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the State; this he also declined. In the year 1797 his health began to fail, and those energies which had enabled him to withstand the power of Great Britain, and urge onward the glorious Revolution, existed no longer in their original force. The uncertainty of the political issues at this period bore sorely and heavily upon Mr. Henry's sinking spirits. The clash of opposing parties agonized his mind. He was alarmed at the hideous scenes of the revolution then enacting in France, and apprehensive that these scenes were about being enacted over again in his own country. “In a mind thus prepared,” says his biographer, “the strong and animated resolutions of the Virginia Assembly in 1798, in relation to the alien and sedition ‘laws, conjured up the most frightful visions of civil war, disunion, blood and anarchy; and under the impulse of these phantoms, to make what he considered a virtuous effort for his country, he presented himself in Charlotte county, as a candidate for the House of Delegates, at the spring election of 1799.” On the day of the election, before the polls were opened, he addressed the people of the county to the following effect: “He told them that the late proceedings of the Virginia Assembly had filled him with apprehension and alarm; that they had planted thorns upon his pillow; that they had drawn him from that happy retirement which it had pleased a bountiful Providence to bestow, and in which he had hoped to pass, in quiet, the remainder of his days; that the State had quitted the sphere in which she had been placed by the constitution; and in daring to pronounce upon the validity of federal laws, had gone out of her jurisdiction in a manner not warranted by any authority, and in the highest degree alarming to every considerate man; that such opposition, on the part of Virginia, to the acts of the general government, must beget their enforcement by military power; that this would probably produce civil war; civil war, foreign alliances; and that foreign alliances must necessarily end in subjugation to the powers called in, He conjured the people to pause and consider well, before they rushed into such a desperate condition, from which there could be no retreat. He painted to their imaginations, Washington, at the head of a numerous and well-appointed army, inflicting upon them military execution: 'and where (he asked) are our resources to meet such a conflict? Where is the citizen of America who will dare to lift his hand against the father of his country?' A drunken man in the crowd threw up his arm, and exclaimed that “he dared to do it.” “No,' answered Mr. Henry, rising aloft in all his majesty: 'you dare not do it: in such a parricidal attempt, the steel would drop from your nerceless arm !' Mr. Henry, proceeding in his address to the people, asked, “whether the county of Charlotte would have any authority to dispute an obedience to the laws of Vir ginia; and he pronounced Virginia to be to the Union, what the county of Charlotte was to her.
"Having denied the right of a State to decide upon the constitutionality of federal laws, he added, that perhaps it might be necessary to say something of the merits of the laws in question. His private opinion was, that they were 'good and proper.' But, whatever might be their merits, it belonged to the people, who held the reins over the head of Congress, and to them alone, to say whether they were acceptable or otherwise, to Virginians; and that this must be done by way of petition. That Congress were as much our representatives as the Assembly, and had as good a right to our confidence. He had seen, with regret, the unlimited power over the purse and sword consigned to the general government; but that he had been overruled, and it was now necessary to submit to the constitutional exercise of that power. “If,' said he, 'I am asked what is to be done, when a people feel themselves intolerably oppressed, my answer is ready: Overturn the government. But do not, I beseech you, carry matters to this length, without provocation. Wait at least until some infringement is made upon your rights, and whick cannot otherwise be redressed; for if ever you recur to another change, you may bid adieu foi ever to representative government. You can never exchange the present government but for a monarchy. If the administration have done wrong, let us all go wrong together rather than split into factions, which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs. Let us preserve our strength for the French, the English, the Germans, or whoever else shall dare to invade our territory, and not exhaust it in civil commotions and intestine wars. He concluded, by declaring his design to exert himself in the endeavor to allay the heart-burnings and jealvasies which had been fomented, in the State legislature; and he fervently prayed, if he was
deemed unworthy to effect it, that it might be reserved to some other and abler hand, to extend this blessing over the community."*
This was the last effort of Mr. Henry's eloquence. The polls were opened after he had concluded this speech, and he was elected: but ho never took his seat. His health had been declining gradually for two years, when, on the sixth day of June, 1799, he died, full of honors--as a states. man, orator and patriot, unsurpassed and uneclipsed.
THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.+
The Preamble and the two first sections of the present delusive appearance of things. Bethe first article of the Constitution being under fore the meeting of the late Federal convention consideration, Mr. Henry thus addressed the
at Philadelphia, a general peace, and an univer
sal tranquillity prevailed in this country, and convention:
the minds of our citizens were at perfect reMR. CHAIRMAN: The public mind, as well as pose; but since that period, they are exceedmy own, is extremely uneasy at the proposed | ingly uneasy and disquieted. When I wished change of government. Give me leave to form for an appointment to this convention, my mind one of the number of those, who wish to be
was extremely agitated for the situation of pubthoroughly acquainted with the reasons of this
lic affairs. I conceive the republic to be in experilous and uneasy situation, and why we are
treme danger. If our situation be thus uneasy, brought hither to decide on this great national | whence has arisen this fearful jeopardy? It anestion. I consider myself as the servant of arises from this fatal system; it arises from a the people of this commonwealth, as a sentinel proposal to change our government-a propoover their rights, liberty, and happiness. I sal that goes to the utter annihilation of the represent their feelings when I say, that they most solemn engagements of the States-a proare exceedingly uneasy, being brought from posal of establishing nine States into a confedethat state of full security, which they enjoy, to
v to racy, to the eventual exclusion of four States.
It goes to the annihilation of those solemn * Experience had taught Mr. Henry that in opposing tho
treaties we have formed with foreign nations. adoption of the constitution, he had mistaken the source of
The present circumstances of France, the good public danger; that the power of the states was yet too great,
offices rendered us by that kingdom, require in time of discord and war. for the power of the Union. | our most faithful and most punctual adherence The constitution, moreover, was the law of the land, and as
to our treaty with her. We are in alliance with such, he had sworn to obey it. He had seen it administered the Spaniards, the Dutch, the Prussians: those conscientiously, and for the good of the whole; he had, since
for the good of the whole: he had, since treaties bound us as thirteen States, confedeits adoption, never leagued himself with the factions which rated together. Yet here is a proposal to sever embarrassed its operations. With parties, as such, he had that confederacy. Is it possible that we shall Do connection, and in this crisis he could come forward with abandon all our treaties and national engageclean hands to its support.-Administrations of Washington ments? And for what? I expected to have and Adams; Tucker's Life of Jefferson.
heard the reasons of an event so unexpected to + So general was the conviction that public welfare re- my mind, and many others. Was our civil quired a government of more extensive powers than those polity, or public justice, endangered or sapped? Fested in the general government by the articles of confed- | Was the real existence of the country threateration, that in May, 1787, a convention composed of dele
ened, or was this preceded by a mournful progates from all the States in the Union, with the exception of
gression of events? This proposal of altering Rhode Island, assembled at Philadelphia, to take the subject
our federal government is of a most alarming arder consideration. This convention continued its sessions
nature: make the best of this new government with closed doors until the seventeenth of the following September, when the Federal Constitution was promulgated.
-say it is composed of any thing but inspiraThe convention resolved, “That the constitution be laid be
tion—you ought to be extremely cautious, fore the United States, in Congress assembled, and that it is
watchful, jealous of your liberty; for, instead the opinion of this convention that it should afterwards be
of securing your rights, you may lose them for submitted to a convention of delegates, chosen in each State
ever. If a wrong step be now made, the reby the people thereof, for their assent and ratification;" and
public may be lost for ever. If this new governin conformity with this recommendation, Congress, on the
| ment will not come up to the expectation of the twenty-eighth of the same month, passed a resolution di- | people, and they should be disappointed, their recting that the constitution should be submitted to conven | liberty will be lost, and tyranny must and will tions, to be assembled in the several States of the Union. arise. I repeat it again, and I beg gentlemen The conventions subsequently assembled, and the expediency to consider, that a wrong step, made now, will of adopting the constitution was ably and eloquently dis- plunge us into misery, and our republic will be sussed
lost. It will be necessary for this convention This speech was delivered in the Virginia convention, i to have a faithful historical detail of the facts so the fourth of June, 1788.
I that preceded the session of the federal convention, and the reasons that actuated its members could have arisen under the present confedera. in proposing an entire alteration of government tion, and what are the causes of this proposal
-and to demonstrate the dangers that awaited to change our government. us. If they were of such awful magnitude as to warrant a proposal so extremely perilous as This inquiry was answered by an eloquent this, I must assert that this convention has an and powerful speech from Mr. Randolph; and absolute right to a thorough discovery of every the debate passed into other hands until the circumstance relative to this great event. And
next day, when Mr. Henry continued : here I would make this inquiry of those worthy characters who composed a part of the late MR. CHAIRMAN: I am much obliged to the federal convention. I am sure they were fully very worthy gentleman* for his encomium. I impressed with the necessity of forming a great wish I were possessed of talents, or possessed consolidated government, instead of a confede- of any thing, that might enable me to elucidate ration. That this is a consolidated government this great subject. I am not free from suspiis demonstrably clear; and the danger of such cion: I am apt to en.ertain doubts: I rose yesa government is, to my mind, very striking. Iterday to ask a question, which arose in my have the highest veneration for those gentle- own mind. When I asked that question, I men; but, sir, give me leave to demand, what thought the meaning of my interrogation was right had they to say, “We, the People?" My obvious: the fate of this question and of Amerpolitical curiosity, exclusive of my anxious so-ica, may depend on this. Have they said, We, licitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, the States? Have they made a proposal of a who authorized them to speak the language of, compact between States? If they had, this “We, the People," instead of We, the States? would be a confederation: it is otherwise most States are the characteristics, and the soul of a clearly a consolidated government. The whole confederation. If the States be not the agents question turns, sir, on that poor little thingof this compact, it must be one great consoli- the expression, We, the People, instead of the dated national government of the people of all States of America. I need not take much the States. I have the highest respect for those pains to show, that the principles of this sysgentlemen who formed the convention; and tem are extremely pernicious, impolitic, and were some of them not here, I would express dangerous. Is this a monarchy, like Englandsome testimonial of esteem for them. America a compact between prince and people; with had on a former occasion put the utmost confi- checks on the former to secure the liberty of dence in them; a confidence which was well the latter? Is this a confederacy, like Holland placed; and I am sure, sir, I would give up -an association of a number of independent any thing to them; I would cheerfully confide States, each of which retains its individual sovin them as my representatives. But, sir, on ereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the this great occasion, I would demand the cause people retain all their rights securely. Had of their conduct. Even from that illustrious these principles been adhered to, we should man, who saved us by his valor, I would have not have been brought to this alarming transia reason for his conduct; that liberty which he tion, from a confederacy to a consolidated gov. has given us by his valor, tells me to ask this ernment. We have no detail of those great reason, and sure I am, were he here, he would considerations which, in my opinion, ought to give us that reason: but there are other gentle have abounded before we should recur to a men here, who can give us this information. government of this kind. Here is a revolution The people gave them no power to use their as radical as that which separated us from name. That they exceeded their power is per- Great Britain. It is as radical, if in this transifectly clear. It is not mere curiosity that actu- tion, our rights and privileges are endangered, ates me; I wish to hear the real, actual, exist- and the sovereignty of the States relinquished. ing danger, which should lead us to take those | And cannot we plainly see that this is actually steps so dangerous in my conception. Disorders have arisen in other parts of America, but * General Lee, of Westmoreland, speaking in referenco to here, sir, no dangers, no insurrection or tumult, Mr. Henry's opening speech, had remarked to the conven has happened; every thing has been calm and
tion, "I feel every power of my n.ind moved by the lan. tranquil. But notwithstanding this, we are
guage of the honorable gentleman yesterday. The éclat and wandering on the great ocean of human affairs.
brilliancy which have distinguished that gentleman, the I see no landmark to guide us. We are run
honors with which he has been dignified, and the brilliant
talents which he has so ofte displayed, have attracted my ning we know not whither. Difference in
respect and attention. On so important an occasion, and be. opinion has gone to a degree of inflammatory
fore so respectable a body, I expected a new display of his resentment, in different parts of the country,
powers of oratory; but, instead of proceeding to investigate which has been occasioned by this perilous in
the merits of the new plan of government, the worthy char novation. The federal convention ought to
acter informs us of horrors which he felt, of apprehensions have amended the old system; for this purpose in his mind, which made him tremblingly fearful of the they were solely delegated: the object of their fate of the commonwealth. Mr. Chairman, was it proper to mission extended to no other consideration. I appeal to the fear of this House? The question before us You must therefore forgive the solicitation of belongs to the judgment of this House. I trust he is come one unworthy member, to know what danger / to judge, and not to alarm."
the case? The rights of conscience, trial by ruined. I am answered by gentlemen, that jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities though I may speak of terrors, yet the fact is, and franchises, all pretensions to human rights that we are surrounded by none of the dangers and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not I apprehend. I conceive this new government lost, by this change so loudly talked of by to be one of those dangers: it has produced some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this those horrors, which distress many of our best tame relinquishment of rights worthy of free- citizens. We are come hither to preserve the men? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude poor commonwealth of Virginia, if it can be that ought to characterize republicans? It is possibly done: something must be done to presaid eight States have adopted this plan. I de- serve your liberty and mine. The confederaclare that if twelve States and a half had adopt- tion, this same despised government, merits, in ed it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite my opinion, the highest encomium: it carried of an erring world, reject it. You are not to us through a long and dangerous war: it reninquire how your trade may be increased, nor dered us victorious in that bloody conflict with how you are to become a great and powerful a powerful nation: it has secured us a territory people, but how your liberties can be secured; greater than any European monarch possesses: for liberty ought to be the direct end of your and shall a government which has been thus government. Having premised these things, I strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility, shall, with the aid of my judgment and infor- and abandoned for want of energy? Consider mation, which I confess are not extensive, go what you are about to do, before you part with into the discussion of this system more minute- this government. Take longer time in reckonly. Is it necessary for your liberty, that you ing things: revolutions like this have happened should abandon those great rights by the adop- in almost every country in Europe: similar extion of this system? Is the relinquishment of amples are to be found in ancient Greece and the trial by jury, and the liberty of the press, ancient Rome: instances of the people losing necessary for your liberty? Will the abandon- their liberty by their own carelessness and the ment of your most sacred rights, tend to the ambition of a few. We are cautioned by the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest honorable gentleman who presides, against facof all earthly blessings-give us that precious tion and turbulence. I acknowledge that licenjewel, and you may take every thing else. But tiousness is dangerous, and that it ought to be I am fearful I have lived long enough to become provided against: I acknowledge also the new an old-fashioned fellow. Perhaps an invincible form of government may effectually prevent attachment to the dearest rights of man, may, it: yet, there is another thing it will as effectin these refined, enlightened days, be deemed ually do: it will oppress and ruin the people. old-fashioned: if so, I am contented to be so. There are sufficient guards placed against sediI say, the time has been when every pulse of tion and licentiousness: for when power is my heart beat for American liberty, and which, given to this government to suppress these, or, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of for any other purpose, the language it assumes every true American. But suspicions have is clear, express, and unequivocal; but when gone forth-suspicions of my integrity. It has this constitution speaks of privileges, there is been publicly reported that my professions are an ambiguity, sir, a fatal ambiguity-an ambinot real. Twenty-three years ago was I sup- guity which is very astonishing. In the clause posed a traitor to my country: I was then said under consideration, there is the strangest lanto be a bane of sedition, because I supported guage that I can conceive. I mean, when it the rights of my country: I may be thought says, that there shall not be more representasuspicious, when I say our privileges and rights tives than one for every 30,000. Now, sir, how are in danger: but, sir, a number of the people easy is it to evade this privilege? “ The 'numof this country are weak enough to think these ber shall not exceed one for every 30,000." This things are too true. I am happy to find that may be satisfied by one representative from the gentlemen on the other side, declare they each State. Let our numbers be ever so are groundless : but, sir, suspicion is a virtue, great, this immense continent may, by this as long as its object is the preservation of the artful expression, be reduced to have but thirpublic good, and as long as it stays within pro- teen representatives. I confess this construcper bounds: should it fall on me, I am content tion is not natural; but the ambiguity of the ed: conscious rectitude is a powerful consola- expression lays a good ground for a quarrel. tion: I trust there are many who think my Why was it not clearly and unequivocally exprofessions for the public good to be real. Let pressed, that they should be entitled to have your suspicion look to both sides: there are one for every 30,000? This would have obvimany on the other side, who, possibly, may ated all disputes; and was this difficult to be have been persuaded of the necessity of these done? What is the inference? When populameasures, which I conceive to be dangerous to tion increases, and a State shall send representvour liberty. Guard with jealous attention the atives in this proportion, Congress may remand public liberty. Suspect every one who ap- them, because the right of having one for every proaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing | 30,000 is not clearly expressed. This possibility will preserve it, but downright force. When- of reducing the number to one for each State, ever you give up that force, you are inevitably | approximates to probability by that other ex
pression, “but each State shall at least have manifested the most cordial acquiescence in the one representative.” Now is it not clear that, execution of the laws? What could be more from the first expression, the number might be awful, than their unanimous acquiescence under reduced so much, that some States should have general distresses? Is there any revolution in no representative at all, were it not for the in- Virginia? Whither is the spirit of America sertion of this last expression? And as this is gone? Whither is the genius of America fled? the only restriction upon them, we may fairly It was but yesterday, when our enemies marched conclude that they may restrain the number to in triumph through our country. Yet the peoone from each State. Perhaps the same hor- ple of this country could not be appalled by rors may hang over my mind again. I shall be their pompous armaments: they stopped their told I am continually afraid: but, sir, I have career, and victoriously captured them: where strong cause of apprehension. In some parts is the peril now, compared to that? of the plan before you, the great rights of free- Some minds are agitated by foreign alarms. men are endangered, in other parts absolutely Happily for us, there is no real danger from taken away. How does your trial by jury Europe; that country is engaged in more ardustand? In civil cases gone-not sufficiently se- ous business; from that quarter, there is no cured in criminal—this best privilege is gone. cause of fear: you may sleep in safety for ever But we are told that we need not fear, because for them. Where is the danger? If, sir, there those in power being our representatives, will was any, I would recur to the American spirit not abuse the powers we put in their hands. I to defend us—that spirit which has enabled us am not well versed in history, but I will sub-to surmount the greatest difficulties: to that mit to your recollection, whether liberty has illustrious spirit I address my most fervent been destroyed most often by the licentiousness prayer, to prevent our adopting a system deof the people, or by the tyranny of rulers. I structive to liberty. Let not gentlemen be told, imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the that it is not safe to reject this government. side of tyranny. Happy will you be, if you Wherefore is it not safe? We are told there miss the fate of those nations, who, omitting to are dangers; but those dangers are ideal; they resist their oppressors, or negligently suffering cannot be demonstrated. To encourage us to their liberty to be wrested from them, have adopt it, they tell us that there is a plain, easy groaned under intolerable despotism! Most of way of getting amendments. When I come to the human race are now in this deplorable con- contemplate this part, I suppose that I am mad, dition. And those nations who have gone in or, that my countrymen are so. The way to search of grandeur, power and splendor, have amendment is, in my conception, shut. Let us also fallen a sacrifice, and been the victims of consider this plain, easy way. “The Congress, their own folly. While they acquired those whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem visionary blessings, they lost their freedom. it necessary, shall propose amendments to this My great objection to this government is, that constitution; or, on the application of the legisit does not leave us the means of defending our latures of two-thirds of the several States, shall rights, or of waging war against tyrants. It call a convention for proposing amendments, is urged by some gentlemen, that this new plan which, in either case, shall be valid to all inwill bring us an acquisition of strength; an tents and purposes, as part of this constitution, army, and the militia of the States. This is an when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths idea extremely ridiculous: gentlemen cannot of the several States, or by conventions in threebe in earnest. This acquisition will trample on fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode your fallen liberty. Let my beloved Americans of ratification may be proposed by the Congress. guard against that fatal lethargy that has per- Provided, that no amendment which may be vaded the universe. Have we the means of re-made prior to the year 1808, shall, in any mansisting disciplined armies, when our only defence, ner, affect the first and fourth clauses in the the militia, is put into the hands of Congress?' ninth section of the first article; and that no
The honorable gentleman said, that great State, .without its consent, shall be deprived of danger would ensue, if the convention rose its equal suffrage in the Senate." Hence it apwithout adopting this system. I ask, where is pears, that three-fourths of the States must that danger? I see none. Other gentlemen ultimately agree to any amendments that may have told us, within these walls, that the Union be necessary. Let us consider the consequences is gone-or, that the Union will be gone. Is of this. However uncharitable it may appear, not this trifling with the judgment of their yet I must express my opinion, that the most fellow-citizens? Till they tell us the ground of unworthy characters may get into power and their fears, I will consider them as imaginary. prevent the introduction of amendments. Let I rose to make inquiry where those dangers us suppose, (for the case is supposable, possible were; they could make no answer: I believe I and probable,) that you happen to deal these never shall have that answer. Is there a dis- powers to unworthy hands; will they relinquish position in the people of this country to revolt powers already in their possession, or agree to against the dominion of laws? Has there been amendments? Two-thirds of the Congress, or a single tumult in Virginia ? Have not the of the State legislatures, are necessary even to people of Virginia, when laboring under the propose amendments. If one-third of these be severest pressure of accumulated distresses, unworthy men, they may prevent the applica