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people. In my weak judgment, a government is strong, when it applies to the most important end of all governments—the rights and privileges of the
people. In the honorable member's proposal, jury trial, the press, and religion, and other essential rights, are not to be given up. Other essential rights-what are they? The world will say, that you intended to give them up. When you go into an enumeration of your rights, and stop that enumeration, the inevitable conclusion is, that what is omitted is intended to be surrendered.
Anxious as I am to be as little troublesome as possible, I cannot leave this part of the subject, without adverting to one remark of the honorable gentleman. He says, that rather than bring the union into danger, he will adopt it with its imperfections. A great deal is said about disunion, and consequent dangers. I have no claim to a greater share of fortitude than others, but I can see no kind of danger. I form my judgment on a single fact alone, that we are at peace with all the world, nor is there any apparent cause of a rupture with any nation in the world. Is it among the American states that the cause of disunion is to be feared? Are not the states using all their efforts for the promotion of union ? New England sacrifices local prejudices for the purposes of union. We hear the necessity of the union, and predilection for the union, re-echoed from all parts of the continent: and all at once disunion is to follow! If gentlemen dread disunion, the very thing they advocate will inevitably produce it. A previous ratification will raise insurmountable obstacles to union. New York is an insurmountable obstacle to it, and North Carolina also. They will never accede to it, till it be amended. A great part of Virginia is opposed most decidedly to it, as it stands. This very spirit which will govern us in these three states, will find a kindred spirit in the adopting states. Give me leave to say, that it is very problematical, whether the adopting states can stand on their
own legs. I hear only on one side, but as far as my information goes, there are heart-burnings and animosities among them. Will these animosities be cured by subsequent amendments ?
Turn away from America, and consider European politics. The nations there, which can trouble us are France, England and Spain. But at present we know for a certainty, that those nations are engaged in very different pursuits from American conquests. We are told by our intelligent ambassador, that there is no such danger as has been apprehended. Give me leave then to say, that dangers from beyond the Atlantic are imaginary. From these premises then, it may be concluded, that from the creation of the world, to this time, there never was a more fair and proper opportunity than we have at this day to establish such a government as will permanently establish the most transcendent political felicity. Since the revolution there has not been so much experience. Since then, the general interests of America have not been better understood, nor the union more ardently loved, than at this present moment. I acknowledge the weakness of the old confederation. Every man says, that something must be done. Where is the moment more favorable than this? During the war, when ten thousand dangers surrounded us, America was magnanimous. What was the language of the little state of Maryland ? “I will have time to consider. I will hold out three years. Let what may come, I will have time to reflect.” Magnanimity appeared everywhere. What was the upshot ?-America triumphed. Is there any thing to forbid us to offer these amendments to the other states? If this moment goes away unimproved, we shall never see its return. We now act under a happy system, which says, that a majority may alter the government when necessary. But
paper proposed, a majority will forever endeavor in vain to alter it. Three fourths may. Is not this the most promising time for securing the necessary al
terations ? Will you go into that government, where it is a principle, that a contemptible minority may prevent an alteration?
What will be the language of the majority ?-Change the government.-Nay, seven eighths of the people of America may wish the change; but the minority may come with a Roman Veto, and object to the alteration. The language of a magnanimous country and of freemen is, till you remove the defects we will not accede. It would be in vain for me to show, that there is no danger to prevent our obtaining those amendments, if you are not convinced already. If the other states will not agree to them, it is not an inducement to union. The language of this paper is not dictatorial, but merely a proposition for amendments. The proposition of Virginia met with a favorable reception before. We proposed that convention which met at Annapolis. It was not called dictatorial. We proposed that at Philadelphia. Was Virginia thought dictatorial ? But Virginia is now to lose her pre-eminence. Those rights of equality, to which the meanest individual in the community is entitled, are to bring us down infinitely below the Delaware, people. Have we not a right to say, hear our propositions ? Why, sir, your slaves have a right to make their humble requests. Those, who are in the meanest occupations of human life, have a right to complain. What do we require ? Not pre-eminence, but safety; that our citizens may be able to sit down in peace and security under their own fig-trees. I am confident that sentiments like these will meet with unison in every state; for they will wish to banish discord from the American soil. I am certain that the warmest friend of the constitution, wishes to have fewer enemies-fewer of those who pester and plague him with opposition. I could not withhold from my fellow-citizens any thing so reasonable. I fear you will have no union, unless you re
move the cause of opposition. Will you sit down contented with the name of union without any solid foundation ?
Mr. Henry then concluded, by expressing his hope, that his resolution would be adopted, and added, that if the committee should disapprove of any of his amendments, others might be substituted.
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
DELIVERED APRIL 30th, 1789.
Fellow-citizens of the Senate, and
of the House of Representatives, AMONG the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties, than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the fourteenth day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and in my flattering hopes with an immutable decision as the asylum of my declining years; a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary, as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust, to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one, who inheriting inferior endowments from nature, and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver, is, that it has been my faithful