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that I have not been actuated by caprice, and now to explain every objection at full length would be an immense labor, I shall content myself with enumerating certain heads in which the Constitution is most repugnant to my wishes :
The two first points are the equality of suffrage in the Senate, and the submission of commerce to mere majority in the legislature, with no other check than the revision of the President. I conjecture that neither of these things can be corrected, and particularly the former, without which we must have risen perhaps in disorder.
But I am sanguine in hoping that, in every other justly obnoxious cause, Virginia will be seconded by a majority of the states. I hope that she will be seconded; 1. In causing all ambiguities of expression to be precisely explained ; 2. In rendering the President ineligible after a given number of years; 3. In taking from him the power of nominating to the judiciary offices, or of filling up vacancies which may there happer during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session ; 4. In taking from him the power of pardoning for treason, at least before conviction ; 5. In drawing a line between the powers of Congress and individual states; and in defining the former, so as to leave no clashing of jurisdictions nor dangerous deputies : and to prevent the one from being swallowed up by the other, under cover of general words and implication; 6. In abridging the power of the Senate to make treaties supreme laws of the land; 7. In incapacitating the Congress to determine their own salaries; and, 8. In limiting and defining the judicial power.
The proper remedy inust be consigned to the wisdom of the Convention; and the final step which Virginia shall pursue, if her overtures shall be discarded, must also rest with them.
You will excuse me, sir, for having been thus tedious. My feelings and duty demanded this exposition ; for through no other channel could I rescue my omission to sign from misrepresentation, and in no more effectual way could I exhibit to the General Assembly an unreserved history of my conduct. I have the honor, sir, to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
LETTER FROM THE HON. ROGER SHERMAN, AND
THE HON. OLIVER ELLSWORTH, ESQUIRES,
DELEGATES FROM THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT, IN THE LATE FEDERAL CONVENTION,
TO HIS EXCELLENCY, THE GOVERNOR OF SAID STATE.
New London, September 26, 1787. SIR: We have the honor to transmit to your excellency a printed copy of the Constitution formed by the Federal Convention, to be laid before the legislature of the state.
The general principles which governed the Convention in their deliber ations on the subject, are stated in their address to Congress.
We think it may be of use to make some further observations on particular parts of the Constitution.
The Congress is differently organized; yet the whole number of members, and this state's proportion of suffrage, remain the same as before.
The equal representation of the states in the Senate, and the voice of that branch in the appointment to offices, will secure the rights of the lesser, as well as of the greater states.
Some additional powers are vested in Congress, which was a principal object that the states had in view in appointing the Convention. Those powers extend only to matters respecting the common interests of the Union, and are specially defined, so that the particular states retain their sovereignty in all other matters.
The objects for which Congress may apply moneys are the same mentioned in the eighth article of the Confederation, viz., for the common defence and general welfare, and for payment of the debts incurred for those purposes. It is probable that the principal branch of revenue will be duties on imports. What may be necessary to be raised by direct taxation is to be apportioned on the several states, according to the number of their inhabitants; and although Congress may raise the money by their own authority, if necessary, yet that authority need not be exercised, if each state will furnish its quota.
The restraint on the legislatures of the several states respecting emitting bills of credit, making any thing but money a tender in payment of debts, or impairing the obligation of contracts by ex post facto laws, was thought necessary as a security to commerce, in which the interest of foreigners, as well as of the citizens of different states, may be affected.
The Convention endeavored to provide for the energy of government on the one hand, and suitable checks on the other hand, to secure the rights of the particular states, and the liberties and properties of the citizens. We wish it may meet the approbation of the several states, and be a means of securing their rights, and lengthening out their tranquillity.
With great respect, we are, sir, your excellency's obedient, humble servants,
OLIVER ELLSWORTH. His Excellency, Governor HUNTINGTON.
LETTER CONTAINING THE REASONS OF THE
HON. ELBRIDGE GERRY, ESQ.,
GENTLEMEN: I have.the honor to enclose, pursuant to my commission, the Constitution proposed by the Federal Convention.
To this system I gave my dissent, and shall submit my objections to the honorable legislature.
It was painful for me, on a subject of such national importance, to differ from the respectable members who signed the Constitution ; but
conceiving, as I did, that the liberties of America were not secured by the system, it was my duty to oppose it.
My principal objections to the plan are, that there is no adequate provision for a representation of the people; that they have no security for the right of election; that some of the powers of the legislature are am biguous, and others indefinite and dangerous; that the executive is blended with, and will have an undue influence over, the legislature; that the judicial department will be oppressive; that treaties of the highest impor tance may be formed by the President, with the advice of two thirds of a quorum of the Senate; and that the system is without the security of a bill of rights. These are objections which are not local, but apply equally to all the states.
As the Convention was called for “the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress, and the several legislatures, such alterations and provisions as shall render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union,” I did not conceive that these powers extend to the formation of the plan proposed; but the Convention being of a different opinion, I acquiesced in it, being fully convinced that, to preserve the Union, an efficient government was indispensably necessary, and that it would be difficult to make proper amendments to the Articles of Confederation.
The Constitution proposed has few, if any, federal features, but is rather a system of national government. Nevertheless, in many respects, I think it has great merit, and, by proper amendments, may be adapted to the
exigencies of government, and preservation of liberty."
The question on this plan involves others of the highest importance: 1. Whether there shall be a dissolution of the federal government; 2. Whether the several state governments shall be so altered as in effect to be dissolved; 3. Whether, in lieu of the federal and state governments, the national Constitution now proposed shall be substituted without amendment. Never, perhaps, were a people called on to decide a question of greater magnitude. Should the citizens of America adopt the plan as it now stands, their liberties may be lost; or should they reject it altogether, anarchy may ensue. It is evident, therefore, that they should not be precipitate in their decisions; that the subject should be well understood; lest they should refuse to support the government after having hastily accepted it.
If those who are in favor of the Constitution, as well as those who are against it, should preserve moderation, their discussions may afford much information, and finally direct to a happy issue.
It may be urged by some, that an implicit confidence should be placed in the Convention ; but, however respectable the members may be who signed the Constitution, it must be admitted that a free people are the proper guardians of their rights and liberties; that the greatest men may err, and that their errors are sometimes of the greatest magnitude.
Others may suppose that the Constitution may be safely adopted, because therein provision is made to amend it. But cannot this object be better attained before a ratification than after it ? And should a free people adopt a form of government under conviction that it wants amendment? And some may conceive that, if the plan is not accepted by the people,
they will not unite in another. But surely, while they have the power to amend, they are not under the necessity of rejecting it.
I have been detained here longer than I expected, but shall leave this place in a day or two for Massachusetts, and on my arrival shall submit the reasons (if required by the legislature) on which my objections are grounded.
I shall only add that, as the welfare of the Union requires a better Constitution than the Confederation, I shall think it my duty, as a citizen of Massachusetts, to support that which shall be finally adopted, sincerely hoping it will secure the liberty and happiness of America.
I have the honor to be, gentlemen, with the highest respect for the honorable legislature and yourselves, your most obedient and very humble servant,
E. GERRY. To the Hon. Samuel Adams, Esq., President of the Senate, and
the Hon. James WARREN, Esq., Speaker of the House of Representatives, of Massachusetts.
OBJECTIONS OF THE HON. GEORGE MASON,
ONE OF THE DELEGATES FROM VIRGINIA IN THE LATE CONTINENTAL CONVENTION,
TO THE PROPOSED FEDERAL CONSTITUTION;
ASSIGNED AS HIS REASONS FOR NOT SIGNING THE SAME.
(EXTRACTS.) There is no declaration of rights; and, the laws of the general government being paramount to the laws and constitutions of the several states, the declarations of rights in the separate states are no security. Nor are the people secured even in the enjoyment of the benefit of the common law, which stands here upon no other foundation than its having been adopted by the respective acts forming the constitutions of the several states.
In the House of Representatives there is not the substance, but the shadow only, of representation, which can never produce proper information in the legislature, or inspire confidence in the people. The laws will, therefore, be generally made by men little concerned in, and unacquainted with, their effects and consequences.
The Senate have the power of altering all money bills, and of originating appropriations of money, and the salaries of the officers of their own appointment, in conjunction with the President of the United States, although they are not the representatives of the people, or amenable to them. These, with their other great powers, (viz., their powers in the appointment of ambassadors, and all public officers, in making treaties, and in trying all impeachments ;) their influence upon, and connection with, the supreme executive from these causes; their duration of office; and their being a constant existing body, almost continually sitting, joined with their being one complete branch of the legislature, - will destroy any balance in
the government, and enable them to accomplish what usurpations they please upon the rights and liberties of the people.
The judiciary of the United States is so constructed and extended as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the several states; thereby rendering laws as tedious, intricate, and expensive, and justice as unattainable, by a great part of the community, as in England; and enabling the rich to oppress and ruin the poor.
The President of the United States has no constitutional council, (a thing unknown in any safe and regular government.) He will therefore be unsupported by proper information and advice, and will generally be directed by minions and favorites; or he will become a tool to the Senate; or a council of state will grow out of the principal officers of the great departments — the worst and most dangerous of all ingredients for such a council, in a free country; for they may be induced to join in any dangerous or oppressive measures, to shelter themselves, and prevent an inquiry into their own misconduct in office. Whereas, had a constitutional council been formed (as was proposed) of six members, viz., two from the Eastern, two from the Middle, and two from the Southern States, to be appointed by vote of the states in the House of Representatives, with the same duration and rotation of office as the Senate, the executive would always have had safe and proper information and advice : the president of such a council might have acted as Vice-President of the United States, pro tempore, upon any vacancy or disability of the chief magistrate; and long-continued sessions of the Senate would in a great measure have been prevented. From this fatal defect of a constitutional council has arisen the improper power of the Senate in the appointment of the public officers, and the alarming dependence and connection between that branch of the legislature and the supreme executive. Hence, also, sprang that unnecessary officer, the Vice-President, who, for want of other employment, is made president of the Senate; thereby dangerously blending the executive and legislative powers, besides always giving to some one of the states an unnecessary and unjust preëminence over the others.
The President of the United States has the unrestrained power of granting pardon for treason; which may be sometimes exercised to screen from punishment those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the crime, and thereby prevent a discovery of his own guilt. By declaring all treaties supreme laws of the land, the executive and the Senate have, in many cases, an exclusive power of legislation, which might have been avoided, by proper distinctions with respect to treaties, and requiring the assent of the House of Representatives, where it could be done with safety.
By requiring only a majority to make all commercial and navigation laws, the five Southern States (whose produce and circumstances are totally different from those of the eight Northern and Eastern States) will be ruined; for such rigid and premature regulations may be made, as will enable the merchants of the Northern and Eastern States not only to demand an exorbitant freight, but to monopolize the purchase of the commodities, at their own price, for many years, to the great injury of the landed interest, and the impoverishment of the people; and the danger is the greater, as the gain on one side will be in proportion to the loss on the other. Whereas, requiring two thirds of the members present in both houses, would have produced mutual moderation, promoted the general interest, and removed an insuperable objection to the adoption of the government.