Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The cry

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 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.

of

peace, sir, is false: say peace, when there is peace: it is but a sudden calm. The tempest growls over you-look around-wheresoever you look, you see danger. When 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 them, satisfied with your government? Are not creditors wearied with the tedious procrastination of your legal process-a process obscured by legislative mišts ? Cast your eyes to your sea-ports, 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 Phillips) 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 already written for that effect; it was read three times in one day, and carried to 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, insecu

rity 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 legislators; 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 alledged out of order—instead of discussing the system regularly, a variety of points are promiscuously debated, in order to make temporary impressions 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 accesions 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 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

14

VOL. ).

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: he says, 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 could 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 point. He dreads that great inconveniences will ensue from the federal court; that

our citizens will be harrassed 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 reasoning, 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. Its extent and situation are totally different from ours; it is surrounded by powerful, ambitious, and reciprocally jealous nations : its territory small and the soil not very fertile. The peculiarity, sir, of their situation, has kept these cantons together, and not that system of alliance, to which the gentleman seems to attribute the durability, and felicity of their connexion.

[Here Mr. Randolph quoted some passages from Stanyard, illustrating his argument, and largely commented upon them. 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 durable ; 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 sometimes interrupted their harmony.]

He then continued I have produced this example

« AnteriorContinuar »