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tion for amendments; but a destructive and cannot help thinking so: perhaps it may be the inischievous feature is, that three-fourths of the result of my age; these may be feelings natural State legislatures, or of the State conventions, to a man of my years, when the American must concur in the amendments when proposed. spirit has left him, and his mental powers, like In such numerous bodies, there must necessarily the members of the body, are decayed. If, sir, be some designing, bad men. To suppose that amendments are left to the twentieth, or to the so large a number as three-fourths of the States tenth part of the people of America, your liberty will concur, is to suppose that they will possess is gone for ever. We have heard that there is a genius, intelligence and integrity, approaching great deal of bribery practised in the House of to miraculous. It would, indeed, be miraculous, Commons in England; and that many of the that they should concur in the same amend members raise themselves to preferments, by ments, or, even in such as would bear some selling the rights of the people. But, sir, the likeness to one another. For four of the small-tenth part of that body cannot continue oppresest States, that do not collectively contain one- sions on the rest of the people. English liberty tenth part of the population of the United is, in this case, on a firmer foundation than States, may obstruct the most salutary and American liberty. It will be easily contrived necessary amendments. Nay, in these four to procure the opposition of one-tenth of the states, six-tenths of the people may reject these people to any alteration, however judicious. amendments; and suppose, that amendments The honorable gentleman who presides, told shall be opposed to amendments, (which is us, that to prevent abuses in our government, highly probable,) is it possible, that three- we will assemble in convention, recall our delefourths can ever agree to the same amend- gated powers, and punish our servants for ments? A bare majority in these four small abusing the trust reposed in them. Oh, sir, we States, may hinder the adoption of amendments; should have fine times indeed, if to punish so that we may fairly and justly conclude, that tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the one-twentieth part of the American people people. Your arms, wherewith you could demay prevent the removal of the most grievous fend yourselves, are gone; and you have no inconveniences and oppression, by refusing to longer an aristocratical, no longer a democrataccede to amendments. A trifling minority | ical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution may reject the most salutary amendments. / in any nation, brought about by the punishIs this an easy mode of securing the public ment of those in power, inflicted by those who liberty? It is, sir, a most fearful situation, had no power at all? You read of a riot act in when the most contemptible minority can a country which is called one of the freest in prevent the alteration of the most oppressive the world, where a few neighbors cannot asgovernment; for it may, in many respects, semble without the risk of being shot by a prove to be such. Is this the spirit of republi- hired soldiery, the engines of despotism. We canism? What, sir, is the genius of democracy? may see such an act in America. A standing Let me read that clause of the Bill of Rights of army we shall have also, to execute the execraVirginia which relates to this: 3d clause; ble commands of tyranny: and how are you to * That government is, or ought to be, instituted punish them? Will you order them to be pun. for the common benefit, protection and security ished? Who shall obey these orders? Will of the people, nation, or community. Of all your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined the various modes and forms of government, regiment? In what situation are we to be? that is best, which is capable of producing the The clause before you gives a power of direct greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is taxation, unbounded and unlimited; exclusive most effectually secured against the danger of power of legislation in all cases whatsoever, for mal-administration, and that whenever any go- ten miles square, and over all places purchased vernment shall be found inadequate, or contrary for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, to these purposes, a majority of the community dock-yards, &c. What resistance could be hath an indubitable, unalienable and indefeasi- | made? The attempt would be madness. You ble right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such will find all the strength of this country in the manner as shall be judged most conducive to hands of your enemies: those garrisons will the public weal.” This, sir, is the language of naturally be the strongest places in the country, democracy--that a majority of the community | Your militia is given up to Congress also, in have a right to alter their government when another part of this plan: they will therefore found to be oppressive: but how different is act as they think proper: all power will be in the genius of your new constitution from this! | their own possession: you cannot force them How different from the sentiments of freemen, to receive their punishment. Of what service that a contemptible minority can prevent the would militia be to you, when most probably good of the majority! If then, gentlemen, you will not have a single musket in the state? standing on this ground, are come to that point, For, as arms are to be provided by Congress, that they are willing to bind themselves and they may, or may not, furnish them. their posterity to be oppressed, I am amazed Let us here call your attention to that part and inexpressibly astonished. If this be the which gives the Congress power “To provide opinion of the majority, I must submit; but to for organizing, arming and disciplining the me, sir, it appears perilous and destructive; I militia, and for governing such parts of them as may be employed in the service of the United The honorable gentleman then went on to States, reserving to the states respectively the the figure we make with foreign nations; the appointment of the officers, and the authority of contemptible one we make in France and Holtraining the militia, according to the discipline land, which, according to the substance of my prescribed by Congress." By this, sir, you see notes, he attributes to the present feeble govthat their control over our last and best defence ernment. An opinion has gone forth, we find, is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to dis- that we are a contemptible people: the time cipline or arm our militia, they will be useless : has been when we were thought otherwise the states can do neither, this power being ex- Under this same despised government, we con clusively given to Congress. The power of manded the respect of all Europe: wherefore appointing officers over men not disciplined or are we now reckoned otherwise The Ameriarmed, is ridiculous: so that this pretended can spirit has fled from hence: it has gone to little remnant of power, left to the States, may, regions, where it has never been expected: it at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nuga- has gone to the people of France, in search of tory. Our situation will be deplorable indeed: a splendid government—a strong, energetic govnor can we ever expect to get this government ernment. Shall we imitate the example of thoso amended; since I have already shown, that a nations, who have gone from a simple to a very small minority may prevent it, and that splendid government? Are those nations more small minority interested in the continuance of worthy of our imitation? What can make an the oppression. Will the oppressor let go the adequate satisfaction to them for the loss they oppressed? Was there ever an instance? Can have suffered in attaining such a governmentthe annals of mankind exhibit one single exam- for the loss of their liberty? If we admit this ple, where rulers, overcharged with power, consolidated government, it will be because we willingly let go the oppressed, though solicited like a great and splendid one. Some way or and requested most earnestly? The application other we must be a great and mighty empire; for amendments will therefore be fruitless. we must have an army, and a navy, and a numSometimes the oppressed have got loose by one ber of things. When the American spirit was of those bloody struggles that desolate a in its youth, the language of America was difcountry. But a willing relinqnishment of ferent: liberty, sir, was then the primary object. power is one of those things which human We are descended from a people whose governnature never was, nor ever will be, capable of. ment was founded on liberty: our glorious fore
The honorable gentleman's observations, re- fathers, of Great Britain, made liberty the founspecting the people's right of being the agents dation of every thing. That country is become in the formation of this government, are not a great, mighty and splendid nation; not beaccurate, in ny humble conception. The dis- cause their government is strong and energetic: tinction between a national government and a but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and confederacy, is not sufficiently discerned. Had foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from the delegates, who were sent to Philadelphia, a our British ancestors; by that spirit we have power to propose a consolidated government triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, instead of a confederacy? Were they not de- the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and puted by States, and not by the people? The chains of consolidation, is about to convert thie assent of the people, in their collective capacity, country into a powerful and mighty empire. If is not necessary to the formation of a federal you make the citizens of this country agree to government. The people have no right to enter | become the subjects of one great consolidated into leagues, alliances, or confederations: they empire of America, your government will not are not the proper agents for this purpose: have sufficient energy to keep them together: States and sovereign powers are the only proper such a government is incompatible with the geagents for this kind of government. Show menius of republicanism. There will be no checks, an instance where the people have exercised no real balances, in this government. What this business: has it not always gone through can avail your specious, imaginary balances; the legislatures? I refer you to the treaties your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous, with France, Holland, and other nations: how ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, we were they made? Were they not made by the are not feared by foreigners; we do not make States? Are the people, therefore, in their ag- nations tremble. Would this constitute happigregate capacity, the proper persons to form a ness, or secure liberty? I trust, sir, our politiconfederacy? This, therefore, ought to depend cal hemisphere will ever direct its operations to on the consent of the legislatures; the people the security of those objects. Consider our have never sent delegates to make any proposi- situation, sir; go to the poor man, ask hini tion of changing the government. Yet I must what he does; he will inform you that he ensay, at the same time, that it was made on joys the fruits of his labor, under his own figgrounds the most pure, and perhaps I might tree, with his wife and children around him, in have been brought to consent to it, so far as to peace and security. Go to every other member the change of government; but there is one of the society, you will find the same tranquil thing in it, which I never would acquiesce in. ease and content; you will find no alarms or I mean, the changing it into a consolidated goy- disturbances! Why then tell us of dangers, to ernment, which is so abhorrent to my mind. terrify us into the adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers say? The clause under consideration gives ar that this new system may produce? They are unlimited and unbounded power of taxation. out of the sight of the common people: they Suppose every delegate from Virginia opposes cannot foresee latent consequences. I dread the a law laying a tax, what will it avail? They operation of it on the middling and lower classes are opposed by a majority; eleven members can of people: it is for them I fear the adoption of destroy their efforts: those feeble ten cannot this system. I fear I tire the patience of the prevent the passing the most oppressive taxcommittee, but I beg to be indulged with a few law. So that in direct opposition to the spirit more observations.
and express language of your declaration of When I thus profess myself an advocate for rights, you are taxed, not by your own consent, the liberty of the people, I shall be told, I am but by people who have no connection with a designing man, that I am to be a great man, you. that I am to be a demagogue; and many similar The next clause of the bill of rights tells illiberal insinuations will be thrown out; but, you, “That all power of suspending law, or sir, conscious rectitude outweighs these things the execution of laws, by any authority, withwith me. I see great jeopardy in this new gov- out the consent of the representatives of the ernment: I see none from our present one. I people, is injurious to their rights, and ought hope some gentleman or other will bring forth, not to be exercised." This tells us that there in full array, those dangers, if there be any, can be no suspension of government, or laws, that we may see and touch them; I have said without our own consent; yet this constitution that I thought this a consolidated government: can counteract and suspend any of our laws, that I will now prove it. Will the great rights of contravene its oppressive operation; for they the people be secured by this government? | have the power of direct taxation, which susSuppose it should prove oppressive, how can it pends our bill of rights; and it is expressly probe altered? Our bill of rights declares, “That vided, that they can make all laws necessary for a majority of the community hath an indubita- carrying their powers into execution; and it is ble, unalienable and indefeasible right to reform, declared paramount to the laws and constitualter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be tions of the States. Consider how the only rejudged most conducive to the public weal." I "maining defence, we have left, is destroyed in have just proved, that one-tenth, or less, of the this manner. Besides the expenses of mainpeople of America—a most despicable minority, taining the Senate and other House in as much may prevent this reform, or alteration. Sup- splendor as they please, there is to be a great pose the people of Virginia should wish to alter and mighty president, with very extensive powtheir government, can a majority of them do ers—the powers of a king. He is to be supit? No, because they are connected with other ported in extravagant magnificence: so that the men; oi, in other words, consolidated with whole of our property may be taken by this other States. When the people of Virginia, at American government, by laying what taxes a future day, shall wish to alter their govern- they please, giving themselves what salaries ment, though they should be unanimous in this they please, and suspending our laws at their desire, yet they may be prevented therefrom by pleasure. I might be thought too inquisitive, 2despicable minority at the extremity of the but I believe I should take up but very little of United States. The founders of your own con- | your time in enumerating the little power that stitution made your government changeable: is left to the government of Virginia; for this but the power of changing it is gone from you! power is reduced to little or nothing. Their Whither is it gone? It is placed in the same garrisons, magazines, arsenals, and forts, which hands that hold the rights of twelve other will be situated in the strongest places within States; and those, who hold those rights, have the States—their ten miles square, with all the right and power to keep them. It is not the fine ornaments of human life, added to their particular government of Virginia; one of the powers, and taken from the States, will reduce leading features of that government is, that a the power of the latter to nothing. The voice majority can alter it, when necessary for the of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our public good. This government is not a Virgin- struggles forfreedom. If our descendants be worian, but an American government. Is it not thy the name of Americans, they will preserve, therefore a consolidated government? The and hand down to their latest posterity, the sixth clause of your bill of rights tells you, transactions of the present times; and though, " That elections of members to serve as repre- | I confess, my exclamations are not worthy the sentatives of the people in Assembly, ought to hearing, they will see that I have done my utbe free, and that all men, having sufficient evi- most to preserve their liberty: for I never will dence of permanent, common interest with, and give up the power of direct taxation, but for a attachment to the community, have the right of scourge. I am willing to give it conditionally; suffrage, and cannot be taxed or deprived of that is, after non-compliance with requisitions: their property, for public uses, without their | I will do more, sir, and what I hope will conown consent, or that of their representa- vince the most sceptical man, that I am a lover tives so elected, nor bound by any law to which of the American Union; that in case Virginja they have rot in like manner assented for the shall not make punctual payment, the control public good.” But what does this constitution of our custom-houses, and the whole regulation of trade, shall be given to Congress; and that delphia or New York? If they perpetrate the Virginia shall depend on Congress even for most unwarrantable outrage, on your persons or passports, till Virginia shall have paid the last property, you cannot get redress on this side of farthing, and furnished the last soldier. Nay, Philadelphia or New York: and how can you sir, there is another alternative to which I get it there? If your domestic avocations could would consent: even that they should strike us permit you to go thither, there you must appeal out of the Union, and take away from us all to judges sworn to support this constitution in federal privileges, till we comply with federal opposition to that of any State, and who may requisitions; but let it depend upon our own also be inclined to favor their own officers. pleasure to pay our money in the most easy When these harpies are aided by excisemen, manner for our people. Were all the States, who may search, at any time, your houses and more terrible than the mother country, to join most secret recesses, will the people bear it? against us, I hope Virginia could defend her- If you think so, you differ from me. Where I self; but, sir, the dissolution of the Union is thought there was a possibility of such mismost abhorrent to my mind. The first thing I chiefs, I would grant power with a niggardly have at heart is American liberty; the second hand; and here there is a strong probability thing is American union; and I hope the people that these oppressions shall actually happen. I of Virginia will endeavor to preserve that union. may be told, that it is safe to err on that side; The increasing population of the Southern because such regulations may be made by ConStates, is far greater than that of New England; gress, as shall restrain these officers, and beconsequently, in a short time, they will be far cause laws are made by our representatives, and more numerous than the people of that coun judged by righteous judges: but, sir, as these try. Consider this, and you will find this State regulations may be made, so they may not; more particularly interested to support Ameri- and many reasons there are to induce a belief, can liberty, and not bind our posterity by an that they will not: I shall therefore be an inti improvident relinquishment of our rights. Idel on that point till the day of my death. would give the best security for a punctual This constitution is said to have beautiful compliance with requisitions; but I beseech features; but when I come to examine these gentlemen, at all hazards, not to grant this un- features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightlimited power of taxation.
ful. Among other deformities, it has an awful The honorable gentleman has told us that squinting; it squints towards monarchy: and these powers given to Congress, are accompa does not this raise indignation in the breast of nied by a judiciary which will correct all. On every true American? Your President may examination, you will find this very judiciary easily become king. Your Senate is so imperoppressively constructed, your jury-trial de- fectly constructed, that your dearest rights may stroyed, and the judges dependent on Congress. be sacrificed by what may be a small minority: In this scheme of energetic government, the and a very small minority may continue for ever people will find two sets of tax-gatherers—the unchangeably this government, although horState and the federal sheriffs. This, it seems to ridly defective. Where are your checks in this me, will produce such dreadful oppression, as the government? Your strongholds will be in the people cannot possibly bear. The federal sheriff | hands of your enemies. It is on a supposition may commit what oppression, make what dis- that your American governors shall be honest, tresses, he pleases, and ruin you with impunity: that all the good qualities of this government for how are you to tie his hands? Have you are founded; but its defective and imperfect any sufficient, decided means of preventing him construction, puts it in their power to perpetrate from sucking your blood by speculations, com the worst of mischiefs, should they be bad missions, and fees? Thus thousands of your men. And, sir, would not all the world, from people will be most shamefully robbed. Our the eastern to the western hemisphere, blame State sheriffs, those unfeeling bloodsuckers, our distracted folly in resting our rights upon have, under the watchful eye of our legislature, the contingency of our rulers being good or committed the most horrid and barbarous rav- bad? Show me that age and country where ages on our people. It has required the most the rights and liberties of the people were constant vigilance of the legislature to keep placed on the sole chance of their rulers being them from totally ruining the people. A re- good men, without a consequent loss of liberty. peated succession of laws has been made, to I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has suppress their iniquitous speculations and cruel ever followed, with absolute certainty, every extortions; and as often has their nefarious in- such mad attempt. If your American chief be genuity devised methods of evading the force of a man of ambition and abilities, how easy will those laws: in the struggle, they have gene- it be for him to render himself absolute! The rally triumphed over the legislature. It is a army is in his hands, and, if he be a man oi fact, that lands have sold for five shillings, address, it will be attached to him; and it will which were worth one hundred pounds. If be the subject of long meditation with him to sheriffs, thus immediately under the eye of our seize the first auspicious moment to accomplish State legislature and judiciary, have dared to his design. And, sir, will the American spirit commit these outrages, what would they not solely relieve you when this happens ? I would have done if their masters had been at Phila- | rather infinitely, and I am sure most of this convention are of the same opinion, have a very indefinite and indeterminate: it may exking, lords and commons, than a government tend to a century. Grant that any of them are so replete with such insupportable evils. If we wicked, they may squander the public money make a king, we may prescribe the rules by so as to ruin you, and yet this expression will which he shall rule his people, and interpose give you no redress. I say, they may ruin such checks as shall prevent him from infringing you; for where, sir, is the responsibility? The them: but the president in the field, at the yeas and nays will show you nothing, unless bead of his army, can prescribe the terms on they be fools as well as knaves; for, after which he shall reign master, so far that it will having wickedly trampled on the rights of the puzzle any American ever to get his neck from people, they would act like fools indeed, were under the galling yoke. I cannot, with patience, they to publish and divulge their iniquity, think of this idea. If ever he violates the laws, when they have it equally in their power to one of two things will happen: he will come suppress and conceal it. Where is the responat the head of his army to carry every thing sibility-that leading principle in the British before him; or, he will give bail, or do what government? In that government, a punishMr. Chief Justice will order him. If he be ment, certain and inevitable, is provided; but guilty, will not the recollection of his crimes in this, there is no real, actual punishment for teach him to make one bold push for the the grossest mal-administration. They may go American throne? Will not the immense dif- without punishment, though they commit the ference between being master of every thing, most outrageous violation on our immunities, and being ignominiously tried and punished, That paper may tell me they will be punished. powerfully excite him to make this bold push? I ask, by what law? They must make the law, But, sir, where is the existing force to punish for there is no existing law to do it. Whathim? Can he not, at the head of his army, will they make a law to punish themselves? beat down every opposition? Away with your This, sir, is my great objection to the constitupresident, we shall have a king: the army will tion, that there is no true responsibility, and salute him monarch; your militia will leave that the preservation of our liberty depends on you, and assist in making him king, and fight the single chance of men being virtuous enough against you: and what have you to oppose this to make laws to punish themselves. In the force? What will then become of you and country from which we are descended, they your rights? Will not absolute despotism have real, and not imaginary responsibility; ensue? Here Mr. Henry strongly and pathetic for there, mal-administration has cost their ally expatiated on the probability of the presi- heads to some of the most saucy geniuses that dent's enslaving America, and the horrid con- ever were. The senate, by making treaties, sequences that must result.)
may destroy your liberty and laws, for want of What can be more defective than the clause responsibility. Two-thirds of those that shall concerning the elections? The control given happen to be present, can, with the president, to Congress, over the time, place and manner make treaties, that shall be the supreme law of of holding elections, will totally destroy the the land: they may make the most ruinous end of suffrage. The elections may be held at treaties, and yet there is no punishment for one place, and the most inconvenient in the them. Whoever shows me a punishment prostate; or they may be at remote distances from vided for them, will oblige me. So, sir, notthose who have a right of suffrage: hence, nine withstanding there are eight pillars, they want out of ten must either not vote at all, or vote another. Where will they make another? I for strangers: for the most influential characters trust, sir, the exclusion of the evils wherewith will be applied to, to know who are the most this system is replete, in its present form, will proper to be chosen. I repeat, that the control be made a condition precedent to its adoption, of Congress over the manner, &c. of electing, by this or any other state. The transition from well warrants this idea. The natural conse- a general, unqualified admission to offices, to a quence will be, that this democratic branch consolidation of government, seems easy; for, will possess none of the public confidence: the though the American States are dissimilar in people will be prejudiced against representatives their structure, this will assimilate them: this, chosen in such an injudicious manner. The sir, is itself a strong consolidating feature, and proceedings in the northern conclave will be is not one of the least dangerous in that system. hidden from the yeomanry of this country. We Nine States are sufficient to establish this govare told, that the yeas and nays shall be taken ernment over those nine. Imagine that nine and entered on the journals: this, sir, will have come into it. Virginia has certain scruavail nothing: it may be locked up in their ples. Suppose she will consequently refuse to chests, and concealed for ever from the people; join with those States: may not they still confor they are not to publish what parts they tinue in friendship and union with her? If she think require secrecy; they may think, and sends her annual requisitions in dollars, do you will think, the whole requires it.
think their stomachs will be so squeamish as Another beautiful feature of this constitu- to refuse her dollars! Will they not accept tion, is the publication, from time to time, of her regiments? They would intimidate you into the 'receipts and expenditures of the public an inconsiderate adoption, and frighten you moner. This expression, from time to time, is with ideal evils, and that the Union shall be