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was early felt to be necessary was prepared from the mo dels of the Batavian and Helvetic confederacies: the only examples which remain, with any detail and precision in history, and certainly the only ones which the people at large had ever considered. But, reflecting on the striking difference in so many particulars, between this country and those, where a courier may go from the seat of government to the frontier in a single day, it was then certainly foreseen by some who assisted in Congress at the formation of it, that it could not be durable.
Negligence of its regulations, inattention to its recommendations, if not disobedience to its authority, not only in individuals, but in states, soon appeared with their melancholy consequences; universal languor; jealousies and rivalries of states; decline of navigation and commerce; discouragement of necessary manufactures; universal fali in the value of lands and their produce ; contempt of public and private faith; loss of consideration and credit with foreign nations; and, at length, in discontents, animosities, combinations, partial conventions, and insurrection, threatening some great national calamity.
In this dangerous crisis, the people of America were not abandoned by their usual good sense, presence of mind, resolution, or integrity. Measures were pursued to concert a plan 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. The public disquisitions, discussions and deliberations, issued in the present happy constitution of government.
Employed in the service of my country abroad during the whole course of these transactions, I first saw the constitution of the United States in a foreign country. Irritated by no literary altercation, animated by no public lebate, heated by no party animosity, I read it with great satisfaction, as a result of good heads, prompted by good hearts; as an experiment better adapted to the genius, character, situation, and relations of this nation and country, than any which had ever been proposed or sug. gested. In its general principles and great outlines, it
was conformable to such a system of government as I had ever most esteemed, and some states, my own native state in particular, had contributed to establish. Claim ing a right of suffrage, in common with my fellow-citi. zens, in the adoption or rejection of a constitution which was to rule me and my posterity, as well as them and theirs, I did not hesitate to express my approbation of it, on all occasions, in public and in private. It was not then, nor has been since, any objection to it, in my mind, that the executive and senate were not more permanent. Nor have I ever entertained a thought of promoting any alteration in it, but such as the people themselves, in the course of their experience, should see and feel to be necessary or expedient, and by their Representatives in Congress and the state legislatures, according to the constitution itself, adopt and ordain.
Returning to the bosom of my country, after a painful separation from it for ten years, I had the honor to be elected to a station under the new order of things, and I have repeatedly laid myself under the most serious obligations to support the constitution. The operation of it has equalled the most sanguine expectations of its friends; and, from an habitual attention to it, satisfaction in its administration, and delight in its effects upon the peace, order, prosperity, and happiness of the nation, I have acquired an habitual attachment to it and veneration for it.
What other form of government, indeed, can so well deserve our esteem and love?
There may be little solidity in an ancient idea, that congregations of men into cities and nations are the most pleasing objects in the sight of superior intelligencies : but this is very certain, that, to a benevolent human mind, there can be no spectacle presented by any nation more pleasing, more noble, majestic, or august, than an assembly like that which has so often been seen in this and the other chamber of Congress, of a government, in which the executive authority, as well as that of all the branches of the legislature, are exercised by citizens seected, at regular periods, by their neighbors, to make and execute laws for the general good. Can any thing essential, any thing more than mere ornament and decoration, be added to this by robes and diamonds ? Can authority be more amiable and respectable, when it descends from accidents, or institutions established in remote antiquity, than when it springs fresh from the hearts and judgments of an honest and enlightened people? For it is the people only that are represented: it is their power and majesty that is reflected, and only for their good, in every legitimate government, under whatever form it may appear. The existence of such a government as ours, for any length of time, is a full proof of a general dissemination of knowledge and virtue throughout the whole body of the people. And what object or consideration more pleasing than this, can be presented to the human mind? If national pride is ever justifiable, or excusable, it is when it springs, not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information and benevolence.
In the midst of these pleasing ideas, we should be unfaithful to ourselves, if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties, if any thing partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections. If an election is to be determined by a majority of a single vote, and that can be procured by a party, through artifice or corruption, the government may be the choice of a party, for its own ends, not of the nation for the national good. If that solitary suffrage can be obtained by foreign nations by flattery or menaces, by fraud or violence, by terror, intrigue, or venality, the government may not be the choice of the American peo. ple, but of foreign nations. It may be foreign nations who govern us, and not we, the people, who govern our. selves. And candid men will acknowledge, that in such cases, choice would have little advantage to boast of, over lot or chance.
Such is the amiable and interesting system of government (and such are some of the abuses to which it may be exposed) which the people of America have exhibited to the admiration and anxiety of the wise and virtuous of all nations for eight years, under the administration of a citizen, who, by a long course of great actions, regulates/