small provinces refused to comply. Holland, the most powerful, marched into their territories with an army, and compelled them to pay. The other example is from the New England confederacy. Massachusetts, the most wealthy and populous state, refused to contribute her share. The rest were unable to compel her, and the league was dissolved. Attend to a resolution of the Assembly of Virginia in the year 1784.

[Here Mr. Nicholas read a resolution of that year, to enable Congress to compel a compliance with requisitions.]

I am sure that the gentleman recognizes his child. Is not this a conclusive evidence of the utter inefficacy of requisitions? This expedient of coercion is a dreadful alternative. It confounds those who are innocent, and willing to pay, with those who refuse. How are they to be discriminated, if a state is to be attacked for the refusal of its legislature? I am sure there is not a man in the committee who does not see the impolicy and danger of such an expedient.

We are next terrified with the thought of excises. In some countries excises are terrible. In others, they are not only harmless, but useful. In our sister states, they are excised without any inconvenience. They are a kind of tax on manufactures. Our manufactures are few in proportion to those of other states. We may be assured that Congress will make such regulations as shall make excises convenient and easy for the people.

Another argument made use of is, that ours is the largest state, and must pay in proportion to the other states. How does that appear? The proportion of taxes are fixed by the number of inhabitants, and not regulated by the extent of territory, or fertility of soil. If we be wealthier, in proportion, than other states, it will fall lighter upon us than upon poorer states. They must fix the taxes so that the poorest states can pay; and Virginia, being richer; will bear it easier.

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The honorable gentleman says that the first collections are to go to Congress, and that the state legislatures must bear all deficiencies. How does this appear? Does he prove it? Nothing of it appears in the plan itself. The Congress and the state legislatures have concurrent jurisdictions in laying and collecting taxes. There is no rule that shows that Congress shall have the first collections. Each is independent of the other.

Another argument against this disingenuous construction is drawn from that clause which regulates representation, which is conclusive from the words themselves: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers.” Each state will know, from its population, its proportion of any general tax. As it was justly observed by the gentleman over the way, (Mr. Randolph,) they cannot possibly exceed that proportion: they are limited and restrained expressly to it. The state legislatures have no check of this kind. Their power is uncontrolled. This excludes the danger of interference. Each collects its own taxes, and bears its own deficiencies; and officers are accountable to each government for the different collections.

I deny, on my part, what he says with respect to the general welfare. He tells you that, under pretence of providing for the general welfare, they may lay the most enormous taxes. There is nothing in the clause which warrants this suggestion.

It provides “that Congress shall have the 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.” The debts of the Union ought to be paid. Ought not the common defence to be provided for? Is it not necessary to provide for the general welfare? It has been fully proved that this power could not be given to another body. The amounts to be raised are confined to these purposes solely. Will oppressive burdens be warranted by this clause? They are not to raise money for any other purpose. It is a power which is drawn from his favorite Confederation, the 8th article of which provides “that all charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States, in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out Edition: current; Page: [245] of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states, in proportion to the value of all lands, within each state, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land, and the building and improvement thereon, shall be estimated, according to such mode as the United States, in Congress assembled, shall, from time to time, direct and appoint.

“The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied, by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several states, within the time agreed upon by the United States, in Congress assembled.” Now, sir, by a comparison of this article with the clause in the Constitution, we shall find them to be nearly the same. The common defence and general welfare are the objects expressly mentioned to be provided for, in both systems. The power in the Confederation to secure and provide for those objects was constitutionally unlimited. The requisitions of Congress are binding on the states, though, from the imbecility of their nature, they cannot be enforced. The same power is intended by the Constitution. The only difference between them is, that Congress is, by this plan, to impose the taxes on the people, whereas, by the Confederation, they are laid by the states. The amount to be raised, and the power given to raise it, is the same in principle. The mode of raising only is different, and this difference is founded on the necessity of giving the government that energy without which it cannot exist. The power has not been reprobated in the Confederation. It ought not to be blamed in the proposed plan of government.

The gentleman has adverted to what he calls the sweeping clause, &c., and represents it as replete with great dangers. This dreaded clause runs in the following words: “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 government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.” The committee will perceive that the Constitution had enumerated all the powers which the general government should have, but did not say how they were to be exercised. It therefore, in this clause, tells how they shall be exercised. Does this give any new power? I say not. Suppose it had been inserted, at the end of every power, that they should have power to make laws to carry that power into execution; would this have increased their powers? If, therefore, it Edition: current; Page: [246] could not have increased their powers, if placed at the end of each power, it cannot increase them at the end of all. This clause only enables them to carry into execution the powers given to them, but gives them no additional power.

But it is objected to for want of a bill of rights. It is a principle universally agreed upon, that all powers not given are retained. Where, by the Constitution, the general government has general powers for any purpose, its powers are absolute. Where it has powers with some exceptions, they are absolute only as to those exceptions. In either case, the people retain what is not conferred on the general government, as it is by their positive grant that it has any of its powers. In England, in all disputes between the king and people, recurrence is had to the enumerated rights of the people, to determine. Are the rights in dispute secured? Are they included in Magna Charta, Bill of Rights, &c.? If not, they are, generally speaking, within the king’s prerogative. In disputes between Congress and the people, the reverse of the proposition holds. Is the disputed right enumerated? If not, Congress cannot meddle with it.

Which is the most safe? The people of America know what they have relinquished for certain purposes. They also know that they retain every thing else, and have a right to resume what they have given up, if it be perverted from its intended object. The king’s prerogative is general, with certain exceptions. The people are, therefore, less secure than we are. Magna Charta, Bill of Rights, &c., secure their liberty. Our Constitution itself contains an English Bill of Rights. The English Bill of Rights declares that Parliaments shall be held frequently. Our Constitution says that Congress shall sit annually. The English Declaration of Rights provides that no laws shall be suspended. The Constitution provides that no laws shall be suspended, except one, and that in time of rebellion or invasion, which is the writ of habeas corpus. The Declaration of Rights says that there should be no army in time of peace without the consent of Parliament. Here we cannot have an army even in time of war, with the approbation of our representatives, for more than two years.

The liberty of the press is secured. What secures it in England? Is it secured by Magna Charta, the Declaration of Rights, or by any other express provision? It is not. They have no express security for the liberty of the press. Edition: current; Page: [247] They have a reliance on Parliament for its protection and security. In the time of King William, there passed an act for licensing the press. That was repealed. Since that time, it has been looked upon as safe. The people have depended on their representatives. They will not consent to pass an act to infringe it, because such an act would irritate the nation. It is equally secure with us. As to the trial by jury, consider in what situation it is by the state Constitution. It is not on a better footing. It is by implication under the control of the legislature, because it has left particular cases to be decided by the legislature. Here it is secured in criminal cases, and left to the legislatures in civil cases. One instance will prove the evil tendency of fixing it in the Constitution. It will extend to all cases. Causes in chancery, which, strictly speaking, never are, nor can be, well tried by a jury, would then be tried by that mode, and could not be altered, though found to be inconvenient.

But taxes are to be increased, we are told. I think they will not. I am clearly of opinion that the deduction in the civil list of the states will be equal to the increase of that of the general government. Then the increase of custom-house officers is dreaded. The present custom-house officers will be sufficient in the hands of Congress; so that as much as economy will take place, so far the revenues will be increased. Mr. Nicholas concluded by making a few observations on the general structure of the government, and its probable happy operation. He said that it was a government calculated to suit almost any extent of territory. He then quoted the opinion of the celebrated Montesquieu, from vol. i., book 9, where that writer speaks of a confederate republic as the only safe means of extending the sphere of a republican government to any considerable degree.

[The 1st and 2d sections still under consideration.]

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, it was my purpose to resume, before now, what I had left unfinished concerning the necessity of a radical change of our system. The intermission which has taken place discontinued the progress of the argument, and has given opportunity to others to advance arguments on different parts of the plan. I hope we shall Edition: current; Page: [248] steer our course in a different manner from what we have hitherto done. I presume that vague discourses and mere sports of fancy, not relative to the subject at all, are very improper on this interesting occasion. I hope these will be no longer attempted, but that we shall come to the point. I trust we shall not go out of order, but confine ourselves to the clause under consideration. I beg gentlemen would observe this rule. I shall endeavor not to depart from it myself.

The subject of direct taxation is perhaps one of the most important that can possibly engage our attention, or that can be involved in the discussion of this question. If it be to be judged by the comments made upon it, by the opposers and favorers of the proposed system, it requires a most clear and critical investigation. The objections against the exercise of this power by the general government, as far as I am able to comprehend them, are founded upon the supposition of its being unnecessary, impracticable, unsafe, and accumulative of expense. I shall therefore consider, 1st, how far it may be necessary; 2d, how far it may be practicable; 3d, how far it may be safe, as well with respect to the public liberty at large, as to the state legislatures; and 4th, with respect to economy. First, then, is it necessary? I must acknowledge that I concur in opinion with those gentlemen who told you that this branch of revenue was essential to the salvation of the Union. It appears to me necessary, in order to secure that punctuality which is necessary in revenue matters. Without punctuality, individuals will give it no confidence, without which it cannot get resources. I beg gentlemen to consider the situation of this country, if unhappily the government were to be deprived of this power. Let us suppose, for a moment, that one of those powers which may be unfriendly to us should take advantage of our weakness, which they will be more ready to do when they know the want of this resource in our government. Suppose it should attack us; what forces could we oppose to it? Could we find safety in such forces as we could call out? Could we call forth a sufficient number, either by draughts, or any other way, to repel a powerful enemy? The inability of the government to raise and support regular troops would compel us to depend on militia.

It would be then necessary to give this power to the government, Edition: current; Page: [249] or run the risk of national annihilation. It is my firm belief that, if a hostile attack were made this moment on the United States, it would flash conviction on the minds of the citizens of the United States of the necessity of vesting the government with this power, which alone can enable it to protect the community. I do not wish to frighten the members into a concession of this power, but to bring to their minds those considerations which demonstrate its necessity. If we were secured from the possibility, or probability, of danger, it might be unnecessary. I shall not review that concourse of dangers which may probably arise at remote periods of futurity, nor all those which we have immediately to apprehend, for this would lead me beyond the bounds which I prescribed myself. But I will mention one single consideration, drawn from fact itself. I hope to have your attention.

By the treaty between the United States and his most Christian majesty, among other things, it is stipulated that the great principle on which the armed neutrality in Europe was founded should prevail in case of future wars. The principle is this — that free ships shall make free goods, and that vessels and goods shall be both free from condemnation. Great Britain did not recognize it. While all Europe was against her, she held out without acting on it. It has been considered, for some time past, that the flames of war, already kindled, would spread, and that France and England were likely to draw those swords which were so recently put up. This is judged probable. We should not be surprised, in a short time, to consider ourselves as a neutral nation — France on one side, and Great Britain on the other. What is the situation of America? She is remote from Europe, and ought not to engage in her politics or wars. The American vessels, if they can do it with advantage, may carry on the commerce of the contending nations. It is a source of wealth which we ought not to deny to our citizens. But, sir, is there not infinite danger that, in despite of all our caution, we shall be drawn into the war? If American vessels have French property on board, Great Britain will seize them. By this means we shall be obliged to relinquish the advantage of a neutral nation, or be engaged in a war.

A neutral nation ought to be respectable, or else it will be insulted and attacked. America, in her present impotent situation, would run the risk of being drawn in as a party in Edition: current; Page: [250] the war, and lose the advantage of being neutral. Should it happen that the British fleet should be superior, have we not reason to conclude, from the spirit displayed by that nation to us and to all the world, that we should be insulted in our own ports, and our vessels seized? But if we be in a respectable situation, if it be known that our government can command the whole resources of the Union, we shall be suffered to enjoy the great advantages of carrying on the commerce of the nations at war; for none of them would be willing to add us to the number of their enemies. I shall say no more on this point, there being others which merit your consideration.

The expedient proposed by the gentlemen opposed to this clause is, that requisitions shall be made, and, if not complied with in a certain time, that then taxation shall be recurred to. I am clearly convinced that, whenever requisitions shall be made, they will disappoint those who put their trust in them. One reason to prevent the concurrent exertions of all the states, will arise from the suspicion, in some states, of delinquency in others. States will be governed by the motives that actuate individuals.

When a tax is in operation in a particular state, every citizen, if he knows the energy of the laws to enforce payment, and that every other citizen is performing his duty, will cheerfully discharge his duty; but were it known that the citizens of one district were not performing their duty, and that it was left to the policy of the government to make them come up with it, the other districts would be very supine and careless in making provisions for payment. Our own experience makes the illustration more natural. If requisitions be made on thirteen different states, when one deliberates on the subject, she will know that all the rest will deliberate upon it also. This, sir, has been a principal cause of the inefficacy of requisitions heretofore, and will hereafter produce the same evil. If the legislatures are to deliberate on this subject, (and the honorable gentleman opposed to this clause thinks their deliberation necessary,) is it not presumable that they will consider peculiar local circumstances? In the general council, on the contrary, the sense of all America would be drawn to a single point. The collective interest of the Union at large will be known and pursued. No local views will be permitted to operate against the general welfare. Edition: current; Page: [251] But when propositions would come before a particular state, there is every reason to believe that qualifications of the requisitions would be proposed; compliance might be promised, and some instant remittances might be made. This will cause delays, which, in the first instance, will produce disappointment. This also will make failures everywhere else. This, I hope, will be considered with the attention it deserves. The public creditors will be disappointed, and more pressing. Requisitions will be made for purposes equally pervading all America; but the exertions to make compliances will probably be not uniform in the states. If requisitions be made for future occasions, for putting the states in a state of military defence, or to repel an invasion, will the exertions be uniform and equal in all the states? Some parts of the United States are more exposed than others. Will the least exposed states exert themselves equally? We know that the most exposed will be the more immediately interested, and will make less sacrifices in making exertions. I beg gentlemen to consider that this argument will apply with most effect to the states which are most defenceless and exposed. The Southern States are most exposed, whether we consider their situation, or the smallness of their population. And there are other circumstances which render them still more vulnerable, which do not apply to the Northern States. They are therefore more interested in giving the government a power to command the whole strength of the Union in cases of emergency. Do not gentlemen conceive this mode of obtaining supplies from the states will keep alive animosities between the general government and particular states? Where the chances of failures are so numerous as thirteen, by the thirteen states, disappointment in the first place, and consequent animosity, must inevitably take place.

Let us consider the alternatives proposed by gentlemen, instead of the power of laying direct taxes. After the states shall have refused to comply, weigh the consequences of the exercise of this power by Congress. When it comes in the form of a punishment, great clamors will be raised among the people against the government; hatred will be excited against it. It will be considered as an ignominious stigma on the state. It will be considered, at least, in this light by Edition: current; Page: [252] the state where the failure is made, and these sentiments will no doubt be diffused through the other states. Now, let us consider the effect, if collectors are sent where the state governments refuse to comply with requisitions. It is too much the disposition of mankind not to stop at one violation of duty. I conceive that every requisition that will be made on my part of America will kindle a contention between the delinquent member and the general government. Is there no reason to suppose divisions in the government (for seldom does any thing pass with unanimity) on the subject of requisitions? The parts least exposed will oppose those measures which may be adopted for the defence of the weakest parts. Is there no reason to presume that the representatives from the delinquent state will be more likely to foster disobedience to the requisitions of the government than study to recommend them to the public?

There is, in my opinion, another point of view in which this alternative will produce great evil. I will suppose, what is very probable, that partial compliances will be made. A difficulty here arises which fully demonstrates its impolicy. If a part be paid, and the rest withheld, how is the general government to proceed? They are to impose a tax; but how shall it be done in this case? Are they to impose it, by way of punishment, on those who have paid, as well as those who have not? All these considerations taken into view (for they are not visionary or fanciful speculations) will, perhaps, produce this consequence: The general government, to avoid those disappointments which I first described, and to avoid the contentions and embarrassments which I last described, will, in all probability, throw the public burdens on those branches of revenue which will be more in their power. They will be continually necessitated to augment the imposts. If we throw a disproportion of the burdens on that side, shall we not discourage commerce and suffer many political evils? Shall we not increase that disproportion on the Southern States, which for some time will operate against us? The Southern States, from having fewer manufactures, will import and consume more. They will therefore pay more of the imposts. The more commerce is burdened, the more the disproportion will operate against them. If direct taxation be mixed with other taxes, it will be in the power Edition: current; Page: [253] of the general government to lessen that inequality. But this inequality will be increased to the utmost extent, if the general government have not this power.

There is another point of view in which this subject affords us instruction. The imports will decrease in time of war. The honorable gentleman who spoke yesterday said that the imposts would be so productive that there would be no occasion of laying taxes. I will submit two observations to him and the committee. First, in time of war, the imposts will be less; and as I hope we are considering a government for a perpetual duration, we ought to provide for every future contingency. At present, our importations bear a full proportion to the full amount of our sales, and to the number of our inhabitants; but when we have inhabitants enough, our imposts will decrease, and as the national demands will increase with our population, our resources will increase as our wants increase. The other consideration which I will submit on this part of the subject is this: I believe that it will be found, in practice, that those who fix the public burdens will feel a greater degree of responsibility, when they are to impose them on the citizens immediately than if they were to say what sum should be paid by the states. If they exceed the limits of propriety, universal discontent and clamor will arise. Let us suppose they were to collect the taxes from the citizens of America; would they not consider their circumstances? Would they not attentively consider what could be done by the citizens at large? Were they to exceed, in their demands, what were reasonable burdens, the people would impute it to the right source, and look on the imposers as odious.

When I consider the nature of the various objections brought against this clause, I should be led to think that the difficulties were such that gentlemen would not be able to get over them, and that the power, as defined in the plan of the Convention, was impracticable. I shall trouble them with a few observations on that point.

It has been said that ten men deputed from this state, and others in proportion from other states, will not be able to adjust direct taxes, so as to accommodate the various citizens in thirteen states.

I confess I do not see the force of this observation. Could not ten intelligent men, chosen from ten districts from this Edition: current; Page: [254] state, lay direct taxes on a few objects in the most judicious manner? It is to be conceived that they would be acquainted with the situation of different citizens of this country. Can any one divide this state into ten districts so as not to contain men of sufficient information? Could not one man of knowledge be found in a district? When thus selected, will they not be able to carry their knowledge into the general council? I may say, with great propriety, that the experience of our own legislature demonstrates the competency of Congress to lay taxes wisely. Our Assembly consists of considerably more than a hundred; yet, from the nature of the business, it devolves on a much smaller number. It is, through their sanction, approved of by all the others. It will be found that there are seldom more than ten men who rise to high information on this subject. Our federal representatives, as has been said by the gentleman, (Mr. Marshall,) who entered into the subject with a great deal of ability, will get information from the state governments. They will be perfectly well informed of the circumstances of the people of the different states, and the mode of taxation that would be most convenient for them, from the laws of the states. In laying taxes, they may even refer to the state system of taxation. Let it not be forgotten that there is a probability that that ignorance which is complained of in some parts of America will be continually diminishing. Let us compare the degree of knowledge which the people had in time past to their present information. Does not our own experience teach us that the people are better informed than they were a few years ago? The citizen of Georgia knows more now of the affairs of New Hampshire, than he did, before the revolution, of those of South Carolina. When the representatives from the different states are collected together, to consider this subject, they will interchange their knowledge with one another, and will have the laws of each state on the table. Besides this, the intercourse of the states will be continually increasing. It is now much greater than before the revolution. My honorable friend over the way, (Mr. Monroe,) yesterday, seemed to conceive, as an insuperable objection, that, if land were made the particular object of taxation, it would be unjust, as it would exonerate the commercial part of the community; that, if it were laid on trade, it would Edition: current; Page: [255] be unjust, in discharging the landholders; and that any exclusive selection would be unequal and unfair. If the general government were tied down to one object, I confess the objection would have some force in it. But if this be not the case, it can have no weight. If it should have a general power of taxation, they could select the most proper objects, and distribute the taxes in such a manner as that they should fall in a due degree on every member of the community. They will be limited to fix the proportion of each state, and they must raise it in the most convenient and satisfactory manner to the public.

The honorable member considered it as another insuperable objection, that uniform laws could not be made for thirteen states, and that dissonance would produce inconvenience and oppression. Perhaps it may not be found, on due inquiry, to be so impracticable as he supposes. But were it so, where is the evil for different states to raise money for the general government? Where is the evil of such laws? There are instances in other countries of different laws operating in different parts of the country, without producing any kind of opposition. The revenue laws are different in England and Scotland in several respects. Their laws relating to customs, excises, and trade, are similar; but those respecting direct taxation are dissimilar. There is a land tax in England, and a land tax in Scotland; but the laws concerning them are not the same. It is much heavier, in proportion, in the former than in the latter. The mode of collection is different; yet this is not productive of any national inconvenience. Were we to conclude, from the objections, against the proposed plan, this dissimilarity, in that point alone, would have involved those kingdoms in difficulties. In England itself, there is a variety of different laws operating differently in different places.

I will make another observation on the objection of my honorable friend. He seemed to conclude that concurrent collections under different authorities were not reducible to practice. I agree that, were they independent of the people, the argument would be good. But they must serve one common master. They must act in concert, or the defaulting party must bring on itself the resentment of the people. If the general government be so constructed that it will not dare to impose such burdens as will distress the people, where Edition: current; Page: [256] is the evil of its having a power of taxation concurrent with the states? The people would not support it, were it to impose oppressive burdens. Let me make one more comparison of the state governments to this plan. Do not the states impose taxes for local purposes? Does the concurrent collection of taxes, imposed by the legislatures for general purposes, and of levies laid by the counties for parochial and county purposes, produce any inconvenience or oppression? The collection of these taxes is perfectly practicable, and consistent with the views of both parties. The people at large are the common superior of the state governments and the general government. It is reasonable to conclude that they will avoid interferences, for two causes — to avoid public oppression, and to render the collections more productive. I conceive they will be more likely to produce disputes, in rendering it convenient for the people, than to run into interfering regulations.

In the third place, I shall consider whether the power of taxation to be given the general government be safe; and first, whether it be safe as to the public liberty in general. It would be sufficient to remark that it is, because I conceive the point has been clearly established by more than one gentleman who has spoken on the same side of the question. In the decision of this question, it is of importance to examine whether elections of representatives by great districts of freeholders be favorable to fidelity in representatives. The greatest degree of treachery in representatives is to be apprehended where they are chosen by the least number of electors; because there is a greater facility of using undue influence, and because the electors must be less independent. This position is verified, in the most unanswerable manner, in that country to which appeals are so often made, and sometimes instructively.

Who are the most corrupt members in Parliament? Are they not the inhabitants of small towns and districts? The supporters of liberty are from the great counties. Have we not seen that the representatives of the city of London, who are chosen by such thousands of voters, have continually studied and supported the liberties of the people, and opposed the corruption of the crown? We have seen continually that most of the members in the ministerial majority are drawn from small, circumscribed districts. We may therefore Edition: current; Page: [257] conclude, that our representatives, being chosen by such extensive districts, will be upright and independent. In proportion as we have security against corruption in representatives, we have security against corruption from every other quarter whatsoever.

I shall take a view of certain subjects, which will lead to some reflections to quiet the minds of those gentlemen who think that the individual governments will be swallowed up by the general government. In order to effect this, it is proper to compare the state governments with the general government, with respect to reciprocal dependence, and with respect to the means they have of supporting themselves, or of encroaching on one another. At the first comparison, we must be struck with these remarkable facts. The general government has not the appointment of a single branch of the individual governments, or of any officers within the states, to execute their laws. Are not the states integral parts of the general government? Is not the President chosen under the influence of the state legislatures? May we not suppose that he will be complaisant to those from whom he has his appointment, and from whom he must have his reappointment? The senators are appointed altogether by the legislatures.

My honorable friend apprehended a coalition between the President, Senate, and House of Representatives, against the states. This could be supposed only from a similarity of the component parts.

A coalition is not likely to take place, because its component parts are heterogeneous in their nature. The House of Representatives is not chosen by the state governments, but under the influence of those who compose the state legislatures. Let us suppose ten men appointed to carry the government into effect; there is every degree of certainty that they would be indebted for their reëlection to the members of the legislatures. If they derive their appointment from them, will they not execute their duty to them? Besides this, will not the people (whose predominant interest will ultimately prevail) feel great attachment to the state legislatures? They have the care of all local interests — those familiar domestic objects, for which men have the strongest predilection. The general government, on the contrary, has the preservation of the aggregate interest of Edition: current; Page: [258] the Union — objects which, being less familiar, and more remote from men’s notice, have a less powerful influence on their minds. Do we not see great and natural attachments arising from local considerations? This will be the case in a much stronger degree in the state governments than in the general government. The people will be attached to their state legislatures from a thousand causes; and into whatever scale the people at large will throw themselves, that scale will preponderate.

Did we not perceive, in the early stages of the war, when Congress was the idol of America, and when in pursuit of the object most dear to America, that they were attached to their states? Afterwards, the whole current of their affection was to the states; and such would be still the case, were it not for the alarming situation of America.

At one period of the congressional history, they had the power to trample on the states. When they had that fund of paper money in their hands, and could carry on all their measures without any dependence on the states, was there any disposition to debase the state governments? All that municipal authority which was necessary to carry on the administration of the government, they still retained unimpaired. There was no attempt to diminish it.

I am led, by what fell from my honorable friend yesterday, to take this supposed combination in another view. Is it supposed that the influence of the general government will facilitate a combination between the members? Is it supposed that it will preponderate against that of the state governments? The means of influence consist in having the disposal of gifts and emoluments, and in the number of persons employed by and dependent upon a government. Will any gentleman compare the number of persons which will be employed in the general government with the number of those which will be in the state governments? The number of dependants upon the state governments will be infinitely greater than those on the general government. I may say, with truth, that there never was a more economical government in any age or country, nor which will require fewer hands, or give less influence.

Let us compare the members composing the legislative, executive, and judicial powers, in the general government, with these in the states, and let us take into view the vast Edition: current; Page: [259] number of persons employed in the states: from the chief officers to the lowest, we shall find the scale preponderating so much in favor of the states, that, while so many persons are attached to them, it will be impossible to turn the balance against them. There will be an irresistible bias towards the state governments.

Consider the number of militia officers, the number of justices of the peace, the number of the members of the legislatures, and all the various officers for districts, towns, and corporations — all intermixing with, and residing among, the people at large. While this part of the community retain their affection to the state governments, I conceive that the fact will be, that the state governments, and not the general government, will preponderate. It cannot be contradicted that they have more extensive means of influence. I have my fears as well as the honorable gentleman; but my fears are on the other side. Experience, I think, will prove (though there be no infallible proof of it here) that the powerful and prevailing influence of the states will produce such attention to local considerations as will be inconsistent with the advancement of the interest of the Union. But I choose rather to indulge my hopes than fears, because I flatter myself, if inconveniences should result from it, that the clause which provides amendments will remedy them. The combination of powers vested in those persons would seem conclusive in favor of the states.

The powers of the general government relate to external objects, and are but few. But the powers in the states relate to those great objects which immediately concern the prosperity of the people. Let us observe, also, that the powers in the general government are those which will be exercised mostly in time of war, while those of the state governments will be exercised in time of peace. But I hope the time of war will be little, compared to that of peace. I should not complete the view which ought to be taken of this subject, without making this additional remark, — that the powers vested in the proposed government are not so much an augmentation of powers in the general government, as a change rendered necessary for the purpose of giving efficacy to those which were vested in it before. It cannot escape any gentleman that this power, in theory, exists in the Confederation as fully as in this Constitution. Edition: current; Page: [260] The only difference is this — that now they tax states, and by this plan they will tax individuals. There is no theoretic difference between the two. But in practice there will be an infinite difference between them. The one is an ineffectual power; the other is adequate to the purpose for which it is given. This change was necessary for the public safety.

Let us suppose, for a moment, that the acts of Congress requiring money from the states had been as effectual as the paper on the table; suppose all the laws of Congress had complete compliance; will any gentleman say that, as far as we can judge from past experience, the state governments would have been debased, and all consolidated and incorporated in one system? My imagination cannot reach it. I conceive that, had those acts that effect which all laws ought to have, the states would have retained their sovereignty.

It seems to be supposed that it will introduce new expenses and burdens on the people. I believe it is not necessary here to make a comparison between the expenses of the present and of the proposed government. All agree that the general government ought to have power for the regulation of commerce. I will venture to say that very great improvements, and very economical regulations, will be made. It will be a principal object to guard against smuggling, and such other attacks on the revenue as other nations are subject to. We are now obliged to defend against those lawless attempts; but, from the interfering regulations of different states, with little success. There are regulations in different states which are unfavorable to the inhabitants of other states, and which militate against the revenue. New York levies money from New Jersey by her imposts. In New Jersey, instead of coöperating with New York, the legislature favors violations on her regulations. This will not be the case when uniform regulations will be made.

Requisitions, though ineffectual, are unfriendly to economy. When requisitions are submitted to the states, there are near two thousand five hundred or three thousand persons deliberating on the mode of payment. All these, during their deliberation, receive public pay. A great proportion of every session, in every state, is employed to Edition: current; Page: [261] consider whether they will pay at all, and in what mode. Let us suppose fifteen hundred persons are deliberating on this subject. Let any one make a calculation: it will be found that a very few days of their deliberation will consume more of the public money than one year of that general legislature. This is not all, Mr. Chairman. When general powers will be vested in the general government, there will be less of that mutability which is seen in the legislation of the states. The consequence will be a great saving of expense and time. There is another great advantage, which I will but barely mention. The greatest calamity to which the United States can be subject is a vicissitude of laws, and continual shifting and changing from one object to another — which must expose the people to various inconveniences. This has a certain effect, of which sagacious men always have made, and always will make, an advantage. From whom is advantage made? From the industrious farmers and tradesmen who are ignorant of the means of making such advantages. The people will not be exposed to these inconveniences under a uniform and steady course of legislation. But they have been so heretofore. The history of taxation in this country is so fully and well known to every member of this committee, that I shall say no more of it.

We have hitherto discussed the subject very irregularly. I dare not dictate to any gentleman, but I hope we shall pursue that mode of going through the business which the house resolved. With respect to a great variety of arguments made use of, I mean to take notice of them when we come to those parts of the Constitution to which they apply. If we exchange this mode for the regular way of proceeding, we can finish it better in one week than one month.

[A desultory conversation arose concerning the mode of discussion.]

Mr. HENRY declared it as his opinion, that the best mode was to discuss it at large; that the gentlemen on the other side had done so, as well as those of his side; and he hoped that every gentleman would consider himself at liberty to go into the subject fully, because he thought it is the best way to elucidate it.

Mr. MADISON wished not to exclude any light that could be cast on the subject. He declared that he would be the last man that would object to the fullest investigation; Edition: current; Page: [262] but, at the same time, he thought it would be more elucidated by a regular progressive discussion, than by that unconnected, irregular method which they had hitherto pursued.

Mr. GEORGE MASON. Mr. Chairman, gentlemen will be pleased to consider that, on so important a subject as this, it is impossible, in the nature of things, to avoid arguing more at large than is usual. You will allow that I have not taken up a great part of your time. But as gentlemen have indulged themselves in entering at large into the subject, I hope to be permitted to follow them, and answer their observations.

The worthy member, (Mr. Nicholas,) at a very early day, gave us an accurate detail of the representation of the people in Britain, and of the rights of the king of Britain; and illustrated his observations by a quotation from Dr. Price. Gentlemen will please to take notice that those arguments relate to a single government, and that they are not applicable to this case. However applicable they may be to such a government as that of Great Britain, it will be entirely inapplicable to such a government as ours. The gentleman, in drawing a comparison between the representation of the people in the House of Commons, in England, and the representation in the government now proposed to us, has been pleased to express his approbation in favor of the American government. Let us examine. I think that there are about 550 members in the English House of Commons. The people of Britain have a representation in Parliament of 550 members, who intimately mingle with all classes of the people, feeling and knowing their circumstances. In the proposed American government — in a country perhaps ten times more extensive — we are to have a representation of sixty-five, who, from the nature of the government, cannot possibly be mingled with the different classes of the people, nor have a fellow-feeling for them.

They must form an aristocracy, and will not regard the interest of the people. Experience tells us that men pay most regard to those whose rank and situation are similar to their own. In the course of the investigation, the gentleman mentioned the bribery and corruption of Parliament, and drew a conclusion the very reverse of what I should have formed on the subject. He said, if I recollect rightly that the American representation is more secured against Edition: current; Page: [263] bribery and corruption, than the English Parliament. Are sixty-five better than five hundred and fifty? Bribery and corruption, in my opinion, will be practised in America more than in England, in proportion as five hundred and fifty exceed sixty-five; and there will be less integrity and probity in proportion as sixty-five is less than five hundred and fifty. From what source is the bribery practised in the British Parliament derived? I think the principal source is the distribution of places, offices, and posts. Will any gentleman deny this? Give me leave, on this occasion, to recur to that clause of the Constitution which speaks of restraint, and has the appearance of restraining from corruption, &c., but which, when examined, will be found to be no restraint at all. The clause runs thus: “No senator or representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, 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 such time; and no person holding any office under the United States shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office.” This appears to me to be no restraint at all. It is to be observed that this restraint only extends to civil offices.

But I will not examine whether it be a proper distinction or not. What is the restraint as to civil offices? Only that they shall not be appointed to offices which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased, during the time for which they shall have been elected. They may be appointed to existing offices, if the emoluments be not increased during the time for which they were elected.

[Here Mr. Mason spoke too low to be heard.]

Thus, after the government is set in motion, the restraint will be gone. They may appoint what number of officers they please. They may send ambassadors to every part of Europe. Here is, sir, I think, as wide a door for corruption as in any government in Europe. There is the same inducement for corruption, there is the same room for it, in this government, which they have in the British government; and in proportion as the number is smaller, corruption will be greater.

That unconditional power of taxation which is given to that government cannot but oppress the people. If, instead of this, a conditional power of taxation be given, in case of Edition: current; Page: [264] refusal to comply with requisitions, the same end will be answered with convenience to the people. This will not lessen the power of Congress; we do not want to lessen the power of Congress unnecessarily. This will produce moderation in the demand, and will prevent the ruinous exercise of that power by those who know not our situation. We shall then have that mode of taxation which is the most easy, and least oppressive to the people, because it will be exercised by those who are acquainted with their condition and circumstances. This, sir, is the great object we wish to secure — that our people should be taxed by those who have a fellow-feeling for them. I think I can venture to assert that the general government will lay such taxes as are the easiest and the most productive in the collection. This is natural and probable.

For example, they may lay a poll tax. This is simply and easily collected, but is of all taxes the most grievous. Why the most grievous? Because it falls light on the rich, and heavy on the poor. It is most oppressive: for if the rich man is taxed, he can only retrench his superfluities; but the consequence to the poor man is, that it increases his miseries. That they will lay the most simple taxes, and such as are easiest to collect, is highly probable, nay, almost absolutely certain. I shall take the liberty, on this occasion, to read you a letter, which will show, at least as far as opinion goes, what sort of taxes will be most probably laid on us, if we adopt this Constitution. It was the opinion of a gentleman of information. It will in some degree establish the fallacy of those reports which have been circulated through the country, and which induced a great many poor, ignorant people to believe that the taxes were to be lessened by the adoption of the proposed government.

[Here Mr. Mason read a letter from Mr. Robert Morris, financier of the United States, to Congress, wherein he spoke of the propriety of laying the following taxes for the use of the United States; viz., six shillings on every hundred acres of land, six shillings per poll, and ninepence per gallon on all spirituous liquors distilled in the country. Mr. Mason declared that he did not mean to make the smallest reflection on Mr. Morris, but introduced his letter to show what taxes would probably be laid.]

He then continued: This will at least show that such taxes were in agitation, and were strongly advocated by a considerable part of Congress. I have read this letter to show that they will lay taxes most easy to be collected, Edition: current; Page: [265] without any regard to our convenience; so that, instead of amusing ourselves with a diminution of our taxes, we may rest assured that they will be increased. But my principal reason for introducing it was, to show that taxes would be laid by those who are not acquainted with our situation, and that the agents of the collection may be consulted upon the most productive and simple mode of taxation. The gentleman who wrote this letter had more information on this subject than we have; but this will show gentlemen that we are not to be eased of taxes. Any of those taxes which have been pointed out by this financier as the most eligible, will be ruinous and unequal, and will be particularly oppressive on the poorest part of the people.

As to a poll tax, I have already spoken of its iniquitous operation, and need not say much of it, because it is so generally disliked in this state, that we were obliged to abolish it last year. As to a land tax, it will operate most unequally. The man who has one hundred acres of the richest land will pay as little as a man who has one hundred acres of the poorest land. Near Philadelphia, or Boston, an acre of land is worth one hundred pounds; yet the possessor of it will pay no more than the man with us whose land is hardly worth twenty shillings an acre. Some landholders in this state will have to pay twenty times as much as will be paid for all the land on which Philadelphia stands; and as to excise, this will carry the exciseman to every farmer’s house, who distils a little brandy, where he may search and ransack as he pleases. These I mention as specimens of the kind of tax which is to be laid upon us by those who have no information of our situation, and by a government where the wealthy only are represented. It is urged that no new power is given up to the general government, and that the Confederation had those powers before. That system derived its power from the state governments. When the people of Virginia formed their government, they reserved certain great powers in the bill of rights. They would not trust their own citizens, who had a similarity of interest with themselves, and who had frequent and intimate communication with them. They would not trust their own fellow-citizens, I say, with the exercise of those great powers reserved in the bill of rights. Do we not, by this system, give up a great part of the rights, reserved by the bill of Edition: current; Page: [266] rights, to those who have no fellow-feeling for the people — to a government where the representatives will have no communication with the people? I say, then, there are great and important powers, which were not transferred to the state government, given up to the general government by this Constitution.

Let us advert to the 6th article. It expressly declares, 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, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby; any thing in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” Now, sir, if the laws and Constitution of the general government, as expressly said, be paramount to those of any state, are not those rights with which we were afraid to trust our own citizens annulled and given up to the general government? The bill of rights is a part of our own Constitution. The judges are obliged to take notice of the laws of the general government; consequently, the rights secured by our bill of rights are given up. If they are not given up, where are they secured? By implication! Let gentlemen show that they are secured in a plain, direct, unequivocal manner. It is not in their power. Then where is the security? Where is the barrier drawn between the government and the rights of the citizens, as secured in our own state government? These rights are given up in that paper; but I trust that this Convention will never give them up, but will take pains to secure them to the latest posterity. If a check be necessary in our own state government, it is much more so in a government where our representatives are to be at the distance of a thousand miles from us, without any responsibility.

I said, the other day, that they could not have sufficient information. I was asked how the legislature of Virginia got their information. The answer is easy and obvious. They get it from one hundred and sixty representatives, dispersed through all parts of the country. In this government how do they get it? Instead of one hundred and sixty, there are but ten — chosen, if not wholly, yet mostly, from the higher order of the people — from the great, the wealthy — the well-born — the well-born, Mr. Chairman, that aristocratic Edition: current; Page: [267] idol — that flattering idea — that exotic plant which has been lately imported from the ports of Great Britain, and planted in the luxurious soil of this country.

In the course of the investigation, much praise has been lavished upon the article which fixes the number of representatives. It only says that the proportion shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand.

The worthy gentleman says that the number must be increased, because representation and taxation are in proportion, and that one cannot be increased without increasing the other, nor decreased without decreasing the other. Let us examine the weight of this argument. If the proportion of each state equally and ratably diminishes, the words of the Constitution will be as much satisfied as if it had been increased in the same manner, without any reduction of the taxes. Let us illustrate it familiarly. Virginia has ten representatives; Maryland has six. Virginia will have to pay a sum in proportion, greater than Maryland, as ten to six. Suppose Virginia reduced to five, and Maryland to three. The relative proportion of money, paid by each, will be the same as before; and yet the honorable gentleman said, that, if this did not convince us, he would give up. I am one of those unhappy men who cannot be amused with assertions. A man from the dead might frighten me; but I am sure that he could not convince me without using better arguments than I have yet heard.

The same gentleman showed us that, though the Northern States had a most decided majority against us, yet the increase of population among us would, in the course of years, change it in our favor. A very sound argument indeed, that we should cheerfully burn ourselves to death in hopes of a joyful and happy resurrection!

The very worthy gentleman who presides was pleased to tell us that there was no interference between the legislation of the general government and that of the state legislatures. Pardon me if I show the contrary. In the important instance of taxation there is a palpable interference. Suppose a poll tax: the general government can lay a poll tax; the state legislatures can do the same — can lay it on the same man, and at the same time; and yet it is said there can be no interference.

My honorable colleague in the late federal Convention, in Edition: current; Page: [268] answer to another gentleman, who had said that the annals of mankind could afford no instance of rulers giving up power, has told us that eight states had adopted the Constitution, and that this was a relinquishment of power. Ought this example to have any weight with us? If that relinquishment was imprudent, shall we imitate it? I will venture to assert that, out of a thousand instances where the people precipitately and unguardedly relinquished their power, there has not been one instance of a voluntary surrender of it back by rulers. He afterwards said, that freedom at home and respectability abroad would be the consequence of the adoption of this government, and that we cannot exist without its adoption. Highly as I esteem that gentleman, highly as I esteem his historical knowledge, I am obliged to deny his assertions.

If this government will endanger our liberties in its present state, its adoption will not promote our happiness at home. The people of this country are as independent, happy, and respectable, as those of any country. France is the most powerful and respectable nation on earth. Would the planters of this country change their shoes for the wooden shoes of the peasants of France? Perhaps Russia is the next greatest power in Europe. Would we change situation with the people of Russia? We have heard a great deal of Holland. Some have called its government a democracy; others have called it an aristocracy. It is well known to be a republic. It has arisen to uncommon power and wealth. Compared to its neighboring countries, its fortune has been surprising.

[Here Mr. Mason made a quotation, showing the comparative flourishing condition of the inhabitants of Holland, even a few years after they had shaken off the Spanish yoke; that plenty and contentment were to be every where seen, the peasants well clothed, provisions plenty, their furniture and domestic utensils in abundance, and their lands well stocked; — that, on the contrary, the people of Spain were in a poor and miserable condition, in want of every thing of which the people of Holland enjoyed the greatest abundance.]

Mr. Mason then continued: As this was within a few years after the Spanish revolution, this striking contrast could be owing to no other cause than the liberty which they enjoyed under their government. Here behold the difference between a powerful, great consolidation, and a confederacy. They tell us that, if we be powerful and respectable Edition: current; Page: [269] abroad, we shall have liberty and happiness at home. Let us secure that liberty, that happiness, first, and we shall then be respectable.

I have some acquaintance with a great many characters who favor this government, their connections, their conduct, their political principles, and a number of other circumstances. There are a great many wise and good men among them. But when I look round the number of my acquaintance in Virginia, the country wherein I was born, and have lived so many years, and observe who are the warmest and the most zealous friends to this new government, it makes me think of the story of the cat transformed into a fine lady: forgetting her transformation, and happening to see a rat, she could not restrain herself, but sprang upon it out of the chair.

He (Governor Randolph) dwelt largely on the necessity of the union. A great many others have enlarged on this subject. Foreigners would suppose, from the declamation about union, that there was a great dislike in America to any general American government. I have never, in my whole life, heard one single man deny the necessity and propriety of the union. This necessity is deeply impressed on every American mind. There can be no danger of any object being lost when the mind of every man in the country is strongly attached to it. But I hope that it is not to the name, but to the blessings of union, that we are attached. Those gentlemen who are loudest in their praises of the name, are not more attached to the reality than I am. The security of our liberty and happiness is the object we ought to have in view in wishing to establish the union. If, instead of securing these, we endanger them, the name of union will be but a trivial consolation. If the objections be removed, if those parts which are clearly subversive of our rights be altered, no man will go farther than I will to advance the union. We are told, in strong language, of dangers to which we will be exposed unless we adopt this Constitution. Among the rest, domestic safety is said to be in danger. This government does not intend our domestic safety. It authorizes the importation of slaves for twenty-odd years, and thus continues upon us that nefarious trade. Instead of securing and protecting us, the continuation of this detestable trade adds daily to our weakness. Though this evil is Edition: current; Page: [270] increasing, there is no clause in the Constitution that will prevent the Northern and Eastern States from meddling with our whole property of that kind. There is a clause to prohibit the importation of slaves after twenty years; but there is no provision made for securing to the Southern States those they now possess. It is far from being a desirable property; but it will involve us in great difficulties and infelicity to be now deprived of them. There ought to be a clause in the Constitution to secure us that property, which we have acquired under our former laws, and the loss of which would bring ruin on a great many people.

Maryland and the Potomac have been mentioned. I have had some little means of being acquainted with that subject, having been one of the commissioners who made the compact with Maryland. There is no cause of fear on that ground. Maryland, says the gentleman, has a right to the navigation of the Potomac. This is a right which she never exercised. Maryland was pleased with what she had in return for a right which she never exercised. Every ship which comes within the state of Maryland, except some small boats, must come within our country. Maryland was very glad to get what she got by this compact, for she considered it as next to getting it without any compensation on her part. She considered it, at least, as next to a quid pro quo.

The back land, he says, is another source of danger. Another day will show that, if that Constitution is adopted without amendments, there are twenty thousand families of good citizens in the north-west district, between the Alleghany Mountains and the Blue Ridge, who will run the risk of being driven from their lands. They will be ousted from them by the Indiana Company — by the survivors — although their right and titles have been confirmed by the Assembly of our own state. I will pursue it no farther now, but take an opportunity to consider it another time.

The alarming magnitude of our debts is urged as a reason for our adoption. And shall we, because involved in debts, take less care of our rights and liberties? Shall we abandon them because we owe money which we cannot immediately pay? Will this system enable us to pay our debts and lessen our difficulties? Perhaps the new government possesses some secret, some powerful means of turning every Edition: current; Page: [271] thing to gold. It has been called by one gentleman the philosopher’s stone. The comparison was a pointed one, at least in this, that, on the subject of producing gold, they will be both equally delusive and fallacious. The one will be as inapplicable as the other. The dissolution of the Union, the dangers of separate confederacies, and the quarrels of borderers, have been enlarged upon to persuade us to embrace this government.

My honorable colleague in the late Convention seems to raise phantoms, and to show a singular skill in exorcisms, to terrify and compel us to take the new government, with all its sins and dangers. I know that he once saw as great danger in it as I do. What has happened since to alter his opinion? If any thing, I know it not. But the Virginia legislature has occasioned it, by postponing the matter. The Convention had met in June, instead of March or April. The liberty or misery of millions yet unborn are deeply concerned in our decision. When this is the case, I cannot imagine that the short period between the last of September and first of June ought to make any difference. The union between England and Scotland has been strongly instanced by the honorable gentleman to prove the necessity of our acceding to this new government. He must know that the act of union secured the rights of the Scotch nation. The rights and privileges of the people of Scotland are expressly secured. We wish only our rights to be secured. We must have such amendments as will secure the liberties and happiness of the people on a plain, simple construction, not on a doubtful ground. We wish to give the government sufficient energy, on real republican principles; but we wish to withhold such powers as are not absolutely necessary in themselves, but are extremely dangerous. We wish to shut the door against corruption in that place where it is most dangerous — to secure against the corruption of our own representatives. We ask such amendments as will point out what powers are reserved to the state governments, and clearly discriminate between them and those which are given to the general government, so as to prevent future disputes and clashing of interests. Grant us amendments like these, and we will cheerfully, with our hands and hearts, unite with those who advocate it, and we will do every thing we can to support and carry it into execution. But in its present Edition: current; Page: [272] form we never can accede to it. Our duty to God and to our posterity forbids it. We acknowledge the defects of the Confederation, and the necessity of a reform. We ardently wish for a union with our sister states, on terms of security. This I am bold to declare is the desire of most of the people. On these terms we will most cheerfully join with the warmest friends of this Constitution. On another occasion I shall point out the great dangers of this Constitution, and the amendments which are necessary. I will likewise endeavor to show that amendments after ratification are delusive and fallacious — perhaps utterly impracticable.

Mr. LEE (of Westmoreland) strongly urged the propriety of adhering to the resolution of the house, of debating the subject regularly; that the irregular and disorderly manner in which gentlemen had hitherto proceeded was unfriendly to a rational and just decision, tended to protract time unnecessarily, and interfered with the private concerns of gentlemen.

He then proceeded: I waited some time in hopes that some gentleman on the same side of the question would rise. I hope that I may take the liberty of making a few remarks on what fell from the honorable gentleman last up. He has endeavored to draw our attention from the merits of the question by jocose observations and satirical allusions. He ought to know that ridicule is not the test of truth. Does he imagine that he who can raise the loudest laugh is the soundest reasoner? Sir, the judgments, and not the risibility, of gentlemen, are to be consulted. Had the gentleman followed that rule which he himself proposed, he would not have shown the letter of a private gentleman, who, in times of difficulty, had offered his opinion respecting the mode in which it would be most expedient to raise the public funds. Does it follow, since a private individual proposed such a scheme of taxation, that the new government will adopt it? But the same principle has also governed the gentleman when he mentions the expressions of another private gentleman — the well-born; that our federal representatives are to be chosen from the higher orders of the people — from the well-born. Is there a single expression like this in the Constitution? Every man who is entitled to vote for a member of our own state legislature, will have a right to vote for a member in the House of Representatives Edition: current; Page: [273] in the general government. In both cases the confidence of the people alone can procure an election. This insinuation is totally unwarrantable. Is it proper that the Constitution should be thus attacked with the opinions of every private gentleman? I hope we shall hear no more of such groundless aspersions. Raising a laugh, sir, will not prove the merits, nor expose the defects, of this system.

The honorable gentleman abominates it, because it does not prohibit the importation of slaves, and because it does not secure the continuance of the existing slavery! Is it not obviously inconsistent to criminate it for two contradictory reasons? I submit it to the consideration of the gentlemen, whether, if it be reprehensible in the one case, it can be censurable in the other. Mr. Lee then concluded by earnestly recommending to the committee to proceed regularly.

Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, I must make a few observations on this subject; and, if my arguments are desultory, I hope I shall stand justified by the bad example which has been set me, and the necessity I am under of following my opponents through all their various recesses. I do not in the smallest degree blame the conduct of the gentlemen who represented this state in the general Convention. I believe that they endeavored to do all the good to this commonwealth which was in their power, and that all the members who formed that Convention did every thing within the compass of their abilities to procure the best terms for their particular states. That they did not do more for the general good of America, is perhaps a misfortune. They are entitled, however, to our thanks and those of the people. Although I do not approve of the result of their deliberations, I do not criminate or suspect the principles on which they acted. I desire that what I may say may not be improperly applied. I make no allusions to any gentleman whatever.

I do not pretend to say that the present Confederation is not defective. Its defects have been actually experienced. But I am afraid that they cannot be removed. It has defects arising from reasons which are inseparable from the nature of such governments, and which cannot be removed but by death. All such governments, that ever existed, have uniformly produced this consequence — that particular interests have been consulted, and the general good, to which all Edition: current; Page: [274] wishes ought to be directed, has been neglected. But the particular disorders of Virginia ought not to be attributed to the Confederation. I was concerned to hear the local affairs of Virginia mentioned. If these make impressions on the minds of the gentlemen, why did not the Convention provide for the removing the evils of the government of Virginia? If I am right, the states, with respect to their internal affairs, are left precisely as before, except in a few instances. Of course, the judiciary, should this government be adopted, would not be improved; the state government would be in this respect nearly the same; and the Assembly may, without judge or jury, hang as many men as they may think proper to sacrifice to the good of the public. Our judiciary has been certainly improved in some respects since the revolution. The proceedings of our courts are not, at least, as rapid as they were under the royal government.

[Here Mr. Grayson mentioned a particular cause which had been thirty-one years on the docket.]

The adoption of this government will not meliorate our own particular system. I beg leave to consider the circumstances of the Union antecedent to the meeting of the Convention at Philadelphia. We have been told of phantoms and ideal dangers to lead us into measures which will, in my opinion, be the ruin of our country. If the existence of those dangers cannot be proved, if there be no apprehension of wars, if there be no rumors of wars, it will place the subject in a different light, and plainly evince to the world that there cannot be any reason for adopting measures which we apprehend to be ruinous and destructive. When this state proposed that the general government should be improved, Massachusetts was just recovered from a rebellion which had brought the republic to the brink of destruction — from a rebellion which was crushed by that federal government which is now so much contemned and abhorred: a vote of that august body for fifteen hundred men, aided by the exertions of the state, silenced all opposition, and shortly restored the public tranquillity. Massachusetts was satisfied that these internal commotions were so happily settled, and was unwilling to risk any similar distresses by theoretic experiments. Were the Eastern States willing to enter into this measure? Were they willing to accede to the proposal Edition: current; Page: [275] of Virginia? In what manner was it received? Connecticut revolted at the idea. The Eastern States, sir, were unwilling to recommend a meeting of a convention. They were well aware of the dangers of revolutions and changes. Why was every effort used, and such uncommon pains taken, to bring it about? This would have been unnecessary, had it been approved of by the people. Was Pennsylvania disposed for the reception of this project of reformation? No, sir. She was even unwilling to amend her revenue laws, so as to make the five per centum operative. She was satisfied with things as they were. There was no complaint, that ever I heard of, from any other part of the Union, except Virginia. This being the case among ourselves, what dangers were there to be apprehended from foreign nations? It will be easily shown that dangers from that quarter were absolutely imaginary. Was not France friendly? Unequivocally so. She was devising new regulations of commerce for our advantage. Did she harass us with applications for her money? Is it likely that France will quarrel with us? Is it not reasonable to suppose that she will be more desirous than ever to cling, after losing the Dutch republic, to her best ally? How are the Dutch? We owe them money, it is true; and are they not willing that we should owe them more? Mr. Adams applied to them for a new loan to the poor, despised Confederation. They readily granted it. The Dutch have a fellow-feeling for us. They were in the same situation with ourselves.

I believe that the money which the Dutch borrowed of Henry IV. is not yet paid. How did they pass Queen Elizabeth’s loan? At a very considerable discount. They took advantage of the weakness and necessities of James I., and made their own terms with that contemptible monarch. Loans from nations are not like loans from private men. Nations lend money, and grant assistance, to one another, from views of national interest. France was willing to pluck the fairest feather out of the British crown. This was her object in aiding us. She will not quarrel with us on pecuniary considerations. Congress considered it in this point of view; for when a proposition was made to make it a debt of private persons, it was rejected without hesitation. That respectable body wisely considered, that, while we remained Edition: current; Page: [276] their debtors in so considerable a degree, they would not be inattentive to our interest.

With respect to Spain, she is friendly in a high degree. I wish to know by whose interposition was the treaty with Morocco made. Was it not by that of the king of Spain? Several predatory nations disturbed us, on going into the Mediterranean: the influence of Charles III. at the Barbary court, and four thousand pounds, procured as good a treaty with Morocco as could be expected. But I acknowledge it is not of any consequence, since the Algerines and people of Tunis have not entered into similar measures. We have nothing to fear from Spain; and, were she hostile, she could never be formidable to this country. Her strength is so scattered, that she never can be dangerous to us either in peace or war.

As to Portugal, we have a treaty with her, which may be very advantageous, though it be not yet ratified.

The domestic debt is diminished by considerable sales of western lands to Cutler, Sergeant, and Company; to Simms; and to Royal, Flint, and Company. The board of treasury is authorized to sell in Europe, or any where else, the residue of those lands.

An act of Congress has passed, to adjust the public debts between the individual states and the United States.

Was our trade in a despicable situation? I shall say nothing of what did not come under my own observation. When I was in Congress, sixteen vessels had had sea letters in the East India trade, and two hundred vessels entered and cleared out, in the French West India Islands, in one year.

I must confess that public credit has suffered, and that our public creditors have been ill used. This was owing to a fault at the head-quarters, — to Congress themselves, — in not apportioning the debts on the different states, and in not selling the western lands at an earlier period. If requisitions have not been complied with, it must be owing to Congress, who might have put the unpopular debts on the back lands. Commutation is abhorrent to New England ideas. Speculation is abhorrent to the Eastern States. Those inconveniences have resulted from the bad policy of Congress.

There are certain modes of governing the people which Edition: current; Page: [277] will succeed. There are others which will not. The idea of consolidation is abhorrent to the people of this country. How were the sentiments of the people before the meeting of the Convention at Philadelphia? They had only one object in view. Their ideas reached no farther than to give the general government the five per centum impost, and the regulation of trade. When it was agitated in Congress, in a committee of the whole, this was all that was asked, or was deemed necessary. Since that period, their views have extended much farther. Horrors have been greatly magnified since the rising of the Convention.

We are now told by the honorable gentleman (Governor Randolph) that we shall have wars and rumors of wars, that every calamity is to attend us, and that we shall be ruined and disunited forever, unless we adopt this Constitution. Pennsylvania and Maryland are to fall upon us from the north, like the Goths and Vandals of old; the Algerines, whose flat-sided vessels never came farther than Madeira, are to fill the Chesapeake with mighty fleets, and to attack us on our front; the Indians are to invade us with numerous armies on our rear, in order to convert our cleared lands into hunting-grounds; and the Carolinians, from the south, (mounted on alligators, I presume,) are to come and destroy our cornfields, and eat up our little children! These, sir, are the mighty dangers which await us if we reject — dangers which are merely imaginary, and ludicrous in the extreme! Are we to be destroyed by Maryland and Pennsylvania? What will democratic states make war for, and how long since have they imbibed a hostile spirit?

But the generality are to attack us. Will they attack us after violating their faith in the first Union? Will they not violate their faith if they do not take us into their confederacy? Have they not agreed, by the old Confederation, that the Union shall be perpetual, and that no alteration should take place without the consent of Congress, and the confirmation of the legislatures of every state? I cannot think that there is such depravity in mankind as that, after violating public faith so flagrantly, they should make war upon us, also, for not following their example.

The large states have divided the back lands among themselves, and have given as much as they thought proper to the generality. For the fear of disunion, we are told that Edition: current; Page: [278] we ought to take measures which we otherwise should not. Disunion is impossible. The Eastern States hold the fisheries, which are their cornfields, by a hair. They have a dispute with the British government about their limits at this moment. Is not a general and strong government necessary for their interest? If ever nations had inducements to peace, the Eastern States now have. New York and Pennsylvania anxiously look forward for the fur trade. How can they obtain it but by union? Can the western posts be got or retained without union? How are the little states inclined? They are not likely to disunite. Their weakness will prevent them from quarrelling. Little men are seldom fond of quarrelling among giants. Is there not a strong inducement to union, while the British are on one side and the Spaniards on the other? Thank Heaven, we have a Carthage of our own!

But we are told that, if we do not embrace the present moment, we are lost forever. Is there no difference between productive states and carrying states? If we hold out, will not the tobacco trade enable us to make terms with the carrying states? Is there nothing in a similarity of laws, religion, language, and manners? Do not these, and the intercourse and intermarriage between the people of the different states, invite them in the strongest manner to union?

But what would I do on the present occasion to remedy the existing defects of the present Confederation? There are two opinions prevailing in the world — the one, that mankind can only be governed by force; the other, that they are capable of freedom and a good government. Under a supposition that mankind can govern themselves, I would recommend that the present Confederation should be amended. Give Congress the regulation of commerce. Infuse new strength and spirit into the state governments; for, when the component parts are strong, it will give energy to the government, although it be otherwise weak. This may be proved by the union of Utrecht.

Apportion the public debts in such a manner as to throw the unpopular ones on the back lands. Call only for requisitions for the foreign interest, and aid them by loans. Keep on so till the American character be marked with some certain features. We are yet too young to know what we are fit for. The continual migration of people from Europe, Edition: current; Page: [279] and the settlement of new countries on our western frontiers, are strong arguments against making new experiments now in government. When these things are removed, we can with greater prospect of success, devise changes. We ought to consider, as Montesquieu says, whether the construction of the government be suitable to the genius and disposition of the people, as well as a variety of other circumstances.

But if this position be not true, and men can only be governed by force, then be as gentle as possible. What, then, would I do? I would not take the British monarchy for my model. We have not materials for such a government in this country, although I will be bold to say, that it is one of the governments in the world by which liberty and property are best secured. But I would adopt the following government. I would have a President for life, choosing his successor at the same time; a Senate for life, with the powers of the House of Lords; and a triennial House of Representatives, with the powers of the House of Commons in England.

By having such a President, we should have more independence and energy in the executive, and not be encumbered with the expense, &c., of a court and an hereditary prince and family. By such a Senate, we should have more stability in the laws, without having an odious hereditary aristocracy. By the other branch, we should be fully and fairly represented. If, sir, we are to be consolidated at all, we ought to be fully represented, and governed with sufficient energy, according to numbers, in both houses.

I admit that coercion is necessary in every government in some degree; that it is manifestly wanting in our present government, and that the want of it has ruined many nations. But I should be glad to know what great degree of coercion is in this Constitution, more than in the old government, if the states will refuse to comply with requisitions, and they can only be compelled by means of an army. Suppose the people will not pay the taxes; is not the sword to be then employed? The difference is this — that, by this Constitution, the sword is employed against individuals: by the other, it is employed against the states, which is more honorable. Suppose a general resistance to pay taxes in such a state as Massachusetts; will it not be precisely the same thing as a non-compliance with requisitions?

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Will this Constitution remedy the fatal inconveniences of the clashing state interests? Will not every member that goes from Virginia be actuated by state influence? So they will also from every other state. Will the liberty and property of this country be secure under such a government? What, sir, is the present Constitution? A republican government founded on the principles of monarchy, with the three estates. Is it like the model of Tacitus or Montesquieu? Are there checks in it, as in the British monarchy? There is an executive fetter in some parts, and as unlimited in others as a Roman dictator. A democratic branch marked with the strong features of aristocracy, and an aristocratic branch with all the impurities and imperfections of the British House of Commons, arising from the inequality of representation and want of responsibility. There will be plenty of Old Sarums, if the new Constitution should be adopted. Do we love the British so well as to imitate their imperfections? We could not effect it more than in that particular instance. Are not all defects and corruption founded on an inequality of representation and want of responsibility? How is the executive? Contrary to the opinion of all the best writers, blended with the legislative. We have asked for bread, and they have given us a stone. I am willing to give the government the regulation of trade. It will be serviceable in regulating the trade among the states. But I believe that it will not be attended with the advantages generally expected.

As to direct taxation — give up this, and you give up every thing, as it is the highest act of sovereignty: surrender up this inestimable jewel, and you throw away a pearl richer than all your tribe. But it has been said by an honorable gentleman, (Mr. Pendleton,) as well as I recollect, that there could be no such thing as an interference between the two legislatures, either in point of direct taxation, or in any other case whatsoever. An honorable gentleman (Mr. Mason) has replied that they might interfere in the case of a poll tax. I will go farther, and say, that the case may happen in the judiciary. Suppose a state execution and a federal execution issued against the same man, and the state officer and federal officer seize him at the same moment; would they divide the man in two, as Solomon directed the child to be divided who was claimed by two Edition: current; Page: [281] women? I suppose the general government, as being paramount, would prevail. How are two legislatures to coincide, with powers transcendent, supreme, and omnipotent? for such is the definition of a legislature. There must be an external interference, not only in the collection of taxes, but in the judiciary. Was there ever such a thing in any country before? Great Britain never went so far in the stamp act. Poyning’s law — the abhorrence of the Irish — never went so far. I never heard of two supreme coördinate powers in one and the same country before. I cannot conceive how it can happen. It surpasses every thing that I have read of concerning other governments, or that I can conceive by the utmost exertion of my faculties.

But, sir, as a cure for every thing, the democratic branch is elected by the people. What security is there in that? as has already been demanded. Their number is too small. Is not a small number more easy to be corrupted than a large one? Were not the tribunes at Rome the choice of the people? Were not the decemviri chosen by them? Was not Cæsar himself the choice of the people? Did this secure them from oppression and slavery? Did this render these agents so chosen by the people upright? If five hundred and sixty members are corrupted in the British House of Commons, will it not be easier to corrupt ninety-one members of the new Constitution? But the British House of Commons are corrupted from the same cause that our representatives will be: I mean, from the Old Sarums among them — from the inequality of the representation. How many are legislating in this country yearly? It is thought necessary to have fifteen hundred representatives, for the great purposes of legislation, throughout the Union, exclusive of one hundred and sixty senators, which form a proportion of about one for every fifteen hundred persons. By the present Constitution, these extensive powers are to be exercised by the small number of ninety-one persons — a proportion almost twenty times less than the other. It must be degrading indeed to think that so small a number should be equal to so many! Such a preferential distinction must presuppose the happiest selection. They must have something divine in their composition, to merit such a preëminence. But my greatest objection is, that it will, in its operation, be found unequal, grievous, and oppressive. If it have any Edition: current; Page: [282] efficacy at all, it must be by a faction — a faction of one part of the Union against the other. I think that it has a great natural imbecility within itself, too weak for a consolidated and too strong for a confederate government. But if it be called into action by a combination of seven states, it will be terrible indeed. We need be at no loss to determine how this combination will be formed. There is a great difference of circumstances between the states. The interest of the carrying states is strikingly different from that of the productive states. I mean not to give offence to any part of America, but mankind are governed by interest. The carrying states will assuredly unite, and our situation will be then wretched indeed. Our commodities will be transported on their own terms, and every measure will have for its object their particular interest. Let ill-fated Ireland be ever present to our view. We ought to be wise enough to guard against the abuse of such a government. Republics, in fact, oppress more than monarchies. If we advert to the page of history, we shall find this disposition too often manifested in republican governments. The Romans, in ancient, and the Dutch, in modern times, oppressed their provinces in a remarkable degree.

I hope that my fears are groundless; but I believe it as I do my creed, that this government will operate as a faction of seven states to oppress the rest of the union. But it may be said that we are represented, and cannot therefore be injured. A poor representation it will be! The British would have been glad to take America into the union, like the Scotch, by giving us a small representation. The Irish might be indulged with the same favor by asking for it. Will that lessen our misfortunes? A small representation gives a pretence to injure and destroy. But, sir, the Scotch union is introduced by an honorable gentleman as an argument in favor of adoption. Would he wish his country to be on the same foundation as Scotland? They have but fortyfive members in the House of Commons, and sixteen in the House of Lords.

These go up regularly in order to be bribed. The smallness of their number puts it out of their power to carry any measure. And this unhappy nation exhibits the only instance, perhaps, in the world, where corruption becomes a virtue. I devoutly pray that this description of Scotland Edition: current; Page: [283] may not be picturesque of the Southern States, in three years from this time! The committee being tired, as well as myself, I will take another time to give my opinion more fully on this great and important subject.

Mr. Monroe, seconded by Mr. Henry, moved that the committee should rise, that Mr. Grayson might have an opportunity of continuing his argument next day. Mr. Madison insisted on going through the business regularly, according to the resolution of the house.

[The 1st and 2d sections still under consideration.]

Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, I asserted yesterday that there were two opinions in the world — the one that mankind were capable of governing themselves, the other that it required actual force to govern them. On the principle that the first position was true, and which is consonant to the rights of humanity, the house will recollect that it was my opinion to amend the present Confederation, and infuse a new portion of health and strength into the state governments; to apportion the public debts in such a manner as to throw the unpopular ones on the back lands; to divide the rest of the domestic debt among the different states; and to call for requisitions only for the interest of the foreign debt. If, contrary to this maxim, force is necessary to govern men, I then did propose, as an alternative, not a monarchy like that of Great Britain, but a milder government, one which, under the idea of a general corruption of manners, and the consequent necessity of force, should be as gentle as possible. I showed, in as strong a manner as I could, some of the principal defects in the Constitution. The greatest defect is the opposition of the component parts to the interests of the whole; for, let gentlemen ascribe its defects to as many causes as their imagination may suggest, this is the principal and radical one. I urged that, to remedy the evils which must result from this government, a more equal representation in the legislature, and proper checks against abuse, were indispensably necessary. I do not pretend to propose for your adoption the plan of government which I mentioned as an alternative to a monarchy, in case mankind were incapable of governing themselves. I only meant, if it were once established that force was necessary to govern men, that such Edition: current; Page: [284] a plan would be more eligible for a free people than the introduction of crowned heads and nobles. Having premised this much, to obviate misconstruction, I shall proceed to the clause before us with this observation — that I prefer a complete consolidation to a partial one, but a federal government to either. In my opinion, the states which give up the power of taxation have nothing more to give. The people of that state which suffers any power but her own immediate government to interfere with the sovereign right of taxation are gone forever. Giving the right of taxation is giving a right to increase the miseries of the people. Is it not a political absurdity to suppose that there can be two concurrent legislatures, each possessing the supreme power of direct taxation? If two powers come in contact, must not the one prevail over the other? Must it not strike every man’s mind, that two unlimited, coëqual, coördinate authorities, over the same objects, cannot exist together? But we are told that there is one instance of coëxisting powers, in cases of petty corporations, as well here as in other parts of the world. The case of petty corporations does not prove the propriety or possibility of two coëqual, transcendent powers over the same object. Although these have the power of taxation, it only extends to certain degrees and for certain purposes. The powers of corporations are defined, and operate on limited objects. Their power originates by the authority of the legislature, and can be destroyed by the same authority. Persons carrying on the powers of a petty corporation may be punished for interfering with the power of the legislature. Their acts are entirely nugatory, if they contravene those of the legislature.

Scotland is also introduced to show that two different bodies may, with convenience, exercise power of taxation in the same country. How is the land tax there? There is a fixed apportionment. When England pays four shillings in the pound, Scotland only pays forty-five thousand pounds. This proportion cannot be departed from, whatever augmentation may take place. There are stannary courts, and a variety of other inferior private courts, in England. But when they pass the bounds of their jurisdiction, the supreme courts in Westminster Hall may, on appeal, correct the abuse of their power. Is there any connection between the federal courts and state courts? What power is there to keep them Edition: current; Page: [285] in order? Where is there any authority to terminate disputes between these two contending powers? An observation came from an honorable gentleman, (Mr. Mason,) when speaking of the propriety of the general government’s exercising this power, that, according to the rules and doctrine of representation, the thing was entirely impracticable. I agreed with him in sentiment. I waited to hear the answer from the admirers of the new Constitution. What was the answer? Gentlemen were obliged to give up the point with respect to general, uniform taxes. They have the candor to acknowledge that taxes on slaves would not affect the Eastern States, and that taxes on fish or potash would not affect the Southern States. They are then reduced to this dilemma. In order to support this part of the system, they are obliged to controvert the first maxims of representation. The best writers on this subject lay it down as a fundamental principle, that he who lays a tax should bear his proportion of paying it. A tax that might with propriety be laid, and with ease collected, in Delaware, might be highly improper in Virginia. The taxes cannot be uniform throughout the states without being oppressive to some. If they be not uniform, some of the members will lay taxes, in the payment of which they will bear no proportion. The members of Delaware will assist in laying a tax on our slaves, of which they will pay no part whatever. The members of Delaware do not return to Virginia, to give an account of their conduct. This total want of responsibility and fellow-feeling will destroy the benefits of representation. In order to obviate this objection, the gentleman has said that the same evil exists, in some degree, in the present Confederation: — to which I answer, that the present Confederation has nothing to do but to say how much money is necessary, and to fix the proportion to be paid by each state. They cannot say in what manner the money shall be raised. This is left to the state legislatures.

But, says the honorable gentleman, (Mr. Madison,) if we were in danger, we should be convinced of the necessity of the clause. Are we to be terrified into a belief of its necessity? It is proposed by the opposition to amend it in the following manner — that requisitions shall be first made, and if not paid, that direct taxes shall be laid by way of punishment. If this ultimate right be in Congress, will it Edition: current; Page: [286] not be in their power to raise money on any emergency? Will not their credit be competent to procure any sum they may want? Gentlemen agree that it would be proper to imitate the conduct of other countries, and Great Britain particularly, in borrowing money, and establishing funds for the payment of the interest on the loans; that, when the government is properly organized, and its competency to raise money made known, public and private confidence will be the result, and men will readily lend it any sums it may stand in need of. If this should be a fact, and the reasoning well founded, it will clearly follow that it will be practicable to borrow money in cases of great difficulty and danger, on the principles contended for by the opposition; and this observation must supersede the necessity of granting them the powers of direct taxation in the first instance, provided the right is secured in the second.

As to the idea of making extensive loans for extinguishing the present domestic debt, it is what I have not by any means in contemplation. I think it would be unnecessary, unjust, and impolitic. This country is differently situated and circumstanced from all other countries in the world. It is now thinly inhabited, but daily increasing in numbers. It would not be politic to lay grievous taxes and burdens at present. If our numbers double in twenty-five years, as is generally believed, we ought to spare the present race, because there will be double the number of persons to pay in that period of time; so that, were our matters so arranged that the interest could be paid regularly, and that any one might get his money when he thought proper, as is the case now in England, it would be all that public faith would require. Place the subject, however, in every point of view — whether as it relates to raising money for the immediate exigencies of the state, or for the extinction of the foreign or the domestic debt — still it must be obvious, if a proper confidence is placed in the acknowledgment of the right of taxation in the second instance, that every purpose can be answered.

However, sir, if the states are not blameless, why has not the Congress used that coercion which is vested in their government? It is an unquestionable fact that the Belgic republic, on a similar occasion, by an actual exertion of force, brought a delinquent province to a proper sense of justice. The gentleman said that, in case of a partial compliance Edition: current; Page: [287] with requisitions, the alternative proposed will operate unequally, by taxing those who may have already paid, as well as those who have not, and involving the innocent in the crimes of the guilty. Suppose the new government fully vested with authority to raise taxes; it will also operate unequally. To make up antecedent deficiencies, they will lay more taxes the next succeeding year. By this means, those persons from whom a full proportion shall have been extracted will be saddled with a share of the deficiencies, as well as those who shall not have discharged their full portion. This mode, then, will have precisely the same unequal and unjust operation as the other.

I said, yesterday, that there were one thousand five hundred representatives, and one hundred and sixty senators, who transacted the affairs of the different states. But we are told that this great number is unnecessary, and that in the multitude of counsellors there is folly instead of wisdom; that they are a dead weight on the public business, which is said in all public assemblies to devolve on a few. This may in some degree be true, but it will not apply in the great latitude as mentioned by the gentleman. If ten men in our Assembly do the public business, may not the same observation extend to Congress? May not five men do the public business of the Union? But there is a great difference between the objects of legislation in Congress and those of the state legislatures. If the former be more complicated, there is a greater necessity of a full and adequate representation. It must be confessed that it is highly improper to trust our liberty and property in the hands of so few persons, if they were any thing less than divine. But it seems that, in this contest of power, the state governments have the advantage. I am of opinion that it will be directly the reverse. What influence can the state governments be supposed to have, after the loss of their most important rights? Will not the diminution of their power and influence be an augmentation of those of the general government? Will not the officers of the general government receive higher compensation for their services than those of the state governments? Will not the most influential men be employed by Congress? I think the state governments will be contemned and despised as soon as they give up the power of direct taxation; Edition: current; Page: [288] and a state, says Montesquieu, should lose her existence sooner than her importance.

But, sir, we are told that, if we do not give up this power to Congress, the impost will be stretched to the utmost extent. I do suppose this might follow, if the thing did not correct itself. But we know that it is the nature of this kind of taxation, that a small duty will bring more real money than a large one. The experience of the English nation proves the truth of this assertion. There has been much said of the necessity of the five per cent. impost. I have been ever of opinion, that two and a half per cent. would produce more real money into the treasury. But we need not be alarmed on this account, because, when smugglers will be induced, by heavy imposts, to elude the laws, the general government will find it their interest again to reduce them within reasonable and moderate limits. But it is suggested that, if direct taxation be inflicted by way of punishment, it will create great disturbances in the country. This is an assertion without argument. If man is a reasonable being, he will submit to punishment, and acquiesce in the justice of its infliction, when he knows he deserves it. The states will comply with the requisitions of Congress more readily when they know that this power may be ultimately used; and if they do not comply, they will have no reasons to complain of its exercise.

We are then told of the armed neutrality of the empress of Russia, the opposition to it by Great Britain, and the acquiescence of other powers. We are told that, in order to become the carriers of contending nations, it will be necessary to be formidable at sea — that we must have a fleet in case of a war between Great Britain and France. I think that the powers who formed that treaty will be able to support it. But if we were certain that this would not be the case, still I think that the profits that might arise from such a transient commerce could not compensate for the expenses of rendering ourselves formidable at sea, or the dangers that would probably result from the attempt. To have a fleet, in the present limited population of America, is, in my opinion, impracticable and inexpedient. Is America in a situation to have a fleet? I take it to be a rule founded on common sense, that manufacturers, as well as sailors, proceed from a redundancy of inhabitants. Our numbers, compared to our territory, are Edition: current; Page: [289] very small indeed. I think, therefore, that all attempts to have a fleet, till our western lands are fully settled, are nugatory and vain. How will you induce your people to go to sea? Is it not more agreeable to follow agriculture than to encounter the dangers and hardships of the ocean? The same reasoning will apply in a greater degree to manufacturers. Both are the result of necessity. It would, besides, be dangerous to have a fleet in our present weak, dispersed, and defenceless situation. The powers of Europe, who have West India possessions, would be alarmed at any extraordinary maritime exertions, and, knowing the danger of our arrival at manhood, would crush us in our infancy. In my opinion, the great objects most necessary to be promoted and attended to, in America, are agriculture and population. First take care that you are sufficiently strong, by land, to guard against European partition; secure your own house before you attack that of other people. I think that the sailors who would be prevailed on to go to sea would be a real loss to the community: neglect of agriculture and loss of labor would be the certain consequence of such an irregular policy.

I hope that, when these objections are thoroughly considered, all ideas of having a fleet, in our infant situation, will be given over. When the American character is better known, and the government established on permanent principles, — when we shall be sufficiently populous, and our situation secure, — then come forward with a fleet; not with a small one, but with one sufficient to meet any of the maritime powers.

The honorable gentleman (Mr. Madison) said that the imposts will be less productive hereafter, on account of the increase of population. I shall not controvert this principle. When all the lands are settled, and we have manufactures sufficient, this may be the case. But I believe that for a very long time this cannot possibly happen. In islands and thick-settled countries, where they have manufactures, the principle will hold good, but will not apply in any degree to our country. I apprehend that, among us, as the people in the lower country find themselves straitened, they will remove to the frontiers, which, for a considerable period, will prevent the lower country from being very populous, or having recourse to manufactures. I cannot, therefore, but Edition: current; Page: [290] conclude that the amount of the imposts will continue to increase, at least for a great number of years.

Holland, we are informed, is not happy, because she has not a constitution like this. This is but an unsupported assertion. Do we not know the cause of her misfortunes? The evil is coeval with her existence — there are always opposite parties in that republic. There are now two parties — the aristocratic party, supporting the Prince of Orange, and the Lovestein party, supporting the rights of the people. France foments the one, and Great Britain the other. Is it known, if Holland had begun with such a government as this, that the violence of faction would not produce the same evils which they experience at this present moment? It is said that all our evils result from requisitions on the states. I did not expect to hear of complaints for non-compliance during the war. Do not gentlemen recollect our situation during the war? Our ports were blocked up, and all means of getting money destroyed, and almost every article taken from the farmer for the public service — so as, in many instances, not to leave him enough to support his own family with tolerable decency and comfort. It cannot be forgot that another resort of government was applied to, and that press-warrants were made to answer for non-compliance of requisitions. Every person must recollect our miserable situation during the arduous contest; therefore, I shall make no further apology for the states, during the existence of the war. Since the peace, there have been various causes for not furnishing the necessary quotas to the general government. In some of the flourishing states, the requisitions have been attended to; in others, their non-compliance is to be attributed more to the inability of the people than to their unwillingness to advance the general interests. Massachusetts attempted to correct the nature of things by extracting more from the people than they were able to part with. What did it produce? A revolution which shook that state to its centre.

Paper money has been introduced. What did we do a few years ago? Struck off many millions, and by the charms of magic made the value of the emissions diminish by a forty-fold ratio. However unjust or unreasonable this might be, I suppose it was warranted by the inevitable laws of necessity. But, sir, there is no disposition now of having Edition: current; Page: [291] paper money; this engine of iniquity is universally reprobated. But conventions give power, and conventions can take it away. This observation does not appear to me well founded. It is not so easy to dissolve a government like this. Its dissolution may be prevented by a trifling minority of the people of America. The consent of so many states is necessary to introduce amendments, that I fear they will with great difficulty be obtained. It is said that a strong government will increase our population by the addition of immigrants. From what quarter is immigration to proceed? From the arbitrary monarchies of Europe? I fear this kind of population would not add much to our happiness or improvement. It is supposed that, from the prevalence of the Orange faction, numbers will come hither from Holland, although it is not imagined the strength of the government will form the inducement. The exclusive power of legislation over the ten miles square is introduced by many gentlemen. I would not deny the utility of vesting the general government with a power of this kind, were it properly guarded. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it occurs to me that Congress may give exclusive privileges to merchants residing within the ten miles square, and that the same exclusive power of legislation will enable them to grant similar privileges to merchants in the strongholds within the states. I wish to know if there be any thing in the Constitution to prevent it. If there be, I have not been able to discover it. I may, perhaps, not thoroughly comprehend this part of the Constitution; but it strikes my mind that there is a possibility that, in process of time, and from the simple operation of effects from causes, the whole commerce of the United States may be exclusively carried on by merchants residing within the seat of government, and those places of arms which may be purchased of the state legislatures. How detrimental and injurious to the community, and how repugnant to the equal rights of mankind, such exclusive emoluments would be, I submit to the consideration of the committee. Things of a similar nature have happened in other countries; or else from whence have issued the Hanse Towns, Cinque Ports, and other places in Europe, which have peculiar privileges in commerce as well as in other matters? I do not offer this sentiment as an opinion, but a conjecture, and, in this doubtful agitation of mind on Edition: current; Page: [292] a point of such infinite magnitude, only ask for information from the framers of the Constitution, whose superior opportunities must have furnished them with more ample lights on the subject than I am possessed of. Something is said on the other side with respect to the Mississippi. An honorable gentleman has mentioned, that he was satisfied that no member of Congress had any idea of giving up that river. Sir, I am not at liberty, from my situation, to enter into any investigation on the subject. I am free, however, to acknowledge that I have frequently heard the honorable member declare, that he conceived the object then in contemplation was the only method by which the right of that river could be ultimately secured. I have heard similar declarations from other members.

I must beg leave to observe, at the same time, that I most decidedly differed with them in sentiment. With respect to the citizens of the Eastern and some of the Middle States, perhaps the best and surest means of discovering their general dispositions may be by having recourse to their interests. This seems to be the pole-star to which the policy of nations is directed. If this supposition should be well founded, I think they must have reasons of considerable magnitude for wishing the exclusion of that river. If the Mississippi was yielded to Spain, the migration to the western country would be stopped, and the Northern States would not only retain their inhabitants, but preserve their superiority and influence over those of the South. If matters go on in their present direction, there will be a number of new states to the westward — population may become greater in the Southern States — the ten miles square may approach us! This they must naturally wish to prevent. I think gentlemen may know the disposition of the different states, from the geography of the country, and from the reason and nature of things. Is it not highly imprudent to vest a power in the generality, which will enable those states to relinquish that river? There are but feeble restrictions at present to prevent it. By the old Confederation, nine states are necessary to form any treaty. By this Constitution, the President, with two thirds of the members present in the Senate, can make any treaty. Ten members are two thirds of a quorum. Ten members are the representatives of five states. The Northern States may then easily make a treaty relinquishing Edition: current; Page: [293] this river. In my opinion, the power of making treaties, by which the territorial rights of any of the states may be essentially affected, ought to be guarded against every possibility of abuse; and the precarious situation to which those rights will be exposed is one reason, with me, among a number of others, for voting against its adoption.

Mr. PENDLETON. Mr. Chairman, when I spoke formerly, I endeavored to account for the uneasiness of the public mind, that it arose from objections to government drawn from mistaken sources. I stated the general governments of the world to have been either dictated by a conqueror at the point of his sword, or the offspring of confusion — when a great popular leader, seizing the occasion, if he did not produce it, restored order at the expense of liberty, and became the tyrant. In either case, the interest and ambition of the despot, and not the good of society, give the tone to the government, and establish contending interests. A war is commenced, and kept up, where there ought to be union; and the friends of liberty have sounded the alarm to the people, to regain that liberty which circumstances have thus deprived them of. Those alarms, misrepresented and improperly applied to this government, have produced uneasiness in the public mind.

I said, improperly applied, because the people, by us, are peaceably assembled, to contemplate, in the calm lights of mild philosophy, what government is best calculated to promote their happiness and secure their liberty. This I am sure we shall effect, if we do not lose sight of them by too much attachment to pictures of beauty, or horror, in our researches into antiquity, our travels for examples into remote regions, or severe criticisms upon our unfriendly applications of expressions which may drop in the effusions of honest zeal. The term herd was thus produced — meaning to express a multitude. It was capable of an odious application — that of placing the citizens in a degrading character. I wish it had not been used, and I wish the gentleman on the other side had thought himself at liberty to let it pass, without pointing out its odious meaning. However, I claim no right to prescribe to him. It is done, and it must rest with the candor of the attending citizens, whom it concerns, to give it the innocent meaning which, I am sure, the honorable gentleman intended.

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On the subject of government, the worthy member (Mr. Henry) and I differ at the threshold. I think government necessary to protect liberty. He supposes the American spirit all-sufficient for the purpose. What say the most respectable writers — Montesquieu, Locke, Sidney, Harrington, &c.? They have presented us with no such idea. They properly discard from their system all the severity of cruel punishment, such as tortures, inquisitions, and the like — shocking to human nature, and only calculated to coerce the dominion of tyrants over slaves. But they recommend making the ligaments of government firm, and a rigid execution of the laws, as more necessary, than in a monarchy, to preserve that virtue which they all declare to be the pillar on which the government, and liberty, its object, must stand. They are not so visionary as to suppose there ever did, or ever will, exist a society, however large their aggregate fund of virtue may be, but hath among them persons of a turbulent nature, restless in themselves and disturbing the peace of others — sons of rapine and violence, who, unwilling to labor themselves, are watching every opportunity to snatch from the industrious peasant the fruits of his honest labor. Was I not, then, correct in my inference, that such a government and liberty were friends and allies, and that their common enemies were turbulence, faction, and violence? It is those, therefore, that will be offended by good government; and for those I suppose no gentleman will profess himself an advocate.

The writers just mentioned point out licentiousness as the natural offspring of liberty, and that, therefore, all free governments should endeavor to suppress it, or else it will ultimately overthrow that liberty of which it is the result. Is this speculation only? Alas! reason and experience too fatally prove its truth in all instances. A republican government is the nursery of science. It turns the bent of it to eloquence, as a qualification for the representative character, which is, as it ought to be, the road to our public offices. I have pleasure in beholding these characters already produced in our councils — and a rising fund equal to a constant supply. May Heaven prosper their endeavors, and direct their eloquence to the real good of their country! I am unfortunate enough to differ from the worthy member in another circumstance. He professes himself an advocate for Edition: current; Page: [295] the middling and lower classes of men. I profess to be a friend to the equal liberty of all men, from the palace to the cottage, without any other distinction than that between good and bad men. I appeal to my public life and private behavior, to decide whether I have departed from this rule. Since distinctions have been brought forth and communicated to the audience, and will be therefore disseminated, I beg gentlemen to take with them this observation — that distinctions have been produced by the opposition. From the friends of the new government they have heard none. None such are to be found in the organization of the paper before you.

Why bring into the debate the whims of writers — introducing the distinction of well-born from others? I consider every man well-born who comes into the world with an intelligent mind, and with all his parts perfect. I am an advocate for fixing our government on true republican principles, giving to the poor man free liberty in his person and property.

Whether a man be great or small, he is equally dear to me. I wish, sir, for a regular government, in order to secure and protect those honest citizens who have been distinguished — I mean the industrious farmer and planter. I wish them to be protected in the enjoyment of their honestly and industriously acquired property. I wish commerce to be fully protected and encouraged, that the people may have an opportunity of disposing of their crops at market, and of procuring such supplies as they may be in want of. I presume that there can be no political happiness, unless industry be cherished and protected, and property secured. Suppose a poor man becomes rich by honest labor, and increases the public stock of wealth: shall his reward be the loss of that liberty he set out with? Will you take away every stimulus to industry, by declaring that he shall not retain the fruits of it? The idea of the poor becoming rich by assiduity is not mere fancy. I am old enough, and have had sufficient experience, to know the effects of it. I have often known persons, commencing in life without any other stock but industry and economy, by the mere efforts of these, rise to opulence and wealth. This could not have been the case without a government to protect their industry. In my mind the true principle of republicanism, and the greatest Edition: current; Page: [296] security of liberty, is regular government. Perhaps I may not be a republican, but this is my idea. In reviewing the history of the world, shall we find an instance where any society retained its liberty without government? As I before hinted, the smallest society in extent, to the greatest empire, can only be preserved by a regular government, to suppress that faction and turbulence so natural to many of our species. What do men do with those passions when they come into society? Do they leave them? No; they bring them with them. These passions, which they thus bring into society, will produce disturbances, which, without any check, will overturn it.

A distinction has been made, which surprised me, between the illumined mind and the ignorant. I have heard with pleasure, in other places, that worthy gentleman expatiate on the advantages of learning — among other things, as friendly to liberty. I have seen, in our code of laws, the public purse applied to cherish private seminaries. This is not strictly just; but with me the end sanctified the means, and I was satisfied. But did we thus encourage learning, to set up those who attained its benefits as butts of invidious distinction? Surely the worthy member, on reflection, will disavow the idea. He learns to little purpose, indeed, who vainly supposes himself become, from the circumstance, of an order of beings superior to the honest citizens — peasants if you please to term them so — who, in their labor, produce great good to the community. But those illumined minds who apply their knowledge to promote and cherish liberty — equal liberty to all, the peasant as well as others — give to society the real blessings of learning.

I have seen learning used both ways; but have had pleasure in observing, that lately the latter fruits only have generally appeared, which I attribute to the influence of republican principles, and a regard for true liberty. Am I still suspected of want of attachment for my worthy fellow-citizens, whom the gentleman calls peasants and cottagers? Let me add one more observation. I cannot leave them in the state in which he has placed them — in the parallel between them and those of Switzerland, the United Netherlands, and Great Britain. The peasants of the Swiss cantons trade in war. Trained in arms, they become the mercenaries of the best bidder, to carry on the destruction of Edition: current; Page: [297] mankind, as an occupation, where they have not even resentment. Are these a fit people for a comparison with our worthy planters and farmers, in their drawing food and raiment, and even wealth, by honest labor, from the bowels of the earth, where an inexhaustible store is placed by a bountiful Creator?

The citizens of the United Netherlands have no right of suffrage. There, they lost that distinguished badge of freedom. Their representation to their state assemblies is of towns and cities, and not of the people at large.

The people of Britain have the right of suffrage, but sell it for a mess of pottage.

The happiness of the people is the object of this government, and the people are therefore made the fountain of all power. They cannot act personally, and must delegate powers. Here the worthy gentleman who spoke last, and I, travelling not together indeed, but in sight, are placed at an immeasurable distance — as far as the poles asunder. He recommends a government more energetic and strong than this, abundantly too strong ever to receive my approbation, — a first magistrate borrowed from Britain, to whom you are to make a surrender of your liberty; and you give him a separate interest from yours. You intrench that interest by powers and prerogatives undefined — implant in him self-love, from the influence of which he is to do, what — to promote your interest in opposition to his own? An operation of self-love which is new! Having done this, you accept from him a charter of the rights you have parted with; present him a bill of rights, telling him, Thus far shall you oppress us, and no farther.

It still depends on him whether he will give you that charter, or allow the operation of the bill of rights. He will do it as long as he cannot do otherwise, but no longer. Did ever any free people in the world, not dictated to by the sword of a conqueror, or by circumstances into which licentiousness may have plunged them, place themselves in so degrading a situation, or make so disgraceful a sacrifice of their liberty? If they did, sure I am that the example will not be followed by this Convention. This is not all: we are to look somewhere for the chosen few to go into the ten miles square, with extensive powers for life, and thereby destroy every degree of true responsibility. Is there no medium, Edition: current; Page: [298] or shall we recur to extremes? As a republican, sir, I think that the security of the liberty and happiness of the people, from the highest to the lowest, being the object of government, the people are consequently the fountain of all power.

They must, however, delegate it to agents, because, from their number, dispersed situation, and many other circumstances, they cannot exercise it in person. They must therefore, by frequent and certain elections, choose representatives to whom they trust it.

Is there any distinction in the exercise of this delegation of power? The man who possesses twenty-five acres of land has an equal right of voting for a representative with the man who has twenty-five thousand acres. This equality of suffrage secures the people in their property. While we are in pursuit of checks, and balances, and proper security in the delegation of power, we ought never to lose sight of the representative character. By this we preserve the great principle of the primary right of power in the people; and should deviations happen from our interest, the spirit of liberty, in future elections, will correct it — a security I esteem far superior to paper bills of rights.

When the bands of our former society were dissolved, and we were under the necessity of forming a new government, we established a constitution founded on the principle of representation, preserving therein frequency of elections, and guarding against inequality of suffrage. I am one of those who are pleased with that Constitution, because it is built on that foundation. I believe that, if the Confederation had the principles and efficacy of that Constitution, we should have found that peace and happiness which we are all in search of. In this state Constitution, to the executive you commit the sword; to the legislative you commit the purse, and every thing else, without any limitation. In both cases, the representative character is in full effect, and thereby responsibility is secured. The judiciary is separate and distinct from both the other branches, has nothing to do with either the purse or sword, and, for obvious reasons, the judges hold their offices during good behavior.

There will be deviations even in our state legislatures thus constituted. I say (and I hope to give no offence when I do) there have been some. I believe every gentleman will see that it is unconstitutional to condemn any man without Edition: current; Page: [299] a fair trial. Such a condemnation is repugnant to the principles of justice. It is contrary to the Constitution, and the spirit of the common law. Look at the bill of rights. You find there that no man shall be condemned without being confronted with his accusers and witnesses; that every man has a right to call for evidence in his favor, and, above all, to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of the vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty. These principles have not been attended to; an instance has been mentioned already, where they have been in some degree violated.

[Here Mr. Pendleton spoke so very low that he could not be heard.]

My brethren in that department [the judicial] felt great uneasiness in their minds to violate the Constitution by such a law. They have prevented the operation of some unconstitutional acts. Notwithstanding those violations, I rely upon the principles of the government — that it will produce its own reform, by the responsibility resulting from frequent elections. We are finally safe while we preserve the representative character. I made these observations as introductory to the consideration of the paper on your table. I conceive that, in those respects where our state Constitution has not been disapproved of, objections will not apply against that on our table. When we were forming our state Constitution, we were confined to local circumstances. In forming a government for the Union, we must consider our situation as connected with our neighboring states. We have seen the advantages and blessings of the Union. Every intelligent and patriotic mind must be convinced that it is essential to our happiness. God grant we may never see the disadvantages of disunion!

To come to the great object of direct taxation, more immediately under consideration: — If we find it our interest to be intimately connected with the other twelve states, to establish one common government, and bind in one ligament the strength of thirteen states, we shall find it necessary to delegate powers proportionate to that end; for the delegation of adequate powers in this government is no less necessary than in our state government. To whom do we delegate these powers? To our own representatives. Why should we fear so much greater dangers from our representatives Edition: current; Page: [300] there, than from those we have here? Why make so great a distinction between our representatives here, and in the federal government, where every branch is formed on the same principle — preserving throughout the representative, responsible character? We have trusted our lives, and every thing, to our state representatives. We have particularly committed our purse to them, with unlimited confidence. I never heard any objection to it; I am sure I make none. We ought to contribute our share of fixing the principles of the government. Here the representative character is still preserved. We are to have an equal share in the representation of the general government, should we ratify this Constitution. We have hitherto paid more than our share of taxes for the support of the government, &c. But by this system we are to pay our equal, ratable share only. Where is the danger of confiding in our federal representatives? We must choose those in whom we can put the greatest confidence. They are only to remain two years in office. Will they in that time lose all regard for the principles of honor, and their character, and become abandoned prostitutes of our rights? I have no such fear. When power is in the hands of my representatives, I care not whether they meet here or a hundred miles off.

A gentleman (Mr. Monroe) has said that the power of direct taxation was unnecessary, because the imposts and back lands would be abundantly sufficient to answer all federal purposes. If so, what are we disputing about? I ask the gentleman who made the observation, and this committee, if they believe that Congress will ever lay direct taxes if the other funds are sufficient. It will then remain a harmless power upon paper, and do no injury. If it should be necessary, will gentlemen run the risk of the Union by withholding it? I was sorry to hear the subjects of requisitions and taxation misinterpreted. The latter has been compared to taxation by Great Britain without our own consent. The two cases are by no means similar. The king of Great Britain has not the purse, though he holds the sword. He has no means of using the sword but by requisitions on those who hold the purse. He applied to the British Parliament; and they were pleased to trust him with our money. We declared, as we had a right, that we ought to be taxed by our own representatives, and that therefore their disposing Edition: current; Page: [301] of our money without our consent was unjust. Here requisitions are to be made by one body of our representatives to another. Why should this be the case, when they are both possessed of our equal confidence — both chosen in the same manner, and equally responsible to us?

But we are told that there will be a war between the two bodies equally our representatives, and that the state government will be destroyed, and consolidated into the general government. I stated before, that this could not be so. The two governments act in different manners, and for different purposes — the general government in great national concerns, in which we are interested in common with other members of the Union; the state legislature in our mere local concerns. Is it true, or merely imaginary, that the state legislatures will be confined to the care of bridges and roads? I think that they are still possessed of the highest powers. Our dearest rights, — life, liberty, and property, — as Virginians, are still in the hands of our state legislature. If they prove too feeble to protect us, we resort to the aid of the general government for security. The true distinction is, that the two governments are established for different purposes, and act on different objects; so that, notwithstanding what the worthy gentleman said, I believe I am still correct, and insist that, if each power is confined within its proper bounds, and to its proper objects, an interference can never happen. Being for two different purposes, as long as they are limited to the different objects, they can no more clash than two parallel lines can meet. Both lay taxes, but for different purposes. The same officers may be used by both governments, which will prevent a number of inconveniences. If an invasion, or insurrection, or other misfortune, should make it necessary for the general government to interpose, this will be for the general purposes of the Union, and for the manifest interest of the states.

I mentioned formerly that it would never be the interest of the general government to destroy the state governments. From these it will derive great strength: for if they be possessed of power, they will assist it; if they become feeble, or decay, the general government must likewise become weak, or moulder away.

But we are alarmed on account of Kentucky. We are told that the Mississippi is taken away. When gentlemen say Edition: current; Page: [302] that seven states are now disposed to give it up, and that it will be given up by the operation of this government, are they correct? It must be supposed that, on occasions of great moment, the senators from all the states will attend. If they do, there will be no difference between this Constitution and the Confederation in this point. When they are all present, two thirds of them will consist of the senators from nine states, which is the number required by the existing system to form treaties. The consent of the President, who is the representative of the Union, is also necessary. The right to that river must be settled by the sword, or negotiation. I understood that the purpose of that negotiation which has been on foot, was, that Spain should have the navigation of that river for twenty-five years, after which we were peaceably to retain it forever. This, I was told, was all that Spain required. If so, the gentleman who differed in opinion from others, in wishing to gratify Spain, must have been actuated by a conviction that it would be better to have the right fixed in that manner than trust to uncertainty. I think the inhabitants of that country, as well as of every other part of the Union, will be better protected by an efficient, firm government, than by the present feeble one. We shall have also a much better chance for a favorable negotiation, if our government be respectable, than we have now. It is also suggested that the citizens of the western district run the risk of losing their lands if this Constitution be adopted. I am not acquainted with the circumstances of the title set up to those lands. But this I know, that it is founded, not upon any claim commenced during the revolution, but on some latent claim that existed before that period. It was brought before our Assembly, and rejected — I suppose because they thought it would, at this late period, involve the just and unjust, indiscriminately, in distress. I am bold to say that no assistance can be given by the Constitution to the claimants. The federal legislature is not authorized to pass any law affecting claims that existed before. If the claim is brought forth, it must be before the court of the state, on the ground on which it now stands, and must depend on the same principles on which it now depends. Whether this Constitution be adopted or not, will not affect the parties in this case. It will make no difference as to the principles on which the decision will be made, Edition: current; Page: [303] whether it will come before the state court or the federal court. They will be both equally independent, and ready to decide in strict conformity to justice. I believe the federal courts will be as independent as the state courts. I should no more hesitate to trust my liberty and property to the one than the other. Whenever, in any country in the world, the judges are independent, property is secure. The existence of Great Britain depends on that purity with which justice is administered. When gentlemen will therefore find that the federal legislature cannot affect preëxisting claims by their legislation, and the federal courts are on the same ground with the state courts, I hope there will be no ground of alarm.

Permit me to deliver a few sentiments on the great and important subject of previous and subsequent amendments. When I sat down to read that paper, I did not read it with an expectation that it was perfect, and that no man would object to it. I had learned, sir, that an expectation of such perfection in any institute devised by man, was as vain as the search for the philosopher’s stone. I discovered objections — I thought I saw there some sown seeds of disunion — not in the immediate operation of the government, but which might happen in some future time. I wish amendments to remove these. But these remote possible errors may be eradicated by the amendatory clause in the Constitution. I see no danger in making the experiment, since the system itself points out an easy mode of removing any errors which shall have been experienced. In this view, then, I think we may safely trust in the government. With respect to the eight states who have already acceded to it, do gentlemen believe that, should we propose amendments as the sine qua non of our adoption, they would listen to our proposals? I conceive, sir, that they would not retract. They would tell us — No, gentlemen, we cannot accept of your conditions. You put yourselves upon the ground of opposition. Your amendments are dictated by local considerations. We, in our adoption, have been influenced by considerations of general utility to the Union. We cannot abandon principles, like these, to gratify you. Thus, sir, by previous amendments, we present a hostile countenance. If, on the contrary, we imitate the conduct of those states, our language will be conciliatory and friendly. Gentlemen, we put ourselves on the same ground that you are on. We are not actuated by local considerations, Edition: current; Page: [304] but by such as affect the people of America in general. This conduct will give our amendments full weight.

I was surprised when I heard introduced the opinion of a gentleman (Mr. Jefferson) whom I highly respect. I know the great abilities of that gentleman. Providence has, for the good of mankind, accompanied those extensive abilities with a disposition to make use of them for the good of his fellow-beings; and I wish, with all my heart, that he was here to assist us on this interesting occasion. As to his letter, impressed as I am with the force of his authority, I think it was improper to introduce it on this occasion. The opinion of a private individual, however enlightened, ought not to influence our decision. But, admitting that this opinion ought to be conclusive with us, it strikes me in a different manner from the honorable gentleman. I have seen the letter in which this gentleman has written his opinion upon this subject. It appears that he is possessed of that Constitution, and has in his mind the idea of amending it — he has in his mind the very question, of subsequent or previous amendments, which is now under consideration. His sentiments on this subject are as follows: “I wish, with all my soul, that the nine first conventions may accept the new Constitution, because it will secure to us the good it contains, which I think great and important. I wish the four latest, whichever they be, may refuse to accede to it till amendments are secured.” He then enumerates the amendments which he wishes to be secured, and adds, “We must take care, however, that neither this nor any other objection to the form, produce a schism in our Union. That would be an incurable evil; because friends falling out never cordially reunite.” Are these sentiments in favor of those who wish to prevent its adoption by previous amendments? He wishes the first nine states to adopt it. What are his reasons? Because he thinks it will secure to us the good it contains, which he thinks great and important; and he wishes the other four may refuse it, because he thinks it may tend to obtain necessary amendments. But he would not wish that a schism should take place in the Union on any consideration. If, then, we are to be influenced by his opinion at all, we shall ratify it, and secure thereby the good it contains. The Constitution points out a plain and ordinary method of reform, without any disturbance or convulsions Edition: current; Page: [305] whatever. I therefore think that we ought to ratify it, in order to secure the Union, and trust to this method for removing those inconveniences which experience shall point out.

[Mr. Pendleton added several other observations, but spoke too low to be heard.]

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman: finding, sir, that the clause more immediately under consideration still meets with the disapprobation of the honorable gentleman over the way, (Mr. Grayson,) and finding that the reasons of the opposition, as further developed, are not satisfactory to myself and others who are in favor of the clause, I wish that it may meet with the most thorough and complete investigation. I beg the attention of the committee, in order to obviate what fell from the honorable gentleman. He set forth that, by giving up the power of taxation, we should give up every thing, and still insists on requisitions being made on the states, and then, if they be not complied with, Congress shall lay direct taxes, by way of penalty. Let us consider the dilemma which arises from this doctrine. Either requisitions will be efficacious, or they will not. If they will be efficacious, then I say, sir, we give up every thing as much as by direct taxation.

The same amount will be paid by the people as by direct taxes. If they be not efficacious, where is the advantage of this plan? In what respect will it relieve us from the inconveniences which we have experienced from requisitions? The power of laying direct taxes by the general government is supposed by the honorable gentleman to be chimerical and impracticable. What is the consequence of the alternative he proposes? We are to rely upon this power to be ultimately used as a penalty to compel the states to comply. If it be chimerical and impracticable in the first instance, it will be equally so when it will be exercised as a penalty. A reference was made to concurrent executions as an instance of the possibility of interference between the two governments.

[Here Mr. Madison spoke so low that he could not be distinctly heard.]

This has been experienced under the state governments without involving any inconvenience. But it may be answered that, under the state governments, concurrent executions Edition: current; Page: [306] cannot produce the inconvenience here dreaded, because they are executed by the same officer. Is it not in the power of the general government to employ the state officers? Is nothing to be left to future legislation, or must every thing be immutably fixed in the Constitution? Where exclusive power is given to the Union, there can be no interference. Where the general and state legislatures have concurrent power, such regulations will be made as shall be found necessary to exclude interferences and other inconveniences. It will be their interest to make regulations.

It has been said that there is no similarity between petty corporations and independent states. I admit that, in many points of view, there is a great dissimilarity; but in others, there is a striking similarity between them, which illustrates what is before us. Have we not seen, in our own country, (as has been already suggested in the course of the debates,) concurrent collections of taxes going on at once, without producing any inconvenience? We have seen three distinct collections of taxes, for three distinct purposes. Has it not been possible for collections of taxes, for parochial, county, and state purposes, to go on at the same time? Every gentleman must know that this is now the case; and though there be a subordination in these cases which will not be in the general government, yet in practice it has been found that these different collections have been concurrently carried on, with convenience to the people, without clashing with one another, and without deriving their harmony from the circumstance of being subordinate to one legislative body. The taxes will be laid for different purposes. The members of the one government, as well as of the other, are the agents of, and subordinate to, the people. I conceive that the collection of the taxes of the one will not impede that of the other, and that there can be no interference. This concurrent collection appears to me neither chimerical nor impracticable.

He compares resistance of the people to collectors to refusal of requisitions. This goes against all government. It is as much as to urge that there should be no legislature. The gentlemen, who favored us with their observations on this subject, seemed to reason on a supposition that the general government was confined, by the paper on your table, to lay general, uniform taxes. Is it necessary that there should be Edition: current; Page: [307] a tax on any given article throughout the United States It is represented to be oppressive, that the states which have slaves, and make tobacco, should pay taxes on these for federal wants, when other states, which have them not, would escape. But does the Constitution on the table admit of this? On the contrary, there is a proportion to be laid on each state, according to its population. The most proper articles will be selected in each state. If one article, in any state, should be deficient, it will be laid on another article. Our state is secured on this foundation. Its proportion will be commensurate to its population. This is a constitutional scale, which is an insuperable bar against disproportion, and ought to satisfy all reasonable minds. If the taxes be not uniform, and the representatives of some states contribute to lay a tax of which they bear no proportion, is not this principle reciprocal? Does not the same principle hold in our state government in some degree? It has been found inconvenient to fix on uniform objects of taxation in this state, as the back parts are not circumstanced like the lower parts of the country. In both cases, the reciprocity of the principle will prevent a disposition in one part to oppress the other. My honorable friend seems to suppose that Congress, by the possession of this ultimate power as a penalty, will have as much credit, and will be as able to procure any sums, on any emergency, as if they were possessed of it in the first instance; and that the votes of Congress will be as competent to procure loans as the votes of the British Commons. Would the votes of the British House of Commons have that credit which they now have, if they were liable to be retarded in their operation, and, perhaps, rendered ultimately nugatory, as those of Congress must be by the proposed alternative? When their vote passes, it usually receives the concurrence of the other branch; and it is known that there is sufficient energy in the government to carry it into effect.

But here the votes of Congress are, in the first place, dependent on the compliance of thirteen different bodies, and, after non-compliance, are liable to be opposed and defeated by the jealousy of the states against the exercise of this power, and by the opposition of the people, which may be expected if this power be exercised by Congress after partial compliances. These circumstances being known, Congress could not command one shilling. My honorable friend Edition: current; Page: [308] seems to think that we ought to spare the present generation, and throw our burdens upon posterity. I will not contest the equity of this reasoning; but I must say that good policy, as well as views of economy, strongly urges us, even to distress ourselves to comply with our most solemn engagements. We must take effectual provision for the payment of the interest of our public debts. In order to do justice to our creditors, and support our credit and reputation, we must lodge power somewhere or other for this purpose. As yet the United States have not been able, by any energy contained in the old system, to accomplish this end.

Our creditors have a right to demand the principal, but would be satisfied with a punctual payment of the interest. If we have been unable to pay the interest, much less shall we be able to discharge the principal. It appears to me that the whole reasoning used on this occasion shows that we ought to adopt this system, to enable us to throw our burdens on posterity. The honorable member spoke of the decemviri at Rome as having some similitude to the ten representatives who are to be appointed by this state. I can see no point of similitude here, to enable us to draw any conclusion. For what purpose were the decemviri appointed? They were invested with a plenipotentiary commission to make a code of laws. By whom were they appointed? By the people at large? My memory is not infallible, but it tells me they were appointed by the senate, — I believe, in the name of the people. If they were appointed by the senate, and composed of the most influential characters among the nobles, can any thing be inferred from that against our federal representatives? Who made a discrimination between the nobles and the people? The senate.

Those men totally perverted the powers which were given them, for the purpose above specified, to the subversion of the public liberty. Can we suppose that a similar usurpation might be made by men appointed in a totally different manner? As their circumstances were totally dissimilar, I conceive that no arguments drawn from that source can apply to this government. I do not thoroughly comprehend the reasoning of my honorable friend, when he tells us that the federal government will predominate, and that the state interest will be lost, when, at the same time, he tells us that it will be a faction of seven states. If seven states will prevail, Edition: current; Page: [309] as states, I conceive that state influence will prevail. If state influence, under the present feeble government, has prevailed, I think that a remedy ought to be introduced, by giving the general government power to suppress it.

He supposed that my argument with respect to a future war between Great Britain and France was fallacious. The other nations of Europe have acceded to that neutrality, while Great Britain opposed it. We need not expect, in case of such a war, that we should be suffered to participate in the profitable emoluments of the carrying trade, unless we were in a respectable situation. Recollect the last war. Was there ever a war in which the British nation stood opposed to so many nations? All the belligerent nations in Europe, with nearly one half of the British empire, were united against it. Yet that nation, though defeated, and humbled beyond any previous example, stood out against this. From her firmness and spirit in such desperate circumstances, we may divine what her future conduct may be.

I did not contend that it was necessary for the United States to establish a navy for that sole purpose, but instanced it as one reason, out of several, for rendering ourselves respectable. I am no friend to naval or land armaments in time of peace; but if they be necessary, the calamity must be submitted to. Weakness will invite insults. A respectable government will not only entitle us to a participation of the advantages which are enjoyed by other nations, but will be a security against attacks and insults. It is to avoid the calamity of being obliged to have large armaments that we should establish this government. The best way to avoid danger is to be in a capacity to withstand it.

The impost, we are told, will not diminish, because the emigrations to the westward will prevent the increase of population. He has reasoned on this subject justly to a certain degree. I admit that the imposts will increase, till population becomes so great as to compel us to recur to manufactures. The period cannot be very far distant when the unsettled parts of America will be inhabited. At the expiration of twenty-five years hence, I conceive that, in every part of the United States, there will be as great a population as there is now in the settled parts. We see, already, that, in the most populous parts of the Union, and where there is but a medium, manufactures are beginning to be established. Edition: current; Page: [310] Where this is the case, the amount of importation will begin to diminish. Although the impost may even increase during the term of twenty-five years, yet when we are preparing a government for perpetuity, we ought to found it on permanent principles, and not on those of a temporary nature.

Holland is a favorite quotation with honorable members on the other side of the question. Had not their sentiments been discovered by other circumstances, I should have concluded, from their reasonings on this occasion, that they were friends of the Constitution. I should suppose that they had forgotten which side of the question they were on. Holland has been called a republic, and a government friendly to liberty. Though it may be greatly superior to some other governments in Europe, still it is not a republic or a democracy. Their legislature consists, in some degree, of men who legislate for life. Their councils consist of men who hold their offices for life, who fill up offices and appoint their salaries themselves. The people have no agency, mediate or immediate, in the government. If we look at their history, we shall find that every mischief which has befallen them has resulted from the existing confederacy. If the stadtholder has been productive of mischiefs, if we ought to guard against such a magistrate more than any evil, let me beseech the honorable gentleman to take notice of what produced that, and those troubles which have interrupted their tranquillity from time to time. The weakness of their confederacy produced both.

When the French arms were ready to overpower their republic, and they were feeble in the means of defence, which was principally owing to the violence of parties, they then appointed a stadtholder, who sustained them. If we look at more recent events, we shall have a more pointed demonstration that their political infelicity arises from the imbecility of their government. In the late disorders, the states were almost equally divided — three provinces on one side, three on the other, and the other divided. One party inclined to the Prussians, and the other to the French. The situation of France did not admit of her interposing immediately in their disputes by an army; that of the Prussians did. A powerful and large army marched into Holland, and compelled the other party to surrender. We know the distressing consequences to the people. What produced Edition: current; Page: [311] those disputes and the necessity of foreign interference, but the debility of their confederacy? We may be warned by their example, and shun their fate, by removing the causes which produced their misfortunes. My honorable friend has referred to the transaction of the federal council with respect to the navigation of the Mississippi. I wish it was consistent with delicacy and prudence to lay a complete view of the whole matter before this committee. The history of it is singular and curious, and perhaps its origin ought to be taken into consideration.

I will touch on some circumstances, and introduce nearly the substance of most of the facts relative to it, that I may not seem to shrink from explanation. It was soon perceived, sir, after the commencement of the war with Britain, that, among the various objects that would affect the happiness of the people of America, the navigation of the Mississippi was one. Throughout the whole history of foreign negotiation, great stress was laid on its preservation. In the time of our greatest distresses, and particularly when the Southern States were the scene of war, the Southern States cast their eyes around to be relieved from their misfortunes. It was supposed that assistance might be obtained for the relinquishment of that navigation. It was thought that, for so substantial a consideration, Spain might be induced to afford decisive succor. It was opposed by the Northern and Eastern States. They were sensible that it might be dangerous to surrender this important right, particularly to the inhabitants of the western country. But so it was, that the Southern States were for it, and the Eastern States opposed to it. Since obtaining that happy peace, which secures to us all our claims, this subject has been taken again into consideration, and deliberated upon in the federal government. A temporary relinquishment has been agitated. Several members from the different states, but particularly from the Northern, were for a temporary surrender, because it would terminate disputes, and, at the end of the short period for which it was to be given, the right would revert, of course, to those who had given it up; and for this temporary surrender some commercial advantages were offered. For my part, I consider this measure, though founded on considerations plausible and honorable, was yet not justifiable but on grounds of inevitable necessity. I must declare, in justice Edition: current; Page: [312] to many characters who were in Congress, that they declared that they never would enter into the measure, unless the situation of the United States was such as could not prevent it.

I suppose that the adoption of this government will be favorable to the preservation of the right to that navigation. Emigration will be made, from those parts of the United States which are settled, to those parts which are unsettled. If we afford protection to the western country, we shall see it rapidly peopled. Emigrations from some of the Northern States have been lately increased. We may conclude, as has been said by a gentleman on the same side, (Mr. Nicholas,) that those who emigrate to that country will leave behind them all their friends and connections as advocates for this right.

What was the cause of those states being the champions of this right when the Southern States were disposed to surrender it? The preservation of this right will be for the general interest of the Union. The western country will be settled from the north as well as the south, and its prosperity will add to the strength and security of the Union. I am not able to recollect all those circumstances which would be necessary to give gentlemen a full view of the subject. I can only add, that I conceive that the establishment of the new government will be the best possible means of securing our rights, as well in the western parts as elsewhere. I will not sit down till I make one more observation on what fell from my honorable friend. He says that the true difference between the states lies in this circumstance — that some are carrying states and others productive, and that the operation of the new government will be, that there will be a plurality of the former to combine against the interest of the latter, and that consequently it will be dangerous to put it in their power to do so. I would join with him in sentiments, if this were the case. Were this within the bounds of probability, I should be equally alarmed; but I think that those states, which are contradistinguished, as carrying states, from the non-importing states, will be but few. I suppose the Southern States will be considered by all as under the latter description. Some other states have been mentioned by an honorable member on the same side, which are not considered as carrying states. New Jersey Edition: current; Page: [313] and Connecticut can by no means be enumerated among the carrying states. They receive their supplies through New York. Here, then, is a plurality of non-importing states. I could add another, if necessary. Delaware, though situated upon the water, is upon the list of non-carrying states. I might say that a great part of New Hampshire is so. I believe a majority of the people of that state receive their supplies from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Might I not add all those states which will be admitted hereafter into the Union? These will be non-carrying states, and will support Virginia in case the carrying states will attempt to combine against the rest. This objection must therefore fall to the ground. My honorable friend has made several other remarks, but I will defer saying any more till we come to those parts to which his objections refer.

Mr. HENRY. Mr. Chairman, once more I find it necessary to trespass on your patience. An honorable gentleman, several days ago, observed, that the great object of this government was justice. We were told before, that the greater consideration was union. However, the consideration of justice seems to have been what influenced his mind when he made strictures on the proceedings of the Virginia Assembly. I thought the reasons of that transaction had been sufficiently explained.

It is exceedingly plainful to me to be objecting; but I must make a few observations. I shall not again review the catalogue of dangers which the honorable gentleman entertained us with. They appear to me absolutely imaginary. They have, in my conception, been proved to be such.

But sure I am that the dangers of this system are real, when those who have no similar interests with the people of this country are to legislate for us — when our dearest interests are left in the power of those whose advantage it may be to infringe them. How will the quotas of troops be furnished? Hated as requisitions are, your federal officers cannot collect troops, like dollars, and carry them in their pockets. You must make those abominable requisitions for them, and the scale will be in proportion to the number of your blacks, as well as your whites, unless they violate the constitutional rule of apportionment. This is not calculated to rouse the fears of the people. It is founded in truth. Edition: current; Page: [314] How oppressive and dangerous must this be to the Southern States, who alone have slaves! This will render their proportion infinitely greater than that of the Northern States. It has been openly avowed that this shall be the rule. I will appeal to the judgments of the committee, whether there be danger. The honorable gentleman said that there was no precedent for this American revolution. We have precedents in abundance. They have been drawn from Great Britain. Tyranny has arisen there in the same manner in which it was introduced among the Dutch. The tyranny of Philadelphia may be like the tyranny of George III. I believe this similitude will be incontestably proved before we conclude.

The honorable gentleman has endeavored to explain the opinion of Mr. Jefferson, our common friend, into an advice to adopt this new government. What are his sentiments? He wishes nine states to adopt, and that four states may be found somewhere to reject it. Now, sir, I say, if we pursue his advice, what are we to do? To prefer form to substance? For, give me leave to ask, what is the substantial part of his counsel? It is, sir, that four states should reject. They tell us that, from the most authentic accounts, New Hampshire will adopt it. When I denied this, gentlemen said they were absolutely certain of it. Where, then, will four states be found to reject, if we adopt it? If we do, the counsel of this enlightened and worthy countryman of ours will be thrown away; and for what? He wishes to secure amendments and a bill of rights, if I am not mistaken. I speak from the best information, and if wrong, I beg to be put right. His amendments go to that despised thing, called a bill of rights, and all the rights which are dear to human nature — trial by jury, the liberty of religion and the press, &c. Do not gentlemen see that, if we adopt, under the idea of following Mr. Jefferson’s opinion, we amuse ourselves with the shadow, while the substance is given away? If Virginia be for adoption, what states will be left, of sufficient respectability and importance to secure amendments by their rejection? As to North Carolina, it is a poor, despised place. Its dissent will not have influence to introduce any amendments. Where is the American spirit of liberty? Where will you find attachment to the rights of mankind, when Massachusetts, the great northern state, Pennsylvania, Edition: current; Page: [315] the great middle state, and Virginia, the great southern state, shall have adopted this government? Where will you find magnanimity enough to reject it? Should the remaining states have this magnanimity, they will not have sufficient weight to have the government altered. This state has weight and importance. Her example will have powerful influence — her rejection will procure amendments. Shall we, by our adoption, hazard the loss of amendments? Shall we forsake that importance and respectability which our station in America commands, in hopes that relief will come from an obscure part of the Union? I hope my countrymen will spurn at the idea.

The necessity of amendments is universally admitted. It is a word which is reëchoed from every part of the continent. A majority of those who hear me think amendments are necessary. Policy tells us they are necessary. Reason, self-preservation, and every idea of propriety, powerfully urge us to secure the dearest rights of human nature. Shall we, in direct violation of these principles, rest this security upon the uncertainty of its being obtained by a few states, more weak and less respectable than ourselves, and whose virtue and magnanimity may be overborne by the example of so many adopting states? Poor Rhode Island, and North Carolina, and even New York, surrounded with federal walls on every side, may not be magnanimous enough to reject; and if they do reject it, they will have but little influence to obtain amendments. I ask, if amendments be necessary, from whence can they be so properly proposed as from this state? The example of Virginia is a powerful thing, particularly with respect to North Carolina, whose supplies must come through Virginia. Every possible opportunity of procuring amendments is gone, our power and political salvation are gone, if we ratify unconditionally. The important right of making treaties is upon the most dangerous foundation. The President, and a few senators, possess it in the most unlimited manner, without any real responsibility, if, from sinister views, they should think proper to abuse it; for they may keep all their measures in the most profound secrecy, as long as they please. Were we not told that war was the case wherein secrecy was the most necessary? But, by the paper on your table, their secrecy is not limited to this case only. It is as unlimited and unbounded as their Edition: current; Page: [316] powers. Under the abominable veil of political secrecy and contrivance, your most valuable rights may be sacrificed by a most corrupt faction, without having the satisfaction of knowing who injured you. They are bound by honor and conscience to act with integrity, but they are under no constitutional restraint. The navigation of the Mississippi, which is of so much importance to the happiness of the people of this country, may be lost by the operation of that paper. There are seven states now decidedly opposed to this navigation. If it be of the highest consequence to know who they are who shall have voted its relinquishment, the federal veil of secrecy will prevent that discovery. We may labor under the magnitude of our miseries without knowing or being able to punish those who produced them. I did not wish that transactions relative to treaties should, when unfinished, be exposed; but it should be known, after they were concluded, who had advised them to be made, in order to secure some degree of certainty that the public interest shall be consulted in their formation.

We are told that all powers not given are reserved. I am sorry to bring forth hackneyed observations. But, sir, important truths lose nothing of their validity or weight, by frequency of repetition. The English history is frequently recurred to by gentlemen. Let us advert to the conduct of the people of that country. The people of England lived without a declaration of rights till the war in the time of Charles I. That king made usurpations upon the rights of the people. Those rights were, in a great measure, before that time undefined. Power and privilege then depended on implication and logical discussion. Though the declaration of rights was obtained from that king, his usurpations cost him his life. The limits between the liberty of the people, and the prerogative of the king, were still not clearly defined.

The rights of the people continued to be violated till the Stuart family was banished, in the year 1688. The people of England magnanimously defended their rights, banished the tyrant, and prescribed to William, Prince of Orange, by the bill of rights, on what terms he should reign; and this bill of rights put an end to all construction and implication. Before this, sir, the situation of the public liberty of England was dreadful. For upwards of a century, the nation was Edition: current; Page: [317] involved in every kind of calamity, till the bill of rights put an end to all, by defining the rights of the people, and limiting the king’s prerogative. Give me leave to add (if I can add any thing to so splendid an example) the conduct of the American people. They, sir, thought a bill of rights necessary. It is alleged that several states, in the formation of their government, omitted a bill of rights. To this I answer, that they had the substance of a bill of rights contained in their constitutions, which is the same thing. I believe that Connecticut has preserved it, by her Constitution, her royal charter, which clearly defines and secures the great rights of mankind — secures to us the great, important rights of humanity; and I care not in what form it is done.

Of what advantage is it to the American Congress to take away this great and general security? I ask, Of what advantage is it to the public, or to Congress, to drag an unhappy debtor, not for the sake of justice, but to gratify the malice of the plaintiff, with his witnesses, to the federal court, from a great distance? What was the principle that actuated the Convention in proposing to put such dangerous powers in the hands of any one? Why is the trial by jury taken away? All the learned arguments that have been used on this occasion do not prove that it is secured. Even the advocates for the plan do not all concur in the certainty of its security. Wherefore is religious liberty not secured? One honorable gentleman, who favors adoption, said that he had had his fears on the subject. If I can well recollect, he informed us that he was perfectly satisfied, by the powers of reasoning, (with which he is so happily endowed,) that those fears were not well grounded. There is many a religious man who knows nothing of argumentative reasoning; there are many of our most worthy citizens who cannot go through all the labyrinths of syllogistic, argumentative deductions, when they think that the rights of conscience are invaded. This sacred right ought not to depend on constructive, logical reasoning.

When we see men of such talents and learning compelled to use their utmost abilities to convince themselves that there is no danger, is it not sufficient to make us tremble? Is it not sufficient to fill the minds of the ignorant part of men with fear? If gentlemen believe that the apprehensions of men will be quieted, they are mistaken, Edition: current; Page: [318] since our best-informed men are in doubt with respect to the security of our rights. Those who are not so well informed will spurn at the government. When our common citizens, who are not possessed with such extensive knowledge and abilities, are called upon to change their bill of rights (which, in plain, unequivocal terms, secures their most valuable rights and privileges) for construction and implication, will they implicitly acquiesce? Our declaration of rights tells us that “all men are by nature free and independent,” &c. [Here Mr. Henry read the declaration of rights.] Will they exchange these rights for logical reasons? If you had a thousand acres of land dependent on this, would you be satisfied with logical construction? Would you depend upon a title of so disputable a nature? The present opinions of individuals will be buried in entire oblivion when those rights will be thought of. That sacred and lovely thing, religion, ought not to rest on the ingenuity of logical deduction. Holy religion, sir, will be prostituted to the lowest purposes of human policy. What has been more productive of mischief among mankind than religious disputes? Then here, sir, is a foundation for such disputes, when it requires learning and logical deduction to perceive that religious liberty is secure.

The honorable member told us that he had doubts with respect to the judiciary department. I hope those doubts will be explained. He told us that his object was union. I admit that the reality of union, and not the name, is the object which most merits the attention of every friend to his country. He told you that you should hear many great, sounding words on our side of the question. We have heard the word union from him. I have heard no word so often pronounced in this house as he did this. I admit that the American Union is dear to every man. I admit that every man, who has three grains of information, must know and think that union is the best of all things. But, as I said before, we must not mistake the end for the means. If he can show that the rights of the Union are secure, we will consent. It has been sufficiently demonstrated that they are not secured. It sounds mighty prettily to gentlemen, to curse paper money and honestly pay debts. But apply to the situation of America, and you will find there are thousands and thousands of contracts, whereof equity forbids an Edition: current; Page: [319] exact literal performance. Pass that government, and you will be bound hand and foot. There was an immense quantity of depreciated Continental paper money in circulation at the conclusion of the war. This money is in the hands of individuals to this day. The holders of this money may call for the nominal value, if this government be adopted. This state may be compelled to pay her proportion of that currency, pound for pound. Pass this government, and you will be carried to the federal court, (if I understand that paper right,) and you will be compelled to pay shilling for shilling. I doubt on the subject; at least, as a public man, I ought to have doubts. A state may be sued in the federal court, by the paper on your table. It appears to me, then, that the holder of the paper money may require shilling for shilling. If there be any latent remedy to prevent this, I hope it will be discovered.

The precedent, with respect to the union between England and Scotland, does not hold. The union of Scotland speaks in plain and direct terms. Their privileges were particularly secured. It was expressly provided that they should retain their own particular laws. Their nobles have a right to choose representatives to the number of sixteen. I might thus go on and specify particulars; but it will suffice to observe, generally, that their rights and privileges were expressly and unequivocally reserved. The power of direct taxation was not given up by the Scotch people. There is no trait in that union which will maintain their arguments. In order to do this, they ought to have proved that Scotland united without securing their rights, and afterwards got that security by subsequent amendments. Did the people of Scotland do this? No, sir; like a sensible people, they trusted nothing to hazard. If they have but forty-five members, and those be often corrupted, these defects will be greater here. The number will be smaller, and they will be consequently the more easily corrupted. Another honorable gentleman advises us to give this power, in order to exclude the necessity of going to war. He wishes to establish national credit, I presume, and imagines that, if a nation has public faith, and shows a disposition to comply with her engagements, she is safe among ten thousand dangers. If the honorable gentleman can prove that this paper is calculated to give us public faith, I will be satisfied. But if Edition: current; Page: [320] you be in constant preparation for war, on such airy and imaginary grounds as the mere possibility of danger, your goverment must be military, which will be inconsistent with the enjoyment of liberty.

But, sir, we must become formidable, and have a strong government, to protect us from the British nation. Will the paper on the table prevent the attacks of the British navy, or enable us to raise a fleet equal to the British fleet? The British have the strongest fleet in Europe, and can strike any where. It is the utmost folly to conceive that the paper can have such an operation. It will be no less so to attempt to raise a powerful fleet. With respect to requisitions, I beseech gentlemen to consider the importance of the subject. We, who are for amendments, propose (as has been frequently mentioned) that a requisition shall be made for two hundred thousand pounds, for instance, instead of direct taxation, and that, if it be not complied with, then it shall be raised by direct taxes. We do not wish to have strength, to refuse to pay them, but to possess the power of raising the taxes in the most easy mode for the people. But, says he, you may delay us by this mode. Let us see if there be not sufficient to counterbalance this evil. The oppression arising from taxation is not from the amount, but from the mode: a thorough acquaintance with the condition of the people is necessary to a just distribution of taxes. The whole wisdom of the science of government, with respect to taxation, consists in selecting that mode of collection which will best accommodate the convenience of the people. When you come to tax a great country, you will find that ten men are too few to settle the manner of collection. One capital advantage, which will result from the proposed alternative, is this — that there will be necessary communications between your ten members in Congress and your hundred and seventy representatives here. If it goes through the hands of the latter, they will know how much the citizens can pay, and, by looking at the paper on your table, they will know how much they ought to pay. No man is possessed of sufficient information to know how much we can or ought to pay.

We might also remonstrate, if, by mistake or design, they should call for a greater sum than our proportion. After a remonstrance, and a free investigation between our representatives here and those in Congress, the error would be removed.

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Another valuable thing which it will produce is, that the people will pay the taxes cheerfully. It is supposed that this would occasion a waste of time, and be an injury to public credit. This would only happen if requisitions should not be complied with. In this case the delay would be compensated by the payment of interest, which, with the addition of the credit of the state to that of the general government, would in a great measure obviate this objection. But if it had all the force which it is supposed to have, it would not be adequate to the evils of direct taxation. But there is every probability that requisitions would be then complied with. Would it not, then, be our interest as well as duty to comply? After non-compliance, there would be a general acquiescence in the exercise of this power. We are fond of giving power, at least power which is constitutional. Here is an option to pay according to your own mode or otherwise. If you give probability fair play, you must conclude that they would be complied with. Would the Assembly of Virginia, by refusal, destroy the country, and plunge the people in misery and distress? If you give your reasoning faculty fair play, you cannot but know that payment must be made, when the consequence of a refusal would be an accumulation of inconveniences to the people. Then they say that, if requisitions be not complied with, in case of a war, the destruction of the country may be the consequence; that therefore we ought to give the power of taxation to the government, to enable it to protect us. Would not this be another reason for complying with requisitions, to prevent the country from being destroyed? You tell us that, unless requisitions be complied with, your commerce is gone. The prevention of this, also, will be an additional reason to comply.

He tells us that responsibility is secured by direct taxation. Responsibility, instead of being increased, will be lost forever by it. In our state government, our representatives may be severally instructed by their constituents. There are no persons to counteract their operations. They can have no excuse for deviating from our instructions. In the general government, other men have power over the business. When oppressions may take place, our representatives may tell us, — We contended for your interest; but we could not carry our point, because the representatives from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, &c., were against us. Edition: current; Page: [322] Thus, sir, you may see there is no real responsibility. He further said that there was such a contrariety of interests as to hinder a consolidation. I will only make one remark. There is a variety of interests. Some of the states owe a great deal on account of paper money; others very little; some of the Northern States have collected and barrelled up paper money. Virginia has sent thither her cash long ago. There is little or none of the Continental paper money retained in this state. Is it not their business to appreciate this money? Yes, and it will be your business to prevent it. But there will be a majority against you, and you will be obliged to pay your share of this money, in its nominal value. It has been said, by several gentlemen, that the freeness of elections would be promoted by throwing the country into large districts. I contend, sir, that it will have a contrary effect. It will destroy that connection that ought to subsist between the electors and the elected. If your elections be by districts, instead of counties, the people will not be acquainted with the candidates. They must, therefore, be directed in the elections by those who know them. So that, instead of a confidential connection between the electors and the elected, they will be absolutely unacquainted with each other. A common man must ask a man of influence how he is to proceed, and for whom he must vote. The elected, therefore, will be careless of the interest of the electors. It will be a common job to extort the suffrages of the common people for the most influential characters. The same men may be repeatedly elected by these means. This, sir, instead of promoting the freedom of elections, leads us to an aristocracy. Consider the mode of elections in England. Behold the progress of an election in an English shire. A man of an enormous fortune will spend thirty or forty thousand pounds to get himself elected. This is frequently the case. Will the honorable gentleman say that a poor man, as enlightened as any man in the island, has an equal chance with a rich man, to be elected? He will stand no chance, though he may have the finest understanding of any man in the shire. It will be so here. Where is the chance that a poor man can come forward with the rich? The honorable gentleman will find that, instead of supporting democratical principles, it goes absolutely to destroy them.

The state governments, says he, will possess greater advantages Edition: current; Page: [323] than the general government, and will consequently prevail. His opinion and mine are diametrically opposite Bring forth the federal allutements, and compare them with the poor, contemptible things that the state legislatures can bring forth. On the part of the state legislatures, there are justices of the peace and militia officers; and even these justices and officers are bound by oath in favor of the Constitution. A constable is the only man who is not obliged to swear paramount allegiance to this beloved Congress. On the other hand, there are rich, fat, federal emoluments. Your rich, snug, fine, fat, federal officers — the number of collectors of taxes and excises — will outnumber any thing from the states. Who can cope with the excisemen and taxmen? There are none in this country who can cope with this class of men alone. But, sir, is this the only danger? Would to Heaven that it were! If we are to ask which will last the longest, the state or the general government, you must take an army and a navy into the account. Lay these things together, and add to the enumeration the superior abilities of those who manage the general government.

Can, then, the state governments look it in the face? You dare not look it in the face now, when it is but in embryo. The influence of this government will be such, that you never can get amendments; for if you propose alterations, you will affront them. Let the honorable gentleman consider all these things, and say, whether the state governments will last as long as the federal government. With respect to excises, I can never endure them. They have been productive of the most intolerable oppressions every where. Make a probable calculation of the expense attending the legislative, executive, and judiciary. You will find that there must be an immense increase of taxes. We are the same mass of people we were before; in the same circumstances; the same pockets are to pay. The expenses are to be increased. What will enable us to bear this augmentation of taxes? The mere form of government will not do it. A plain understanding cannot conceive how the taxes can be diminished, when our expenses are augmented, and the means of paying them not increased.

With respect to our tax laws, we have purchased a little knowledge by sad experience upon the subject. Reiterated experiments have taught us what can alleviate the distresses, Edition: current; Page: [324] and suit the convenience, of the people. But we are now to throw away that system by which we have acquired this knowledge, and send ten men to legislate for us.

The honorable gentleman was pleased to say that the representation of the people was the vital principle of this government. I will readily agree that it ought to be so. But I contend that this principle is only nominally, and not substantially, to be found there. We contended with the British about representation. They offered us such a representation as Congress now does. They called it a virtual representation. If you look at that paper, you will find it so there. Is there but a virtual representation in the upper house? The states are represented, as states, by two senators each. This is virtual, not actual. They encounter you with Rhode Island and Delaware. This is not an actual representation. What does the term representation signify? It means that a certain district — a certain association of men — should be represented in the government, for certain ends. These ends ought not to be impeded or obstructed in any manner. Here, sir, this populous state has not an adequate share of legislative influence. The two petty states of Rhode Island and Delaware, which, together, are infinitely inferior to this state in extent and population, have double her weight, and can counteract her interest. I say that the representation in the Senate, as applicable to states, is not actual. Representation is not, therefore, the vital principle of this government. So far it is wrong.

Rulers are the servants and agents of the people; the people are their masters. Does the new Constitution acknowledge this principle? Trial by jury is the best appendage of freedom. Does it secure this? Does it secure the other great rights of mankind? Our own Constitution preserves these principles. The honorable gentleman contributed to form that Constitution. The applauses so justly due to it should, in my opinion, go to the condemnation of that paper.

With respect to the failures and errors of our government, they might have happened in any government. I do not justify what merits censure, but I shall not degrade my country. As to deviations from justice, I hope they will be attributed to the errors of the head, and not to those of the heart.

The honorable gentleman did our judiciary honor in saving Edition: current; Page: [325] that they had firmness to counteract the legislature in some cases. Yes, sir, our judges opposed the acts of the legislature. We have this landmark to guide us. They had fortitude to declare that they were the judiciary, and would oppose unconstitutional acts. Are you sure that your federal judiciary will act thus? Is that judiciary as well constructed, and as independent of the other branches, as our state judiciary? Where are your landmarks in this government? I will be bold to say you cannot find any in it. I take it as the highest encomium on this country, that the acts of the legislature, if unconstitutional, are liable to be opposed by the judiciary.

Then the honorable gentleman said that the two judiciaries and legislatures would go in a parallel line, and never interfere; that, as long as each was confined to its proper objects, there would be no danger of interference; that, like two parallel lines, as long as they continued in their parallel direction, they never would meet. With submission to the honorable gentleman’s opinion, I assert that there is danger of interference, because no line is drawn between the powers of the two governments, in many instances; and, where there is a line, there is no check to prevent the one from encroaching upon the powers of the other.

I therefore contend that they must interfere, and that this interference must subvert the state government, as being less powerful. Unless your government have checks, it must inevitably terminate in the destruction of your privileges. I will be bold to say that the British government has real checks. I was attacked by gentlemen, as if I had said that I loved the British government better than our own. I never said so. I said that, if I were obliged to relinquish a republican government, I would choose the British monarchy. I never gave the preference to the British or any other government, when compared to that which the honorable gentleman assisted to form. I was constrained to say what I said. When two disagreeable objects present themselves to the mind, we choose that which has the least deformity.

As to the western country, notwithstanding our representation in Congress, and notwithstanding any regulation that may be made by Congress, it may be lost. The seven Northern States are determined to give up the Mississippi. Edition: current; Page: [326] We are told that, in order to secure the navigation of that river, it was necessary to give it up, for twenty-five years, to the Spaniards, and that thereafter we should enjoy it forever, without any interruption from them. This argument resembles that which recommends adopting first and then amending. I think the reverse of what the honorable gentleman said on the subject. Those seven states are decidedly against it. He tells us that it is the policy of the whole Union to retain it. If men were wise, virtuous, and honest, we might depend on an adherence to this policy. Did we not know of the fallibility of human nature, we might rely on the present structure of this government. We might depend that the rules of propriety, and the general interest of the Union, would be observed. But the depraved nature of man is well known. He has a natural bias towards his own interest, which will prevail over every consideration, unless it be checked. It is the interest and inclination of the seven Northern States to relinquish this river. If you enable them to do so, will the mere propriety of consulting the interest of the other six states refrain them from it? Is it imagined that Spain will, after a peaceable possession of it for thirty years, give it up to you again? Can credulity itself hope that the Spaniards, who wish to have it for that period, wish to clear the river for you? What is it they wish? To clear the river! For whom? America saw the time when she had the reputation of common sense at least. Do you suppose they will restore it to you after thirty years? If you do, you depart from that rule. Common observation tells you that it must be the policy of Spain to get it first, and then retain it forever. If you give it up, in my poor estimation they will never voluntarily restore it. Where is the man who will believe that, after clearing the river, strengthening themselves, and increasing the means of retaining it, the Spaniards will tamely surrender it?

With respect to the concurrent collection of parochial, county, and state taxes, which the honorable gentleman has instanced as a proof of the practicability of the concurrent collection of taxes by the general and state governments, the comparison will not stand examination. As my honorable friend has said, these concurrent collections come from one power. They radiate from the same centre. They are not coëqual or coëxtensive. There is no clashing Edition: current; Page: [327] of power between them. Each is limited to its own particular objects, and all subordinate to one supreme, controlling power — the legislature. The county courts have power over the county and parish collections, and can constantly redress any injuries or oppressions committed by the collectors. Will this be the case in the federal courts? I hope they will not have federal courts in every county. If they will, the state courts will be debased and stripped of their cognizance, and utterly abolished. Yet, if there be no power in the country to call them to account, they will more flagrantly trample on your rights. Does the honorable gentleman mean that the thirteen states will have thirteen different tax laws? Is this the expedient which is to be substituted for the unequal and unjust one of uniform taxes? If so, many horrors present themselves to my mind. They may be imaginary, but it appears to my mind to be the most abominable system that could be imagined. It will destroy every principle of responsibility. It will be destructive of that fellow-feeling, and consequent confidence, which ought to subsist between the representatives and the represented. We shall then be taxed by those who bear no part in the taxes themselves, and who, consequently, will be regardless of our interest in imposing them upon us. The efforts of our ten men will avail very little when opposed by the northern majority. If our ten men be disposed to sacrifice our interest, we cannot detect them. Under the color of being outnumbered by the northern representatives, they can always screen themselves. When they go to the general government, they may make a bargain with the northern delegates. They may agree to tax our citizens in any manner which may be proposed by the northern members; in consideration of which, the latter may make them some favorite concessions. The Northern States will never assent to regulations promotive of southern aggrandizement. Notwithstanding what gentlemen say of the probable virtue of our representatives, I dread the depravity of human nature. I wish to guard against it by proper checks, and trust nothing to accident or chance. I will never depend on so slender a protection as the possibility of being represented by virtuous men.

Will not thirteen different objects of taxation in the thirteen different states involve us in an infinite number of Edition: current; Page: [328] inconveniences, and absolute confusion? There is a striking difference, and great contrariety of interests, between the states. They are naturally divided into carrying and productive states. This is an actual, existing distinction, which cannot be altered. The former are more numerous, and must prevail. What, then, will be the consequence of their contending interests, if the taxation of America is to go on in thirteen different shapes? This government subjects every thing to the northern majority. Is there not, then, a settled purpose to check the southern interest? We thus put unbounded power over our property in hands not having a common interest with us. How can the southern members prevent the adoption of the most oppressive mode of taxation in the Southern States, as there is a majority in favor of the Northern States? Sir, this is a picture so horrid, so wretched, so dreadful, that I need no longer dwell upon it. Mr. Henry then concluded by remarking, that he dreaded the most iniquitous speculation and stock-jobbing, from the operation of such a system.

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, pardon me for making a few remarks on what fell from the honorable gentleman last up. I am sorry to follow the example of gentlemen in deviating from the rule of the house. But as they have taken the utmost latitude in their objections, it is necessary that those who favor the government should answer them. But I wish, as soon as possible, to take up the subject regularly. I will therefore take the liberty to answer some observations which have been irregularly made, though they might be more properly answered when we come to discuss those parts of the Constitution to which they respectively refer. I will, however, postpone answering some others till then. If there be that terror in direct taxation, that the states would comply with requisitions to guard against the federal legislature; and if, as gentlemen say, this state will always have it in her power to make her collections speedily and fully, — the people will be compelled to pay the same amount as quickly and punctually as if raised by the general government.

It has been amply proved that the general government can lay taxes as conveniently to the people as the state governments, by imitating the state systems of taxation. If the general government have not the power of collecting Edition: current; Page: [329] its own revenues, in the first instance, it will be still dependent on the state governments in some measure; and the exercise of this power, after refusal, will be inevitably productive of injustice and confusion, if partial compliances be made before it is driven to assume it. Thus, sir, without relieving the people in the smallest degree, the alternative proposed will impair the efficacy of the government, and will perpetually endanger the tranquillity of the Union.

The honorable member’s objection with respect to requisitions of troops will be fully obviated at another time. Let it suffice now to say that it is altogether unwarrantable, and founded upon a misconception of the paper before you. But the honorable member, in order to influence our decision, has mentioned the opinion of a citizen who is an ornament to this state. When the name of this distinguished character was introduced, I was much surprised. Is it come to this, then, that we are not to follow our own reason? Is it proper to introduce the opinions of respectable men not within these walls? If the opinion of an important character were to weigh on this occasion, could we not adduce a character equally great on our side? Are we, who (in the honorable gentleman’s opinion) are not to be governed by an erring world, now to submit to the opinion of a citizen beyond the Atlantic? I believe that, were that gentleman now on this floor, he would be for the adoption of this Constitution. I wish his name had never been mentioned. I wish every thing spoken here, relative to his opinion, may be suppressed, if our debates should be published. I know that the delicacy of his feelings will be wounded, when he will see in print what has and may be said concerning him on this occasion. I am, in some measure, acquainted with his sentiments on this subject. It is not right for me to unfold what he has informed me; but I will venture to assert that the clause now discussed is not objected to by Mr. Jefferson. He approves of it, because it enables the government to carry on its operations. He admires several parts of it, which have been reprobated with vehemence in this house. He is captivated with the equality of suffrage in the Senate, which the honorable gentleman (Mr. Henry) calls the rotten part of this Constitution. But, whatever be the opinion of that illustrious citizen, considerations Edition: current; Page: [330] of personal delicacy should dissuade us from introducing it here.

The honorable member has introduced the subject of religion. Religion is not guarded; there is no bill of rights declaring that religion should be secure. Is a bill of rights a security for religion? Would the bill of rights, in this state, exempt the people from paying for the support of one particular sect, if such sect were exclusively established by law? If there were a majority of one sect, a bill of rights would be a poor protection for liberty. Happily for the states, they enjoy the utmost freedom of religion. This freedom arises from that multiplicity of sects which pervades America, and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society; for where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest. Fortunately for this commonwealth, a majority of the people are decidedly against any exclusive establishment. I believe it to be so in the other states. There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom. It is better that this security should be depended upon from the general legislature, than from one particular state. A particular state might concur in one religious project. But the United States abound in such a variety of sects, that it is a strong security against religious persecution; and it is sufficient to authorize a conclusion, that no one sect will ever be able to outnumber or depress the rest.

I will not travel over that extensive tract which the honorable member has traversed. I shall not now take notice of all his desultory objections. As occasions arise, I shall answer them.

It is worthy of observation, on this occasion, that the honorable gentleman himself seldom fails to contradict the arguments of gentlemen on that side of the question. For example, he strongly complains that the federal government, from the number of its members, will make an addition to the public expense too formidable to be borne; and yet he, and other gentlemen on the same side, object that the number of representatives is too small, though ten men are more Edition: current; Page: [331] than we are entitled to under the existing system! How can these contradictions be reconciled? If we are to adopt any efficient government at all, how can we discover or establish such a system, if it be thus attacked? Will it be possible to form a rational conclusion upon contradictory principles? If arguments of a contradictory nature were to be brought against the wisest and most admirable system to the formation of which human intelligence is competent, it never could stand them.

He has acrimoniously inveighed against the government, because such transactions as Congress think require secrecy, may be concealed; and particularly those which relate to treaties. He admits that, when a treaty is forming, secrecy is proper; but urges that, when actually made, the public ought to be made acquainted with every circumstance relative to it. The policy of not divulging the most important transactions, and negotiations of nations, such as those which relate to warlike arrangements and treaties, is universally admitted. The congressional proceedings are to be occasionally published, including all receipts and expenditures of public money, of which no part can be used but in consequence of appropriations made by law. This is a security which we do not enjoy under the existing system. That part which authorizes the government to withhold from the public knowledge what in their judgment may require secrecy, is imitated from the Confederation — that very system which the gentleman advocates.

No treaty has been formed, and I will undertake to say that none will be formed, under the old system, which will secure to us the actual enjoyment of the navigation of the Mississippi. Our weakness precludes us from it. We are entitled to it; but it is not under an inefficient government that we shall be able to avail ourselves fully of that right. I most conscientiously believe that it will be far better secured under the new government than the old, as we shall be more able to enforce our right. The people of Kentucky will have an additional safeguard from the change of system. The strength and respectability of the Union will secure them in the enjoyment of that right till that country becomes sufficiently populous. When this happens, they will be able to retain it in spite of every opposition.

I can never admit that seven states are disposed to surrender Edition: current; Page: [332] that navigation. Indeed, it never was the case. Some of their most distinguished characters are decidedly opposed to its relinquishment. When its cession was proposed by the Southern States, the Northern States opposed it. They still oppose it. New Jersey directed her delegates to oppose it, and is strenously against it. The same sentiments pervade Pennsylvania: at least, I am warranted to say so from the best information which I have. Those states, added to the Southern States, would be a majority against it.

The honorable gentleman, to obviate the force of my observations with respect to concurrent collection of taxes under different authorities, said that there was no interference between the concurrent collection of parochial, county, and state taxes, because they all radiated from the same centre, but that this was not the case with the general government. To make use of the gentleman’s own terms, the concurrent collections under the authorities of the general government and state governments all radiate from the people at large. The people is their common superior. The sense of the people at large is to be the predominating spring of their actions. This is a sufficient security against interference.

Our attention was called to our commercial interest, and at the same time the landed interest was said to be in danger. If those ten men, who were to be chosen, be elected by landed men, and have land themselves, can the electors have any thing to apprehend? If the commercial interests be in danger, why are we alarmed about the carrying trade? Why is it said that the carrying states will preponderate, if commerce be in danger? With respect to speculation, I will remark that stock-jobbing has prevailed more or less in all countries, and ever will, in some degree, notwithstanding any exertions to prevent it. If you judge from what has happened under the existing system, any change would render a melioration probable.

Mr. NICHOLAS urged that the Convention should either proceed according to the original determination, clause by clause, or rescind that order, and go into the Constitution at large.

Mr. HENRY opposed the motion as to taking up the subject clause by clause. He thought it ought to be considered Edition: current; Page: [333] at large. He observed that, among a great variety of subjects, the business of the Mississippi had taken up a great deal of time. He wished, before they should take leave of that subject, that the transactions of Congress relative to the navigation of that river should be communicated to the Convention, in order that they might draw their conclusions from the best source. For this purpose, he hoped that those gentlemen who had been then in Congress, and the present members of Congress who were in Convention, would communicate what they knew on the subject. He declared that he did not wish to hurt the feelings of the gentlemen who had been in Congress, or to reflect on any private character; but that, for the information of the Convention, he was desirous of having the most authentic and faithful account of facts.

Mr. NICHOLAS had no objection to Mr. Henry’s proposal.

Mr. MADISON then declared that, if the honorable gentleman thought that he had given an incorrect account of the transactions relative to the Mississippi, he would, on a thorough and complete investigation, find himself mistaken; that he had his information from his own knowledge, and from a perusal of the documents and papers which related to those transactions; that it had always been his opinion that the policy which had for its object the relinquishment of that river was unwise, and the mode of conducting it was still more exceptionable. He added, that he had no objection to have every light on the subject that could tend to elucidate it.

Mr. NICHOLAS hoped that, after the information should be given respecting that river, they would confine themselves to the order of the house.

The Convention then resolved itself into a committee of the whole Convention, to take into further consideration the proposed Constitution, and more particularly for the purpose of receiving information concerning the transactions of Congress relative to the Mississippi. — Mr. WYTHE in the chair.

On motion, the acts and resolutions of Assembly relative to the Mississippi were read.

Mr. LEE (of Westmoreland) then, in a short speech, related several congressional transactions respecting that river, and strongly asserted that it was the inflexible and determined resolution of Congress never to give it up; that the secretary of foreign affairs, who was authorized to form a Edition: current; Page: [334] treaty with Gardoqui, the Spanish ambassador, had positive directions not to assent to give up that navigation, and that it never had been their intention or wish to relinquish it; that, on the contrary, they earnestly wished to adopt the best plan of securing it.

After some desultory conversation, Mr. MONROE spoke as follows: Mr. Chairman, my conduct respecting the transactions of Congress, upon this interesting subject, since my return to the state, has been well known to many worthy gentlemen here. I have often been called upon before this, in a public line, and particularly in the last Assembly, whilst I was present, for information of these transactions; but have heretofore declined it, and for reasons that were held satisfactory. Being amenable, upon the principles of the federal compact, to the legislature for my conduct in Congress, it cannot be doubted, if required, it was my duty to obey their directions; but that honorable body thought it best to dispense with such demand. The right in this assembly is unquestionably more complete, having powers paramount to that; but even here I could wish it had not been exerted, as I understand it to be, by going into committee for that purpose. Before, however, I enter into this subject, I cannot but observe it has given me pain to hear it debated, by honorable gentlemen, in a manner that has appeared not altogether free from exception. For they have not gone into it fully, and given a proper view of the transactions in every part, but of those only which preceded and were subsequent to that which has been the particular object of inquiry — a conduct that has seemed so much calculated to make an impression favorable to their wishes in the present instance. But, in making this observation, I owe it to those gentlemen to declare that it is my opinion such omission has proceeded not from intention, but their having forgotten facts, or from some cause not obvious to me, and which I make no doubt they will readily explain.

The policy of this state respecting this river has always been the same. It has contemplated but one object — the opening it for the use of the inhabitants whose interest depended on it; and in this she has, in my opinion, shown her wisdom and magnanimity. I may, I believe, with propriety say that all the measures that have at any time been taken by Congress for that purpose were adopted at the instance Edition: current; Page: [335] of this state. There was a time, it is true, sir, when even this state in some measure abandoned the object, by authorizing this cession to the court of Spain. But let us take all circumstances into view, as they were at that time, and I am persuaded it will by no means show a departure from this liberal and enlightened system of policy, although it may manifest an accommodation to the exigencies which pressed on us at the time. The Southern States were overrun, and in possession of the enemy. The governments of South Carolina and Georgia were prostrate, and opposition there at an end. North Carolina made but a feeble resistance; and Virginia herself was greatly harassed by the enemy in force at that time in the heart of the country, and by impressments for her own and the defence of the Southern States. In addition to this, the finances of the United States were in a deplorable condition, if not totally exhausted; and France, our ally, seemed anxious for peace; and, as the means of bringing the war to a more happy and speedy conclusion, the object of this cession was the hopes of uniting Spain in it, with all her forces. If I recollect aright, too, at this moment the minister of the United States at the court of Madrid, informed Congress of the difficulty he found in prevailing upon that court to acknowledge our independence, or take any measure in our favor; and suggested the jealousy with which it viewed our settlements in the western country, and the probability of better success provided we would cede the navigation of this river, as the consideration. The latter circumstances were made known to the legislature, and they had their weight. All inferior objects must yield to the safety of society itself. A resolution passed to that effect. An act of Congress likewise passed, and the minister of the United States had full authority to relinquish this valuable right to that court, upon the condition above stated. But what was the issue of this proposition? Was any treaty made with Spain that obtained an acknowledgment of our independence, although at war with Great Britain, and such acknowledgment would have cost her nothing? Was a loan of money accomplished? In short, does it appear that even Spain herself thought it an object of any importance? So soon as the war ended, this resolution was rescinded. The power to make such a treaty was revoked. So that this system of policy was departed from, only for a short Edition: current; Page: [336] time, for the most important object that can be conceived, and resumed again as soon as it possibly could be.

After the peace, it became the business of Congress to investigate the relation of these states to the different powers of the earth, in a more extensive view than they had hitherto done, and particularly in the commercial line, and to make arrangements for entering into treaties with them on such terms as might be mutually beneficial for each party. As the result of the deliberations of that day, it was resolved, “That commercial treaties be formed, if possible, with said powers, (those of Europe in particular, Spain included,) upon similar principles, and three commissioners, Mr. Adams, Mr. Franklin, and Mr. Jefferson, be appointed for that purpose.” So that an arrangement for a treaty of commerce with Spain had already been taken. Whilst these powers were in force, a representative from Spain arrived, authorized to treat with the United States on the interfering claims of the two nations respecting the Mississippi, and the boundaries, and other concerns wherein they were respectively interested. A similar commission was given to the honorable the secretary of foreign affairs, on the part of the United States, with these ultimata: “That he enter into no treaty, compact, or convention whatever, with the said representative of Spain, which did not stipulate our right to the navigation of the Mississippi, and the boundaries as established in our treaty with Great Britain.” And thus the late negotiation commenced, and under auspices, as I supposed, very favorable to the wishes of the United States; for Spain had become sensible of the propriety of cultivating the friendship of the states. Knowing our claim to the navigation of this river, she had sent a minister hither principally to treat on that point; and the time would not be remote when, under the increasing population of that country, the inhabitants would be able to open it without our assistance or her consent. These circumstances being considered, was it not presumable she intended to make a merit of her concession to our wishes, and to agree to an accommodation upon that subject, that would not only be satisfactory, but highly pleasing to the United States?

But what was the issue of this negotiation? How was it terminated? Has it forwarded the particular object in view, or otherwise promoted the interest and the harmony of Edition: current; Page: [337] the states, or any of them? Eight or ten months elapsed without any communications of its progress to Congress. At length a letter was received from the secretary, stating that difficulties had arisen in his negotiation with the representative of Spain, which, in his opinion, should be so managed, as that even their existence should remain a secret for the present; and proposing that a committee be appointed, with full power to direct and instruct him in every case relative to the proposed treaty. As the only ultimata in his instructions respected the Mississippi and the boundaries, it readily occurred that these occasioned the difficulties alluded to, and were those he wished to remove. And for many reasons this appeared, at least to me, an extraordinary proposition. By the Articles of Confederation, nine states are necessary, to enter into treaties. The instruction is the foundation of the treaty; for, if it is formed agreeably thereto, good faith requires that it be ratified. The practice of Congress hath also been always, I believe, in conformity to this idea. The instructions under which our commercial treaties have been made were carried by nine states. Those under which the secretary now acted were passed by nine states. The proposition then would be, that the powers which, under the Constitution, nine states only were competent to, should be transferred to a committee, and the object, thereby to disengage himself from the ultimata already mentioned in his existing instructions. In this light the subject was taken up, and on these principles discussed. The secretary, Mr. Jay, being at length called before Congress to explain the difficulties mentioned in his letter, presented to their view the project of a treaty of commerce, containing, as he supposed, advantageous stipulations in our favor, in that line; in consideration for which, we were to contract to forbear the use of the navigation of the River Mississippi for the term of twenty-five or thirty years; and he earnestly advised our adopting it.

The subject now took a decided form: there was no further ambiguity in it; and we were surprised, for reasons that have been already given, that he had taken up the subject of commerce at all. We were greatly surprised that it should form the principal object of the project, and that a partial or temporary sacrifice of that interest, for the advancement of which the negotiation was set on foot should Edition: current; Page: [338] be the consideration proposed to be given for it. But the honorable secretary urged that it was necessary to stand well with Spain; that the commercial project was a beneficial one, and should not be neglected; that a stipulation to forbear the use contained an acknowledgment, on her part, of the right in the United States; that we were in no condition to take the river, and therefore gave nothing for it; with other reasons, which, perhaps, I have forgotten; for the subject in detail has nearly escaped my memory. We differed with the honorable secretary almost in every respect. We admitted, indeed, the propriety of standing well with Spain, but supposed we might accomplish that end at least on equal terms. We considered the stipulation to forbear the use as a species of barter that should never be countenanced in the councils of the American states, since it might tend to the destruction of society itself; for a forbearance of the use of one river might lead to more extensive consequences — to the Chesapeake, the Potomac, or any other of the rivers that emptied into it. In short, that the councils of the confederacy should be conducted with more magnanimity and candor — they should contemplate the benefit of all parts upon common principles, and not the sacrifice of one part for that of another. There appeared to us a material difference between stipulating by treaty to forbear the use, and not being able to open the river: the former would be considered by the inhabitants of the western country as an act of hostility; the latter might be justified by our inability. And with respect to the commercial part of the project, we really thought it an ill-advised one, on its own merits solely.

Thus was this project brought before Congress, and, so far as I recollect, in this form, and upon these principles. It was the subject of tedious and lengthy discussion in that honorable body. Every distinct measure that was taken I do not remember, nor do I suppose it of consequence. I have shown the outlines of the transaction, which is, if I apprehend rightly, all that the committee wish to possess. The communications of the secretary were referred to a committee of the whole house. The delegates of the seven easternmost states voted that the ultimatum in the secretary’s instructions be repealed; which was reported to the house, and entered on the journal, by the secretary of Congress, that the question was carried. Upon this entry, a constitutional Edition: current; Page: [339] question arose to this effect: “Nine states being necessary, by the federal Constitution, to give an instruction: and seven having repealed a part of an instruction so given, for the formation of a treaty with a foreign power, so as to alter its import, and authorize, under the remaining part thereof, the formation of a treaty, on principles altogether different from what the said instruction originally contemplated, — can such remaining part be considered as in force, and constitutionally obligatory?” We pressed on Congress for a decision on this point often, but without effect.

Notwithstanding this, I understood it was the intention of the secretary to proceed, and conclude a treaty, in conformity to his project, with the minister of Spain. In this situation I left Congress. What I have since heard belongs not to me to discover. Other gentlemen have more complete information of this business, in the course it has taken, than I can possibly have been able to obtain; for having done my duty whilst there, I left it for others who succeeded me to perform theirs, and I have made but little further inquiry respecting it. The animated pursuit that was made of this object, required, and, I believe, received, as firm an opposition. The Southern States were on their guard, and warmly opposed it. For my part, I thought it my duty to use every effort in Congress for the interest of the Southern States. But so far as depended on me, with my official character it ceased. With many of those gentlemen, to whom I always considered it as my particular misfortune to be opposed, I am now in habits of correspondence and friendship, and I am concerned for the necessity which has given birth to this relation.

Whether the delegates of those states spoke the language of their constituents — whether it may be considered as the permanent interest of such states to depress the growth and increasing population of the western country — are points which I cannot pretend to determine. I must observe, however, that I always supposed it would, for a variety of reasons, prove injurious to every part of the confederacy. These are well understood, and need not be dilated on here. If, however, such should be the interest of seven states, let gentlemen contemplate the consequences in the operation of the government, as it applies to this subject. I have always been of opinion, sir, that the American states, as to all national objects, had, in every respect, a common interest. Few persons Edition: current; Page: [340] would be willing to bind them together by a stronger or more indissoluble bond, or give the national government more powers, than myself. I only wish to prevent it from doing harm, either to states or individuals; and the rights and interests of both, in a variety of instances in which they are now left unprotected, might, in my opinion, be better guarded. If I have mistaken any facts, honorable gentlemen will correct me. If I have omitted any, as it has not been intentional, so I shall be happy with their assistance to supply the defect.

Mr. Monroe added several other observations, the purport of which was, that the interest of the western country would not be as secure, under the proposed Constitution, as under the Confederation; because, under the latter system, the Mississippi could not be relinquished without the consent of nine states — whereas, by the former, he said, a majority, or seven states, could yield it. His own opinion was, that it would be given up by a majority of the senators present in the Senate, with the President, which would put it in the power of less than seven states to surrender it; that the Northern States were inclined to yield it; that it was their interest to prevent an augmentation of the southern influence and power; and that, as mankind in general, and states in particular, were governed by interest, the Northern States would not fail of availing themselves of the opportunity, given them by the Constitution, of relinquishing that river, in order to depress the western country, and prevent the southern interest from preponderating.

Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, the honorable gentleman was mistaken when he supposed that I said seven states had absolutely voted to surrender the navigation of the Mississippi. I only spoke of the general disposition of the states, which I alleged to be actuated by interest; that consequently the carrying states were necessarily inclined against the extension of the interest and influence of the productive states; and that, therefore, they would not favor any measure to extend the settlements to the westward.

I wished not to enter into this discussion, for the reasons mentioned by my honorable friend. Secrecy was required on this subject. I told Congress that imposing secrecy, on such a great occasion, was unwarrantable. However, as it was not given up, I conceived myself under some restraint. Edition: current; Page: [341] But since it has come before the committee, and they desire to develop the subject, I shall stand excused for mentioning what I know of it. My honorable friend gave a very just account of it, when he said that the Southern States were on their guard, and opposed every measure tending to relinquish or waive that valuable right. They would not agree to negotiate, but on condition that no proposition whatever should be made to surrender that great right. There was a dispute between this country and Spain, who claimed one half of Georgia, and one half of Kentucky, or, if not that proportion, a very considerable part, as well as the absolute and exclusive navigation of the Mississippi. The Southern States thought that the navigation of the Mississippi should not be trusted to any hands but those in which the Confederation had placed the right of making treaties. That system required the consent of nine states for that purpose. The secretary for foreign affairs was empowered to adjust the interfering claims of Spain and the United States with the Spanish minister; but, as my honorable friend said, with an express prohibition of entering into any negotiation that would lead to the surrender of that river. Affairs continued in this state for some time. At length a proposition was made to Congress, not directly, but by a side wind. The first proposal was, to take off the fetters of the secretary. When the whole came out, it was found to be a proposal to cede the Mississippi to Spain for twenty-five or thirty years, (for it was in the disjunctive,) in consideration of certain commercial stipulations. In support of this proposal, it was urged that the right was in him who surrendered; and that their acceptance of a temporary relinquishment was an acknowledgment of our right, (which would revert to us at the expiration of that period,) that we could not take by war: that the thing was useless to us, and that it would be wise and politic to give it up, as we were to receive a beneficial compensation for that temporary cession. Congress, after a great deal of animosity, came to a resolution which, in my opinion, violated the Confederation. It was resolved, by seven states, that the prohibition in the secretary’s instruction should be repealed; whereby the unrepealed part of his instructions authorized him to make a treaty, yielding that inestimable navigation, although, by the Confederation, nine states were necessary to concur in the formation of a treaty! Edition: current; Page: [342] How, then, could seven states constitutionally adopt any measure, to which, by the Constitution, nine states alone were competent? It was entered on the journals, and transmitted to the secretary of foreign affairs, for his direction in his negotiation with the Spanish minister.

If I recollect rightly, by the law of nations, if a negotiator makes a treaty, in consequence of a power received from a sovereign authority, non-compliance with his stipulations is a just cause of war. The opposition suggested (whether wrong or not let this house determine) that this was the case; that the proceedings were repugnant to the principles and express letter of the Constitution; and that, if the compact which the secretary might form with the Spanish minister should not be complied with, it would be giving Spain a just cause of quarrel; so that we should be reduced to the dilemma of either violating the Constitution by a compliance, or involving us in a war by a non-compliance. The opposition remonstrated against these transactions, (and their remonstrance was entered on the journal,) and took every step for securing this great national right. In the course of the debates in Congress on this subject, which were warm and animated, it was urged that Congress, by the law of nations, had no right, even with the consent of nine states, to dismember the empire, or relinquish any part of the territory, appertaining to the aggregate society, to any foreign power. Territorial dismemberment, or the relinquishment of any other privilege, is the highest act of a sovereign power. The right of territory has ever been considered as most sacred, and ought to be guarded in the most particular and cautious manner. Whether that navigation be secure on this principle, by the new Constitution, I will not pretend to determine. I will, however, say one thing. It is not well guarded under the old system. A majority of seven states are disposed to yield it. I speak not of any particular characters. I have the charity to suppose that all mankind act on the best motives. Suffice it for me to tell direct and plain facts, and leave the conclusion with this honorable house.

It has been urged, by my honorable friend on the other side, (Mr. Madison,) that the Eastern States were averse to surrender it during the war, and that the Southern States proposed it themselves, and wished to yield it. My honorable Edition: current; Page: [343] friend last up has well accounted for this disgraceful offer, and I will account for the refusal of the Eastern States to surrender it.

Mr. Chairman, it is no new thing to you to discover these reasons. It is well known that the Newfoundland fisheries and the Mississippi are balances for one another; that the possession of one tends to the preservation of the other. This accounts for the eastern policy. They thought that, if the Mississippi was given up, the Southern States would give up the right of the fishery, on which their very existence depends. It is not extraordinary, therefore, while these great rights of the fishery depend on such a variety of circumstances, — the issue of war, the success of negotiations, and numerous other causes, — that they should wish to preserve this great counterbalance. What has been their conduct since the peace? When relieved from the apprehensions of losing that great advantage, they are solicitous of securing a superiority of influence in the national councils. They look at the true interest of nations. Their language has been, “Let us prevent any new states from rising in the western world, or they will outvote us — we shall lose our importance, and become as nothing in the scale of nations. If we do not prevent it, our countrymen will remove to those places, instead of going to sea, and we shall receive no particular tribute or advantage from them.”

This, sir, has been the language and spirit of their policy, and I suppose ever will be. The Mississippi is not secured under the old Confederation; but it is better secured by that system than by the new Constitution. By the existing system, nine states are necessary to yield it. A few states can give it away by the paper on your table. But I hope it will never be put in the power of a less number than nine states. Jersey, we are told, changed her temper on that great occasion. I believe that that mutability depended on characters. But we have lost another state — Maryland. For, from fortuitous circumstances, those states deviated from their natural character — Jersey in not giving up the right of the Mississippi, and Maryland in giving it up. Whatever be their object, each departed from her natural disposition. It is with great reluctance I have said any thing on the subject, and if I have misrepresented facts, I wish to be corrected.

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Mr. HENRY then arose, and requested that the honorable gentleman (Mr. Monroe) would discover the rest of the project, and what Spain was to do, on her part, as an equivalent for the cession of the Mississippi.

Mr. MONROE. Mr. Chairman, I do not thoroughly recollect every circumstance relative to this project. But there was to be a commercial intercourse between the United States and Spain. We are to be allowed to carry our produce to the ports of Spain, and the Spaniards to have an equal right of trading hither. It was stipulated that there should be a reciprocity of commercial intercourse and benefits between the subjects of Spain and the citizens of the United States. The manufactures of Spain were to be freely imported and vended in this country, and our manufactures to be carried to Spain, &c., without obstruction; and both parties were to have mutual privileges in point of commercial intercourse and connection. This, sir, is the amount of the project of Spain, which was looked upon as advantageous to us. I thought myself that it was not. I considered Spain as being without manufactures — as the most slow in the progress of arts, and the most unwise with respect to commerce, of all nations under the sun, (in which respect I thought Great Britain the wisest.) Their gentlemen and nobles look on commerce with contempt. No man of character among them will undertake it. They make little discrimination with any nation. Their character is to shut out all nations, and exclude every intercourse with them; and this would be the case with respect to us. Nothing is given to us, by this project, but what is given to all other nations. It is bad policy, and unjustifiable, on such terms to yield that valuable right. Their merchants have great stocks in trade. It is not so with our merchants. Our people require encouragement. Mariners must be encouraged. On a review of these circumstances, I thought the project unwise and impolitic.

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, it is extremely disagreeable to me to enter into this discussion, as it is foreign to the object of our deliberations here, and may, in the opinion of some, tend to sully the reputation of our public councils. As far as my memory will enable me, I will develop the subject. We shall not differ from one another with respect to facts: perhaps we may differ with respect to principles. Edition: current; Page: [345] I will take the liberty to observe that I was led, before, to make some observations which had no relation to the subject under consideration, as relative to the western country, to obviate suggestions of gentlemen which seemed to me to be groundless. I stated that there was a period when the Southern States were advocates for the alienation: or suspension, of the right to the Mississippi, (I will not say which,) and the Eastern States were against both. I mention this to show that there was no disposition in that part to surrender that right, or dispose of that country. I do suppose that the fishery had its influence on those states. No doubt it was the case.

For that and other reasons, they still continue against the alienation; for it might lessen the security of retaining the fishery. From the best information, it never was the sense of the people at large, or the prevailing character of the Eastern States, to approve of the measure. If interest, sir, should continue to operate on them, I humbly conceive that they will derive more advantage from holding the Mississippi than even the Southern States; for, if the carrying business be their natural province, how can it be so much extended and advanced as by giving encouragement to agriculture in the western country, and having the emolument of carrying their produce to market? The carrying trade must depend on agriculture, for its support, in a great measure. In what place is agriculture so capable of improvement and great extension as in the western country? But whatever considerations may prevail in that quarter, or any other, respecting their interest, I think we may fairly suppose that the consideration which the honorable member mentioned, and which has been repeated, — I mean the emigrations which are going on to the westward, — must produce the same effect as to them which it may produce with respect to us. Emigrations are now going on from that quarter, as well as from this state.

I readily confess that neither the old Confederation nor the new Constitution involves a right to give up the navigation of the Mississippi. It is repugnant to the law of nations. I have always thought and said so. Although the right be denied, there may be emergencies which will make it necessary to make a sacrifice. But there is a material difference between emergencies of safety in time of war, and those Edition: current; Page: [346] which may relate to mere commercial regulations. You might, on solid grounds, deny, in peace, what you give up in war. I do not conceive, however, that there is that extreme aversion, in the minds of the people of the Eastern States, to emigrate to the westward, which was insinuated by my honorable friend. Particular citizens, it cannot be doubted, may be averse to it; but it is the sense of the people at large which will direct the public measures. We find, from late arrangements made between Massachusetts and New York, that a very considerable country to the westward of New York was disposed of to Massachusetts, and by Massachusetts to some individuals, to conduct emigrants to that country.

There were seven states who thought it right to give up the navigation of the Mississippi, for twenty-five years, for several reasons which have been mentioned. As far as I can recollect, it was nearly as my honorable friend said. But they had no idea of absolutely alienating it. I think one material consideration which governed them was, that there were grounds of serious negotiation between Great Britain and Spain, which might bring on a coalition between those nations, which might enable them to bind us on different sides, permanently withhold that navigation from us, and injure us in other respects materially. The temporary cession, it was supposed, would fix the permanent right in our favor, and prevent that dangerous coalition. It is but justice to myself to say that, however plausible the reasons urged for its temporary cession may have been, they never convinced me of its utility. I have uniformly disapproved of it, and do now.

With respect to the secretary of foreign affairs, I am intimately connected with him. I shall say nothing of his abilities, and attachment to his country. His character is established in both respects. He has given a train of reasoning which governed him in his project. If he was mistaken, his integrity and probity more than compensate for the error. I am led to think there is no settled disposition in seven states to give up that object, because New Jersey, on a further consideration of the subject, actually gave instructions to her delegates to oppose it. And what was the ground of this? I do not know the extent and particular reasons of her instructions. But I recollect that a material consideration Edition: current; Page: [347] was, that the cession of that river would diminish the value of the western country, (which was a common fund for the United States,) and would, consequently, tend to impoverish their public treasury. These, sir, were rational grounds.

Give me leave, sir, — as I am upon this subject, and as the honorable gentleman has raised a question whether it be not more secure under the old than the new Constitution, — to differ from him. I shall enter into the reasoning which, in my mind, renders it more secure under the new system. Two thirds of the senators present, (which will be nine states, if all attend to their duty,) and the President, must concur in every treaty which can be made. Here are two distinct and independent branches, which must agree to every treaty. Under the existing system, two thirds of the states must concur to form a treaty. But it is but one body. Gentlemen may reason and conclude differently on this subject. I own that, as far as I have any rights, which are but trivial, I would rather trust them to the new than the old government. Besides, let me observe that the House of Representatives will have a material influence on the government, and will be additional security in this respect. But there is one thing which he mentioned which merits attention. If commercial policy be a source of great danger, it will have less influence in the new system than in the old; for, in the House of Representatives, it will have little or no influence. They are drawn from the landed interest, taken from the states at large, and many of them from the western country; whereas the present members of Congress have been taken from the Atlantic side of the continent. When we calculate the dangers that may arise in any case, we judge from the rules of proportion and chances of numbers. The people at large choose those who elect the President. The weight of population will be to the southward, if we include the western country. There will then be a majority of the people in favor of this right. As the President must be influenced by the sense and interest of his electors, as far as it depends on him, (and his agency in making treaties is equal to that of the Senate,) he will oppose the cession of that navigation. As far as the influence of the representatives goes, it will also operate in favor of this right. The power of treaties is not lodged in the senators of particular states. Every state has an equal weight. If Edition: current; Page: [348] ten senators can make a treaty, ten senators can prevent one from being made. It is from a supposition that all the southern delegates will be absent, that ten senators, or two thirds of a majority, can give up this river. The possibility of absence operates equally as much against the Northern States. If one fifth of the members present think the measure erroneous, the votes of the states are to be taken upon it, and entered on the journals. Every gentleman here ought to recollect that this is some security, as the people will thereby know those who advocate iniquitous measures. If we consider the number of changes in the members of the government, we shall find it another security. But, after all, sir, what will this policy signify, which tends to surrender the navigation of the Mississippi? Resolutions of Congress to retain it may be repeated, and reechoed from every part of the United States. It is not resolutions of this sort which the people of this country wish for. They want an actual possession of the right, and protection in its enjoyment. Similar resolutions have been taken, under the existing system, on many occasions. But they have been heretofore, and will be hereafter, in my opinion, nugatory and fruitless, unless a change takes place which will give energy to the acts of the government.

I will take the liberty to touch once more on the several considerations which produced the question, because perhaps the committee may not yet thoroughly comprehend it. In justice to those gentlemen who concluded in favor of the temporary cession, I mention their reasons, although I think the measure wrong. The reasons for so doing under the old system will be done away by the new system. We could not, without national dishonor, assert our right to the Mississippi, and suffer any other nation to deprive us of it. This consideration, with others before mentioned, influenced them. I admit it was wrong. But it is sufficient to prove that they acted on principles of integrity. Will they not be bound by honor and conscience, when we are able to enjoy and retain our right, not to give it up, or suffer it to be interrupted? A weak system produced this project. A strong system will remove the inducement. For may we not suppose it will be reversed by a change of system? I was called up to say what was its present situation. There are some circumstances within my knowledge which I am not at liberty Edition: current; Page: [349] to communicate to this house. I will not go farther than to answer the objections of gentlemen. I wish to conceal no circumstance which I can relate consistently with my duty. As to matters of fact, I have advanced nothing which I presume will be contradicted. On matters of opinion we may differ. Were I at liberty, I could develop some circumstances which would convince this house that this project will never be revived in Congress, and that, therefore, no danger is to be apprehended.

Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, the honorable gentleman last up concluded by leaving impressions that there were some circumstances which, were he at liberty to communicate, would induce this house to believe that the matter would never be revived. Were we to exclude from facts and opinions, or were we to appeal to the resolutions of Congress, a very different conclusion would result. When I was in Congress last, there was a resolution to apologize to his Catholic Majesty for not making the treaty, and intimating that, when the situation of things was altered, it might be done. Had it not been for one particular circumstance, it would have been concluded on the terms my honorable friend mentioned. When I was last in Congress, the project was not given over. Its friends thought it would be renewed.

With respect to the Mississippi and back lands, the Eastern States are willing to relinquish that great and essential right; for they consider the consequences of governing the Union as of more importance than those considerations which he mentioned should induce them to favor it.

But, says the honorable gentleman, there is a great difference between actually giving it up altogether, and a temporary cession. If the right was given up for twenty-five years, would this country be able to avail herself of her right, and resume it at the expiration of that period? If ever the house of Bourbon should be at war with all Europe, then would be the golden opportunity of regaining it. Without this, we never could wrest it from the house of Bourbon, the branches of which always support each other.

If things continue as they are now, emigrations will continue to that country. The hope that this great national right will be retained, will induce them to go thither. But take away that hope, by giving up the Mississippi for twenty-five years, and the emigrations will cease. As interest Edition: current; Page: [350] actuates mankind, will they go thither when they know they cannot enjoy the privilege of navigating that river, or find a ready market for their produce? There is a majority of states which look forward with anxiety to the benefits of the commercial project with Spain. In the course of the Spanish negotiation, our delegation thought of a project which would be accommodated to their particular interest. It was proposed, by way of compromise, as being suitable to the interest of all the states, that the Spanish crown should make New Orleans a general depository, and that the growth of the American states should be sent down for the use of the Spanish troops; Spain being obliged to foreign nations for provisions. This was throwing out a lure to the Eastern States to carry the produce of that whole country. But this temptation did not succeed. It was thought no object in their view, when greater objects presented themselves.

It was alleged that the emigration from the Eastern States will have the same effect as emigration from this country. I know every step will be taken to prevent emigration from thence, as it will be transferring their population to the Southern States. They will coincide in no measure that will tend to increase the weight or influence of the Southern States. There is, therefore, a wide line of distinction between migrations from thence and from hence.

But we are told, in order to make that paper acceptable to the Kentucky people, that this high act of authority cannot, by the law of nations, be warrantable, and that this great right cannot be given up. I think so also. But how will the doctrine apply to America? After it is actually given away, can it be reclaimed? If nine states give it away, what will the Kentucky people do? Will Grotius and Puffendorf relieve them? If we reason what was done — if seven states attempted to do what nine states ought to have done — you may judge of the attention which will be paid to the law of nations. Should Congress make a treaty to yield the Mississippi, that people will find no redress in the law of nations.

But, says he, Massachusetts is willing to protect emigration. When the act of Congress passed respecting the settlement of the western country, and establishing a state there, it passed in a lucky moment. I was told that that state was extremely uneasy about it; and that, in order to retain her Edition: current; Page: [351] inhabitants, lands in the province of Maine were lowered to the price of one dollar per acre. As to the tract of country conveyed by New York to Massachusetts, neither of them had a right to it. Perhaps that great line of policy, of keeping the population on that side of the continent, in contradistinction to the emigration to the westward of us, actuated Massachusetts in that transaction. There is no communication between that country and the Mississippi. The two great northern communications are by the North River, and by the River St. Lawrence, to the Mississippi. But there is no communication between that country, where the people of Massachusetts emigrate, and the Mississippi; nor do I believe that there ever will be one traveller from it thither.

I have a great regard for the secretary of foreign affairs. In my opinion, all America is under great obligations to him. But I differed in opinion with him.

But the Mississippi is said to be more secure under the new than the old government. It is infinitely more secure under the latter than the former. How is the fact? Seven states wished to pass an affirmative act ceding it. They repealed part of the instructions given the secretary, to enable him to conclude a compact for its cession, and wished to get nine states to agree to it. Nine states, by the Confederation, must concur in the formation of treaties. This saved it. Only seven states were willing to yield it. But, by this Constitution, two thirds of the senators present, with the President, can make any treaty. A quorum is fourteen, two thirds of which are ten. We find, then, that ten members can, at any time, surrender that great and valuable right. As seven states are willing to yield it now, how the gentleman can reason in the manner he does, I cannot conceive.

Mr. HENRY. Mr. Chairman: I hope, sir, as the honorable gentleman on my left set the example of debating the merits, that whatever may result as consequences of that example, it may not be attributed to me. I hope that I shall be indulged in offering a few words in addition to what has been said. Gentlemen may do what they will. Their reflections will have no influence on me. It is said that we are scuffling for Kentucky votes, and attending to local circumstances. But if you consider the interests of this country, you will find that the interests of Virginia and Kentucky are most intimately Edition: current; Page: [352] and vitally connected. When I see the great rights of the community in real danger, the ideal dangers which gentlemen speak of dissipate. A union with our western brethren is highly desirable, almost on any terms; a union with them, alone, can lessen or annihilate the dangers arising from that species of population of which we have been reminded in the catalogue of dangers which were dwelt upon. They are at present but few in number, but may be very numerous hereafter. If that fatal policy shall take place, you throw them into the arms of Spain. If Congress should, for a base purpose, give away this dearest right of the people, your western brethren will be ruined. We ought to secure to them that navigation which is necessary to their very existence. If we do not, they will look upon us as betrayers of their interest. Shall we appear to care less for their interest than for that of distant people? When gentlemen tell us that the change of system will render our western brethren more secure, and that this system will not betray them, they ought to prove it. When a matter which respects the great national interests of America is concerned, we expect the most decided proofs. Have they given any? Unless you keep open the Mississippi, you never can increase in number. Although your population should go on to an infinite degree, you will be in the minority in Congress: and although you should have a right to be the majority, yet so unhappily is this system of politics constituted, that you will ever be a contemptible minority. To preserve the balance of American power, it is essentially necessary that the right of the Mississippi should be secured.

But, said the honorable gentleman, the Eastern States will wish to secure their fishery, and will, therefore, favor this right. How does he draw the inference? Is it possible that they can act on that principle? The principle which led the Southern States to admit of the cession, was to avoid the most dreadful perils of war. But their difficulties are now ended by peace. Is there any thing like this that can influence the minds of the people of the north? Since the peace, those states have discovered a determined resolution to give it away. There was no similar danger to compel them to yield it. No, sir, they wished to relinquish it. Without any kind of necessity, they acted in conformity to their natural disposition, with respect to emigrations going Edition: current; Page: [353] on in that quarter. This, though improbable, may be so. But to say that, because some settlements are going on in New York, Massachusetts will form a connection with the Mississippi, is, to my mind, most wonderful indeed. The great balance will be in the southern parts of America. There is the most extensive and fertile territory. There is the happiest geographical position, situated contiguously to that valuable and inestimable river. But the settlement of that country will not be warranted by the new Constitution, if it will not be forbidden by it.

No constitution under heaven, founded on principles of justice, can warrant the relinquishment of the most sacred rights of society, to promote the interest of one part of it. Do you not see the danger into which you are going, to throw away one of your dearest and most valuable rights? The people of that country now receive great and valuable emoluments from that right being protected by the existing government. But they must now abandon them. For is there any actual security? Show me any clause in that paper which secures that great right. What was the calculation which told you that it would be safer under the new than under the old government? In my mind, it was erroneous. The honorable gentleman told you that there were two bodies, or branches, which must concur to make a treaty. Sir, the President, as distinguished from the Senate, is nothing. They will combine, and be as one. My honorable friend said that ten men, the senators of five states, could give it up. The present system requires the consent of nine states. Consequently, its security will be much diminished. The people of Kentucky, though weak now, will not let the President and Senate take away this right. Look right, and see this abominable policy — consider seriously its fatal and pernicious tendency! Have we not that right guarantied to us by the most respectable power in Europe? France has guarantied to us our sovereignty and all its appendages. What are its appendages? Are not the rivers and waters, that wash the shores of the country, appendages inseparable from our right of sovereignty? France has guarantied this right to us in the most full and extensive manner. What would have been the consequences had this project with Spain been completed and agreed to? France would have told you, “You have Edition: current; Page: [354] given it up yourselves; you have put it on a different footing; and if your bad policy has done this, it is your own folly. You have drawn it on your own heads; and, as you have bartered away this valuable right, neither policy nor justice will call on me to guaranty what you gave up yourselves.” This language would satisfy the most sanguine American.

Is there an opinion that any future projects will better secure you? If this strong government contended for be adopted, seven states will give it up forever; for a temporary cession is, in my opinion, perfectly the same thing. The thing is so obviously big with danger, that the blind man himself might see it.

As to the American secretary, the goodness of his private character is not doubted. It is public conduct which we are to inspect. The public conduct of this secretary goes against the express authority of nine states. Although he may be endowed with the most brilliant talents, I have a right to consider his politics as abandoned. Yet his private virtues may merit applause. You see many attempts made, which, when brought into actual experiment, are found to result from abandoned principles. The states are geographically situated so and so. Their circumstances are well known. It is suggested, this expedient was only to temporize till a more favorable opportunity. Will any gentleman tell me that the business was taken up hastily, when that vote was taken in Congress? When you consider the ability of the gentlemen who voted in Congress on that question, you must be persuaded that they knew what they were about. American interest was fully understood. New Jersey called her delegates from Congress for having voted against this right. Delegates may be called and instructed under the present system, but not by the new Constitution. The measure of the Jersey delegates was adverse to the interest of that state, and they were recalled for their conduct.

The honorable gentleman has said that the House of Representatives would give some curb to this business of treaties respecting the Mississippi. This is to me incomprehensible. He will excuse me if I tell him he is exercising his imagination and ingenuity. Will the honorable gentleman say that the House of Representatives will break through their balances Edition: current; Page: [355] and checks, and break into the business of treaties? He is obliged to support this opinion of his, by supposing that the checks and balances of this Constitution are to be an impenetrable wall for some purposes, and a mere cobweb for some other purposes. What kind of Constitution, then, can this be? I leave gentlemen to draw the inference. I may have misunderstood the gentleman, but my notes tell me that he said the House of Representatives might interfere, and prevent the Mississippi from being given away. They have no power to do this by the Constitution. There will be a majority against it there also. Can you find on the journals the names of those who sacrifice your interest? Will they act so imprudently as to discover their own nefarious project? At present you may appeal to the voice of the people, and send men to Congress positively instructed to obey your instructions. You can recall them if their system of policy be ruinous. But can you in this government recall your senators? Or can you instruct them? You cannot recall them. You may instruct them, and offer your opinions; but if they think them improper, they may disregard them. If they give away or sacrifice your most valuable rights, can you impeach or punish them? If you should see the Spanish ambassador bribing one of your senators with gold, can you punish him? Yes, you can impeach him before the Senate. A majority of the Senate may be sharers in the bribe. Will they pronounce him guilty who is in the same predicament with themselves? Where, then, is the security? I ask not this out of triumph, but anxiously to know if there be any real security.

The gentleman here observed, what I would not give a single pin for. The doctrine of chances, it seems, will operate in our favor. This ideal, figurative doctrine will satisfy no rational people. I have said enough to answer the gentleman as to retaining the navigation.

Give me leave to tell you that, when the great branch of the house of Bourbon has guarantied to us this right, I wish not to lean on American strength, which may be employed to sacrifice it. This present despised system alone has reserved it. It rests on strong grounds — on the arms of France. The honorable member then told us that he thought the project would not be revived. Here, again, the doctrine of chances is introduced. I will admit that the honorable gentleman Edition: current; Page: [356] can calculate as to future events. But it is too much for him to say that it will not be taken up again. The same disposition may again revive that nefarious project. I can inform him of this — that the American ambassador advises to let it rest for the present, which insinuates that it will be resumed at a more favorable opportunity. If this be the language or spirit which causes its suspension, this nefarious, abominable project will be again introduced the first favorable opportunity. We cannot fortify the Atlantic Ocean. The utmost we can do, is to become formidable to the westward. This will be prevented, if this abominable project be adopted. Mr. Henry then added, that, in treating the subject at large, he followed the example of other gentlemen, and that he trusted he should be permitted to consider it generally again.

Mr. MADISON arose, and observed, that the particular ground, on which the abandonment of that project was founded, was, that it was repugnant to the wishes of a great part of America. This reason, says he, becomes stronger and stronger every day, and the sense of America will be more and more known, and more and more understood. The project, therefore, will, in all probability, never be revived. [He added some other observations, which could not be heard.]

Mr. NICHOLAS. Mr. Chairman, the arguments used to-day, on this occasion, astonish me exceedingly. The most valuable right of a part of the community has been invaded. By whom? By Congress, under the existing system — the worthy member’s favorite Confederation. Is this an argument to continue that Confederation? Does it not prove that that Confederation is not sufficient for the purposes for which it was instituted? It was doubted what proportion had a right, on that occasion, to repeal the prohibitory part of the secretary’s instructions. The Confederation, which makes it a doubt whether they had a right to sacrifice this right, — whether seven states, and not nine, had a right to make the temporary cession, — is the system which merits censure. Yet, by an ingenious and subtile deviation, this instance is brought against this Constitution. We have been alarmed about the loss of the Mississippi, in and out of doors. What does it all amount to? It amounts to an attempt, under the present Confederation, to yield it Edition: current; Page: [357] up. Why have we been told of the great importance of this valuable right? Every man knows it. No man has a greater regard for it than I have. But what is the question which the honorable gentleman ought to ask himself? Is this right better secured under the present Confederation than the new government? This is the sole question. I beg leave to draw the attention of the committee to this subject. It is objected, by my friend to my left, that two thirds of the Senate present may advise the President to give up this right by a treaty, by which five states may relinquish it. It is provided, in the first article, that a majority of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business; and then, in the second article, that the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall have power to make treaties. What part of the Senate? It adds, “Provided two thirds of the senators concur.” What is the inference? That there must be a quorum, and two thirds of the whole must agree. I shall be told, perhaps, that this construction is not natural, not the positive construction of the clause. If the right construction be, that two thirds of a quorum, or ten senators, may, with the President, make a treaty, — to justify the conclusion, that the Mississippi may be given away by five states, two most improbable things must concur: first, that, on the important occasion of treaties, ten senators will neglect to attend; and in the next place, that the senators whose states are most interested in being fully represented, will be those who will fail to attend. I mean those from the Southern States. How natural this supposition is, I refer to the candor of the committee. But we are told that we have every thing to fear from the Northern States, because they will prevent an accession of states to the south. The policy of states will sometimes change. This is the case with those states, if, indeed, they were enemies to the right; and therefore, as I am informed by very good authority, Congress has admitted Kentucky, as a state, into the Union. Then the law of nations will secure it to them, as the deprivation of territorial rights is obviously repugnant to that law.

But we are told that we may not trust them, because self-interest will govern them. To that interest I will appeal. You have been told that there was a difference between the states — that they were naturally divided into Edition: current; Page: [358] carrying and non-carrying states. It is not reasonable to presume that the advancement of population and agriculture, in the western country, will mostly operate in favor of those states, who, from their situation, are best calculated to carry the produce of America to foreign markets. Besides, as members of the Union, they will be materially affected by the sale of the back lands, which will be greatly diminished in case of the relinquishment of that right. The same reason which induced them to erect states there, will also actuate them on every future occasion.

But Congress has violated the Confederation. Shall we continue, then, under a government which warrants, or cannot prevent violations? Shall we hesitate to embrace a government which will check them? But, says the honorable gentleman over the way, (Mr. Grayson,) the Eastern States were interested, during the war, in retaining the Mississippi. But now they have nothing to fear. Will war not return? A great part of his argument turns upon that supposition: — We shall always have peace, and need make no provision against wars. Is not this deceiving ourselves? Is it not fallacious? Did there ever exist a nation which, at some period or other, was not exposed to war? As there is no security against future wars, the New England States will be as much interested in the possession of the Mississippi hereafter, as they were during the war. But, says he, the Confederation affords greater security to the western country than the new government. Consider it maturely, and you will find the contrary to be a fact. The security arising from the Confederation is said to be this, that nine states must concur in the formation of a treaty. If, then, hereafter thirty states should come into the Union, yet nine states will still be able to make a treaty. Where, then, is your boasted security, if nine states can make a treaty, although ever so many states should come into the Union? On the other hand, how is this guarded under the new Constitution? No certain limited number of states is required to form a treaty. As the number of states will be increasing in the Union, the security will be increased. Every new state will bring an accession of security, because two thirds of the senators must concur. Let the number of states increase ever so much, two thirds of the senators must concur. According to the present system, nine states may make a treaty. It will Edition: current; Page: [359] therefore take five states to prevent a treaty from being made. If five states oppose a treaty, it cannot be made. Let us see how it is in the new Constitution. Two thirds of the senators must agree. Kentucky, added to the other states, will make fourteen states. Twenty-eight senators will be the representation of the states, two thirds of which will be nineteen; and if nine members concur in opposition, the Senate can do no act. Five states, you are told, have concurred in opposing the relinquishment of that right. Kentucky has come into the Union. She will oppose it naturally. It may be naturally concluded, then, that there will be at least twelve members in the Senate against it; so that there will be several persons in the Senate more than will be sufficient to prevent the alienation or suspension of that river. From this true representation, it will at least be as secure under the new as under the old government.

But, says he, the concurrence of the President to the formation of treaties will be no security. Why so? Will he not injure himself, if he injures the states, by concurring in an injudicious treaty? How is he elected? Where will the majority of the people be? He told you that the great weight of population will be in the southern part of the United States. Their numbers will weigh in choosing the President, as he is elected by electors chosen by the people in proportion to their numbers. If the Southern States be interested in having the Mississippi, and have weight in choosing the President, will he not be a great check in favor of this right? Another thing is treated with great contempt. The House of Representatives, it seems, can have no influence in making treaties. What is the House of Representatives? Where, says he, are your checks and balances, your rope-dancers, &c.? How is this business done in his favorite government? The king of Great Britain can make what treaties he pleases. But, sir, do not the House of Commons influence them? Will he make a treaty manifestly repugnant to their interest? Will they not tell him he is mistaken in that respect, as in many others? Will they not bring the minister who advises a bad treaty to punishment? This gives them such influence that they can dictate in what manner they shall be made. But the worthy members says that this strong government is such a one as Kentucky ought to dread. Is this just, Mr. Chairman? Is it just by general Edition: current; Page: [360] assertions, without arguments or proofs, to cast aspersions on it?

What is the situation of that country? If she has a right, and is in possession of the river, I ask the gentleman why she does not enjoy the fruits of her right. I wish, if she has the river, she would give the people passports to navigate it. What do they want? They want a government which will force from Spain the navigation of that river. I trust, sir, that, let the situation, government, and politics, of America be what they may, I shall live to see the time when the inhabitants of that country will wrest from that nation that right which she is so justly entitled to. If we have that government which we ought to have, they will have ability to enforce their right. But he treats with ridicule the situation of the territory settled by Massachusetts. They can have no connection with the Mississippi. Sir, they are materially affected by the navigation of that river. The facility of disposing of their produce, and intercourse with other people, are essential interests.

But, sir, we have the guaranty of France under the existing system. What avails this guaranty? If dependence be put upon it, why did they not put us in possession, and enable us to derive benefits from it? Our possession of it is such that we dare not use it. But the opinion and characters of private men ought to have nothing to do in our discussion. I wish the gentleman had always thought so. If he had, these debates would not have been thus lengthened. But we are not to calculate any thing on New Jersey. You are told she gave instructions to her delegates to vote against the cession of that right. Will not the same principles continue to operate on the minds of the people of that state?

We cannot recall our senators. We can give them in structions; and if they manifestly neglect our interest, we have sufficient security against them. The dread of being recalled would impair their independence and firmness.

I think that Kentucky has nothing to expect from any one state alone in America. She can expect support and succor alone from a strong, efficient government, which can command the resources of the Union when necessary. She can receive no support from the old Confederation. Consider the present state of that country. Declared independent of Virginia, to whom is she to look up for succor? No sister Edition: current; Page: [361] state can help her. She may call on the present general government; but, whatever may be the wish of Congress, they can give them no relief. That country contains all my wishes and prospects. There is my property, and there I intend to reside. I should be averse to the establishment of any system which would be injurious to it. I flatter myself that this government will secure their happiness and liberty.

Gov. RANDOLPH. Since I have seen so many attempts made, and so many wrong inducements offered, to influence the delegation from Kentucky, I must, from a regard to justice and truth, give my opinion on the subject. If I have no interest in that country, I hope they will consider what I have to say as proceeding from an impartial mind. — That the people of Kentucky have an unequivocal right to the navigation of the Mississippi, by the law of nature and nations, is clear and undoubted; though, to my own knowledge, a question has arisen, whether the former connection of America with Great Britain has not taken it away from them. There was a dispute respecting the right of Great Britain to that river, and the United States have only the same right which the original possessor had, from whom it was transferred. I am willing to declare that the right is complete; but where is the danger of losing it by the operation of the new government? The honorable gentleman tells us that France has guarantied to us the possession of that river. We need not trouble ourselves about it. France, he supposes, will do every thing for us. Does this pretended security enable us to make use of it? Is there any reasonable motive to induce the government to give it up? If it be not given up, if the guaranty of France be any security now, it will be so then. I wish an honorable gentleman over the way had known certain facts. If he had, they must have operated on his mind to refrain from making such observations. [Here his excellency read the treaty of peace with Great Britain, defining the boundaries of the United States.]

He then declared, that, from the most liberal interpretation, it would never give the inhabitants a right to pass through the middle of New Orleans. I appeal to what the French ambassador said, in 1781, in Congress — that America had no right to the Mississippi. If the opinion of the ambassador Edition: current; Page: [362] of his Most Christian Majesty, and the treaty, have any influence, why are we told such things? There is not a greater or less degree of power, given by this Constitution, than is necessary to be given; but whether the power of treaties be improper to be given, or not, to the general government, I only now ask whether there be any real danger of losing this right. How many senators are there? Twenty-six, supposing the United States remain as they are. We are told that there never were more than seven states willing to give it up; so that there were six states against it. There can be little danger, then, of the loss of that navigation. Pennsylvania is interested to maintain the Mississippi. Her interest will stimulate her to do it. She has settlements near Fort Pitt, on the Ohio, which must be affected greatly by that cession. If his own arguments be credited, New Jersey is against it. There is no danger of her voting the alienation of that right, as she instructed her delegates to oppose it. The Southern States are naturally opposed to it. There will, therefore, be a majority in favor of the Mississippi — a majority that does not depend on the doctrine of chances. There will be fourteen senators against twelve, admitting the states to remain as they are. It will, moreover, be contrary to the law of nations to relinquish territorial rights. To make a treaty to alienate any part of the United States, will amount to a declaration of war against the inhabitants of the alienated part, and a general absolution from allegiance. They will never abandon this great right. Are not the states interested in the back lands, as has been repeatedly observed? Will not the connection between the emigrants and those they leave behind them, serve to strengthen opposition to it? The gentleman wishes us to show him a clause which shall preclude Congress from giving away this right. It is first incumbent upon him to show where the right is given up. There is a prohibition naturally resulting from the nature of things, it being contradictory and repugnant to reason, and the law of nature and nations, to yield the most valuable right of a community, for the exclusive benefit of one particular part of it.

But there is an expression which clearly precludes the general government from ceding the navigation of this river. In the 2d clause of the 3d section of the 4th article, Congress is empowered “to dispose of, and make all needful Edition: current; Page: [363] rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.” But it goes on, and provides that “nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or any particular state.” Is this a claim of the particular state of Virginia? If it be, there is no authority in the Constitution to prejudice it. If it be not, then we need not be told of it. This is a sufficient limitation and restraint. But it has been said that there is no restriction with respect to making treaties. The various contingencies which may form the object of treaties, are, in the nature of things, incapable of definition. The government ought to have power to provide for every contingency. The territorial rights of the states are sufficiently guarded by the provisions just recited. If you say that, notwithstanding the most express restriction, they may sacrifice the rights of the states, then you establish another doctrine — that the creature can destroy the creator, which is the most absurd and ridiculous of all doctrines.

The honorable gentleman has warned us from taking rash measures that may endanger the rights of that country. Sir, if this navigation be given up, the country adjacent will also be given up to Spain; for the possession of the one must be inseparable from that of the other. Will not this be a sufficient check on the general government? This you will admit to be true, unless you carry your suspicion to such an unlimited length as to imagine that they will, among their iniquitous acts, destroy and dismember the Union. As to the objection of my friend over the way, (Mr. Monroe,) that so few states could by treaty yield that navigation, it has been sufficiently answered, and its futility fully detected, by the gentleman who spoke last.

Another mistake, which my friend over the way has committed, is, that the temporary forbearance of the use of the Mississippi might lead to the absolute cession of the Chesapeake. The gentleman has a mind to make up his climax of imaginary objections, or he never would have suffered such an idea to obtrude on his mind. Were the Mississippi, as he says, in danger of being ceded, — which I deny, — yet it could not be a precedent for the relinquishment of the Chesapeake. It never can be put in such a jeopardy. All the Atlantic states will oppose a measure of this sort, lest it should destroy their commerce.

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The consanguinity between the western people and the inhabitants of the other states would alone have a powerful operation to prevent any measures injurious to them from being adopted.

Let me, in a few words, endeavor to obviate the strong observations made to the gentlemen from that country. I contend that there is no power given to the general government to surrender that navigation. There is a positive prohibition, in the words I have already mentioned, against it. I consider that the policy of the states, and disposition of the people, make it impossible; and I conclude that their safety is at least as great under the new as under the old government. Let me entreat those gentlemen, whose votes will be scuffled for, to consider in what character they are here. For what have they come hither? To deliberate on a Constitution, which some have said will secure the liberty and happiness of America, and which others represent as not calculated for that purpose. They are to decide on a Constitution for the collective society of the United States. Will they, as honest men, not disdain all applications made to them from local interests? Have they not far more valuable rights to secure? The present general government has much higher powers than that which has been so long contested. We allow them to make war and requisitions without any limitation. That paper contains much higher powers. Let it not be said that we have been actuated from local interests. I wish it may not be said that partial considerations governed any gentleman here, when we are investigating a system for the general utility and happiness of America. I know such narrow views will not influence the gentlemen from that country, because I know their characters. I hope this subject is sufficiently discussed, and that we shall proceed regularly.

Mr. CORBIN. Mr. Chairman, all attempts made to bias the opinion of any gentleman on this great occasion, are, in my opinion, very reprehensible. No member of this committee can be a more zealous supporter of the right of navigating the Mississippi, and the other rights of the aggregate community, than I am. But that right, sir, is in no danger. This has been proven with much ability by my friend to the left, and other gentlemen. We are told that five states may make a treaty. I say that five states can prevent a treaty from being made.

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Will not my argument be of equal force with theirs? How can five states make a treaty? This presupposes that the members from every other state will be absent when the important subject of treaties will be on the carpet. Is this plausible, or does it not amount to an impossibility? He says that the House of Representatives can have no influence in the formation of treaties. I say, they can. Treaties are generally of a commercial nature, being a regulation of commercial intercourse between different nations. In all commercial treaties, it will be necessary to obtain the consent of the representatives.

[Here a storm arose, which was so violent as to compel Mr. Corbin to desist, and the committee to rise.]

A letter from the honorable the president to the Convention was read, stating his inability to attend to his duty in the house to-day.

Whereupon the honorable JOHN TYLER was unanimously elected vice-president, to preside during the inability of the president.

Mr. CORBIN thought the Mississippi subject had been amply discussed. He hoped that the committee would enter into the discussion of the proposed Constitution regularly; but that, if any gentleman would continue the inquiry relative to that river, he would answer him. He moved that they should debate it clause by clause.

Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, I conceive the investigation of this subject, which materially concerns the welfare of this country, ought not to wound the feelings of any gentleman. I look upon this as a contest for empire. Our country is equally affected with Kentucky. The Southern States are deeply interested in this subject. If the Mississippi be shut up, emigrations will be stopped entirely. There will be no new states formed on the western waters. This will be a government of seven states. This contest of the Mississippi involves this great national contest; that is, whether one part of the continent shall govern the other. The Northern States have the majority, and will endeavor to retain it. This is, therefore, a contest for dominion — for empire. I apprehend that God and nature have intended, from the extent of territory and fertility of soil, that the Edition: current; Page: [366] weight of population should be on this side of the continent. At present, for various reasons, it is on the other side. This dispute concerns every part of Kentucky. A particular investigation ought to offend no gentleman. Mr. Grayson then declared, he hoped the subject would be further continued.

Mr. ALEXANDER WHITE wished the further discussion of that subject to be postponed till they came to that part which enables the Senate to make treaties. He seconded Mr. Corbin’s motion, to proceed clause by clause.

[The 3d section, article 1, was then read.]

Mr. TYLER hoped that, when amendments should be brought forward, they should be at liberty to take a general view of the whole Constitution. He thought that the power of trying impeachments, added to that of making treaties, was something enormous, and rendered the Senate too dangerous.

Mr. MADISON answered, that it was not possible to form any system to which objections might not be made; that the junction of these powers might be in some degree objectionable, but that it could not be amended. He agreed with the gentleman, that, when amendments were brought on, a collective view of the whole system might be taken.

[The 4th and 5th sections were then read.]

Mr. MONROE wished that the honorable gentleman, who had been in the federal Convention, would give information respecting the clause concerning elections. He wished to know why Congress had an ultimate control over the time, place, and manner, of elections of representatives, and the time and manner of that of senators, and also why there was an exception as to the place of electing senators.

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, the reason of the exception was, that, if Congress could fix the place of choosing the senators, it might compel the state legislatures to elect them in a different place from that of their usual sessions, which would produce some inconvenience, and was not necessary for the object of regulating the elections. But it was necessary to give the general government a control over the time and manner of choosing the senators, to prevent its own dissolution.

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With respect to the other point, it was thought that the regulation of time, place, and manner, of electing the representatives, should be uniform throughout the continent. Some states might regulate the elections on the principles of equality, and others might regulate them otherwise. This diversity would be obviously unjust. Elections are regulated now unequally in some states, particularly South Carolina, with respect to Charleston, which is represented by thirty members. Should the people of any state by any means be deprived of the right of suffrage, it was judged proper that it should be remedied by the general government. It was found impossible to fix the time, place, and manner, of the election of representatives, in the Constitution. It was found necessary to leave the regulation of these, in the first place, to the state governments, as being best acquainted with the situation of the people, subject to the control of the general government, in order to enable it to produce uniformity, and prevent its own dissolution. And, considering the state governments and general government as distinct bodies, acting in different and independent capacities for the people, it was thought the particular regulations should be submitted to the former, and the general regulations to the latter. Were they exclusively under the control of the state governments, the general government might easily be dissolved. But if they be regulated properly by the state legislatures, the congressional control will very probably never be exercised. The power appears to me satisfactory, and as unlikely to be abused as any part of the Constitution.

Mr. MONROE wished to hear an explanation of the clause which prohibits either house, during the session of Congress, from adjourning for more than three days without the consent of the other. He asked if it was proper or right, that the members of the lower house should be dependent on the Senate. He considered that it rendered them in some respect dependent on the senators, as it prevented them from returning home, or adjourning, without their consent; and, as this might increase their influence unduly, he thought it improper.

Mr. MADISON wondered that this clause should meet with a shadow of objection. It was possible, he observed, that the two branches might not agree concerning the time Edition: current; Page: [368] of adjournment, and this possibility suggested the power given the President of adjourning both houses to such time as he should think proper, in case of their disagreement. That it would be very exceptionable to allow the senators, or even the representatives, to adjourn, without the consent of the other house, at any season whatsoever, without any regard to the situation of public exigencies. That it was possible, in the nature of things, that some inconvenience might result from it; but that it was as well secured as possible.

Gov. RANDOLPH observed, that the Constitution of Massachusetts was produced as an example, in the grand Convention, in favor of this power given to the President. If, said his excellency, he be honest, he will do what is right, if dishonest, the representatives of the people will have the power of impeaching him.

[The 6th section was then read.]

Mr. HENRY. Mr. Chairman, our burden should, if possible, be rendered more light. I was in hopes some other gentleman would have objected to this part. The pay of the members is, by the Constitution, to be fixed by themselves, without limitation or restraint. They may therefore indulge themselves in the fullest extent. They may make their compensation as high as they please. I suppose, if they be good men, their own delicacy will lead them to be satisfied with moderate salaries. But there is no security for this, should they be otherwise inclined. I really believe that, if the state legislatures were to fix their pay, no inconvenience would result from it, and the public mind would be better satisfied. But in the same section there is a defect of a much greater consequence. There is no restraint on corruption. They may be appointed to offices without any material restriction, and the principal source of corruption in representatives is the hope or expectation of offices and emoluments. After the first organization of offices, and the government is put in motion, they may be appointed to any existing offices which become vacant, and they may create a multiplicity of offices, in order thereafter to be appointed to them. What says the clause? “No senator or representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office, under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments Edition: current; Page: [369] whereof shall have been increased, during such time.” This is an idea strangely expressed.

He shall not accept of any office created during the time he is elected for, or of any office whereof the emoluments have been increased in that time. Does not this plainly say that, if an office be not created during the time for which he is elected, or if its emoluments be not increased during such time, he may accept of it? I can see it in no other light. If we wish to preclude the enticement to getting offices, there is a clear way of expressing it. If it be better that Congress should go out of their representative offices by accepting other offices, then it ought to be so. If not, we require an amendment in the clause, that it shall not be so. I may be wrong. Perhaps the honorable member may be able to give a satisfactory answer on this subject.

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, I most sincerely wish to give a proper explanation on this subject, in such a manner as may be to the satisfaction of every one. I shall suggest such considerations as led the Convention to approve of this clause. With respect to the right of ascertaining their own pay, I will acknowledge that their compensations, if practicable, should be fixed in the Constitution itself, so as not to be dependent on Congress itself, or on the state legislatures. The various vicissitudes, or rather the gradual diminution, of the value of all coins and circulating medium, is one reason against ascertaining them immutably; as what may be now an adequate compensation, might, by the progressive reduction of the value of our circulating medium, be extremely inadequate at a period not far distant.

It was thought improper to leave it to the state legislatures, because it is improper that one government should be dependent on another; and the great inconveniences experienced under the old Confederation show the states would be operated upon by local considerations, as contradistinguished from general and national interests. Experience shows us that they have been governed by such heretofore, and reason instructs us that they would be influenced by them again. This theoretic inconvenience of leaving to Congress the fixing their compensations is more than counterbalanced by this in the Confederation — that the state legislatures had a right to determine the pay of the members of Congress, Edition: current; Page: [370] which enabled the states to destroy the general government. There is no instance where this power has been abused. In America, legislative bodies have reduced their own wages lower, rather than augmented them. This is a power which cannot be abused without rousing universal attention and indignation. What would be the consequence of the Virginian legislature raising their pay to four or five pounds each per day? The universal indignation of the people. Should the general Congress annex wages disproportionate to their service, or repugnant to the sense of the community, they would be universally execrated. The certainty of incurring the general detestation of the people will prevent abuse.

It was conceived that the great danger was in creating new offices, which would increase the burdens of the people; and not in a uniform admission of all meritorious characters to serve their country in the old offices. There is no instance of any state constitution which goes as far as this. It was thought to be a mean between two extremes. It guards against abuse by taking away the inducement to create new offices, or increase the emolument of old offices; and it gives them an opportunity of enjoying, in common with other citizens, any of the existing offices which they may be capable of executing. To have precluded them from this, would have been to exclude them from a common privilege to which every citizen is entitled, and to prevent those who had served their country with the greatest fidelity and ability from being on a par with their fellow-citizens. I think it as well guarded as reason requires; more so than the constitution of any other nation.

Mr. NICHOLAS thought it sufficiently guarded, as it prevented the members of the general government from holding offices which they created themselves, or of which they increased the emoluments; and as they could not enjoy any office during their continuance in Congress, to admit them to old offices when they left Congress, was giving them no exclusive privilege, but such as every citizen had an equal right to.

Mr. TYLER was afraid that, as their compensations were not fixed in the Constitution, Congress might fix them so low, that none but rich men could go; by which the government might terminate in an aristocracy. The states Edition: current; Page: [371] might choose men noted for their wealth and influence, and state influence would govern the Senate. This, though not the most capital objection, he thought was considerable, when joined to others of greater magnitude. He thought the gentleman’s account of it was by no means satisfactory. A parallel had been drawn between this power in Congress of fixing their compensations, and that of our Assembly fixing the quantum of their salaries. He was of opinion the comparison did not apply, as there was less responsibility in the former than in the latter case. He dreaded that great corruption would take place, and wished to have it amended so as to prevent it.

Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, it strikes me that they may fix their wages very low. From what has happened in Great Britain, I am warranted to draw this conclusion. I think every member of the House of Commons formerly had a right to receive twenty shillings, or a guinea, a day. But I believe that this salary is taken away since the days of corruption. The members of the House of Commons, if I recollect rightly, get nothing for their services as such. But there are some noble emoluments to be derived from the minister, and some other advantages to be obtained. Those who go to Parliament form an idea of emoluments. They expect something besides wages. They go in with the wishes and expectations of getting offices. This, sir, may be the case in this government. My fears are increased from the inconveniences experienced under the Confederation.

Most of the great officers have been taken out of Congress, such as ambassadors to foreign courts, &c. A number of offices have been unnecessarily created, and ambassadors have been unnecessarily sent to foreign countries — to countries with which we have nothing to do. If the present Congress exceeded the limits of propriety, though extremely limited with respect to power in the creation of offices, what may not the future Congress do, when they have, by this system, a full scope of creating what offices and annexing what salaries they please? There are but few members in the Senate and lower house. They may all get offices at different times, as they are not excluded from being appointed to existing offices for the time for which they shall have been elected. Considering the corruption of human Edition: current; Page: [372] nature, and the general tendency of mankind to promote their own interest, I think there is great danger. I am confirmed in my opinion from what I have seen already in Congress, and among other nations. I wish this part, therefore, to be amended, by prohibiting any senator or representative from being appointed to any office during the time for which he was elected, and by fixing their emoluments; though I would not object to the Constitution on this account solely, were there no other defect.

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, let me ask those who oppose this part of the system, whether any alteration would not make it equally, or more liable to objections. Would it be better to fix their compensations. Would not this produce inconveniences? What authorizes us to conclude that the value of coins will continue always the same? Would it be prudent to make them dependent on the state governments for their salaries — on those who watch them with jealous eyes, and who consider them as encroaching, not on the people, but on themselves? But the worthy member supposes that Congress will fix their wages so low, that only the rich can fill the offices of senators and representatives. Who are to appoint them? The rich? No, sir; the people are to choose them. If the members of the general government were to reduce their compensations to a trifle, before the evil suggested could happen, the people could elect other members in their stead, who would alter that regulation. The people do not choose them for their wealth. If the state legislatures choose such men as senators, it does not influence the people at large in their election of representatives. They can choose those who have the most merit and least wealth. If Congress reduce their wages to a trifle, what shall prevent the states from giving a man of merit so much as will be an adequate compensation? I think the evil very remote; and if it were now to happen, the remedy is in our own hands, and may by ourselves be applied.

Another gentleman seems to apprehend infinite mischief from a possibility that any member of Congress may be appointed to an office, although he ceases to be a member the moment he accepts it. What will be the consequence of precluding them from being so appointed? If you have in your country one man whom you could, in time of danger, Edition: current; Page: [373] trust, above all others, with an office of high importance, he cannot undertake it till two years expire if he be a representative, or till six years elapse if a senator. Suppose America was engaged in war, and the man of the greatest military talents and approved fidelity was a member of either house; would it be right that this man, who could lead us to conquer, and who could save his country from destruction, could not be made general till the term of his election expired? Before that time we might be conquered by our enemies. This will apply to civil as well as military officers. It is impolitic to exclude from the service of his country, in any office, the man who may be most capable of discharging its duties, when they are most wanting.

The honorable gentleman said, that those who go to Congress will look forward to offices, as a compensation for their services, rather than salaries. Does he recollect that they shall not fill offices created by themselves? When they go to Congress, the old offices will be filled. They cannot make any probable calculation that the men in office will die, or forfeit their offices. As they cannot get any new offices, one of these contingencies must happen before they can get any office at all. The chance of getting an office is, therefore, so remote, and so very distant, that it cannot be considered as a sufficient reason to operate on their minds to deviate from their duty.

Let any man calculate in his own mind the improbability of a member of the general government getting into an office, when he cannot fill any office newly created, and when he finds all the old offices filled at the time he enters into Congress. Let him view the danger and impolicy of precluding a member of Congress from holding existing offices, and the danger of making one government dependent on another, and he will find that both clauses deserve applause.

The observations made by several honorable members illustrate my opinion, that it is impossible to devise any system agreeable to all. When objections so contradictory are brought against it, how shall we decide? Some gentlemen object to it because they may make their wages too high, others object to it because they may make them too low. If it is to be perpetually attacked by principles so repugnant, we may cease to discuss. For what is the object of our discussion? Truth, sir. To draw a true and just conclusion. Edition: current; Page: [374] Can this be done without rational premises and syllogistic reasoning?

As to the British Parliament, it is nearly as he says. But how does it apply to this case? Suppose their compensations had been appointed by the state governments, or fixed in the Constitution; would it be a safe government for the Union, if its members depended on receiving their salaries from other political bodies at a distance, and fully competent to withhold them? Its existence would, at best, be but precarious. If they were fixed in the Constitution, they might become extremely inadequate, and produce the very evil which gentlemen seem to fear; for then a man of the highest merit could not act unless he were wealthy. This is the most delicate part in the organization of a republican government. It is the most difficult to establish on unexceptionable grounds. It appears to me most eligible as it is. The Constitution has taken a medium between the two extremes, and perhaps with more wisdom than either the British or the state governments, with respect to their eligibility to office. They can fill no new offices created by themselves, nor old ones of which they increased the salaries. If they were excluded altogether, it is possible that other disadvantages might accrue from it, besides the impolicy and injustice of depriving them of a common privilege. They will not relinquish their legislative, in order to accept other offices. They will more probably confer them on their friends and connections. If this be an inconvenience, it is incident to all governments. After having heard a variety of principles developed, I thought that on which it is established the least exceptionable, and it appears to me sufficiently well guarded.

Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, I acknowledge that the honorable gentleman has represented the clause rightly as to their exclusion from new offices; but is there any clause to hinder them from giving offices to uncles, nephews, brothers, and other relations and friends? I imagine most of the offices will be created the first year, and then gentlemen will be tempted to carry on this accommodation.

A worthy member has said — what had been often said before — that, suppose a war took place, and the most experienced and able man was unfortunately in either house, he could not be made general, if the proposed amendment was Edition: current; Page: [375] adopted. Had he read the clause, he would have discovered that it did not extend to military offices, and that the restriction extends to civil offices only. No case can exist, with respect to civil offices, that would occasion a loss to the public, if the members of both houses were precluded from holding any office during the time for which they were elected. The old Confederation is so defective in point of power, that no danger can result from creating offices under it; because those who hold them cannot be paid. The power of making paper money will not be exercised. This country is so thoroughly sensible of the impropriety of it, that no attempt will be made to make any more. So that no danger can arise, as they have not power to pay, if they appoint, officers. Why not make this system as secure as that, in this respect? A great number of offices will be created, to satisfy the wants of those who shall be elected. The worthy member says, the electors can alter them. But have the people the power of making honest men be elected? If he be an honest man, and his wages so low that he could not pay for his expenses, he could not serve them if elected. But there are many thirsting after offices more than public good. Political adventurers go up to Congress solely to advance their own particular emoluments. It is so in the British House of Commons. There are two sets always in that house — one, the landed interest, the most patriotic and respectable; the other, a set of dependants and fortune-hunters, who are elected for their own particular interest, and are willing to sell the interest of their constituents to the crown. The same division may happen among our representatives. This clause might as well not be guarded at all, as in this flimsy manner. They cannot be elected to offices for the terms for which they were elected, and continue to be members of Congress. But as they can create as many offices as they please for the particular accommodation of their friends, it might as well not be guarded at all. Upon the whole, I consider it entirely imperfect.

[The 7th section read.]

Mr. GRAYSON objected to the power of the Senate to propose or concur with amendments to money bills. He looked upon the power of proposing amendments to be equal, in principle, to that of originating, and that they were, in Edition: current; Page: [376] fact, the same. As this was, in his opinion, a departure from that great principle which required that the immediate representatives of the people only should interfere with money bills, he wished to know the reasons on which it was founded. The lords in England had never been allowed to intermeddle with money bills. He knew not why the Senate should. In the lower house, said he, the people are represented according to their numbers. In the upper house, the states are represented in their political capacities. Delaware, or Rhode Island, has as many representatives here as Massachusetts. Why should the Senate have a right to intermeddle with money, when the representation is neither equal nor just?

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, the criticism made by the honorable member is, that there is an ambiguity in the words, and that it is not clearly ascertained where the origination of money bills may take place. I suppose the first part of the clause is sufficiently expressed to exclude all doubts. The gentlemen who composed the Convention divided in opinion concerning the utility of confining this to any particular branch. Whatever it be in Great Britain, there is a sufficient difference between us and them to render it inapplicable to this country. It has always appeared to me to be a matter of no great consequence, whether the Senate had a right of originating or proposing amendments to money bills, or not. To withhold it from them would create disagreeable disputes. Some American constitutions make no difference. Virginia and South Carolina are, I think, the only states where this power is restrained. In Massachusetts, and other states, the power of proposing amendments is vested, unquestionably, in their senates. No inconvenience has resulted from it. On the contrary, with respect to South Carolina, this clause is continually a source of disputes. When a bill comes from the other house, the Senate entirely rejects it, and this causes contentions. When you send a bill to the Senate, without the power of making any alteration, you force them to reject the bill altogether, when it would be necessary and advantageous that it should pass.

The power of proposing alterations removes this inconvenience, and does not appear to me at all objectionable. I should have no objection to their having a right of originating Edition: current; Page: [377] such bills. People would see what was done, and it would add the intelligence of one house to that of the other. It would be still in the power of the other house to obstruct any injudicious measure proposed by them.

There is no landmark or constitutional provision in Great Britain, which prohibits the House of Lords from intermeddling with money bills; but the House of Commons have established this rule. Yet the lords insist on their having a right to originate them, as they possess great property, as well as the commons, and are taxed like them. The House of Commons object to their claim, lest they should too lavishly make grants to the crown, and increase the taxes. The honorable member says that there is no difference between the right of originating bills and proposing amendments. There is some difference, though not considerable. If any grievances should happen in consequence of unwise regulations in revenue matters, the odium would be divided, which will now be thrown on the House of Representatives. But you may safely lodge this power of amending with the Senate. When a bill is sent with proposed amendments to the House of Representatives, if they find the alterations defective, they are not conclusive. The House of Representatives are the judges of their propriety, and the recommendation of the Senate is nothing. The experience of this state justifies this clause. The House of Delegates has employed weeks in forming a money bill; and because the Senate had no power of proposing amendments, the bill was lost altogether, and a new bill obliged to be again introduced, when the insertion of one line by the Senate would have done. Those gentlemen who oppose this clause will not object to it when they recollect that the senators are appointed by the states, as the present members of Congress are appointed; for, as they will guard the political interests of the states in other respects, they will attend to them very probably in their amendments to money bills. I think this power, for these considerations, is useful and necessary.

Mr. GRAYSON still considered the power of proposing amendments to be the same, in effect, as that of originating. The Senate could strike out every word of the bill, except the word whereas, or any other introductory word, and might substitute new words of their own. As the state of Delaware was not so large as the county of Augusta, and Rhode Edition: current; Page: [378] Island was still less, and yet had an equal suffrage in the Senate, he could not see the propriety of giving them this power, but referred it to the judgment of the house.

[The 8th section read.]

Mr. CLAY wished to be informed why the Congress were to have power to provide for calling forth the militia, to put the laws of the Union into execution.

Mr. MADISON supposed the reasons of this power to be so obvious that they would occur to most gentlemen. If resistance should be made to the execution of the laws, he said, it ought to be overcome. This could be done only in two ways — either by regular forces or by the people. By one or the other it must unquestionably be done. If insurrections should arise, or invasions should take place, the people ought unquestionably to be employed, to suppress and repel them, rather than a standing army. The best way to do these things was to put the militia on a good and sure footing, and enable the government to make use of their services when necessary.

Mr. GEORGE MASON. Mr. Chairman, unless there be some restrictions on the power of calling forth the militia, to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions, we may very easily see that it will produce dreadful oppressions. It is extremely unsafe, without some alterations. It would be to use the militia to a very bad purpose, if any disturbance happened in New Hampshire, to call them from Georgia. This would harass the people so much that they would agree to abolish the use of the militia, and establish a standing army. I conceive the general government ought to have power over the militia, but it ought to have some bounds. If gentlemen say that the militia of a neighboring state is not sufficient, the government ought to have power to call forth those of other states, the most convenient and contiguous. But in this case, the consent of the state legislatures ought to be