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prior to the year 1808, shall, in any manner, affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first 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 consequences of this. However uncharitable it may appear, yet I must express 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 these 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 a destructive and mischievous feature 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 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 these 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 their 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. İf, sir, amendments are left to the twentieth, or to the 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 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. Oh, 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 any 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 neighbours 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, dock-yards, &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: those 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, 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 us 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 remnant 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: they are not the proper agents for this purpose: states and sovereign 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 of 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