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By frank MOORE. 

" There were Gyants in the earth in thofe dayes mightie men, 

which were of olde, men of renowne." 


VOL. I. 







EuTEEED, according to Act of Congress, In the year 1857, by 


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of Ne* York. 




The design of the present work is to furnisli a convenient and popular 
Library Edition of tlie most celebrated Speeches and Addresses, forensic and 
parliamentary, of the principal Orators and Statesmen of America. It 
contains many which have never before been included in any collection ; 
and heretofore inaccessible to the student and general reader. As far as 
attainable, specimens of the eloquence of the Continental Congress have been 
given, which fully illustrate the principles and portray the sufferings of the 
Kevolutionary Period. Many entire speeches from the debates in Congress, 
since the year 17S9, under tne present organization of the Government, will 
also be found in this work. Selections from the earnest and able discussions 
in the State Conventions of the principles involved in the adoption of the 
Federal Constitution, also foi-m a considerable portion of the work ; and thus 
render it valuable as a means of acquiring an understanding of that important 

The biographical sketches, preceding the selections from the works of 
each orator, are intended to present a brief outline of their lives and public 
services, the limited space allowed for that portion of the work precluding 
more extended notices. The analytical index attached to the work may 
render it generally useful as a book of reference. 

The want of a work of this kind is too obvious to make any apology 
necessary for its publication at the present time. Should its success warrant 
such a course, another series, embracing the moke keoent and livikg oeatoks, 
prepared upon the same .plan, will be offered to the public. 


In closing, the Editor acknowledges his obligations to the numerous 
individuals from whom he has received valuable assistance, and especially 
to his brother, George H. Moore ; to Mrs. Laura Wolcott Gibbs, for permission 
to copy the miniature of Alexander Hamilton, painted by her, and now in her 
possession ; to Dr. John W. Francis, for the extension of his usual courtesies ; 
to Mr. Henry T. Tuckerman, for valuable suggestions ; to Mr. "William Hunter, 
of the State Department, Washington, for the material contained in the 
sketch of his father's life; to the Libraries of the New York Historical 
Society, the Mercantile Library Association, the ISTew York Society Library, 
and the Astor Library, as well as to the officers of these Institutions for the 
facility with which he has been enabled to make use of their valuable 

New Yoek, August, 1st, 1857. 




Sketch of his Life, 

Speech on the Writs of Assistance, 

On the study of the Law, 

Sketch of his Life, . 
Speech on the Federal Constitution, . 
Another speech on the same subject. 
Reply to Edmund Randolph, . 


Sketch of his Life, .... 
Address of the American Colonies to the iU' 
habitants of Great Britain : 1775, . 


Sketch of his Life, .... 48 

Charge to the Grand Jury of Charleston Dis- 
trict, South Carolina : 1776, . . 50 

Sketch of his Life, . 
Oration on the Boston Massacre, 


Sketch of his Life, .... 65 

Vindication of the Colonies; a speech deliver- 
ed in the Convention for the Province of 
Pennsylvania: 1775, . . .68 

Speech on the Federal Constitution, . 74 


Sketch of his Life, . . . _ 82 

Speech to the New Jersey Legislature : 1777, 88 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .91 

Speech on Madison's Resolutions, . , 92 

Speech on the British Treaty, . . 104 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .113 

Address to the South Carolina Assembly: 1776, 120 
Speech to the General Assembly : 1782, . 122 


Sketch of his Life, . . . . 125 

Speech on the Federal Constitution, j_ . 127 

Speech on the British Treaty, . . .144 


Sketch of his Life, .... 151 
Address to the People of Great Britain : 1774, 159 


Sketch of his Life, . . . . 153 

Speech on the Federal Constitution, . 165 

Argument in the Trial of Aaron Burr, . 174 


Sketch of his Life, .... 183 
Speech on the Federal Constitution, . . 187 

Remarks in the Federal Convention of New 
York, on Mr. Gilbert Livingston's pro- 
posed amendment to the Constitution, 195 
Further remarks on the Federal Constitution, 200 
Argument in the case of Harry Croswell, . 204 
Speech on the Revenue System, . . 215 


Sketch of his Life, .... 224 

Oration on the Boston Massacre, . . 227 


Sketch of his Life, .... 232 

Speech in defence ofthe British Soldiers: 1770, 235 
Inaugural Address : 1797, . . . 248 

Sketch of his Life, 
Inaugural Address : 1789, 
Farewell Address, 

. 251 


. 254 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .262 

Oration before the New Jeraey Society of Cin- 
cinnati, . , . . . 264 
Speech on Non-Intercourse with Great Brit- 
ain : 1794, . . . .270 



Sketch of his Life 273 

Speech in the Pennsylvania Assembly : 1764, 277 
The Declaration on Taking up Arms : 1775, 286 


Sketch of his Life 290 

Speech on the Conference with Lord Howe, . 298 
Remarks on the Confederation, . . 296 
Speech on the Conyention with Eurgoyne, . 298 
Speech on the Appointment of Plenipoten- 
tiaries, ..... 301 
Speech on the Loan Office Certificates, . 303 
A Portion of a speech on the Finances, . 305 


Sketch of his Life 308 

Oration on the Advantages of American In- 
dependence, . . ; . . 310 
Extract from an Oration on the Cession of 
Louisiana to the United States, . . 318 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .819 

Oration on American Independence, . . 324 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .331 
An Appeal, under the signature of "Hy- 
perion :" 1768, . . . .334 
Speech in Defence of the British Soldiers : 
1770, 336 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .346 

Address to the People of the United States, 
1787, previous to the meeting of the 
Federal Convention, . . . 347 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .350 

Oration before the New York Society of Cin- 
cinnati : 1787, . . '\ . - . 352 
The Purse and Sword ; an extract, . . 355 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .356 
An Eulogium on " the brave men who have 
fallen in the contest with Great Britain :" 
1779, 358 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .361 

Observations on the Federal Constitution, . 362 


Sketch of his Life 871 

Speech on the Federal Convention, . . 373 


Sketch of his Life 401 

Remarks on the Federal Constitution, . 404 

Speech on the Power of Congress to levy 
Taxes, ..... 406 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .410 

Speech on the Prohibition of certain Imports : 

1814, 412 

Speech on Direct Taxation, . . . 417 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .423 

Reply to Samuel Dexter, . . . 426 

Defence of stifF-armed-George, . . 427 

Reply to Mr. Cram, . . . .429 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .431 

Speech on a proposed amendment of the Con- 
stitution: 1802, . . . .482 
Remarks on the Judiciary Systetn, . 442 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .447 

Eulogy on Washington, . . . 449 


Sketch of his Life, .... 453 

Speech on the Judiciary, . . ' . 457 

Discourse before the New York Historical 

Society: 1812, . . . .466 

Speech on the Navigation of the Mississippi, 475 
Oration over the dead body of Hamilton, . 487 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .489 

Speech on the Aggressions of France, . 491 
Speech on the Appointment of Foreign Minis- 
ters, ...... 503 


Sketch of his Life, .... 825 
Speech in the trial of William S. Smith, . 528 
Argument in the trial of Robert M. Goodwin, 537 


Sketch of his Life, .... 551 
Eulogy on Washington, . . . 552 


Sketch of his Life, .... 5o7 

Eulogy on Hamilton, . . . 559 


Sketch of his Life, . . . .565 

Speech on the Navigation of the Mississippi, 567 



Thb subject of this memoir, descended in the fifth generation from John Otis, who came 
over from England at a very early period of the Colony of Massachusetts Eay, and settled at 
Hingham, was born on the 5th of February, 1725, in the family mansion, at Great Marshes, now 
West Barnstable, Massachusetts. Nothing is known of his early youth. Pursuing his classical 
studies under the guidance of the Eeverend Jonathan Eussel, minister of the parish in which he 
lived, he entered Harvard College in June, 1739, and took his first degree in 1743. " During 
the first two years of his college life," says his biographer, "his natural ardor and vivacity made 
his society much courted by the elder students, and engaged him more in amusement than in 
study ; but he changed his course in the junior year, and began thenceforward to give indica- 
tions of great talent and power of application." The only record of his having taken any part 
in the usual collegiate courses, is that of a syllogistic disputation, on receiving his first degree. 

At college, excepting his two first years, he was serious in his disposition and steady in the 
prosecution of his studies. When he came home during the vacations, being so devoted to his 
books, he was seldom seen ; and the near neighbors to his father's dwelling would sometimes 
only remark his return after he had been at home a fortnight. Though enveloped and marked 
with some of the gravity and abstraction natural to severe application, he would occasionally 
discover the wit and humor which formed, afterwards, striking ingredients in his character. A 
small party of young people being assembled one day at his father's house, when he was at home 
during a college vacation, he had taken a slight part in their sports, when, after much persua- 
sion, they induced him to play a country dance for them with his violin, on Vi'hich instrument 
he then practised a little. The set was made up, and after they were fairly engaged, he suddenly 
stopped, and holding up his fiddle and bow, exclaimed, " So Orpheus fiddled, and so danced the 
brutes ! " and then tossing the instrument aside, rushed into the garden, followed by the disap- 
pointed revellers, who were obliged to convert their intended dance into a frolicsome chase after 
the fugitive musician. 

It was the intention of Mr. Otis to qualify himself for the practice of law, but he did not 
engage in the appropriate studies for that purpose injmediately on leaving college. He wisely 
devoted nearly two years to the pursuits of general literature and science, intending thereby to 
establish broad and deep the foundations of his professional studies. In 1745 he commenced the 
study of the law, in the ofiice of Jeremiah Gridley, at that time the most eminent lawyer in the 
province ; and on completing those studies, he removed to Plymouth, and practised there during 
the years 1748 and 1749. Finding the "narrow range of country business " unsuited to Ms 
powers, he returned to Boston, where he soon rose to the highest position in his profession, 
being often called upon from other colonies and distant provinces for legal assistance and advice. 


Tlirough all his professional engagements, he still retained his taste for literature. In 1760, he 
published " The Kudiments of Latin Prosody, with a Dissertation on Letters, and the Principles 
of Harmony, in Poetic and Prosaic Composition, collected from the best "Writers." He also 
composed a similar work on Greek Prosody, which was never published, but perished with all 
the rest of his papers. 

The important events preceding and connected with the American Eevolution, attracted the 
attention of Mr. Otis. On the death of George the Second, in 1760, his grandson reached the 
throne. The conquest of Canada was completed, and rumors were widely spread that the colo- 
nies were to be deprived of their charters and formed into royal governments. The new king 
issued orders that enabled his officers of the revenue to compel the sheriffs and constables of the 
provinces to search for goods which it was supposed had not paid the taxes imposed by Parlia- 
ment. The good will of the colonists was wanted no longer to advance the prosecution of the 
war, and Writs of Assistance were undertaken through the influence of royal governors and some 
other interested friends of the Crown. The first application for those writs was made at Salem, 
Massachusetts. Stephen Sewall,* who was the Chief Justice of the Superior Court, expressed 
great doubt of the legality of such writs, and of the authority of the court to grant them. The 
other judges would not favor it ; and as it was an application of the Crown, that could not be 
dismissed without a hearing, it was postponed to the nest term of the court, to be holden at 
Boston, in February, 1761. The probable result of this question caused great anxiety among 
the mercantile portion of the community. The merchants spplied to Benjamin Pratt,t to under- 
take their cause, but he declined, being about to leave Boston for Kew York, of which province 
he had been appointed Chief Justice. They then solicited Otis, and Oxenbridge Thacher,t both 
of whom engaged to make their defence. 

The arguments in this important case, were heard in the Council Chamber of the old Town 
House in Boston. Chief Justice Sewall having died, Lieut. Gov. Hutchinson had been appointed 
as his successor, and before him the case was opened, by Mr. Gridley,§ Otis's veteran law teacher, 
then Attorney General. He was followed by Mr. Thacher, with great ingenuity and ability, 
on the side of the merchants. " But," in the language of President Adams, " Otis was a flame 

♦ Stephen Sewall was the son of Major Samuel Sewall, of Salem, Mass. He was horn in December, 1702, and gradnated 
at Harvard College, in 1721. In 1728 he was chosen tutor in the College, and occnpied that position until 1739, when he 
was called to take a seat on the Bench of the Superior Court. On the death of Chief Justice Dudley, in 1752, he was ap- 
pointed to succeed him, though not the senior judge. He was distinguished for his honor, integrity, moderation, and great 
beijevolcnce. He died in December, 1760, and the loss of this impartial, high-minded magistrate, at that critical period, 
was rightly esteemed a great public misfortune. 
~^ + Mr. Tratt affords a striking example how strong talent and energy of mind may raise one from a humble lot, and make 
evon calamity the foundation of prosperity. He was bred a mechanic, and met with a serious injury that prevented him 
from pursuing his occupatiou. He turned his mind to study, entered Harvard College, and took his first degree in 1737. 
He studied law, and rose to great distinction at the bar. Through the friendship of Governor Pownall, he was made Chief 
Justice of New York, in 1761. A cause of great difficulty, which had been many years depending, being brought up soon 
after he had taken his seat, gave him an opportunity of displaying the depth and acuteness of his intellect, and the sound- 
ness of his judgment, and secured for him at once the public respect and confidence. He wrote some political essays on 
the topics of the day; and a few remaining fragments in verse of his composition, a specimen of which is preserved in 
Knapp's Biography, prove that he possessed both taste and talent for poetry. He presided over the Courts of New York 
but two years, dying in 1763, at the age of fifty-five.— ruder. 

J Mr. Thacher was at that time one of the heads of the bar in Boston ; was a fine scholar, and possessed of much general 
learning. He received his degree at Harvard College, in 173S. Unassuming and affable in his deportment, of strict moral- 
ity, punctual in his religious duties, and with sectarian attachments, that made him, like a large majority of the people 
around him, look with jealousy and enmity on the meditated encroachments of the English hierarchy; he was in all these 
respects fitted to be popular. To these qualities he joined the purest and most ardent patriotism, and a quick perception 
of those in power. His opposition gave the government great uneasiness; his disposition and habits secured public confi- 
dence ; his moderation, learning, and ability, gave weight to His opinions, and prevented him from being considered as 
under the influence of others. John Adams s.ays, the advocates of the Crown "hated hiai worse than they did James Otis 
or Samuel Adams." Thacher published some essays on the subject of an alteration proposed by Lieutenant Governor 
Hutchinson relative to the value of gold and silver; also, a pamphlet against the policy of the Navigaticp Act, and the 
Acts of Trade, entitled, " The Sentiments of a Bi-itUh Ame'-ican.'" He died, of a pulmonary complaint, in 1765. 

§ Mr. Gridley was one of the principal lawyers and civilians of this time. He took his degree at Harvard College, In 
1T25. He came to Boston as an assistant in the Grammar School, for some time preached occasionally ; but turning his at- 
tention to the law, he soon rose to distinction In the profession. He set on foot a weekly journal, in 1732, called the Ee 
Acarsal, in which he wrote on various literary as well as political subjects; but it lasted only one year. He was a Whig In 
politics, and as a representative from Brookline, in the General Court, opposed the measnrea of the ministry. He was 


of fire ; witli a promptitude of classical allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of 
historical e^ ents and dates, a profusion of legal authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into 
futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous eloquence, lie hurried away all before him. American 
independence was then and there born. The seeds of patriots and heroes, to defend the Non 
sine Diis animosus in/am* to defend the vigorous youth, were then and there sown. Every 
man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms 
against Writs of Assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition 
to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born. 
In fifteen years, i. e. in 1776, he grew up to manhood and declared himself free." The princi- 
ples Otis educed and elaborated with such profound learning, humor and pathos, could not be 
subverted, and the court at the close of his speech adjourned for consideration : Chief Justice 
Hutchinson, at the end of the term, giving the opinion, " The Court has considered the subject 
of "Writs of Assistance, and can see no foundation for such a writ; but as the practice in 
England is not known, it has been thought best to continue the question to the nest term, that 
in the mean time opportunity may be given to know the result." t 

It was on the occasion of this masterly performance, when Otis stood forth as the bold and 
brilliant advocate of colonial rights, that he became famous. Although he had never before 
interfered in public affairs, his exertions on this single occasion secured him a commanding 
popularity with the friends of their country, and the terror and vengeance of her enemies ; 
neither of which ever deserted him. In May, 1761, he was chosen to the Legislature, in which 
assembly he wielded immense power. His superiority as a legislator was everywhere acknowl- 
edged, and in all important measures he was foremost. In 1762 he published the "Vindication 
of the Conduct of the House of Eepresentatives of the Province of Massachusetts Bay," &c., a 
work in which many volumes are concentrated. "Look over the Declarations of Eights and 
Wrongs issued by Congress in 1774," says John Adams. "Look into the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, in 1776. Look into the Writings of Dr. Price and Dr. Priestly. Look into all the 
French Constitutions of government; and to cap the climax, look into Mr. Thomas Paine's 
Common Sense, Crisis, and Eights of Man ; and what can you find that is not to be found in 
solid substance in this Vindication of the House of Eepresentatives ? " Mr. Otis was a member 
of the Congress which met at New York in the month of October in the year 1765. During 
the same year he published " A Vindication of the British Colonies," &c. Also, "Considera- 
tions on behalf of the Colonists, in a Letter to a Noble Lord." It was written with spirit and 
ability, and was the last work that appeai-ed from his pen. On the return of Otis to the colo- 
nial legislature of 1766, he was appointed chairman of a committee to reply to a message of 
Governor Bernard, in which that officer had shown some resentment. In the answer to the 
message they say, " It appears to us an undue exercise of the prerogative to lay us under the 
necessity either of silence, or of being thought out of season in making a reply. Your Excel- 
lency says, that these times have been more difficult than they need have been ; which is also 
the opinion of this House. Those who have made them so, have reason to regret the injury 
they have done to a sincere and honest people." It need not be said that Otis had neither 
respect nor fear of the royal governor. The same year Mr. Otis brought before the legislature 
a proposition " for. opening a gallery of the House for such as wished to hear the debates ; 
thus aiding in the establishment of one of the most important principles of representative gov- 
ernment, the publicity of legislative proceedings. Until this time it had been customary for the 
legislative assemblies to sit with closed doors, and it was with gi-eat reluctance that the change 
was made. 

During the summer of the year 1767, Parliament passed an act " to raise a revenue in 

however, appointed Attorney-General, when Mr. Trowbridge was promoted to the Bench, and In that capacity was obliged 
to defend the famous " Writs of Assistance," in which he was opposed and wholly confuted by his pnpil, Otis. Ho was a 
Colonel of the Militia, and Grand Master of the Free Masons, and belonged to some other charitable associations. IIu died 
in Boston, September Tth, n67.—£liot 

* This motto was furnished by Sir 'William Jones for the Alliance Medal, struck in Paris to commemorate the alUanoa 
between France and America. 

+ "When the next term came," says Mr. Adams, "no Judgment was pronounced,— nothing was said about Writs ol 



America," imposing duties on glass, paper, painters' colors and tea ; and by virtue of another 
act, the king was empowered to put the customs and other duties in America, and the execution 
of the laws relating to trade in the colonies, under the management of resident commissioners. 
The news of the passage of these bills revived the popular excitement which arose at the time 
of the Stamp Act, which had died away on its repeal. A town meeting was held in Boston, at 
which Mr. Otis appeared, " contrary to his usual practice, as the adviser of cautious and mode- 
rate proceedings," for which moderation he was charged with being a friend to the act for 
appointing commissioners. To this charge he replied, "If the name and office of Commissioner 
General imports no more than that of a Surveyor General, no man of sense will contend about 
a name. The tax — the tax is undoubtedly, at present, the apparent matter of grievance." At 
this meeting resolutions were passed to encourage the manufactures of the province, and to 
abstain from the purchase of articles on which duties were imposed, thus deceiving Bernard, 
the governor, by the quiet character of their proceedings, which were represented as "the last 
efforts of an expiring faction," but at the same time becoming more firm and decided. 

To all the movements of the king and ministry to abridge the liberties of the colonists, Otis 
maintained a decided and fearless opposition. Bold and daring in the expression of his prin- 
ciples and opinions, he sometimes gave utterance to unguarded epithets, but never employed 
his gift of irony and sarcasm in a spirit of hatred towards the masses of mankind. Owing to a 
severe refutation of some strictures upon him, published in the public papers in 1769, he was 
attacked by one John Robinson, a commissioner of the customs, in a coffee-house in Boston, and 
in a general affray was cruelly wounded ; from the effects of which he never recovered. His 
wounds did not prove mortal, but his reason was shattered, and his great usefulness to his coun- 
try destroyed. He gained heavy damages for the assault ; but in an interval of returning reason 
he forgave his destroyer and remitted the judgment. He lived until May 28, 1783. On that 
day, during a heavy thunder-storm, he, with a greater part of the family with whom he resided, 
had entered the house to wait until the shower should have passed. Otis, with his cane in one 
hand, stood against the part of a door which opened into the front entry, and was in the act of 
telling the assembled group a story, when an explosion took place, which seemed to shake the 
solid earth, and he fell without a struggle, or an utterance, instantaneously dead. He had often 
expressed a desire to die as he did. In one of his lucid intervals, a few weeks previous to his 
death, he said to his sister: "I hope, when God Almighty, in his righteous providence, shall 
take me out of time into eternity, that it will be by a flash of lightning." He lived to see the 
Independence of the Colonies, but never fully to enjoy it. 

" When the glorious work which he begun, 

Shall stand the most complete beneath the sun ; 

When peace shall come to crown the grand design, 

His eyes shall live to see the work Divine — 

The heavens shall then his generous ' spirit claim 

In storms as loud as his immortal fame ! ' 

Hark ! the deep thunders echo round the skies ! 

On wings of flame the eternal errand flies ; 

One chosen, charitable bolt is sped — 

And Otis mingles with the glorious dead." — Dawes. 


Mat it Please totjh Honoes : I was de- 
sired by one of the Court to look into the 
books, and consider the question now before 
them concerning Writs of Assistance. I have 
accordingly considered it, and now appear 
not only in obedience to your order, but like- 
wise in behalf of the inhabitants of this town, 
who have presented another petition, and out 
of regard to the liberties of the subject. And 
I take this opportunity to declare, that whether 

under a fee or not, (for in such a cause as this 1 
despise a fee,) I wiU to my dying day oppose 
with all the powers and faculties God has given 
me, aU such instruments of slavery on the one 
hand, and villany on the other, as this writ of 
assistance is. 

It appears to me the worst instrument of 
arbitrary power, the most destructive of English 
liberty and the fundamental principles of law, 
that ever was found in an English law book. I 


mnst therefore beg your honors' patience and 
attention to the whole range of an argument, 
that may perhaps appear nncommon in many 
things, as ■well as to points of learning that are 
more remote and unusual : that the whole ten- 
dency of my design may the more easily be per- 
ceived, the conclusions better descend, and the 
force of them be better felt. I shall not think 
much of my pains- in this cause, as I engaged in 
it from principle. I was solicited to argue this 
cause as Advocate General ; and because I would 
not, I have been charged with desertion from 
my office.* To this charge I can give a very 
sufficient answer. I renounced that office, and 
I argue this cause from the same principle ; and 
I argue it with the greater pleasure, as it is in 
favor of British liberty, at a time when we hear 
the greatest monarch upon earth declaring from 
his throne that he glories in the name of Briton, 
and that the privileges of his people are dearer 
to him than the most valuable prerogatives of 
his crown ; and as it is in opposition to a kind 
of power, the exercise of which in former 
periods of history, cost one King of England 
his head, and another his throne. I have taken 
more pains in this cause than I ever will take 
again, although my engaging in this and another 
popular cause has raised much resentment. But 
I think I can sincerely declare, that I cheerfully 
submit myself to every odious name for con- 
science' sake ; and from my soul I despise all 
those, whose guilt, malice, or folly has made 
them my foes. Let the consequences be what 
they will, I am determined to proceed. The 
only principles of public conduct, that are wor- 
thy of a gentleman or a man, are to sacrifice 
estate, ease, health, and applause, and even 
life, to the sacred calls of his country. 

These manly sentiments, in private life, 
make the good citizen ; in public life, the 
patriot and the hero. I do not say, that when 
Ijrought to the test, I shall be invincible. I 
pray God I may never be brought to the mel- 
ancholy trial, but if ever I should, it will be 
then known how far I can reduce to practice 
principles which I know to be founded in 
truth. In the mean time I will proceed to the 
subject of this writ. 

Your honors will find in the old books con- 
cerning the office of a justice of the peace, pre- 
cedents of general warrants to search suspected 
houses. But in more modern books, you will 
find only special warrants to search such and 
such houses, specially named, in which the 
complainant has before sworn that he suspects 
his goods are concealed ; and will find it ad- 
judged, that special warrants only are legal. 
In the same manner I rely on it, that the writ 
prayed for in this petition, being general, is 
illegal. It is a power that places the liberty 
of every man in the hands of every petty officer. 

* Otis had lately been occupying the office of Advocate 
General of the Crown, and had resigned because "he be- 
lieved these writs to be illegal and tyrannical," and would 
not prostitute his office to the support of an oppressive act. 

I say I admit that special -writa of assistance, to 
search special places, may be granted to certain 
persons on oath ; but I deny that the writ now 
prayed for can be granted, for I beg leave to 
make some observations on the writ itself, be- 
fore I proceed to other acts of Parliament. In 
the first place, the writ is universal, being 
directed " to all and singular justices, sherifis, 
constables, and all other officers and subjects ; " 
so that, in short, it is directed to every subject 
in the king's dominions. Every one with this 
writ may be a tyrant ; if this commission be 
legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also, may con- 
trol, imprison, or murder any one within the 
realm. In the next place, it is perpetual, there 
is no retnrn. A man is accountable to no per- 
son for his doings. Every man may reign 
secure in his petty tyranny, and spread terror 
and desolation around him, until the trump of 
the archangel shall excite difierent emotions in 
his soul. In the third place, a person with this 
writ, in the daytime, may enter all houses, 
shops, &c., at will, and command all to assist 
him. Fourthly, by this writ, not only depu- 
ties, &c., but even their menial servants, are 
allowed to lord it over us. What is this but to 
have the curse of Canaan with a witness on us ; 
to be the servant of servants, the most despica- 
ble of God's creation ? Now one of the most 
essential branches of English liberty is the free- 
dom of one's house. A man's house is his 
castle ; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well 
guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, 
if it should be declared legal, would totally an- 
nihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers 
may enter our houses when they please ; we 
are commanded to permit their entry. Their 
menial servants may enter, may break locks, 
bars, and every thing in their way : and whe- 
ther they break through malice or revenge, no 
man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion 
without oath is sufficient. This wanton exer- 
cise of this power is not a chimerical suggestion 
of a heated brain. I will mention some facts. 
Mr. Pew had one of these writs, and when Mr. 
Ware succeeded him, he endorsed this writ over 
to Mr. Ware : so that, these writs are negotia- 
ble from one officer to another ; and so your 
honors have no opportunity of judging the 
persons to whom this vast power is delegated. 
Another instance is this : Mr. Justice Walley 
had called this same Mr. Ware before him, by a 
constable, to answer for a breach of tlie sab- 
bath-day acts, or that of profane swearing. As 
soon as he had finished, Mr. Ware asked him 
if he had done. He replied. Yes. Well then, 
said Mr. Ware, I will show you a little of my 
power. I command you to permit me to search 
your house for uncustomed goods; and went 
on to search the house from the garret to the 
cellar ; and then served the constable in the 
same manner ! But to show another absurdity 
in this writ, if it should be established, I insist 
upon it every person, by the 14th Charles Se- 
cond, has this power as well as the custom- 
house oncers. The words are, "it shall be 



lawful for any person or persons authorized, 
&c." What a scene does this open! Every- 
man prompted by revenge, ill-humor, or wan- 
tonness to inspect the inside of his neighbor's 
house, may get a writ of assistance. Others 
will ask it from self-defence ; one arbitrary 
exertion will provoke another, until society be 
involved in tumult and in blood. 

The summary of this speech can be best, and 
can now be only given in the words of John 
Adams, who divides it into five parts : 

1. "He began with an exordium, containing 
an apology for his resignation of the ofiice of 
Advocate General in the Court of Admiralty ; and 
for his appearance in that cause in opposition 
to the Crown, and in favor of the town of Bos- 
ton, and the merchants of Boston and Salem. 

2. "A dissertation on the rights of man in a 
state of nature. He asserted that every man, 
merely natural, was an independent sovereign, 
subject to no law but the law written on his 
heart, and revealed to him by his Maker, in the 
constitution of his nature, and the inspiration 
of his understanding and his conscience. His 
right to his life, his liberty, no created being 
could rightfully contest. Nor was his right to 
his property less incontestable. The club that 
he had snapped from a tree, for a staff or for 
defence, was his own. His bow and arrow 
were his own ; if by a pebble he had killed a 
partridge or a squirrel, it was his own. No 
creature, man or beast, had a right to take it 
from him. If he had taken an eel, or a smelt, 
or a sculpion, it was his property. In short, he 
sported upon this topic with so much wit and 
humor, and at the same time with so much in- 
disputable truth and reason, that he was not 
less entertaining than instructive. He asserted 
that these rights were inherent and inalienable. 
That they never could be surrendered or alien- 
ated, but by idiots or madmen, and all the acts 
of idiots and lunatics were void, and not obliga- 
tory, by all the laws of God and man. Nor 
were the poor negroes forgotten. Not a Qua- 
ker in Philadelphia, or Mr. Jefferson in Vir- 
ginia, ever asserted the rights of negroes in 
stronger terms. Young as I was, and ignorant 
as I was, I shuddered at the doctrine he 
taught ; and I have all my life shuddered, and 
still shudder, at the consequences that may be 
drawn from such premises. Shall we say, that 
the rights of masters and servants clash, and 
can be decided only by force ? I adore the idea 
of gradual abolitions! but who shall decide 
how fast or how slowly these abolitions shall 
be made ? 

3. "From individual independence he pro- 
ceeded to association. If it was inconsistent 
with the dignity of human nature to say that 
men were gregarious animals, like wild geese, 
it surely could offend no delicacy to say they 
were social animals by nature ; that there were 
natural sympathies, and above all, the sweet 
attraction of the sexes, which must soon draw 

them together in little groups, and by degrees 
in larger congregations, for mutual assistance 
and defence. And this must have happened 
before any formal covenant, by express words or 
signs, was concluded. When general councils 
and deliberations commenced, the objects could 
be no other than the mutual defence and secu- 
rity of. every individual for his life, his liberty, 
and his property. To suppose them to have 
surrendered these in any other way than by 
equal rules and general consent, was to suppose 
them idiots or madmen, whose acts were never 
binding. To suppose them surprised by fraud, 
or compelled by force into any other compact, 
such fraud and such force could confer no obli- 
gation. Every man had a right to trample it 
under foot whenever he pleased. In short, he 
asserted these rights to be derived only from 
nature, and the author of nature; that they 
were inherent, inalienable, and indefeasible by 
any laws, pacts, contracts, covenants, or stipu- 
lations, which man could devise. 

4. " These principles and these rights were 
wrought into the English constitution, as fun- 
damental laws. And under this head he went 
back to the old Saxon laws, and to Magna 
Charta, and the fifty confirmations of it in Par- 
liament, and the executions ordained against 
the violators of it, and the national vengeance 
which had been taken on them from time to 
time, down to the Jameses and Charleses ; and 
to the position of rights and the bill of rights, 
and the revolution. He asserted, that the se- 
curity of these rights to life, liberty and prop- 
erty, had been the object of all those struggles 
against arbitrary power, temporal and spiritual, 
civil and political, military and ecclesiastical, in 
every age. He asserted, that our ancestors, as 
British subjects, and we, their descendants, as 
British subjects, were entitled to all those 
rights, by the British constitution, as well as 
by the law of nature, and our provincial char- 
acter, as much as any inhabitant of London or 
Bristol, or any part of England ; and were not 
to be cheated out of them by any phantom of 
'virtual representation,' or any other fiction 
of law or politics, or any monkish trick of de- 
ceit and hypocrisy. 

5. "He then examined the acts of trade, one 
by one, and demonstrated, that if they were 
considered as revenue laws, they destroyed aU 
our security of property, liberty, and life, every 
right of nature, and the English constitution, 
and the charter of the province. Here he 
considered the distinction between ' external 
and internal taxes,' at that time a popular and 
commonplace distinction. But he asserted 
that there was no such distinction in theory, 
or upon any principle but 'necessity.' The 
necessity that the commerce of the empire 
should be under one direction, was obvious. 
The Americans had been so sensible of this ne- 
cessity, that they had connived at the distinc- 
tion between external and internal taxes, and 
had submitted to the acts of trade as regula- 
tions of commerce, but never as taxations, or 


revenue laws. Nor had the British govern- 
ment, till now, ever dared to attempt to en- 
force them as taxations or revenue laws. They 
had lain dormant in that character for a cen- 
tury almost. The navigation act he allowed to 
be binding upon us, because we had consented 
to it by our own legislature. Here he gave a 
history of the navigation act of the first of 

Charles II., a plagiarism from Oliver Crom- 
well. This act had lain dormant for fifteen 
years. In 1675, after repeated letters and or- 
ders from the king. Governor Leverett very 
candidly informs his majesty that the law had 
not been executed, because it was thought un- 
constitutional ; Parliament not having authority 
over us." 


I shall always lament that I did not take a 
year or two further for more general inquiries 
in the arts and sciences before I sat down to 
the laborious study of the laws of my country. 
Early and short clerkships and a premature 
rushing into practice, without a competent 
knowledge in the theory of law, have blasted 
the hopes of (and ruined the expectations 
formed by the parents of) most of the students 
in the profession, who have fallen within my ob- 
servation for these ten or fifteen years past. 

I hold it to be of vast importance that a 
young man should be able to make some eclat 
at his opening, which it is in vain to expect from 
one under twenty -five : missing of this is very 
apt to discourage and dispirit him, and what is 
of worse consequence, may prevent the appli- 
cation of clients ever after. It has been ob- 
served before I was born, if a man don't obtain 
a character in any profession soon after his first 
appearance, he hardly will ever obtain one. 
The bulk of mankind, I need not inform you, 
who have conversed with, studied and found 
many of them out, are a gaping crew, and like 
little children and all other gazing creatures, 
won't look long upon one object which gives 
them pleasure ; much less wiU they seek for en- 
tertainment where they have been twice or 
thrice disappointed. The late eminent Mr. 
John Eeed, who, by some, has been perhaps 
justly esteemed the greatest common lawyer 
this continent ever saw, was, you know, many 
years a clergyman, and had attained the age of 
forty before he began the practice, if not before 

he began the study, of the law. Sir Peter 
King, formerly Lord High Chancellor of Eng- 
land, kept a grocer's shop till he was turned of 
thirty, then fell into an acquaintance with the 
immortal John Locke, who discovered a genius 
in him, advised him to books and assisted in 
his education ; after which he took to the study 
of the common law, and finally attained to the 
highest place to which his royal master could 
advance a lawyer. I think I have been told 
the Lord Chief Justice Pemberton, or some one 
of the Chief Justices of England, was a bankrupt, 
and in the Fleet prison for debt, before he even 
dreamed of being a lawyer. I mention these 
instances, not as arguments to prove it would 
be most eligible to stay till thirty or forty, be- 
fore a man begins the study of a profession he 
is to live by ; but this inference I think very 
fairly follows, that those gentlemen availed 
themselves much of the ripeness of their judg- 
ments when they began this study, and made 
much swifter progress than a young man of 
twenty with all the genius in the world could 
do ; or they would have been approaching su- 
perannuation before they would be equipped 
with a suflicient degree of learning once to 
give hope for the success they found, and then 
such hope would vanish, unless they could get 
a new lease of life and understanding.* 

* This extract is taken from a letter addressed by James 
Otis to his father, in reiference to the legal education of his 
younger brother, Samuel Allyne Otis, who, in later life, be- 
came Secretary of the Senate of the United States. 


Tms distinguished " orator of nature," was born at Studley, in the county of Hanover, and 
Colony of Virginia, His father emigrated to America, from Aberdeen, Scotland, in quest of 
fortune, sometimfi prior to 1730 ; and his mother, who belonged to the family of Winstons, was 
a native of the county in which he was born. On the maternal side, he seems to have belonged 
to an oratorical race. His uncle, William Winston, is said to have been highly gifted with that 
peculiar cast of eloquence for which Mr. Henry became afterwards so justly celebrated. An 
anecdote of this gentleman's rhetorical powers is recorded by the eloquent biographer of Mr. 
Henry. During the French and Indian war, soon after the defeat of the unfortunate Braddock, 
when the militia were marched to the frontiers of Virginia against the enemy, William Win- 
ston was the lieutenant of a company. The men, who were indifferently clothed, without tents, 
and exposed to the rigor and inclemency of the weather, discovered great aversion to the ser- 
vice, and were anxious and even clamorous to return to their families ; when Winston, mounting 
a stump, addressed them with such keenness of invective, and declaimed with such force of 
eloquence, on liberty and patriotism, that when he concluded, the general cry was, " Let us 
march on ; lead us against the enemy ! " and they were now willing and anxious to encounter 
all those difficulties and dangers which, but a few moments before, had almost produced a 

The youth of Mr. Henry gave no presage of his future greatness. He was idle and indolent ; 
playing truant from his school, and spending the greater portion of his time in the sports of the 
field ; often sitting whole days upon the margin of some stream, waiting for a bite, or even " one 
glorious nibble." The lamentable effects of this idleness clung to him through life. After pass- 
ing one year as merchant's clerk, young Henry, at the age of sixteen, was established in trade 
by his father, but " through laziness, the love of music, the charms of the chase, and a readiness 
to trust every one,'''' he soon became bankrupt. One advantage, however, he derived from 
this experiment ; it was in the study of humar, nature. AH his customers underwent his scru- 
tiny, not with reference to their integrity or solvency, but in relation to the structure of their 
minds and opinions. In this school, it is the opinion of his biographer, Mr. Henry was prepared 
for his future life. " For those continual efforts to render himself intelligible to his plain and 
unlettered hearers, on subjects entirely new to them, taught him that clear and simple style 
which forms the best vehicle of thought to a popular assembly ; while his attempts to interest 
and affect them, in order that he might hear from them the echo of nature's voice, instructed 
him in those topics of persuasion by which men are most certainly to be moved, and in the kind 
of imagery and structure of language which were the best fitted to strike and agitate their 

At the early age of eighteen, Mr. Henry was married to Miss Shelton, the daughter of a poor 
but honest farmer in the neighborhood of his birthplace. The young couple settled on a small 
farm, and " with the assistance of one or two slaves, Mr. Henry had to delve the earth for his 
subsistence." His want of agricultural. skill and natural aversion to aU kinds of systematic 
labor, closed his career as a farmer in two years, when he again commenced and again failed in 


-^ ^'^S ir ^ JachruOTh 

II Jt IJ A^ppleton & C* 

patkick: henry, g 

mercantile pursuits. Unsuccessful in every thing he had attempted to procure himself and his 
family subsistence, he, as a last effort, determined to make a trial of the law. To the study of 
that profession, " which is said to require the lucubrations of twenty years, Mr. Henry devoted 
not more than six weeks ; " and at the age of twenty-four he was admitted to the bar. His 
practice for the first three or four years yielded him but a very scanty return, during which time 
he performed the duties of an assistant to his father-in-law at a country inn. 

The celebrated controversy,* in 1763, between the clergy and the legislature of Virginia, 
touching the stipend of the former, was the occasion on which Mr. Henry's genius first broke 
forth. "On this first trial of his strength," says Mr. Wirt, "he rose very awkwardly, and fal- 
tered much in his exordium. The people hung their heads at so unpromising a commencement ; 
the clergy were observed to exchange sly looks with each other ; and his father is described as 
having almost sunk with confusion from his seat. But these feelings were of short duration, 
and soon gave place to others, of a very different character. For, now were these wonderful 
faculties which he possessed for the first time developed; and now was first witnessed that 
mysterious and almost supernatural transformation of appearance, which the fire of his own elo- 
quence never failed to work in him. For, as his mind rolled along and began to glow from its 
own action, all the exunios of the clown seemed to shed themselves spontaneously. His attitude, 
by degrees, became erect and lofty. The spirit of his genius awakened all his features. His 
countenance shone with a nobleness and grandeur which it had never before exhibited. There 
was a lightning in his eyes which seemed to rive the spectator. His action became graceful, 
bold, and commanding ; and in the tones of his voice, but more especially in his emphasis, there 
was a peculiar charm, a magic, of which any one who ever heard him will speak as soon as he 
is named, but of which no one can give any adequate description. They can only say that it 
struck upon the ear and upon the heart, in a manner which language cannot tell. Add to aU 
these his wonder-working fancy, and the peculiar phraseology in which he clothed its images; 
for he painted to the heart with a force that almost petrified it. In the language of those who 
heard him on this occasion, ' he made their blood run cold, and their hair to rise on end.' 

" It will not be difficult for any one who ever heard this most extraordinary man, to believe the 
whole account of this transaction which is given by his surviving hearers ; and from their ac- 
count, the court-house of Hanover County must have exhibited, on this occasion, a scene as pic- 
turesque as has ever been witnessed in real life. They say that the people, whose countenance 
had fallen as he arose, had heard but a very few sentences before they began to look up ; then 
to look at each other with surprise, as if doubting the evidence of their own senses ; then, at- 
tracted by some strong gesture, struck by some majestic attitude, fascinated by the spell of his 
eye, the charm of his emphasis, and the varied and commanding expression of his countenance, 
they could look away no more. In less than twenty minutes they might be seen in every part 
of the house, on every bench, in every window, stooping forward from their stands, in death- 
like silence ; their features fixed in amazement and awe ; aU their senses listening and riveted 
upon the speaker, as if to catch the last strain of some heavenly visitant. The mockery of the 
clergy was soon turned into alarm ; their triumph into confusion and despair ; and at one burst 
of his rapid and overwhelming invective, they fled from the bench in precipitation and terror. 
As for the father, such was his surprise, such his amazement, such his rapture, that, forgetting 
where he was, and the character which he was filling, tears of ecstasy streamed down his cheeks, 
without the power or inclination to repress them. The jury seem to have been completely be- 
wildered ; for, thoughtless even of the admitted right of the plaintiff, they had scarcely left the 
bar when they returned with a verdict of one penny damages. A motion was made for a new 
trial ; but the court, too, had now lost the equipoise of their judgment, and overruled the motion 
by a unanimous vote. The verdict and judgment overruling the motion, were followed by re- 
doubled acclamations from within and without the house. The people, who had with difficulty 
kept their hands off their champion, from the moment of closing his harangue, no sooner saw 
'the fate of the cause finally sealed, than they seized him at the bar, and in spite of his own ex- 
ertions, and the continued cry of ' order ' from the sheriffs and the court, they bore him out of 

♦ The points in ttia controversy are lucidly laid down in Wirt's Life of Henry. 


the coTirt-liouse, and raising him on their shoulders, carried him about the yard, in a kind of 
electioneering triumph." 

His success in the "parson's cause" introduced him at once to an extensive practice; but he 
never could confine himself to the arduous studies necessary for a thorough knowledge of the 
law: the consequence was, on questions merely legal his inferiors in talents frequently em- 
barrassed him, and he was required to use all the resources of his master-mind to maintain the 
position he had reached. In 1765, as a member of the House of Burgesses, Mr. Henry in- 
troduced his resolutions against the Stamp Act, which proved the opening of the American 
Revolution in the colony of Virginia. It was in the midst of the debate upon those resolutions, 
that he " exclaimed, in a voice of thunder and with the look of a god, ' Csesar had his Brutus — 
Charles the First his Cromwell — and George the Third — ('Treason!' cried the Speaker: 
' treason ! treason ! ' echoed from every part of the house. Henry faltered not for an instant, but 
rising to a loftier attitude, and fixing on the Speaker an eye of the most determined fire, finished 
his sentence with the firmest emphasis) — may profit hy their example. If this be treason, make 
the most of it." * After passing several years successfully upon the legislative floor, Mr. Henry 
returned to the practice of his profession. 

On the 4th of September, 17T4, the first Congress met in Carpenter's Hall, at Philadelphia. 
This assembly was composed of the most eminent men of the several colonies, on the wisdom 
of whose councils was staked the liberties of the colonists and their posterity. The first meeting 
is described as "awfully solemn. The object which had called them together was of incal- 
culable magnitude." After the organization, in the midst of a deep and death-like silence, every 
member reluctant to open a business so fearfully momentous, " Mr. Henry rose slowly, as if 
borne down by the weight of the subject, and, after faltering, according to his habit, through a 
most impressive exordium, he launched gradually into a recital of the colonial wrongs. Eising, 
as he advanced, with the grandeur of his subject, and glowing at length with all the majesty 
and expectation of the occasion, his speech seemed more than that of mortal man. There was 
no rant, no rhapsody, no labor of the understanding, no straining of the voice, no confusion of 
the utterance. His countenance was erect, his eye steady, his action noble, his enunciation clear 
and firm, his mind poised on its centre, his views of his subject comprehensive and great, and 
his imagination corruscating with a magnificence and a variety which struck even that assembly 
with amazement and awe. He sat down amid murmurs of astonishment and applause ; and as 
he had been before proclaimed the greatest orator of Virginia, he was now, on every hand, 
admitted to be the first orator of America." No report of this speech has been preserved. 
That Congress adjourned in October, and Mr. Henry returned to his home. On the 20th of 
March following (1775), the Virginia Convention, which had met the previous year at "Williams- 
bnrgh, then the capital of the State, convened at Eichmond. Of this body Mr. Henry was a 
member. Although the colonies were then laboring under severe grievances, and at the same 
time were insisting with great firmness upon their constitutional rights, yet they gave the most 
explicit and solemn pledge of their faith and true allegiance to His Majesty King George the 
Third, avowed to support him with their lives and fortunes, and were ardent in their wishes for 
a return of that friendly intercourse from which the colonies had derived so much benefit. 
These were the sentiments held by those eminent statesmen and patriots on the opening of that 
convention ; but with Mr. Henry it was different. In his judgment, all hopes of a reconciliation 
were gone. Firm in this opinion, he introduced his celebrated resolutions advocating prepara- 
tion for a military defence of the colony. Those resolutions he sustained in a powerful speech, 
and they were adopted ; after which a committee, of which Mr. Henry and George Washington 
were members, was appointed to prepare and report a plan to carry into effect the meaning of 
the resolutions. After the report was made and the plan adopted, the convention adjourned. 

On the 20th of April, 1775, in the dead of the night. Lord Dunmore sent one of his naval 
captains, with a body of marines, into the town of "Williamsburgh, carried off twenty barrels of 

* A very curious parallel to this scene occurred In the Legislature of Massachusetts, three years prior to this, on the 
occasion of the presentation of Otls's remonstrance against the governor and council's mating or increasing estahlishments 
without the consent of the House. A thrilling account of those proceedings is given in Tudor's Life of James Otis. 


powder from the public magazine, and placed them on board the armed schooner Magdalen, 
lying at anchor in James Eiver. The people of the town on learning of the affair early the next 
morning, became highly exasperated ; a considerable body of them taking up arms, determined 
to compel a restoration of the powder. The council convened, and addressed a letter to Lord 
Dunmore, asking for its return ; but it was not until the 2d day of May, when Mr. Henry, hav- 
ing convened the Independent company of Hanover, by request, addressed them, and being 
appointed their leader, marched against his lordship, and obtained " three hundred and thirty 
pounds," the estimated value of the powder. " Thus, the same man, whose genius had in the 
year 1765 given the first political impulse to the Revolution, had now the additional honor of 
heading the first military movement in Virginia, in support of the same cause." On the meet- 
ing of the Virginia convention in 1776, after the declaration of rights was published, and a plan 
of government established, Mr. Henry was elected governor of the colony. His career in this 
ofiBce is not marked by any extraordinary operations of his own. Lord Dunmore had evacuated 
the territory of the colony, and the military operations against the British Crown, which had 
been carried on during the previous year, were brought to a close. In 1777, and again in 1778, 
Mr. Henry was re-elected to the office of governor ; declining a third re-election in 1779, which 
had been tendered him by the Assembly. 

The first wife of Mr. Henry having died in the year 1775, he sold the farm on which he had 
been residing in Hanover county, and purchased several thousand acres of valuable land in the 
county of Henry ; a county which had been erected during his administration as governor ; 
and which had taken its name from him, as did afterwards its neighboring county of Patrick. 
In 1777 he married Dorothea, the daughter of Mr. Nathaniel W. Dandridge, with whom he retired 
to his new estate ; and there resumed the practice of the law, confining himself mainly to the duties 
of counsellor and advocate, and leaving the technical duties to the care of his junior associates. 
Shortly after the termination of Mr. Henry's office as governor, he was elected to the State 
Assembly, in which body he remained until the close of his active life ; taking a prominent part 
in its proceedings, and distinguishing himself by his liberality of feeling and soundness of judg- 
ment, not less than by the superiority of his powers in debate. On the close of the Revolution, 
he proposed in the Assembly, that the loyalists who had left the State during the war, should 
be permitted to return. This proposition was resisted, but through the influence of Mr. Henry's 
" overwhelming eloquence," was finally adopted. In the same high-toned spirit he supported 
and carried, although vigorously opposed, a proposal for removing the restraints upon British 
commerce. " Why should we fetter commerce ? " said he ; "a man in chains droops and bows 
to the earth ; his spirits are broken ; but let him twist the fetters from his legs and he will 
stand upright. Fetter not Commerce, Sir ; let her be as free as air. She will range the whole 
creation, and return on the wings of the four winds of heaven to bless the land with plenty." 

In the year 1784, Mr. Henry introduced into the Assembly, a " bill for the encouragement 
of marriages with the Indians." The frontier settlements had been subject to the continual 
depredations of the Indians. Treaties were of no avail ; and in this bill, Mr. Henry suggested, 
as a means to prevent these troubles, intermarriages of the whites and Indians ; and held out 
pecuniary bounty, to be repeated at the birth of every child of such marriages ; exemption from 
taxes, and the free use of an educational institution, to be established at the expense of the 
State. This bill was rejected. In November of the same year, Mr. Henry was again elected 
Governor of Virginia ; in which oflSce he remained until 1786, when he was compelled by 
poverty to resign his office, and again return to the practice of the law. However, he did not 
remain long out of public life. In 1788 he was a member of the convention of Virginia, which 
adopted the new federal constitution. In this Assembly he opposed the adoption ; because, he 
contended, it consolidated the States into one government, thereby destroying their individual 
sovereignty. His speeches on this occasion surpassed all his former efforts ; and they operated 
so powerfully that but a small majority voted for the new constitution. 

Declining a re-election to the Assembly in 1791, Mr. Henry retired from public life. Four 
years after President "Washington offered him the important station of Secretary of State. This 
!ie declined, preferring to remain in retirement. Again, in 1796, he was elected Governor of 


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 Ee- 
volution, 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 Jis 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 pro- 
nounce upon the validity of federal laws, had gone out of her jurisdiction in a manner not war- 
ranted 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 ; civU war, foreign 
alliances ; and that foreign alliances must necessarily end in subjugation to the powers called ui. 
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: ^youdare not do it: in such a parricidal attempt, the steel would drop 
from your nerveless 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 

" 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, with- 
out provocation. Wait at least until some infringement is made upon your rights, and which 
cannot otherwise be redressed ; for if ever you recur to another change, you may bid adieu for 
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 pre- 
serve our strength for the French, the English, the Germans, or whoever else shall dare to in- 
vade 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 jeal- 
ousies which had been fomented, in the State legislature ; and he fervently prayed, if U was 



deemed unworthy to effect it, that it might be reserved to some other aad 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 gra- 
dually 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 Preamble and the two first sections of 
the first article of the Constitution being under 
consideration, Mr. Henry thus addressed the 
convention 4 

Mr. Chaiemah : The public mind, as well as 
my own, is extremely uneasy at the proposed 
change of government. Give me leave to form 
one of the number of those, who wish to be 
thoroughly acquainted with the reasons of this 
perilous and uneasy situation, and why we are 
brought hither to decide on this great national 
question. I consider myself as the servant of 
the people of this commonwealth, as a sentinel 
over their rights, liberty, and happiness. I 
represent their feelings when I say, that they 
are exceedingly uneasy, being brought from 
that state of full security, which they enjoy, to 

* Experience had taught Mr. Henry that in opposing tho 
adoption of the constitution, he had mistaken the source of 
public danger ; that the power of the states was yet too great, 
in times of discord and war, for the power of the Union. 
The constitution, moreover, was the law of the land, and as 
such, he had sworn to obey it. He had seen it administered 
conscientiously, and for the good of the whole; he had, since 
Its adoption, never leagued himself with the factions which 
embarrassed its operations. With parties, as such, he had 
no connection, and in this crisis he could come forward with 
clean bands tu its support. — Administrations of Washington 
amd Adorns ; Tuckefs Life of Jefferson. 

t So general was the conviction that public welfare re- 
quired a government of more extensive powers than those 
vested in the general government by the articles of confed- 
eration, that in May, 1787, a convention composed of dele- 
gates from all the States in the Union, with the exception of 
Ehode Island, assembled at Philadelphia, to take the subject 
under consideration. This convention continued its sessions 
with closed doors until the seventeenth of the following 
September, when the Federal Constitution was promulgated. 
The convention resolved, "That the constitution be laid be- 
fore the United States, in Congress assembled, and that it is 
the opinion of this convention that it should afterwards be 
submitted to a convention of delegates, chosen in each State 
by the people thereof, for their assent and ratification; " and 
in conformity with this recommendation. Congress, on the 
twenty-eighth of the same month, p.issed a resolution di- 
recting that tho constitution should be submitted to conven- 
tions, to be assembled in the several States of the Union. 
The conventions subsequently assembled, and the expediency 
of adopting the constitution was ably and eloquently dis- 

i This speech was delivered in the Virginia convention, 
on the fourth of June, 1783. 

the present delusive appearance of things. Be- 
fore the meeting of the late Federal convention 
at Philadelphia, a general peace, and an univer- 
sal tranquillity prevailed in this country, and 
the minds of our citizens were at perfect re- 
pose; but since that period, they are exceed- 
ingly uneasy and disquieted. When I wished 
for an appointment to this convention, my mind 
was extremely agitated for the situation of pub- 
lic affairs. I conceive the republic to be in ex- 
treme danger. If our situation be thus uneasy, 
whence has arisen this fearful jeopardy ? It 
arises from this fatal system ; it arises from a 
proposal to cliange our government — a propo- 
sal that goes to the utter annihilation of the 
most solemn engagements of the States — a pro- 
posal of establishing nine States into a confede- 
racy, to the eventual exclusion of four States. 
It goes to the annihilation of those solemn 
treaties we have formed with foreign nations. 
The present circumstances of France, the good 
offices rendered us by that kingdom, require 
our most faithful and most punctual adherence 
to our treaty with her. We are in alliance with 
the Spaniards, the Dutch, the Prussians: those 
treaties bound us as thirteen St.ues, confede- 
rated together. Yet here is a proposal to sever 
that confederacy. Is it possible that we shall 
abandon all our treaties and national engage- 
ments? And for what? I expected to have 
heard the reasons of an event so unexpected to 
my mind, and many others. Was our civil 
polity, or public justice, endangered or sapped ? 
Was the real existence of the country threat- 
ened, or was this preceded by a mournful pro- 
gression of events? This proposal of altering 
our federal government is of a most alarming 
nature : make the best of this new government 
— say it is composed of any thing but inspira- 
tion — you ought to be extremely cautious, 
watchful, jealous of your liberty; for, instead 
of securing your rights, you may lose them for 
ever. If a wrong step be now made, the re- 
public may be lost for ever. If this new govern- 
ment will not come up to the expectation of the 
people, and they should be disappointed, their 
liberty will be lost, and tyranny must and will 
arise. I repeat it again, and I beg gentlemen 
to consider, that a wrong step, made now, wUl 
plunge us into misery, and our republic will be 
lost. It will be necessary for this convention 
to have a faithful historical detail of the facts 
that preceded the session of the federal conven- 



tion, and the reasons that actuated its members 
in proposing an entire alteration of government 
— and to demonstrate the dangers that awaited 
ns. If they were of such awful magnitude as 
to warrant a proposal so extremely perilous as 
this, I must assert that this convention has an 
absolute right to a thorough discovery of every 
circumstance relative to this great event. And 
here I would make this inquiry of those worthy 
characters who composed a part of the late 
federal convention. I am sure they were fully 
impressed with the necessity of forming a great 
consolidated government, instead of a confede- 
ration. That this is a consolidated government 
is demonstrably clear ; and the danger of such 
a government is, to my mind, very striking. I 
have the highest veneration for those gentle- 
men ; but, sir, give me leave to demand, what 
right had they to say, " We, the People ? " My 
political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious so- 
licitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, 
who authorized them to speak the language of, 
"We, the People," instead of We, the States? 
States are the characteristics, and the soul of a 
confederation. If the States be not the agents 
of this compact, it must be one great consoli- 
dated national government of the people of all 
the States. I have the highest respect for those 
gentlemen who formed the convention; and 
were some of them not here, I would express 
some testimonial of esteem for them. America 
had on a former occasion put the utmost confi- 
dence in them; a confidence which was well 
plaped; and I am sure, sir, I would give up 
any thing to them ; I would cheerfully confide 
in them as my representatives. But, sir, on 
this great occasion, I would demand the cause 
of their conduct. Even from that illustrious 
man, who saved us by his valor, I would have 
a reason for his conduct ; that liberty which he 
has given us by his valor, tells me to ask this 
reason, and sure I am, were he here, he would 
give us that reason : but there are other gentle- 
men here, who can give us this information. 
The people gave them no power to use their 
name. That they exceeded their power is per- 
fectly clear. It is not mere curiosity that actu- 
ates me ; I wish to hear the real, actual, exist- 
ing danger, which should lead us to take those 
steps so dangerous in my conception. Disor- 
ders have arisen in other parts of America, but 
here, sir, no dangers, no insurrection or tumult, 
has happened ; every thing has been calm and 
tranquil. But notwithstanding this, we are 
wandering on the great ocean of human aifairs. 
I see no landmark to guide us. We are run- 
ning we know not whither. Difference in 
opinion has gone to a degree of inflammatory 
resentment, in different parts of the country, 
which has been occasioned by this perilous in- 
novation. The federal convention ought to 
have amended the old system; for this purpose 
they were solely delegated: the object of their 
mission extended to no other consideration. 
You must therefore forgive the solicitation of 
one unworthy member, to know what danger 

could have arisen under the present confedera- 
tion, and what are the causes of this proposal 
to change our government. 

This inquiry was answered by an eloquent 
and powerful speech from Mr. Eandolph ; and 
the debate passed into other hands until the 
next day, when Mr. Henry continued : 

Me. Chaieman: I am much obliged to the 
very worthy gentleman* for his encomium. I 
wish I were possessed of talents, or possessed 
of any thing, that might enable me to elucidate 
this great subject. I am not free from suspi- 
cion : I am apt to entertain doubts : I rose yes- 
terday to ask a question, which arose in my 
own mind. When I asked that question, I 
thought the meaning of my interrogation was 
obvious : the fate of this question and of Amer- 
ica, may depend on this. Have they said, We, 
the States ? Have they made a proposal of a 
compact between States? If they had, this 
would be a confederation : it is otherwise most 
clearly a consolidated government. The whole 
question turns, sir, on that poor little thing — 
the expression. We, the People, instead of the 
States of America. I need not take much 
pains to show, that the principles of this sys- 
tem are extremely pernicious, impolitic, and 
dangerous. Is this a monarchy, like England — 
a compact between prince and people; with 
checks on the former to secure the liberty of 
the latter ? Is this a confederacy, like Holland 
— an association of a number of independent 
States, each of which retains its individual sov- 
ereignty ? It is not a democracy, wherein the 
people retain all their rights securely. Had 
these principles been adhered to, we should 
not have been brought to this alarming transi- 
tion, from a confederacy to a consolidated gov- 
ernment. We have no detail of those great 
considerations which, in my opinion, ought to 
have abounded before we should recur to a 
government of this kind. Here is a revolution 
as radical as that which separated us from 
Great Britain. It is as radical, if in this transi- 
tion, our rights and privileges are endangered, 
and the sovereignty of the States relinquished. 
And cannot we plainly see that this is actually 

* General Lee, of Westmoreland, speaking in reference to 
Mr. Ilenry's opening speech, had remarked to the conven- 
tion, " I feel every power of my mind moved by the lan- 
guage of the honorable gentleman yesterday. The echit and 
brilliancy which have distinguished that gentleman, the 
honors witli which he has been dignified, and the brilliant 
talents which he has so ofte.i displayed, have attracted my 
respect and attention. On so important an occasion, and be- 
fore BO respectable a body, I expected a new display of his 
powers of oratory; but, instead of proceeding to investigate 
the merits of the new plan of government, the icorthy char 
ader informs us of horrors which he felt, of apprehensions 
in his mind, which made him tremblingly fearful of the 
fate of the commonwealth. Mr. Chairman, was it proper to 
appeal to the /ear of this House? The question before ns 
belongs to the judgment of this House. I trust he ia come 
to jttdge, and not to alarm." 



the case ? The rights of conscience, trial by 
jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities 
and franchises, all pretensions to human rights 
and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not 
lost, by this change so loudly talked of by 
some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this 
tame relinquishment of rights worthy of free- 
men? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude 
that ought to characterize republicans? It is 
said eight States have adopted this plan. I de- 
clare that if twelve States and a half had adopt- 
ed it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite 
of an erring world, reject it. You are not to 
inquire how your trade may be increased, nor 
how you are to become a great and powerful 
people, but how your liberties can be secured ; 
for liberty ought to be the direct end of your 
government. Having premised these things, I 
shall, with the aid of my judgment and infor- 
mation, which I confess are not extensive, go 
into the discussion of this system more minute- 
ly. Is it necessary for your liberty, that you 
should abandon those great rights by the adop- 
tion of this system ? Is the relinquishment of 
the trial by jury, and the liberty of the press, 
necessary for your liberty ? Will the abandon- 
ment of your most sacred rights, tend to the 
security of your liberty ? Liberty, the greatest 
of all earthly blessings — give us that precious 
jewel, and you may take every thing else. But 
I am fearful I have lived long enough to become 
an old-fashioned fellow. Perhaps an invincible 
attachment to the dearest rights of man, may, 
in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed 
old-fashioned : if so, I am contented to be so. 
I say, the time has been when every pulse of 
my heart beat for American liberty, and which, 
I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of 
every true American. But suspicions have 
gone forth — suspicions of my integrity. It has 
been publicly reported that my professions are 
not real. Twenty-three years ago was I sup- 
posed a traitor to my country : I was then said 
to be a bane of sedition, because I supported 
the rights of my country : I may be thought 
suspicious, when I say our privileges and rights 
are in danger : but, sir, a number of the people 
of this country are weak enough to think these 
things are too true. I am happy to find that 
the gentlemen on the other side, declare they 
are groundless : but, sir, suspicion is a virtue, 
as long as its object is the preservation of the 
public good, and as long as it stays within pro- 
per bounds : should it fall on me, I am content- 
ed : conscious rectitude is a powerful consola- 
tion: I trust there are many who think my 
professions for the public good to be real. Let 
your suspicion look to both sides: there are 
many on the other side, who, possibly, may 
have been persuaded of the necessity of these 
measures, which I conceive to be dangerous to 
your liberty. Guard with jealous attention the 
public liberty. Suspect every one who ap- 
proaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing 
will preserve it, but downright force. When- 
ever you give up that force, you are inevitably 

ruined. I am answered by gentlemen, that 
though I may speak of terrors, yet the fact is, 
that we are surrounded by none of the dangers 
I apprehend. I conceive this new government 
to be one of those dangers : it has produced 
those horrors, which distress many of our best 
citizens. We are come hither to preserve the 
poor commonwealth of Virginia, if it can be 
possibly done : something must be done to pre- 
serve your liberty and mine. The confedera- 
tion, this same despised government, merits, in 
my opinion, the highest encomium : it carried 
us through a long and dangerous war : it ren- 
dered us victorious in that bloody conflict with 
a powerful nation : it has secured us a territory 
greater than any European monarch possesses: 
and shall a government which has been thus 
strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility, 
and abandoned for want of energy ? Consider 
what you are about to do, before you part with 
this government. Take longer time in reckon- 
ing things : revolutions like this have happened 
in almost every country in Europe : similar ex- 
amples are to be found in ancient Greece and 
ancient Kome : instances of the people losing 
their liberty by their own carelessness and the 
ambition of a few. We are cautioned by the 
honorable gentleman who presides, against fac- 
tion and turbulence. I acknowledge that licen- 
tiousness is dangerous, and that it ought to be 
provided against : I acknowledge also the new 
form of government may eftectually prevent 
it : yet, there is another thing it will as eflfect- 
ually do : it will oppress and ruin the people. 
There are sufiicient guards placed against sedi- 
tion and licentiousness: for when power is 
given to this government to suppress these, or, 
for any other purpose, the language it assumes 
is clear, express, and unequivocal; but when 
this constitution speaks of privileges, there is 
an ambiguity, sir, a fatal ambiguity — an ambi- 
guity which is very astonishing. In the clause 
under consideration, there is the strangest lan- 
guage that I can conceive. I mean, when it 
says, that there shall not be more representa- 
tives than one for every 30,000. Now, sir, how 
ea'sy is it to evade this privilege ? " The num- 
ber shall not exceed one for every 30,000." This 
may be satisfied by one representative from 
each State. Let our numbers be ever so 
great, this immense continent may, by this 
artful expression, be reduced to have but thir- 
teen representatives. I confess this construc- 
tion is not natural ; but tlie ambiguity of the 
expression lays a good ground for a quarrel. 
Why was it not clearly and unequivocally ex- 
pressed, that they should be entitled to have 
one for every 30,000? This would have obvi- 
ated all disputes; and was this difiicult to be 
done? What is the inference ? When popula- 
tion increases, and a State shall send represent- 
atives in this proportion, Congress may remand 
them, because the right of liaving one for every 
30,000 is not clearly expressed. This possibility 
of reducing the number to one for each State, 
approximates to probability by that other ex- 



pression, " but each State shall at least have 
one representative." Now is it not clear that, 
from the first expression, the number might be 
reduced so much, that some States should have 
no representative at all, were it not for the in- 
sertion of this last expression ? And as this is 
the only restriction upon them, we may fairly 
conclude that they may restrain the number to 
one from each State. Perhaps the same hor- 
rors may hang over my mind again. I shall be 
told I am continually afraid : but, sir, I have 
strong cause of apprehension. In some parts 
of the plan before you, the great rights of free- 
men are endangered, in other parts absolutely 
taken away. How does your trial by jury 
stand ? In civil cases gone — not sufficiently se- 
cured in criminal — this best privilege is gone. 
But we are told that we need not fear, because 
those in power being our representatives, will 
not abuse the powers we put in their hands. I 
am not well versed in history, but I will sub- 
mit to your recollection, whether liberty has 
been destroyed most often by the licentiousness 
of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers. I 
imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the 
side of tyranny. Happy wiU you be, if you 
miss the fate of those nations, who, omitting to 
resist their oppressors, or negligently suffering 
their liberty to be wrested from them, have 
groaned under intolerable despotism ! Most of 
the human race are now in this deplorable con- 
dition. And those nations who have gone in 
search of grandeur, power and splendor, have 
also fallen a sacrifice, and been the victims of 
their own foUy. While they acquired those 
visionary blessings, they lost their freedom. 
My great objection to this government is, that 
it does not leave us the means of defending our 
rights, or of waging war against tyrants. It 
is urged by some gentlemen, that this new plan 
will bring us an acquisition of strength ; an 
army, and the militia of the States. This is an 
idea extremely ridiculous: gentlemen cannot 
be in earnest. This acquisition will trample on 
your fallen liberty. Let my beloved Americans 
guard against that fatal lethargy that has per- 
vaded the universe. Have we the means of re- 
sisting disciplined armies, when our only defence, 
the militia, is put into the hands of Congress ? 

The honorable gentleman said, that great 
danger would ensue, if the convention rose 
without adopting this system. I ask, where is 
that danger? I see none. Other gentlemen 
have told us, within these walls, that the Union 
is gone — or, that the Union wiU be gone. Is 
not this trifling with the judgment of their 
fellow-citizens ? TUl they tell us the ground of 
their fears, I will consider them as imaginary. 
I rose to make inquiry where those dangers 
were ; they could make no answer : I believe I 
never shall have that answer. Is there a dis- 
position in the people of this country to revolt 
against the dominion of laws ? Has there been 
a single tumult in Virginia? Have not the 
people of Virginia, when laboring under the 
severest pressure of accumulated distresses. 

manifested the most cordial acquiescence in the 
execution of the laws? What could be more 
awful, than their unanimous acquiescence under 
general distresses ? Is there any revolution in 
Virginia? Whither is the spirit of America 
gone ? Whither is the genius of America fled? 
It was but yesterday, when our enemies marched 
in triumph through our country. Yet the peo- 
ple of tlais country could not be appalled by 
their pompous armaments : they stopped their 
career, and victoriously captured them : where 
is the peril now, compared to that ? 

Some minds are agitated by foreign alarms. 
Happily for us, there is no real danger from 
Europe ; that coimtry is engaged in more ardu- 
ous business ; from that quarter, there is no 
cause of fear : you may sleep in safety for ever 
for them. Where is the danger ? If, sir, there 
was any, I would recur to the American spirit 
to defend us — that spirit which has enabled us 
to surmount the greatest difliculties : to that 
illustrious spirit I address my most fervent 
prayer, to prevent our adopting a system de- 
structive to liberty. Let not gentlemen be told, 
that it is not safe to reject this government. 
Wherefore is it not safe ? We are told there 
are dangers ; but those dangers are ideal ; they 
cannot be demonstrated. To encourage us to 
adopt it, they tell us that there is a plain, easy 
way of getting amendments. When I come to 
contemplate this part, I suppose that I am mad, 
or, that my countrymen are so. The way to 
amendment is, in my conception, shut. Let us 
consider this plain, easy way. " The Congress, 
whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem 
it necessary, shall propose amendments to this 
constitution ; or, on the application of the legis- 
latures of two-thirds of the several Slates, shall 
call a convention for proposing amendments, 
which, in either case, shall be valid to all in- 
tents and purposes, as part of this constitution, 
when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths 
of the several States, or by conventions in three- 
fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode 
of ratification may be proposed by the Congress. 
Provided, that no amendment which may be 
made prior to the year 1808, shall, in any man- 
ner, aftect 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 suffi-age in the Senate." Hence it ap- 
pears, 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 ; wiU 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 applica- 



tion 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 amend- 
ments, or, even in such as would bear some 
likeness to one another. For four of the small- 
est 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 amend- 
ments? 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 republi- 
canism ? What, sir, is the genius of democracy ? 
Let me read that clause of the BUI of Eights 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-adrainistration, and that whenever any go- 
vernment shall be found inadequate, or contrary 
to these purposes, a majority of the community 
hath an indubitatile, unalienable and indefeasi- 
ble 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, 
thai 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. If, sir, 
amendments are left to the twentieth, or to the 
tenth part of the people of America, your liberty 
is gone for ever. 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 oppres- 
sions 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 dele- 
gated 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 de- 
fend yourselves, are gone; and you have no 
longer an aristocratical, no longer a democrat- 
ical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution 
in any nation, brought about by the punish- 
ment 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 neighbors cannot as- 
semble 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 execra- 
ble commands of tyranny : and how are you to 
punish them ? Will you order them to be pun- 
ished? Who shall obey these orders? WiU 
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 parts of them aa 



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 dis- 
cipline or arm our militia, they will be useless : 
the states can do neither, this power being ex- 
clusively 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 nuga- 
tory. Our situation wUl be deplorable indeed : 
nor can we ever expect to get this government 
amended ; since I have already shown, that a 
vei-y 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 exam- 
ple, where rulers, overcharged with power, 
willingly let go the oppressed, though solicited 
and requested most earnestly ? The application 
foi* 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, re- 
specting the people's right of being the agents 
In the formation of this government, are not 
accurate, in "iiy humble conception. The dis- 
tinction 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 de- 
puted 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 ag- 
gregate capacity, the proper persons to form a 
confederacy ? This, therefore, ought to depend 
on the consent of the legislatures ; the people 
have never sent delegates to make any proposi- 
tion 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 gov- 
ernment, 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 Hol- 
land, which, according to the substance of my 
notes, he attributes to the present feeble gov- 
ernment. An opinion has gone forth, we find, 
that we are a contemptible people: the time i 
has been when we were thought otherwise. 1 
Under this same despised government, we com- i 
manded the respect of all Europe : wherefore 
are we now reckoned otherwise ? The Ameri- 
can spirit has fled from hence : it has gone to 
regions, where it has never been expected : it 
has gone to the people of France, in search of 
a splendid government — a strong, energetic gov- 
ernment. Shall we imitate the example of thoso 
nations, who have gone from a simple to a 
splendid government ? Are those nations more 
worthy of our imitation ? What can make an 
adequate satisfaction to them for the loss they 
have suffered in attaining such a government-— 
for the loss of their liberty ? If we admit this 
consolidated government, it will be because we 
like a great and splendid one. Some way or 
other we must be a great and mighty empire ; 
we must have an army, and a navy, and a num- 
ber of things. When the American spirit was 
in its youth, the language of America was dif- 
ferent : liberty, sir, was then the primary object. 
We are descended from a people whose govern- 
ment was founded on liberty : our glorious fore- 
fathers, of Great Britain, made liberty the fotm- 
dation of every thing. That country is become 
a great, mighty and splendid nation ; not be- 
cause their government is strong and energetic : 
but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and 
foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from 
our British ancestors ; by that spirit we have 
triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, 
the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and 
chains of consolidation, is about to convert this 
country into a powerful and mighty empire. If 
you make the citizens of this country agree to 
become the subjects of one great consolidated 
empire of America, your government will not 
have sufficient energy to keep them together : 
such a government is incompatible with the ge- 
nius of republicanism. There will be no checks, 
no real balances, in this government. What 
can avail your specious, imaginary balances; 
your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous, 
ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, we 
are not feared by foreigners ; we do not make 
nations tremble. Would this constitute happi- 
ness, or secure liberty ? I trust, sir, our politi- 
cal hemisphere will ever direct its operations to 
the security of those objects. Consider our 
situation, sir; go to the poor man, ask him 
what he does ; he will inform you that he en- 
joys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig- 
tree, with his wife and children around him, in 
peace and security. Go to every other member 
of the society, you will find the same tranquil 
ease and content ; you will find no alarms or 
disturbances ! Why then tell us of dangers, to 
terrify us into the adoption of this new form of 



government ? And yet who knows the dangers 
that this new system may produce ? They are 
out of the sight of the common people : they 
cannot foresee latent consequences. I dread the 
operation of it on the middling and lower classes 
of people : it is for them I fear the adoption of 
this system. I fear I tire the patience of the 
committee, but I beg to be indulged with a few 
more observations. 

When I thus profess myself an advocate for 
the liberty of the people, I shall be told, I am 
a designing man, that I am to be a great man, 
that I am to be a demagogue ; and many similar 
illiberal insinuations will be thrown out ; but, 
sir, conscious rectitude outweighs these things 
with me. I see great jeopardy in this new gov- 
ernment : I see none from our present one. I 
hope some gentleman or other will bring forth, 
in full array, those dangers, if there be any, 
that we may see and touch them ; I have said 
that I thought this a consolidated government : 
I will now prove it. Will the great rights of 
the people be secured by this government? 
Suppose it should prove oppressive, how can it 
be altered? Our bill of rights declares, "That 
a majority of the community hath an indubita- 
ble, unalienable and indefeasible right to reform, 
alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be 
judged most conducive to the public weal." I 
have just proved, that one-tenth, or less, of the 
people of America — a most despicable minority, 
may prevent this reform, or alteration. Sup- 
pose the people of Virginia should wish to alter 
their government, can a majority of them do 
it ? No, because they are connected with other 
men; oi, in other words, consolidated with 
other States. When the people of Virginia, at 
a future day, shall wish to alter their govern- 
ment, though they should be unanimous in this 
desire, yet they may be prevented therefrom by 
a despicable minority at the extremity of the 
United States. The founders of your own con- 
stitution made your government changeable: 
but the power of changing it is gone from you ! 
Whither is it gone ? It is placed in the same 
hands that hold the rights of twelve other 
States ; and those, who hold those rights, have 
right and power to keep them. It is not the 
particular government of Virginia; one of the 
leading features of that government is, that a 
majority can alter it, when necessary for the 
public good. This government is not a Virgin- 
ian, but an American government. Is it not 
therefore a consolidated government? The 
sixth clause of your bill of rights tells you, 
" That elections of members to serve as repre- 
sentatives of the people in Assembly, ought to 
be free, and that all men, having sufficient evi- 
dence of permanent, common interest with, and 
attachment to the community, have the right of 
suffrage, and cannot be taxed or deprived of 
their property, for public uses, without their 
own consent, or that of their representa- 
tives so elected, nor bound by any law to which 
they have not in like manner assented for the 
public good." But what does this constitution 

say ? The clause under consideration gives an 
unlimited and unbounded power of taxation. 
Suppose every delegate from Vu-ginia opposes 
a law laying a tax, what will it avail ? They 
are opposed by a majority ; eleven members can 
destroy their efforts: those feeble ten cannot 
prevent the passing the most oppressive tax- 
law. So that in direct opposition to the spirit 
and express language of your declaration of 
rights, you are taxed, not by your own consent, 
but by people who have no connection with 

The next clause of the bill of rights tells 
you, "That all power of suspending law, or 
the execution of laws, by any authority, with- 
out the consent of the representatives of the 
people, is injurious to their rights, and ought 
not to be exercised." This tells us that there 
can be no suspension of government, or laws, 
without our own consent ; yet this constitution 
can counteract and suspend any of our laws, that 
contravene its oppressive operation; for they 
have the power of direct taxation, which sus- 
pends our bill of rights ; and it is expressly pro- 
vided, that they can make all laws necessary for 
carrying their powers into execution ; and it is 
declared paramount to the laws and constitu- 
tions of the States. Consider how the only re- 
maining defence, we have left, is destroyed in 
this manner. Besides the expenses of main- 
taining the Senate and other House in as much 
splendor as they please, there is to be a great 
and mighty president, with very extensive pow- 
ers — the powers of a king. He is to be sup- 
ported in extravagant magnificence : so that the 
whole of our property may be taken by this 
American government, by laying what taxes 
they please, giving themselves what salaries 
they please, and suspending our laws at their 
pleasure. I might be thought too inquisitive, 
but I believe I should take up but very little of 
your time in enumerating the little power that 
is left to the government of Virginia ; for this 
power is reduced to little or nothing. Their 
garrisons, magazines, arsenals, and forts, which 
will be situated in the strongest places within 
the States — their ten miles square, with all the 
fine ornaments of human life, added to their 
powers, and taken from the States, will reduce 
the power of the latter to nothing. The voice 
of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our 
struggles forfreedom. If our descendants be wor- 
thy the name of Americans, they will preserve, 
and hand down to their latest posterity, the 
transactions of the present times ; and though, 
I confess, my exclamations are not worthy the 
hearing, they will see that I have done my ut- 
most to preserve their liberty : for I never will 
give up the power of direct taxation, but for a 
scourge. I am willing to give it conditionally; 
that is, after non-compliance with requisitions : 
I will do more, sir, and what I hope will con- 
vince the most sceptical man, that I am a lover 
of the American Union ; that in case Virginia 
shall not make punctual payment, the control 
of our custom-houses, and the whole regulation 



of trade, shall be given to Congress ; and that 
Virginia shall depend on Congress even for 
passports, till Virginia shall have paid the last 
farthing, and furnished the last soldier. Nay, 
sir, there is another alternative to which I 
would consent : even that they should strike us 
out of the Union, and take away from us all 
federal privileges, till we comply with federal 
requisitions; but let it depend upon our own 
pleasure to pay our money in the most easy 
manner for our people. Were all the States, 
more terrible than the mother country, to join 
against us, I hope Virginia could defend her- 
self; but, sir, the dissolution of the Union is 
most abhorrent to my mind. The first thing I 
have at heart is American liberty ; the second 
thing is American union ; and I hope the people 
of Virginia will endeavor to preserve that union. 
The increasing population of the Southern 
States, is far greater than that of New England; 
consequently, in a short time, they will be far 
more numerous than the people of that coun- 
try. Consider this, and you will find this State 
more particularly interested to support Ameri- 
can liberty, and not bind our posterity by an 
improvident relinquishment of our rights. I 
would give the best security for a punctual 
compliance with requisitions; but I beseech 
gentlemen, at all hazards, not to grant this un- 
limited power of taxation. 

The honorable gentleman has told us that 
these powers given to Congress, are accompa- 
nied by a judiciary which will correct all. On 
examination, you will find this very judiciary 
oppressively constructed, your jury-trial de- 
stroyed, and the judges dependent on Congress. 
In this scheme of energetic government, the 
people will find two sets of tax-gatherers — the 
State and the federal sheriifs. This, it seems to 
me, will produce such dreadful oppression, as the 
people cannot possibly bear. The federal sheriff 
may commit what oppression, make what dis- 
tresses, he pleases, and ruin you with impunity : 
for how are you to tie his hands ? Have you 
any sufficient, decided means of preventing him 
from sucking your blood by speculations, com- 
missions, and fees? Thus thousands of your 
people will be most shamefully robbed. Our 
State sheriffs, those unfeeling bloodsuckers, 
have, under the watchful eye of our legislature, 
committed the most horrid and barbarous rav- 
ages on our people. It has required the most 
constant vigilance of the legislature to keep 
them from totally ruining the people. A re- 
peated succession of laws has been made, to 
suppress their iniquitous speculations and cruel 
extortions ; and as often has their nefarious in- 
genuity devised methods of evading the force of 
those laws: in the struggle, they have gene- 
rally triumphed over the legislature. It is a 
fact, that lands have sold for five shillings, 
which were worth one hundred pounds. If 
sheriffs, thus immediately under the eye of our 
State legislature and judiciary, have dared to 
commit these outrages, what would they not 
have done if their masters had been at Phila- 

delphia or New York ? If they perpetrate the 
most unwarrantable outrage, on your persons or 
property, you cannot get redress on this side ot 
Philadelphia or New York : and how can you 
get it there ? If your domestic avocations could 
permit you to go thither, there you must appeal 
to judges sworn to support this constitution in 
opposition to that of any State, and who may 
also be inclined to favor their own officers. 
When these harpies are aided by excisemen, 
who may search, at any time, your houses and 
most secret recesses, will the people bear it? 
If you think so, you differ from me. Where I 
thought there was a possibility of such mis- 
chiefs, I would grant power with a niggardly 
hand; and here there is a strong probability 
that these oppressions shall actually happen. I 
may be told, that it is safe to err on that side ; 
because such regulations may be made by Con- 
gress, as shall restrain these officers, and be- 
cause laws are made by our representatives, and 
judged by righteous judges : but, sir, as these 
regulations may be made, so they may not; 
and many reasons there are to induce a belief, 
that they wiU not : I shall therefore be an infi- 
del on that point tUl the day of my death. 

This constitution is said to have beautiful 
features; but when I come to examine these 
features, sir, they appear to me horribly fright- 
ful. Among other deformities, it has an awful 
squinting ; it squints towards monarchy : and 
does not this raise indignation in the breast of 
every true American? Your Pi-esident may 
easily become king. Your Senate is so imper- 
fectly constructed, that your dearest rights may 
be sacrificed by what may be a small minority : 
and a very small minority may continue for ever 
unchangeably this government, although hor- 
ridly defective. Where are your checks in tliis 
government? Your strongholds will be in the 
hands of your enemies. It is on a supposition 
that your American governors shall be honest, 
that all the good qualities of this'' government 
are founded; but its defective and imperfect 
construction, puts it in their power to perpetrate 
the worst of mischiefs, should they be bad 
men. And, sir, would not all the world, from 
the eastern to the western hemisphere, blame 
our distracted folly in resting our rights upon 
the contingency of our rulers being good or 
bad? Show me that age and country where 
the rights and liberties of the people were 
placed on the sole chance of their rulers being 
good men, without a consequent loss of liberty. 
I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has 
ever followed, with absolute certainty, every 
such mad attempt. If your American chief be 
a man of ambition and abilities, how easy will 
it be for him to render himself absolute ! The < 
army is in his hands, and, if he be a man of 
address, it will be attached to him ; and it will , 
be the subject of long meditation with him to 
seize the first auspicious moment to accomplish 
his design. And, sir, will the American spirit 
solely relieve you when this happens ? I would 
rather infinitely, and I am sure most of this 



convention are of the same opinion, have a 
king, lords and commons, than a government 
so replete with such insupportable evils. If we 
make a king, we may prescribe the rules by 
which he shall rule his people, and interpose 
such checks as shall prevent him from infringing 
them: but the president in the field, at the 
bead of his army, can prescribe the terms on 
■which he shall reign master, so far that it will 
puzzle any American ever to get his neck from 
under the galling yoke. I cannot, with patience, 
think of this idea. If ever he violates the laws, 
one of two things will happen : he will come 
at the head of his army to carry every thing 
before him ; or, he will give bail, or do what 
Mr. Chief Justice will order him. If he be 
guilty, will not the recollection of his crimes 
teach him to make one bold push for the 
American throne ? Will not the immense dif- 
ference between being master of every thing, 
and being ignominiously tried and punished, 
powerfully excite him to make this bold push ? 
But, sir, where is the existing force to punish 
him? Can he not, at the head of his army, 
beat down every opposition ? Away with your 
president, we shall have a king: the army will 
salute him monarch ; your militia will leave 
you, and assist in making him king, and fight 
against you : and what have you to oppose tliis 
force? What will then become of you and 
your rights^ Will not absolute despotism 
ensue ? [Here Mr. Henry strongly and pathetic- 
ally expatiated on the probability of the presi- 
dent's enslaving America, and the horrid con- 
sequences that must result.] 

What can be more defective than the clause 
concerning the elections? The control given 
to Congress, over the time, place and manner 
of holding elections, will totally destroy the 
end of suffrage. The elections may be held at 
one place, and the most inconvenient in the 
state ; or they may be at remote distances from 
those who have a right of suflrage : hence, nine 
out of ten must either not vote at all, or vote 
for strangers : for the most influential characters 
will be applied to, to know who are the most 
proper to be chosen. I repeat, that the control 
of Congress over the manner, &c. of electing, 
well warrants this idea. The natural conse- 
quence will be, that this democratic branch 
will possess none of the public confidence : the 
people will be prejudiced against representatives 
chosen in such an injudicious manner. The 
proceedings in the northern conclave will be 
hidden from the yeomanry of this country. We 
are told, that the yeas and nays shall be taken 
and entered on the journals : this, sir, will 
avail nothing: it may be locked up in their 
chests, and concealed for ever from the people ; 
for they are not to publish what parts they 
think require secrecy ; they may think, and 
will think, the whole requires it. 

Another beautiful feature of this constitu- 
tion, is the publication, from time to time, of 
the receipts and expenditures of the public 
money. This expression, from time to time, is 

very indefinite and indeterminate : it may ex- 
tend to a century. Grant that any of them are 
wicked, they may squander the public money 
so as to ruin you, and yet this expression will 
give you no redress. I say, they may ruin 
you ; for where, sir, is the responsibility ? The 
yeas and nays will show you nothing, unless 
they be fools as well as knaves; for, after 
having wickedly trampled on the rights of the 
people, they would act like fools indeed, were 
they to publish and divulge their iniquity, 
when they have it equally in their power to 
suppress and conceal it. Where is the respon- 
sibility — that leading principle in the British 
government? In that government, a punish- 
ment, certain and inevitable, is provided; but 
in this, there is no real, actual punishment for 
the grossest mal-administration. They may go 
without punishment, though they commit the 
most outrageous violation on our immunities. 
That paper may tell me they will be punished. 
I ask, by what law ? They must make the law, 
for there is no existing law to do it. What — 
will they make a law to punish themselves? 
This, sir, is my great objection to the constitu- 
tion, that there is no true responsibility, and 
that the preservation of our liberty depends on 
the single chance of men being virtuous enough 
to make laws to punish themselves. In the 
country from which we are descended, they 
have real, and not imaginary responsibility; 
for there, mal-administration has cost their 
heads to some of the most saucy geniuses that 
ever were. The senate, by making treaties, 
may destroy your liberty and laws, for want of 
responsibility. Two-thirds of those that shall 
happen to be present, can, with the president, 
make treaties, that shall be the supreme law of 
the land : they may make the most ruinous 
treaties, and yet there is no punishment for 
them. Whoever shows me a punishment pro- 
vided for them, will oblige me. So, sir, not- 
withstanding there are eight pillars, they want 
another. Where will they make another? I 
trust, sir, the exclusion of the evils wherewith 
this system is replete, in its present form, will 
be made a condition precedent to its adoption, 
by this or any other state. The transition from 
a general, unqualified admission to oflices, to a 
consolidation of government, seems easy ; for, 
though the American States are dissimilar in 
tlieir structure, this will assimilate them : this, 
sir, is itself a strong consolidating feature, and 
is not one of the least dangerous in that system. 
Nine States are sufficient to establish this gov- 
ernment over those nine. Imagine that nine 
have come into it. Virginia has certain scru- 
ples. Suppose she will consequently refuse to 
join with those States : may not they still con- 
tinue in friendship and union with her? If she 
sends her annual requisitions in dollars, do you 
think their stomiifhs will be so squeamish as 
to refuse her dollars? Will they not accept 
her regiments ? They would intimidate you into 
an inconsiderate adoption, and frighten you 
with ideal evils, and that the Union shall be 


dissolved. 'Tis a bugbear, sir : the fact is, sir, 
that the eight adopting States can hardly stand 
on their own legs. Public fame teUs us, that 
the adopting States have already heart-burnings 
and animosity, and repent their precipitate 
hurry : this, sir, may occasion exceeding great 
mischief. When I reflect on these, and many 
other circumstances, I must think those States 
will be found to be in confederacy with us. If 
we pay our quota of money annually, and fur- 
nish our ratable number of men, when neces- 
sary, I can see no danger from a rejection. 
The history of Switzerland clearly proves, that 
we might be in amicable alliance with those 
States, without adopting this constitution. 
Switzerland is a confederacy, consisting of dis- 
similar governments. Tliis is an example, which 
proves that governments, of dissimilar struc- 
tures, may be confederated. That confederate 
republic has stood upwards of four hundred 
years ; and, although several of the individual 
republics are democratic, and the rest aristo- 
cratic, no evil has resulted from this dissimilar- 
ity, for they have braved all the power of 
France and Germany, during that long period. 
The Swiss spirit, sir, has kept them together; 
they have encountered and overcome immense 
difficulties, with patience and fortitude. In the 
vicinity of powerful and ambitious monarchs, 
they have retained their independence, repub- 
lican simplicity and valor. [Here Mr. Henry 
drew a comparison between the people of that 
country and those of France, and made a quo- 
tation from Addison, illustrating the subject.] 
Look at the peasants of that country, and of 
France, and mark the difference. You will 
find the condition of the former far more desir- 
able and comfortable. No matter whether a 
people be great, splendid and powerful, if they 
enjoy freedom. The Turkish Grand Seignior, 
along-side of our president, would put us to 
disgrace: but we should be abundantly con- 
soled for this disgrace, should our citizen be 
put in contrast with the Turkish slave. 

The most valuable end of government, is the 
liberty of the inhabitants. No possible advan- 
tages can compensate for the loss of this privi- 
lege. Show me the reason why the American 
Union is to be dissolved. Who are those eight 
adopting States? Are they a verse, to give us a 
little time to consider, before we conclude? 
Would such a disposition render a junction with 
them eligible ; or, is it the genius of that kind 
of government, to precipitate a people hastily 
into measures of the utrnost importance, and 
grant no indulgence ? If it be, sir, is it for us 
to accede to such a government ? We have a 
right to have time to consider — we shall there- 
fore insist upon it. Unless the government be 
amended, we can never accept it. The adopt- 
ing States will doubtless accept our money and 
our regiments; and what is to be the conse- 
quence, if we are disunited? I believe that it 
is yet doubtful, whether it is not proper to 
stand by awhile, and see the effect of its adop- 
tion in other States. In forming a government. 

the utmost care should be taken, to prevent ita 
becoming oppressive ; and this government is 
of such an intricate and complicated nature, 
that no man on this earth can know its real 
operation. The other States have no reason to 
think, from the antecedent conduct of Virginia, 
that she has any intention of seceding from the 
Union, or of being less active to support the 
general welfare. Would they not, therefore, 
acquiesce in our taking time to deliberate — de- 
liberate whether the measure be not perDous, 
not only for us, but the adopting States. Per- 
mit me, sir, to say, that a great majority of the 
people, even in the adopting States, are averse 
to this government; I believe I would be right 
to say, that they have been egregiously misled. 
Pennsylvania has, perhaps, been tacked into it. 
If the other States, who have adopted it, have 
not been tricked, still they were too much hur- 
ried into its adoption. There were very re- 
spectable minorities in several of them ; and, if 
reports be true, a clear majority of the people 
are averse to it. If we also accede, and it 
should prove grievous, the peace and prosperity 
of our country, which we all love, will be de- 
stroyed. This government has not the affection 
of the people, at present. Should it be oppres- 
sive, their affection will be totally estranged 
from it — and, sir, you know, that a government 
without their affections can neither be durable 
nor happy. I speak as one poor individual — but, 
when I speak, I speak the language of thousands. 
But, sir, I mean not to breathe the spirit, nor 
utter the language of secession. 

I have trespassed so long on your patience, 
I am really concerned that I have something 
yet to say. The honorable member has said 
that we shall be properly represented : remem- 
ber, sir, that the number of our representatives 
is but ten, whereof six are a majority. Will 
those men be possessed of sufficient informa- 
tion? A particular knowledge of particular 
districts will not suffice. They must be well 
acquainted with agriculture, commerce, and a 
great variety of other matters throughout the 
continent ; they must know not only the actual 
state of nations in Europe and America, the ' 
situation of their farmers, cottagers and me- 
chanics, but also the relative situation and in- 
tercourse of those nations. Virginia is as large 
as England. Our proportion of representatives 
is but ten men. In England they have five 
hundred and thirty. The House of Commons 
in England, numerous as they are, we are told, 
is bribed, and have bartered awaj' the rights of 
their constituents : what then shall become of us? 
Will these few protect our rights ? Will they 
be incorruptible? You say they will be better 
men than the English commoners. I say they 
will be infinitely worse men, because they are 
to be chosen blindfolded : their election (the 
term, as applied to their appointment, is inac- 
curate) will be an involuntary nomination, and 
not a choice. I have, I fear, fatigued the com- 
mittee, yet I have not said the one hundred 
thousandth part of what I have on my mind. 



and wish to impart. Oa this occasion, I con- 
ceived myself bound to attend strictly to the 
interests of the State ; and I thought her dear- 
est rights at stake : having lived so long — been 
so much honored — my efforts, though small, are 
due to my country. I have found my mind 
hurried on from subject to subject, on this very 
great occasion. We have all been out of order, 
from the gentleman who opened to-day, to my- 
self. I did not come prepared to speak on so 
multifarious a subject, in so general a manner. 
I trust you will indulge me another time. Be- 
fore you abandon the present system, I hope 
you will consider not only its defects most ma- 
turely, but likewise those of that which you are 
to substitute for it. May you be fully apprised 
of the dangers of the latter, not by fatal expe- 
rience, but by some abler advocate than I. 

On the seventh of June, Mr. Henry again 
continued his remarks. 

Mb. Chaieman: I have thought, and still 
think, that a full investigation of the actual sit- 
uation of America ought to precede any deci- 
sion on this great and important question. That 
government is no more than a choice among 
evils, is acknowledged by the most intelligent 
among mankind, and has been a standing maxim 
for ages. If it be demonstrated, that the adop- 
tion of the new plan is a little or a trifling evil, 
then, sir, I acknowledge that adoption ought 
to follow : but, sir, if this be a truth, that its 
adoption may entaU misery on the free people 
of this country, I then insist, that rejection 
ought to follow. Gentlemen strongly urge that 
its adoption will be a mighty benefit to us : but, 
sir, I am made of such incredulous materials, 
that assertions and declarations do not satisfy 
me. I must be convinced, sir. I shall retain 
my infidelity on that subject tiU I see our liber- 
ties secured in a manner perfectly satisfactory 
to my understanding. 

There are certain maxims, by which every 
wise and enlightened people will regulate their 
conduct. There are certain political maxims, 
which no free people ought ever to abandon : 
maxims, of which the observance is essential to 
the security of happiness. It is impiously irri- 
tating the avenging hand of Heaven, when a 
people, who are in the full enjoyment of free- 
dom, launch out into the wide ocean of human 
affairs, and desert those maxims which alone 
can preserve liberty. Such maxims, humble as 
they are, are those only which can render a 
nation safe or formidable. Poor little humble 
republican maxims have attracted the admira- 
tion and engaged the attention of the virtu- 
ous and wise in all nations, and have stood 
the shock of ages. We do not now admit 
the validity of maxims which we once de- 
lighted in. We have since adopted maxims 
of a different, but more refined nature; new 
maxims, which tend to the prostration of re- 

We have one, sir, that all men are by nature 

free and independent, and have certain inherent 
rights, of which, when they enter into society, 
they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest 
their posterity. We have a set of maxims of 
the same spirit, which must be beloved by 
every friend to liberty, to virtue, to mankind — 
our bill of rights contains those admirable 

Now, sir, I say, let us consider whether the 
picture given of American aflairs ought to drive 
us from those beloved maxims. 

The honorable gentleman (Mr. Eandolph) 
has said, that it is too late in the (lay for us to 
reject this new plan. That system which was 
once execrated by the honorable member, must 
now be adopted, let its defects be ever so glar- 
ing. That honorable member will not accuse 
me of want of candor, when I cast in my mind 
what he has given the public,* and compare it 
to what has happened since. It seems to me 
very strange and unaccountable, that what was 
the object of his execration should now receive 
his encomiums. Something extraordinary must 
have operated so great a change in his opinion. 
It is too late in the day! Gentlemen must ex- 
cuse me, if they should declare again and 
again, that it is too late, and I should think dif- 
ferently. I never can believe, sir, that it is too 
late to save all that is precious. If it be proper, 
and, independently of every external considera- 
tion, wisely constructed, let us receive it : but, 
sir, shall its adoption by eight States induce us 
to receive it, if it be replete with the most dan- 
gerous defects? They urge, that subsequent 
amendments are safer than previous amend- 
ments, and that they will answer the same ends. 
At present, we have our liberties and our pri- 
vileges in our own hands. Let us not relin- 
quish them. Let us not adopt this system till 
we see them secured. There is some small pos- 
sibility, that should we follow the conduct of 
Massachusetts, amendments might be obtained. 
There is a small possibility of amending any 
government : but, sir, shall wo abandon our in- 
estimable rights, and rest their security on a 
mere possibility? The gentleman fears tlio 
loss of the Union. If eight States have ratified 
it unamended, and we should rashly imitate 
their precipitate example, do we not thereby 
disunite from several other States ? Sliall those 
who have risked their lives for the sake of 
union, be at once thrown out of it? If it be 
amended, every State will accede to it ; but by 
an imprudent adoption in its defective and dan- 
gerous state, a schism must inevitably be the 
consequence ; I can never, therefore, consent 
to hazard our unalienable rights on an absolute 
uncertainty. You are told there is no peace, 
although you fondly flatter yourselves that all 
is peace — no peace ; a general cry and alarm in 
the country ; commerce, riches and wealth van- 
ished ; citizens going to seek comforts in other 
parts of the world ; laws insulted ; many in- 

* Alluding to Mr. Eandolph's letter on that subject, to thff 
Spcokor of the Uouso of Delegates. 



stances of tyrannical legislation. These things, 
sir, are new to me. He has made the discovery. 
As to the administration of justice, I believe 
that failures in commerce, &c., cannot he at- 
tributed to it. My age enables me to recollect 
its progress under the old government. I can 
justify it by saying, that it continues in the 
same manner in this State, as it did under the 
former government. As to other parts of the 
continent, I refer that to other gentlemen. 
As to the ability of those who administer 
it, I believe they would not suifer by a com- 
parison with those who administered it un- 
der the royal authority. Where is the cause 
of complaint if the wealthy go away ? Is this, 
added to the other circumstances, of such 
enormity, and does it bring such danger over 
this commonwealth, as to warrant so impor- 
tant and so awful a change, in so precipitate a 
manner ? As to insults offered to the laws, I 
know of none. In this respect I believe this 
commonwealth would not suffer by a compari- 
son with the former government. The laws 
are as well executed, and as patiently acqui- 
esced in, as they were under the royal admin- 
istration. Compare the situation of the coun- 
try ; compare that of our citizens to what they 
were then, and decide whether persons and 
property are not as safe and secure as they 
were at that time. Is there a man in this com- 
monwealth, whose person can be insulted with 
impunity ? Cannot redress be had liere for per- 
sonal insults or injuries, as well as in any part 
of the world ; as well as in those countries 
where aristocrats and monarchs triumph and 
reign? Is not the protection of property in 
full operation here ? The contrary cannot, 
with truth, be charged on this commonwealth. 
Those severe charges which are exhibited 
against it, appear to me totally groundless. On 
a fair investigation, we shall be found to be 
surrounded by no real dangers. We have the 
animating fortitude and persevering alacrity of 
republican men, to carry us through misfor- 
tunes and calamities. 'Tis the fortune of a re- 
public to be able to withstand the stormy ocean 
of human vicissitudes. I know of no danger 
awaiting us. Public and private security are 
to be found here in the highest degree. Sir, it 
is the fortune of a free people not to be intimi- 
dated by imaginary dangers. Fear is the pas- 
sion of slaves. Our political and natural hem- 
ispheres are now equally tranquil. Let us 
recollect the awful magnitude of the subject of 
our deliberation. Let us consider the latent 
consequences of an erroneous decision, and let 
not our minds be led away by unfair misrepre- 
sentations and uncandid suggestions. There 
have been many instances of uncommon lenity 
and temperance used in the exercise of power 
in this commonwealth. I could call your recol- 
lection to many that happened during the war 
and since, but every gentleman here must be 
apprised of them. 

The honorable member has given you an 
elaborate account of what he judges tyrannical 

legislation, and an ex post facto law in the case 
of Josiah Phillips. He has misrepresented the 
facts. That man was not executed by a tyran- 
nical stroke of power ; nor was he a Socrates. 
He was a fugitive murderer and an outlaw ; a 
man who commanded an infamous banditti, at 
a time when the war was at the most perilous 
stage. He committed the most cruel and shock- 
ing barbarities. He was an enemy to the hu 
man name. Those who declare war against 
the human race, may be struck out of existence 
as soon as they are apprehended. He was not 
executed according to those beautiful legal cere- 
monies which are pointed out by the laws, in 
criminal cases. The enormity of his crimes did 
not entitle him to it. I am truly a friend to 
legal forms and methods ; but, sir, the occasion 
warranted the measure. A pirate, an outlaw, 
or a, common enemy to all mankind, may be 
put to death at any time. It is justified by the 
laws of nature and nations. 

The honorable member lells us then, that 
there are burnings and discontents in the hearts 
of our citizens in general, and that they are 
dissatisfied with their government. I have no 
doubt the honorable member believes this to 
be the case, because he says so. But I have 
the comfortable assurance, that it is a certain 
fact, that it is not so. The middle and lower 
ranks of people have not those illumined ideas 
which the well-born are so happily possessed 
of; they cannot so readily perceive latent ob- 
jects. The microscopic eyes of modern states- 
men can see abundance of defects in old sys- 
tems-; and their illumined imaginations dis- 
cover the necessity of a change. They are 
captivated by the parade of the number ten ; 
the charms of the ten miles square. Sir, I 
fear this change will ultimately lead to our ruin. 
My fears are not the force of imagination ; they 
are but too well founded. I tremble for my 
country : but, sir, I trust, I rely, and I am con- 
tident, that this political speculation has not 
taken so strong a hold of men's minds as some 
would make us believe. 

The dangers which may arise from our geo- 
graphical situation, will be more properly con- 
sidered a while hence. At present, what may 
be surmised on the subject, with respect to the 
adjacent States, is merely visionary. Strength, 
sir, is a relative term. When I reflect on the 
natural force of those nations that might be in- 
duced to attack us, and consider the difficulty 
of the attempt and uncertainty of the success, 
and compare thereto the relative strength of 
our country, I say that we are strong. We 
have no cause to fear from that quarter ; we 
have nothing to dread from our neighboring 
States. The superiority of our cause would 
give us an advantage over them, were they so 
unfriendly or rash as to attack us. As to that 
part of the community which the honorable 
gentleman spoke of as in danger of being sepa- 
rated from us. what incitement or inducement 
could its inhabitants have to wish such an 
event ? It is a matter of doubt whether they 



would derive any advantage to themselves, or 
be any loss to us by such a separation. Time 
has been, and may yet come, when they will 
find it their advantage and true interest to be 
united with us. There is no danger of a dis- 
memberment of our country, unless a constitu- 
tion be adopted which will enable the govern- 
ment to plant enemies on our backs. By the 
confederation, the rights of territory are se- 
cured. No treaty can be made without the 
consent of nine States. While the consent of 
nine States is necessary to the cession of terri- 
tory, you are safe. If it be put in the power 
of a less number, you will most infallibly lose 
the Mississippi. As long as we can preserve 
our unalienable rights, we are in safety. This 
new constitution will involve in its operation 
the loss of the navigation of that valuable river. 
The honorable gentleman cannot be ignorant of 
the Spanish transactions. A treaty had been 
nearly entered into with Spain, to relinquish 
that navigation, and that relinquishment would 
absolutely have taken place, had the consent of 
seven States been sufficient. The honorable 
gentleman told us then, that eight States hav- 
ing adopted this system, we cannot suppose 
they will recede on our account. I know not 
what they may do; but this I know, that a 
people of infinitely less importance than those 
of Virginia, stood the terror of war. Ver- 
mont, sir, withstood the terror of thirteen 
States. Maryland did not accede to the con- 
federation till the year 1781. These two States, 
feeble as they are, comparatively to us, were 
not afraid of the whole Union. Did either of 
these States perish ? No, sir, they were admit- 
ted freely into the Union. "Will not Virginia 
then be admitted ? I flatter myself that those 
States who have ratified the new plan of gov- 
ernment will open their arms and cheerfully re- 
ceive us, although we should propose certain 
amendments as the conditions on which we 
would ratify it. During the late war, all the 
States were in pursuit of the same object. To 
obtain that object, they made the most strenu- 
ous exertions. They did not suffer trivial con- 
siderations to impede its acquisition. Give me 
leave to say, that if the smallest States in the 
Union were admitted into it, after having un- 
reasonably procrastinated their accession, the 
greatest and most mighty State in the Union 
will be easily admitted, when her reluctance to 
an immediate accession to this system is found- 
ed on the most reasonable grounds. When I 
call this the most mighty State in the Union, 
do I not speak the truth ? Does not Virginia 
surpass every State in the Union, in number of 
inhabitants, extent of territory, felicity of po- 
sition, and affluence and wealth ? Some in- 
fatuation hangs over men's minds, that they 
will inconsiderately precipitate into measures 
the most important, and give not a moment's 
deliberation to others, nor pay any respect to 
their opinions. Is this federalism ? Are these 
the beloved effects of the federal spirit, that its 
votaries will never accede to the just proposi- 

tions of others? Sir, were there nothing ob- 
jectionable in it but that, I would vote against 
it. I desire to have nothing to do with such 
men as will obstinately refuse to change their 
opinions. Are our opinions not to be regard- 
ed '{ I hope that you will recollect that you 
are going to join with men who will pay no re- 
spect even to this State. 

Switzerland consists of thirteen cantons ex- 
pressly confederated for national defence. They 
have stood the shock of four hundred years : 
that country has enjoyed internal tranquillity 
most of that long period. Their dissensions 
have been, comparatively to those of other 
countries, very few. What has passed in the 
neighboring countries? wars, dissensions and in- 
trigues — Germany involved in the most deplora- 
ble civil war thirty years successively, continual- 
ly convulsed with intestine divisions, and har- 
assed by foreign wai-s — France with her mighty 
monarchy perpetually at war. Compare the 
peasants of Switzerland with those of any other 
mighty nation; you will find them far more 
happy : for one civil war among them, there 
have been five or six among other nations: 
their attachment to their country, and to free- 
dom, their resolute intrepidity in their defence, 
the consequent security and happiness which 
they have enjoyed, and the respect and awe 
which these things produced in their bordering 
nations, have signalized those republicans. 
Their valor, sir, has been active ; every thing 
that sets in motion the springs of the human 
heart, engaged them to the protection of their 
inestimable privileges. They have not only se- 
cured their own liberty, but have been the ar- 
biters of the fate of other people. Here, sir, 
contemplate the triumph of republican govern- 
ments over the pride of monarchy. I acknow- 
ledge, sir, that the necessity of national defence 
has prevailed in invigorating their councils and 
arms, and has been, in a considerable degree, 
the means of keeping these honest people to- 
gether. But, sir, they have had wisdom enough 
to keep together and render themselves formi- 
dable. Their heroism is proverbial. They would 
heroically fight for their government, and their 
laws. One of the illumined sons of these times 
would not fight for those objects. Those vir- 
tuous and simple people have not a mighty and 
splendid president, nor enormously expensive 
navies and armies to support. No, sir, those 
brave republicans have acquired their reputa- 
tion no less by their undaunted intrepidity, 
than by the wisdom of their frugal and econo- 
mical policy. Let us follow their oxamiile, and 
be equally happy. Tlie honorable member ad- 
vises us to adopt a measure which will destroy 
our bill of rights: for, after bearing his picture 
of nations, and his reasons for abandoning all 
the powers retained to the States by the con- 
federation, I am more firmly persuaded of the 
impropriety of adopting this new plan in its 
present shape. 

I had doubts of the power of those who went 
to the convention ; but now we are possessed 



of it, let TI3 examine it. Wlieu we trusted the 
great object of revising the confederation to 
the greatest, the best and most enlightened of 
our citizens, we thought their deliberations 
would have been solely confined to that revi- 
sion. Instead of this, a new system, totally 
different in its nature, and vesting the most ex- 
tensive powers in Congress, is presented. "Will 
the ten men you are to send to Congress, be 
more worthy than those seven were ? If power 
grew so rapidly in their hands, what may it not 
do in the hands of others ? If those who go 
from this State will find power accompanied 
with temptation, our situation must be truly 
critical. When about forming a government, 
if we mistake the principles, or commit any 
other error, the very circumstance promises 
that power will be abused. The greatest cau- 
tion and circumspection are therefore necessary; 
nor does this proposed system in its investiga- 
tion here, deserve the least charity. 

The honorable member says, that the na- 
tional government is without energy. I per- 
fectly agree with him : and when he cried out 
union, I agreed with him : but I tell him not to 
mistake the end for the means. The end is 
union ; the most capital means, I suppose, are 
an army and navy : on a supposition I will ac- 
knowledge this ; still the bare act of agreeing 
to that paper, though it may have an amazing 
influence, will not pay our millions. There 
must be things to pay debts. "What these 
things are, or how they are to be produced, 
must be determined by our political wisdom 
and economy. 

The honorable gentleman alleges, that pre- 
vious amendments will prevent the junction of 
our riches from producing great profits and 
emoluments, (which would enable us to pay our 
public debts,) by excluding us from the Union. 
I believe, sir, that a previous ratification of a 
system notoriously and confessedly defective, 
will endanger our riches, our liberty, our all. 
Its defects are acknowledged ; they cannot be 
denied. The reason oSered by the honorable 
gentleman for adopting this defective system, is 
the adoption by eight States. I say, sir, that, 
if we present nothing but what is reasonable in 
the shape of amendments, they will receive us. 
Union is as necessary for them as for us. Will 
they then be so unreasonable as not to join us? 
If such be their disposition, I am happy to 
know it in time. 

The honorable member then observed, that 
nations will expend millions for commercial ad- 
vantages; that is, they will deprive you of 
every advantage if they can. Apply this an- 
other way. Their cheaper way, instead of lay- 
ing out millions in making war upon you, will 
be to corrupt your senators. I know that if 
they be not above all price, they may make a 
sacrifice of our commercial interests. They 
may advise your president to make a treaty 
that will not only sacrifice all your commercial 
interests, but throw prostrate your bill of rights. 
Does he fear that their ships will outnumber 

ours on the ocean, or that nations, whose inter- 
ests come in contrast with ours, in the progress 
of their guilt, will perpetrate the vilest expedi- 
ents to exclude us from a participation in com- 
mercial advantages? Does he advise us, in 
order to avoid this evil, to adopt a constitution, 
which will enable such nations to obtain their 
ends by the more easy mode of contaminating 
the principles of our senators ? Sir, if -our sen- 
ators will not be corrupted, it will be because 
they will be good men ; and not because the 
constitution provides against corruption; for 
there is no real check secured in it, and the 
most abandoned and profligate acts may with 
impunity be committed by them. 

With respect .V) Maryland, what danger from 
thence? I know "none. I have not heard of 
any hostility premeditated or committed. Nine- 
tenths of the people have not heard of it. 
Those who are so happy as to be illumined, 
have not informed their fellow-citizens of it. I 
am so valiant as to say, that no danger can 
come from that source, suflBcient to make me 
abandon my republican principles. The hon- 
orable gentleman ought to have recollected, 
that there were no tyrants in America, as there 
are in Europe : the citizens of republican bor- 
ders are only terrible to tyrants: instead of 
being dangerous to one another, they mutually 
support one another's liberties. We might be 
confederated with the adopting States, without 
ratifying this system. No form of government 
renders a people more formidable. A confede- 
racy of States joined together, becomes strong 
as the United Netherlands. The government 
of Holland (execrated as it is) proves that the 
pjresent confederation is adequate to every pur- 
pose of human association. There are seven 
provinces confederated together for a long time, 
containing numerous opulent cities and many 
of the finest ports in the world. The recollec- 
tion of the situation of that country, would 
make me execrate monarchy. The singular 
felicity and success of that people, are unparal- 
leled ; freedom has done miracles there in re- 
claiming land from the ocean. It is the richest 
spot on the face of the globe. Have they no 
men or money ? Have they no fleets or armies? 
Have they no arts or sciences among them? 
How did they repel the attacks of the greatest 
nations in the world? How have they acquired 
their amazing influence and power ? Did they 
consolidate government, to effect these purposes 
as we do ? No, sir, they have triumphed over 
every obstacle and difliculty, and have arrived 
at the summit of political felicity, and of un- 
common opulence, by means of a confederacy ; 
that very government which gentlemen affect 
to despise. They have, sir, avoided a consoli- 
dation as the greatest of evils. They have 
lately, it is true, made one advance in that fatal 
progression. This misfortune burst on them by 
iniquity and artifice. That stadtholder, that 
executive magistrate, contrived it, in conjunc- 
tion with other European nations. It was not 
, the choice of the people. Was it owing to hia 



energy that this happened ? If two provinces 
have paid nothing, what have not the rest done? 
And have not these two provinces made other 
exertions ? Ought they, to avoid this inconve- 
nience, to have consolidated their dilferent 
States, and have a ten miles square ? Compare 
that little spot, nurtured by liberty, with the 
fairest country in the world. Does not Holland 
possess a powerful navy and army, and a full 
treasury ? They did not acquire these by de- 
basing the principles and trampling on the 
rights of their citizens. Sir, they acquired 
these by their industry, economy, and by the 
freedom of their government. Their commerce 
is the most extensive in Europe ; their credit is 
unequalled; their felicity will be an eternal 
monument of the blessings of liberty ; every 
nation in Europe is taught by them what they 
are, and what they ought to be. The contrast 
between those nations and this happy people, 
is the most splendid spectacle for republicans, 
the greatest cause of exultation and triumph to 
the sons of freedom. "While other nations, pre- 
cipitated by the rage of ambition or folly, have, 
in the pursuit of the most magnificent projects, 
riveted the fetters of bondage on themselves 
and their descendants, these republicans have 
secured their political happiness and freedom. 
Where is there a nation to be compared to 
them? Where is there now, or where was 
there ever a nation, of so small a territory, and 
so few in number, so powerful, so wealthy, so 
happy ? What is the cause of this superiority ? 
Liberty, sir, the freedom of their government. 
Though they are now unhappily in some degree 
consolidated, yet they have my acclamations, 
when put in contrast with those millions of 
their fellow-men who lived and died slaves. 
The dangers of a consolidation ought to be 
guarded against in this country. I shall exert 
my poor talents to ward them off. Dangers 
are to be apprehended in whatever manner we 
proceed ; but those of a consolidation are the 
most destructive. Let us leave no expedient 
untried to secure happiness ; but whatever be 
our decision, I am consoled, if American liberty 
wOl remain entire only for half a century ; and I 
trust that mankind in general, and our posterity 
in particular, will be compensated for every 
anxiety we now feel. 

Another gentleman tells us, that no inconve- 
nience wiU resvdt from the exercise of the power 
of taxation by the general government; that 
two shillings out of ten may be saved by the 
impost ; and that four shillings may be paid to 
the federal collector, and four to the State col- 
lector. A change of government will not pay 
money. If from the probable amount of the 
impost, you take the enormous and extravagant 
expenses, which wiU certainly attend the sup- 
port of this great consolidated government, I 
believe you will find no reduction of the public 
burdens by this new system. The splendid 
maintenance of the president and of the mem- 
bers of both Houses ; and the salaries and fees 
of the swarm of officers and dependants on the 

government, wiU cost this continent immense 
sums. Double sets of collectors will double 
the expense. To these are to be added oppres- 
sive excisemen and custom-house oflicers. Sir, 
the people have an hereditary hatred to custom- 
house officers. The experience of the mother 
country leads me to detest them. They have 
introduced their baneful influence into the ad- 
ministration, and destroyed one of the most 
beautiful systems that ever the world saw. Our 
forefathers enjoyed liberty there, while that 
system was in its purity, but it is now contami- 
nated by influence of every kind. 

The style of the government (we the peo- 
ple) was introduced, perhaps, to recommend it 
to the people at large ; to those citizens who 
are to be levelled and degraded to the lowest 
degree, who are likened to a herd, and who, 
by the operation of this blessed system, are to 
be transformed from respectable, independent 
citizens, to abject, dependent subjects or slaves. 
The honorable gentleman has anticipated what 
we are to be reduced to, by degradingly assim- 
ilating our citizens to a herd. 

Here Mr. Randolph rose, and declared that 
he did not use that word to excite any odiimi, 
but merely to convey the idea of a multitude. 

Mr. Henry replied, that it made a deep im- 
pression on his mind, and that he verily believed, 
that system would operate as he had said. [He 
then continued] — I will exchange that abom- 
inable word for requisitions ; requisitions which 
gentlemen affect to despise, have nothing de- 
grading in them. On this depends our political 
prosperity. I never will give up that darling 
word, requisitions ; my country may give it up ; 
a majority may wrest it from me, but I will 
never give it up till my grave. Requisitions 
are attended with one singular advantage. 
They are attended by deliberation. They secure 
to the States the benefit of correcting oppressive 
errors. If our assembly thought requisitions 
erroneous, if they thought the demand was too 
great, they might at least supplicate Congress 
to reconsider, that it was a little too much. The 
power of direct taxation was called by the 
honorable gentleman the soul of the govern- 
ment : another gentleman called it the lungs of 
the government. We all agree, that it is the 
most important part of the body politic. If 
the power of raising money be necessary for 
the general government, it is no less so for the 
States. If money be the vitals of Congress, is 
it not precious for those individuals from whom 
it is to be taken? Must I give my soul, my 
lungs, to Congress? Congress must have oui 
souls ; the State must have our souls. This is 
dishonorable and disgraceful. These two co- 
ordinate, interfering, unlimited powers of bar 
assing the community, are unexampled — un- 
precedented in history ; they are the visionary 
projects of modern politicians : tell me not of 
imaginary means, but of reality : this political 
solecism will never tend to the benefit of the 
community. It will be as oppressive in practice 
as it is absurd in theory. If you part from this, 


which the honorable gentleman tells you is the 
soul of Congress, you will be inevitably ruined. 
I tell you, they shall not have the soul of Vir- 
ginia. They tell us, that one collector may 
collect the federal and State taxes. The general 
government being paramount to the State legis- 
latures, if the sheriif is to collect for both — his 
right hand for the Congress, his left for the 
State^-his right hand being paramount over the 
left, his collections will go to Congress. We 
will have the rest. Deliciencies in collections 
will always operate against the States. Con- 
gress being the paramount, supreme power, 
must not be disappointed. Thus Congress will 
have an unlimited, unbounded command over 
the soul of this commonwealth. After satisfy- 
ing their uncontrolled demands, what can be 
left for the States ? Not a sufficiency even to 
defray the expense of their internal administra- 
tion. They must therefore glide imperceptibly 
and gradually out of existence. This, sir, must 
naturally terminate in a consolidation. If this 
will do for other people, it never will do for 

If we are to have one representative for 
every thirty thousand souls, it must be by im- 
plication. The constitution does not positively 
secure it. Even say it is a natural implication, 
why not give us a right to that proportion in 
express terms, in language that could not admit 
of evasions or subterfuges ? If they can use 
implication for us, they can also use implication 
against us. We are giving power ; they are 
getting power : judge, then, on which side the 
implication will be used. When we once put 
it in their option to assume constructive power, 
danger will follow. Trial by jury, and liberty 
of the press, are also on this foundation of im- 
plication. If they encroach on these rights, 
and you give your implication for a plea, you 
are cast ; for they will be justified by the last 
part of it, which gives them full power " to 
make all laws which shall be necessary and 
proper to carry their powers into execution." 
Implication is dangerous, because it is un- 
bounded : if it be admitted at all, and no limits 
be prescribed, it admits of the utmost exten- 
sion. They say, that every thing that is not 
given is retained. The reverse of the proposi- 
tion is true by implication. They do not carry 
their implication so far when they speak of the 
general welfare. No implication when the 
sweeping clause comes. Implication is only 
necessary when the existence of privileges is in 
dispute. The existence of powers is sufficiently 
established. If we trust our dearest rights to 
implication, we shall be in a very unhappy 

Implication in England has been a source of 
dissension. There has been a war of implica- 
tion between the king and people. For one 
hundred years did the mother country struggle 
under the uncertainty of implication. The 
people insisted that their rights were implied : 
the monarch denied the doctrine. Their bill of 
rights in some degree terminated the dispute. 

By a bold implication, they said they had a 
right to bind us in all cases whatsoever. This 
constructive power we opposed, and success- 
fully. Thirteen or fourteen years ago, the most 
important thmg that could be thought of, was 
to exclude the possibility of construction and 
implication. These, sir, were then deemed 
perilous. The first thing that was thought of, 
was a bill of rights. We were not satisfied 
with your constructive argumentative rights. 

Mr. Henry then declared a bill of rights in- 
dispensably necessary ; that a general positive 
provision should be inserted in the new system, 
securing to the States and the people every 
right which was not conceded to the general 
government ; and that every implication should 
be done away. It being now late, he concluded 
by observing, that he would resume the subject 
another time. 

On the 9th, Mr. Henry continued his remarks 
as follows : 

Mk. Chairman : I find myself again constrain- 
ed to trespass on the patience of this committee. 
I wish there was a prospect of \mion in our 
sentiments ; so much time would not then be 
taken up. But when I review the magnitude 
of the subject under consideration, and of the 
dangers which appear to me in this new plan 
of government, and compare thereto my poor 
abilities to secure our rights, it will take much 
more time, in my poor unconnected way, to 
traverse the objectionable parts of it; there are 
friends here who will be abler than myself to 
make good these objections which to us appear 
well founded. If we recollect, on last Saturday, 
I made some observations on some of those 
dangers, which these gentlemen would fain 
persuade us hang over the citizens of this com- 
monwealth, to induce us to change the govern- 
ment, and adopt the new plan. Unless there 
be great and awful dangers, the change is dan- 
gerous, and the experiment ought not to be 
made. In estimating the magnitude of these 
dangers, we are obliged to take a most serious 
view of them, to feel them, to handle them, 
and to be faroiliar with them. It is not sufii- 
cient to feign mere imaginary dangers; there 
must be a dreadful reality. The great question 
between us is, does that reality exist? These 
dangers are partially attributed to bad laws, 
execrated by the community at large. It is 
said the people wish to change the government. 
I should be happy to meet them on that ground. 
Should the people wish to change it, we should 
be innocent of the dangers. It is a fact, that 
the people do not wish to change their govern- 
ment. How am I to prove it ? It will rest on 
my bare assertion, unless supported by an in- 
ternal conviction in men's breasts. My poor 
say-so is a mere nonentity. But, sir, I am 
persuaded that four-fifths of the people of Vir- 
ginia must have amendments to the ucav plan, 
to reconcile them to a change of their govern- 
ment. Our assertions form but a slippery foun- 



dation for the people to rest their political salva- 
tion on. No government can flourish unless it 
be founded on the affection of the people. Un- 
less gentlemen can be sure that this new system 
is founded on that ground, they ought to stop 
their career. 

I will not repeat what the gentlemen say, 
but will mention one thing. There is a dispute 
between us and tlie Spaniards, about the right 
of navigating the Mississippi. This dispute has 
sprung from the federal government. I wish a 
great deal to be said on this subject. I wish to 
know the origin and progress of the business, 
as it would probably unfold great dangers. In 
my opinion, the preservation of that river calls 
for our most serious consideration. It has been 
agitated in Congress. Seven States have voted 
so as that it is known to the Spaniards, that 
under our existing system the Mississippi shall 
be taken from them. Seven States wished to 
relinquish this river to them. The six Southern 
States opposed it. Seven States not being suf- 
ficient to convey it away, it remains now ours. 
If I am wrong, there are a number on this 
floor who can contradict the facts; I will 
readily retract. This new government, I con- 
ceive, will enable those States, who have al- 
ready discovered their inclination that way, to 
give away this river. "Will the honorable gen- 
tleman advise us to relinquish this inestimable 
navigation, and place formidable enemies to our 
backs? This weak, this poor confederation 
cannot secure us. We are resolved to take 
shelter under the shield of federal authority in 
America. The southern parts of America have 
been protected by that weakness so much exe- 
crated. I hope this will be explained. I was 
not in Congress when these transactions took 
place. I may not have stated every fact. I 
may have misrepresented matters. I hope to 
be fully acquainted with every thing relative to 
the subject. Let us hear how the great and 
important right of navigating that river has 
been attended to ; and whether I am mistaken 
in my opinion, that federal measures will lose it 
to us for ever. If a bare majority of Congress 
can make laws, the situation of our western 
citizens is dreadful. 

We are threatened with danger for the non- 
payment of the debt due to France. We have 
information from an illustrious citizen of Vir- 
ginia, who is now in Paris, which disproves the 
suggestions of such danger. This citizen has 
not been in the airy regions of theoretic specu- 
lation ; our ambassador is this worthy citizen. 
The ambassador of the United States of Ameri- 
ca is not so despised as the honorable gentle- 
man would make us believe. A servant of a 
republic is as much respected as that of a mon- 
arch. The honorable gentleman tells us, that 
hostile fleets are to be sent to make reprisals 
upon us; our ambassador tells you, that the 
king of France has taken into consideration to 
enter into commercial regulations on reciprocal 
terms with us, which will be of peculiar advan- 
tage to us. Does this look like hostility? I 

might go further; I might say, not from public 
authority, but good information, that his opinion 
is, that you reject this government. His char- 
acter and abilities are in tlie highest estima- 
tion; he is well acquainted, in every respect, 
with this country ; equally so with the policy 
of the European nations. This illustrious citi- 
zen advises you to reject this government, till 
it be amended. His sentiments coincide en- 
tirely with ours. His attachment to, and ser- 
vices done for this country, are well known. 
At a great distance from us, he remembers and 
studies our happiness. Living amidst splendor 
and dissipation, he thinks yet of bills of rights — 
thinks of those little despised things called 
maxims. Let us follow the sage advice of this 
common friend of our happiness. It is little 
usual for nations to send armies to collect debts. 
The house of Bourbon, that great friend of 
America, will never attack her for the unwill- 
ing delay of payment. Give me leave to say, 
that Europe is too much engaged about ob- 
jects of greater importance to attend to us. On 
that great theatre of the world the little Amer- 
ican matters vanish. Do you believe, that 
the mighty monarch of France, beholding the 
greatest scenes that ever engaged the attention 
of a prince of that country, will divert himself 
from those important objects, and now call for 
a settlement of accounts with America ? This 
proceeding is not warranted by good sense. 
The friendly disposition to us, and the actual 
situation of France, render the idea of danger 
from that quarter absurd. Would this country- 
man of ours be fond of advising us to a mea- 
sure which he knew to be dangerous, and can 
it be reasonably supposed, that he can be igno- 
rant of any premeditated hostility against this 
country? The honorable gentleman may sus- 
pect the account, but I will do our friend the 
justice to say that he would warn us of any 
danger from France. 

Do you suppose the Spanish monarch will 
risk a contest with the United States, when his 
feeble colonies are exposed to them? Every 
advance the people here make to the westward, 
makes him tremble for Mexico and Peru. De- 
spised as we are among ourselves under our 
present government, we are terrible to that 
monarchy. If this be not a fact, it is generally 
said so. 

We are in the next place frightened by dan- 
gers from Holland. We must change our gov- 
ernment to escape the wrath of that republic. 
Holland groans under a government like this 
new one. A stadtholder, sir, a Dutch president 
has brought on that country miseries which 
will not permit them to collect debts with fleets 
or armies. The wife of a Dutch stadtholder 
brought one hundred thousand men against that 
republic, and prostrated all opposition. This 
president will bring miseries on us like those of 
Holland. Such is the condition of European 
affairs, that it would be unsafe for them to send 
fleets or armies to collect debts. But here, sir, 
they make a transition to objects of another 



kind. We are presented with dangers of a very 
uncommon nature. I am not acquainted with 
the arts of painting. Some gentlemen have a 
peculiar talent for them. They are practised 
with great ingenuity on this occasion. As a 
counterpart to what we have already been in- 
timidated with, we are told, that some lands 
have been sold which cannot be found ; and that 
this will bring war on this country. Here the 
picture will not stand examination. Can it be 
supposed, that if a few land speculators and job- 
bers have violated the principles of probity, that 
it will involve this country iu war ? Is there no 
redress to be otherwise obtained, even admit- 
ting the delinquents and sufferers to be numer- 
ous? When gentlemen are thus driven to pro- 
duce imaginary dangers, to induce this conven- 
tion to assent to this change, I am sure it will 
not be uncandid to say, that the change itself is 
really dangerous. Then the Maryland compact 
is broken, and will produce perilous conse- 
quences. I see nothing very terrible in this. 
The adoption of the new system wiU not re- 
move the evil. Will they forfeit good neigh- 
borhood with us, because the compact is broken? 
Then the disputes concerning the Carolina line 
are to involve us in dangers. A Strip of land 
running from the westward of the Alleghany to 
the Mississippi, is the subject of this pretended 
dispute. I do not know the length or breadth 
of this disputed spot. Have they not regularly 
confirmed our right to it and relinquished all 
claims to it? I can venture to pledge, that the 
people of Carolina will never disturb us. The 
strength of this despised country has settled q,n 
immense tract of country to the westward. 
Give me leave to remark, that the honorable 
gentleman's observations on our frontiers, north 
and south, east and west, are all inaccurate. 

Will Maryland fight against this country for 
seeking amendments? Were there not sixty 
members in that State who went in quest of 
amendments? Sixty against eight or ten were 
in favor of pursuing amendments. ShaU they 
fight us for doing what they themselves have 
done? They have sought amendments, but dif- 
ferently from the manner in which I wish 
amendments to be got. The honorable gentle- 
man may plume himself on this difference. Will 
they fight us for this dissimilarity? Will they 
fight us for seeking the object they seek 
themselves? When they do, it will be time 
for me to hold my peace. Then, sir, comes 
Pennsylvania, in terrible array. Pennsylva- 
nia is to go in conflict with Virginia. Penn- 
sylvania has been a good neighbor hereto- 
fore. She is federal — something terrible : Vir- 
ginia cannot look her in the face. If we suffi- 
ciently attend to the actual situation of things, 
we will conclude that Pennsylvania will do 
what we do. A number of that country are 
strongly opposed to it. Many of them have 
lately been convinced of its fatal tendency. 
They are disgorged of their federalism. I be- 
seech you to bring this matter home to your- 
selves. Was there a possibility for the people 

of that State to know the reasons of adopting 
that system or understand its principles, in so 
very short a period after its formation ? This 
is the middle of June. Those transactions hap- 
pened last August. The matter was circulated 
by every effort of industry, and the most pre- 
cipitate measures taken to hurry the people into 
an adoption. Yet now, after having had several 
months since to investigate it, a very large part 
of this community — a very great majority of 
this community, do not understand it. I have 
heard gentlemen of respectable abilities declare 
they did not understand it. If after great pains, 
men of high learning, who have received the 
aid of a regular education, do not understand 
it; if the people of Pennsylvania understood it 
in so short a time, it must have been from 
intuitive understandings, and uncommon acute- 
ness of perception. Place yourselves in their situ- 
ation ; would you fight yOur neighbors for consid- 
ering this great and awful matter ? If you wish 
for real amendments, such as the security of 
the trial by jury, it wOl reach the hearts of the 
people of that State. Whatever may be the 
disposition of the aristocratical politicians of 
that country, I know there are friends of human 
nature in that State. If so, they will never 
make war on those who make professions of 
what they are attached to themselves. 

As to the danger arising from borderers, it 
is mutual and reciprocal. If it be dangerous 
for Virginia, it is equally so for them. It will 
be their true interest to be united with us. The 
danger of our being their enemies, will be a 
prevailing argument in our favor. It will be 
as powerful to admit us into the Union, as a 
vote of adoption without previous amendments 
could possibly be. 

Then the savage Indians are to destroy us. 
We cannot look them in the face. The danger 
is here divided ; they are as terrible to the other 
States as to us : but, sir, it is well known that 
we have nothing to fear from them. Our back 
settlers are considerably stronger than they, 
and their superiority increases daily. Suppose 
the States to be confederated all around us, 
what we want in number, we shall make up 
otherwise. Our compact situation and natural 
strength will secure us. But to avoid all dan- 
gers, we must take shelter under the federal 
government. Nothing gives a decided impor- 
tance but thi s federal government. You will 
sip sorrow, according to the vulgar phrase, if 
you want any other security than the laws of 

A number of characters'of the greatest emi- 
nence in this country, object to this govern- 
ment, for its consolidating tendency. This is 
not imaginary. It is a formidable reality. If 
consolidation proves to be as mischievous to 
this Country as it has been to other countries, 
what will the poor inhabitants of this country 
do? This government will operate like an 
ambuscade. It will destroy the State govern- 
ments, and swallow up the liberties of the 
people, without giving them previous notice. 



If gentlemen are willing to run the hazard, let 
them run it ; but I shall exculpate myself by 
my opposition, and monitory warnings within 
these walls. But then comes paper money. 
We are at peace on this subject. Though this 
13 a thing which that mighty federal convention 
had no business with, yet I acknowledge that 
paper money would be the bane of this coun- 
try. I detest it. Nothing can justify a people 
in resorting to it, but extreme necessity. It is 
at rest, however, in this commonwealth. It is 
no longer solicited or advocated. 

Sir, I ask you, and every other gentleman 
who hears me, if he can restrain his indignation 
at a system, which takes from the State legis- 
latures the care and preservation of the inter- 
ests of the people; one hundred and eighty 
representatives, the choice of the people of 
Virginia, cannot be trusted with their interests. 
They are a mobbish, suspected herd. This 
country has not virtue enough to manage its 
own internal interests. These must be referred 
to the chosen ten. If we cannot be trusted 
with the private contracts of the citizens, we 
must be depraved indeed. If he can prove, that, 
by one uniform system of abandoned principles, 
the legislature has betrayed the rights of the 
people, then let us seek another shelter. So 
degrading an indignity — so flagrant an outrage 
on the States — so vile a suspicion is humiliating 
to my mind, and many others. 

WUl the adoption of this new plan pay our 
debts ? This, sir, is a plain question, It is 
inferred, that our grievances are to be redressed, 
and the evils of the existing system to be re- 
moved by the new constitution. Let me inform 
the honorable gentleman, that no nation ever 
paid its debts by a change of government, with- 
out the aid of industry. You never wiU pay 
your debts but by a radical change of domestic 
economy. At present, you buy too much, and 
make too little to pay. Will this new system 
promote manufactures, industry, and frugality? 
If, instead of this, your hopes and designs will 
be disappointed, you relinquish a great deal, 
and hazard infinitely more for nothing. Will 
it enhance the value of your lands ? Will it 
lessen your burdens ? Will your looms and 
wheels go to work by the act of adoption ? If 
it will in its consequences produce these things, 
it will consequently produce a reform, and en- 
able you to pay your debts. Gentlemen must 
prove it. I am a sceptic — an infidel on this 
point. I cannot conceive that it will have these 
happy consequences. I cannot confide in as- 
sertions and allegations. The evils that attend 
us, lie in extravagance and want of industry, 
and can only be removed by assiduity and 
economy. Perhaps we shall be told by gentle- 
men, that these things will happen, because 
the administration is to be taken from us, and 
placed in the hands of the luminous few, who 
will pay difierent attention, and be more stu- 
diously careful than we can be supposed to be. 

With respect to the economical operation of 
the new government, I will only remark, that 

the national expenses will be increased — if not 
doubled, it wiU approach it very near. I might, 
without incurring the imputation of illiberality 
or extravagance, say, that the expense will be 
multiplied tenfold. I miglit tell you of a nu- 
merous standing army ; a great, powerful navy ; 
a long and rapacious train of ofiicers and de- 
pendents, independent of the president, sena- 
tors and representatives, whose compensations 
are without limitation. How are our debts to 
be discharged unless the taxes are increased, 
when the expenses of government are so greatly 
augmented ? The defects of this system are so 
numerous and palpable, and so many States 
object to it, that no union can be expected, un- 
less it be amended. Let us take a review of the 
facts. New Hampshire and Rhode Island have 
rejected it. They have refused to become fede- 
ral. New York and North Carolina are re- 
ported to be strongly against it. From high 
authority, give me leave to tell, that New York 
is in high opposition. Will any gentleman say 
that North Carolina is not against it? They 
may say so, but I say that the adoption of it, 
in those two States, amounts to entire uncer- 
tainty. The system must be amended before 
these four States will accede to it. Besides, 
there are several other States who are dissatis- 
fied, and wish alterations. Massachusetts has, 
in decided terms, proposed amendments ; but 
by her previous ratification, has put the cart 
before the horse. Maryland instituted a com- 
mittee to propose amendments. It then ap- 
pears, that two States have actually refused to 
adopt — two of those who have adopted, have a 
desire of amending. And there is a probability 
of its being rejected by New York and North 
Carolina. The other States have acceded with- 
out proposing amendments. With respect to 
them, local circumstances have, in my judg- 
ment, operated to produce its unconditional, 
instantaneous adoption. The locality of the 
seat of government, ten miles square, and the 
seat of justice, with all their concomitant emo- 
luments, operated so powerfully with the first 
adopting State, that it was adopted without 
taking time to reflect. We are told that nu- 
merous advantages will result from the con- 
centration of the wealth and grandeur of the 
United States m one happy spot, to those who 
will reside in or near it. Prospects of profit 
and emoluments have a powerful influence on 
the human mind. We, sir, have no such pro- 
jects as that of a grand seat of government for 
thirteen States, and perhaps for one hundred 
States hereafter. Connecticut and New Jersey 
have their localities also. New York lies be- 
tween them. They have no ports, and are not 
importing States. New York is an importing 
State, and taking advantage of its situation, 
makes them pay duties for all the articles of 
their consumption : thus, these two States being 
obliged to import all they want, through the 
medium of New York, pay the particular taxes 
of that State. I know the force and efteet of 
reasoning of this sort, by experience. When 


the impost was proposed some years ago, those 
States which were not importing States, readily 
agreed to concede to Congress, the power of 
laying an impost on all goods imported for the 
use of the continental treasury. Connecticut 
and New Jersey therefore, are influenced by 
advantages of trade in their adoption. The 
amounts of all imposts are to go into one com- 
mon treasury. This favors adoption by the 
non-importing States ; as they participate in 
the profits which were before exclusively en- 
joyed by the importing States. Notwithstand- 
ing this obvious advantage to Connecticut, 
there is a formidable minority there against it. 
After taking this general review of American 
affairs, as respecting federalism, will the honor- 
able gentleman tell me, that he can expect 
union in America ? "When so many States are 
pointedly against it ; when two adopting States 
have pointed out, in express terms, their dis- 
satisfaction as it stands ; and when there is so 
respectable a body of men discontented in every 
State ; can the honorable gentleman promise 
himself harmony, of which he is so fond ? If 
he can, I cannot. To me it appears unequivo- 
cally clear, that we shall not have that harmony. 
If it appears to the other States, that our aver- 
sion is founded on just grounds, will they not 
be willing to indulge us ? If disunion will 
really result from Virginia's proposing amend- 
ments, will they not wish the re-establishment 
of the Union, and admit us, if not on such terms 
as we prescribe, yet on advantageous terms ? 
Is not union as essential to their happiness, as 
to ours ? Sir, without a radical alteration, the 
States will never be embraced in one federal 
pale. If you attempt to force it down men's 
throats and call it union, dreadful consequences 
must follow. 

He has said a great deal about disunion and 
the dangers that are to arise from it. When 
we are on the subject of union and dangers, let 
me ask, how will his present doctrine hold with 
what has happened ? Is it consistent with that 
noble and disinterested conduct which he dis- 
played on a former occasion ? Did he not tell 
us that he withheld his signature? "Where 
then were the dangers which now appear to him 
so formidable ? He saw all America eagerly 
confiding that the result of their deliberations 
would remove their distresses. He saw all 
America acting under the impulses of hope, ex- 
pectation and anxiety, arising from their situa- 
tion and their partiality for the members of that 
convention: yet his enlightened mind, know- 
ing that system to be defective, magnanimously 
and nobly refused its approbation. He was not 
led by the illumined — the illustrious few. He 
was actuated by the dictates of his own judg- 
ment ; and a better judgment than I can form. 
He did not stand out of the way of informa- 
tion. He must have been possessed of every 
intelligence. "What alterations have a few 
months brought about? The internal differ- 
ence between right and wrong does not fluctu- 
ate. It is immutable. I ask this question as a 

public man, and out of no particular view. I 
wish, as such, to consult every source of infor- 
mation, to form my judgment on so awful a 
question. I had the highest respect for the 
honorable gentleman's abilities. I considered 
his opinion as a great authority. He taught 
me, sir, in despite of the approbation of that 
great federal convention, to doubt of the pro- 
priety of that system. "When I found my hon- 
orable friend in the number of those who doubt- 
ed, I began to doubt also. I coincided with 
him in opinion. I shall be a stanch and faith- 
ful disciple of his. I applaud that magnanimity 
which led him to withhold his signature. If 
he thinks now differently, he is as free as I am. 
Such is my situation, that as a poor individual, 
I look for information every where. 

This government is so new, it wants a name. 
I wish its other novelties were as harmless as 
this. He told us we had an American dictator 
in the year 1781. "We never had an American 
president. In making a dictator, we followed 
the example of the most glorious, magnani- 
mous and skilful nations. In great dangers 
this power has been given. Eome had fur- 
nished us with an illustrious example. Amer- 
ica found a person worthy of that trust : she 
looked to Virginia for him. "We gave a dicta- 
torial power to hands that used it gloriously ; 
and which were rendered more glorious by sur- 
rendering it up. "Where is there a breed of 
such dictators ? Shall we find a set of Ameri- 
can presidents of such a breed ? Will the 
American president come and lay prostrate at 
the feet of Congress his laurels? I fear there 
are few men who can be trusted on that head. 
The glorious republic of Holland has erected 
monuments to her warlike intrepidity and 
valor : yet she is now totally ruined by a stadt- 
holder; a Dutch president. The destructive 
wars into which that nation has been plunged, 
has since involved her in ambition. The glo- 
rious triumphs of Blenheim and Eamillies were 
not so conformable to the genius, nor so much 
to the true interest of the republic, as those 
numerous and useful canals and dykes, and 
other objects at which ambition spurns. That 
republic has, however, by the industry of its 
inhabitants, and policy of its magistrates, sup- 
pressed the ill effects of ambition. Notwith- 
standing two of their provinces have paid 
nothing, yet I hope the example of Holland 
will tell us that we can live happily without 
changing our present despised government. 
Cannot people be as happy under a mild, as un- 
der an energetic government ? Cannot content 
and felicity be enjoyed in a republic, as well as 
in a monarchy, because there are whips, chains 
and scourges used in the latter ? If I am not 
as rich as my neighbor, if I give my mite, my 
all, republican forbearance will say, that it is suf- 
ficient. So said the honest confederates of Hol- 
land: "You are poor; we are rich. We wiU 
go on and do better, far better, than be under an 
oppressive government." Far better will it be 
for us to continue as we are, than go under that 



tight, energetic government. I am persuaded 
of what the honorable gentleman says, that 
separate confederacies wiU ruin us. In my 
judgment, they are evils never to be thought of 
tUl a people are driven by necessity. When 
he asks my opinion of consolidation, of one 
power to reign over America, with a strong 
hand, I will teU him I am persuaded of the rec- 
titude of my honorable friend's opinion, (Mr. 
Mason,) that one government cannot reign over 
so extensive a country as this is, without abso- 
lute despotism. Compared to such a consolida- 
tion, small confederacies are little evils, though 
they ought to be recurred to but in case of ne- 
cessity. Virginia and North Carolina are de- 
spised. They could exist separated from the 
rest of America. Maryland and Vermont were 
not overrun when out of the confederacy. 
Though it is not a desirable object, yet, I trust, 
that on examination it wUl be found, that Vir- 
ginia and North Carolina would not be swal- 
lowed up in case it was necessary for them to 
be joined together. 

When we come to the spirit of domestic 
peace, the humble genius of Virginia has form- 
ed a government, suitable to the genius of her 
people. I believe th6 hands that formed the 
American constitution, triumph in the experi- 
ment. It proves that the man who formed it, 
and perhaps by accident, did what design could 
not do in other parts of the world. After all 
your reforms in government, unless you con- 
sult the genius of the inhabitants, you will 
never succeed ; your system can have no dura- 
tion. Let me appeal to the candor of the com- 
mittee, if the want of money be not the source 
of all misfortunes. We cannot be blamed for 
not making dollars. This want of money can- 
not be supplied by changes in government. 
The only possible remedy, as I have before as- 
serted, is industry aided by economy. Com- 
pare the genius of the people with the govern- 
ment of this country. Let me remark, that it 
stood the severest conflict, during the war, to 
which human virtue has ever been called. I 
call upon every gentleman here to declare, 
whether the King of England had any subjects 
so attached to his family and government — so 
loyal as we were. But the genius of Virginia 
called us for liberty ; called us from those be- 
loved endearments which, from long habits, we 
were taught to love and revere. We entertain- 
ed from our earliest infancy, the most sincere 
regard and reverence for the mother country. 
Our partiality extended to a predilection for 
her customs, habits, manners and laws. Thus 
inclined, when the deprivation of our liberty 
was attempted, what did we do? What did 
the genius of Virginia tell us ? " Sell all, and 
purchase liberty." This was a severe conflict. 
Kepublican maxims were then esteemed. Those 
maxims, and the genius of Virginia, landed you 
safe on the shore of freedom. On this awful 
occasion, did you want a federal government ? 
Did federal ideas possess your minds? Did 
federal ideas lead you to the most splendid vic- 

tories ? I must again repeat the favorite idea, 
that the genius of Virginia did, and will again 
lead us to happiness. To obtain the most splen- 
did prize, you did not consolidate. You ac- 
complished the most glorious ends, by the as- 
sistance of the genius of your country. Men 
were then taught by that genius, that they 
were fighting for what was most dear to them. 
View the most affectionate father, the most ten- 
der mother, operated on by liberty, nobly stim- 
ulating their sons, their dearest sons, sometimes 
their only son, to advance to the defence of his 
country. We have seen sons of Oincinnatus, 
without splendid magnificence or parade, going, 
with the genius of their great progenitor Oin- 
cinnatus, to the plough — men who served their 
country without ruining it ; men who had 
served it to the destruction of their private 
patrimonies; their country owing them ama- 
zing amounts, for the payment of which no ad- 
equate provision was then made. We have 
seen such men throw prostrate their arms at 
your feet. They did not call for those emolu- 
ments which ambition presents to some imagi- 
nations. The soldiers, who were able to com- 
mand every thing, instead of trampling on those 
laws which they were instituted to defend, most 
strictly obeyed them. The hands of justice 
have not been laid on a single American sol- 
dier. Bring them into contrast with European 
veterans — you will see an astonishing superi- 
ority over the latter. There has been a strict 
subordination to the laws. The honorable gen- 
tleman's oflBce gave him an opportunity of view- 
ing if the laws were administered so as to pre- 
vent riots, routs, and unlawful assemblies. 
From his then situation, he could have fur- 
nished us with the instances in which licen- 
tiousness trampled on the laws. Among all 
our troubles, we have paid almost to the last 
shilling, for the sake of justice : we have paid 
as well as any State ; I will not say better. To 
support the general government and our own 
legislature ; to pay the interest of the public 
debts, and defray contingencies, we have been 
heavily taxed. To add to these things, the dis- 
tresses produced by paper money, and by to- 
bacco contracts, were sufficient to render any 
people discontented. These, sir, were great 
temptations ; but in the most severe conflict of 
misfortunes, this code of laws — this genius of 
Virginia, call it what you will, triumphed over 
every thing. 

Why did it please the gentleman, (Mr. Cor- 
bin,) to bestow such epithets on our country? 
Have the worms taken possession of the wood, 
that our strong vessel — our political vessel, has 
sprung a leak? He may know better than I, 
but I consider such epithets to be_ the most il- 
liberal and imwarrantable aspersions on our 
laws. The system of laws under which we 
have lived, has been tried and found to suit our 
genius. I trust we shall not change this happy 
system. I cannot so easily take leave of an old 
friend. Till I see him following after and pur- 
suing other objects, which can pervert the great 



objects of human legislation, pardon me if I 
withhold my assent. 

Some here speak of the difficulty in forming 
a new code of laws. Young as we were, it was 
not wonderful if there was a difficulty in form- 
ing and assimilating our system of laws. I 
shall be obliged to the gentleman, if he would 
point out those glaring, those great faults. The 
efforts of assimilating our laws to our genius 
have not been found altogether vain. I shall 
pass over some other circumstances which I in- 
tended to mention, and endeavor to come to 
the capital objection, which my honorable 
friend made. My worthy friend said, that a re- 
publican form of government would not suit a 
very extensive country ; but that if a govern- 
ment were judiciously organized and limits pre- 
scribed to it, an attention to these principles 
might render it possible for it to exist in an ex- 
tensive territory. Whoever wiU be bold to 
say, that a continent c^n be governed by that 
system, contradicts all the experience of the 
world. It is a work too great for human wis- 
dom. Let me call for an example. Experi- 
ence has been called the best teacher. 1 call 
for an example of a great extent of country, 
governed by one government, or Congress, call 
it what you wUl. I tell him that a government 
may be trimmed up according to gentlemen's 
fancy, but it never can operate ; it will be but 
very short lived. However disagreeable it may 
be to lengthen my objections, I cannot help 
taking notice of what the honorable gentleman 
said. To me it appears that there is no check 
in that government. The president, senators 
and representatives, all immediately, or medi- 
ately, are the choice of the people. Tell me 
not of checks on paper ; but tell me of checks 
founded on self-love. The English government 
is founded on self-love. This powerful, irre- 
sistible stimulus of self-love has saved that gov- 
ernment. It has interposed that hereditary no- 
bility between the king and the commons. If 
the House of Lords assists or permits the king 
to overturn the liberties of the people, the 
same tyranny will destroy them; they will 
therefore keep the balance in the democratic 
branch. Suppose they see the Commons en- 
croach upon the king ; self-love, that great, 
energetic check, will call upon them to inter- 
pose; for, if the king be destroyed, their de- 
struction must speedily follow. Here is a con- 
sideration which prevails in my mind, to pro- 
nounce the British government superior, in this 
respect, to any government that ever was in 
any country. Compare this with your Congres- 
sional checks. I beseech gentlemen to consider 
whether they can say, when trusting power, 
that a mere patriotic profession will be equally 
operative and efficacious, as the check of self- 
love. In considering the experience of ages, is 
it not seen that fair, disinterested patriotism 
and professions of attachment to rectitude, 
have never been solely trusted to by an en- 
lightened, free people ? If you depend on your 
presidents' and senators' patriotism, you are 

gone. Have you a resting place like the British 
government? Where is the rock of your salva- 
tion? The real rock of political salvation is 
self-love, perpetuated from age to age in every 
human breast, and manifested in every action. 
If they can stand the temptations of human 
nature, you are safe. If you have a good pres- 
ident, senators and representatives, there is no 
danger. But can this be expected from human 
nature? Without real checks, it will not suffice 
that some of them are good. A good president, 
or senator, or representative wUl have a natural 
weakness. Virtue will slumber: the wicked 
will be continually watching : consequently you 
wiU be imdone. Where are your checks? You 
have no hereditary nobility — an order of men, 
to whom human eyes can be cast up for relief: 
for, says the constitution, there is no title of 
nobility to be granted ; which, by the by, would 
not have been so dangerous, as the perUous ces- 
sion of the powers contained in that paper : be- 
cause, as Montesquieu says, when you give titles 
of nobility, you know what you give ; but when 
you give power, you know not what you give. 
If you say, that out of this depraved mass, you 
can collect luminous characters, it will not 
avaU, unless this luminous breed wLU be propa- 
gated from generation to generation ; and even 
then, if the number of vicious characters will 
preponderate, you are undone. And that this 
wUl certainly be the case, is, to my mind, per- 
fectly clear. In the British government, there 
are real balances and checks; in this system, 
there are only ideal balances. Till I am con- 
vinced that there are actual, efficient checks, I 
wUl not give my assent to its establishment. 
The president and senators have nothing to 
lose. They have not that interest in the pre- 
servation of the government, that the king and 
lords have in England. They wUl therefore be 
regardless of the interests of the people. The 
constitution wUl be as safe with one body, as 
with two. It will answer every purpose of 
human legislation. How was the constitution 
of England when only the commons had the 
power? I need only remark, that it was the 
most unfortunate era when the country returned 
to king, lords and commons, without sufficient 
responsibility in the king. When the commons 
of England, in the manly language which be- 
came freemen, said to their king, you are our 
servant, then the temple of liberty was com- 
plete. From that noble source have we derived 
our liberty : that spirit of patriotic attachment 
to one's country, that zeal for liberty, and that 
enmity to tyranny, which signalized the then 
champions of liberty, we inherit from our 
British ancestors. And I am free to own, that 
if you cannot love a republican government, 
you may love the British monarchy: for, al- 
though the king is not sufficiently responsible, 
the responsibility of his agents, and the efficient 
checks interposed by the British constitution, 
render it less dangerous than other monarchies, 
or oppressive tjrrannical aristocracies. What are 
their checks of exposing accounts? Their 



cliecks upon paper are inefficient and nugatory. 
Can you search your president's closet? Is 
this a real check? We ought to be exceedingly 
cautious in giving up this life, this soul — our 
money — this power of taxation to Congress. 
"What powerful check is there here to prevent 
the most extravagant and profligate squander- 
ing of the public money? "What security have 
we in money matters? Inquiry is precluded 
by this constitution. I never wish to see Con- 
gress supplicate the States. But it is more ab- 
horrent to my mind to give them an unlimited 
and unbounded command over our souls, our 
lives, our purses, without any check or re- 
straint. How are you to keep inquiry alive? 
How discover their conduct ? "We are told by 
that paper, that a regular statement and ac- 
count of the receipts and expenditures of all 
public money, shall be published from time to 
time. Here is a beautiful check ! "What time? 
Here is the utmost latitude left. If those who 
are in Congress please to put that construction 
upon it, the words of the constitution will be 
satisfied by publishing those accounts once in 
one hundred years. They may publish or not, 
as they please. Is this like the present despised 
system, whereby the accounts are to be publish- 
ed monthly? 

I come now to speak something of requisi- 
tions, which the honorable gentleman thought 
so truly contemptible and disgraceful. That 
honorable gentleman being a child of the Revo- 
lution, must recollect with gratitude the glorious 
effects of requisitions. It is an idea that must 
be grateful to every American. An English 
army was sent to compel us to pay money con- 
trary to our consent. To force us by arbitrary 
and tyrannical coercion to satisfy their un- 
bounded demands. We wished to pay with our 
own consent. Rather than pay agajnst our 
consent, we engaged in that bloody contest which 
terminated so gloriously. By requisitions we 
pay with our own consent; by their means 
we have triumphed in the most arduous strug- 
gle that ever tried the virtue of man. "\Ve 
fought then, for what we are contending now — 
to prevent an arbitrary deprivation of our pro- 
perty, contrary to our consent and inclination. 
I shall be told in this place, that those who are 
to tax us are our representatives. To this I an- 
swer, that there is no real check to prevent 
their ruining us. There is no actual responsi- 
bility. The only semblance of a check is the 
negative power of not re-electing them. This, 
sir, is but a feeble barrier, when their personal 
interest, their ambition and avarice come to be 
put in contrast with the happiness of the peo- 
ple. All checks founded on any thing but self- 
love, will not avail. This constitution reflects, 
in the most degrading and mortifying manner, 
on the virtue, integrity and wisdom of the State 
legislatures : it presupposes that the chosen few 
who go to Congress, will have more upright 
hearts, and more enlightened minds, than those 
who are members of the individual legislatures. 
To suppose that ten gentlemen shall have more 

real substantial merit, than one hundred and 
seventy, is humiliating to the last degree. If, 
sir, the diminution of numbers be an augmenta- 
tion of merit, perfection must centre in one. If 
you have the faculty of discerning spirits, it is 
better to point out at once the man who has the 
most illumined qualities. If ten men be better 
than one hundred and seventy, it follows of ne- 
cessity that one is better than ten — the choice 
is more refined. 

Such is the danger of the abuse of implied 
power, that it would be safer at once to have 
seven representatives, the number to which we 
are now entitled, than depend on the uncertain 
and ambiguous language of that paper. The 
number may be lessened instead of being in- 
creased; and yet by argumentative, construc- 
tive, implied power, the proportion of taxes 
may continue the same or be increased. No- 
thing is more perilous than constructive power, 
which gentlemen are so willing to trust their 
happiness to. 

If sherifls prove now an over-match for our 
legislature; if their ingenuity has eluded the 
vigilance of our laws, how will the matter be 
amended when they come clothed with federal 
authority? A strenuous argument offered by 
gentlemen is, that the same sheriffs may collect 
for the continental and State treasuries. I have 
before shown, that this must have an inevitable 
tendency to give a decided preference to the 
federal treasury in the actual collections, and 
to throw all deficiencies on the State. This 
imaginary remedy for the evil of congressional 
taxation, will have another oppressive operation. 
The sheriff comes to-day as a State collector- 
next day he is federal — how are you to fix him? 
How will it be possible to discriminate oppres- 
sions committed in one capacity, from those 
perpetrated in the other? Will not his in- 
genuity perplex the simple, honest planter? 
This will at least involve in diflSculties, those 
who are unacquainted with legal ingenuity. 
"When you fix him, where are you to punish 
him ? For, I suppose, they will not stay in our 
courts : they must go to the federal court ; for, 
if I understand that paper right, all controver- 
sies arising under that constitution, or under 
the laws made in pursuance thereof, are to be 
tried in that court. When gentlemen told us, 
that this part deserved the least exception, I 
was in hopes they would prove that there was 
plausibility in their suggestions, and that op- 
pression would probably not follow. Are we 
not told, that it shall be treason to levy war 
against the United States ? Suppose an insult 
ottered to the federal laws at an immense dis- 
tance from Philadelphia, will this be deemed 
treason ? And shall a man be dragged many 
hundred miles to be tried as a criminal, for 
having, perhaps justifiably, resisted an unwar- 
rantable attack upon his person or property? 
I am not well acquainted with federal juris- 
prudence ; but it appears to me that these op- 
pressions must result from this part of the plan. 
It is at least doubtful, and where there is even 


a possibility of snch evils, they ought to be 
guarded against. 

There are to be a mimber of places fitted out 
for arsenals and dock-yards in the diiFerent 
States. Unless you sell to Congress such places 
as are proper for these, within your State, you 
will not be consistent after adoption ; it results 
therefore clearly that you are to give into their 
hands, all such places as are fit for strongholds. 
When you have these fortifications and gar- 
risons within your State, your legislature will 
have no power over them, though they see the 
most dangerous insults oflfered to the people 
daily. They are also to have magazines in each 
State; these depositories for arms, though 
within the State, will be free from the control 
of its legislature. Are we at last brought to 
such a humiliating and debasing degradation, 
that we cannot be trusted with arms for our 
own defence ? There is a wide difierence be- 
tween having our arms in our own possession 
and under our own direction, and having them 
under the management of Congress. If our 
defence be the real object of having those arms, 
in whose hands can they be trusted with more 
propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own? 
If our legislature be unworthy of legislating 
for every foot in this State, they are unworthy 
of saying another word. 

The clause which says that Congress shall 
" provide for arming, organizing and disciplining 
the militia, and for governing siich part of them 
as may be employed in the service of the 
United States, reserving to the States respect- 
ively the appointment of the oflBcers," seemed 
to put the States in the power of Congress. I 
wished to be informed, if Congress neglected 
to discipline them, whether the States were 
not precluded from doing it. Not being favored 
with a particular answer, I am confirmed in 
my opinion, that the States have not the power 
of disciplining them, without recurring to the 
doctrine of constructive, implied powers. If 
by implication the States may discipline them, 
by implication also Congress may officer them ; 
because, in a partition of power, each has a 
right to come in for part ; and because implica- 
tion is to operate in favor of Congress on all 
occasions, where their object is the extension 
of power, as well as in favor of the States. We 
have not one-fourth of the arms that would be 
sufficient to defend ourselves. The power of 
arming the militia, and the means of purchasing 
arms, are taken from the States by the para- 
mount powers of Congress. If Congress wiU 
not arm them, they will not be armed at all. 

There have been no instances shown of a 
voluntary cession of power, sufficient to induce 
me to grant the most dangerous powers : a 
possibility of their future relinquishment will 
not persuade me to yield such powers. 

Congress, by the power of taxation, by that 
of raising an army, and by their control over 
the militia, have the sword in one hand and the 
purse in the other. Shall we be safe without 
either? Congress have an unlimited power 

over both : they are entirely given up by us. 
Let him candidly teU me, where and when did 
freedom exist, when the sword and purse were 
given up by the people ? Unless a miracle in 
human affairs interposed, no nation ever re- 
tained its liberty after the loss of the sword 
and purse. Can you prove by any argument- 
ative deduction, that it is possible to be safe 
without retaining one of these ? If you give 
them up, you are gone. Give us at least a plaii- 
sible apology why Congress should keep their 
proceedings in secret. They have the power 
of keeping them secret as long as they please ; 
for the provision for a periodical publication is 
too inexplicit and ambiguous to avaU any thing. 
The expression, from time to time, as I have 
more than once observed, admits of any exten- 
sion. They' may carry on the most wicked and 
pernicious of schemes under the dark veil of 
secrecy. The liberties of a people never were 
nor ever will be secure, when the transactions 
of their rulers may be concealed from them. 
The most iniquitous plots may be carried on 
against their liberty and happiness. I am not 
an advocate for divulging indiscriminately all 
the operations of government, though the prac- 
tice of our ancestors in some degree justifies it. 
Such transactions as relate to military opera- 
tions, or affairs of great consequence, the im- 
mediate promulgation of which might defeat 
the interests of the community, I would not 
wish to be published, till the end which required 
their secrecy should have been effected. But 
to cover, with the veil of secrecy, the common 
routine of business, is an abomination in the 
eyes of every intelligent man, and every friend 
to his country. 

[Mr. Henry then, in a very animated manner, 
expatiated on the evil and pernicious tendency 
of keeping secret the common proceedings of 
government, and said, that it was contrary to 
the practice of other free nations. The people 
of England, he asserted, had gained immortal 
honor, by the manly boldness wherewith they 
divulged to all the world their political disqui- 
sitions and operations ; and that such a conduct 
inspired other nations with respect. He illus- 
trated his arguments by several quotations.] 
He then continued : — 

I appeal to this convention, if it would not 
be better for America to take ofi" the veil of 
secrecy. Look at us— hear our transactions. 
If this had been the language of the federal 
convention, what would have been the result ? 
Such a constitution would not have come out 
to your utter astonishment, conceding such 
dangerous powers, and recommending secrecy 
in the future transactions of government. I 
believe it would have given more general satis- 
faction, if the proceedings of that convention 
had not been concealed from the public eye. 
This constitution authorizes the same conduct. 
There is not an English feature in it. The 
transactions of Congress may be concealed a 
century from the public consistently with the 
constitution. This, sir, is a laudable imitation 



of the transactions of the Spanish treaty. We 
have not forgotten with what a thick veil of 
secrecy those transactions were covered. 

We are told that this government, collectively 
taken, is without an example ; that it is national 
in this part, and federal in that part, &c. We 
may be amused, if we please, by a treatise of 
political anatomy. In the brain it is national : 
the stamina are federal — some limbs are federal, 
others national. The senators are voted for by 
the State legislatures ; so far it is federal. In- 
dividuals choose the members of the first 
branch ; here it is national. It is federal in 
conferring general powers, but national in re- 
taining them. It is not to be supported by the 
States — the pockets- of individuals are to be 
searched for its maintenance. What signifies 
it to me, that you have the most curious ana- 
tomical description of it in its creation ? To all 
the common purposes of legislation it is a great 
consolidation of government. You are not to 
have the right to legislate in any but trivial 
cases : you are not to touch private contracts : 
you are not to have the right of having arms in 
your own defence : you cannot be trusted with 
dealing out justice between man and man. 
What shall the States have to do ? — Take care 
of the poor, repair and make highways, erect 
bridges, and so on and so on. Abolish the 
State legislatures at once. What purposes 
should they be continued for ? Our legislature 
will indeed be a ludicrous spectacle — one hun- 
dred and eighty men marching in solemn, 
farcical procession, exhibiting a mournful pi oof 
of the lost liberty of their country, without the 
power of restoring it. But, sir, we have the 
consolation, that it is a mixed government; 
that is, it may work sorely on your neck, but 
you will have some comfort by saying, that it 
was a federal government in its origin. 

I beg gentlemen to consider ; lay aside your 
prejudices — is this a federal government? Is it 
not a consolidated government for every pur- 
pose almost ? Is the government of Virginia a 
State government, after this government is 
adopted ? I grant that it is a republican gov- 
ernment ; but for what purposes ? For such 
trivial, domestic considerations, as render it 
unworthy the name of a legislature. I shall 
take leave of this political anatomy by observ- 
ing, that it is the most extraordinary that ever 
entered into the imagination of man. If our 
political diseases demand a cure, this is an 
unheard of medicine. The honorable member, 
I am convinced, wanted a name for it. Were 
your health in danger, would you take new 
medicine ? I need not make use of these ex- 
clamations; for every member in this committee 
must be alarmed at making new and unusual 
experiments in government. Let us have na- 
tional credit and a national treasury in case of 
war. You never can want national resources 
m time of war, if the war be a national one, if 
it be necessary, and this necessity be obvious 
to the meanest capacity. The utmost exertions 
will be used by the people of America in that 

case. A republic has this advantage over a 
monarchy, that its wars are generally founded 
on more just grounds. A republic can never 
enter into a war, unless it be a national war, 
unless it be approved of, or desired by the 
whole community. Did ever a republic fail to 
use the utmost resources of the community 
when a war was necessary ? I call for an ex- 
ample. I call also for an example, when a 
republic has been engaged in a war contrary to 
the wishes of its people. There are thousands 
of examples where the ambition of its prince 
has precipitated a nation into the most destruc- 
tive war. No nation ever withheld power 
when its object was just and right. I wiU 
hazard an observation: I find fault with the 
paper before you, because the same power that 
declares war, has the ability to carry it on. Is 
it so in England ? The king declares war : the 
house of commons gives the means of carrying 
it on. This is a strong check on the king. He 
will enter into no war that is unnecessary ; for 
the commons, having the power of withholding 
the means, will exercise that power, unless the 
object of the war be for the interest of the 
nation. How is it here? The Congress can 
both declare war and carry it on, and levy 
your money as long as you have a shilling to 

I shall now speak a little of the colonial con- 
federacy which was proposed at Albany. Mas- 
sachusetts did not give her consent to the pro- 
ject at Albany so as to consolidate with the 
other colonies. Had there been a consolidation 
at Albany, where would have been their char- 
ter ? Would that confederacy have preserved 
their charter from Britain ? The strength and 
energy of the then designed government would 
have crushed American opposition. 

The American revolution took its origin from 
the comparative weakness of the British gov- 
ernment, not being concentred into one point. 
A concentration of the strength and interest of 
the British government in one point, would 
have rendered opposition to its tyrannies fruit- 
less. For want of that consolidation do we 
now enjoy liberty, and the privilege of debating 
at this moment. I am pleased with the colo- 
nial establishment. The example which the 
honorable member has produced to persuade us 
to depart from our present confederacy, rivets 
me to my former opinion, and convinces me 
that consolidation must end in the destruction 
of our liberties. 

The honorable gentleman Jias told us of our 
ingratitude to France. She does not intend 
to take payment by force. Ingratitude shall 
not be laid to my charge. I wish to see the 
friendship between this country and that mag- 
nanimous ally perpetuated. Kequisitions will 
enable us to pay the debts we owe to France 
and other countries. She does not desire us 
to go from our beloved republican government. 
The change is inconsistent with our engage- 
ments with those nations. It is cried out, tliat 
those in opposition wish disunion. This is not 



true. They are the most strenuous friends to 
it. Tliis government will clearly operate dis- 
union. If it be heard on the other side of the 
Atlantic, that you are going to disunite and dis- 
solve the confederacy, what says France ? "VVill 
she be indifferent to an event that will so radi- 
cally affect her treaties with us? Our treaty 
with her is founded on the confederation — we 
are bound to her as thirteen States confederated. 
What will become of the treaty? It is said 
that treaties will be on a better footing. How 
so ? Will the President, Senate, and House of 
Eepresentatives be parties to them ? I cannot 
conceive how the treaties can be as binding, if 
the confederacy is dissolved, as they are now. 
Those nations will not continue their friend- 
ship then ; they will become our enemies. I 
look on the treaties as the greatest pillars of 
safety. If the house of Bourbon keeps us, we 
are safe. Dissolve that confederacy — who has 
you? — The British. Federalism will not pro- 
tect you from the British. Is a connection with 
that country more desirable ? I was amazed 
when gentlemen forgot the friends of America. 
I hope that this dangerous change will not be 
effected. It is safe for the French and Span- 
iards, that we should continue to be thirteen 
States ; but it is not so, that we should be con- 
solidated into one government. T'^ey have set- 
tlements in America ; will they like schemes of 
popular ambition ? Will they not have some 
serious reflections? You may tell them you 
have not changed your situation ; but they will 
not believe you. If there be a real check in- 
tended to be left on Congress, it must be left in 
the State governments. There will be some 
check, as long as the judges are incorrupt. As 
long as they are upright, you may preserve 
your liberty. But what will the judges deter- 
mine when the State and federal authority come 
to be contrasted ? Will your liberty then be 
secure, when the congressional laws are de- 
clared paramount to the laws of your State, 
and the judges are sworn to support them? 

I am constrained to make a few remarks on 
the absurdity of adopting this system, and re- 
lying on the chance of getting it amended af- 
terwards. When it is confessed to be replete 
with defects, is it not offering to insult your 
understandings, to attempt to reason you out of 
the propriety of rejecting it, till it be amended? 
Does it not insult your judgments to tell you — 
adopt first, and then amend ? Is your rage for 
novelty so great, that you are first to sign and 
seal, and then to retract ? Is it possible to con- 
ceive a greater solecism ? I am at a loss what to 
say. You agree to bind yourselves hand and 
foot — for the sake of what? Of being un- 
bound. You go into a dungeon — for what? 
To get out. Is there no danger when you go 
in, that the bolts of federal authority shall shut 
you in ? Human nature never will part from 
power. Look for an example of a voluntary 
relinquishment of power, from one end of the 
globe to another — you will find none. Nine- 
tenths of our fellow-men have been, and are 

now, depressed by the most intolerable slavery, 
in the different parts of the world ; because the 
strong hand of power has bolted them in the 
dungeon of despotism. Eeview the present 
situation of the nations of Europe, which is 
pretended to be the freest quarter of the globe. 
Cast your eyes on the countries called free 
there. Look at the country from which we are 
descended, I beseech you ; and although we are 
separated by everlasting, insuperable partitions, 
yet there are some virtuous people there who 
are friends to human nature and liberty. Look 
at Britain; see there the bolts and bars of 
power ; see bribery and corruption defiling the 
fairest fabric that ever human nature reared. 
Can a gentleman, who is an Englishman, or 
who is acquainted with the English history, de- 
sire to prove these evils ? See the efforts of a 
man descended from a friend of America ; see 
the efforts of that man, assisted even by the 
king, to make reforms. But you find the faults 
too strong to be amended. Nothing but bloody 
war can alter them. See Ireland : that coun- 
try groaning from century to century, without 
getting their government amended. Previous 
adoption was the fashion there. They sent for 
amendments from time to time, but never ob- 
tained them, though pressed by the severest 
oppression, tiU eighty thousand volunteers de- 
manded them sword in hand — till the power of 
Britain was prostrate ; when the American re- 
sistance was crowned with success. Shall we 
do so ? If you judge by the experience of Ire- 
land, you must obtain the amendments as early 
as possible. But, I ask you again, where is the 
example that a government was amended by 
those who instituted it? Where is the instance 
of the errors of a government rectified by those 
who adopted them ? 

I shall make a few observations to prove that 
the power over elections, which is given to Con- 
gress, is contrived by the federal government ; 
that the people may be deprived of their proper 
influence in the government, by destroying the 
force and effect of their suffrages. Congress is 
to have a discretionary control over the time, 
place and manner of elections. The represent- 
atives are to be elected consequently when and 
where they please. As to the time and place, 
gentlemen have attempted to obviate the ob- 
jection, by saying that the time is to happen 
once in two years, and that the place is to be 
within a particular district, or in the respective 
counties. But how will they obviate the dan- 
ger of referring the manner of election to Con- 
gress? Those illumined genii may see that 
this may not endanger the rights of the peo- 
ple ; but to my unenlightened understanding, it 
appears plain and clear, that it will impair the 
popular weight of the government. Look at the 
Eoman history. They had two ways of voting : 
the one by tribes, and the other by centuries. 
By the former, numbers prevailed : in the lat- 
ter, riches preponderated. According to the 
mode prescribed. Congress may tell you, that 
they have a right to make the vote of one gen- 



tleman po as far as the votes of one hundred poor 
men. The power over the manner admits of the 
most dangerous Latitude. They may modify it 
as they please. They may regulate the number 
of votes by the quantity of property, without 
involving any repugnancy to the constitution. 
I should not have thought of this trick or con- 
trivance, had I not seen how the public liberty 
of Rome was trifled with by the mode of voting 
by centuries, whereby one rich man had as 
many votes as a multitude of poor men. The 
plebeians were trampled on till they resisted. 
The patricians trampled on the liberties of the 
plebeians, tUl the latter had spirit to assert their 
right to freedom and equality. The result of 
the American mode of election may be similar. 
Perhaps I shall be told, that I have gone 
through the regions of fancy ; that I deal in 
noisy exclamations, and mighty professions of 
patriotism. Gentlemen may retain their opin- 
ions ; but I look on that paper as the most fatal 
plan that could possibly be conceived to enslave 
a free people. If such be your rage for novelty, 
take it and welcome, but you never shall have 

my consent. My sentiments may appear ex- 
travagant, but I can tell you, that a number of 
my fellow-citizens have kindred sentiments; 
and I am anxious, if my country should coma 
into the hands of tyranny, to exculpate myself 
from being in any degree the cause ; and to ex- 
ert my faculties to the utmost to extricate her. 
Whether I am gratified or not in my beloved 
form of government, I consider that the mora 
she is plunged into distress, the more it is my 
duty to relieve her. Whatever may be the re- 
sult, I shall wait with patience till the day may 
come when an opportunity shall offer to exert 
myself in her cause. 

But I should be led to take that man for a 
lunatic, who should tell me to run into the 
adoption of a government avowedly defective, 
in hopes of having it amended afterwards. 
Were I about to give away the meanest par- 
ticle of my own property, I should act with 
more prudence and discretion. My anxiety 
and fears are great, lest America, by the adop- 
tion of this system, should be cast into a fath- 
omless abyss. 



The name of Lee occupies a prominent and honorable position in the political, religious and 
domestic history of the American colonies. Richard, the great-grandfather of Richard Henry 
Lee, removed from England to Virginia, during the reign of Charles the First, and after making 
several voyages to his native country, finally settled in the comity of Northumberland, between 
the valleys of the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers. During the civU war between Charles 
the First and the British Parliament, this Richard Lee, and Governor Sir William Berkeley, 
conducted, on the part of Virginia, the negotiations consequent upon her resistance to the armed 
ships and troops of Cromwell, which had been sent to reduce her to an allegiance. Unable to 
defend the colony against this force, but refusing fidelity to the Protector, they consummated a 
treaty, in which Virginia was styled an " independent dominion." On the death of Cromwell, 
Lee, with the assistance of Sir William Berkeley, procured a declaration, proclaiming Charles 
the Second "King of England, France, Scotland, Ireland and Virginia," two years previous to 
his restoration. For this manifestation of loyalty, Charles, after he was restored to his throne, 
ordered the arms of Virginia to be added to those of England, France, Scotland and Ireland, 
with the motto " En dat Virginia quintain^ After the union of England and Scotland, the 
arms of Virginia were quartered with those of England, &c., with the motto " En dat Virginia 
qtuwtam ; '''' and from these circumstances Virginia derived her title of " Ancient Dominion." 
In gratitude for the eminent services of Mr. Lee, Richard, his second son, was appointed to an 
honorable and influential seat in the king's council of Virginia. This oflBce was transmitted to Tho- 
mas, the third son of the last mentioned Richard Lee, and the father of Richard Henry, the sub- 
ject of the present sketch. 

Richard Henry Lee was born on the twentieth day of January, 1732, in Westmoreland county, 
Virginia. At this period there were very few seminaries of learning in the colonies, at which 
the higher branches of education were taught, therefore young Lee, after passing a few years 
under the care of a private tutor, was sent to England to complete his studies. At the age of 
nineteen, two years after the death of his father, in 1750, he returned to his native country, and 
for some time resided with his brother. Although at this time he passed his days in ease and 
pleasure, he was never idle. The extensive library his father had collected was his resort, and 
among the books he found abundant resources to improve his intellect. He studied with pro- 
found admiration the classic histories of Greece and Rome, and from the story of their patriotic 
and republican ages, he derived that extensive fund of political knowledge which he so success- 
fully used in the service of the colonies, in after life. Thus prepared, Mr. Lee entered upon the 
field of public action. At the time England sent troops to protect the frontiers of the colonies 
from the predatory incursions of the Indians, who were employed by France to carry on the 
" seven years war " in America, Mr. Lee, on their arrival, marched at the head of a volunteer 
sompany to Alexandria, or Belhaven, on the Potomac, and tendered his services to the unfortu- 
nate General Braddock, who had command of the regulars. The general deeming the services 
of the provincials of little importance, declined to take them under his command, and Mr. Lee 
returned to his home. This occurred in 1755. In 1757 Mr. Lee was appointed a justice of the 
peace, and upon a petition from the other magistrates to the governor, he was made president 


of the court. The same year lie was elected to the House of Burgesses, in which position he 
became thoroughly versed in the laws of legislation, and the rules of parliamentary proceedings. 
For a long time, through want of confidence, and natural diffidence, he took very little part in 
debate ; but the occasion arrived when he rose to a position among the first in ability and elo- 
quence. A bill was before the House " to lay so heavy a duty on the importation of slaves, as 
effectually to stop the disgraceful traffic." It met with the strongest opposition. Mr. Lee spoke 
in favor of the imposition. " As the consequences, sir," said he, " of the determination which 
we must make in the subject of this day's debate, will greatly afi'ect posterity as well as our- 
selves, it surely merits our most serious attention. If this be bestowed, it will appear both from 
reason and experience, that the importation of slaves into this colony, has been and will be 
attended with effects dangerous to our political and moral interest. When it is observed that 
some of our neighboring colonies, though much later than ourselves in point of settlement, are 
now far before us in improvement, to what, sir, can we attribute this strange and unhappy truth ? 
The reason seems to be this — that with their whites they import arts and agriculture, whUe we 
with our blacks, exclude both. Nature has not particularly favored them with superior fertility 
of soil, nor do they enjoy more of the sun's cheering influence, yet greatly have they out- 
stripped us. * * * * In my opinion, not the cruelties practised in the conquest of Spanish 
America, not the savage barbarities of a Saracen, can be more big with atrocity than our cruel 
trade to Africa. There we encourage those poor ignorant people to wage eternal war against 
each other; not nation against nation, but father against son, children against parents, and 
brothers against brothers ; whereby parental and filial afifection is terribly violated ; that by war, 
stealth or surprise, we Christians may be furnished with our feUow-creatures, who are no longer 
to be considered as created in the image of God, as well as ourselves, and equally entitled to 
liberty and freedom, by the great law of nature, but they are to be deprived, for ever deprived, 
of all the comforts of life, and to be made the most miserable of all the human race. I have 
seen it observed by a great writer, that Christianity, by introducing into Europe the truest prin- 
ciples of humanity, universal benevolence and brotherly love, had happily abolished civil 
slavery. Let us who profess the same religion, practise its precepts, and by agreeing to this 
duty, convince the world that we know and practise our true interests, and that we pay a 
proper regard to the dictates of justice and humanity." Mr. Lee's eloquence on this occasion 
was highly applauded, but the principles he advocated were not popular, and the bill was 

The next important service rendered by Mr. Lee, was the exposure of the frauds and corrup- 
tions practised by Mr. Eobinson, the treasurer of the colony of Virginia. Mr. Eobinsou was a 
man of immense wealth and social power, and was very popular with the aristocratic party, of 
which Ls was a member.* These circumstances, together with that of his occupying the 
speaker's chair in the House of Burgesses, before whom Mr. Lee was to speak, required great 
boldness, energy and sagacity to introduce the investigation successfully. This he accomplished 
with the skill of a master, and proved clearly that the treasurer had been guilty of re-issuing 
reclaimed treasury bUls, to his friends and favorites to support their extravagance ; thereby de- 
frauding the colony. 

When Patrick Henry proposed his resolutions in 1765, against the Stamp Act, Mr. Lee lent 
the full force of his splendid mind and eloquence to their support. In the debate upon this im- 
portant act people knew not which most to admire ; the overwhelming might of Henry or the 
resistless persuasion of Lee. Mr. Lee also contributed powerful articles against the " odious 
act," to the newspapers of the day, and he furnished an array of arguments against it to his friends 
in England, that were sufficient to convince every one of the ruinous policy of the measure. 
His letters about this period are the embodiment of energy and patriotism. In one addressed 
to John Dickinson, dated July 25th, 1768, in speaking of the declaratory act which ac- 
companied the repeal of the Stamp Act, as a just cause of complaint to the colonies, he says: — 

* At this time two parties divided the House of Burgesses. Althougli they could not be strictly termed "whig and 
tory," they were called aristocratic and republican. Mr. Lee was a firm and ardent republican, in the sense in which that 
word might be applied to Cato or Hampden. 


"To prevent the success of this unjust system, an union of counsel and action among all the col- 
onies, is undoubtedly necessary. The politician of Italy delivered the result of reason and ex- 
perience, when he proposed the way to conquest, ly dkision. How to effect this union, in the 
wisest and firmest manner, perhaps, time and much reflection only can show. But well to un- 
derstand each other, and timely to be informed of what passes both here and in Great Britain, 
it would seem that not only select committees should be appointed by all the colonies, but that a 
private correspondence should be conducted between the lovers of liberty in every province."* 

Early in 1769 Mr. Lee introduced into the House of Burgesses, resolutions "denying the 
right of the mother country to bind the colonies in any case whatever," and firmly remonstrated 
against the act authorizing the crown to have " the inhabitants of the colonies transported to 
England to be tried for offences alleged to have been committed in the colonies." These 
resolutions were considered by the friends of the Crown as seditious, and the Governor dis- 
solved the House so soon as he was informed of their adoption by that body. On the disso- 
lution of the assembly, the members convened at a private house, where they drew up articles 
of convention, agreeing not to import or encourage in any way British manufactures, while the 
revenue acts remained in force. In the enforcement of these measures Mr. Lee was very active. 
In his own family he strictly adhered to the articles, and he was vigilant in watching those whom 
he suspected of a reluctant acquiescence. " To the domestic loom he had recourse for clothing 
for himself and family, and for 'wine and oU' he resorted to his own hills." 

The years 1770 and 1771 passed away in comparative quiet. Mr. Lee during this time wisely 
persevered in the course he had marked out; continued his correspondence and widely spread 
the information, respecting the probable intentions of the ministry, which he was continually 
receiving from England, through the vigilance of his brother, Arthur Lee.t In 1772 Parliament 
determined to establish in the colonies, courts with admiralty jurisdiction and powers. By this 
proceeding trial by jury was suspended, and the property and lives of the colonists placed at 
the mercy of judges who were to be appointed by the Crown. Mr. Lee opposed this mea- 
sure, in the House of Burgesses, and proposed to address an humble petition to his majesty, 
which, after reciting the grievances of the colonists, should pray, " that he would be most gra- 
ciously pleased to recommend the repeal of the acts passed for the purpose of raising a revenue 
in America, and for subjecting American property to the determination of admiralty courts, 
where the constitutional trial by jury is not permitted." 

On the assembling of Congress at Philadelphia, on the fourth of September, 1774, Mr. Lee 
took his seat in that body together with George Washington and Patrick Henry, who with him 
had been deputed delegates from the colony of Virginia. In this august assembly, and through- 
out his Congressional career, Mr. Lee distinguished himself by the boldness of his propositions, 

* By this letter it appears Mr. Lee devised a plan of having committees of correspondence tctween the colonial assem- 
blies and of private corresponding clubs, as early as 1768, and this is in support of General Gadsden of South CaroUna, who, 
a few years previous to his death, remarked on a public occasion, that Eichard Henry Lee had invited him to become a 
member of a private corresponding society, as early as the year 1I6S, which he (Mr. Lee) was endeavoring to establish be- 
tween the influential men of the colonies. Ho stated that Mr. Lee described his object to be, to obtain a mutual pledge 
from the members to write for the public journals or the papers of their respective colonies, and converse with and inform 
the people on the subject of their rights and their wrongs, and upon all seasonable occasions to impress upon their minds 
the necessity of a struggle with Great Britain, for the ultimate establishment of independence.— (S«6 life of Hidiard 
ffenry Lee, vol. i. p. 64. 

t Dr. Arthur Lee, the youngest brother of Richard Henry Lee, was born on the twentieth of December, 1T40. He was 
educated at Edinburgh, and for some time pursued the practice of medicine at that place. On his return to America, he 
practised his profession for several years at Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1766 he again went to London, and studied law in 
the Temple, at the same time becoming an Intimate friend of Sir William Jones, the learned lawyer and able historian. 
In England he rendered very important services to his native country, by sending to America the earliest intelligence of 
the plans of the ministry. In 1769 he wrote the able Monitor's letters, and a few years after a series of letters appeared 
from his pen, under the signature of "Junius Amerieanus.'" As the agent of Virginia in 1775, he presented the second pe- 
tition of Congress to the king. In 1776 he went to Paris, as colleague with Dr. Franklin and Silas Deane, and assisted in 
negotiating the treaty with France. On the appointment of Dr. Franklin as sole minister to the French Court, Mr. Lee 
returned to America. In 1784 he was appointed a commissioner to treat with the Indians of the Six Nations, which tmst 
he executed with much honor to himself and great satisfaction to his country. He was admitted to the bar of the 
Supreme Court of the United States, in February, 1790. Two years afterwards he died. His life, by E. H. Lee, was pub- 
lished in 1829 



and the energy with which he supported them. The address he prepared by the direction of 
Congress in 1775, on behalf of the twelve United Colonies, is an imperishable evidence of his 
patriotism and eloquence. The important motion of the seventh of June, 1776, " that these 
United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States ; that they are ab- 
solved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them 
and the State of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved," was prepared and intro- 
duced by Mr. Lee, and he supported them in a brilliant and powerful speech. A few days after 
the introduction of this motion Mr. Lee was called home on account of the illness of his wife, 
which circumstance prevented his taking his seat as chairman of the committee upon his reso- 
lution according to parliamentary rules. Mr. Jefferson was appointed in his place. In August 
he returned to Congress, and signed the Declaration of Independence. The following June he 
returned to Virginia. Again in 1778, he took his seat in the Congress, and for the next two years 
rendered eminent services, either as the head, or a member of important committees. In the 
spring of the year 1780, he was re-elected a delegate to the General Assembly of Virginia. The 
royal troops, defeated in the north, now turned their operations to the southward. The incur- 
sions of the enemy upon the coasts of Virginia kept the inhabitants in a state of continual alarm 
and danger, and the small fleets, which could pass up the rivers, landed troops and pillaged the 
country. "Westmoreland, the county in which Mr. Lee resided, from its situation, was much ex- 
posed to these distressing incursions, and he was called upon by the State to take command of 
the militia and repel the enemy. In this position he evinced his characteristic judgment and ac- 
tivity, annoying the enemy on their approaches and making excellent arrangements for a suc- 
cessful defence. 

During the years 1780, 1781, 1782, Mr. Lee remained in the Assembly of his native State, be- 
lieving that his services would be more profitable to his country in that position, rather than in 
the Congress of the United Colonies. At this time propositions were introduced in the assem- 
bly, to pay debts due to England; to make paper money a legal tender; and to impose a tax to 
support the clergy. These propositions were advocated by Mr. Lee, and opposed by Mr. Henry 
with great power.* In 1 784 Mr. Lee again returned to Congress, and was chosen president of that 
body. Under the Federal Constitution he was one of the first members of the United States 
Senate, in which assembly he fully sustained the exalted reputation he had early acquired. In 
1792 he retired altogether from public life, and on the nineteenth of June, 1794, at his home in 
OhantOly, Virginia, he died in the sixty-fourth year of his age. 


By a resolution of Congress passed on the 
third of June, 1775, a committee was appointed 
to prepare an address to the inhabitants of 
Great Britain. Eichard Henry Lee, R. R. Liv- 
ingston and Edmund Randolph composed that 

* An interesting comparison of the merits of these great 
men, at this period of their lives, is given by a correspondent 
of the author of the life of Patrick Henry. " I met with 
Patricli Henry in the Assembly, in May, 1783 ; I also then 
met with Eichard Henry Lee. These two gentlemen were 
the great leaders of the House of Delegates, and were almost 
constantly opposed. There were many other great men who 
belonged to that body, but as orators they cannot be named 
with Henry or Lee. Mr. Lee was a polished gentleman. He 
had lost the use of one of his hands, but his manner was per- 
fectly graceful. His language was always chaste, and, al- 
though somewhat too monotonous, hia speeches were always 
pleasing, yet be did not ravish your senses or carry away 

committee, and Mr. Lee, as chairman, drafted 
the following address, which was adopted by 
Congress on the eighth of July, 1775, and for- 
warded to England in charge of Mr. Penn.t 

your judgment by storm. His was the mediate class of elo- 
quence described by Kollin in his Belles Lettres. He was like 
a beautiful river meandering through a flowery mead, but 
which never overflowed its banks. It was Henry who was the 
mountain torrent, that swept away every thing before it ; it 
was he alone who thundered and lightened, he .alone attained 
that sublime species of eloquence also mentioned by Kollin." 
t There were two addresses from the colonies, by their 
delegates in Congress, to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, 
one which was written by John Jay, in accordance with a 
resolve of Congress of October llth, 1774, and the one se- 
lected; prepared in accordance with a resolve of Congress ot 
June 8d, 1775. The circumstance of there being two, has often 
caused debate as to their authorship. — See Jourtiah of Con- 
gress, vol. I. pp. 19, 26, 79, 106. 



The twelve United Colonies, ly their delegates in 
Congress, to the inhabitants of Great Britain: 

Friends, Countetmen and Beetheen! — By 
these, and by every other appellation that may 
designate the ties which bind us to each other, 
we entreat your serious attention to this our 
second attempt to prevent their dissolution. 
Remembrance of former friendships, pride in 
the glorious achievements of our common an- 
cestors, and affection for the heirs of their vir- 
tues, have hitherto preserved our mutual con- 
nection; but when that friendship is violated 
by the grossest injuries ; when the pride of an- 
cestry becomes our reproach, and we are no 
otherwise allied than as tyrants and slaves, 
when reduced to the melancholy alternative of 
renouncing your favor or our freedom ; can we 
hesitate about the choice? Let the spirit of 
Britons determine. 

In a former address we asserted our rights, 
and stated the injuries we had then received. 
We hoped that the mention of our wrongs 
would have roused that honest indignation 
which has slept too long for your honor, or the 
welfare of the empire. But we have not been 
permitted to entertain this pleasing expectation. 
Every day brought on accumulation of injuries, 
and the invention of the ministry has been con- 
stantly exercised in adding to the calamities of 
your American brethren. 

After the most valuable right of legislation 
was infringed; when the powers assumed by 
your Parliament, in which we are not rep- 
resented, and from our local and other circum- 
stances cannot be properly represented, render- 
ed our property precarious ; after being denied 
that mode of trial to which we have been long 
indebted for the safety of our persons and the 
preservation of our liberties ; after being in 
many instances divested of those laws which 
were transmitted to us by our common ances- 
tors, and subjected to an arbitrary code, com- 
piled under the auspices of Roman tyrants; 
after those charters, which encouraged our pre- 
decessors to brave death and danger in every 
shape, on unknown seas, in deserts unexplored, 
amidst barbarous and inhospitable nations, were 
annulled; when, without the form of trial, 
without a public accusation, whole colonies 
were condemned, their trade destroyed, their 
inhabitants impoverished ; when soldiers were 
encouraged to imbrue their hands in the blood 
of Americans, by oiFers of impunity; when 
new modes of trial were instituted for the ruin 
of the accused, where the charge carried with 
it the horrors of conviction ; when a despotic 
government was established in a neighboring 
province, and its limits extended to every part 
of our frontiers ; we little imagined that any- 
thing could be added to this black catalogue of 
unprovoked injuries: but we have unhappily 
been deceived, and the late measures of the 
British ministry fully convince us, that their 
object is the reduction of these colonies to sla- 
very and ruin. 

To confirm this assertion, let us recall your 
attention to the affairs of America, since our 
last address. Let us combat the calumnies of 
our enemies ; and let us warn you of the dan- 
gers that threaten you in our destruction. Many 
of your fellow subjects, whose situation de- 
prived them of other support, drew their main- 
tenance from the sea; but the deprivation of 
our liberty being insufficient to satisfy the re- 
sentment of our enemies, the horrors of famine 
were superadded, and a British Parliament, who, 
in better times, were the protectors of innocence 
and the patrons of humanity, have, without dis- 
tinction of age or sex, robbed thousands of the 
food, which they were accustomed to di-aw from 
that inexhaustible source, placed in their neigh- 
borhood by the benevolent Creator. 

Another act of your legislature shuts our 
ports, and prohibits our trade with any but 
those States from whom the great law of self- 
preservation renders it absolutely necessary we 
should at present withhold our commerce. But 
this act (whatever may have been its design) 
we consider rather as injurious to your opulence 
than our interest. All our commerce terminates 
with you; and the wealth we procure from 
other nations, is soon exchanged for your super- 
fluities. Our remittances must then cease with 
our trade ; and our refinements with our afflu- 
ence. We trust, however, that laws which de- 
prive us of every blessing but a soil that teems 
with the necessaries of life, and that liberty 
which renders the enjoyment of them secure, 
will not relax our vigor in their defence. We 
might here observe on the cruelty and incon- 
sistency of those, who, while they publicly 
brand us with reproachful and unworthy epi- 
thets, endeavor to deprive us of the means of 
defence by their interposition with foreign 
powers, and to deliver us to the lawless ravages 
of a merciless soldiery. But happily we are 
not without resources; and though the timid 
and humiliating applications of a British minis- 
try should prevail with foreign nations, yet in- 
dustry, prompted by necessity, will not leave us 
without the necessary supplies. 

We could wish to go no further, and, not to 
wound the ear of humanity, leave untold those 
rigorous acts of oppression, which are daily ex- 
ercised in the town of Boston, did not we hope, 
that by disclaiming their deeds, and punishing 
the perpetrators, you would shortly vindicate 
the honor of the British name, and re-establish 
the violated laws of justice. 

That once populous, flourishing, and commer- 
cial town, is now garrisoned by an army, sent 
not to protect, but to enslave its inhabitants. 
The civil government is overturned, and a mili- 
tary despotism erected upon its ruins. With- 
out law, without right, powers are assumed un- 
known to the constitution. Private property is 
unjustly invaded. The inhabitants, daily sub- 
jected to the licentiousness of the soldiery, are 
forbid to remove, in defiance of their natural 
rights, in violation of the most solemn com- 
pacts. Or, if after long and wearisome solici- 



tation, a pass is procured, their effects are de- 
tained, and even tliose who are most favored, 
have no alternative but poverty or slavery. 
The distress of many thousand people, wantonly 
deprived of the necessaries of life, is a subject, 
on which we would not wish to enlarge. 

Yet we cannot but observe, that a British 
fleet (unjustified even by acts of your legisla- 
ture) are daily employed in ruining our com- 
merce, seizing our ships, and depriving whole 
communities of their daily bread. Nor will a 
regard for your honor permit us to be silent, 
while British troops sully your glory, by ac- 
tions, which the most inveterate enmity will 
not palliate among civilized nations, the wanton 
and unnecessary destruction of Oharlestown, a 
"large, ancient and once populous town, just be- 
fore deserted by its inhabitants, who had fled 
to avoid the fury of your soldiery. 

If still you retain those sentiments of com- 
passion by which Britons have ever been dis- 
tinguished; if the humanity which tempered 
the valor of our common ancestors has not de- 
generated into cruelty, you will lament the 
miseries of their descendants. 

To what are we to attribute this treatment ? 
If to any secret principle of the constitution, 
let it be mentioned ; let us learn that the gov- 
ernment we have long revered is not without 
its defects, and that while it gives freedom to a 
part, it necessarily enslaves the remainder of 
the empire. If such a principle exists, why 
for ages has it ceased to operate ? Why at this 
time is it called into action ? Can no reason be 
assigned for this conduct? or must it be re- 
solved into the wanton exercise of arbitrary 
power ? And shall the descendants of Britons 
tamely submit to this ? No, sirs ! "We never 
will ; while we revere the memory of our gal- 
lant and virtuous ancestors, we never can sur- 
render those glorious privDeges for which they 
fought, bled, and conquered. Admit that your 
fleets could destroy our towns, and ravage our 
sea-coasts; these are inconsiderable objects, 
things of no moment to men whose bosoms 
glow with the ardor of liberty. "We can retire 
beyond the reach of your navy, and, without 
any sensible diminution of the necessaries of 
life, enjoy a luxury, which from that period you 
will want — the luxury of being free. 

We know the force of your arms, and was it 
called forth in the caitse of justice and your 
country, we might dread the exertion ; but will 
Britons fight under the banners of tyranny? 
Will they counteract th« labors, and disgrace 
the victories of their ancestors? Will they 
forge chains for their posterity? If they de- 
scend to this unworthy task, will their swords 
retain their edge, their arms their accustomed 
vigor ? Britons can never become the instru- 
ments of oppression, till they lose the spirit of 
freedom, by which alone they are invincible. 

Our enemies charge us with sedition. In 
what does it consist ? In our refusal to submit 
to unwarrantable acts of injustice and cruelty? 
If so, show us a peri<iid in your history in which 

you have not been equally seditious. We are 
accused of aiming at independence ; but how is 
this accusation supported ? By the allegations 
of your ministers — not by our actions. Abused, 
insulted, and contemned, what steps have we 
pursued to obtain redress ? AVe have carried 
our dutiful petitions to the throne. We have 
applied to your justice for relief. We have re- 
trenched our luxury, and withheld our trade. 

The advantages of our commerce were de- 
signed as a compensation for your protection. 
When you ceased to protect, for what were we 
to compensate ? 

What has been the success of our endeavors ? 
The clemency of our sovereign is unhappily di- 
verted; our petitions are treated with indig- 
nity ; our prayers answered by insults. Our 
application to you remains unnoticed, and 
leaves us the melancholy apprehension of your 
wanting either the wiU or the power to assist 

Even under these circumstances, what mea- 
sures have we taken that betray a desire of in- 
dependence ? Have we called in the aid of those 
foreign powers who are the rivals of your gran- 
deur? When your troops were few and de- 
fenceless, did we take advantage of their dis- 
tress, and expel them our towns ? or have we 
permitted them to fortify, to receive new aid, 
and to acquire additional strength ? 

Let not your enemies and ours persuade you 
that in this we were influenced by fear, or any 
other unworthy motive. The lives of Britons 
are still dear to us. They are the children of 
our parents, and an uninterrupted intercourse 
of mutual benefits had knit the bonds of friend- 
ship. When hostilities were commenced — when 
on a late occasion we were wantonly attacked 
by your troops, though we repelled their as- 
saults and returned their blows, yec we lament- 
ed the wounds they obliged us to give; nor 
have we yet learned to rejoice at a victory over 

As we wish not to color our actions, or dis- 
guise our thoughts, we shall, in the simple lan- 
guage of truth, avow the measures we have 
pursued, the motives upon which we have act- 
ed, and our future designs. 

When our late petition to the throne pro- 
duced no other effect than fresh injuries, and 
votes of your legislature, calculated to justify 
every severity ; when your fleets and your ar- 
mies were prepared to wrest from us our prop- 
erty, to rob us of our liberties or our lives; 
when the hostile attempts of General Gage 
evinced his designs, we levied armies for our 
security and defence. When the powers vest- 
ed in the governor of Canada gave us reason 
to apprehend danger from that quarter, and we 
had frequent intimations that a cruel and savage 
enemy was to be let loose upon the defenceless 
inhabitants of our frontiers, we took such mea- 
sures as prudence dictated, as necessity wiU 
justify. We possessed ourselves of Crown 
Point and Ticonderoga. Yet give us leave 
most solemnly to assure you, that we have not 



yet lost sight of the object we have ever had in 
view — a reconciliation with you on constitu- 
tional principles, and a restoration of that 
friendly intercourse which, to the advantage of 
both, we till lately maintained. 

The inhabitants of this country apply them- 
selves chiefly to agriculture and commerce. As 
their fashions and manners are similar to yours, 
your markets must afford them the conveni- 
ences and luxuries for which they exchange the 
produce of their labors. The wealth of this ex- 
tended continent centres with you; and our 
trade is so regulated as to be subservient only 
to your interest. You are too reasonable to ex- 
pect, that by taxes (in addition to this), we 
should contribute to your expense ; to believe 
after diverting the fountain, that the streams 
can flow with unabated force. 

It has been said that we refuse to submit to 
the restrictions on our commerce. From whence 
is this inference drawn ? Not from our words ; 
we have repeatedly declared the contrary, and 
we again profess our submission to the several 
acts of trade and navigation passed before the 
year 1763, trusting, nevertheless, in the equity 
and justice of Parliament, that such of them 
as, upon cool and impartial consideration, shall 
appear to have imposed unnecessary or griev- 
ous restrictions, will, at some happier period, be 
repealed or altered. And we cheerfully consent 
to the operation of such acts of the British 
Parliament as shall be restrained to the regula- 
tion of our external commerce, for the purpose 
of securing the commercial advantages of the 
whole empire to the mother country, and the 
commercial benefits of its respective members ; 
excluding every idea of taxation, internal or 
external, for raising a revenue on the subjects 
in America without their consent. 

It is alleged that we contribute nothing to 
the common defence. To this we answer, that 
the advantages which Great Britain receives 
from the monopoly of our trade, far exceed our 
proportion of the expense necessary for that 
purpose. But should these advantages be in- 
adequate thereto, let the restrictions on our 
trade be removed, and we will cheerfully con- 
tribute such proportion when constitutionally 

It is a fundamental principle of the British 
Constitution, that every man should have at 
least a representative share in the formation of 
those laws by which he is bound. Were it 
otherwise, the regulation of our internal police 
by a British Parliament, who are, and ever wUl 
be, unacquainted with our local circumstances, 
must be always inconvenient, and frequently 
oppressive, working our wrong, without yield- 
ing any possible advantage to you. 

A plan of accommodation (as it has been ab- 
surdly called) has been proposed by your min- 
isters to our respective assemblies. Were this 
proposal free from every other objection but 
that which arises from the time of the offer, it 
would not be unexceptionable. Can men de- 
liberate with the bayonet at their breast ? Can 

they treat with freedom, while their towns are 
sacked ; when daily instances of injustice and 
oppression disturb the slower operations of rea- 

If this proposal is really such as you would 
offer, and we accept, why was it delayed tiU 
the nation was put to useless expense, and we 
were reduced to our present melancholy situa- 
tion? If it holds forth nothing, why was it 
proposed? unless, indeed, to deceive you into 
a belief that we were unwilling to listen to any 
terms of accommodation. But what is submit- 
ted to our consideration ? We contend for the 
disposal of our property. We are told that our 
demand is unreasonable — that our Assemblies 
may indeed collect our money, but that they 
must at the same time oflTer, not what your ex- 
igencies or ours may require, but so much as 
shall be deemed suflScient to satisfy the desires 
of a minister, and enable him to provide for fa- 
vorites and dependants. A recurrence to your 
own treasury will convince you how little of 
the money already extorted from us, has been 
applied to the relief of your burthens. To sup- 
pose that we would thus grasp the shadow, and 
give up the substance, is adding insult to inju- 

We have nevertheless again presented an 
humble and dutiful petition to our sovereign ; 
and to remove every imputation of obstinacy, 
have requested his majesty to direct some mode 
by which the united applications of his faithful 
colonists ■ may be improved into a happy and 
permanent reconciliation. We are willing to 
treat on such terms as can alone render an 
accommodation lasting; and we flatter our- 
selves, that our pacific endeavors will be at- 
tended with a removal of ministerial troops, 
and a repeal of those laws, of the operation of 
which we complain, on the one part, and a 
disbanding of our army, and a dissolution of 
our commercial associations, on the other. 

Yet, conclude not from this that we propose 
to surrender our property into the hands of 
your ministry, or vest your Parliament with a 
power which may terminate in our destruction. 
The great bulwarks of our constitution we have 
desired to maintain by every temperate, by 
every peaceable means ; but your ministers 
(equal foes to British and American freedom) 
have added to their former oppressions an 
attempt to reduce us. By the sword, to a base 
and abject submission. On the sword, there- 
fore, we are compelled to rely for protection. 
Should victory declare in your favor, yet men 
trained to arms from their infancy, and animated 
by the love of liberty, will afibrd neither a 
cheap nor easy conquest. Of this, at least, we 
are assured, that our struggle will be glorious, 
our success certain ; since, even in death we 
shall find that freedom which in life you forbid 
us to enjoy. 

Let us now ask, what advantages are to at- 
tend our reduction ? The trade of a ruined and 
desolate country is always inconsiderable, its 
revenue trifling ; the expense of subjecting and 



retaining it in subjection, certain and inevitable. 
What then remains but the gratification of an 
ill-judged pride, or the hope of rendering us 
subservient to designs on your liberty ? 

Soldiers who have sheathed their swords in 
the bowels of their American brethren, will 
not draw them with more reluctance against 
you. When too late, you may lament the loss 
of that freedom which we exhort you, while 
still in your power, to preserve. 

On the other hand, should you prove un- 
successful; should that connection which we 
most ardently wish to maintain, be dissolved ; 
should your ministers exhaust your treasures, 
and waste the blood of your countrymen in 
vain attempts on our liberty, do they not deli- 
ver you, weak and defenceless, to your natural 
enemies ? 

Since, then, your liberty must be the price 
of your victories, your ruin of your defeat, — 
what blind fatality can urge you to a pursuit 
destructive of aU that Britons hold dear ? 

If you have no regard to the connection 
which has for ages subsisted between us; if 
you have forgot the wounds we have received 
fighting by your side for the extension of the 

empire ; if our commerce is not an object below 
your consideration; if justice and humanity 
have lost their influence on your hearts, still 
motives are not wanting to excite your indigna,- 
tion at the measures now pursued. Your 
wealth, your honor, your liberty are at stake. 

Notwithstanding the distress to which we 
are reduced, we sometimes forget our own 
afHictions, to anticipate and sympathize in 
yours. We grieve that rash and inconsiderate 
counsels should precipitate the destruction of 
an empire, which has been the envy and ad- 
miration of ages; and call God to witness! that 
we would part with our property, endanger 
our lives, and sacrifice every thing but liberty, 
to redeem you from ruin. 

A cloud hangs over your heads and ours: 
ere this reaches you, it may probably burst 
upon us ; let us, then (before the remembrance 
of former kindness is obliterated), once more 
repeat those appellations which are ever grate- 
ful in our ears ; let us entreat Heaven to avert 
our ruin, and the destruction that threatens 
our friends, brethren and countrymen on the 
other side of the Atlantic. 


The ancestors of "William Henry Drayton came originally from iN'orthamptonstire, in Eng- 
land. Thomas Drayton, his grandfather, emigrated from the island of Barbadoes, in company 
with Sir John Yeamans and others, in the year 1671, and settled in South Carolina. William 
Henry, the subject of the present sketch, was a son of John Drayton, of Drayton Hall, on Ash- 
ley river, at which place he was born some time in the month of September, 1742. In 1753, at 
the age of eleven years, he was sent by his parents to England, under the protection of Chiet 
Justice Pinckney, who had resigned his seat on the bench of South Carolina, and was removing 
with his family to the mother country. Under the guidance and care of this worthy gentle- 
man, and in companionship with his sons, Charles Cotesworth and Thomas Pinckney, young 
Drayton pursued his studies at Westminster school, in London, until the fall of 1761, when he 
entered the University of Oxford. After prosecuting his studies at this place for nearly three 
years, he returned to South Carolina, where he at once entered upon a course of general read- 
ing, and applied himself with great industry to the study of ancient and modem histories, the 
laws of nations, and the rights of his own country. In the year 1764, he was married to 
Miss Golightly, a young lady of fortune and rare endowments, by whom he had a son and 

In 1769 the important and serious questions which agitated the provinces, attracted the atten- 
tion of Mr. Drayton, and the same year, under the signature of Freeman, he opposed " the mode 
of enforcing associations, which he deemed encroachments on his private rights of freedom." 
By this opposition he became involved in an animated controversy with the celebrated Christo- 
pher Gadsden. Soon after this he went to England, where he was favorably received by British 
court and nobility; and in February, 1771, he was appointed by the king to the Privy Council 
of South Carolina, in which body he took his seat in April, 1772. On the decease of Judge 
Murray, in 1774, he was placed by Lieutenant Governor Bull in the position of assistant judge 
of the province, " until his majesty's pleasure should be known." The energy and independence 
manifested by Judge Drayton in this position, excited the ill will of the chief justice and some of the 
assistant judges, and the appearance, in the autumn of 1774, of his address, To the deputies of North 
America, assembled in the High Court of Congress at Philadelphia,'* exposed him in the council 
to an open manifestation of their displeasure, and finally to removal from the bench and council. 
This persecution enlisted the sympathies of his feUow-citizens, and from that time he exerted a 
powerful influence amongst them. He was elected to the Provincial Congress of South Caro- 
lina in 1775, and the same year ascended to the presidency of that assembly, in which office he 
remained while that congress existed. 

On the formation of the constitution of South Carolina, in March, 1776, Judge Drayton was 
chosen chief justice of the colony. The courts were opened after the organization of govern- 
ment, under that constitution, when, on the twenty-third day of April, 1776, Chief Justice Dray- 
ton, in the presence of the associate judges, delivered his celebrated Charge to the Grand Jury; 

* " In this address," says Dr. Eamsay, "he stated the grievances of America, and drew np a bill of American rights. 
This was well received. It substautially chalked out the line of conduct adopted by Congress then in session." 


a production replete with learning, eloquence, and the strongest patriotism. In addition to the 
discharge of arduous official duties, he wrote several powerful addresses erposing the corrup- 
tion of the ministry, and encouraging his fellow-citizens to assert and vindicate their natural 
rights. Among these is one under the signature of A Carolinian, in answer to the "Declara- 
tion of Lord and General Howe, published at New York, on the nineteenth of September, 1776 
as commissioners for restoring peace to his Majesty's Colonies and Plantations in North Amer- 
ica," &c. In this answer he points out the insincerity of the commissioners' proposals, and the 
wickedness of their intentions. " Your Excellencies," says he, " ' think fit to declare,' that you 
are desirous ' of restoring the public tranquillity.' But is the end your Excellencies aim at 
our honor and advantage 3 Is it to give a free scope to our natural growth ? Is it to confirm 
to us our rights by the law of nature ? No ! it is to cover us with infamy. It is to chUl the 
sap, and check the luxuriance of our imperial plant. It is to deprive us of our natural equality 
with the rest of mankind, by ' estailisMng'' every State ' as a part of the British empu-e.' In 
short, your Excellencies invite men of common sense, to exchange an independent station for a 
servile and dangerous dependence ! But, when we recollect that the King of Great Britain has, 
from the thi-one, declared his ' firm and steadfast resolutions to withstand every attempt to 
weaken or impair the supreme authority of that legislature over all the dominions of his crown : ' 
that his hirelings in Parliament and tools in ofiice, abhorred by the English nation, have echoed 
the sentiment ; and that America, for ten years, has experienced that king's total want of can- 
dor, humanity, and justice — it is, I confess, a matter of wonder, that your Excellencies can sub- 
mit to appear so lost to decency as to hold out subjection as the only condition of peace ; and 
that you could condescend to sully your personal honor, by inviting us to trust a government in 
which you are conscious we cannot in the nature of things place any confidence — a government 
that you are sensible has been, now is, and ever must be jealous of our prosperity and natural 
growth — a government that you know is absolutely abandoned to corruption ! Take it not 
amiss, if I hint to your Excellencies, that your very appearing in support of such a proposal, 
furnishes cause to doubt even of your integrity; and to reject your allurements, least they 
decoy us into slavery. The declaration says, ' the king is most graciously pleased to direct a 
revision of such of his royal instructions to his governors,' &c. 'and to concur in the revisal of 
all acts by which his Majesty's subjects may think themselves aggrieved.' But what of all 
this ? Your Excellencies have not told the people, who ' think themselves aggrieved,' that they 
are to be a party in the revision. You have not even told them who are to be revisers. If you 
had, it would be nothing to the purpose ; for you have not, and cannot tell them and engage 
that even any of the instructions and acts, being revised, shall be revoked, and repealed ; par- 
ticularly those by which the people ' may think themselves aggrieved.' But, if such are not to be 
repealed, why have you mentioned ' thinh themselves aggrieved f ' If they are intended to be 
repealed, why did not your Excellencies come to the point at once and say so ? It is evident 
your Excellencies are by your superiors precipitated into a dilemma. You have not been accus- 
tomed to du-ty jobs, and plain dealing does not accord with your instructions ; otherwise, in 
the latter case, I think you are men of too much sense and honor to have overlooked or sup- 
pressed so material a point of information. However, you say instructions and acts are to be 
revised : We see that you have laid an ambuscade for our liberties ; the clause is carefully con- 
structed without the least allusion to the revisers, or to the words redress, revoke, repeal. In 
short, it appears to be drawn up entirely on the plan of a declaration by King James the Second 
after his abdication, as confidentially explained by James's Secretary of State, the Earl of Mel- 
ford, to Lord Dundee in Scotland. For Melford writes to Dundee, ' that notwithstanding of 
what was promised in the declaration, indemnity and indulgence, yet he had couched things so 
that the king would hreah them when he pleased ; nor would he think himself obliged to stand 
to them.'' And your Excellencies have ' couched things so,'' that more words upon this subject 
are xmnecessary." 

The General Assembly of South Carolina elected Judge Drayton a delegate to the Continental 
Congress, early in 1778, and at the latter end of March, in that year, he repaired to York, Penn- 
sylvania, where the Congress then held its sessions. Here he took an active part in the delibera- 



tions against the conciliatory bills of the British Parliament, and other important measures. On 
the return of the Continental Congress to Philadelphia, after the evacuation of that city by the 
British, Judge Drayton published another pamphlet against the royal commissioners, full of ridi- 
eule and power. This is supposed to be the last work that emanated from his pen in favor of the 
American colonies. From this period until his death, Mr. Drayton's congressional duties were 
laborious and constant. He died at Philadelphia on the third of September, 1Y79. Among the 
manuscripts left behind him, was a complete history of the American Eevolution, brought 
down to the close of the year 1778. This was published, together with a memoir of its author, 
by John Drayton, LL. D., in 1821. 


At a Court of General Sessions, holden at 
Charleston, South Carolina, for the district of 
Charleston, on the twenty-third day of April, 
1776, the following charge to the Grand Jury 
was delivered by Chief Justice William Henry 
Drayton :* 

Gentlemen of the Grand Jury : When, by 
evil machinations tending to nothing less than 
absolute tyranny, trials by jury have been dis- 
continued, and juries, in discharge of their duty, 
have assembled, and as soon as met, as silently 
and arbitrarily dismissed without being impan- 
elled, whereby, in contempt of magna charta, 
justice has been delayed and denied ; it cannot 
but afford to every good citizen, the most sin- 
cere satisfaction, once more to see juries, as 
they now are, legally impanelled, to the end, 
that the laws may be duly administered — I do 
most heartily congratulate you upon so impor- 
tant an event. 

In this court, where silence has but too long 
presided, with a direct purpose to loosen the 
bands of government, that this country might 
be involved in anarchy and confusion, you are 
now met to regulate your verdicts, under a new 
constitution of government, independent of royal 
authority. A constitution which arose accord- 
ing to the great law of nature and of nations, 
and which was established in the late Congress, 
on the 26th of March last — a day that will be 
ever memorable in this country — a month, re- 
markable in our history for having given birth 
to the original constitution of our government 

* There were two other charges to the G-rand Jury of 
Charleston, delivered hj Judge Drayton; one on the fif- 
teenth of October, 1TT6, and another on the twenty-first of 
October, 1777. General Charles Lee took exceptions to some 
assertions contained in the latter, which bore severely upon 
his conduct at the battle of Monmouth, and sent a challenge 
to Judge Drayton, which he refused to" accept ; giving as rea- 
sons for so doing, "that although custom had sanctioned 
duelling with the military, it had not done so with the judi- 
ciary, and that such a conduct in a Chief Justice of South 
Carolina, as he was, would, in the eyes of the world, appear 
as a public outrage on government, society, and common de- 
oency." — Drayton't Mmioirs. 

in the year 1669; for being the era of the 
American calamities by the stamp act, in the 
year 1765 ; for being the date of the repeal 
of that act in the following year ; and for the 
conclusion of the famous siege of Boston, when 
the American arms compelled General Howe, a 
general of the first reputation in the British 
service, with the largest, best disciplined, and 
best provided army in that service, supported 
by a formidable fleet, so precipitately to aban- 
don the most impregnable fortifications in Amer- 
ica, as that he left behind him a great part of 
the bedding, military stores, and cannon of the 
army. And for so many important events, is 
the month of March remarkable in our annals. 
But I proceed to lay before you the principal 
causes leading to the late revolution of our gov- 
ernment — the law upon the point — and the 
benefits resulting from that happy and neces- 
sary establishment. The importance of the 
transaction deserves such a state — the occasion 
demands, and our future welfare requires it. 
To do this may take up some little time ; but 
the subject is of the highest moment, and wor- 
thy of your particular attention. I will there- 
fore confine my discourse to that great point ; 
and, after charging you to attend to the due 
observance of the jury law, and the patrol and 
negro acts, forbearing to mention the other 
common duties of a grand jury, I will expound 


The house of Brunswick was yet scarcely 
settled in the British throne, to which it had 
been called by a free people, when, in the year 
1719, our ancestors in this country, finding that 
the government of the lords proprietors ope- 
rated to their ruin, exercised the rights trans- 
mitted to them by their forefathers of England; 
and casting off the proprietary authority, called 
upon the house of Brunswick to rule over 
them — a house elevated to royal dominion, for 
no other purpose than to preserve to a people 
their unalienable rights. The king accepted 
the invitation, and thereby indisputably ad- 
mitted the legality of that revolution. And in 
so doing, by his own act, he vested in those our 
forefathers, and us their posterity, a clear right 
to effect arwther revolution, if ever the govern- 



ment of the house of Brunswick should operate 
to the ruin of the people. So the excellent 
Roman emperor, Trajan, delivered, a sword to 
Saburanus, his captain of the Praetorian guard, 
with this admired sentence : " Receive this 
sword, and use it to defend me if I govern well, 
but against m«, if I behave ill." 

With joyful acclamations our ancestors, by 
act of Assembly, passed on the 18th day of 
August, 1721, EECOGNizED the British monarch: 
The virtues of the second George are still 
revered among us — he was the father of his 
people : And it was with ecstasy we saw his 
grandson, George the Third, mount the throne 
possessed of the hearts of his subjects. 

But alas ! almost with the commencement of 
his reign, his subjects felt causes to complaia of 
government. The reign advanced — the griev- 
ances became more numerous and intolerable— 
the complaints more general and loud — the 
whole empire resounded with the cries of in- 
jured subjects! At length, grievances being 
unredressed and ever increasing; all patience 
being borne down ; all hope destroyed ; all con- 
fidence in royal government blasted ! — Behold ! 
the empire is rent from pole to pole ! — perhaps 
to continue asunder for ever. 

The catalogue of our oppressions, continental 
and local, is enormous. Of such oppressions, I 
will mention only some of the most weighty. 

Under color of law, the king and parliament 
of Great Britain have made the most arbitrary 
attempts to enslave America : 

By claiming a right to bind the colonies 


By laying duties, at their mere will and plea- 
sure, upon all the colonies ; 

By suspending the legislature of New York ; 

By rendering the American charters of no 
validity, having annulled the most material 
parts of the charter of the Massachusetts Bay ; 

By divesting multitudes of the colonists of 
their property, without legal accusation or 
trial ; 

By depriving whole colonies of the bounty of 
Providence on their own proper coasts, in order 
to coerce them by famine ; 

By restricting the trade and commerce of 
America ; 

_ By sending to, and continuing in America, in 
time of peace, an armed force, without and 
against the consent of the people ; 

By granting impunity to a soldiery instigated 
to murder the Americans ; 

By declaring, that the people of Massachusetts 
Bay are liable for offences, ov pretended offences, 
done in that colony, to be sent to, and tried for 
the same in England, or in any colony where 
they cannot have the henefit of a jury of the 

_ By establishing in Quebec the Roman Catho- 
lic religion, and an arbitrary government, in- 
stead of the Protestant religion and a free 

And thus America saw it demonstrated, that 
no faith ought to be put in a royal proclamation ; 

for I must observe to you that, in the year 
1763, by such a proclamation, people were in- 
vited to settle in Canada, and were assured of 
a legislative representation, the benefit of the 
common law of England, and a free govern- 
ment. It is a misfortune to the public, that 
this is not the only instance of the ineflicaoy of 
a royal proclamation. However, having given 
you one instance of a failure of royal faith in 
the northern extremity of this abused conti- 
nent, let it sufiice, that I direct your attention 
to the southern extremity ; respecting which, 
the same particulars were in the same manner 
promised, but the deceived inhabitants of St. 
Augustine are left by their grand jury, in vain 
to complain and lament to the world, and yet 
scarcely permitted to exercise even that privi- 
lege distinguishing the miserable, that royal 
faith is not kept with them. 

The proceedings which I have enumerated, 
either immediately or in their evident conse- 
quences, deeply affected all the colonies : ruin 
stared them in the face. They united their 
counsels, and laid their just complaints before 
the throne, praying a redress of grievances. 
But, to their astonishment, their dutiful peti- 
tion for peace and safety was answered only by 
an actual commencement of war and military 
destruction ! 

In the mean time, the British troops that had 
been peaceably received by the devoted inhabi- 
tants of Boston, as the troops of their sovereign, 
lound to protect them! fortified that town, to 
imprison the inhabitants, and to hold that 
capital against the people to whom it belonged ! 
And the British rulers having determined to 
appeal from reason and justice, to violence and 
arms, a select body of those troops being in the 
night suddenly and privately marched from 
Boston — at Lexington, on the 19th day of 
April, 1775, they by surprise drew the sword 
of civU war, and plunged it into the breasts of 
the Americans ! Against this horrid injustice 
the Almighty gave instant judgment : a handful 
of country militia, badly armed, suddenly 
collected, and unconnectedly and irregularly 
brought up to repel the attack, discomfited the 
regular bands of the tyranny ; they retreated, 
and night saved them from total slaughter. 

Thus forced to take up arms in our own 
defence, America yet agaiii most dutifully peti- 
tioned the king, that he would be pleased " to 
direct some mode, by which the united appli- 
cations of his faithful colonists to the throne, in 
presence of their common councils, might be 
improved into a happy and permanent recon- 
ciliation ; and that in the mean time, measures 
might be taken for preventing the further de- 
struction of the lives of his majesty's subjects." 
—But it was in vain!— The petition on the 
part of millions, praying that the effusion of 
Mood might be stated, was not thought worthy 
of an answer ! The nefarious war continued. 
The ruins of Charlestown, Falmouth and Nor- 
folk, towns not constructed for offence or 
defence, mark the humane progress of the royal 



arms: so the ruins of Carthage, Corinth and 
Numantium proclaimed to the world that jus- 
tice was expelled the Eoman senate ! On the 
other hand, the fortitude with which America 
has endured these civil and military outrages ; 
the union of her people, as astonishing as un- 
precedented, when we consider their various 
manners and religious tenets; their distance 
from each other; their various and clashing 
local interests; their self-denial; and their 
miraculous success in the prosecution of the 
war: I say, these things aU demonstrate that 
the Lord of Hosts is on our side! So it is 
apparent that the Almighty Constructor of the 
universe, having formed this continent of ma- 
terials to compose a state pre-eminent in the 
world, is now making use of the tyranny of the 
British rulers, as an instrument to fashion and 
arrange those materials for the end for which, 
in his wisdom, he had formed them. 

In this enlightened age, humanity must he 
particularly shocked at a recital of such vio- 
lences ; and it is scarce to be believed, that the 
British tyranny could entertain an idea of pro- 
ceeding against America by a train of more 
dishonorable machinations. But, nothing less 
than absolute proof has corfvinced us that, in 
carrying on the conspiracy against the rights of 
humanity, the tyranny is capable of attempting 
to perpetrate whatever is infamous. 

For the little purpose of disarming the im- 
prisoned inhabitants of Boston, the king's 
general, Gage, in the face of day, violated the 
public faith, by himself plighted; and in con- 
cert with other governors, and with John 
Stuart,* he made every attempt to instigate the 
samage nations to war upon the southern colonies, 
indiscriminately to massacre man, woman and 
chUd. The governors in general have demon- 
strated, that truth is not in them ; they have 
enveigled negroes from, and have armed them 
against their masters; they have armed brother 
against brother— son agamst father ! Oh ! Al- 
mighty Director of the universe ! what confi- 
dence can be put in a government ruling by 
such engines, and upon such principles of un- 
natural destruction! — a government that, upon 
the 21st day of December last, made a law, ex 
post facto, to justify what had been done, not 
only without law, but in its nature unjust ! — a 
law to make prize of all vessels trading in, to, 
or from the united colonies — a law to make 
slaves of the crews of such vessels, and to com- 
pel them to bear arms against their conscience, 
their fathers, their bleeding country! The 
world, so old as it is, heretofore had never heard 
of so atrocious a procedure: it has no parallel 
in the registers of tyranny. But to proceed — 

The king's judges in this country refused to 
administer justice ; and the late governor. Lord 
William Campbell, acting as the king's repre- 

* A Bketcb of the career of Capt. Stuart Is given by Dr. 
Eamsay, in the account of the contests with the Indians, 
which is embodied in his valuable history of South Carolina. 
Tol. i. p. 148. 

sentative for him, and on his behalf, having en- 
deavored to subvert the constitution of this 
country, by breaking the original contract be- 
tween king and people, attacking the people by 
force of arms ; having violated the fundamental 
laws; having carried off the great seal, and 
having withdrawn himself out of this colony, 
he abdicated the government. 

Oppressed by such a variety of enormous in- 
juries, continental and local, civil and military, 
and by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses ; 
all done and perpetrated by the assent, com- 
mand, or sufferance of the king of Great 
Britain ; the representatives of South Carolina, 
in Congress assembled, found themselves vinder 
an unavoidable necessity of establishing a form 
of government, with powers legislative, execu- 
tive and judicial, for the good of the people; 
the origin and great end of all just govern- 
ment. For this only end, the house of Bruns- 
wick was called to rule over us. Oh ! agonizing 
reflection ! that house ruled us with swords, fire 
and bayonets! The British government ope- 
rated only to our destruction. Nature cried 
aloud, self-preservation is the great law — we 
have but obeyed. 

If I turn my thoughts to recollect in history, 
a change of government upon more cogent rea- 
sons, I say I know of no change upon princi- 
ples so provoking — compelling — justifiable. 
And in these respects, even the famous revolu- 
tion in England, in the year 1688, is much infe- 
rior. However, we need no better authority 
than that illustrious precedent, and I wUl there- 
fore compare the causes of, and the law upon 
the two events. 

On the seventh of February, 1688, the Lords 
and Commons of England, in convention, com- 
pleted the following resolution : 

"Eesolved, That King James the second, hav- 
ing endeavored to subvert the constitution of 
the kingdom, by breaking the original contract 
between king and people ; and, by the advice 
of Jesuits and other wicked persons, having vio- 
lated the fundamental laws, and having with- 
drawn himself out of this kingdom ; has abdi- 
cated the government, and that the throne is 
thereby vacant." 

That famous resolution deprived James of his 
crown; and became the foundation on which 
the throne of the present king of Great Britain 
is built — it also supports the edifice of govern- 
ment which we have erected. 

In that resolve there are but three facts 
stated to have been done by James: I will 
point them out, and examine whether those 
facts will apply to the present king of Great 
Britain, with regard to the operations of gov- 
ernment, by him or his representative, immedi- ' 
ately or by consequence affecting this colony. 

The first fact is, the having endeavored to 
subvert the constitution of the kingdom by 
breaking the original contract. 

The violation of the fundamental laws is the 
second fact; and in support of these two 
charges, the Lords spiritual and temporal and 



Commons, assembled at Westminster, on the 
twelfth day of February, 1688, declared that 
James was guilty. 

"By assuming, and exercising a power of 
dispensing with, and suspending of laws, and 
the execution of laws, without consent of Par- 
liament : 

" By committing and prosecuting divers wor- 
thy prelates, for humbly petitioning to be ex- 
cused from concurring to the said assumed 

"By issuing and causing to be executed a 
commission, under the great seal, for erecting a 
court, called the court of commissioners for ec- 
clesiastical causes : 

" By levying money for, and to the use of the 
Crown, by pretence of prerogative, for other 
time, and in other manner, than the same was 
granted by Parliament : 

"By raising and keeping a standing army 
within this kingdom in time of peace, without 
consent of Parliament ; and quartering soldiers 
contrary to law : 

"By causing several good subjects, being 
Protestants, to be disarmed, at the same time 
when Papists were both armed and employed 
contrary to law : 

" By violating the freedom of election of mem- 
bers to serve in Parliament : 

"By prosecutions in the Court of King's 
Bench, for matters and causes cognizable only 
in Parliament; and by divers other arbitrary 
and illegal courses." 

This declaration, thus containing two points 
of criminality — breach of the original contract, 
and violation of fundamental laws — I am to 
distinguish one from the other. 

In the first place then, it is laid down in the 
best law authorities, that protection and subjec- 
tion are reciprocal, and that these reciprocal 
duties form the original contract between king 
and people. It therefore follows, that the orig- 
inal contract was broken by James's conduct as 
above stated, which amounted to a not afford- 
ing due protection to his people. And, it is as 
clear, that he violated the fundamental laws, 
by the suspending of laws, and the execution of 
laws ; by levying money ; by violating the free- 
dom of election of members to serve in Parlia- 
ment ; by keeping a standing army in time of 
peace ; and by quartering soldiers contrary to law, 
and without consent of Parliament; which is as 
much as to say, that he did those things with- 
out consent of the legislative Assembly chosen 
ly the PERSONAL election of that people, over 
whom such doings were exercised. 

These points, reasonings, and conclusions, 
being settled in, deduced from, and established 
upon parliamentary proceedings, and the best 
law authorities, must ever remain unshaken. I 
am now to undertake the disagreeable task of 
examining, whether they will apply to the vio- 
lences which have lighted up, and now feed the 
flames of civil war in America. 

James the Second suspended the operations 
of laws — George the Third caused the charter 

of the Massachusetts Bay to be in effect annihi- 
lated ; he suspended the operation of the law 
which formed a legislature in New York, vest- 
ing it with adequate powers ; and thereby he 
caused the very ability of making laws in that 
colony to be suspended. 

King James levied money without the con- 
sent of the representatives of the people called 
upon to pay it — king George has levied money 
upon America, not only without, but expressly 
against the consent of the representatives of 
the people in America. 

King James violated the freedom of election 
of members to serve in Parliament — King 
George, by his representative, Lord William 
Campbell, acting for him and on his behalf, 
broke through a fundamental law of this coun- 
try, for the certain holding of General Assem- 
blies; and thereby, as far as in him lay, not 
only violated but annihilated the very ability 
of holding a Gene ral Assembly. 

King James in time of peace kept a standing 
army in England, without consent of the repre- 
sentatives of the people among whom that army 
was kept— king George hath in time of peace 
invaded this continent with a large standing 
army without the consent, and he hath kept it 
within this continent, expressly against the 
consent of the representatives of the people 
among whom that army is posted. 

All which doings by king George the Third 
respecting America are as much contrary to our 
interests and welfare; as much against law, 
and tend as much, at least, to subvert and ex- 
tirpate the liberties of this colony, and of 
America, as the similar proceedings, by James 
the Second, operated respecting the people of 
England. For the same principle of law, touch- 
ing the premises, equally applies to the people 
of England in the one case, and to the people 
of America in the other. And this is the great 
principle. Certain acts done, over, and affect- 
ing a people, against and without their consent 
expressed hy themselves, or by representatives 
of their own election. Upon this only prin- 
ciple was grounded the complaints of the people 
of England — upon the same is grounded the 
complaints of the people of America. And hence 
it clearly follows, that if James the Second vio- 
lated the fundamental laws of England, George 
the Third hath also violated the fundamental 
laws of America. 

Again — 

King James broke the original contract by 
not affording due protection to his subjects, al- 
though he was not charged with having seized 
their towns and with having held them against 
the people — or with having laid them in ruins 
by his arms — or with having seized their ves- 
sels — or with having pursued the people with 
fire and sword — or with having declared them 
rebels, for resisting his arms levelled to destroy 
their lives, liberties and properties — but George 
the Third hath done all those things against 
America; and it is therefore undeniable, that 
he hath not afforded due protection to the peo- 



pie. Wherefore, if James the Second broke 
the original contract, it is undeniable that 
George the Third has also broken the original 
contract between king and people ; and that he 
made use of the most violent measures by 
which it could be done — violences, of which 
James was guiltless. Measures, carrying con- 
flagration, massacre and open war amidst a 
people, whose subjection to the king of Great 
Britain, the law holds to be due only as a re- 
turn for protection. And so tenacious and 
clear is the law upon this very principle, that it 
is laid down, subjection is not due even to a 
king dejure, or of right, unless he be also king 
de facto, or in possession of the executive 
powers dispensing protection. 
Again — 

The third fact charged against James is, that 
he withdrew himself out of the kingdom ; and 
we know that the people of this country have 
declared, that Lord William Campbell, the king 
of Great Britain's representative, "having used 
his utmost efforts to destroy the lives, liberties, 
and properties of the good people here, whom 
by the duty of his station he was bound to pro- 
tect, withdrew himself out of the colony:" 
hence it will appear, that George the Third 
hath withdrawn himself out of this colony, pro- 
vided it be established, that exactly the same 
natural consequence resulted from the with- 
drawing in each case respectively : king James 
personally out of England and king George out 
of Carolina, by the agency of his substitute and 
representative. Lord William Campbell. By 
king James's withdrawing, the executive magis- 
trate was gone, thereby, in the eye of the law, 
the executive magistrate was dead, and of con- 
sequence royal government actually ceased in 
England : so by king George's representative's 
withdrawing, the executive magistrate was 
gone, the death, in law, became apparent, and 
of consequence royal government actually ceas- 
ed in this colony. Lord William withdrew as 
the king's representative, carrying off the great 
seal and royal instructions to governors, and 
acting for and on the part of his principal, by 
every construction of law, that conduct became 
the conduct of his principal; and thus, James 
the Second withdrew out of England and 
George the Third withdrew out of South Ca- 
rolina; and by such a conduct, respectively, 
the people in each country were exactly in the 
same degree injured. 

The three facts against king James being 
thus stated and compared with similar proceed- 
ings by king George, we are now to ascertain 
the result of the injuries done by the first, and 
the law upon that point; which, being ascer- 
tained, must naturally constitute the judgment 
in law, upon the result of the similar injuries 
done by the last : and I am happy that I can 
give you the best authority upon this important 

Treating upon this great precedent in con- 
stitutional law, the learned judge Blackstone 
declares, that the result of the facts "amounted 

to an abdication of the government, which ab- 
dication did not affect only the person of the 
king himself, but also, all his heirs; and ren- 
dered the throne absolutely and completely 
vacant." Thus it clearly appears, that the gov- 
ernment was not abdicated, and the throne 
vacated by the resolution of the lords and com- 
mons ; but, that the resolution was only decla- 
ratory of the law of nature and reason, upon 
the result of the injuries proceeding from the 
three combined facts of mal-administration. 
And thus, as I have on the foot of the best 
authorities made it evident, that George the 
Third, king of Great Britain, has endeavored 
to subvert the constitution of this country, by 
breaking the original contract between king 
and people ; by the advice of wicked persons, 
has violated the fundamental laws, and has 
withdrawn himself, by withdrawing the con- 
stitutional benefits of the kingly ofBce, and his 
protection out of this country: from such a 
result of injuries, from such a conjuncture of 
circumstances — the law of the land authorizes 
me to declare, and it is my duty boldly to de- 
clare the law, that George the Third, king of 
Great Britain, has abdicated the government, 
and that the throne is thereby vacant ; that is, 


OBEDIENCE TO HIM. — The British ministers al- 
ready have presented a charge of mine to the 
notice of the lords and commons in Parliament ; 
and I am nothing loth, that they take equal 
resentment against this charge. For, supported 
by the fundamental laws of the constitution, 
and engaged as I am in the cause of virtue, 1 
fear no consequences from their machinations. 

Thus, having stated the principal causes of 
our last revolution, it is as clear as the sun in 
meridian, that George the Third has injured 
the Americans, at least as grievously as James 
the Second injured the people of England ; but 
that James did not oppress these in so criminal 
ai manner as George has oppressed the Ame- 
ricans. Having also stated the law on the case, 
I am naturally led to point out to you some of 
the great benefits resulting from that revolu- 

In one word, then, you have a form of gov- 
ernment in every respect preferable to the mode 
under the British authority: and this wiU most 
clearly appear by contrasting the two forms of 

Under the British authority, governors were 
sent over to us, who were utterly unacquainted 
with our local interests, the genius of the peo- 
ple, and our laws ; generally, they were but too 
much disposed to obey the mandates of an 
arbitrary ministry ; and if the governor behaved 
ill, we could not by any peaceable means pro- 
cure redress. But, under our present happy 
constitution, our executive magistrate arises 
according to the spirit and letter of holy writ — 
" their governors shall proceed from the midst 
of them." Thus, the people have an opportu- 
nity of choosing a man intimately acquainted 
with their true interests, their genius, and their 



laws ; a man perfectly disposed to defend them 
against arbitrary ministers, and to promote the 
happiness of that people from among whom he 
was elevated, and by whom, without the least 
difSculty, he may be removed and blended in 
the common mass. 

Again, under the British authority it was in 
effect declared, that we had no property ; nay, 
that we could not possess any; and that we 
had not any of the rights of humanity. For 
men who knew us not, men who gained in pro- 
portion as we lost, arrogated to- themselves a 
right TO BIND us in all oases whatsoever ! 
But, our constitution is calculated to FREE us 
from foreign bondage ; to secure to us our pro- 
perty ; to maintain to us the rights of humanity, 
and to defend us and our posterity against Bri- 
tish authority, aiming to reduce us to the most 
abject slavery! 

Again, the British authority declared, that 
we should not erect slitting mills ; and to this 
unjust law we implicitly and respectfully sub- 
mitted, so long as, with safety to our lives, we 
could yield obedience to such authority ; but a 
resolution of Congress now grants a premium 
to encourage the construction of such mills. 
The British anthority discouraged our attempt- 
ing to manufacture for our own consumption ; 
but the new constitution, by authorizing the 
disbursement of large sums of money by way of 
loan or premium, encourages the making of 
iron, bar-steel, nail-rods, gun-looks, gun-barrels, 
sulphur, nitre, gunpowder, lead, woollens, cot- 
tons, linens, paper and salt. 

Upon the whole, it has been the policy of 
the British authority to oblige us to supply our 
wants at their market, which is the dearest in 
the known world, and to cramp and confine 
our trade so as to be subservient to their com- 
merce, our real interest being ever out of the 
question. On the other hand, the new consti- 
tution is wisely adapted to enable us to trade 
with foreign nations, and thereby to supply our 
wants at the cheapest markets in the universe ; 
to extend our trade infinitely beyond what it 
has ever been known; to encourage manu- 
factures among us; and it is peculiariy formed 
to promote the happiness of the people, from 
among whom, by virtue and merit, tite poorest 
man may arrive at the highest dignity. — Oh 
Carolinians! happy would you be under this 
new constitution, if you knew your happy 

Possessed of a constitution of government 
founded upon so generous, equal and natural a 
principle — a gOTiernment expressly calculated 
to make the people rich, powerful, virtuous 
and happy, who can wish to change it, to return 
under a royal government, the vital principles 
of which are the reverse in every particular 1 
It was my duty to lay this happy constitution 
before you, in its genuine light: it is your duty 
to understand, to instruct others, and to de- 
fend it. 

I might here with propriety quit this truly 
important subject, but my anxiety for the public 

weal compels me yet to detain your attention, 
while I make an observation or two upon one 
particular part of the constitution. 

When all the various attempts to enslave 
America by fraud, under guise of law; by 
military threats; by famine, massacre, breach 
of public faith, and open war : I say, when 
these things are considered on the one hand, 
and on the other, the constitution, expressing 
that some mode of government should be es- 
tablished, "until an accommodation of the 
unhappy differences between Great Britain and 
America can be obtained; an event which, 
though traduced and treated as rebels, we still 
ardently desire :" I say, when these two points 
are contrasted, can we avoid revering the mag- 
nanimity of that great council of the state, who 
after such injuries could entertain such a prin- 
ciple ! But the virtuous are ever generous. 
We do not wish revenge : we earnestly wish an 
accommodation of our unhappy disputes with 
Great Britain; for we prefer peace to war. 
Nay, there may be even such an accommodation 
as, excluding every idea of revenue by taxation 
or duty, or of legislation by act of parliaments, 
may vest the king of Great Britain with such a 
limited dominion over us as may tend, lona 
Jide^ to promote our true commercial interests, 
and to secure our freedom and safety — the only 
just ends of any dominion. But, while I declare 
thus much on the one side, on the other it is 
my duty also to declare that, in my opinion, 
our true commercial interests cannot be pro- 
vided for but by such a material alteration of 
the British acts of navigation as, according to 
the resolve of the honorable the Continental 
Congress, will "secure the commercial advan- 
tages of the whole empire to the mother coun- 
try, and the commercial benefits of its respec- 
tive members." And that our liberties and 
safety cannot be depended upon, if the king of 
Great Britain should be allowed to hold our 
forts and cannon, or to have authority over a 
single regiment in America, or a single ship of 
war in our ports. For if he holds our forts, he 
may turn them against vs, as he did Boston 
against her proprietors ; if he acquires our can- 
non, lie will effectually disarm the colony ; if 
he has a command of troops among us, even if 
we raise and pay them, shackles are fixed upon 
us — witness Ireland and her national army. 
The most express act of Parliament cannot give 
us security, for acts of Parliament are as ea»ily 
repealed as made. Royal proclamations are 
not to be depended upon, witness the disappoint- 
ments of the inhabitants of Quebec and St. Au- 
gustine. Even a change of ministry will not 
avail us, because, notwithstanding the rapid 
succession of ministers for which the British 
court has been famous during the present reign, 
yet the same ruinous policy ever continued to 
prevail against America. In short, I think it 
my duty to declare, in the awful seat of jus- 
tice and before Almighty God, that in my 
opinion the Americans can have no safety but 
by the Divine favor, their own vktue, and their 



being so prudent as not to leave it in the 
powEE OF THE British eulees to injuee them. 
Indeed, the ruinous and deadly injuries received 
on our side, and the jealousies entertained, and 
which, in the nature of things, must daily in- 
crease against us, on the other, demonstrate to 
a mind in the least given to reflection upon the 
rise and fall of empires, that true reconcilement 
never can exist between Great Britain and 
America, the latter being in subjection to the 
former. The Almighty created America to be 
independent of Britain. Let us beware of the 
impiety of being backward to act as instruments 
in the almighty hand, now extended to accom- 
plish his purpose, and by the completion of 
which alone, America, in the nature of human 

affairs, can be secure against the craft and in- 
sidious designs of hee enemies, who think 


FAR TOO GREAT. In a word, our piety and 
political safety are so blended, that to refuse 
our labors in this Divine work, is to refuse to 
be a great, a free, a pious, and a happy people ! 
And now, having left the important alterna- 
tive, political happiness or wretchedness, under 
God, in a great degree in your own hands, I 
pray the Supreme Arbiter of the affairs of men 
so to direct your judgment, as that you may 
act agreeable to what seems to be his will, re- 
vealed in his miracidous works in behalf of 
America, bleeding at the altar of liberty 1 


DooTOE Joseph "Waeekn was born ia Eoxbury, Massachusetts, on the eleventh day of June, 
1741. His family, for as many generations as any thing is known respecting it, had been settled 
at or in the vicinity of his birthplace. His father was a respectable farmer, who had held 
several municipal oflSces in the town where he resided, and was esteemed a man of " good un- 
derstanding, industrious, upright, honest, and faithful, — a serious, exemplary Christian, and a 
useful member of society." Joseph, after finishing the usual preparatory studies at the gram- 
mar-school of his native town, entered Harvard College in 1755, where he sustained the charac- 
ter of a youth of fine understanding, independent deportment, and generous principles. The 
particular incidents relating to this period of his life are lost to history, but one anecdote, illus- 
trating the fearlessness and energy of his character, being left. Several students of Warren's 
class shut themselves in a room to arrange some college afiairs, in a way which they knew was 
contrary to his wishes, and barred the door so efiectually that he could not without great vio- 
lence force it ; but he did not give over the attempt to gain admission, for, perceiving that the 
window of the room in which they were assembled was open, and near a spout which extended 
from the roof of the building to the ground, he went to the top of the house, slid down to 
the eaves, seized the spout, and when he had descended as far as the window, threw himself 
into the chamber among them. At that instant the spout, which was decayed and weak, gave 
way and fell to the ground. He looked at it without emotion, said that it had served his pur- 
pose, and began to take his part in the college business. After graduating, in 1759, Warren 
commenced the study of medicine under the guidance of Dr. James Lloyd, a distinguished prac- 
titioner in Boston, and soon after entered into practice. In 1764, when the small-pox visited 
Boston, he was very successful in his treatment of that disease, which at that time was consid- 
ered the most terrible scourge of the human race. This success won him many friends, the 
good wiU of whom he never lost, and his practice soon became extensive. The same year he 
married a daughter of Dr. Richard Hooton. 

At the commencement of the disturbances in the colonies, consequent upon the passage of 
the Stamp Act, Dr. Warren entered the arena of politics, where he remained, enlightening the 
people with his pen, and with his oratorical reasoning directing public sentiment. Among the 
numerous expressions of his opinions at this period is the following, taken from a private letter 
addressed to a clerical friend in England. " Never has there been a time, since the first settle- 
ment of America, in which the people had so much reason to be alarmed, as the present. The 
whole continent is inflamed to the highest degree. I believe this country may be esteemed as 
truly loyal in their principles as any in the universe ; but the strange project of levying a stamp 
duty, and of depriving the people of the privileges of trials by juries, has roused their jealousy 
and resentment. They can conceive of no liberty where they have lost the power of taxing 
themselves, and where all controversies between the Crown and the people are to be deter- 
mined by the opinion of one dependant ; and they think that slavery is not only the greatest 
misfortune, but that it is also the greatest crime (if there is a possibility of escaping it). You 
are sensible that the inhabitants of this country have ever been zealous lovers of their civil and 


religions liberties. For the enjoyment of these they have fought battles, left a pleasant and 
populous country, and exposed themselves to all the dangers and hardships in this new world ; 
and their laudable attachment to freedom, has hitherto been transmitted to posterity. * * * 
Freedom and equality is the state of nature ; but slavery is the most unnatural and violent state 
that can be conceived of, and its approach must be gradual and imperceptible. In many old 
countries, where in a long course of years some particular families have been able to acquire a 
very large share of property, from which must arise a kind of aristocracy, — that is, the power 
and authority of some persons or families is exercised in proportion to the decrease of the inde- 
pendence and property of the people in general ; — ^had America been prepared in this manner 
for the Stamp Act, it might perhaps have met with a more favorable reception ; but it is absurd 
to attempt to impose so cruel a yoke on a people who are so near to a state of original equality, 
and who look upon their liberties not merely as arbitrary grants, but as their unalienable, eter- 
nal rights, purchased by the blood and treasure of their ancestors, — which liberties, though 
granted and received as acts of favor, could not, without manifest injustice, have been refused, 
and cannot now, or at any time hereafter, be revoked." * Dr. "Warren contributed several 
spirited articles to the Boston Gazette, under the signature of A True Patriot. In his letter to 
Governor Bernard, published in that journal, in February, 1T68, he displays his characteristic 
decision and energy. After expressing his knowledge of the governor's enmity to the province, 
and the calumniation heaped upon its inhabitants by that ofBcial, he concludes : " But I refrain, 
lest a full representation of the hardships suffered by this- too long insulted people should lead 
them to an unwarrantable revenge. "We never can treat good and patriotic rulers with too great 
reverence. But it is certain that men totally abandoned to wickedness can never merit our re- 
gard, be their stations ever so high. 

' If such men are by God appointed, 
The devil may be the Lord's anointed.' " 

This article so excited the governor that he despatched a message to the House, and another 
to the Council, calling their attention to it. The Council pronounced it a scandalous libel ; but 
the House was of opinion that as no particular individual, public or private, was named, it could 
not affect the majesty of the king, or the true interests of the colony. It was also laid before 
the Grand Jury ; but that body made no presentment. Thus it remained ; its author receiving 
no other rebuke than the opinions of the " royal followers," who caUed it " a most abusive piece 
against the governor." Undaunted by the decision of the Council and the friends of the gover- 
nor. Dr. Warren continued his publications, maintaining the rights of the people. "Every so- 
ciety of men," said he, "have a clear right to refute any unjust aspersions upon their characters, 
especially when they feel the evil effects of such aspersions ; and, though they may not pursue 
the slanderer from motives of revenge, yet are obliged to detect him, that so he may be pre- 
vented from injuring them again. This province has been most barbarously traduced, and now 
groans under the weight of those misfortunes which have been thereby brought upon it. We 
have detected some of the authors : we will zealously endeavor to deprive them of the power of 
injuring us hereafter. We will strip the serpents of their stings, and consign to disgrace all 
those guileful betrayers of their country. There is but one way for men to avoid being set up 
as objects of general hate, which is — not to deserve it." 

Dr. Warren pronounced two orations in commemoration of the massacre perpetrated in King 
street, Boston, on the evening of the fifth of March, 1770. The first was delivered at the Old 
South Church, in 1772. For this effort he gained little applause, yet the fervor he displayed 
exerted powerful effect upon the minds of the people.! On the occasion of the second ora- 
tion, in 1775, Warren displayed a loftier spirit and a greater energy. It had been openly avowed 
by some of the British soldiery then in Boston, that whoever should attempt an oration upon 
that occasion should answer for it with his life. Undaunted at this threat, and wishing for the 

* A copy of this letter, which Is curionsly illustrative of the state of public feeling in New England upon the subject of 
the Stamp Act, is published in Loring's " Boston Orators," with an account of its origin, recovery, &c. 
t Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts Bay, Yol. Third, page 848. 


honor of braving it, "Warren solicited tlie appointment of orator. On the day appointed for the 
performance, the Old South Church was filled to excess. The pulpit and the avenues leading to 
it, were crowded with the ofBcers and soldiers of the royal service. To prevent confusion, War- 
ren entered from the rear of the church through the pulpit window, and, unaffected by the hos- 
tile array before him and around him, he delivered the oration, with a firm and determined 
purpose. "The scene was sublime," says an eloquent modern writer. "A patriot, in whom 
the flush of youth and the grace and dignity of manhood were combined, stood armed in the 
sanctuary of God, to animate and encourage the sons of liberty, and to hurl defiance at their 
oppressors. The orator commenced with the early history of the country, described the tenure 
by which we held our liberties and property, the affection we had constantly shown the parent 
country, boldly told them how, and by whom these blessings of life had been violated. There 
was in this appeal to Britain — in this description of suffering, agony, and horror, a calm and 
high-souled defiance, which must have chilled the blood of every sensible foe. Such another 
hour has seldom happened in the history of man, and it is not surpassed in the records of na- 

A few weeks after the delivery of this splendid production, "Warren entered the field for the 
maintenance of the principles he had avowed. On the return of the British troops from Con- 
cord and Lexington, in April, 1775, he was in attendance upon the Committee of Safety at "West 
Cambridge, and when they approached, he went out in company with General Heath to repel 
them. A sharp engagement ensued, during which a musket ball passed so near the temple of 
"Warren as to cut off one of the "long, close, horizontal curls" which, according to the fashion 
of the times, he wore above his ears. The people were animated with his cool and determined 
bravery, and their confidence in his gallantry and talents was unbounded. At this time "Warren 
was the President of the Provincial Congress, in which position he discovered extraordinary 
powers of mind, and great fitness for the emergencies of the times. On the fourteenth of June 
he was chosen a major-general of the Massachusetts forces. Two days afterwards, in a conver- 
sation with Elbridge Gerry, respecting the determination of Congress to take possession of Bun- 
ker's Hill, he said, that for himself he was opposed to the measure, but as the majority had de- 
cided upon it, he would hazard his life to carry it into effect. Mr. Gerry remonstrated with 
him, and concluded by saying, " As surely as you go there you will be slain." "Warren replied 
with enthusiasm, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." — It is pleasant and honorable to die 
for one's country. These principles were sealed with his blood. On the morning preceding the 
battle he was at Cambridge, and hearing of the preparations going on at Charlestown, he 
mounted a horse and rode to the place. He did not arrive at the battle-ground until the enemy 
had commenced their movements for the attack. As soon as he made his appearance on the 
field, the veteran commander of the day, Col. Prescott, proffered him the command, but he de- 
clined taking any other part than that of a volunteer, and added that he came to learn the art 
of war from an experienced soldier, whose orders he should be happy to obey. Borrowing a 
musket from a soldier who was retiring, he mingled in the thickest of the fight, where his ex- 
ample encouraged the troops to deeds of honor and bravery. "When the battle was decided in 
favor of the British, and the retreat of the Americans commenced, a ball struck Warren on the 
head, and he died in the trenches.* His death caused the deepest sorrow in the community, 
and the sacrifice of so noble a victim produced a stronger determination on the part of the colo- 
nists to preserve their rights and liberties. 

* AUea's Biographical Dictionary ^ 




This oration was delivered at Boston, Massa- 
chusetts, on the sixth day of March, 1775, in 
commemoration of the "Bloody Massacre" 
committed in King street, Boston, on the even- 
ing of the fifth of March, 1770 : * 

My Evek Honoeed Fellow-citizens: It is 
not without the most humiliating conviction of 
my want of ability, that I now appear before 
you: but the sense I have of the obligation I 
am under to obey the calls of my country at all 
times, together with an animating recollection 
of your indulgence, exhibited upon so many oc- 
casions, has induced me, once more, undeserv- 
ing as I am, to throw myself upon that candor 

* In the month of September, 1768, two regiments of 
British troops, under the command of Colonels Dalrymple 
and Carr, arrived at Boston. The people of that town de- 
sired that they should be stationed at the Castle, now Fort 
Independence ; but " they landed with all the appearance of 
hostility ! They marched through the town with all the en- 
signs of triumph, evidently designed to subject the inhab- 
itants to the severe discipline of a garrison, and continued 
their enormities by abusing the people." On the second day 
of March, 1T70, a quarrel arose between two soldiers of the 
29th regiment, and the workmen at a ropewalk not far dis- 
tant from the barracks. The soldiers being repulsed, soon 
made another attack, having increased their number to ten 
or twelve ; but these were also successfully resisted. In 
consequence of these quarrels the soldiery declared they 
would be avenged. The fbllowing account of their proceed- 
ings is taken from the Boston Chronicle, of March Sth, 17T0: 
" Last Monday, about 9 o'clock at night, a most unfortunate 
affair happened in King street. The sentinel posted at the 
Custom House, being surrounded by a number of people, 
called to the main-guard, upon which Captain Preston, with 
a party, went to his assistance, soon after which some of the 
party fired, by which the following persons were killed : 
Samuel Gray, ropemaker, a mulatto man, named Attucks, 
and Mr. James CaldwclL Early the next morning Captain 
Preston wa3"Tomimtted to jail, and the same day eight sol- 
diers. A meeting of the inhabitants was called at Faneuil 
Hall that forenoon, and the lieutenant-governor and council 
met at the council chamber, where the Colonels, Dalrymple 
and Carr, were desired to attend, when it was concluded 
upon, that both regiments should go down to the barracks, 
at Castle William, as soon as they were ready to receive 

The funeral of the victims of the massacre was attended 
the Sth of March. On this occasion the shops of the town 
were closed, and all the bells were ordered to be tolled, as 
were those of the neighboring towns. The procession began 
to move between 4 and 5 o'clock, P. M., the bodies of the 
two strangers, CahlweU and Attacks, being borne from 
Faneuil Hall, and those of the other victims, from the resi- 
dence of their families,— the hearses meeting in King street, 
near the scene of the tragedy, and passing through the main 
street to the burial-ground, where the bodies were all de- 
posited in one vault. Patrick Carr, who was wounded in 
the affair, died on the 14th, and"was buried on the 17th, in 
the same vault with his murdered associates. The anniver- 
sary of this massacre was celebrated until 1783, when the prac- 
tice was discontinued. -^^ =" 

which looks with kindness on the feeblest ef- 
forts of an honest mind. 

You will not now expect the elegance, the 
learning, the fire, the enrapturing strains of elo- 
quence, which charmed you when a Lovell, a 
Church, or a Hancock * spake ; but you will 
permit me to say, that with a sincerity equal to 
theirs, I mourn over my bleeding country. 
With them I weep at her distress, and with 
them deeply resent the many injuries she has 
received from the hands of cruel and unreason- 
able men. 

Y That personal freedom is the natural right of 
every man, and that property, or an exclusive 
right to dispose of what he has honestly ac- 
quired by his own labor, necessarily arises 
therefrom, are truths which common sense has 
placed beyond the reach of contradiction. And 
no man or body of men can, without being 
guilty of flagrant injustice, claim a right to dis- 
pose of the persons or acquisitions of any other 
man, or body of men, unless it can be proved 
that such a right has arisen from some compact 
between the parties, in which it has been ex- 
plicitly and freely granted. 

If I may be indulged in taking a retrospec- 
tive view of the first settlement of our country, 
it wUl be easy to determine with what degree 
of justice the late Parliament of Great Britain 
have assumed the power of giving away that 
property, which the Americans have earned by 
their labor. 

Our fathers, having nobly resolved never to 
wear the yoke of despotism, and seeing the Eu- 
ropean world, at that time, through indolence 
and cowardice, falling a prey to tyranny, brave- 
ly threw themselves upon the bosom of the 
ocean, determined to find a place in which they 
might enjoy their freedom, or perish in the glo- 
rious attempt. Approving heaven beheld the 
favorite ark dancing upon the waves, and gra- 
ciously preserved it until the chosen families 
were brought in safety to these western re- 
gions. They found the land swarming with 
savages, who threatened death with every kind 
of torture. But savages, and death with tor- 
ture, were far less terrible than slavery. No- 
thing was so much the object of their abhor- 
rence as a tyrant's power. They knew it was 
more safe to dwell with man, in his most un- 
polished state, than in a country where arbi- 
trary power prevails. Even anarchy itself, that 
bugbear held up by the tools of power, (though 
truly to be deprecated,) is infinitely less danger- 
ous to mankind than arbitrary government. 
Anarchy can be but of a short duration ; for, 
when men are at liberty to pursue that course 
which is more conducive to their own happi- 
ness, they will soon come into it ; and from the 
rudest state of nature, order and good govern- 

* These were orators of preceding years. 



ment must soon arise. But tyranny, when once 
established, entails its curses on a nation to the 
latest period of time; unless some daring ge- 
nius, inspired by heaven, shall, unappalled by 
danger, l3ravely form and execute the arduous 
. designs of restoring liberty and life to his en- 
slaved, murdered country. 

The tools of power, in every age, have 
racked their inventions to justify the few in 
sporting with the happiness of the many; and, 
having found their sophistry too weak to hold 
mankind in bondage, have impiously dared to 
force religion, the daughter of the King of 
Heaven, to become a prostitute in the service 
of hell. They taught, that princes, honored 
with the name of Christian, might bid defiance 
to the founder of their faith, might pillage pa- 
gan countries and deluge them with blood, only 
because they boasted themselves to be the dis- 
ciples of that teacher, who strictly charged his 
followers to do to others as they would that 
others should do unto them. 

This country having been discovered by an ' 
English subject, in the year 1620, was (accord- 
ing to the system which the blind superstition 
of those times supported) deemed the property 
of the Crown of England. Our ancestors, when 
they resolved to quit their native soil, obtained 
from King James a grant of certain lands in 
North America. This they probably did to si- 
lence the cavils of their enemies, for it cannot 
be doubted, but they despised the pretended 
right which he claimed thereto. Certain it is, 
that he might, with equal propriety and justice, 
have made them a grant of the planet Jupiter. 
And their subsequent conduct plainly shows, 
that they were too well acquainted with hu- 
manity, and the principles of natural equity, to 
suppose, that the grant gave them any right to 
take possession ; they, therefore, entered into a 
treaty with the natives, and bought from them 
the lands. Nor have I ever yet obtained any 
information, that our ancestors ever pleaded, or 
that the natives ever regarded the grant from 
the English Crown : the business was transact- 
ed by the parties in the same independent man- 
ner, that it would have been, had neither of 
them ever known or heard of the island of 
Great Britain. 

Having become the honest proprietors of the 
soil, they immediately applied themselves to 
the cultivation of it ; and they soon beheld the 
virgin earth teeming with richest fruits, a grate- 
ful recompense for their unwearied toil. The 
fields began to wave with ripening harvests, 
and the late barren wilderness was seen to blos- 
som like the rose. The savage natives saw, 
with wonder, the delightful change, and quick- 
ly formed a scheme to obtain that by fraud or 
force, which nature meant as the reward of in- 
dustry alone. But the illustrious emigrants 
soon convinced the rude invaders, that they 
were not less ready to take the field for battle 
than for labor ; and the insidious foe was driven 
from their borders as often as he ventured to 
disturb them. The Crown of England looked 

with indifference on the contest ; our ancestors 
were left alone to combat with the natives. 
Nor is there any reason to believe, that it ever 
was intended by the one party, or expected by 
the other, that the grantor should defend and 
maintain the grantees in the peaceable posses- 
sion of the lands named in the patents. And 
it appears plainly, from the history of those 
times, that neitlier the prince nor the people of 
England, thought themselves much interested 
in the matter. They had not then any idea of 
a thousandth part of those advantages, which 
they since have, and we are most heartily wil- 
ling they should, still continue to reap from us. 

But when, at an infinite expense of toil and 
blood, this widely extended continent had been 
cultivated and defended ; when the hardy ad- 
venturers justly expected, that they and their 
descendants should peaceably have enjoyed the 
harvest of those fields which they had sown, 
and the fruit of those vineyards which they 
had planted, this country was then thought 
worthy the attention of the British ministry ; 
and the only justifiable and only successful 
means of rendering the colonies serviceable to 
Britain, were adopted. By an intercourse of 
friendly offices, the two countries became so 
united in affection, that they thought not of 
any distinct or separate interests, they found 
both countries flourishing and happy. Britain 
saw her commerce extended, and her wealth 
increased; her lands raised to an immense 
value ; her fleets riding triumphant on the 
ocean ; the terror of her arms spreading to 
every quarter of the globe. The colonist found 
himself free, and thought himself secure: he 
dwelt under his own vine, and imder his own 
fig-tree, and had none to make him afraid. He 
knew, indeed, that by purchasing tlie manufac- 
tures of Great Britain, he contributed to its 
greatness : he knew that all the wealth that his 
labor produced, centred in Great Britain. But 
that, far from exciting his envy, filled him with 
the highest pleasure; that thought supported 
him in all his toils. When the business of the 
day was past, he solaced himself with the con- 
templation, or perhaps entertained his listening 
family with the recital of some great, some glo- 
rious transaction, which shines conspicuous in 
the history of Britain ; or, perhaps, his elevated 
fancy led him to foretell, with a kind of enthu- 
siastic confidence, the glory, power and dura- 
tion of an empire which should extend from 
one end of the earth to the other. He saw, or 
thought he saw, the British nation risen to a 
pitch of grandeur, which cast a veil over the 
Roman glory, and, ravished with the preview, 
boasted a race of British kings, whose names 
should echo through those realms where Cyrus, 
Alexander, and the Ca;sars were unknown; 
princes, for whom millions of grateful subjects 
redeemed from slavery and pagan ignorance, 
should, with thankful tongues, offer up their 
prayers and praises to that transcendently great 
and beneficent being, "by whom kings reign 
and princes decree justice." 



These pleasing connections might have con- 
tinued ; these delightsome prospects might have 
been every day extended ; and even the reve- 
ries of the most warm imagination might have 
been realized; but, unhappOy for us, unhap- 
pily for Britain, the madness of an avaricious 
minister of state, has drawn a sable curtain 
over the charming scene, and in its stead has 
brought upon the stage, discord, envy, hatred 
and revenge, with civil war close in their 

Some demon, in an evil hour, suggested to a 
short-sighted financier the hateful project of 
transferring the whole property of the king's 
subjects in America, to his subjects in Britain. 
The claim of the British Parliament to tax the 
colonies, can never be supported but by such a 
transfer ; for the right of the House of Com- 
mons of Great Britain to originate any tax or 
grant money, is altogether derived from their 
being elected by the people of Great Britain to 
act for them ; and the people of Great Britain 
cannot confer on their representatives a right to 
give or grant any thing which they themselves 
have not a right to give or grant personally. 
Therefore, it follows, that if the members chosen 
by the people of Great Britain to represent 
them in Parliament, have, by virtue of their 
being so chosen, any right to give or grant 
American property, or to lay any tax upon the 
lands or persons of the colonists, it is because 
the lands and people in the colonies are, lona 
fids, owned by and justly belonging to the peo- 
ple of Great Britain. But (as has been before 
observed), every man has a right to personal 
freedom ; consequently a right to enjoy what is 
acquired by his own labor. And it is evident 
that the property in this country has been ac- 
quired by our own labor ; it is the duty of the 
people of Great Britain to produce some com- 
pact in which we have explicitly given up to 
them a right to dispose of our persons or prop- 
erty. Until this is done, every attempt of 
theirs, or of those whom they have deputed to 
act for them, to give or grant any part of our 
property, is directly repugnant to every princi- 
ple of reason and natural justice. But I may 
boldly say that such a compact never existed, 
no, not even in imagination. Nevertheless, the 
representatives of a nation long famed for jus- 
tice and the exercise of every noble virtue, have 
been prevailed on to adopt the fatal scheme ; 
and although the dreadful consequences of this 
wicked policy have already shaken the empire 
to its centre, yet still it is persisted in. Eegard- 
less of the voice of reason ; deaf to the prayers 
and supplications ; and unaffected with the 
flowing tears of suffering millions, the British 
ministry still hug the darling idol ; and every 
rolling year affords fresh instances of the ab- 
surd devotion with which they worship it. 
Alas! how has the folly, the distraction of 
the British councils, blasted our swelling hopes, 
and spread a gloom over this western hemi- 
The hearts of Britons and Americans, which 

lately felt the generous glow of mutual confi- 
dence, and love, now burn with jealousy and 
rage. Though but of yesterday, I recollect 
(deeply affected at the ill-boding change) the 
happy hours that passed whilst Britain and 
America rejoiced in the prosperity and great- 
ness of each other. Heaven grant those hal- 
cyon days may soon return ! But now the Briton 
too often looks on the American with an envi- 
ous eye, taught to consider his just plea for the 
enjoyment of his earnings, as the effect of pride 
and stubborn opposition to the parent country. 
Whilst the American beholds the Briton as the 
ruffian, ready first to take away his property, 
and next, what is still dearer to every virtuous 
man, the liberty of his country. 

When the measures of administration had 
disgusted the colonies to the highest degree, 
and the people of Great Britain had, by artifice 
and falsehood, been irritated against America, 
an army was sent over to enforce submission to 
certain acts of the British Parliament, which 
reason scorned to countenance, and which place- 
men and pensioners were foimd unable to sup- 

Martial law, and the government of a well- 
regulated city, are so entirely different, that it 
has always been considered as improper to 
quarter troops in populous cities ; frequent dis- 
•putes must necessarOy arise between the citi- 
zen and the soldier, even if no previous animosi- 
ties subsist. And it is further certain, from a 
consideration of the nature of mankind, as weU 
as from constant experience, that standing ar- 
mies always endanger the liberty of the subject. 
But when the people, on the one part, consid- 
ered the army as sent to enslave them, and the 
army, on the other, were taught to look on the 
people as in a state of rebellion, it was but just 
to fear the most disagreeable consequences. 
Our fears, we have seen, were but too well 

The many injuries offered to the town, I pass 
over in silence. I cannot now mark out the 
path which led to that unequalled scene of hor- 
ror, the sad remembrance of which takes the 
full possession of my soul. The sanguinary 
theatre again opens itself to view. The bale- 
ful images of terror crowd around me ; and dis- 
contented ghosts, with hollow groans, appear 
to solemnize the anniversary of the fifth of 

Approach we then the melancholy walk of 
death. Hither let me call the gay companion ; 
here let him drop a farewell tear upon that 
body which so late he saw vigorous and warm 
with social mirth ; hither let me lead the ten- 
der mother to weep over her beloved son — come, 
widowed mourner, here satiate thy grief; be- 
hold tliy murdered husband gasping on the 
ground, and to complete the pompous show of 
wretchedness, bring in each hand thy infant 
children to bewail their father's fate — take 
heed, ye orphan babes, lest, whilst your stream- 
ing eyes are fixed upon the ghastly corpse, your 
feet slide on the stones bespattered with your 



father's brains ! * Enough ; this tragedy need 
not be heightened by an infant weltering in the 
blood of him that gave it birth. Nature, re- 
luctant, shrinks already from the view, and the 
chilled blood rolls slowly backward to its foim- 
tain. "VVe wildly stare about, and with amaze- 
ment ask who spread this ruin around us ? 
"What wretch has dared deface the image of his 
God? Has haughty France, or cruel Spain, 
sent forth her myrmidons ? Has the grim sav- 
age rushed again from the far distant wilder- 
ness ; or does some fiend, fierce from the depth 
of hell, with all the rancorous malice which the 
apostate damned can feel, twang her destructive 
bow, and hurl her deadly arrows at our breast ? 
No, none of these — but, how astonishing ! it is 
the hand of Britain that inflicts the wound! 
The arms of George, our rightful king, have 
been employed to shed that blood, when jus- 
tice, or the honor of his crown, had called his 
subjects to the field. 

But pity, grief, astonishment, with all the 
softer movements of the soul, must now give 
way to stronger passions. Say, feUow-citizens, 
what dreadful thought now swells your heav- 
ing bosoms ; you fly to arms — sharp indigna- 
tion flashes from each eye — revenge gnashes 
her iron teeth — death grins a hideous smile, se- 
cure to drench his greedy jaws in human gore — 
whilst hovering furies darken all the air ! 

But stop, my bold, adventurous countrymen ; 
stain not your weapons with the blood of Brit- 
ons. Attend to reason's voice ; humanity puts 
in her claim, and sues to be again admitted to 
her wonted seat, the bosom of the brave. Re- 
venge is far beneath the noble mind. Many,^ 
perhaps, compelled to rank among the vile as- 
sassins, do from their inmost souls detest the 
barbarous action. The winged death, shot from 
your arms, may chance to pierce some breast 
that bleeds already for your injured country. 

The storm subsides — a solemn pause ensues — 
you spare — upon condition they depart. They 
go — they quit your city — they no more shall 
give offence. Thus closes the important drama. 

And could it have been conceived that we 
again ^ould have seen a British army in our 
land, sent to enforce obedience to acts of Par- 
liament destructive of our liberty? But the 
royal ear, far distant from this western world, 
has been assaulted by the tongue of slander ; 
and villains, traitorous alike to king and coun- 
try, have prevailed upon a gracious prince to 
clothe his countenance with wrath, and to erect 
the hostile banner against a people ever affec- 
tionate and loyal to him and his illustrious pre- 
decessors of the House of Hanover. Our streets 
are again filled with armed men ; our harbor is 
crowded with ships of war ; but these cannot 
intimidate us ; our liberty must be preserved ; 
it is far dearer than life — we hold it even dear 

* After Mr. Gray had been shot through the body, and had 
fallen dead on the ground, a bayonet was pushed through 
his skull ; part of the bone being broken, his brains fell out 
upon the pavement 

as our allegiance ; we must defend it against 
the attacks of friends as well as enemies ; we 
cannot suffer even Britons to ravish it from us. 

No longer could we reflect with generous 
pride, on the heroic actions of our American 
forefathers; no longer boast our origin from 
that far-famed island, whose warlike sons have 
so often drawn their well-tried swords to save 
her from the ravages of tyranny ; could we, but 
for a moment, entertain the thought of giving 
up our liberty. The man who meanly will sub- 
mit to wear a shackle, contemns the noblest 
gift of heaven, and impiously affronts the God 
that made him free. 

It was a maxim of the Roman people, which 
eminently conduced to the greatness of that 
state, never to despair of the commonwealth. 
The maxim may prove as salutary to us now, 
as it did to them. Short-sighted mortals see 
not the numerous links of small and great 
events, which form the chain on which the 
fate of kings and nations is suspended. Ease 
and prosperity, though pleasing for a day, have 
often sunk a people into effeminacy and sloth. 
Hardships and dangers, though we for ever 
strive to shun them, have frequently called forth 
such virtues as have commanded the applause 
and reverence of an admiring world. Our coun- 
try loudly calls you to be circumspect, vigilant, 
active and brave. Perhaps, (all gracious heaven 
avert it,) perhaps, the power of Britain, a na- 
tion great in war, by some malignant influence, 
may be employed to enslave you ; but let not 
even this discourage you. Her arms, 'tis true, 
have filled the world with terror ; her troops 
have reaped the laurels of the field ; her fleets 
have rode triumphant on the sea ; and when, 
or where, did you, my countrymen, depart in- 
glorious from the field of fight ? You too can 
show the trophies of your forefathers' victories 
and your own ; can name the fortresses and bat- 
tles you have won ; and many of you count the 
honorable scars of wounds received, whilst 
fighting for your king and country. 

Where justice is the standard, heaven is the 
warrior's shield : but conscious guilt unnerves 
the arm that lifts the sword against the inno- 
cent. Britain, united with these colonies by 
commerce and affection, by interest and blood, 
may mock the threats of France and Spain; 
may be the seat of universal empire. But 
should America, either by force, or those more 
dangerous engines, luxury and corruption, ever 
be brought into a state of vassalage, Britain 
must lose her freedom also. No longer shall 
she sit the empress of the sea; her ships no 
more shall waft her thunders over the wide 
ocean ; the wreath shall wither on her temples ; 
her weakened arm shall be unable to defend 
her coasts ; and she, at last, must bow her ven- 
erable head to some proud foreigner's despotic 

But if, from past events, we may venture to 
form a judgment of the future, we justly may 
expect that the devices of our enemies will 
but increase the triumphs of our country.' I 



must indulge a hope that Britain's liberty, as 
well as ours, will eventually be preserved by 
the virtue of Anaerica. 

The attempt of the British Parliament to 
raise a revenue from America, and our denial 
of their right to do it, have excited an almost 
universal inquiry into the right of mankind in 
general, and of British subjects in particular ; 
the necessary result of which must be such a 
liberality of sentiment, and such a jealousy of 
those in power, as will, better than an adaman- 
tine wall, secure us against the future approaches 
of despotism. 

The malice of the Boston port-bill has been 
defeated, in a very considerable degree, by giv- 
ing you aa opportunity of deserving, and our 
brethren in this and our sister colonies,_ an 
opportunity of bestowing those benefactions 
which have delighted your friends and aston- 
ished your enemies, not only in America, but in 
Europe also. And what is more valuable still, 
the sympathetic feelings for a brother in dis- 
tress, and the grateful emotions, excited in the 
breast of him who finds relief, must for ever 
endear eacli to the other, and form those in- 
dissoluble bonds of friendship and affection, on 
which the preservation of our rights so evi- 
dently depend. 

The mutilation of our charter has made 
every other colony jealous for its own ; for this, 
if once submitted to by us, would set on float 
the property and government of every British 
settlement upon the continent. If charters are 
not deemed sacred, how miserably precarious is 
every thing founded upon them ! 

Even the sending troops to put these acts in 
execution, is not without advantage to us. The 
exactness and beauty of their discipline inspire 
our youth with ardor in the pursuit of military 
knowledge. Charles the Invincible taught Pe- 
ter the Great the art of war. The battle of Pul- 
towa convinced Charles of the proficiency Peter 
had made. 

Our country is in danger, but not to be de- 
spaired of. Our enemies are numerous and pow- 
erful ; but we have many friends, determining 
to be free, and heaven and earth wUl aid the 
resolution. On you depend the fortunes of 
America. You are to decide the important ques- 
tion, on which rest the happiness and liberty of 
millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves. 
The faltering tongue of hoary age, calls on you 
to support your country. The lisping infant 
raises its suppliant hands, imploring defence 
against the monster slavery. Your fathers look 
from their celestial seats with smiling approba- 
tion on their sons, who boldly stand forth in 
the cause of virtue ; but sternly frown upon the 

inhuman miscreant, who, to secure the loavea 
and fishes to himself, would breed a serpent to 
destroy his children. 

But, pardon me, my fellow-citizens, I know 
you want not zeal or fortitude. You wUl main- 
tain your rights, or perish in the generous strug- 
gle. However difiicult the combat, you never 
will decline it when freedom is the prize. An 
independence of Great Britain "is not our aim. 
No, our wish is, that Britain and the colonies 
may, like the oak and ivy, grow and increase in 
strength together. But whilst the infatuated 
plan of making one part of the empire slaves 
to the other is persisted in, the interests and 
safety of Britain, as well as the colonies, require 
that the wise measures, recommended by the 
honorable the Continental Congress, be stead- 
ily pursued ; whereby the unnatm-al contest be- 
tween a parent honored and a child beloved, 
may probably be brought to such an issue, as 
that the peace and happiness of both may be es- 
tablished upon a lasting basis. But if these pa- 
cific measures are ineffectual, and it appears 
that the only way to safety is through fields of 
blood, I know you wiU not turn your faces from 
your foes, but wUl, undauntedly, press for- 
ward, until tyranny is trodden under foot, and 
you have fixed your adored goddess liberty, 
fast by a Brunswick's side, on the American 

You then, who have nobly espoused your 
country's cause, who generously have sacrificed 
wealth and ease ; who have despised the pomp 
and show of tinselled greatness; refused the 
summons to the festive board; been deaf to 
the alluring calls of luxury and mirth; who 
have forsaken the downy pillow, to keep your 
vigils by the midnight lamp for the salvation of 
your invaded country, that you might break 
the fowler's snare, and disappoint the vulture 
of his prey — you then wiU reap that harvest of 
renown which you so justly have deserved. 
Your country shall pay her grateful tribute of 
applause. Even the children of your most in- 
veterate enemies, ashamed to tell from whom 
they sprang, while they, in secret, curse their 
stupid, cruel parents, shall join the general voice 
of gratitude to those who broke the fetters which 
their fathers forged. 

Having redeemed your country, and secured 
the blessing to future generations, who, fired by 
your example, shall emulate your virtues, and 
learn from you the heavenly art of making mil- 
lions happy ; with heartfelt joy, with trans- 
ports all your own, you cry, the glorious work 
is done ; then drop the mantle to some young 
Elisha, and take your seats with kindred spirits 
in your native skies 1 


The illustrious subject of this sketch holds a prominent position in the annals of America ; 
more especially in those of Pennsylvania. He was born, some time in the year 1742, of respect- 
able parents, who resided in the neighborhood of St. Andrews, in the lowlands of Scotland. 
After receiving an excellent classical education at the several universities of St. Andrews, Glas- 
gow, and Edinburgh, he finished his studies in rhetoric and logic under the tuition of the world- 
renowned Doctors Blair and Watts. Soon after the completion of these studies, he resolved to 
emigrate to America, and endeavor, by the proper exercise of his talents and industry, to realize 
that independence which his own country could not afford. Having landed at New York, he 
travelled to Philadelphia, which place he reached in the beginning of the year 1766. He was 
then about twenty-one years of age. Through the influence of letters of high recommendation 
he had brought to some of the eminent men of Philadelphia, among whom was Dr. Eichard 
Peters, rector of Christ and St. Peter's churches, he was appointed an usher in the college of 
that city, in which position he remained but a few months. 

Subsequently he commenced the study of law in the office of the celebrated John Dickinson, 
and after two years of serious and laboi-ious application, he was admitted to practice, and set- 
tled in Beading, Pennsylvania. Soon after he removed to Carlisle, in the same State, where he 
became eminent in his profession, and acquired considerable practice. At this place an inci 
dent occurred, which gave him a high place in the estimation of the first men of the province, 
and also gained him great celebrity as an advocate. An important land cause, between the 
proprietaries of Pennsylvania and one Samuel "Wallace, an extensive land dealer, came on for 
trial in one of the county courts. Mr. Wilson was retained by the latter, and Mr. Chew, the 
attorney-general, appeared for the proprietaries. It was particularly noticed by the persons in 
court, that the attorney-general fixed his eyes upon Mr. Wilson soon after he commenced his 
argument, and gazed at him with wonder and admiration untU he had concluded. So success- 
fully did he manage the cause, that his associates thought it needless to add to his remarks. 
Before the close of the session of the court, he was retained in another similar cause ; and his 
standing at the bar was thereafter prominent and unalterable. While a resident of Carlisle, he 
was chosen a colonel of a regiment of militia, and the public stores at that place were commit- 
ted to his care ; but he never was in active service. 

Mr. Wilson seems to have inherited a propensity for speculation from his father, who, it 
appears, was " continually led on by the bright promises of adventures, and was a constant 
pecuniary sufierer." Notwithstanding the extensive support and patronage he received from 
the public, he frequently became embarrassed by the unfortunate terminations of his speculations, 
and suffered the severest privations. Tet in the midst of these sufferings, it was his constant 
care to remit the little he could spare to his mother in Scotland, who had been left in limited 
circumstances on the death of her husband. To the day of her death, he manifested an earnest 
and commendable solicitude for her comfort, and used every method in his power to alleviate 
her wants and smooth her downward path to the tomb. 

When the British ministry commenced its oppressions, the political career of Mr. Wilson be- 
gan. Although a Scotchman by birth, ho was American in his principles. He wrote freely and 


powerfully in. favor of American rights, and never swerved from his zealous attachment to the 
cause of the colonists. A few months previous to the meeting of the Continental Congress in 
1774, he was a member of the provincial convention of Pennsylvania, which had convened to 
concert plans to redress the wrongs imposed upon the colonies. During the session of this con- 
vention he exhibited such splendid talents and lofty patriotism, that he was nominated a dele- 
gate to the national assembly, with his old law teacher, John Dickinson. His appointment was 
strongly opposed by Joseph Galloway,* who had long been a bitter opponent, and he was de- 
feated ; but on the sixth of May of the next year (1775), he was elected and took his seat. He 
continued in the Congress until September, 1777, when by the intrigues and machinations of his 
political enemies he was superseded. About this period he removed from Carlisle to Annapolis, 
Maryland, where he remained but one year, after which he returned to Philadelphia, which 
place thereafter became his permanent abode. On the fifth of June, 1779, Mr. Gerard, the first 
minister plenipotentiary from France, appointed Mr. Wilson advocate-general of the French 
nation in the United States. Congress was notified of his appointment on the fifteenth of Sep- 
tember, of the same year, and on the eighteenth of February, 1781, the King of France issued 
letters patent confirming it. The duties of this office Mr. Wilson fulfilled to the satisfaction of 
the king, and at the close of his service he was rewarded by that monarch with ten thousand 

Notwithstanding his eminent services to the colonies, Mr. Wilson became the object and vic- 
tim of political intrigue. His enemies charged him with opposing the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence, but the fact of his signing that instrument shows the sincerity of his attachment to the 
best interests of the colonists, however he may have manifested that sincerity before the decla- 
ration. In the year 1779, the life of Mr. Wilson was put in great danger by a band of heated 
partisans, under the pretext of his holding sentiments inimical to popular institutions. At that 
time party spirit in Pennsylvania had taken a consistency, and politicians were divided into con- 
stitutionalists and republicans. The first adhered to the constitution already formed, which was 
reprobated by the others for its total deficiency in checks and counterbalancing powers, thence 
tending, as it was alleged, to rash and oppressive proceedings. The term republicans was em- 
braced as recognizing the principles of the revolution, and as indicative, perhaps, of tenets, 
which admitted the utility of modifications and restraints in a system resting upon the broad 
basis of general suffrage and popular sovereignty. Mr. Wilson was one of the leaders of the 
republican party, and through the artful designs of his opponents in the constitutional party, he 
had become particularly obnoxious. He was charged in his professional character with defend- 
ing tories, and befriending the foes to the principles on which the opposition~to the claims of 
Great Britain was founded. The afi'air of ^^ FortWilson" as his house was thereafter denomi- 
nated, arose from this opinion, of which those who designed that transaction took advantage for 
party purposes. 

About the middle of September, 1779, a committee, appointed at a town meeting, regulated 
the prices of rum, salt, sugar, coffee, flour, &c. — a measure which was strongly opposed by the 
importers. Eobert Morris, Blair McClenachen, John Willcocks, and a number of other stanch 
whigs, had a quantity of these articles in their stores, which they refused to dispose of at the 
regulated prices. About the last of the month, a great number of the lower class from the city 
and liberties collected, and marched through the city, threatening to break open the stores, 
distribute the goods, and punish those who refused to open their warehouses. On the morning 
of the 4th of October, placards were posted, menacing Eobert Morris, Blair McClenachan, and 
many others : Mr. Wilson was proscribed by the mobility, for having exercised his professional 

* Joseph Galloway was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1764, and after having been speaker of that body 
for several sessions, he was appointed a delegate to the Congress of 17T4. He afterwards deserted the American cause, 
joining the British at New Tork, in December, 1T76, and remained with the army till June, 1778. In 1779 he was ex- 
amined before the House of Commons on the transactions in America, and his representations did not add much to tho 
credit of the British officers. He was the author of several important papers relative to the revolutionary war. His de- 
fection was very severely commented on by his friends, whose cause he had deserted. Stiles, in his m.inuscript diary, 
nnder the date of October 1st, 1775, says : " Mr. Galloway has also fallen from a great height into contempt and infamy ; 
but he never was entirely confided in as a thorough son of liberty." He died at London in 1803. 





duty as a lawyer, in behalf of certain persons who had been prosecuted for treason ; and the 
punishment decreed for his crime, was banishment to the enemy, yet in New York. But this 
was not the real cause which produced so lamentable an instance of popular delusion : that was 
to be found in the superior talents and respectability of the republican party. The gentlemen 
threatened determined to defend themselves, and with a number of their friends, to the amount 
of about thirty or forty, took post at the south-west corner of Walnut and Third streets, in a 
house belonging to and occupied by Mr. Wilson: it was then a large, old-fashioned brick 
building, with an extensive garden on Third and Walnut streets. Among those in the house 
were Messrs. Wilson, Morris, Burd, George Clymer, Daniel Clymer, John T. Mifflin, Allen 
McLean, Sharp Delany, George Campbell, Paul Beck, Thomas Lawrence, Andrew Robinson, 
John Potts, Samuel 0. Morris, Captain Campbell, and Generals Mifflin, Nichols, and Thomson. 
They were provided with arms, but their stock of ammunition was very small. While the mob 
was marching down. General Nichols and Daniel Clymer proceeded hastily to the arsenal at 
Carpenters' Hall, and fiUed their pockets with cartridges : this constituted their whole supply. 
In the mean time, the mob and militia — for no regular troops took part in the riot — assembled 
on the commons, while a meeting of the principal citizens took place at the coffee-house. A 
deputation was sent, to endeavor to prevail on them to disperse, but without effect. The first 
troop of city cavalry, being apprised of what was going forward, and anxious for the safety of 
their fellow-citizens, assembled at their stables, a fixed place of rendezvous, and agreed to have 
their horses saddled, and ready to mount at a moment's warning. Notice was to be given to as 
many members as could be found ; and a part was to assemble in Dock, below Second street, 
and join the party at the stables. For a time a deceitful calm prevailed ; at the hour of dinner, 
the members of the troop retired to their respective homes, and the rebels seized the opportunity 
to march into the city. The armed men amounted to two hundred, and were commanded by 
Mills, a North .Carolina captain ; Faulkner, a ship-joiner ; Pickering, a tailor ; and one Bonham, 
a man of low character. They marched down Chestnut to Second street — down Second to 
Walnut — and up Walnut to Mr. Wilson's house, with drums beating, and two pieces of cannon 
They immediately commenced firing on the house, which was warmly returned by the garrison. 
Finding they could make no impression, the mob procured, from a blacksmith's shop in the 
neighborhood, a crowbar and sledge, and proceeded to force the door. At the critical moment, 
when the door yielded to their efforts, the horse made their appearance : had they succeeded in 
effecting an entrance, every individual in the house would, doubtless, have been murdered. 

After the troop had retired, a few of the members, having received intelligence that the mob 
were marching into town, hastened to the established rendezvous. Collecting thus by mere 
accident, their number only amounted to seven; these were. Major Lennox, Major Nichols, 
Major William Nichols, Thomas Morris, Alexander Nesbitt, Isaac Coxe, and Thomas Leiper. 
This small body resolved to attempt the rescue of their fellow-citizens. On their route they 
were joined by two troopers belonging to Colonel Bayler's regiment, quartered at Bristol ; and 
turning rapidly and suddenly round the corner of Chestnut street, they charged the mob. When 
the cry of " the horse ! the horse ! " was raised, the rioters, ignorant of their numbers, dispersed 
in every direction, but not before two other detachments of the first troop had reached the 
scene. Many of them were arrested, delivered to the civil authority, and committed to prison ; 
and as the sword was very freely used, a considerable number were severely wounded. One 
man and one boy were killed in the streets : in the house. Captain Campbell was killed, and 
Mr. Mifflin and Mr. Samuel C. Morris were wounded. The troop patrolled the streets the greater 
part of the night. The citizens turned out en masse, and placed a guard at the powder magazine 
and the arsenal. It was some days before order was restored ; and the troop, from the part 
they had taken, found it necessary to keep much together, and hold themselves in readiness to 
act in support of each other. Major Lennox was particularly marked out for destruction. He 
retired to his house at Germantown. The mob followed, and surrounded it during the night, 
and prepared to force an entrance. Anxious to gain time, he pledged his honor that he would 
open the door as soon as daylight appeared. In the mean time, he contrived to despatch an 
intrepid woman, who lived in his family, to the city for assistance; and a party of the first troop 



arrived in season to protect their comrade ; but lie was compelled to return to town for safety. 
He was for a number of years saluted in the market by the title of " brother butcher," owing 
in part to his having been without a coat on the day of the riot : having on a long coat, ho 
was obliged to cast it aside, to prevent being dragged from his horse. 

The gentlemen who had comprised the garrison were advised to leave the city, where their 
lives were endangered. General Mifflin, and about thirty others, accordingly met at Mr. Gray's 
house, about five miles below Gray's ferry, where a council was called, and it was resolved to 
return to town without any appearance of iatimidation. But it was deemed expedient that 
Mr. "Wilson should absent himself for a time ; the others continued to walk as usual in public, 
and attended the funeral of the unfortunate Captain Campbell. Thus ended the disgraceful 

In 1781, Mr. Wilson was appointed by Congress one of the directors of the Bank of North 
America, which institution had been designed by the celebrated financier, Eobert Morris, for 
the purpose of supporting the finances of the United States. On the 12th of November, 1T82, 
he was re-elected to Congress, and the same year, the President and Council of Pennsylvania 
appointed him one of the councillors and agents, in the celebrated controversy existing between 
that State and Connecticut, relative to the lands at Wyoming. The successful result of this 
dispute in favor of Pennsylvania, was in some degree attributable to the exertions of Mr. Wilson. 
Again, in 1785, he was elected to Congress; and in 1787 he was a member of the convention 
which met at Philadelphia for the purpose of forming the Federal Constitution. In this cha- 
racter he gained much applause for his ability and usefulness. "Being a fluent speaker, and 
possessing deep political sagacity and foresight, he entered almost daily into the arguments 
which arose on the great and important points necessarily involved in the formation of a new 
and adequate government." He was also a member of the Pennsylvania convention for the 
ratification of the Federal Constitution. In a powerful speech, he showed what difliculties the 
Federal Convention had to encounter in framing it, and directed his remarks in favor of its 

In 1789, President Washington appointed Mr. Wilson one of the first judges of the Supreme 
Court of the United States, in which oflBce he remained until his death, discharging its functions 
with integrity and ability. During this time he also occupied the chair of law in the College of 
Philadelphia; and in 1791 he revised the laws of Pennsylvania, in accordance with a resolve of 
the legislature of that commonwealth. While on a circuit in his judicial character, he died at 
Edenton, North Carolina, on the 28th of August, 1798. His works, including his lectures before 
the law students at the Philadelphia College, were published in 1804. 


The king, in his speech at the opening of 
Parliament, in November, 1774, informed that 
assembly that " a most daring spirit of resist- 
ance and disobedience still prevailed in Massa- 
chusetts, and had broken forth in fresh vio- 
lences of a criminal nature ; that the most pro- 
per and effectual methods had been taken to 
prevent these mischiefs ; and that they, the 
Parliament, might depend upon a firm resolu- 
tion, to withstand every attempt to weaken or 

* See Sandcrson'sBiography of the Signers of the Declara- 
tion of Independence, toI. 6th ; Graydon's Memoirs, edited 
by Littell, page 880, et teq. ; Watson's Annals of Philadel- 
phia, vol. 1st, p. 425. 

impair the supreme authority of Parliament, 
over all the dominions of the Crown." The 
following speech, in reference to this declara- 
tion of the king, was delivered by Mr. Wilson, 
in January, 1775, in the Convention for the 
Province of Pennsylvania : 

Mr. Chairman : Whence, sir, proceeds all the 
invidious and ill-grounded clamor against the 
colonists of America? Why are they stigma- 
tized in Britain, as licentious and ungovern- 
able ? Why is their virtuous opposition to the 
illegal attempts of their governors, represented 
under the falsest colors, and placed in the most 
ungracious point of view? This opposition, 
when exhibited in its true light, and when 




viewed, witli unjaundiced eyes, from a proper 
situation, and at a proper distance, stands con- 
fessed the lovely oifspring of freedom. It 
breathes the spirit of its parent. Of this ethe- 
real spirit, the whole conduct, and particularly 
the late conduct of the colonists, has shown 
them eminently possessed. It has animated 
and regulated every part of their proceedings. 
It has been recognized to be genuine, by all 
those symptoms and effects, by which it has 
been distinguished in other ages and other 
countries. It has been calm and regular : it 
has not acted without occasion : it has not act- 
ed disproportionably to the occasion. As the 
attempts, open or secret, to undermine or to 
destroy it, have been repeated or enforced ; in 
a just degree, its vigilance and its vigor have 
been exerted to defeat or to disappoint them. 
As its exertions have been sufficient for those 
purposes hitherto, let ns hence draw a joyful 
prognostic, that they will continue sufficient for 
those purposes hereafter. It is not yet exhaust- 
ed ; it will still operate irresistibly whenever a 
necessary occasion shall call forth its strength. 

Permit me, sir, by appealing, in a few in- 
stances, to the spirit and conduct of the colo- 
nists, to evince that what I have said of them 
is just. Did they disclose any uneasiness at 
the proceedings and claims of the British Par- 
liament, before those claims and proceedings 
afforded a reasonable cause for it ? Did they 
even disclose any uneasiness, when a reason- 
able cause for it was first given ? Our rights 
were invaded by their regulations of our inter- 
nal policy. We submitted to them : we were 
unwilling to oppose them. The spirit of liberty 
was slow to act. When those invasions were 
renewed ; when the efficacy and malignancy of 
them were attempted to be redoubled by the 
stamp act ; when chains were formed for us ; 
and preparations were made for riveting them 
on our limbs, what measures did we pursue ? 
The spirit of liberty found it necessary now to 
act : but she acted with the calmness and de- 
cent dignity suited to her character. Were we 
rash or seditious? Did we discover want of 
loyalty to our sovereign ? Did we betray want 
of affection to our brethren in Britain? Let 
our dutiful and reverential petitions to the 
throne — let our respectful, though firm, re- 
monstrances to the Parliament — -let our warm 
and affectionate addresses to our brethren, and 
(we will still call them,) our friends in Great 
Britain — let all those, transmitted from every 
part of the continent, testify the truth. By 
their testimony let our conduct be tried. 

As our proceedings, during the existence and 
operation of the stamp act, prove fully and in- 
contestably the painful sensations that tortured 
our breasts from the prospect of disunion with 
Britain ; the peals of joy, which burst forth 
universally, upon the repeal of that odious 
statute, loudly proclaim the heartfelt delight 
produced in us by a reconciliation with her. 
Unsuspicious, because undesigning, we buried 
our complaints and the causes of them, in obli- 

vion, and returned, with eagerness, to our for- 
mer unreserved confidence. Our connection 
with our parent country, and the reciprocal 
blessings resulting from it to her and to us, 
were the favorite and pleasing topics of our 
public discourses and our private conversations. 
Lulled in delightful security, we dreamed of 
nothing but increasing fondness and friendship, 
cemented and strengthened by a kind and per- 
petual communication of good offices. Soon, 
however, too soon, were we awakened from the 
soothing dreams ! Our enemies renewed their 
designs against us, not with less malice, but 
with more art. Under the plausible pretence 
of regulating our trade, and, at the same time, 
of making provision for the administration of 
justice and the support of government, in some 
of the colonies, they pursued their scheme of 
depriving us of our property without our con- 
sent. As the attempts to distress us, and to de- 
grade us to a rank inferior to that of freemen, ap- 
peared now to be reduced into a regular system, 
it became proper, on our part, to form a regular 
system for counteracting them. We ceased to 
import goods from Great Britain. Was this 
measure dictated by selfishness or by licentious- 
ness ? Did it not injure ourselves, while it in- 
jured the British merchants and manufacturers ? 
Was it inconsistent with the peaceful demeanor 
of subjects to abstain from making purchases, 
when our freedom and our safety rendered it 
necessary for us to abstain from them ? A re- 
gard for our freedom and our safety was our 
only motive ; for no sooner had the Parliament, 
by repealing part of the revenue laws, inspired 
us with the fiattering hopes that they had de- 
parted from their intentions of oppressing and 
of taxing us, than we forsook our plan for de- 
feating those intentions, and began to import 
as formerly. Far from being peevish or cap- 
tious, we took no public notice even of their 
declaratory law of dominion over us : our can- 
dor led us to consider it as a decent expedient of 
retreating from the actual exercise of that do- 

But, alas ! the root of bitterness still remain- 
ed. The duty on tea was reserved to furnish 
occasion to the ministry for a new effort to en- 
slave and to ruin us ; and the East India Company 
were chosen, and consented to be the detested 
instruments of ministerial despotism and cru- 
elty. A cargo of their tea arrived at Boston. 
By a low artifice of the governor, and by the 
wicked activity of the tools of government, it 
was rendered impossible to store it up, or to 
send it back, as was done at other places. A 
number of persons, unknown, destroyed it. 

Let us here make a concession to our ene- 
mies: let us suppose, that the transaction de- 
serves all the dark and hideous colors, in which 
they have painted it : let us even suppose, (for 
our cause admits of an excess of candor,) that 
all their exaggerated accounts of it were con- 
fined strictly to the truth : what will follow ? 
Will it follow, that every British colony in 
America, or even the colony of Massachusetts 



Bay, or even the town of Boston, in that colony, 
merits the imputation of being factious and sedi- 
tious? Let the frequent mobs and riots that 
have happened in Great Britain upon much 
more trivial occasions, shame our calumniators 
into silence. Will it follow, because the rules 
of order and regular government were, in that 
instance, violated by the offenders, that, for this 
reason, the principles of the constitution, and 
the maxims of justice, must be violated by their 
punishment? Will it follow, because those who 
were guilty could not be known, that, therefore, 
those who were known not to be guilty, must 
suffer? Will it follow, that even the guilty 
should be condemned without being heard — 
that they should be condemned upon partial 
testimony, upon the representations of their 
avowed and embittered enemies ? Why were 
they not tried in courts of justice, known to 
their constitution, and by juries of their neigh- 
borhood? Their courts and their juries were 
not, in the case of Captain Preston,* transport- 
ed beyond the bounds of justice by their re- 
sentment: why, then, should it be presumed, 
that, in the case of those offenders, they would 
be prevented from doing justice by their af- 
fection ? But the colonists, it seems, must be 
stripped of their judicial, as well as of their 
legislative powers. They must be bound by a 
legislature, they must be tried by a jurisdiction, 
not their own. Their constitutions must be 
changed : their liberties must be abridged : and 
those who shall be most infamously active in 
changing their constitutions and abridging their 
liberties, must, by an express provision, be ex- 
empted from punishment. 

I do not exaggerate the matter, sir, when I 
extend these observations to all the colonists. 
The Parliament meant to extend the effects of 
their proceedings to all the colonists. The 
plan, on which their proceedings are formed, 
extends to them all. From an incident of no 
very uncommon or atrocious nature, which 
happened in one colony, in one town in that 
colony, and in which only a few of the inhabi- 
tants of that town took a part, an occasion has 
been taken by those, who probably intended it, 
and who certainly prepared the way for it, to 
impose upon that colony, and to lay a founda- 
tion and a precedent for imposing upon all the 
rest, a system of statutes, arbitrary, imconsti- 
tutional, oppressive, in every view, and in every 
degree subversive of the rights, and inconsistent 
with even the name of freemen. 

Were the colonists so blind as not to discern 
the consequences of these measures ? Were they 
so supinely inactive, as to take no steps for 
guarding against them ? They were not. Tliey 
ought not to have been so. We saw a breach 
made in those barriers, which our ancestors, 
Britisli and American, with so much care, witli 
so much danger, with so much treasure, and 
with so much blood, had erected, cemented and 

* See Life of John Adam^, vol. 1st, page 110, et seq. 
Karrative of the Boston Massacre. 

established for the security of their liberties, 
and — with iilial piety let us mention it — of ours. 
We saw the attack actually begun upon one 
part : ought we to have folded our hands in in- 
dolence,to have lulled our eyes in slumbers, tiU 
the attack was carried on, so as to become irre- 
sistible, in every part? Sir, I presume to think 
not. We were roused; we were alarmed, as 
we had reason to be. But still our measures 
have been such as the spirit of liberty and of 
loyalty directed ; not such as a spirit of sedi- 
tion or of disaffection would pursue. Our coun- 
sels have been conducted without rashness and 
faction : our resolutions have been taken with- 
out frenzy or fury. 

That the sentiments of every individual con- 
cerning that important object, his liberty, might 
be known and regarded, meetings have been 
held, and deliberations carried on in every par- 
ticular district. That the sentiments of all 
those individuals might gradually and regularly 
be collected into a single point, and the conduct 
of each inspired and directed by the result of 
the whole united ; county committees, provin- 
cial conventions, a Continental Congress have 
been appointed, have met and resolved. By 
this means, a chain — ^more inestimable, and, 
while the necessity for it continues, we hope, 
more indissoluble than one of gold — a chain of 
freedom has been formed, of which every indi- 
vidual in these colonies, who is willing to pre- 
serve the greatest of human blessings, his lib- 
erty, has the pleasure of beholding himself a 

Are these measures, sir, the brats of disloy- 
alty, of disaffection? There are miscreants 
among us, wasps that suck poison from the 
most salubrious flowers, who tell us they are. 
They tell us that all those assemblies are un- 
lawful, and unauthorized by our constitutions ; 
and that all their deliberations and resolutions 
are so many transgressions of the duty of sub- 
jects. The utmost malice brooding over the ut- 
most baseness, and nothing but such a hated com- 
mixture, must have hatched this calumny. Do 
not those men know — would they have others 
not to know — that it was impossible for the in- 
habitants of the same province, and for the 
legislatures of the different provinces, to com- 
municate their sentiments to one another in the 
modes appointed for such purposes, by their 
different constitutions? Do not they know — 
would they have others not to know — that all 
this was rendered impossible by those very per- 
sons, who now, or whose minions now, urge 
this objection against us ? Do not they know 
— would they have others not to know — that 
the different assemblies, who could be dissolved 
by the governors, were, in consequence of min- 
isterial mandates, dissolved by them, whenever 
they attempted to turn their attention to the 
greatest objects, which, as guardians of the lib- 
erty of their constituents, could be presented to 
their view? The arch enemy of the human 
race torments them only for those actions, to 
which he has tempted, but to which he has not 



necessarily obliged them. Those men refine 
even upon infernal malice: they accuse, they 
threaten us, (superlative impudence!) for taking 
those very steps which we were laid under the 
disagreeable necessity of taking by themselves, 
or by those in whose hateful service they are 
enlisted. But let them know, that our coun- 
sels, our deliberations, our resolutions, if not 
authorized by the forms, because that was ren- 
dered impossible by our enemies, are neverthe- 
less authorized by that which weighs much 
more in the scale of reason — by the spirit of 
our constitutions. "Was the convention of the 
barons at Eunnymede, where the tyranny of 
John was checked, and magna charta was 
signed, authorized by the forms of the consti- 
tution ? Was the Convention Parliament, that 
recalled Charles the Second, and restored the 
monarchy, authorized by the forms of the con- 
stitution? Was the convention of lords and 
commons, that placed King William on the 
throne, and secured the monarchy and liberty 
likewise, authorized by the forms of the con- 
stitution? I cannot conceal my emotions of 
pleasure, when I observe, that the objections 
of our adversaries cannofbe urged against us, 
but in common with those venerable assem- 
blies, whose proceedings formed such an acces- 
sion to British liberty and British renown. 

The resolutions entered into, and the recom- 
mendations given, by the Continental Congress, 
have stamped, in the plainest characters, the 
genuine and enlightened spirit of liberty, upon 
the conduct observed, and the measures pur- 
sued, in consequence of them. As the inva- 
sions of our rights have become more and more 
formidable, our opposition to them has in- 
creased in firmness and vigor, in a just, and in 
no more than a just, proportion. We will not 
import goods from Great Britain or Ireland : 
in a little time we will suspend our exportations 
to them ; and, if the same illiberal and destruc- 
tive system of policy be still carried on against 
us, in a little time more we will not consume 
their manufactures. In that colony, where the 
attacks have been most open, immediate and 
direct, some further steps have been taken, and 
those steps have met with the deserved appro- 
bation of the other provinces. 

Is this scheme of conduct allied to rebellion ? 
Can any symptoms of disloyalty to his majesty, 
of disinclination to his illustrious family, or of 
disregard to his authority, be traced in it? 
Those who would blend, and whose crimes 
have made it necessary for them to blend, the 
tyrannic acts of administration with the lawful 
measures of government, and to veil every fla- 
gitious procedure of the ministry under the 
venerable mantle of majesty, pretend to dis- 
cover, and employ their emissaries to publish 
the preteaded discovery of such symptoms. We 
are not, however, to be imposed upon by such 
shallow artifices. We know, that we have not 
violated the laws or the constitution; and that, 
therefore, we are safe as long as the laws retain 
their force and the constitution its vigor ; and 

that, whatever our demeanor be, we cannot be 
safe much longer. But another object demands 
our attention. 

We behold, sir, with the deepest anguish we 
behold, that our opposition has not been as 
efiectual as it has been constitutional. The 
hearts of our oppressors have not relented: our 
complaints have not been heard : our grievances 
have not been redressed : our rights are still 
invaded : and have we no cause to dread, that 
the invasions of them will be enforced, in a 
manner against which all reason and argument, 
and all opposition, of every peaceful kind, will 
be vain? Our opposition has hitherto increased 
with our oppression : shall it, in the most des- 
perate of all contingencies, observe the same 
proportion ? 

Let us pause, sir, before we give an answer 
to this question. The fate of us ; the fate of 
millions now alive ; the fate of millions yet 
unborn, depends upon the answer. Let it be 
the result of calmness and intrepidity ; let it be 
dictated by the principles of loyalty, and the 
principles of liberty. Let it be such, as never, 
in the worst events, to give us reason to re- 
proach ourselves, or others reason to reproach 
us, for having done too much or too little. 

Perhaps the following resolution may be 
found not altogether unbefitting our present 
situation. With the greatest deference, I sub- 
mit it to the mature consideration of this 

" That the act of the British Parliament for 
altering the charter and constitution of the 
colony of Massachusetts Bay, and those 'for 
the impartial administration of justice' in that 
colony, for shutting the port of Boston, and for 
quartering soldiers on the inhabitants of the 
colonies, are unconstitutional and void ; and 
can confer no authority upon those who act 
under color of them. That the Crown cannot, 
by its prerogative, alter the charter or constitu- 
tion of that colony : that all attempts to alter 
the said charter or constitution, unless by the 
authority of the legislature of that colony, are 
manifest violations of the rights of that colony, 
and illegal : that all force employed to carry 
such unjust and illegal attempts into execution, 
is force without authority : that it is the right 
of British subjects to resist such force : that 
this right is founded both upon tlie letter and 
the spirit of the British constitution." 

To prove, at this time, that tliose acts are 
unconstitutional and void is, I apprehend, alto- 
gether unnecessary. The doctrine has been 
proved fully, on other occasions, and has re- 
ceived the concurring assent of British America. 
It rests upon plain and indubitable truths. We 
do not send members to the British Parliament: 
we have parliaments, (it is immaterial what 
name they go by,) of our own. 

That a void act can confer no authority upon 
those, who proceed under color of it, is a self- 
evident proposition. 

Before I proceed to the other clauses, I think 
it useful to recur to some of the fundamental 



maxims of the British constitution ; upon which, 
as upon a rock, our wise ancestors erected that 
stable fabric, against which the gates of hell 
have not hitherto prevailed. Those maxims I 
shall apply fairly, and, I flatter myself, satis- 
factorily to evince every particular contained in 
the resolution. 

The government of Britain, sir, was never 
an arbitrary government; our ancestors were 
never inconsiderate enough to trust those rights, 
which God and nature had given them, un- 
reservedly into the hands of their princes. 
However difficult it may be, in other states, to 
prove an original contract subsisting in any 
other manner, and on any other conditions, than 
are naturally and necessarily implied in the 
very idea of the tirst institution of a state ; it is 
the easiest thing imaginable, since the revolu- 
tion of 1688, to prove it in our constitution, 
and to ascertain some of the material articles 
of which it consists. It has been often appealed 
to : it has been often broken, at least on one 
part : it has been often renewed : it has been 
often confirmed : it still subsists in its full force : 
" it binds the king as much as the meanest sub- 
ject." The measures of his power, and the 
limits beyond which he cannot extend it, are 
circumscribed and regulated by the same au- 
thority, and with the same precision, as the 
measures of the subject's obedience ; and the 
limits, beyond which he is under no obligation 
to practise it, are fixed and ascertained. Lib- 
erty is, by the constitution, of equal stability, 
of equal antiquity, and of equal authority with 
prerogative. The duties of the king and those 
of the subject are plainly reciprocal : they can 
be violated on neither side, unless they be per- 
formed on the other. The law is the common 
standard, by which the excesses of prerogative, 
as well as the excesses of liberty, are to be 
regulated and reformed. 

Of this great compact between the king and 
his people, one essential article to be performed 
on his part is, that, in those cases where pro- 
vision is expressly made and limitations set by 
the laws, his government shall be conducted 
according to those provisions, and restrained 
according to those limitations ; that, in those 
cases which are not expressly provided for by 
the laws, it shall be conducted by the best rules 
of discretion, agreeably to the general spirit of 
the laws, and subserviently to their ultimate 
end — the interest and happiness of his subjects; 
that, in no case it shall be conducted contrary 
to the express, or to the implied principles of 
the constitution. 

These general maxims, which we may justly 
consider as fundamentals of our government, 
will, by a plain and obvious application of them 
to the parts of the resolution remaining to be 
proved, demonstrate them to be strictly agree- 
able to the laws and constitution. 

We can be at no loss in resolving, that the 
king cannot, by his prerogative, alter the char- 
ter or constitution of the colony of Massachu- 
setts Bay. Upon what principle could such an 

exertion of prerogative be justified? On the acts 
of Parliament? They are already proved to be 
void. On the discretionary power which the king 
has of acting where the laws are silent? That 
power must be subservient to the interest and 
happiness of those concerning whom it operates. 
But I go further. Instead of being supported 
by law, or the principles of prerogative, such 
an alteration is totally and absolutely repugnant 
to both. It is contrary to express law. The 
charter and constitution we speak of, are con- 
firmed by the only legislative power capable of 
coLiirming them ; and no other power, but 
that which can ratify, can destroy. If it is 
contrary to express law, the consequence is 
necessary, that it is contrary to the principles 
of prerogative ; for prerogative can operate 
only when the law is silent. 

In no view can this alteration be justified, or 
so much as excused. It cannot be justified or 
excused by the acts of Parliament; because the 
authority of Parliament does not extend to it : 
it cannot be justified or excused by the opera- 
tion of prerogative ; because this is none of the 
cases in which prerogative can operate : it can- 
not be justified or excused by the legislative 
authority of the colony ; because that authority 
never has been, and, I presume, never will be 
given for any such purpose. 

If I have proceeded hitherto, as I am per- 
suaded I have, upon safe and sure ground, I 
can, with great confidence, advance a step fur- 
ther and say, that all attempts to alter the 
charter or constitution of that colony, unless 
by the authority of its own legislature, are vio- 
lations of its rights, and illegal. 

If those attempts are illegal, must not aU 
force, employed to carry them into execution, 
be force employed against law, and without 
authority ? The conclusion is unavoidable. 

Have not British subjects, then, a right to 
resist such force — force acting with authority — 
force employed contrary to law — force employed 
to destroy the very existence of law and of 
liberty ? They have, sir ; and this right is 
secured to them both by the letter and the 
spirit of the British constitution, by which the 
measures and the conditions of their obedience 
are appointed. The British liberties, sir, and the 
means and the right of defending tliem, are not 
the grants of princes ; and of what om- princes 
never granted, they surely can never deprive us. 

I beg leave, here, to mention and to obviate 
some plausible but ill-founded objections that 
have been, and will be, held forth by our ad- 
versaries against the principles of the resolution 
now before us. It will be observed that those 
employed for bringing about the proposed al- 
teration in the charter and constitution of the 
colony of Massachusetts Bay, act by virtue of a 
commission for that purpose from his majesty ; 
that all resistance of forces commissioned by 
his majesty is resistance of his majesty's au- 
thority and government, contrary to the duty 
of allegiance, and treasonable. These objec- 
tions will be displayed in their most specious 



colors ; every artifice of chicanery and sophistry 
will be put in practice to establish them ; law 
authorities, perhaps, will be quoted and tor- 
tured to prove them. Those principles of our 
constitution, which were designed to preserve 
and to secure the liberty of the people, and, for 
the sake of that, the tranquillity of government, 
will be perverted on this, as they have been on 
many other occasions, from their true intention, 
and will be made use of for the contrary pur- 
pose of endangering the latter and destroying 
the former. The names of the most exalted 
virtues on one hand, and of the most atrocious 
crimes on the other, will be employed in direct 
contradiction to the nature of those virtues and 
of those crimes ; and in this manner those who 
cannot look beyond names will be deceived, 
and those whose aim it is to deceive by names 
will have an opportunity of accomplishing it. 
But, sir, this disguise wiU not impose upon us. 
We will look to things as well as to names ; 
and, by doing so, we shall be fully satisfied that 
all those objections rest upon mere verbal 
sophistry, and have not even the remotest alli- 
ance with the principles of reason or of law. 

In the first place, then, I say, that the per- 
sons who allege that those employed to alter 
the charter and constitution of Massachusetts 
Bay, act by virtue of a commission from his 
majesty for that purpose, speak improperly, and 
contrary to the truth of the case. I say, they 
act by virtue of no such commission ; I say, it 
is impossible they can act by virtue of such a 
commission. What is called a commission either 
contains particular directions for the purpose 
mentioned, or it contains no such particular di- 
rections. In either case can those who act for 
that purpose act by virtue of a commission? 
In one case, what is called a commission is void ; 
it has no legal existence ; it can communicate 
no authority. In the other case, it extends not 
to the purpose mentioned. The latter point is 
too plain to be insisted on ; I prove the former. 

'■^ Id rex potest,'''' says the law, '■^ quod de ^ure 
fotesty The king's power is a power accord- 
ing to law. His commands, if the authority of 
Lord Chief Justice Hale may be depended upon, 
are under the directive power of the law ; and 
consequently invalid, if unlawful. " Commis- 
sions," says my Lord Coke, "are legal, and are 
like the king's writs ; and none are lawful but 
such as are allowed by the common law, or 
warranted by some act of Parliament." 

Let us examine any commission expressly di- 
recting those to whom it is given, to use mili- 
tary force for carrying into execution the alter- 
ations proposed to be made in the charter and 
constitution of Massachusetts Bay, by the fore- 
going maxims and authorities; and what we 
have said concerning it will appear obvious and 
conclusive. It is not warranted by any act of 
Parliament, because, as has been mentioned on 
this, and has been proved on other occasions, 
any such act is void. It is not warranted, and 
I believe it will not be pretended that it is war- 
ranted, by the common law. It is not war- 

ranted by the royal prerogative, because, as has 
already been fully shown, it is diametrically 
opposite to the principles and the ends of pre- 
rogative. Upon what foundation, then, can it 
lean and be supported ? Upon none. Like an 
enchanted castle, it may terrify those whose 
eyes are affected by the magic influence of the 
sorcerers, despotism, and slavery ; hut so soon 
as the charm is dissolved, and the genuine rays 
of liberty and of the constitution dart in upon 
us, the formidable appearance vanishes, and we 
discover that it was the baseless fabric of a vision, 
that never had any real existence. 

I have dwelt the longer upon this part of the 
objections urged against us by our adversaries, 
because this part is the foundation of all the 
others. We have low removed it; and they 
must fall of course. For if the force, acting for 
the purposes we have mentioned, does not act, 
and cannot act, by virtue of any commission 
from his majesty, the consequence is undenia- 
ble, that it acts without his majesty's authority; 
that the resistance of it is no resistance of his 
majesty's authority, nor incompatible with the 
duties of allegiance. 

And now, sir, let me appeal to the impartial 
tribunal of reason and truth ; let me appeal to 
every unprejudiced and judicious observer of 
the laws of Britain, and of the constitution of 
the British government ; let me appeal, I say, 
whether the principles on which I argue, or the 
principles on which alone my arguments can he 
opposed, are those which ought to be adhered 
to and acted upon ; which of them are most 
consonant to our laws and liberties ; which of 
them have the strongest, and are likely to have 
the most effectual tendency to establish and se- 
cure the royal power and dignity. 

Are we deficient in loyalty to his majesty ? 
Let our conduct convict, for it will fully con- 
vict, the insinuation that we are, of falsehood. 
Our loyalty has always appeared in the true 
form of loyalty ; in obeying our sovereign ac- 
cording to law : let those who would require it 
in any other form, know that we call the per- 
sons who execute his commands, when con- 
trary to law, disloyal and traitors. Are we 
enemies to the power of the Crown ? No, sir, 
we are its best friends : this friendship prompts 
us to wish that the power of the Crown may 
be firmly established on the most solid basis ; 
but we know that the constitution alone will 
perpetuate the former, and securely uphold the 
latter. Are our principles irreverent to majesty ? 
They are quite the reverse : we ascribe to it 
perfection almost divine. We say that the 
king can do no wrong : we say that to do 
wrong is the property, not of power, but of 
weakness. We feel oppression, and will oppose 
it ; but we know, for our constitution tells us, 
that oppression can never spring from the 
throne. We must, therefore, search elsewhere 
for its source : our infallible guide will direct 
us to it. Our constitution tells us that all op- 
pression springs from the ministers of the 
throne. The attributes of perfection ascribed 



to the king, are, neither by the constitution nor 
in fact, communicable to his ministers. They 
may do wrong ; they have often done wrong ; 
they have been often punished for doing wrong. 

Here we may discern the true cause of all 
the impudent clamor and unsupported accusa- 
tions (5f the ministers and of their minions, that 
have been raised and made against the conduct 
of the Americans. Those ministers and min- 
ions are sensible that the opposition is directed, 
not against his majesty, but against them ; be- 
cause they have abused his majesty's confidence, 
brought discredit upon his government, and 
derogated from his justice. They see the pub- 
lic vengeance collected in dark clouds around 
them : their consciences tell them that it should 
be hurled, like a thunderbolt, at tlieir guilty 
heads. Appalled with guilt and fear, they 
skulk behind the throne. Is it disrespectful to 
drag them into public view, and make a dis- 
tinction between them and his majesty, under 
whose venerable name they daringly attempt 
to shelter their crimes? Nothing can more 
effectually contribute to establish his majesty 
on the throne, and to secure to him the affec- 
tions of his people, than this distinction. By 
it we are taught to consider all the blessings of 
government as flowing from the throne ; and 
to consider every instance of oppression as pro- 
ceeding, which in truth is oftenest the case, 
from the ministers. 

K, now, it is true that all force employed for 

the purposes so often mentioned, is force un- 
warranted by any act of Parliament; unsup- 
ported by any principle of the common law ; 
unauthorized by any commission from the 
Crown; that, instead of being employed for 
the support of the constitution and his majesty's 
government, it must be employed for the sup- 
port of oppression and ministerial tyranny ; if 
all this is true (and I flatter myself it appears to 
be true), can any one hesitate to say that to re- 
sist such force is lawful ; and that both the let- 
ter and the spirit of the British constitution 
justify such resistance ? 

Eesistance, both by the letter and the spirit 
of the British constitution, may be carried fur- 
ther, when necessity requires it, than I have 
carried it. Many examples in the English his- 
tory might be adduced, and many authorities 
of the greatest weight might be brought to 
show that when the king, forgetting his charac- 
ter and his dignity, has stepped forth and open- 
ly avowed and taken a part in such iniquitous 
conduct as has been described ; in such cases, 
indeed, the distinction above mentioned, wisely 
made by the constitution for the security of the 
Crown, could not be applied ; because the 
Crown had unconstitutionally rendered the ap- 
plication of it impossible. What has been the 
consequence? The distinction between him 
and his ministers has been lost ; but they have 
not been raised to his situation : he has sunk to 


This speech, on the expediency of adopting 
the Federal Constitution, was delivered by Mr. 
"Wilson, in the Convention of Pennsylvania, on 
the twenty-sixth of November, 1787.* 

The system proposed, by the late convention, 
for the government of the United States, is now 
before you. Of that convention I had the honor 
to be a member. As I am the only member of 
that body, who has the honor to be also a 
member of this, it may be expected that I 
should prepare the way for the deliberations 
of this assembly, by unfolding the diflficulties 
which the late convention were obliged to en- 
counter ; by pointing out the end which they 
proposed to accomplish ; and by tracing the 
general principles which they have adopted for 
the accomplishment of that end. 

To form a good system of government for a 
single city or state, however limited as to terri- 
tory, or inconsiderable as to numbers, has been 
thought to require the strongest efforts of hu- 
man genius. With what conscious diffidence, 
then, must the members of the convention have 

* See note at page 13. 

revolved in their minds the immense under- 
taking which was before them. Their views 
could not be confined to a small or a single 
community, but were expanded to a great 
number of States ; several of which contain an 
extent of territory, and resources of population, 
equal to those of some of the most respectable 
kingdoms on the other side of the Atlantic. 
Nor were even these the only objects to be 
comprehended within their deliberations. Nu- 
merous States yet unformed, myriads of the 
human race, who will inhabit regions hitherto 
uncultivated, were to be affected by the result 
of their proceedings. It was necessary, there- 
fore, to form their calculations on a scale com- 
mensurate to a large portion of the globe. 

For my own part, I have been often lost in 
astonishment at the vastness of the prospect 
before us. To open the navigation of a single 
river was lately thought, in Europe, an enter- 
prise adequate to imperial glory. But could 
the commercial scenes of the Scheldt be com- 
pared with those that, under a good govern- 
ment, will be exhibited on the Hudson, the 
Delaware, the Potomac, and the numerous 
other rivers, that water and are intended to 
enrich the dominions of the United States ? 



The difficulty of the business was equal to its 
magnitude. No small share of wisdom and 
address is requisite to combine and reconcile 
the jarring interests, that prevail, or seem to 
prevail in a single community. The United 
States contain already thirteen governments 
mutually independent. Those governments 
present to the Atlantic a front of fifteen hun- 
dred miles in extent. Their soil, their climates, 
their productions, their dimensions, their num- 
bers, are diflerent. In many instances, a differ- 
ence and even an opposition subsists among 
their interests ; and a difference and even an 
opposition is imagined to subsist in many more. 
An apparent interest produces the same attach- 
ment as a real one ; and is often pursued with 
no less perseverance and vigor. "When all these 
circumstances are seen and attentively consid- 
ered, will any member of this honorable body 
be surprised, that such a diversity of things 
produced a proportioned diversity of senti- 
ment ? "Will he be surprised that such a diver- 
sity of sentiment rendered a spirit of mutual 
forbearance and conciliation indispensably ne- 
cessary to the success of the great work ? And 
will he be surprised that mutual concessions 
and sacrifices were the consequences of mutual 
forbearance and conciliation? When the springs 
of opposition were so numerous and strong, 
and poured forth their waters in courses so 
varying, need we be surprised that the stream 
formed by their conjunction was impelled in a 
direction somewhat difterent from that, which 
each of them would have taken separately ? 

I have reason to think that a difficulty arose 
in the minds of some members of the conven- 
tion from another consideration — their ideas 
of the temper and disposition of the people, for 
whom the constitution is proposed. The citi- 
zens of the United States, however different in 
some other respects, are well known to agree 
in one strongly marked feature of their charac- 
ter — a warm and keen sense of freedom and 
independence. This sense has been heightened 
by the glorious result of their late struggle 
against all the efforts of one of the most power- 
ful nations of Europe. It was apprehended, I 
believe, by some, that a people so high-spirited 
would ill brook the restraints of an efficient 
government. I confess that this consideration 
did not influence my conduct. I knew my con- 
stituents to be high-spirited ; but I knew them 
also to possess sound sense. I knew that, in 
the event, they would be best pleased with that 
system of government, which would best pro- 
mote their freedom and happiness. I have 
often revolved this subject in my mind. I have 
supposed one of my constituents to ask me, 
why I gave such a vote on a particular ques- 
tion ? I have always thought it would be a 
satisfactory answer to say — because I judged, 
upon the best consideration I could give, that 
such a vote was right. I have thought that it 
■would be but a very poor compliment to my 
constituents to say that, in my opinion, such a 
vote would have been proper, but that I sup- 

posed a contrary one would be more agreeable 
to those who sent me to the convention. I 
could not, even in idea, expose myself to such 
a retort as, upon the last answer, might have 
been justly made to me. Pray, sir, what rea- 
sons have you for supposing that a right vote 
would displease your constituents ? Is this the 
proper return for the high confidence they have 
placed in you ? If they have given cause for 
such a surmise, it was by choosing a repre- 
sentative, who could entertain such an opinion 
of them. I was under no apprehension, that 
the good people of this State would behold with 
displeasure the brightness of the rays of dele- 
gated power, when it only proved the superior 
splendor of the luminary, of which those rays 
were only the reflection. 

A very important difficulty arose from com- 
paring the extent of the country to be governed, 
with the kind of government which it would 
be proper to establish in it. It has been an 
opinion, countenanced by high authority, " that 
the natural property of small states is to be 
governed as a republic ; of middling ones, to be 
subject to a monarch ; and of large empires, to 
be swayed by a despotic prince ; and that the 
consequence is, that, in order to preserve the 
principles of the established government the 
State must be supported in the extent it has 
acquired ; and that the spirit of the State 
will alter in proportion as it extends or con- 
tracts its limits." * This opinion seems to be 
supported, rather than contradicted, by the 
history of the governments in the old world. 
Here then the difficulty appears in full view. On 
one hand, the United States contain an immense 
extent of territory, and, according to the fore- 
going opinion, a despotic government is best 
adapted to that extent. On the other hand, it 
was well known, that, however the citizens of 
the United States might, with pleasure, subm?t 
to the legitimate restraints of a republican 
constitution, they would reject, with indigna- 
tion, the fetters of despotism. What then was 
to be done ? The idea of a confederate republic 
presented itself. This kind of constitution has 
been thought to have " all the internal advan- 
tages of a republican, together with the exter- 
nal force of a monarchical government." t Its 
description is, " a convention, by which several 
States agree to become members of a larger 
one, which they intend to establish. It is a 
kind of assemblage of societies, that constitute 
a new one, capable of increasing by means of 
farther association."}: The expanding quality 
of such a government is peculiarly fitted for the 
United States, the greatest part of whose terri- 
tory is yet uncultivated. 

But while this form of government enabled 
us to surmount the difficulty last mentioned, it 
conducted us to another, of which I am now to 
take notice. It left us almost without prece- 

* Mont. Sp. L. b. 8, c. 20. 

+ Id. b. 9, c. 1. 1 Pftloy, 199-202. 

i Mont. Sp. L. b. 9, o. 1. 



dent or guide ; and, consequently, ■without the 
benefit of that instruction, which, in many 
cases, may be derived from the constitution, 
and history, and experience of other nations. 
Several associations have frequently been called 
by the name of confederate States, which have 
not, in propriety of language, deserved it. The 
Swiss Cantons are connected only by alliances. 
The United Netherlands are indeed an assem- 
blage of societies ; but this assemblage consti- 
tutes no new one ; and, therefore, it does not 
correspond with the full definition of a con- 
federate republic. The Germanic body is com- 
posed of such disproportioned and discordant 
materials, and its structure is so intricate and 
complex, that little useful knowledge can be 
drawn from it. Ancient history discloses, and 
barely discloses to our view, some confederate 
republics — the Achaaan league, the Lycian con- 
federacy, and the Amphictyonic council. But 
the facts recorded concerning their constitu- 
tions are so few and general, and their histories 
are so unmarked and defective, that no satis- 
factory information can be collected from them 
concerning many particular circumstances, from 
an accurate discernment and comparison of 
which alone, legitimate and practical inferences 
can be made from one constitution to another. 
Besides, the situation and dimensions of those 
confederacies, and the state of society, manners, 
and habits in them, were so difi'erent from those 
of the United States, that the most correct de- 
scription could have supplied but a very small 
fimd of applicable remark. Thus, in forming 
this system, we were deprived of many advan- 
tages, which the history and experience of other 
ages and other countries would, in other cases, 
have afforded us. 

Permit me to add, in this place, that the 
science even of government itself, seems yet to 
be almost in its state of infancy. Governments, 
in general, have been the result of foi-ce, of 
fraud, and of accident. After a period of six 
thousand years has elapsed since the creation, 
the United States exhibit to the world the first 
instance, as far as we can learn, of a nation, 
unattacked by external force, unconvulsed by 
domestic insurrections, assembling voluntarily, 
deliberating fully, and deciding calmly, con- 
cerning that system of government, under 
which they would wish that they and their 
posterity should live. The ancients, so enlight- 
ened on other subjects, were very uninformed 
with regard to this. They seem scarcely to 
have had any idea of any other kinds of gov- 
ernment, than the three simple forms desig- 
nated by the epithets, monarchical, aristocra- 
tical, and democratical. I know that much 
and pleasing ingenuity has been exerted, in 
modern times, in drawing entertaining parallels 
between some of the ancient constitutions, and 
some of the mixed governments that have since 
existed in Europe. But I much suspect that, 
on strict examination, the instances of resem- 
blance will be found to be few and weak ; to 
be suggested by the improvements, which, in 

subsequent ages, have been made in govern- 
ment, and not to be drawn immediately from 
the ancient constitutions themselves, as they 
were intended and understood by those who 
framed them. To illustrate this, a similar ob- 
servation may be made on another subject. 
Admiring critics have fancied, that they have 
discovered in their favorite Homer the seeds of 
all the improvements in philosophy, and in the 
sciences, made since his time. What induces 
me to be of this opinion, is, that Tacitus, the 
profound politician Tacitus, who lived towards 
the latter end of those ages which are now de- 
nominated ancient, who undoubtedly had stu- 
died the constitutions of all the states and king- J 
doms known before and in his time, and who I 
certainly was qualified, in an uncommon de- ' i 
gree, for understanding the full force and ope- 
ration of each of them, considers, after all he 
had known and read, a mixed government, 
composed of the three simple forms, as a thing 
rather to be wished than expected ; and he 
thinks, that if such a government could even 
be instituted, its duration could not be long. 
One thing is very certain, that the doctrine of 
representation in government was altogether 
unknown to the ancients. Now the knowledge 
and practice of this doctrine is, in my opinion, 
essential to every system, that can possess the 
qualities of freedom, wisdom and energy. 

It is worthy of remark, and the remark may, 
perhaps, excite some surprise, that representa- 
tion of the people is not, even at this day, the 
sole principle of any government in Europe. 
Great Britain boasts, and she may well boast, 
of the improvement she has made in politics, by 
the admission of representation : for the ' im- 
provement is important as far as it goes ; but it 
by no means goes far enough. Is the executive 
power of Great Britain founded on representa- 
tion ? This is not pretended. Before the Eevo- 
lution, many of the kings claimed to reign by 
divine right, and others by hereditary right ; 
and even at the Revolution, nothing farther was 
efiected or attempted, than the recognition of 
certain parts of an original contract,* supposed 
at some remote period to have been made be- 
tween the king and the people. A contract 
seems to exclude, rather than to imply, dele- 
gated power. The judges of Great Britain are 
appointed by the Crown. The judicial author- 
ity, therefore, does not depend upon representa- 
tion, even in its most remote degree. Does 
representation prevail in the legislative depart- 
ment of the British government ? Even here 
it does not predominate ; though it may serve 
as a check. The legislature consists of three 
branches, the king, the lords, and the commons. 
Of these, only the latter are supposed by the 
constitution to represent the authority of the 
people. This short analysis clearly shows, to 
what a narrow corner of the British constitu- 
tion the principle of representation is con- 
fined. I believe it does not extend farther, if 

* 1 BL Com. 233. 



so far, in any other government in Europe. For 
the American States were reserved the glory 
and the happiness of diflfusing this vital prin- 
ciple through all the constituent parts of gov- 
ernment. Representation is the chain of com- 
munication between the people and those to 
whom they have committed the exercise of the 
powers of government. This chain may con- 
sist of one or more links; but in all cases it 
should be sufficiently strong and discernible. 

To be left without guide or precedent was not 
the only difficulty in which the convention were 
involved by proposing to their constituents a 
plan of a confederate republic. They found 
themselves embarrassed with another of pecu- 
liar delicacy and importance; I mean that of 
drawing a proper line between the national 
government and the governments of the seve- 
ral States. It was easy to discover a proper 
and satisfactory principle on the subject. What- 
ever object of government is confined in its ope- 
ration and effects within the bounds of a par- 
ticular State, should be considered as belonging 
to the government of that State ; whatever ob- 
ject of government extends in its operation or 
effects beyond the bounds of a particular State, 
should be considered as belonging to the gov- 
ernment of the United States. But though this 
principle be sound and satisfactory, its applica- 
tion to particular cases would be accompanied 
with much difficulty ; because, in its applica- 
tion, room must be allowed for great discre- 
tionary latitude of construction of the prin- 
ciple. In order to lessen or remove the diffi- 
culty arising from discretionary construction 
on this subject, an enumeration of particular 
instances, in which the application of the prin- 
ciple ought to take place, has been attempted 
with much industry and care. It is only in 
mathematical science, that a line can be de- 
scribed with mathematical precision. But I 
flatter myself that, upon the strictest investiga- 
tion, the enumeration will be found to be safe 
and unexceptionable ; and accurate too, in as 
great a degree as accuracy can be expected in a 
subject of this nature. Particulars under this 
head will be more properly explained when we 
descend to the minute view of the enumeration 
which is made in the proposed constitution. 

After all, it will be necessary that, on a sub- 
ject so peculiarly delicate as this, much pru- 
dence, much candor, much moderation, and 
much liberality should be exercised and dis- 
played, both by the federal government and by 
the governments of the several States. It is to 
be hoped, that those virtues in government will 
be exercised and displayed, when we consider, 
that the powers of the federal government, and 
those of the State governments, are drawn from 
sources equally pure. If a difference can be dis- 
covered between them, it is in favor of the fede- 
ral government; because that government is 
founded on a representation of the whole 
Union ; whereas the government of any par- 
ticular State is founded only on the representa- 
tion of a part, inconsiderable when compared 

with the whole. It is not more reasonable to 
suppose, that the counsels of the whole will 
embrace the interest of every part, than that 
the counsels of any part will embrace the in- 
terests of the whole. 

I intend not, sir, by this description of the 
difficulties with which the convention was sur- 
rounded, to magnify their skill or their merit 
in surmounting them, or to insinuate that any 
predicament, in which the convention stood, 
should prevent the closest and most cautious 
scrutiny into the performance, which they 
have exhibited to their constituents and to the 
world. My intention is of far other and higher 
aim — to evince by the conflicts and difficulties 
which must arise from the many and powerful 
causes which I have enumerated, that it is 
hopeless and impracticable to form a constitu- 
tion, which will, in every part, be acceptable 
to every citizen, or even to every government 
in the United States; and that all which can be 
expected is, to form such a constitution as, upon 
the whole, is the best that can possibly be ob- 
tained. Man and perfection! — a State and per- 
fection! — an assemblage of States and perfec- 
tion 1 Can we reasonably expect, however 
ardently we may wish, to behold the glorious 
union ? 

I can well recollect, though I believe I can- 
not convey to others, the impression which, on 
many occasions, was made by the difficulties 
which surrounded and pressed the convention. 
The great undertaking, at some times, seemed 
to be at a stand; at other times, its motions 
seemed to be retrograde. At the conclusion, 
however, of our work, many of the members 
expressed their astonishment at the success 
with which it terminated. 

Having enumerated some of th^^ difficulties 
which the convention were obliged to encoun- 
ter in the course of their proceedings, I shall 
next point out the end which they proposed to 
accomplish. Our wants, our talents, our affec- 
tions, our passions, all tell us that we were 
made for a state of society. But a state of so- 
ciety could not be supported long or happily 
without some civil restraint. It is true that, in 
a state of nature, any one individual may act 
uncontrolled by others ; but it is equally true 
that, in such a state, every other individual 
may act uncontrolled by him. Aniidst this 
universal independence, the dissensions and 
animosities between interfering members of 
the society would be numerous and ungovern- 
able. The consequence would be, that each 
member, in such a natural state, would enjoy 
less liberty, and suffer more interruption, than 
he would in a regulated society. Hence the 
universal introduction of governments of some 
kind or other into the social state. The liberty 
of every member is increased by this introduc- 
tion ; for each gains more by the limitation of 
the freedom of every otlior member, than he 
loses by the limitation of his own. The result 
is, that civil government is necessary to the per- 
fection and happiness of man. In forming this 



government, and carrying it into execution, it 
is essential that the interest and authority of 
the whole community should be binding on 
every part of it. 

The foregoing principles and conclusions are 
generally admitted to be just and sound with 
regard to the nature and formation of single 
governments, and the duty of submission to 
them. In some cases they will apply, with 
much propriety and force, to States already 
formed. The advantages and necessity of civil 
government among individuals in society are 
not greater or stronger than, in some situations 
and circumstances, are the advantages and ne- 
cessity of a federal government among States. 
A natural and a very important question now 
presents itself. Is such the situation — are such 
the circumstances of the United States ? A pro- 
per answer to this question will unfold some 
very interesting truths. 

The United States may adopt any one of four 
different systems. They may become consolida- 
ted into one government, in which the separate 
existence of the States shall be entirely absorbed. 
They may reject any plan of union or associa- 
tion, and act as separate and unconnected States. 
They may form two or more confederacies. 
They may unite in one federal republic. "Which 
of these systems ought to have been proposed 
by the convention ? To support with vigor, a 
single government over the whole extent of the 
United States, would demand a system of the 
most unqualified and the most unremitted des- 
potism. Such a number of separate States, 
contiguous in situation, unconnected and dis- 
united in government, would be, at one time, 
the prey of foreign force, foreign influence, 
and foreign intrigue ; at another, the victim of 
mutual rage, rancor, and revenge. Neither of 
these systems found advocates in the late con- 
vention : I presume they will not find advocates 
in this. Would it be proper to divide the Uni- 
ted States into two or more confederacies ? It 
will not be unadvisable to take a more minute 
survey of this subject. Some aspects, under 
which it may be viewed, are far from being, at 
first sight, uninviting. Two or more confede- 
racies would be each more compact and more 
manageable, than a single one extending over 
the same territory. By dividing the United 
States into two or more confederacies, the great 
collision of interests, apparently or really dif- 
ferent and contrary, in the whole extent of their 
dominion, would be broken, and in a great mea- 
sure disappear in the several parts. But these 
advantages, which are discovered from certain 
points of view, are greatly overbalanced by in- 
conveniences that will appear on a more accu- 
rate examination. Animosities, and perhaps 
wars, would arise from assigning the extent, 
the limits, and the rights of the diflierent con- 
federacies. The expenses of governing would 
be multiplied by the number of federal govern- 
ments. The danger resulting from foreign in- 
fluence and mutual dissensions would not, per- 
haps, be less great and alarming in the instance 

of different confederacies, than in the instance 
of different, though more numerous unassoci- 
ated States. These observations, and many 
others that might be made on the subject, will 
be sufficient to evince, that a division of the 
United States into a number of separate con- 
federacies, would probably be an unsatisfactory 
and an unsuccessful experiment. The remain- 
ing system, which the American States may 
adopt, is a union of them under one confede- 
rate republic. It will not be necessary to em- 
ploy much time or many arguments to show, 
that this is the most eligible system that can be 
proposed. By adopting this system, the vigor 
and decision of a wide-spreading monarchy 
may be joined to the freedom and beneficence 
of a contracted republic. The extent of terri- 
tory, the diversity tf climate and soil, the num- 
ber, and greatness, and connection of lakes and 
rivers, with which the United States are inter- 
sected and almost surrounded, all indicate an 
enlarged government to be fit and advantageous 
for them. The principles and dispositions of 
their citizens indicate, that in this government 
liberty shall reign triumphant. Such indeed 
have been the general opinions and wishes en- 
tertained since the era of our independence. 
If those opinions and wishes are as well found- 
ed as they have been general, the late conven- 
tion were justified in proposing to their con- 
stituents one confederate republic, as the best 
system of a national government for the Uni- 
ted States. 

In forming this system, it was proper to give 
minute attention to the interests of all the 
parts ; but there was a duty of still higher im- 
port — to feel and to show a predominating 
regard to the superior interests of the whole. 
If this great principle had not prevailed, the 
plan before us would never have made its ap- 
pearance. The same principle that was so 
necessary in forming it, is equally necessary in 
our deliberations, whether we should reject or 
ratify it. 

I make these observations with a design to 
prove and illustrate this great and important 
truth — that in our decisions on the work of the 
late convention, we should not limit our views 
and regards to the State of Pennsylvania. The 
aim of the convention was, to form a system of 
good and eificient government on the more ex- 
tensive scale of the United States. In this, as 
in every other instance, the work should be 
judged with the same spirit with which it was 
performed. A principle of duty as well as of 
candor demands this. 

We have remarked, that civil government is 
necessary to the perfection of society : we now 
remark, that civil liberty is necessary to the 
perfection of civil government. Civil liberty is 
natural liberty itself, divested only of that part 
which, placed in the government, produces 
more good and happiness to the community, 
than if it had remained in the individual. 
Hence it follows, that civil liberty, while it 
resigns a part of natural liberty, retains the free 



and generous exercise of all the human facul- 
ties, so far as it is compatible with the public 

In considering and developing the nature and 
end of the system before us, it is necessary to 
mention another kind of liberty, which has not 
yet, as far as I know, received a name. I shall 
distinguish it by the appellation of federal 
liberty. When a single government is insti- 
tuted, the individuals of which it is composed 
surrender to it a part of their natural independ- 
ence, which they before enjoyed as men. When 
a confederate republic is instituted, the com- 
munities of which it is composed surrender to 
it a part of their political independence, which 
they before enjoyed as States. The principles 
which directed, in the former case, what part 
of the natural liberty of the man ought to be 
given up, and what part ought to be retained, 
will give similar directions in the latter case. 
The States should resign to the national gov- 
ernment that part, and that part only, of their 
political liberty, which, placed in that govern- 
ment, will produce more good to the whole, 
than if it had remained in the several States. 
While they resign this part of their political 
liberty, they retain the free and generous exer- 
cise of all their other faculties as States, so far 
as it is compatible with the welfare of the 
general and superintending confederacy. 

Since States as well as citizens are repre- 
sented in the constitution before us, and form 
the objects on which that constitution is pro- 
posed to operate, it was necessary to notice and 
define federal as well as civil liberty. 

These general reflections have been made in 
order to introduce, with more propriety and 
advantage, a practical illustration of the end 
proposed to be accomplished by the late con- 

It has been too well known — it has been too 
severely felt — that the present confederation is 
inadequate to the government and to the exi- 
gencies of the United States. The great struggle 
for liberty in this country, should it be unsuc- 
cessful, wUl probably be the last one which she 
will have for her existence and prosperity, in 
any part of the globe. And it must be con- 
fessed, that this struggle has, in some of the 
stages of its progress, been attended with symp- 
toms that foreboded no fortunate issue. To the 
iron hand of tyranny, which was lifted up 
against her, she manifested, indeed, an intrepid 
superiority. She broke in pieces the fetters 
which were forged for her, and showed that 
she was unassailable by force. But she was 
environed by dangers of another kind, and 
springing from a very different source. While 
she kept her eye steadily fixed on the efforts of 
oppression, licentiousness was secretly under- 
mining the rock on which she stood. 

Need I call to your remembrance the con- 
trasted scenes, of which we have been wit- 
nesses ? On the glorious conclusion of our con- 
flict with Britain, what high expectations were 
formed concerning ua by others 1 What high 

expectations did we form concerning ourselves! 
Have those expectations been realized? No. 
What has been the cause? Did our citizens 
lose their perseverance and magnanimity ? No. 
Did they become insensible of resentment and 
indignation, at any high-handed attempt that 
might have been made to injure or enslave 
them ? No. What then has been the cause ? 
The truth is, we dreaded danger only on one 
side : this we manfully repelled. But on ano- 
ther side, danger, not less formidable, but more 
insidious, stole in upon us ; and our unsuspi- 
cious tempers were not sufficiently attentive, 
either to its approach or to its operations. 
Those whom foreign strength could not over- 
power, have well nigh become the victims of 
internal anarchy. 

If we become a little more particular, we 
shall find that the foregoing representation is 
by no means exaggerated. When we had baffled 
all the menaces of foreign power, we neglected 
to establish among ourselves a government that 
would ensure domestic vigor and stability. 
What was the consequence ? The commence- 
ment of peace was the commencement of every 
disgrace and distress that could befall a people 
in a peaceful state. Devoid of national power, 
we could not prohibit the extravagance of our 
importations, nor could we derive a revenue 
from their excess. Devoid of national import- 
ance, we could not procure for our exports a 
tolerable sale at foreign markets. Devoid of 
national credit, we saw our public securities 
melt in the hands of the holders, like snow 
before the sun. Devoid of national dignity, we 
could not, in some instances, perform our trea- 
ties on our part; and, in other instances, we 
could neither obtain nor compel the performance 
of them on the part of others. Devoid of na- 
tional energy, we could not carry into execution 
our own resolutions, decisions, or laws. 

Shall I become more particular still ? The 
tedious detail would disgust me : nor is it now 
necessary. The years of languor are past. We 
have felt the dishonor with which we have 
been covered : we have seen the destruction 
with which we have been threatened. We 
have penetrated to the causes of both, and 
when we have once discovered them, we have 
begun to search for the means of removing 
them. For the confirmation of these remarks, 
I need not appeal to an enumeration of facts. 
The proceedings of Congress, and of the several 
States, are replete with them. They all point 
out the weakness and insufficiency of the. pre- 
sent confederation as the cause, and an efficient 
general government as the only cure of our 
political distempers. 

Under these impressions, and with these 
views, was the late convention appointed ; and 
under these impressions and with these views, 
the late convention met. 

We now see the great end which they pro- 
posed to accomplish. It was to frame, for the 
consideration of their constituents, one federal 
and national constitution — a constitution that 



■would produce the advantages of good, and 
prevent the inconveniences of bad government 
— a constitution, whose beneficence and energy 
would pervade the whole Union, and bind and 
embrace the interests of every part — a constitu- 
tion that would ensure peace, freedom, and 
happiness, to the States and people of America. 
We are now naturally led to examine the 
means by which they proposed to accomplish 
this end. This opens more particularly to our 
view the important discussion before us. But 
previously to our entering upon it, it will not 
be improper to state some general and leading 
principles of government, which wUl receive 
particular applications in the course of our in- 

There necessarily exists in every government 
a power, from which there is no appeal ; and 
which, for that reason, may be termed supreme, 
absolute, and uncontrollable. Where does this 
power reside? To this question, writers on 
difierent governments will give diiferent an- 
swers. Sir AVilliam Blackstone wUl tell you, 
that in Britain the power is lodged in the British 
Parliament ; that the Parliament may alter the 
form of the government ; and that its power is 
absolute and without control. The idea of a 
constitution, limiting and superintending the 
operations of legislative authority, seems not to 
have been accurately understood in Britain. 
There are, at least, no traces of practice con- 
formable to such a principle. The British con- 
stitution is just what the British Parliament 
pleases. When the Parliament transferred 
legislative authority to Henry the Eighth, the 
act transferring it could not, in the strict ac- 
ceptation of the term, be called unconstitu- 

To control the power and conduct of the 
legislature by an overruling constitution, was 
an improvement in the science and practice of 
government reserved to the American States. 

Perhaps some politician, who has not con- 
sidered with sufficient accuracy our political 
systems, would answer, that, in our govern- 
ments, the supreme power is vested in the con- 
stitutions. This opinion approaches a step 
nearer to the truth, but does not reach it. The 
truth is, that, in our governments, the supreme, 
absolute, and uncontroUahle power remains in 
the people. As our constitutions are supe- 
rior to our legislatures, so the people are supe- 
rior to our constitutions. Indeed, the superi- 
ority in this last instance is much greater ; for 
the people possess, over our constitutions, con- 
trol in act as well as in right. 

The consequence is, that the people may 
change the constitutions whenever and how- 
ever they please. This is a right, of which no 
positive institution can ever deprive them. 

These important truths, sir, are far from be- 
ing merely speculative ; we, at this moment, 
speak and deliberate under their immediate and 
benign influence. To the operation of these 
truths we are to ascribe the scene, hitherto un- 
paralleled, which America now exhibits to the 

world — a gentle, a peaceful, a voluntary, and a 
deliberate transition from one constitution of 
government to another. In other parts of the 
world the idea of revolutions in governments 
is, by a mournful and indissoluble association, 
connected with the idea of wars, and all the 
calamities attendant on wars. But happy ex- 
perience teaches us to view such revolutions in 
a very diflferent light — to consider them only as 
progressive steps in improving the knowledge 
of government, and increasing the happiness of 
society and mankind. 

Oft have I viewed with silent pleasure and 
admiration the force and prevalence, through 
the United States, of this principle — that the 
supreme power resides in the people, and that 
they never part with it. It may be called the 
panacea in politics. There can be no disorder 
in the community but may here receive a radi- 
cal cure. If the error be in the legislature, it 
may be corrected by the constitution ; if in the 
constitution, it may be corrected by the people. 
There is a remedy, therefore, for every distem- 
per in government, if the people are not want- 
ing to themselves. For a people wanting to 
themselves, there is no remedy : from their 
power, as we have seen, there is no appeal : to 
their error, there is no superior principle of 

There are three simple species of govern- 
ment — monarchy, where the supreme power is 
in a single person — aristocracy, where the su- 
preme power is in a select assembly, the mem- 
bers of which either fill up, by election, the 
vacancies in their own body, or succeed to their 
places in it by inheritance, property, or in re- 
spect of some personal right or qualification — a 
republic or democracy, where the people at 
large retain the supreme power, and act either 
collectively or by representation. Each of 
these species of government has its advantages 
and disadvantages. 

The advantages of a monarchy are — strength, 
despatch, secrecy, unity of counsel. Its disad- 
vantages are — tyranny, expense, ignorance of 
the situation and wants of the people, insecurity, 
unnecessary wars, evils attending elections or 

The advantage of aristocracy is wisdom, 
arising from experience and education. Its dis- 
advantages are — dissensions among themselves, 
oppression to the lower orders. 

The advantages of democracy are — ^liberty, 
equal, cautious, and salutary laws, public spirit, 
frugality, peace, opportunities of exciting and 
producing the abilities of the best citizens. Its 
disadvantages are — dissensions, the delay and 
disclosure of public counsels, the imbecility of 
public measures retarded by the necessity of a 
numerous consent. 

A government may be composed of two or 
more of the simple forms above mentioned. 
Such is the British government. It would be 
an improper government for the United States, 
because it is inadequate to such an extent of 
territory ; and because it is suited to an estab- 



lishment of different orders of men. A more 
minute comparison between some parts of the 
British constitution and some parts of the plan 
before us, may, perhaps, find a proper place in 
a subsequent period of our business. 

What is the nature and kind of that govern- 
ment which has been proposed for the United 
States by the late convention ? In its principle 
it is purely democratical ; but that principle is 
applied in different forms, in order to obtain 
the advantages and exclude the inconveniences 
of the simple modes of government. 

If we take an extended and accurate view of 

it, we shall find the streams of power running 
in different directions, in different dimensions, 
and at different heights, watering, adorning, 
and fertilizing the fields and meadows, through 
which their courses are led; but if we trace 
them, we shall discover that they all originally 
flow from one abundant fountain. In this con- 
stitutipn, aU authority is derived from thb 


Fit occasions will hereafter offer for particu- 
lar remarks on the different parts of the plan. 
I have now to ask pardon of the House for de- 
taining them so long. 


EoBEET, the first of the Livingston family who came to America, was the son of John Liv- 
ingston, a clergyman, and was born on the thirteenth of December, 1654, at Ancram, a small 
Tillage on the Teviot, in Eoxburghshire, Scotland. The precise date of his arrival in America 
ia unknown, but it is certain he was in the province of New York as early as 1676, as the 
pnblic records show that he was Secretary to the Commissaries, who at that time superintended 
the affairs of " Albany, Schenectade, and the parts adjacent." He held this secretaryship until 
July, 1686, during which time he acquired the original grant of land known as the Manor and 
Lordship of Livingston, which was the foundation of the subsequent wealth of himself and his 
family. About 1679, Mr. Livingston married Alida, the widow of Nicholas Van Eenselaer, and 
sister of Peter Schuyler, by whom he had several children. PhUip, his second son, was born at 
Albany in the year 1686, and owing to the death of his elder brother, he succeeded to the ma- 
norial estate. Little is known of his career. He resided a considerable time in the city of his 
birth, and was at one period connected with its municipal government. He was a member of 
the Assembly, and occupied other positions of honor and trust in the province. 

William Livingston, the flfth.child of Philip and Catherine Van Brugh Livingston, was born 
at Albany, New York, in the month of November, 1723. At the age of fourteen years he left 
his home and entered the Freshman class of Yale College. On graduating, in 1741, he imme- 
diately went to New York and commenced the study of law in the ofiSce of James Alexander, 
a Scotch gentleman, and a lawyer of great ability.* In this position Mr. Livingston displayed 
great energy and application ; devoting the day to the " dry business of the law " at the desk 
of his instructor, and the evening to the study of mathematics and the acquirement of general 
knowledge. He also contributed several essays to the newspapers while a student in the oflSce 
of Mr. Alexander — the first of which appeared in Parker's New York Weekly Post Boy, for the 
nineteenth of August, 1745, under the signature Tyro Philolegis. In this he denounced the 
method of studying law. " There is perhaps no set of men," says he, "that bear so ill a char- 
acter in the estimation of the vulgar, as the gentlemen of the long robe. Whether the disad- 
vantageous idea they commonly entertain of their integrity be founded upon solid reasons, is 
not my design to inquire into ; but if they deserve the imputation of injustice and dishonesty, it 
is in no instance more visible and notorious, than in their conduct towards their apprentices. 
That a young fellow should be bound to an attorney for four, six or seven years, to serve him 
part of the time for the consideration that his master shall instruct in the mystery of the law 
the remainder of the term ; and that notwithstanding this solemn compact, which if binding on 
either side is reciprocally obligatory, the attorney shall either employ him in writing during the 

* Mr. Alexander came to America in 1715. He was secretary of the province of New York, and through the kind oflSces 
et Governor Burnet, in whose estimation he ranlced high, he was appointed a member of his council, in which position ho 
remained several years. Smith, the early historian of New York, says of him : " He was a man of learning, good morals, 
and solid parts. He was bred to the law, and though no speaker, at the head of his profession for sagacity and penetration ; 
and in a[ipllcatlon to business no man could surpass him. Nor was he unacquainted with the affairs of the public, having 
served in the secretary's office, the best school in the province for instruction in matters of government." He died early 
in the year m^.—SmitKs ifew York, Ed. 176T, page 162. 


whole term of his apprenticeship, or if he allows him a small portion of the time for reading, 
shall leave him to pore on a book without any instruction to smooth and facilitate his progress 
in his study, or the least examination of what proficiency he makes in that perplexed science ; 
is an outrage upon common honesty, a conduct scandalous, horrid, base and infamous to the last 
degree !" He continues his essay in this manner, exposing the drudgery to which lawyers' clerks 
were subjected at that time, and calling upon the "gentlemen of the long robe" to abolish a 
custom which was equally injurious to themselves and their pupils. In the spring of the next 
year another piece appeared in the same paper, on Pride arising from Hiches and Prosperity. 
A misunderstanding arose between Mr. Livingston and his law -teacher in reference to the au- 
thorship and intent of this production,* the result of which was that Mr. Livingston left the 
office of his instructor, and entered that of Mr. "William Smith, then a lawyer of some emi- 

About this time, while yet a student, Mr. Livingston married and established his residence 
in New York. In 1747 he published a poem entitled Philosophic Solitude, or the Choice of a 
Rural Life. This was one of the first of his poetical productions. As to its merits, an able 
critic says, " though it has not high poetic value, it displays the tastes of a scholar, and the vir- 
tues of an upright mind." \ Mr. Livingston completed his studies, and was admitted to practice 
as an attorney in the fall of the year 1748. In 1752 he was associated with William Smith, 
Junior,§ in the publication of the first digest of the colonial laws, a second volume of which ap- 
peared from the hands of the same persons ten years afterwards. From this work the only 
immediate advantage Mr. Livingston derived, was that of being brought into notice ; his prac- 
tice, however, soon began to increase, and he rose to a conspicuous place at the bar. The same 
year (1752) he commenced the publication of the Independent Reflector, the first number of 
which appeared on the thirtieth of November. This periodical devoted itself to "a close 
and impartial scrutiny of the existing establishments, and pursuing its course without fear or 
favor, had for its object the exposure of official abuse, negligence and corruption in whatever 
rank they were to be found." It engaged ardently in the discussion relative to the religious 
government of Kings, now Columbia College, and exposed the injustice and impropriety of 
making that institution sectarian. So strong was the opposition to this journal, its editor 
"defamed in private society and denounced from the pulpit," it was discontinued on the twenty- 
second of November, 1753, after the publication of the fifty-second number. || Early in the 
year 1754, Mr. Livingston, in company with several other influential and educated gentlemen, 
laid the foundation of the Society Library of the city of New York.lT In November of the 
same year, appeared the first number of the Watch Tower, another series of essays on the sub- 

* Tie origin of this misunderstanding is said to have been as follows : A Mr. Eice, organist of Trinity cliurch, forgetful 
of the strongly-marked distinctions which then practically established what has in later days been termed the " Theory of 
Eanks," presumed to send a valentine, viz., a pair of gloves, with a copy of verses emblematic and expressive of his devo- 
tion to Miss Alexander. The fashionable young beauty and her mother resented it as an insult, and their conduct struck 
the more republican mind of young Livingston as so unreasonable, that, unmindful of the relation in which he stood to the 
lady's father, the pasquinade already spoken of was the result.^(Se<?ff«>iei'« Life, of Livingston. Parker's Xew York 
Post-Boy, of March Sd, 1746. 

t William Smith held a very prominent position on the liberal side of colonial politics; became a member of his majes- 
ty's council, and was afterwards appointed Judge of the Court of King's Bench. He was the father of the colonial historian 
of New York. 

t American Quarterly Eeview, No. 4, page 506. Sedgwick's Life of Livingston, page 62. 

§ William Smith, Jr. was born at New York, on the twenty-flfth of June, 1728. He graduated at Yale College at a very 
early age, and commenced the study of law at New York. As early as 1769 ho was appointed a member of his majesty's 
council, where his attendance was regular, his integrity unquestioned, and his loyalty firm to his king. On the occasion of 
the Stamp Act troubles, Mr. Smith proposed a plan of union of all the colonies, which was submitted to and approved by 
the minister, George Grenville; but through delay the plan was never carried out. He prepared a history of the province 
of New York, from the first discovery to the year 1732, which was published in 1757. On the evacuation of New York by 
the British In 1783, Mr. Smith went to England, where he remained until he was appointed Chief Justice of Canada, in 
1786. This office he held until his death, which took place on the third of December, 1793. 

I A complete file of this early periodical is in the library of the New York Historical Society. 

1 1n Gaine's New York Mercury, of May 14tli, 1759, we find the following: "The trustees of the New York Society 
Library have ordered the librarian to give his attendance every Monday and Thursday, from half an hour after eleven to 
one o'clock. The subscribers are desired to send their annual subscription to the treasurer," 


ject of King's College, written principally by Mr. Livingston, and in the course of the few fol- 
lowing years he contributed largely to the occasional literature of the country. In 1758 he 
was elected to the Assembly of the Colony of New York, in which body he remained two 

The first of a series of papers entitled The Sentinel, treating of the general and prominent 
subjects of the day, appeared in the New York Gazette, on the twenty-eighth of February, 1765. 
These papers are written with much spirit and ability, and it is probable that a greater portion 
of them emanated from the pen of Mr. Livingston. The most curious and characteristic of these 
is entitled A New Sermon to an Old Text, which forms the twenty-first number of the series. 
The text is, " Touch not mine anointed." After showing how often the test had been mis- 
understood and misconstrued by previous commentators, in favor of kings rather than the 
people, he demonstrates in what "touching" the anointed consists. " The LorWs anointed, that 
is, the people," says he, " are very sensibly touched when they have penalties inflicted on them 
merely for their religious principles or worship. By entering into society men never intended, 
nor could intend, to make their religion a matter of civil cognizance. For religion being a 
prevailing disposition of the soul to universal holiness, it can neither be increased nor lessened 
by any political laws, ^nd civil society, being contrived for the preservation of men's lives and 
properties, it can neither be injured or benefited by any man's religion. Besides, how can any 
person, with the least color of reason, pretend that I have a right to judge for myself, and yet 
punish me for using it ? — that is, for doing what he acknowledged I had a right to do. To plead 
for it, would be a contradiction in terms. Hence, every species of persecution, whether under 
color of law or by open violence, is evidently touching the people, or, in other words, the LorWi 

" All those wretched nations who live under absolute governments, and are stripped of the 
natural rights of mankind by their unrelenting oppressors, are most miserably touched. Tyranny, 
my brethren, is a kind of political damnation ; and were all the enemies of human happiness to 
consult together for a whole century, they could not invent a more effectual method to destroy 
it, than by enslaving a free people. Turn your eyes to those parts of the globe where liberty is 
no more, and what do you behold but nakedness, beggary and want ! The lords of the creation 
used like the bestial herd ; and a single tyrant rioting in the spoils of thousands ! 

" A free people may be said to be touched, whenever any of those laws by which their civil 
rights are secured to them are in any degree infringed or violated. The law, my brethren, is the 
foundation of our liberties. Take away this, and the superstructure tumbles to the ground. 
How acutely, therefore, do they touch the Lord's anointed, who would raze this glorious 
foundation, and in its room erect the enormous Babel of despotic pleasure ! 

" Whenever any man declares that Englishmen have no other title to their liberty than the 
will of their prince, he may be said most severely to touch the people and deserves to be severely 
reproved for his impudence. Blessed be God, we do not hold our liberties by the precarious 
tenure of any man's will. They are defended by the impregnable bulwark of law, and guar- 
anteed by the most awful sanctions. And whoever asserts the contrary is a liar, and the truth 
is not in him.'''' * 

The next important production of Mr. Livingston was the celebrated letter to the Bishop of 
Llandaff, t refuting the charges made by that prelate against the early colonists of America, in a 
sermon preached before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. It was one of the 
most spirited of the numerous pamphlets that appeared at that time, touching upon the proposed 
establishment of an Episcopate in America. Upon its republication in London, it attracted 
much attention, and drew forth the opposition, in pamphlets and parodies. In 1770, Mr< 
Livingston published the satire upon Lieutenant Governor Golden, entitled A Soliloquy, in 
which he was unusually severe upon that gentleman. In the fall of the same year he was 

• New York Gazette, July 18th, 1T65.— The last number of the Sentinel was published on the 29th August, 1765. 

t The title of this work is, " A Letter to the Eight Reverend Father in God John, Lord Bishop of Llandaff, occasioned 
by some passages in his Lordship's sermon, on the 20th of February, 1T67, in which the American Colonies are loaded with 
great and undeserved reproach." 


elected president of Ths Moot, a club organized by the principal lawyers of New York city, for 
the discussion of legal questions and other points pertaining to the law. In May, 1772, he 
removed to the village of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and in the fall of the next year retired to 
his country seat, afterwards known by the significant title of Liberty Hall. But he did not 
long remain in this retirement. The revolutionary difficulties were assuming a more threatening 
aspect, and he was called upon to enter upon that which proved " the most arduous and the 
most honorable" portion of his life. In 1774, he was chosen a delegate to the Continental 
Congress, and remained in that body until the fifth of June, 1776, when he was called to take 
command of the New Jersey militia. His career in the Congress was consistent and effective : 
and in the discharge of the duties assigned to him, he increased his already high and honorable 

On the thirty-first of August of the same year (1776), the first republican legislature of New 
Jersey elected Mr. Livingston to the office of Governor of that State ; on which he resigned his 
command in the militia and repaired to Princeton, where he was inaugurated on the seventh 
of September. In his inaugural address delivered before the legislative assemblies, a week 
afterwards, he says : " Let us, gentlemen, both by precept and practice, encourage a spirit of 
economy, industry and patriotism, and that public integrity which cannot fail to exalt a nation : 
Betting our faces at the same time like a flint* against that dissoluteness of manners and political 
corruption which will ever be the reproach of any people. May the foundation of our infant 
State be laid in virtue and the fear of God, and the superstructure will rise glorious, and endure 
for ages. Then may we humbly expect the blessing of the Most High, who divides to the nations 
their inheritance, and separates the sons of Adam. In fine, gentlemen, while we are applauded 
by the whole world for demolishing the old fabric, rotten and ruinous as it was, let us unitedly 
strive to approve ourselves master builders, .by giving beauty, strength and stability to the 
new." In this speech. Governor Livingston displays that inflexibility yet simplicity of character 
for which he was eminently celebrated, both in public and private life. 

"While in the office of governor, he contributed several essays to the New Jersey Gazette, 
under the signature of Hortentius. These essays contributed much towards strengthening the 
hearts and nerving the arms of the Americans, who were in doubt as to the ultimate success of 
Great Britain. Their wit and sarcasm amused, while their sturdy independence and logical elo- 
quence convinced, the doubting patriots. One of the most characteristic of these productions is 
On the Conquest of America.^ " It is observable," says the writer, " that at the opening of every 
campaign in the spring, the British plunderers and their Tory emissaries announce the total re- 
duction of America before the winter. In the fall they find themselves as remote from their 
purpose as they are in the spring : and then we are threatened with innumerable hosts from 
Eussia and Germany, who will utterly extirpate us the ensuing summer, or reduce us to the most 
abject submission. They have so beat this beaten track, that for the mere sake of variety, I 
would advise them to explore a new road ; and not compel us to nauseate a falsehood, not only 
because we know it to be one, but for its perpetual repetition without the least variation or al- 
ternity. According to custom, therefore, the new lie (that is the old lie reiterated) for the next 
summer is, that we are to be devoured bones and all, by thirty-six thousand Eussians ; besides 
something or other that is to be done to us by the King of Prussia. What this is to be is still a 
profound secret; but as it will doubtless be something very extraordinary, and it being impossible 
to conceive what else he can do to us, after we are swallowed by the Eussians, he is probably, 
by some political emetic or other, to bring us up again. I should think, in common complaisance 
to human reason, that absurdities so gross, and figments so destitute of probability, would only 
deceive those who choose to be deceived. The Empress of Eussia, though a sovereign in petti- 
coats, knows too well that the true riches of a nation consist in the number of its inhabitants, to 
suffer such a number of her subjects to be knocked on the head in America, for the sake of facil- 
itating the fanatic project of a more southern potentate in breeches, deluded by a blundering 

* From this expression, and from his "inflexible impartiality," Governor Livingston was for some time after familiarly 
known among the people of his State by the name of " Dr. VlinV— Sedgwick, paffe 207. 

+ This osfiay was published in the New Jersey Gazette, of December 24th, 1777, in the fourth number of that paper. 


ministry, and the nniversal derision of Europe. It is her interest (and I shall wonder if ever 
princes proceed upon any other principle, before the commencement of the millennium) to have 
America dismembered from Great Britain, which must of necessity reduce the naval power of 
the latter, and make Eussia a full match for her on the ocean. And as for the King of Prussia, 
considering that there never was any love lost between him and the family of Brunswick, and 
that he has long been jealous of the maritime strength of Britain, these artificers of fraud might 
with equal plausibility, have introduced the Emperor of Japan, as entering into leagues and 
alliances with our late master at St. James'. It is nothing but an impudent forgery from first 
to last, and merely fabricated to restore to their natural shape and features the crest-fallen coun- 
tenances of the tories, and if possible to intimidate the genuine sons of America. The utmost 
they can do they have already done; and are this moment as far from any prospect of subjecting 
us to the dominion of Britain, as they were in the ridiculous hour in which General Gage first 
arrived at Boston. This is no secret with those who have the management of their armies in 
America, how greatly soever the nation itself may be deluded by the pompous accounts of their 
progress. But whatever becomes of Old England at least, these gentlemen are sure of accumu- 
lating immense wealth during the war ; and are therefore determined to keep up the delusion as 
long as possible. Burgoyne is the only one of any distinction, who has vii'tue enough to own 
the truth ; and I am credibly informed, that he has frankly declared — that he was most egre- 
giously deceived in the Americans, — that he had been led to believe they would never come to 
bayoneting, — that they had behaved with the greatest intrepidity in attacking intrenchments, — ■ 
that although a regiment of his grenadiers and light-infantry displayed, in an engagement with 
Colonel Morgan's battalion of riflemen, the most astonishing gallantry, Morgan exceeded them 
in dexterity and generalship, — and that it was utterly impossible ever to conquer America." 
Under the signature Hortentius, Governor Livingston contributed to the United States Magazine, 
in 1779 ; but ascertaining that several members of the legislature had expressed "their dissatis- 
faction that the chief magistrate of the State should contribute to the periodicals, he discontinued 
his communications altogether, and appears to have written nothing for the press for several 

The prominent position occupied by Governor Livingston, in the ranks of the patriots, coupled 
with the odium he had incurred by his various literary productions, issued in ridicule and defi- 
ance of the ministry and their adherents, subjected him to continual danger. Several attempts 
were made by the British to take him prisoner, and large bounties were ofiered by those in au- 
thority, for his apprehension. In one of his letters, written in 1778, he says, ia noticing this 
state of affairs : " They certainly overrate my merit, and I cannot conceive what induces them 
to bid so extravagant a sum, having now raised my price from five hundred to two thousand 
guineas, unless it be that General Skinner intends to pay his master's debts, as he has long been 
used to pay his own."* Unsuccessful in these attempts upon the liberty and life of Governor 
Livingston, the ministerial press heaped their abuse upon him ; hardly a sheet appearing from 
that source without some vilification of his public or private life. Eivington's Royal Gazette, 
the organ of the ministerial party in New York city, was particularly violent and revengeful. 
By this paper he was designated as " The Titular Governor of the Jersies,''^ — " Spurious Gov- 
ernor,^^ — "Z)o?i Quixote of the Jersies,''^ — ^^ Knight of the Most Homyrable Order of Starvation, 
and Chief of the Independents ; " and in A Dream, published in the issue of the twenty -third of 

* The following is an account of ono of the nnmerous attempts made to capture Governor Livingston, and shows to 
what a degree party malice was carried at that time. It is taken from the New Jersey Gazette, of July 2Sth, 1779 : — A 
number of villains in the vicinity of Persippcney, Morris connty, having for some days before been suspected of being con- 
cerned in a conspiracy to take or assassinate Governor Livingston, as soon as he should return from the General Assembly, 
a son of the governor's having previously induced one of the persons suspected to believe that his excellency was looked 
for on the 22d ult., caused a report to be propagated towards the evening of that day, that ho was actually returned. As 
the young gentleman expected that the conspirators would, in consequence of the report, attack the house that night, ha 
had concerted proper measures for their reception. Accordingly, about two o'clock the next morning, the ruffians were 
discovered within fifty yards of the governor's house ; but being fired upon by one of our patroles, they instantly took into 
the woods and fled. The person, however, who was suspected to be at the head of the gang, and who had for some time 
past taken up his residence in that neighborhood to facilitate the conspiracy, disappearing the nest morning, was pursued 
and taken. He is committed to jail in Morristown, and has already made considerable discoveries. It is supposed that 


January, 1779, in which several of the more prominent "releh " pass in review, appears "the 
black soul of Livingston, which was 'fit for treason, sacrilege and spoil,' and polluted with • 
every species of murder and iniquity, was condemned to howl in the body of a wolf; and I be- 
held with surprise, that he retained the same gaunt, hollow and furious appearance, and that 
his tongue still continued to be red with human gore. Just at this time Mercury touched me 
with his wand, and thereby bestowed an insight into futurity, when I saw this very wolf hung 
up at the door of his fold, by a shepherd whose innocent flock had been from time to time thin- 
ned by the murdering jaws of this savage animal." These scurrilous publications continued 
throughout the war, but the governor suffered nothing from such abuse and criticism. 

The services of Governor Livingston were of great value during the Revolution. His cor- 
respondence with the principal men of that time evinces the high estimation in which he was held ; 
especially the letters of Washington, which exhibit the utmost regard and confidence in his pa- 
triotism and abilities. " Tour Excellency," says he, " will be sensible how much the honor 
and interest of these States must be concerned in a vigorous co-operation, should the event I 
have supposed happen, and I shall place the fullest confidence in that wisdom and energy of 
which your Excellency's conduct has afforded such frequent and decisive proofs.* 

In January of the year 1781, Governor Livingston was chosen, at the first annual election 
of the American Philosophical Society, a councillor of that body ; and the next year he became 
a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, at Cambridge, Mass. On the arri- 
val of the news of peace, he returned to " Liberty HaU," and once more entered upon the super- 
intendence of his home, from which he had been absent for the greater part of the war. Hia 
joy at being thus finally allowed to relinquish his wandering life, and in being permanently 
joined to his wife and children, overflows in his letters wi-itten about this time. " Thanks to 
Heaven," says he, "that the times again permit me to pursue my favorite amusement of raising 
vegetables ; which, with the additional pleasure resulting from my library, I really prefer to aU 
the bustle and splendor of the world." t In June, 1785, he was elected by Congress to succeed 
Mr. Adams at the Court of Holland ; but this oflBce he declined on account of his advancing age, 
" and by the fear of being thought indifferent to the affectionate confidence so many years re- 
posed in him by the State of New Jersey." About the same time he was chosen an honorary 
member of the Association for the Promotion of Agriculture, of Philadelphia, and in October 
of the same year (1785) he was re-elected to the ofiice of governor. On the ninth of January, 
1786, the first of another series of essays appeared in the New Jersey Gazette, under the title 
of ITie Primitive Whiff. These were contributed by Governor Livingston, and are written 
with force and abUity. In 1787 he was appointed a delegate to the Federal Convention. "Mr. 
Livingston did not take his seat in the Convention," says Mr. Madison, "tUl some progress had 
been made in the task committed to it, and he did not take any active part in the debates ; but 
he was placed on important committees, where it may be presumed he had an agency and a due 
influence. He was personally unknown to many, perhaps most of the members, but there waa 
a predisposition in all to manifest the respect due to the celebrity of his name." 

In the fall of the year 1789, Mr. Livingston was elected Governor of the State for the last 
time. He had held that position iminterruptedly since his election under the first republican 
constitution of 1776. On the twenty-fifth of the June following, (1790,) he died, respected, 
honored and beloved. 

some, If not all of those Tillains, are employed by a much greater villain than any of them, even the worshipfal David 
Mathews, Esq., military Mayor of the City of New York, concerning whom one James Allen, lately apprehended for rob- 
bery, declared upon his examination, " that he was present when the said mayor desired Mason to endeavor to burn Gov- 
ernor Clinton's house in the coarse of the summer; that the mayor gave him a description of its situation, and who lived 
in it ; that Mason replied, ' he should have a little patience and it should be effected.' That the mayor told Mason, Ward, 
Eteret, and Harding, four of his fellow-robbers, (that is, either Mr. Allen's or Mr. Mayor's, as the reader pleases,) that it 
was a pity they could not lay some plot, and bring that rascal Governor Livingston. They replied that they had planned 
matters so in tluit quarter, that they would have him in less than two months ; and that they had proper connections in 
that quarter for that purpose." 

• MS. letter in N. J. State Library : Sedgwick's Life of Livingston, page 2631 

t Sedgwick's Life of Livingston, page 8T8. 




The British soldiery in their march through 
New Jersey in 1776, committed the most bru- 
tal outrages upon the inhabitants of that State. 
They wantonly destroyed the property they 
could not carry away, and spread desolation 
wherever they went. At the same time a spirit 
of disaffection manifested itself in that colony, 
arising partly from the irregular state of the 
militia, who, from the inefficiency and bad ex- 
ample of their officers, were allowed to plun- 
der many of the inhabitants on pretence of 
their being tories ; and partly from a fondness 
for the British constitution, and an idea that 
Great Britain was irresistible and would finally 
conquer. The following speech, treating of 
these affairs, was delivered to the New Jersey 
Assembly on the twenty-eighth of February, 

Gentlemen : Having already laid before the 
Assembly, by messages, the several matters that 
have occurred to me, as more particularly de- 
manding their attention, during the present ses- 
sion, it may seem less necessary to address you 
in the more ceremonious form of a speech. 
But, conceiving it my duty to the State, to de- 
liver my sentiments on the present situation of 
affairs, and the eventful contest between Great 
Britain and America, which could not, with 
any propriety, be conveyed in occasional mes- 
sages, you will excuse my giving you the trouble 
of attending for that purpose. 

After deploring with you the desolation spread 
through this State, by an unrelenting enemy who 
have, indeed, marked their progress with a de- 
vastation unknown to civilized nations, and 
evincive of the most implacable vengeance, I 
heartily congratulate you upon that subsequent 
series of success, wherewith it hath pleased the 
Almighty to crown the American arms ; and par- 
ticularly on the important enterprise against the 
enemy at Trenton and the signal victory obtained 
over them at Princeton, by the gallant troops 
under the command of his Excellency General 
Washington. Considering the contemptible fig- 
ure they make at present, and the disgust they 
have given to many of their own confederates 
amongst us, by their more than Gothic ravages, 
(for thus doth the great Disposer of events 
often deduce good out of evil,) their irruption 
into our dominion will probably redound to the 
public benefit. It has certainly enabled us the 
more effectually to distinguish our friends from 
our enemies. It has winnowed the chaff from 
the grain. It has discriminated the temporizing 
politician, who, at the first appearance of dan- 
ger, was determined to secure his idol, proper- 
ty, at the hazard of the general weal, ifrom the 

persevering patriot, who, having embarked his 
all in the common cause, chooses rather to risk, 
rather to lose that all, for the preservation of 
the more estimable treasure, liberty, than to 
possess it, (enjoy it he certainly could not,) 
upon the ignominious terms of tamely resign- 
ing his country and posterity to perpetual ser- 
vitude. It has, in a word, opened the eyes of 
those who were made to believe that their im- 
pious merit, in abetting our persecutors, would 
exempt them from being involved in the gene- 
ral calamity. But as the rapacity of the enemy 
was boundless, their havoc was indiscriminate, 
and their barbarity unparalleled. They have 
plundered friends and foes. Effects, capable of 
division, they have divided. Such as were 
not, they have destroyed. They have warred 
upon decrepit age; warred upon defenceless 
youth. They have committed hostilities against 
the professors of literature, and the ministers 
of religion ; against public records and private 
monuments, and books of improvement, and 
papers of curiosity, and against the arts and 
sciences. They have butchered the wounded, 
asking for quarter ; mangled the dying, welter- 
ing in their blood ; refused to the dead the rites 
of sepulture ; suffered prisoners to perish for 
want of sustenance; violated the chastity of 
women; disfigured private dwellings of taste 
and elegance ; and, in the rage of impiety and 
barbarism, profaned and prostrated edifices ded- 
icated to Almighty God. 

And yet there are amongst us, who, either 
from ambitious or lucrative motives, or intimi- 
dated by the terror of their arms, or from a 
partial fondness for the British constitution, or 
deluded by insidious propositions, are secretly 
abetting, or openly aiding their machinations 
to deprive us of that liberty, without which 
man is a beast, and government a curse. 

Besides the inexpressible baseness of wishing 
to rise on the ruins of our country, or to acquire 
riches at the expense of the liberties and for- 
tunes of millions of our fellow-citizens, how 
soon would these delusive dreams, upon the 
conquest of America, end in disappointment? 
For where is the fund to recompense those re- 
tainers to the British army ? Was every estate 
in America to be confiscated, and converted 
into cash, the product would not satiate the 
avidity of their national dependants, nor furnish 
an adequate repast for the keen appetites of 
their own ministerial beneficiaries. Instead 
of gratuities and promotion, these unhappy 
accomplices in their tyranny, would meet with 
supercOious looks and cold disdain ; and, after 
tedious attendance, be finally told by their 
haughty masters, that they, indeed approved 
the treason, but despised the traitor. Insulted, 
in fine, by their pretended protectors, but real 
betrayers, and goaded with the stings of their 
own consciences, they would remain the fright- 


ful monuments of contempt and divine indig- 
nation, and linger out the rest of their days in 
self-condemnation and remorse ; and, in weep- 
ing over the ruins of their country, which 
themselves had been instrumental in reducing 
to desolation and bondage. 

Others there are, who, terrified by the power 
of Britain, have persuaded themselves, that she 
is not only formidable, but irresistible. That 
her power is great, is beyond question ; that it 
is not to be despised, is the dictate of common 
prudence. But, then, we ought also to consider 
her, as weak in council, and ingulfed in debt ; 
reduced in her trade ; reduced in her revenue ; 
immersed in pleasure ; enervated with luxury ; 
and, in dissipation and venality, surpassing all 
Europe. We ought to consider her as hated 
by a potent rival, her natural enemy, and par- 
ticularly exasperated by her imperious conduct 
in the last war, as well as her insolent manner 
of commencing it; and thence inflamed with 
resentment, and only watching a favorable 
juncture for open hostilities. We ought to 
consider the amazing expense and difficulty of 
transporting troops and provisions above three 
thousand miles, with the impossibility of re- 
cruiting their army at a less distance ; save 
only with such recreants, whose conscious guilt 
must, at the first approach of danger, appal the 
stoutest heart. Those insuperable obstacles 
are known and acknowledged by every virtuous 
and impartial man in the nation. Even the 
author of this horrid war, is incapable of con- 
cealing his own confusion and distress. Too 
great to be wholly suppressed, it frequently 
discovers itself in the course of his speech — a 
speech terrible in word, and fraught with con- 
tradiction ; breathing threatenings and betray- 
ing terror ; a motley mixture of magnanimity 
and consternation, of grandeur and abasement. 
With troops invincible, he dreads a defeat, and 
wants reinforcements. Victorious in America, 
and triumphant on the ocean, he is a hnmble 
dependent on a petty prince ; and apprehends 
an attack upon his own metropolis ; and, with 
full confidence in the friendship and alliance 
of France, he trembles upon his throne at her 
secret designs and open preparations. 

With all this, we ought to contrast the nu- 
merous and hardy sons of America, inured to 
toil, seasoned alike to heat and cold, hale, ro- 
bust, patient of fatigue, and, from their ardent 
love of liberty, ready to face danger and death ; 
the immense extent of continent, which our in- 
fatuated enemies have undertaken to subjugate ; 
the remarkable unanimity of its inhabitants, 
notwithstanding the exception of a few apos- 
tates and deserters ; their unshaken resolution 
to maintain their freedom or perish in the 
attempt ; the fertility of our soil in all kinds 
of provisions necessary for the support of war ; 
our inexhaustible internal resources for mili- 
tary stores and naval armaments ; our com- 
parative economy in public expenses ; and the 
millions we save by having reprobated the 
further exchange of our valuable staples for 

the worthless baubles and finery of English 
manufacture. Add to this, that in a cause so 
just and righteous on our part, we have the 
highest reason to expect the blessing of Heaven 
upon our glorious conflict. For, who can doubt 
the interposition of the Supremely Just, in fa- 
vor of a people, forced to recur to arms in de- 
fence of every thing dear and precious, against 
a nation deaf to our complaints, rejoicing in 
our misery, wantonly aggravating our oppres- 
sions, determined to divide our substance, and, 
by fire and sword, to compel us into sub- 
mission ? 

Respecting the constitution of Great Britain, 
bating certain royal prerogatives of dangerous 
tendency, it has been applauded by the best 
judges ; and displays, in its original structure, 
illustrious proofs of wisdom and the knowledge 
of human nature. But what avails the best 
constitution with the worst administration? 
For, what is their present government, and 
what has it been for years past, but a pensioned 
confederacy against reason, and virtue, and ho- 
nor, and patriotism, and the rights of man ? 
What were their leaders, but a set of political 
craftsmen, flagitiously conspiring to erect the 
babel, despotism, upon the ruins of the ancient 
and beautiful fabric of law ; a shameless cabal, 
notoriously employed in deceiving the prince, 
corrupting the parliament, debasing the people, 
depressing the most virtuous, and exalting the 
most profligate; in short, an insatiable junto 
of public spoilers, lavishing the national wealth, 
and, by peculation and plunder, accumulating 
a debt already enormous ? And what was the 
majority of their parliament, formerly the most 
august assembly in the world, but venal pen- 
sioners to the Crown; a perfect mockery of 
all popular representation ; and, at the abso- 
lute devotion of every minister ? What were 
the characteristics of their administration of 
the provinces? The substitution of regal in- 
structions in the room of law ; the multiplica- 
tion of ofiicers to strengthen the court inter- 
est ; perpetually extending the prerogatives of 
the king, and retrenching the rights of the 
subject ; advancing to the most eminent sta- 
tions men, without education, and of the most 
dissolute manners ; employing, with the peo- 
ple's money, a band of emissaries to misrepre- 
sent and traduce the people ; and, to crown the 
system of misrule, sporting our persons and 
estates, by filling the highest seats of justice 
with bankrupts, bullies, and blockheads. 

From such a nation, (though all this we bore, 
and should perhaps have borne for another cen- 
tury, had they not avowedly claimed the un- 
conditional disposal of life and property,) it is 
evidently our duty to be detached. To remain 
happy or safe, in our connection with her, be 
came thenceforth utterly impossible. She is 
moreover precipitating her own fall, or the age 
of miracles is returned, and Britain a phenome- 
non in the political world, without a parallel. 
The proclamations to ensnare the timid and 
credulous, are beyond expression disingenuous 



and tantalizing. In a gilded pill they conceal 
real poison ; they add insult to injury. After 
repeated intimations of commissioners to treat 
with America, we are presented, instead of 
the peaceful olive-branch, with the devouring 
sword : instead of being visited by plenipotentia- 
ries to bring matters to an accommodation, we 
are invaded by an army, in their opinion, able 
to subdue us. And upon discovering their er- 
ror, the terms propounded amount to this : " If 
you will submit without resistance, we are con- 
tent to take your property, and spare your 
lives; and then (the consummation of arro- 
gance !) we wiU graciously pardon you, for hav- 
ing hitherto defended both." 

Considering, then, their bewildered councils, 
their blundering ministry, their want of men 
and money, their impaired credit and declining 
commerce, their lost revenues and starving 
islands, the corruption of their Parliament, 
with the effeminacy of their nation, and the 
success of their enterprise is against all proba- 
bility. Considering further, the horrid enor- 
mity of their waging war against their own 
brethren, expostulating for an audience, com- 
plaining of injuries, and supplicating for re- 
dress, and waging it with a ferocity and ven- 
geance unknown to moderate ages, and con- 
trary to all laws, human and divine ; and we 
can neither question the justice of our opposi- 
tion, nor the assistance of Heaven to crown it 
with victory. 

Let us not, however, presumptuously rely on 
the interposition of Providence, without exert- 
ing those efforts which it is our duty to exert, 
and which our bountiful Creator has enabled 
us to exert. Let us do our part to open the 
next campaign with redoubled vigor ; and until 
the United States have humbled the pride of 

Britain, and obtained an honorable peace, 
cheerfully furnish our proportion for continu- 
ing the war — a war, founded, on our side, in the 
immutable obhgation of self-defence, and in 
support of freedom, of virtue, and every thing 
tending to ennoble our nature, and render a 
people happy; on their part, prompted by 
boundless avarice, and a thirst for absolute 
sway, and buUt on a claim repugnant to every 
principle of reason and equity — a claim sub- 
versive to all liberty, natural, civU, moral and 
religious ; incompatible with human happiness, 
and usurping the attributes of Deity, degrading 
man and blaspheming God. 

Let us all, therefore, of every rank and de- 
gree, remember our plighted faith and honor, 
to maintain the cause with our lives and for- 
tunes. Let us inflexibly persevere in prosecu- 
ting, to a happy period, what has been so glo- 
riously begun, and hitherto so prosperously 
conducted. And let those in more distinguish- 
ed stations use all their influence and authority 
to rouse the supine, to animate the irresolute, 
to conflrm the wavering, and to draw from his 
lurking hole the skulking neutral, who, leaving 
to others the heat and burden of the day, means 
in the final result to reap the fruits of that vic- 
tory for which he will not contend. Let us be 
peculiarly assiduous in bringing to condign 
punishment those detestable parricides, who 
have been openly active against their country. 
And may we, in all our deliberations and pro- 
ceedings, be influenced and directed by the 
great Arbiter of the fate of nations, by whom 
empires rise and fall, and who will not always 
suffer the sceptre of the wicked to rest on the 
lot of the righteous, but in due time avenge an 
injured people on their unfeeling oppressor and 
his bloody instruments. 



FisHKE Ames was bom at Dedham, in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, on the ninth of April, 
1T58. He was descended from one of the oldest families in the province. His father, Nathaniel 
Ames, was a physician of some eminence. To his skill La his profession he added a knowledge 
of astronomy and mathematics, and for several years published an almanac or An Astronomical 
Diary, which was " yearly sought for on account of the correct calculations, trite maxims, and 
the strict morality which filled its interstices." 

At an early age Fisher Ames exhibited an ardent fondness for classical literature. "When 
only six years old he commenced the study of Latin, and although experiencing great disad- 
vantages from a frequent change of instructors, he made rapid improvement, and was admitted 
to Harvard College in the year 1770, shortly after the completion of his twelfth year. While at 
college he was remarkable for his application and industry during the hours devoted to study, 
and for his vivacity and animation during those set apart for relaxation and pleasure. From 
the geniality and modesty of his character, he soon acquired the friendship of all around him. 
He was a member of a society which had been formed by the students for improvement in elocu- 
tion. " It was early observed that he coveted the glory of eloquence. In his declamation be- 
fore this society, he was remarked for the energy and propriety with which he delivered such 
specimens of impassioned oratory as his genius led him to select. His compositions at this time 
bore the characteristic stamp which has always marked his speaking and writing. They were 
sententious and fuU of ornament." In 1774 Mr. Ames graduated, and for a short time devoted 
himself to teaching, occupying the hours in which he was relieved from that employment La re- 
viewing the classics he had studied at college, and in reading ancient and modern history, as 
well as " some of the best novels." He was a great lover of poetry, and became famUiar with 
all the principal English writers in that branch of literature. He dwelt with enthusiasm upon 
the beauties of Milton and Shakspeare, and held in memory many of their choicest passages. 
This course of reading helped to furnish " that fund of materials for speaking and writing which 
he possessed in singular abundance, his remarkable fertility of allusion, and his abUity to evolve 
a train of imagery adapted to every subject of which he treated." 

Mr. Ames pursued a course of law under the care of William Tudor,* of Boston, and in the 
fall of the year 1781 commenced practice in his native town. The affairs of government soon 
attracted his attention. On the twelfth of October, 1786, appeared from his pen a speculation 
upon the state of politics in Massachusetts, under the title of Lucius Junius Brutus, and in 
March of the year following he published two more pieces touching upon the same points, under 
the title of Camillus. These productions gave Mr. Ames much renown ; " the leading men of 
the State turned their eyes to him as one destined to render the most important services to the 

* William Tudor, a son of John Tudor, waa born at Boston, Massachusetts, on the 28th of March, 1750. Ho graduated 
at Harvard College in 1769, studied law with John Adams, and was admitted to practice in 1772. In the army of the 
Eevolution he held the commission of a colonel, and from 1775 to 1778 he was judge-ad vocate-genoral. He was a member 
of the House and Senate, and in 1809 and 1810 the Secretary of State. Of the Massachusetts Hiatorical Society ho was one 
of the founders. He died In July, WiS.—Loring'a Boston Orators : Mass, fflet. Collections. 


country." In 1788 he was chosen to the State legislature, in which assembly he advocated im 
portant educational measures, in view of elevating the character of the great mass of the people, 
and rendering them capable of higher enjoyments. In 1789 he was elected a member of the 
first Congress under the constitution, in which body he remained during the eight years of 
"Washington's administration. He was a strong advocate of the federal policy, and on every 
question of importance took an active part. He opposed the commercial resolutions of Mr. 
Madison, because he thought " that commerce could not be served by regulations, which should 
oblige us to 'sell cheap and buy dear,' and he inferred that the effect of the resolutions could 
only be to gratify partialities and resentments, which all statesmen should discard." In April, 
1796 he delivered his celebrated speech on the appropriation for Jay's Treaty, a production foil 
of the deepest pathos and richest eloquence.* At the termination of the session of Congress, 
Mr, Ames travelled at the south for his health, which had for many months been gradually sink- 
inc. On his partial recovery, he took his seat at the nest session, and entered upon the 
duties of his office. At the end of this session he returned to his home at Dedham, and declin- 
ing a re-election, took upon himself the practice of his profession. He continued writing politi- 
cal essays during the remainder of his life, aU of which bear the mark of the statesman and ripe 
scholar. In the year 1804 he was called to the chair of the presidency of Harvard College, 
which honor he declined on account of failing health, and a consciousness that his habits were 
not adapted to the oflBce. On the morning of the Fourth of July, 1808, he expired, having just 
completed the fiftieth year of his age.t 


The House of Representatives, on the third 
of January, 1794, resolved itself into a Com- 
mittee of the Whole, on the report of Mr. Jef- 
ferson, Secretary of State, " On the nature and 
extent of the privileges and restrictions of the 
commercial intercourse of the United States 
with foreign nations, and the measures which 
he thought proper to be adopted for the im- 
provement of the commerce and navigation of 
the same," when Mr. Madison introduced a se- 
ries of resolutions, proposing to impose " fur- 
ther restrictions and higher duties, in certain 

* Dr. Charles Caldwell, in Us antobiographj', thns speaks 
of Ames's eloquence : " He was decidedly one of the most 
splendid rhetoricians of the age. Two of his speeches, in a 
special manner— that on Jay's treaty, and that usually called 
his ' Tomahawk speech ' (because it included some resplen- 
dent passages on Indian massacres)— were the most bril- 
liant and fascinating specimens of eloquence I have ever 
heard ; yet have I listened to some of the most celebrated 
speakers in the British Parliament— among others, to Wil- 
berforce and Mackintosh, Plnnket, Brougham, and Canning: 
and Dr. Priestley, who was familiar with the oratory of Pitt 
the father and Pitt the son, and also with that of Burke and 
Fox, made to myself the acknowledgment that, in his own 
words, the speech of Ames, on the British treaty, was the 
most bewitching piece of parliamentary oratory he had ever 
listened to." 

+ In the preparation of this sketch, the editor has relied 
mainly on Mr. Kirkland's chaste memoir of Mr. Ames, which 
is attached to the published works of that eminent orator. 

cases, on the manufactures and navigation of 
foreign nations, employed in the commerce of 
the United States, than those now imposed."* 
On these resolutions Mr. Ames addressed the 
committee on the twenty-seventh of January, 
as follows : 

Me. Chairman : The question lies within this 
compass: is there any measure proper to be 
adopted by Congress, which will have the ef- 
fect to put our trade and navigation on a better 
footing? If there is, it is our undoubted right 
to adopt it, (if by right is understood the power 
of self-government, which every independent 
nation possesses,) and our own as completely as 


* Mr, Madison, in esplanation of his motives and views, 
spoke of the security and extension of our commerce as & 
principal object for which the federal government was 
formed. He urged the tendency of his resolutions to secure 
to us an equitalile share of the carrying trade ; that they 
would enable other nations to enter into competition with 
England for supplying us with manufactures; and in this 
way he insisted that our country could make her enemies 
feel the extent of her power, by depriving those who manu- 
factured for us of their bread. He adverted to the measures 
enforced by a certain nation contrary to our maritime rights, 
and out of the proceeds of the extra impositions proposed, 
he recommended a reimbursement to our citizens of their 
losses arising from those measures. He maintained that if 
the nation cannot protect the rights of its citizens, it ought 
to repay the damage; and that we are bound to obtain 
reparation for the injustice of foreign nations to our citizens, 
or to compensate them ourselves. — Antes" a WorkSy page 24. 



any other ; it is our duty also, for we are the 
depositaries and the guardians of the interests 
of our constituents, which, on every considera- 
tion, ought to be dear to us. I make no doubt 
they are so, and that there is a disposition suf- 
ficiently ardent existing in this body, to co- 
operate in any measures, for the advancement of 
the common good. Indeed, so far as I can 
judge from any knowledge I have of human 
nature, or of the prevailing spirit of public 
transactions, that sort of patriotism which 
makes us wish the general prosperity, when 
our private interest does not happen to stand 
in the way, is no uncommon sentiment. In 
truth, it is very like self-love, and not much 
less prevalent. There is little occasion to ex- 
cite and inflame it. It is, like self-love, more 
apt to want intelligence than zeal. The danger 
is always, that it will rush blindly into embar- 
rassments, which a prudent spirit of inquiry 
might have prevented, but from which it will 
scarcely find means to extricate us. While 
therefore the right, the duty, and the inclina- 
tion to advance the trade and navigation of the 
United States, are acknowledged and felt by us 
aU, the choice of the proper means to that end 
is a matter requiring the most circumspect in- 
quiry, and the most dispassionate judgment. 

After a debate has continued a long time, 
the subject very frequently becomes tiresome 
before it is exhausted. Arguments, however 
solid, urged by different speakers, can scarcely 
fail to render the discussion both complex and 
diffusive. "Without pretending to give to my 
arguments any other merit, I shall aim at sim- 

We hear it declared, that the design of the 
resolutions is to place our trade and navigation 
on a better footing. By better footing, we are 
to understand a more profitable one. Profit is 
a plain word, that cannot be misunderstood. 

We have, to speak in round numbers, twenty 
million dollars of exports annually. To have 
the trade of exports on a good footing, means 
nothing more than to sell them dear ; and con- 
sequently, the trade of import on a good foot- 
ing, is to buy cheap. To put them both on a 
better footing, is to sell dearer and to buy cheap- 
er than we do at present. If the effect of the 
resolutions will be to cause our exports to be 
sold cheaper, and our imports to be bought 
dearer, our trade will sufier an injury. 

It is hard to compute how great the injury 
would prove ; for the first loss of value in the 
buying dear, and selling cheap, is only the 
symptom and beginning of the evil, but by no 
means the measure of it ; it will withdraw a 
great part of the nourishment that now sup- 
plies the wonderful growth of our industry and 
opulence. The difference may not amount to a 
great proportion of the price of the articles, 
but it may reach the greater part of the profit 
of the producer ; it may have effects in this 
way which will be of the worst kind, by dis- 
couraging the products of our land and indus- 
try. It is to this test I propose to bring the 

resolutions on the table ; and if it shall clearly 
appear, that they tend to cause our exports to 
be sold cheaper, and our imports to be bought 
dearer, they cannot escape condemnation. 
Whatever specious show of advantage may be 
given them, they deserve to be called aggrava- 
tions of any real or supposed evils in our com- 
mercial system, and not remedies. 

I have framed this statement of the question 
so as to comprehend the whole subject of de- 
bate, and at the same time, I confess it was my 
design to exclude from consideration a number 
of topics which appear to me totally irrelative 
to it. 

The best answer to many assertions we have 
heard is, to admit them without proof. We 
are exhorted to assert our natural rights ; to 
put trade on a respectable footing ; to dictate 
terms of trade to other nations ; to engage in a 
contest of self-denial, and by that, and by shift- 
ing our commerce from one country to ano- 
ther, to make our enemies feel the extent of our 
power. This language, as it respects the pro- 
per subject of discussion, means nothing, or 
what is worse. If our trade is already on a 
profitable footing, it is on a respectable one. 
Unless war be our object, it is useless to in- 
quire, what are the dispositions of any govern- 
ment, with whose subjects our merchants deal 
to the best advantage. While they will smoke 
our tobacco, and eat our provisions, it is very 
immaterial, both to the consumer and the pro- 
ducer, what are the politics of the two coun- 
tries, excepting so far as their quarrels may dis- 
turb the benefits of their mutual intercourse. 

So far, therefore, as commerce is concerned, 
the inquiry is, have we a good market ? 

The good or bad state of our actual market is 
the question. The actual market is every where 
more or less a restricted one, and the natural 
order of things is displaced by the artificial. 
Most nations, for reasons of which they alone 
are the rightful judges, have regulated and re- 
stricted their intercourse, according to their 
views of safety and profit. We claim for our- 
selves the same right, as the acts in our statute 
book, and the resolutions on the table evince, 
without holding ourselves accountable to any 
other nation whatever. The right, which we 
properly claim, and which we properly exer- 
cise, when we do it prudently and usefully for 
our nation, is as well established, and has been 
longer in use in the countries of whicli we com- 
plain, than in our own. If their right is as 
good as that of Congress, to regulate and re- 
strict, why do we talk of a strenuous exertion 
of our force, and by dictating terms to nations, 
who are fancied to be physically dependent on 
America, to change the policy of nations ? It 
may be very true, that their policy is very wise 
and good for themselves, but not as favorable 
for us as we could make it, if we could legis- 
late for both sides of the Atlantic. 

The extravagant despotism of this language 
accords very ill with our power to give it ef- 
fect, or with the affectation of zeal for an un- 



limited freedom of commerce. Such a state of 
absolute freedom of commerce never did exist, 
and it is very much to be doubted whether it 
ever will. Were I invested with the trust to 
legislate for mankind, it is very probable the 
first act of my authority would be to throw all 
the restrictive and prohibitory laws of trade 
into the fire ; the resolutions on the table would 
not be spared. But if I were to do so, it is 
probable I should have a quarrel on my hands 
with every civilized nation. The Dutch would 
claim the monopoly of the spice trade, for 
which their ancestors passed their whole lives 
in warfare. The Spaniards and Portuguese 
would be no less obstinate. If we calculate 
what colony monopolies have cost in wealth, 
in sufiering, and in crimes, we shall say they 
were dearly purchased. The English would 
plead for their navigation act, not as a source 
of gain, but as an essential means of securing 
their independence. So many interests would 
be disturbed, and so many lost, by a violent 
change from the existing to an unknown order 
of things ; and the mutual relations of nations, 
in respect to their power and wealth, would 
suflfer such a shock, that the idea must be al- 
lowed to be perfectly Utopian and wild. But 
for this country to form the project of changing 
the policy of nations, and to begin the abolition 
of restrictions by restrictions of its own, is 
equally ridiculous and inconsistent. 

Let every nation that is really disposed to 
extend the liberty of commerce, beware of rash 
and hasty schemes of prohibition. In the af- 
fairs of trade, as in most others, we make too 
many laws. "We follow experience too little, 
and the visions of theorists a great deal too 
much. Instead of listening to discourses on 
what the market ought to be, and what the 
schemes, which always promise much on pa- 
per, pretend to make it, let us see what is the 
actual market for our exports and imports. 
This will bring vague as&ertions and san- 
guine opinions to the test of experience. That 
rage for theory and system, which would en- 
tangle even practical truth in the web of the 
brain, is the poison of public discussion. One 
fact is better than two systems. 

The terms on which our exports are received 
in the British market, have been accurately ex- 
amined by a gentleman from South Carolina, 
(Mr. "William L. Smith.) Before his statement 
of facts was made to the committee, it was 
urged, and with no little warmth, that the sys- 
tem of England indicated her inveteracy to- 
wards this country, while that of France, spring- 
ing from disinterested affection, constituted a 
claim for gratitude and self-denying measures 
of retribution. 

Since that statement, however, that romantic 
style, which is so ill adapted to the subject, has 
been changed. "We hear it insinuated, that the 
comparison of the footing of our exports, in the 
markets of France and England, is of no im- 
portance; that it is chiefly our object to see 
how we may assist and extend our commerce. 

This evasion of the force of the statement, or 
rather this indirect admission of its authority, 
establishes it. It wUl not be pretended, that it 
has been shaken during the debate. 

It has been made to appear, beyond contra- 
diction, that the British market for our exports, 
taken in the aggregate, is a good one ; that it is 
better than the French, and better than any we 
have, and for many of our products the only 

The whole amount of our exports to the 
British dominions, in the year ending the 30th 
September, 1790, was nine million two hun- 
dred and forty-six thousand six hundred and 
six dollars. 

But it wUl be more simple and satisfactory to 
confine the inquiry to the articles following : 
breadstuff, tobacco, rice, wood, the produce of 
the fisheries, fish oil, pot and pearl ash, salted 
meats, indigo, live animals, flax seed, naval 
stores, and iron. 

The amount of the beforementioned articles 
exported in that same year to the British do- 
minions, was eight million four hundred and 
fifty-seven thousand one hundred and seventy- 
three dollars. 

"We have heard so much of restriction of in- 
imical and jealous prohibitions to cramp our 
trade, it is natural to scrutinize the British sys- 
tem, with the expectation of finding little be- 
sides the effects of her selfish and angry policy. 

Yet of the great sum of nearly eight millions 
and a half, the amount of the products before- 
mentioned sold in her markets, two articles 
only are dutied by way of restriction. Bread- 
stuff is dutied so high in the market of Great 
Britain as, in times of plenty, to exclude it, and 
this is done from the desire to favor her own 
farmers. The mover of the resolutions justi- 
fied the exclusion of our breadstuff from the 
French "West Indies by their permanent regula- 
tions, because, he said, they were bound to pre- 
fer their own products to those even of the 
United States. It would seem that the same 
apology would do for England in her home 
market. But what will do for the vindication 
of one nation becomes invective against an- 
other. The criminal nation however receives 
our breadstuff in the "West Indies free, and ex- 
cludes other foreign, so as to give our producers 
the monopoly of the supply. This is no merit 
in tlie judgment of the mover of the resolutions, 
because it is a fragment of her old colony sys- 
tem. Notwithstanding the nature of the duties 
on breadstuff !n Great Britain, it has been 
clearly shown that she is' a better customer for 
that article in Europe than her neighbor France. 
The latter, in ordinary times, is a poor customer 
for breadstuff, for the same reason that our own 
country is, because she produces it herself, and 
therefore France permits it to be imported, and 
the United States do the like. Great Britain 
often wants the article, and then she receives 
it ; no country can be expected to buy what it 
does not want. The breadstuff sold in the 
I European dominions of Britain, in the year 



1790, amounted to one million eighty-seven 
thousand eight hundred and forty dollars. 

Whale oil pays the heavy duty of eighteen 
pounds three shillings sterling per ton; yet 
spermaceti oil found a market there to the 
value of eighty-one thousand and forty-eight 

Thus it appears, that of eight millions and a 
half sold to Great Britain and her dominions, 
only the value of one million one hundred and 
sixty-eight thousand dollars was under duty of 
a restrictive nature. The breadstuff is hardly 
to be considered as within the description ; yet, 
to give the argument its full force, what is it ? 
about one-eighth part is restricted. To proceed 
with the residue : 

Indigo to the amount of $478,830 

LiTe animals to the West Indies .... 62,415 

Flax-seed to Great Britain 219,924 

Total $766,169 

These articles are received duty free, which 
is a good foot to the trade. Yet we find, good 
as it is, the bulk of our exports is received on 
even better terms : 

Flour to the British West Indies $853,006 

Grain, 278,505 

Free — ^while other foreign flour and grain are 

Tobacco to Great Britain, 2,754,498 

Ditto to the West Indies, 22,816 

One shilling and three pence sterling, duty ; three 
shillings and sixpence on other foreign tobacco. 
In the West Indies, other foreign tobacco is 

Eice to Great Britain, 773,852 

Seven shillings and four pence per cwt. duty ; 
eight shillings and ten pence on other foreign 

To West Indies, 180,077 

Other foreign rice prohibited. 

Wood to Great Britain, 240,174 

Free — higher duty on other foreign. 

To West Indies, 882,481 

Free — other foreign prohibited. 

Pot and pearl ashes, 747,076 

Free — two shillings and threepence on other 
foreign, equal to ten dollars per ton. 
Naval stores to Great Britain, .... 190,670 
Higher duties on other foreign. 

To West Indies, 6,162 

Free — other foreign prohibited. 

Iron to Great Britain, 81,612 

Free — duties on other foreign. 


Thus it appears that nearly seven-eighths of 
the exports to the British dominions are re- 
ceived on terms of positive favor. Foreigners, 
our rivals in the sale of these articles, are either 
absolutely shut out of their market by prohibi- 
tions, or discouraged in their competition with 
us by higher duties. There is some restriction, 
it is admitted, but there is, to balance it, a 
large amount received duty free; and a half 
goes to the account of privilege and favor. 
This is better than she treats any other foreign 
nation. It is better, indeed, than she treats her 
own subjects, because they are by this means 
deprived of a free and open market. It is bet- 
ter than our footuig with any nation with whom 
we have treaties. It has been demonstratively 
shown, that it is better than the footing on 

which France receives either the like articles, 
or the aggregate of our products. The best 
proof in the world is, that they are not sent to 
France. The merchants will find out the best 
market sooner than we shall. 

The footing of our exports, under the British 
system, is better than that of their exports to 
the United States, under our system. Nay, it 
is better than the freedom of commerce, wliich 
is one of the visions for which our solid pros- 
perity is to be hazarded ; for, suppose we could 
batter down her system of prohibitions and re- 
strictions, it would be gaining a loss ; one-eighth 
is restricted, and more than six-eighths have 
restrictions in their favor. It is as plain as 
figures can make it, that if a state of freedom 
for our exports is at par, the present system 
raises them, in point of privilege, above par. 
To suppose that we can terrify them by these 
resolutions to abolish their restrictions, and at 
the^ same time to maintain in our favor their 
duties, to exclude other foreigners from their 
market, is too absurd to be refuted. 

We have heard that the market of France is 
the great centre of our interests ; we are to look 
to her, and not to England, for advantages, be- 
ing, as the style of theory is, our best customer 
and best friend, showing to our trade particular 
favor and privilege, while England manifests in 
her system such narrow and selfish views. It 
is strange to remark such a pointed refutation 
of assertions and opinions by facts. The amount 
sent to France herself is very trivial. Either 
our merchants are ignorant of the best markets, 
or those which they prefer are the best; and if 
the English markets, in spite of the alleged ill- 
usage, are still preferred to the French, it is a 
proof of the superior advantages of the former 
over the latter. The arguments I have adverted 
to, oblige those who urge them to make a 
greater difierence in favor of the English than 
the true state of facts will warrant. Indeed, if 
they persist in their arguments, they are bound 
to deny their own conclusions. They are 
bound to admit this position : if France re- 
ceives little of such of our products as Great 
Britain takes on terms of privilege and favor, be- 
cause of that favor it allows the value of that fa- 
vored footing. If France takes little of our arti- 
cles, because she does not want them, it shows the 
absurdity of looking to her as the best customer. 

It may be said, and truly, that Great Britain 
regards only her own interest in these argu- 
ments ; so much the better. If it is her interest 
to afford to our commerce more encouragement 
than France gives : if she does this, when she 
is inveterate against us, as it is alleged, and 
when we are indulging an avowed hatred to- 
wards her, and partiality towards France, it 
shows that we have very solid ground to rely 
on. Her interest is, according to this statement, 
stronger than our passions, stronger than her 
own, and is the more to be depended on, as it 
cannot be put to any more trying experiment 
in future. The good will and friendship of 
nations are hoUow foundations to build our 



systems upon. Mutual interest is a bottom of 
rock : the fervor of transient sentiments is not 
better than straw or stubble. Some gentlemen 
have lamented this distrust of any relation be- 
tween nations, except an interested one ; but 
the substitution of any other principle could 
produce little else than the hypocrisy of senti- 
ment, and an instability of affairs. It would 
be relying on what is not stable, instead of 
what is : it would introduce into politics the 
jargon of romance. It is in this sense, and 
this only, that the word favor is used : a state 
of things, so arranged as to produce our profit 
and advantage, though intended by Great Bri- 
tain merely for her own. The disposition of a 
nation is immaterial ; the fact, that we profit 
by their system, cannot be so to this discus- 

The next point is, to consider whether our 
imports are on a good footing, or, in other 
words, whether we are in a situation to buy 
what we have occasion for at a cheap rate. In 
this view, the systems of the commercial na- 
tions are not to be complained of, as all are 
desirous of selling the products of their labor. 
Great Britain is not censured in this respect. 
The objection is rather of the opposite kind, 
that we buy too cheap, and therefore consume 
too much ; and that we take not only as much 
as we can pay for, but to the extent of our 
credit also. There is less freedom of importa- 
tion, however, from the West Indies. In this 
respect, France is more restrictive than Eng- 
land ; for the former allows the exportation to 
us of only rum and molasses, whUe England 
admits that of sugar, coffee, and other principal 
West India products. Yet, even here, when 
the preference seems to be decidedly due to the 
British system, occasion is taken to extol that 
of the French. We are told, that they sell us 
the chief part of the molasses, which is con- 
sumed or manufactured into rum ; and that a 
great and truly important branch, the distillery, 
is kept up by their liberality in furnishing the 
raw material. There is at every step, matter 
to confirm the remark, that nations have fram- 
ed their regulations to suit their own interests, 
not ours. France is a great brandy manufac- 
turer ; she will not admit rum, therefore, even 
from her own islands, because it would sup- 
plant the consumption of brandy. The mo- 
lasses was for that reason, some years ago, of 
no value in her islands, and was not even saved 
in casks. But the demand from our country 
soon raised its value. The policy of England 
has been equally selfish. The molasses is dis- 
tilled in her islands, because she has no manu- 
facture of brandy to suffer by its sale. 

A question remains respecting the state of 
our navigation. If we pay no regard to the 
regulations of foreign nations, and ask, whether 
this valuable branch of our industry and capi- 
tal is in a distressed and sickly state, we shall 
find it is in a strong and flourishing condition. 
If the quantity of shipping was declining, if it 
was unemployed, even at low freight, I should 

say, it must be sustained and encouraged. No 
such thing is asserted. Seamen's wages are 
high, freights are high, and American bottoms 
in full employment. But the complaint is, our 
vessels are not permitted to go to the British 
West Indies. It is even afBrmed, that no civil- 
ized country treats us so ill in that respect. 
Spain and Portugal prohibit the trafiic to their 
possessions, not only in our vessels, but in their 
own, which, according to the style of the reso- 
lutions, is worse treatment than we meet with 
from the British. It is also asserted, and on as 
bad ground, that our vessels are excluded from 
most of the British markets. 

This is not true in any sense. We are ad- 
mitted into the greater number of her ports, in 
our own vessels ; and by far the greater value 
of our exports is sold in British ports, into 
which our vessels are received, not only on a 
good footing, compared with other foreigners, 
but on terms of positive favor, on better terms 
than British vessels are admitted into our own 
ports. We are not subject to the alien duties ; 
and the light money, &c. of one shilling nine 
pence sterling per ton is less than our foreign 
tonnage duty, not to mention the ten per cen- 
tum, on the duties on goods in foreign bot- 

But in the port of London our vessels are 
received free. It is for the unprejudiced mind 
to compare these facts with the assertions we 
have heard so confidently and so feelingly made 
by the mover of the resolutions, that we ai'e 
excluded from most of their ports, and that no 
civilized nation treats our vessels so ill as the 

The tonnage of the vessels, employed be- 
tween Great Britain and her dependencies and 
the United States, is called two hundred and 
twenty thousand ; and the whole of this is 
represented as our just right. The same gen- 
tleman speaks of our natural right to the car- 
riage of our own articles, and that we may and 
ought to insist upon our equitable share. Yet, 
soon after, he uses the language of monopoly, 
and represents the whole carriage of imports 
and exports as the proper object of our efforts, 
and all that others carry as a clear loss to us. 
If an equitable share of the carriage means half, 
we have it already, and more, and our propor- 
tion is rapidly increasing. If any thing is meant 
by the natural right of carriage, one would 
imagine that it belongs to him, whoever he 
may be, who, having bought our produce, and 
made himself the owner, thinks proper to take 
it with him to his own country. It is neither 
our policy nor our design to check the sale of 
our produce. We invite every description of 
purchasers, because we expect to sell dearest, 
when the number and competition of the buy- 
ers is the greatest. For this reason the total 
exclusion of foreigners and their vessels from 
the purchase and carriage of our exports, is an 
advantage, in respect to navigation, which has 
a disadvantage to balance it, in respect to the 
price of produce. It is with this reserve we 



ought to receive the remark, that the carriage 
of our exports should be our object, rather than 
that of our imports. By going with our ves- 
sels into foreign ports we buy our imports in 
the best market. By giving a steady and mo- 
derate encouragement to our own shipping, 
without pretending violently to interrupt the 
course of business, experience will soon estab- 
lish that order of things, which is most benefi- 
cial to the exporter, the importer, and the ship 
owner. The best interest of agriculture is the 
true interest of trade. 

In a trade, mutually beneficial, it is strangely 
absurd to consider the gain of others as our 
loss. Admitting it, however, for argument 
sake, yet it should be noticed, that the loss of 
two hundred and twenty thousand tons of ship- 
ping, is computed according to the apparent 
tonnage. Oar vessels not being allowed to go 
to the British West Indies, their vessels, mak- 
ing frequent voyages, appear in the entries 
over and over again. In the trade to the Eu- 
ropean dominions of Great Britain, the distance 
being greater, our vessels are not so often en- 
tered. Both these circumstances give a false 
show to the amount of British tonnage, com- 
pared with the American. It is, however, very 
pleasing to the mind, to see that our tonnage 
exceeds the British in the European trade. 
For various reasons, some of which will be 
mentioned hereafter, the tonnage in the West 
India trade, is not the proper subject of calcu- 
lation. In the European comparison, we have 
more tonnage in the British than in the French 
commerce ; it is indeed more than four to one. 

The great quantity of British tonnage em- 
ployed in our trade is also, in a great measure, 
owing to the large capitals of their merchants, 
employed in buying and exporting our produc- 
tions. If we would banish the ships, we must 
strike at the root, and banish the capital. And 
this, before we have capital of our own grown 
up to replace it, would be an operation of no 
little violence and injury, to our southern breth- 
ren especially. 

Independently of this circumstance. Great 
Britain is an active and intelligent rival in the 
navigation line. Her ships are dearer, and the 
provisioning of her seamen is perhaps rather 
dearer than ours : on the other hand, the rate 
of interest is lower in England, and so are sea- 
men's wages. It would, he improper, therefore, 
to consider tlie amount of British tonnage in 
our trade, as a proof of a bad state of things, 
arising either from the restrictions of that gov- 
ernment, or the negligence or timidity of this. 
We are to charge it to causes which are more 
connected with the natural competition of capi- 
tal and industry ; causes which, in fact, retard- 
ed the growth of our shipping more, when we 
were colonies and our ships were free, than 
since the adoption of the present government. 

It has been said with emphasis, that the con- 
stitution grew out of the complaints of the na- 
tion respecting commerce, especially that with 
the British dominions. What was then lament- 

ed by our patriots? Feebleness of the public 
councils ; the shadow of union, and scarcely 
the shadow of public credit ; every where de- 
spondence, the pressure of evils, not only great 
but portentous of civil distractions. These 
were the grievances ; and what more was then 
desired than their remedies ? Is it possible to 
survey this prosperous country and to assert 
that they have been delayed ? Trade flourishes 
on our wharves, although it droops in speeches. 
Manufactures have risen under the shade of 
protecting duties, from almost nothing, to such 
a state that we are even told we can depend on 
the domestic supply, if the foreign should cease. 
The fisheries, which we found in decline, are in 
the most vigorous growth : the whale fishery, 
which our allies would have transferred to Dun- 
kirk, now extends over the whole ocean. To 
that hardy race of men, the sea is but a park 
for hunting its monsters; such is their activity, 
the deepest abysses scarcely afford to their prey 
a hiding place. Look around and see how the 
frontier circle widens, how the interior im- 
proves, and let it be repeated that the hopes of 
the people, when they formed this constitution, 
have been frustrated. 

But if it should happen that our prejudices 
prove stronger than our senses ; if it should be 
believed that our farmers and merchants see 
their products and ships and wharves going to 
decay together, and they are ignorant or silent 
on their own ruin ; still the public documents 
would not disclose so alarming a state of our 
affairs. Our imports are obtained so plentifully 
and cheaply, that one of the avowed objects of 
the resolutions is, to make them scarcer and 
dearer. Our exports, so far from languishing, 
have increased two millions of dollars in a 
year. Our navigation is found to be augment- 
ed beyond the most sanguine expectation. We 
hear of the vast advantage tlie English derived 
from the navigation act : and we are asked in 
a tone of accusation, shall we sit still and do 
nothing ? Who is bold enough to say. Congress 
has done nothing for the encouragement of 
American navigation? To counteract the navi- 
gation act, we have laid on British, a higher 
tonnage than our own vessels pay in their 
ports; and what is much more eflectual, we 
have imposed ten per centum on the duties, 
when the dutied articles are borne in foreign 
bottoms. We have also made the coasting 
trade a monopoly to our own vessels. Let 
those who have .asserted that this is nothing, 
compare facts with the regulations which pro- 
duced them. 



Excess of American tonna, 

Amei-icani'lTSg, . 

. 297,4(38 

Foreign,. . . . 



American, 1790, . 

. 847,603 

Foreign, . . . 

. 258,916 


American, 1791, . 

. 803,810 

Foreign, . . . 

. 240,799 


American, 1792, . 
Foreign, . . . 

. 415,330 



Is not this increase of American shipping 
rapid enough ? Many persons say it is too 
rapid, and attracts too much capital for the cir- 
cumstances of the country. I cannot readily 
persuade myself to think so valuable a branch 
of employment thrives too fast. But a steady 
and sure encouragement is more to be relied on 
than violent methods of forcing its growth. It 
is not clear that the quantity of our navigation, 
including our coasting and fishing vessels, is 
less in proportion to those of that nation : in 
that computation we shall probably find that 
we are already more a navigating people than 
the English. 

As this is a growing country, we have the 
most stable ground of dependence on the cor- 
responding growth of our navigation ; and that 
the increasing demand for shipping will rather 
faU to the share of Americans than foreigners, 
is not to be denied. We did expect this from 
the nature of our own laws ; we have been 
confirmed in it by experience ; and we know 
that an American bottom is actually preferred 
to a foreign one. In cases where one partner 
is an American, and another a foreigner, the 
ship is made an American bottom. A fact of 
this kind overthrows a whole theory of reason- 
ing on the necessity of further restrictions. It 
shows that the work of restriction is already 

If we take the aggregate view of our com- 
mercial interests, we shall find much more oc- 
casion for satisfaction, and even exultation, 
than complaint, and none for despondence. It 
would be too bold to say that our condition is 
so eligible there is nothing to be wished. Nei- 
ther the order of nature, nor the allotments of 
Providence, afford perfect content ; and it would 
be absurd to expect in our politics what is de- 
nied in the laws of our being. The nations 
with whom we have intercourse have, without 
exception, more or less restricted their com- 
merce. They have framed their regulations to 
suit their real or fancied interests. The code 
of France is as fuU of restrictions as that of 
England. "We have regulations of our own; 
and they are unlike those of any other coun- 
try. Inasmuch as the interest and circum- 
stances of nations vary so essentially, the pro- 
ject of an exact reciprocity on our part is a 
vision. AVhat we desire is, to have, not an ex- 
act reciprocity, but an intercourse of mutual 
benefit and convenience. 

It has scarcely been so muclj as insinuated 
that the change contemplated wiU be a profit- 
able one ; that it will enable us to sell dearer 
and to buy cheaper : on the contrary, we are 
invited to submit to the hazards and losses of a 
conflict with our customers; to engage djn a 
contest of self-denial. For what — to ootain 
better markets ? No such thing ; but to shut 
up for ever, if possible, the best market we 
have for our exports, and to confine ourselves 
to the dearest and scarcest markets for our im- 
ports. And this is to be done for the benefit 
of trade ; or, as it is sometimes more correctly 

said, for the benefit of France. This language 
is not a little inconsistent and strange from 
those who recommend a non-importation agree- 
ment, and who think we should even renounce 
the sea and devote ourselves to agriculture. 
Thus, to make our trade more free, it is to be 
embarrassed, and violently shifted from one 
country to another, not according to the in- 
terest of the merchants, but the visionary theo- 
ries and capricious rashness of the legislators. 
To make trade better, it is to be made nothing. 

So far as commerce and navigation are re- 
garded, the pretences for this contest are con- 
fined to two. We are not allowed to carry 
manufactured articles to Great Britain, nor any 
products, except of our own growth ; and we 
are not permitted to go with our own vessels 
to the West Indies. The former, which is a 
provision of the navigation act, is of little im- 
portance to our interests, as our trade is chiefly 
a direct one, our shipping not being equal to 
the carrying for other nations ; and our manu- 
factured articles are not furnished in quantities 
for exportation, and if they were. Great Britain- 
would not be a customer. So far, therefore, 
the restriction is rather nominal than real. 

The exclusion of our vessels from the West 
Indies is of more importance. When we pro- 
pose to make an efibrt to force a privilege from 
Great Britain, which she is loth to yield to us, it 
is necessary to compare the value of the object 
with the effort, and above all, to calculate very 
warily the probability of success. A trivial 
thing deserves not a great exertion ; much less 
ought we to stake a very great good in posses- 
sion, for a slight chance of a less good. The 
carriage of one half the exports and imports to 
and from the British West Indies, is the object 
to be contended for. Our whole exports to 
Great Britain are to be hazarded. We sell on 
terms of privilege, and positive favor, as it has 
been abundantly shown, near seven millions to 
the dominions of Great Britain. We are to 
risk the privilege in this great amount — for m 
what? For the freight only of one half the ^ 
British West India trade with the United 
States. It belongs to commercial men to cal- 
culate the entire value of the freight alluded 
to. But it cannot bear much proportion to the 
amount of seven millions. Besides, if we are 
denied the privilege of carrying our articles in 
our vessels to the islands, we are on a footing 
of privilege in the sale of them. We have one 
privilege, if not two. It is readily admitted, 
that it is a desirable thing to have our vessels 
allowed to go to the English islands ; but the 
value of the object has its limits, and we go 
unquestionably beyond them, when we throw 
T!fW whole exports into confusion, and run the 
risk of losing our best markets, for the sake of 
forcing a permission to carry our own products 
to one of those markets; in which, too, it 
should be noticed, we sell much less than we 
do to Great Britain herself. If to this we add, 
that the success of the contest is grounded on 
the sanguine and passionate hypothesis of our 



being able to starve the islanders, which, on 
trial, may prove false, and which our being in- 
volved in the war would overthrow at once, we 
may conclude, without going further into the 
discussion, that prudence forbids our engaging 
in the hazards of a commercial war ; that great 
things should not be staked against such as are 
of much less value ; that what we possess should 
not be risked for what we desire, without great 
odds in our favor ; stLU less, if the chance is in- 
finitely against us. 

If these considerations should fail of their 
effect, it will be necessary to go into an ex- 
amination of the tendency of the system of 
discrimination, to redress and avenge all our 
wrongs, and to realize all our hopes. 

It has been avowed that we are to look to 
France, not to England, for advantages in trade. 
"We are to show our spirit, and to manifest to- 
wards those who are called enemies, the spirit 
of enmity, and towards those we call friends, 
something more than passive good will. We 
are to take active measures to force trade out 
of its accustomed channels, and to shift it by 
such means from England to France. The care 
of the concerns of the French manufacturers 
may be, perhaps, as well left in the hands of 
the convention, as usurped into our own. How- 
ever our zeal might engage us to interpose, our 
duty to our own immediate constituents de- 
mands all our attention. To volunteer it, in 
order to excite competition in one foreign na- 
tion to supplant another, is a very strange busi- 
ness ; and to do it, as it has been irresistibly 
proved it will happen, at the charge and cost 
of our own citizens, is a thing equally beyond 
all justification and all example. What is it 
but to tax our own people for a time, perhaps 
for a long time, in order that the French may 
at last sell as cheap as the English? — cheaper 
they cannot, nor is it so much as pretended. 
The tax will be a loss to us, and the fancied 
tendency of it not a gain to tins country in the 
event, but to France. We shall pay more for 
a time, and in the end pay no less ; for no ob- 
ject but that one nation may receive our mo- 
ney, instead of the other. If this is generous 
towards France, it is not just to America. It 
is sacrificing what we owe to our constituents, 
to what we pretend to feel towards strangers. 
We have indeed heard a very ardent profes- 
sion of gratitude to that nation, and infinite re- 
liance seems to be placed on her readiness to 
sacrifice her interest to ours. The story of this 
generous strife should be left to ornament fic- 
tion. This is not the form nor the occasion to 
discharge our obligations of any sort to any 
foreign nation : it concerns not our feelings but 
our interests ; yet the debate has often soared 
high above the smoke of business into the epic 
region. The market for tobacco, tar, turpen- 
tine and pitch, has become matter of senti- 
ment ; and given occasion alternately to rouse 
our courage and our gratitude. 

If, instead of hexameters, we prefer discuss- 
ing our relation to foreign nations in the com- 

mon language, we shall not find that we are 
bound by treaty to establish a preference in fa- 
vor of the French. The treaty is founded on 
a professed reciprocity, favor for favor. Why 
is the principle of treaty or no treaty made so 
essential, when the favor we are going to give 
is an act of supererogation? It is not expected 
by one of the nations in treaty : for Holland 
has declared in her treaty with us, that such 
preferences are the fruitful source of animosity, 
embarrassment and war. The French have set 
no such example. They discriminate, in their 
late navigation act, not as we are exhorted to 
do, between nations in treaty and not in treaty, 
but between nations at war and not at war with 
them; so that, when peace takes place, Eng- 
land wOl stand, by that act, on the same ground 
with ourselves. If we expect by giving favor 
to get favor in return, it is improper to make a 
law. The business belongs to the executive, in 
whose hands the constitution has placed the 
power of dealing with foreign nations. It is 
singular to negotiate legislatively ; to make by 
a law half a bargain, expecting a French law 
would make the other. The footing of treaty 
or no treaty is different from the ground taken 
by the mover himself in supporting his system. 
He has said, favor for favor is principle : nations 
not in treaty grant favors, those in treaty re- 
strict our trade. Yet the principle of discrim- 
inating in favor of nations in treaty, is not only 
inconsistent with the declared doctrine of the 
mover and with facts, but it is inconsistent Avith 
itself. Nations not in treaty, are so very un- 
equally operated upon by the resolutions, it is 
absurd to refer them to one principle. Spain 
and Portugal have no treaties with us, and are 
not disposed to have. Spain would not accede 
to the treaty of commerce between us and 
France, though she was invited ; Portugal 
would not sign a treaty after it had been dis- 
cussed and signed on our part. They have few 
ships or manufactures, and do not feed their 
colonies from us: of course there is little for 
the discrimination to operate upon. The ope- 
ration on nations in treaty is equally a satire on 
the principle of discrimination. In Sweden, 
with whom we have a treaty, duties rise high- 
er if borne in our bottoms, than in her own. 
France does the like, in respect to tobacco, two 
and a half livres the kentle, which in effect pro- 
hibits our vessels to freight tobacco. The mover 
has, somewhat unluckily, proposed to except 
from this system nations having no navigation 
acts ; in which case, France would become the 
subject of unfriendly discrimination, as the 
House have been informed since the debate 
began, that she has passed such acts. 

I might remark on the disposition of England 
to settle a commercial treaty, and the known 
desire of the Marquis of Lansdown, (then prime 
minister,) in 1783, to form such an one on the 
most liberal principles. The history of that 
business, and the causes which prevented its 
conclusion, ought to be made known to the 
public. The powers given to our ministers 



•were revoked, and yet we hear, that no such 
disposition on the part of Great Britain has 
existed. The declaration of Mr. Pitt in parlia- 
ment, in June, 1792, as well as the correspond- 
ence with Mr. Hammond, shows a desire to 
enter upon a negotiation. The statement of the 
report of the secretary of state, on the privi- 
leges and restrictions of our commerce, that 
Great Britain has shown no inclination to med- 
dle with the subject, seems to be incorrect. 

The expected operation of the resolutions on 
different nations, is obvious, and I need not ex- 
amine their supposed tendency to dispose Great 
Britain to settle an equitable treaty with this 
country ; hut I ask, whether those who hold 
such language towards that nation as I have 
heard, can be supposed to desire a treaty and 
friendly connection. It seems to be thought 
a merit to express hatred : it is common and 
natural to desire to annoy and to crush those 
whom we hate, but it is somewhat singular to 
pretend, that the design of our anger is to em- 
brace them. 

The tendency of angry measures to friendly 
dispositions and arrangements, is not obvious. 
We affect to believe, that we shall quarrel our- 
selves into their good will : that we shall beat 
a new path to peace and friendship with Great 
Britain — one that is grown up with thorns, and 
lined with men-traps and spring-guns. It should 
be called the war path. 

To do justice to the subject, its promised ad- 
vantages should be examined. Exciting the 
competition of the French, is to prove an ad- 
vantage to this country, by opening a new 
market with that nation. This is scarcely in- 
telligible. If it means any thing, it is an ad- 
mission, that their market is not a good one, 
or that they have not taken measures to favor 
our traffic with them. In either case, our sys- 
tem is absurd. The balance of trade is against 
us, and in favor of England. But the resolu- 
tions can only aggravate that evU, for, by com- 
pelling us to buy dearer and sell cheaper, the 
balance will be turned still more against our 
country. Neither is the supply from France 
less the aliment of luxury, than that from Eng- 
land. Their excess of credit is an evU, which 
we pretend to cure by checking the natural 
growth of our own capital, which is the un- 
doubted tendency of restraining trade ; the pro- 
gress of the remedy is thus delayed. If we will 
trade, there must be capital. It is best to have 
it of our own ; if we have it not, we must de- 
pend on credit. "Wealth springs from the profits 
of employment, and the best writers on the 
subject establish it, that employment is in pro- 
portion to the capital that is to excite and re- 
ward it. To strike oft' credit, which is the 
substitute for capital, if it were possible to do 
it, would so far stop employment. Fortunate- 
ly, it is not possible ; the activity of individual 
industry eludes the misjudging power of gov- 
ernments. The resolutions would, in effect, 
increase the demand for credit, as our products 
selling for less in a new market, and our im- 

ports being bought dearer, there would be less 
money and more need of it. Necessity would 
produce credit. Where the laws are strict, it 
wiU soon find its proper level; the uses of 
credit will remain, and the evil wiU disappear. 

But the whole theory of balances of trade, 
of helping it by restraint, and protecting it by 
systems of prohibition and restriction against 
.<breign nations, as well as the remedy for cre- 
dit, are among the exploded dogmas, which are 
equally refuted by the maxims of science and 
the authority of time. Many such topics have 
been advanced, which were known to exist as 
prejudices, but were not expected as arguments. 
It seems to be believed, that the liberty of 
commerce is of some value. Although there 
are restrictions on one side, there will be some 
liberty left : counter restrictions, by diminish- 
ing that liberty, are in their nature aggrava- 
tions and not remedies. We complain of the 
British restrictions as of a millstone : our own 
system will be another ; so that our trade may 
hope to be situated between the upper and the 
nether miUstone. 

On the whole, the resolutions contain two 
great principles — to control trade by law, in- 
stead of leaving it to the better management 
of the merchants ; and the principle of a sump- 
tuary law. To play the tyrant in the counting- 
house, and in directing the private expenses of 
our citizens, are emplojTnents equally unworthy 
of discussion. 

Besides the advantages of the system, we J 
have been called to another view of it, which M 
seems to have less connection with the merits ^ 
of the discussion. The acts of states, and the 
votes of public bodies, before the constitution 
was adopted, and the votes of the House since, 
have been stated as grounds for our assent to 
this measure at this time. To help our own ■ 
trade, to repel any real or supposed attack upon 
it, cannot fail to prepossess the mind : accord- 
ingly, the first feelings of every man yield to 
this proposition. But the sober judgment, on 
the tendency and reasonableness of the inter- 
meddling of government, often does, and prob- 
ably ought still oftener to change our impres- 
sions. On a second view of the question, the 
man, who voted formerly for restrictions, may 
say, much has been done under the new con- 
stitution, and the good effects are yet making 
progress. The necessity of measures of counter 
restriction will appear to him much less urgent, 
and their efficacy, in the present turbulent state 
of Europe, infinitely less to be relied on. Far 
from being inconsistent in his conduct, consist- 
ency will forbid his pressing the experiment of 
his principle under circumstances which baffle 
the hopes of its success. But if so much stress 
is laid on former opinions, in favor of this mea- 
sure, how happens it that there is so little on 
that which now appears against it ? Not one 
merchant has spoken in favor of it in this body ; 
not one navigating or commercial state has 
patronized it. 
It is necessary to consider the dependence of 



the TBritish West India islands on our supplies. 
1 admit, that they cannot draw them so well, 
and so cheap, from any other quarter ; but this 
is not the point. Are they physically depend- 
ent ? Can we starve them — and may we rea- 
sonably expect, thus to dictate to Great Britain 
a free admission of our vessels into her islands ? 
A few details will prove the negative. — Beef 
and pork sent from the now United States to 
the British "West Indies, 1773, fourteen thou- 
sand, nine hundred and ninety-three barrels. 
In the war time, 1780, ditto from England, 
seventeen thousand, seven hundred and ninety- 
five : at the end of the war, 1783, sixteen thou- 
sand, five hundred and twenty-six. Ireland 
exported, on an average of seven years prior 
to 1777, two hundred and fifty thousand bar- 
rels. Salted fish the English take in abundance, 
and prohibit its importation from us. Butter 
and cheese from England and Ireland are but 
lately banished even from our markets. Ex- 
ports from the now United States, 1773 ; horses, 
two thousand, seven hundred and sixty-eight ; 
cattle, one thousand, two hundred and three ; 
sheep and hogs, five thousand, three hundred 
and twenty. Twenty-two years prior to 1791, 
were exported from England to all ports, 
twenty-nine thousand, one hundred and thirty- 
one horses. Ireland, on an average of seven 
years to 1777, exported four thousand and forty 
live stock, exclusive of hogs. The coast of 
Barbary, the Cape de Verds, &c. supply sheep 
and cattle. The islands, since the war, have 
increased their domestic supplies to a great 

The now United States exported about one 
hundred and thirty thousand barrels of flour, 
in 1773, to the West Indies. Ireland, by graz- 
ing less, could supply wheat ; England herself 
usually exports it ; she also imports from Arcli- 
angel. Sicily and the Barbary States furnish 
wheat in abundance. We are deceived, when 
we fancy we can starve foreign countries. 
France is reckoned to consume grain at the 
rate of seven bushels to each soul. Twenty-six 
millions of souls, the quantity one hundred and 
eighty-two millions of bushels. We export, to 
speak in round numbers, five or six millions of 
bushels to all the different countries, which we 
supply ; a trifle this to their wants. Frugality 
is a greater resource. Instead of seven bushels, 
perhaps two could be saved by stinting the 
consumption of the food of cattle, or by the use 
of other food. Two bushels saved to each soul 
is fifty-two millions of bushels, a quantity which 
the whole trading world, perhaps, could not 
furnish. Rice is said to be prohibited by Spain 
and Portugal to favor their own. Brazil could 
supply their rice instead of ours. 

I must warn you of the danger of despising 
Canada and Nova Scotia too much as rivals in 
the West India supply of lumber, especially the 
former. The dependence, the English had 
placed on them some years ago, failed, partly 
because we entered into competition with them 
on very superior terms, and partly because they 

were then in an infant state. They are now 
supposed to have considerably more than dou- 
bled their numbers since the peace; and if, 
instead of having us for competitors for the 
supply as before, we should shut ourselves out 
by refusing our supplies, or being refused entry 
for them, those two colonies would rise from 
the ground ; at least we should do more to 
bring it about than the English ministry have 
been able to do. In 1772, six hundred and 
seventy-nine vessels, the actual tonnage of 
which was one hundred and twenty-eight thou- 
sand, were employed in the West India trade 
from Great Britain. They were supposed, on 
good ground, to be but half freighted to the 
islands ; they might carry lumber, and the 
freight supposed to be deficient would be, at 
forty shillings sterling the ton, one hundred and 
twenty-eight thousand pounds sterling. This 
sum would diminish the extra charge of carry- 
ing lumber to the islands. But is lumber to be 
had ? — Yes, in Germany, and from the Baltic. 
It is even cheaper in Europe than our own : 
besides which, the hard woods, iised in mills, 
are abundant in the islands. 

We are told they can sell their rum only to 
the United States. This concerns not their 
subsistence, but their profit. Examine it, how- 
ever. In 1773, the now United States took 
near three million gallons of rum. The re- 
maining British colonies, Newfoundland, and 
the African coast, have a considerable demand 
for this article. The demand of Ireland is very 
much on the increase. It was, in 1763, five 
hundred and thirty thousand gallons ; 1770, 
one million, five hundred and fifty-eight thou- 
sand gallons ; 1778, one million, seven hundred 
and twenty-nine thousand gallons. 

Thus we see, a total stoppage of the West 
India trade would not starve the islanders. It 
would aflfect us deeply ; we should lose the sale 
of our products, and, of course, not gain the 
carriage in our own vessels ; the object of the 
contest would be no nearer our reach than be- 
fore. Instead, however, of a total stoppage of 
the intercourse, it might happen, that each 
nation prohibiting the vessels of the other, 
some third nation would carry on the traflic in 
its own bottoms. While this measure would 
disarm our system, it would make it recoil upon 
ourselves. It would, in elfect, operate chiefly 
to obstruct the sale of our products. If they 
should remain unsold, it would be so much dead 
loss ; or if the effect should be to raise the price 
on the consumers, it iX^ould either lessen the 
consumption, or raise up rivals in the supply. 
The contest, as it respects the West India trade, 
is in every respect against us. To embarrass 
the supply from the United States, supposing 
the worst as it regards the planters, can do no 
more than enhance the price of sugar, cofiee 
and other products. The French islands are 
now in ruins, and the English planters have an 
increased price and double demand in conse- 
quence. While Great Britain confined the 
colony trade to herself, she gave to the colonists 



in return a monopoly in her consumption of 
"West India articles. The extra expense, arising 
from the severest operation of our system, is 
already provided against, two fold ; like other 
charges on the products of lahor and capital, 
the hurden will fall on the consumer. The 
luxurious and opulent consumer in Europe will 
not regard, and .perhaps will not know, the in- 
crease of price nor the cause of it. The new 
settler, who clears his land and sells the lum- 
bei-, will feel any convulsion in the market 
more sensibly, without being able to sustain it 
at all. It is a contest of wealth against want 
of self-denial, between luxury and daily subsist- 
ence, that we provoke with so much confidence 
of success. A man of experience in the West 
India trade will see this contrast more strongly 
than it is possible to represent it. 

One of the excellences, for which the mea- 
sure is recommended, is, that it will affect our 
-mports. What is offered as an argument, is 
really an objection. Who will supply our 
wants ? Our own manufactures are growing, 
and it is a subject of great satisfaction that they 
are. But it would be wrong to overrate their 
capacity to clothe us. The same number of 
inhabitants require more and more, because 
wealth increases. Add to this the rapid growth 
of our numbers, and perhaps it will be correct 
to estimate the progress of manufactures as 
only keeping pace with that of our increasing 
consumption and population. It follows, that 
we shall continue to demand, in future, to the 
amount of our present importation. It is not 
intended by the resolutions, that we shall im- 
port from England. Holland and the north of 
Europe do not furnish a sufficient variety, or 
sufficient quantity for our consumption. It is 
in vain to look to Spain, Portugal, and the 
Italian States. We are expected to depend 
principally upon France : it is impossible to ex- 
amine the ground of this dependence without 
adverting to the present situation of that coun- 
try. It is a subject upon which I practise no 
disguise ; but I do not think it proper to intro- 
duce the politics of France into this discussion. 
If others can find -in the scenes that pass there, 
or in the principles and agents that direct them, 
proper subjects for amiable names, and sources 
of joy and hope in the prospect, I have nothing 
to say to it : it is an amusement, which it is 
not my intention either to disturb or to partake 
of. I turn from these horrors, to examine the 
condition of France in respect to manufacturing 
capital and industry. .In this point of view, 
whatever political improvements may be hoped 
for, it cannot escape observation, that it pre- 
sents only a wide field of waste and desolation. 
Capital, which used to be food for manufactures, 
is become their fuel. What once nourished 
industry, now lights the fires of civil war, and 
quickens the progress of destruction. France 
is like a ship, with a fine cargo, burning to the 
water's edge ; she may be built upon anew, and 
freighted with another cargo, and it will be 
time enough, when that shall be, to depend on 

a part of it for our supply : at present, an*d for 
many years, she will not be so much a furnisher 
as a consumer. It is therefore obvious, that 
we shall import our supplies either directly or 
indirectly from Great Britain. Any obstruction 
to the importation will raise the price which 
we who consume must bear. 

That part of the argument which rests on the 
supposed distress of the British manufactures, 
in consequence of the loss of our market, is in 
every view unfounded. They would not lose 
the market, in fact, and if they did, we pro- 
digiously exaggerate the importance of our 
consumption to the British workmen. Import- 
ant it doubtless is, but a little attention wUl 
expose the extreme folly of the opinion, that 
they would be brought to our feet by a trial of 
our self-denying spirit. England now supplants 
France in the important Levant trade, in the 
supply of manufactured goods to the East, and, 
in a great measure, to the West Indies, to Spain, 
Portugal, and their dependencies. Her trade 
with Eussia has, of late, vastly increased ; and 
she is treating for a trade with China : so 
that the new demands of English manufactures, 
consequent upon the depression of France as a 
rival, has amounted to much more than the 
whole American importation, which is not 
three millions. 

The ill efiect of a system of restriction and 
prohibition in the West Indies, has been noticed 
already. The privileges allowed to our exports 
to England may be withdrawn, and prohibitory 
or high duties imposed. 

The system before us is a mischief that goes 
to the root of our prosperity. The merchants 
will suffer by the schemes and projects of a 
new theory. Great numbers were ruined by 
the convulsions of 1775. They are an order of 
citizens deserving better of government than 
to be involved in new confusions. It is wrong 
to make our trade wage war for our politics. It 
is now scarcely said that it is a thing to be 
sought for, but a weapon to fight with. To 
gain our approbation to the system, we are told, 
it is to be gradually established. In that case, 
it will be unavailing. It should be begun with 
in all its strength, if we think of starving the 
islands. Drive them suddenly and by surprise 
to extremity, if you would dictate terms; but 
they will prepare against a long expected fail- 
ure of our supplies. 

Our nation will be tired of sufiering loss and 
embarrassment for the French. The struggje, 
so painful to ourselves, so ineffectual against 
England, will be renounced, and we shall sit 
down with shame and loss, with disappointed 
passions and aggravated complaints. War, 
which would then suit our feelings, would not 
suit our weakness. We might, perhaps, find 
some European power willing to make war on 
England, and we might be permitted by a strict 
alliance, to partake the misery and the depend- 
ence of being a subaltern in the quarrel. The 
happiness of this situation seems to be in view, 
when the system before us is avowed to be the 



instrument of avenging our political resent- 
ments. Tliose who affect to dread foreign 
influence, will do_ well to avoid a partner- 
ship in European' jealousies and rivalships. 
Courting the friendship of the one, and pro- 
voking the hatred of the other, is dangerous to 
our real independence ; for it would compel 
America to throw herself into the arms of the 
one for protection against the other. Then 
foreign influence, pernicious as it is, would be 
sought for ; and though it should be shunned, 
it could not be resisted. The connections of 
trade form ties between individuals, and pro- 
duce little control over government. They are 
the ties of peace, and are neither corrupt nor 

We have happily escaped from a state of the 
most imminent danger to our peace : a false 
step would lose all the security for its continu- 
ance, which we owe at this moment to the con- 
duct of the President. What is to save us from 
war ? Not our own power which inspires no 
terror ; not the gentle and forbearing spirit of 
the powers of Europe at this crisis; not the 
weakness of England; not her afiection for 
this country, if we believe the assurances of 
gentlemen on the other side. What is it, then? 
It is the interest of Great Britain to have 
America for a customer rather than an enemy: 
and it is precisely that interest which gentle- 
men are so eager to take away and to transfer 
to France. And what is stranger still, they 
say they rely on that operation as a means of 
producing peace with the Indians and Alge- 
rines. The wounds inflicted on Great Britain 
by our enmity, are expected to excite her to 
supplicate our friendship, and to appease us by 
soothing the animosity of our enemies. What is 
to produce etfects so mystical, so opposite to 
nature, so much exceeding the efficacy of their 
pretended causes? This wonder-working pa- 
per on the table is the weapon of terror and 
destruction. Like the writing on Belshazzar's 
wall, it is to strike parliaments and nations 
with dismay: it is to be stronger than fleets 
against pirates, or than armies against Indians. 
After the examination it has undergone, credu- 
lity itself will laugh at these pretensions. 

We pretend to expect, not by the force of 
our restrictions, but by the mere show of our 
spirit, to level all the fences that have guarded 
for ages the monopoly of the colony trade. The 
repeal of the navigation act of England, which 
is cherished as the palladium of her safety, 
whicli time has rendered venerable, and pros- 
perity endeared to her people, is to be extort- 
ed, from her fears of a weaker nation. It is 
not to be yielded freely, but violently torn from 
her ; and yet the idea of a struggle to prevent 
indignity and loss, is considered as a chimera 
too ridiculous for sober refutation. She will 
not dare, say they, to resent it ; and gentlemen 
have pledged themselves for the success of the 
attempt : what is treated as a phantom, is 
vouched by fact. Her navigation act is known 

to have caused an immediate contest with the 
Dutch, and four desperate sea fights ensued in 
consequence, the very year of its passage. 

How far it is an act of aggression for a neu- 
tral nation to assist the supplies of one neigh- 
bor, and to annoy and distress another, at the 
crisis of a contest between the two, which 
strains their strength to the utmost, is a ques- 
tion which we might not agree in deciding; 
but the tendenciy of such unseasonable partial- 
ity to exasperate the spirit of hostility against 
the intruder, cannot be doubted. The language 
of the French government would not soothe 
this spirit. It proposes, on the sole condition 
of a political connection, to extend to us a part 
of their West India commerce. The coinci- 
dence of our measures with their invitation, 
however singular, needs no comment. Of all 
men, those are least consistent who believe in 
the eflicacy of the regulations, and yet afl:ect to 
ridicule their hostile tendency. In the com- 
mercial conflict, say they, we shall surely pre- 
vail and eifectually humble Great Britain. 

In open war we are the weaker, and shall be 
brought into danger, if not to ruin. It de- 
pends, therefore, according to their own rea- 
soning, on Great Britain herself, whether she 
will persist in a struggle which will disgrace 
and weaken her, or turn it into a war which 
will throw the shame and ruin upon her an- 
tagonist. The topics which furnish arguments 
to show the danger to our peace from the reso- 
lutions, are too fruitful to be exhausted. But 
without pursuing them further, the experience 
of mankind has shown that commercial rival- 
ships, which spring from mutual eflbrts for mo- 
nopoly, have kindled more wars, and wasted 
the earth more, than the spirit of conquest. 

I hope we shall show by our vote that we 
deem it better policy to feed nations than to 
starve them, and that we shall never be so un- 
wise as to put our good customers into a situa- 
tion to be forced to make every exertion to do 
without us. By cherishing the arts of peace, 
we shall acquire, and we are actually acquiring, 
the strength and resources for a war. Instead 
of seeking treaties, we ought to shun them ; for 
the later they shall be formed, the better will 
be the terms : we shall have more to give, and 
more to withhold. We have not yet taken our 
proper rank, nor acquired that consideration, 
which will not be refused us, if we persist in 
prudent and pacific counsels ; if we give time 
for our strength to mature itself. Though 
America is rising with a giant's strength, its 
bones are yet but cartilages. By delaying the 
beginning of a conflict, we insure the victory. 

By voting^out the resolutions, we shall show 
to our own' citizens and foreign nations that 
our prudence has prevailed over our prejudices, 
that we prefer our interests to our resentments. 
Let us assert a genuine independence of spirit ; 
we shall be false to our duty and feelings as 
Americans, if we basely descend to a servile 
dependence on France and Great Britain. 




A Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and JSTaviga- 
tion between the United States and Great Bri- 
tain, was concluded on the nineteenth day of 
November, 1794. Subsequently it was ratified 
by the President. On the second of March, 
1796, the President proclaimed it the law of the 
land, and the same day communicated it to the 
House of Representatives, in order that the 
necessary appropriations might be made to 
carry it into effect. On the twenty-eighth of 
April following, in Committee of the Whole on 
the subjoined resolution : " Eesohed, as the 
opinion of this Committee, that it is expedient 
to pass the laws necessary for carrying into 
eflPect the Treaty with Great Britain ; " Mr. 
Ames spoke thus : 

Mk. Chairman, I entertain the hope, per- 
haps a rash one, that my strength will hold me 
out to speak a few minutes. 

In my judgment, a right decision will depend 
more on the temper and manner, with which 
we may prevail upon ourselves to contemplate 
the subject, than upon the development of any 
profound political principles, or any remark- 
able skill in the application of them. If we 
could succeed to neutralize our inclinations, we 
should find less diflBculty than we have to ap- 
prehend in surmounting all our objections. 

The suggestion, a few days ago, that the 
House manifested symptoms of heat and irrita- 
tion, was made and retorted as if the charge 
ought to create surprise, and would convey re- 
proach. Let us be more just to ourselves, and 
to the occasion. Let us not afiect to deny the 
existence and the intrusion of some portion of 
prejudice and feeling into the debate, when, 
from the very structure of our nature, we 
ought to anticipate the circumstance as a prob- 
ability, and when we are admonished by the 
evidence of our senses that it is the fact. 

How can we make professions for ourselves, 
and ofier exhortations to the House, that no 
influence should be felt but that of duty, and 
no guide respected but that of the understand- 
ing, while the peal to rally every passion of 
man is continually ringing in our ears. 

Our understandings have been addressed, it 
is true, and with ability and effect ; but, I de- 
mand, has any corner of the heart been left 
imexplored? It has been ransacked to find 
auxiliary arguments, and, when that attempt 
failed, to awaken the' sensibilities that would 
require none. Every prejudice and feeling has 
been summoned to listen to some peculiar style 
of address ; and yet we seem to believe, and to 
consider a doubt as an atfront, that we are 
strangers to any influence but that of unbiassed 

It would be strange, that a subject, which 
has roused in turn aU the passions of the coun- 
try, should be discussed without the interfer- 
ence of any of our own. We are men, and 
therefore not exempt from those passions : as 
citizens and representatives, we feel the inter- 
ests that must excite them. The hazard of 
great interests cannot fail to agitate strong pas- 
sions. We are not disinterested ; it is impos- 
sible we should be dispassionate. The warmth 
of such feelings may becloud the judgment, 
and, for a time, pervert the understanding. 
But the public sensibility, and our own, has 
sharpened the spirit of inquiry, and given an 
animation to the debate. The public attention 
has been quickened to mark the progress of the 
discussion, and it? judgment, often hasty and 
erroneous on first impressions, has become solid 
and enlightened at last. Our result will, I hope, 
on that account, be the safer and more mature, 
as well as more accordant with that of the na- 
tion. The only constant agents in political 
affairs are the passions of men. Sliall we com- 
plain of our nature — shall we say that man 
ought to have been made otherwise ? It is 
right already, because he, from whom we de- 
rive our nature, ordained it so ; and because 
thus made and thus acting, the cause of truth 
and the public good is the more surely pro- 

But an attempt has been made to produce an 
influence of a nature more stubborn, and more 
unfriendly to truth. It is very unfairly pre- 
tended, that the constitutional right of this 
House is at stake, and to be asserted and pre- 
served only by a vote in the negative. We 
hear it said, that this is a struggle for liberty, a 
manly resistance against the design to nullify 
this assembly, and to make it a cipher in the 
government : that the President and senate, 
the numerous meetings in the cities, and the 
influence of the general alarm of the country, 
are the agents and instruments of a scheme of 
coercion and terror, to force the treaty down 
our throats, though we loathe it, and in spite 
of the clearest convictions of duty and con- 

It is necessary to pause here and inquire, 
whether suggestions of this kind be not unfair 
in their very texture and fabric, and pernicious 
in all their influences. They oppose an obsta- 
cle La the path of inquiry, not simply discour- 
aging, but absolutely insurmountable. They 
will not yield to argument ; for as they were 
not reasoned up, they cannot be reasoned down. 
They are higher than a Chinese wall in truth's 
way, and built of materials that are indestruc- 
tible. While this remains, it is vain to argue ; 
it is vain to say to this mountain, be thou cast 

* See Hildreth's History of the United States, second se- 
ries, vol. 1, page 539, et seq. 



into the sea. For, I ask of the men of know- 
ledge of the -vrorld, whether they would not 
hold him for a blockhead, that should hope to 
prevail in an argument, whose scope and ob- 
ject is to mortify the self-love of the expected 
proselyte ? I ask further, when such attempts 
have been made, have they not failed of suc- 
cess ? The indignant heart repels a conviction 
that is believed to debase it. 

The self-love of an individual is not warmer 
in its sense, nor more constant in its action, 
than what is called in French, Vesprit du corps, 
or the self-love of an assembly ; that jealous 
affection which a body of men is always found 
to bear towards its own prerogatives and power. 
I will not condemn this passion. "Why should 
we urge an unmeaning censure, or yield ^o 
groundless fears that truth and duty will be 
abandoned, because men in a public assembly 
are still men, and feel that esprit du corps 
which is one of the laws of their nature ? Still 
less should we despond or complain, if we re- 
flect, that this very spirit is a guardian instinct, 
that watches over the life of this assembly. 
It cherishes the principle of self-preservation, 
and without its existence, and its existence 
with all the strength we see it possess, the 
privileges of the representatives of the people, 
and mediately the liberties of the people, would 
not be guarded, as they are, with a vigilance 
that never sleeps, and an unrelaxing constancy 
and courage. 

If the consequences, most unfairly attributed 
to the vote in the aflBrmative, were not chi- 
merical, and worse, for they are deceptive, I 
should think it a reproach to be found even 
moderate in my zeal, to assert the constitutional 
powers of this assembly ; and whenever they 
shall be in real danger, the present occasion 
affords proof, that there will be no want of ad- 
vocates and champions. 

Indeed, so prompt are these feelings, and 
when once roused, so difficult to pacify, that if 
we could prove the alarm was groundless, the 
prejudice against the appropriations may re- 
main on the mind, and it may even pass for an 
act of prudence and duty to negative a measure, 
which was lately believed by ourselves, and 
may hereafter be misconceived by others, to 
encroach upon the powers of the House. Prin- 
ciples that bear a remote affinity with usurpa- 
tion on those powers will be rejected, not 
merely as errors, but as wrongs. Our sensibi- 
lities will shrink from a post, where it is possi- 
ble they may be wounded, and be inflamed by 
the slightest suspicion of an assault. 

While these prepossessions remain, all argu- 
ment is useless. It may be heard with the 
ceremony of attention, and lavish its own re- 
sources, and the patience it wearies, to no 
manner of purpose. The ears may be open, 
but the mind will remain locked up, and every 
pass to tlie understanding guarded. 

Unless, tlierefore, this jealous and repulsive 
fear ftjr the rights of the House can be allayed, 
I wUl not ask a hearinar. 

I cannot press this topic too far; I cannot 
address myself with too much emphasis to the 
magnanimity and candor of those who sit here, 
to suspect their own feelings, and, while they 
do, to examine the grounds of their alarm. I 
repeat it, we must conquer our persuasion, that 
this body has an interest in one side of the 
question more than the other, before we at- 
tempt to surmount our objections. On most 
subjects, and solemn ones too, perhaps in the 
most solemn of all, we form our creed more 
from inclination than evidence. 

Let me expostulate with gentlemen to admit, 
if it be only by way of supposition, and for a 
moment, that it is barely possible they have 
yielded too suddenly to their alarms for the 
powers of this House; that the addresses, 
which have been made with such variety of 
forms, and with so great dexterity in some of 
them, to all that is prejudice and passion in the 
heart, are either the effects or the instruments 
of artifice and deception, and then let them see 
the subject once more in its singleness and 

It will be impossible, on taking a fair review 
of the subject, to justify the passionate appeals 
that have been made to us to struggle for our 
liberties and rights, and the solemn exhortations 
to reject the proposition, said to be concealed 
in that on your table, to surrender them for 
ever. In spite of this mock solemnity, I demand, 
if the House will not concur in the measure to 
execute the treaty, what other course shall we 
take ? How many ways of proceeding lie open 
before us ? 

In the nature of things there are but three ; 
we are either to make the treaty, to observe it, 
or break it. It would be absurd to say we will 
do neither. If I may repeat a phrase already 
so much abused, we are under coercion to do 
one of them, and we have no power, by the 
exercise of our discretion, to prevent the con- 
sequences of a choice. 

By refusing to act, we choose. The treaty 
will be broken and fall to the ground. Where 
is the fitness, then, of replying to those who 
urge upon the House the topics of duty and 
policy, that they attempt to force the treaty 
down, and to compel this assembly to renounce 
its discretion and to degrade itself to the rank 
of a blind and passive instrument in the hands 
of the treaty-making power? In case we reject 
the appropriation, we do not secure any greater 
liberty of action, we gain no safer shelter than 
before from the consequences of the decision. 
Indeed, they are not to be evaded. It is neither 
just nor manly to complain that the treaty- 
making power has produced this coercion to 
act. It is not the art or the despotism of that 
power, it is the nature of things that compels. 
Shall we, dreading to become the blind instru- 
ments of power, yield ourselves the blinder 
dupes of mere sounds of imposture ? Yet that 
word, that empty word, coercion, has given scope 
to an eloquence, that, one would imagine, could 
not be tired, and did not choose to be quieted. 



Let us examine still more in detail the alter- 
natives that are before us, and we shall scarcely 
fail to see, in still stronger lights, the futility of 
our apprehensions for the power and liberty of 
the House. 

If, as some have suggested, the thing called 
a treaty is incomplete, if it has no binding force 
or obligation, the first question is, wUl this 
, House complete the instrument, and, by con- 
curring, impart to it that force which it wants. 

The doctrine has been avowed, that the 
treaty, though formally ratified by the executive 
power of both nations, though published as a 
law for our own by the President's proclama- 
tion, is still a mere proposition submitted to 
this assembly, no way distinguishable in point 
of authority or obligation, from a motion for 
leave to bring in a biU, or any other original 
act of ordinary legislation. This doctrine, so 
novel in our country, yet so dear to many, pre- 
cisely for the reason, that in the contention for 
power, victory is always dear, is obviously 
repugnant to the very terms as well as the fair 
interpretation of our own resolutions — (Mr. 
Blount's.) We declare, that the treaty-making 
power is exclusively vested in the President 
and Senate, and not in this House. Need I say, 
that we fly in the face of that resolution, when 
we pretend, that the acts of that power are 
not valid until we have concurred in them ? It 
would be nonsense, or worse, to use the lan- 
guage of the most glaring contradiction, and to 
claim a share in a power, which we at the 
same time disclaim as exclusively vested in 
other departments. 

What can be more strange than to say, that 
the compacts of the President and Senate with 
foreign nations are treaties, without our agency, 
and yet those compacts want all power and 
obligation, until they are sanctioned by our 
concurrence ? It is not my design in this place, 
if at all, to go into the discussion of this part 
of the subject. I will, at least for the present, 
take it for granted, that this monstrous opinion 
stands in little need of remark, and if it does, 
lies almost out of the reach of refutation. 

But, say those who hide the absurdity under 
the cover of ambiguous phrases, have we no 
discretion ? and if we have, are we not to make 
use of it in judging of the expediency or inex- 
pediency of the treaty ? Our resolution claims 
that privilege, and we cannot surrender it with- 
out equal inconsistency and breach of duty. 

If there be any inconsistency in the case, it 
lies, not in making the appropriations for 
the treaty, but in tlie resolution itself — (Mr. 
Blount's.) Let us examine it more nearly. A 
treaty is a bargain between nations, binding in 
good faith ; and what makes a bargain ? The 
assent of the contracting parties. We allow 
that the treaty power is not in this House; this 
House has no share in contracting, and is not a 
party : of consequence, the President and Sen- 
ate alone may make a treaty that is binding in 
good faith. We claim, however, say the gen- 
tlemen, a right to judge of the expediency of 

treaties ; that is the constitutional province of 
our discretion. Be it so. What follows? 
Treaties, when adjudged by us to be inex- 
pedient, fall to the ground, and the public faith 
is not hurt. This, incredible and extravagant 
as it may seem, is asserted. The amount of it, 
in plainer language, is this — the President and 
Senate are to make national bargains, and this 
House has nothing to do in making them. But 
bad bargains do not bind this House, and, of 
inevitable consequence, do not bind the nation. 
When a national bargain, called a treaty, is 
made, its binding force does not depend upon 
the making, but upon our opinion that it is 
good. As our opinion on the matter can he 
known and declared only by ourselves, when 
sitting in our legislative capacity, the treaty, 
though ratified, and, as we choose to term, it, 
made, is hung up in suspense, till our sense is 
ascertained. We condemn the bargain, and it 
falls, though, as we say, our faith does not. 
We approve a bargain as expedient, and it 
stands firm, and binds the nation. Yet, even 
in this latter case, its force is plainly not 
derived from the ratification by the treaty- 
making power, but from our approbation. 
Who will trace these inferences, and pretend 
that we have no share, .according to the argu- 
ment, in the treaty -making power? These 
opinions, nevertheless, have been advocated 
with infinite zeal and perseverance. Is it pos- 
sible that any man can be hardy enough to 
avow them and their ridiculous consequences? 

Let me hasten to suppose the treaty is con- 
sidered as already made, and then the alterna- 
tive is fairly presented to the mind., whether 
we will observe the treaty or break it. This, 
in fact, is the naked question. 

If we choose to observe it with good faith, 
our course is obvious. Whatever is stipulated 
to be done by the nation, must be complied 
with. Our agency, if it should be requisite, 
cannot be properly refused. And I do not see 
why it is not as obligatory a rule of conduct 
for the legislative as for the courts of law. 

I cannot lose this opportunity to remark, 
that the coercion, so much dreaded and de- 
claimed against, appears at length to be no 
more than the authority of principles, the des- 
potism of duty. Gentlemen complain we are 
forced to act in this way, we are forced to 
swallow the treaty. It is very true, unless we 
claim the liberty of abuse, the right to act as 
we ought not. There is but one right way 
open for us, the laws of morality and good faith 
have fenced up every other. What sort of 
liberty is that, which we presume to exercise 
against the authority of those laws ? It is for 
tyrants to complain, that principles are re- 
straints, and that they have no liberty, so long 
as their despotism has limits. These principles 
will be unfolded by examining the remaining 
question : 


The treaty is bad, fatally bad, is the cry. It 



sacrifices the interest, the honor, the independ- 
ence of the United States, and the faith of our 
engagements to France. If we listen to the 
clamor of party intemperance, the evils are of 
a number not to be counted, and of a nature 
not to be borne, even in idea. The language of 
passion and exaggeration may silence that of 
sober reason in other places, it has not done it 
here. The question here is, whether the treaty 
be really so very fatal as to oblige the nation 
to break its faith. I admit that such a treaty 
ought not to be executed. I admit that self- 
preservation is the first law of society, as well 
as of individuals. It would, perhaps, be deemed 
an abuse of terms to call that a treaty, which 
violates such a principle. I wave also, for the 
present, any inquiry, what departments shall 
represent the nation, and annul the stipulations 
of a treaty. I content myself with pursuing 
the inquiry, whether the nature of this compact 
he such as to justify our refusal to carry it into 
eflfect. A treaty is the' promise of a nation. 
Now, promises do not always bind him that 
makes them. 

But I lay down two rules, which ought to 
guide us in this case. The treaty must appear 
to be bad, not merely in the petty details, but 
in its character, principle and mass. And in 
the next place, this ought to be ascertained by 
the decided and general concurrence of the en- 
lightened public. I confess there seems to me 
something very like ridicule thrown over the 
debate by the discussion of the articles in detail. 

The undecided point is, shall we break our 
faith ? And whOe our country and enlightened 
Europe await the issue with more than curiosity, 
we are employed to gather peacemeal, and 
article by article, from the instrument, a justi- 
fication for the deed by trivial calculations of 
commercial profit and loss. This is little worthy 
of the subject, of this body, or of the nation. 
If the treaty is bad, it will appear to be so in 
its mass. Evil to a fatal extreme, if that be its 
tendency, requires no proof; it brings it. Ex- 
tremes speak for themselves and make their 
own law. What if the direct voyage of Ame- 
rican ships to Jamaica with horses or lumber, 
might net one or two per centum more than the 
present trade to Surinam ; would the proof of 
the fact avail any thing in so grave a question 
as the violation of the public engagements ? 

It is in vain to allege, that our faith, plighted 
to France, is violated by this new treaty. Our 
prior treaties are expressly saved from the ope- 
ration of the British treaty. And what do 
those mean who say, that our honor was for- 
feited by treating at all, and especially by such 
a treaty? Justice, the laws and practice of 
nations, a just regard for peace as a duty to 
mankind, and the known wish of our citizens, 
as well as that self-respect \vhich required it of 
the nation to act with dignity and moderation, 
all these forbade an appeal to arms, before we 
had tried the etFect of negotiation. The honor 
of the United States was saved, not forfeited, 
by treating. The treaty itself, by its stipula- 

tions for the posts, for indemnity, and for a duo 
observation of our neutral rights, has justly 
raised the character of the nation. Never did 
the name of America appear in Europe with 
more lustre than upon the event of ratifying 
this instrument. The fact is of a nature to 
overcome all contradiction. 

But the independence of the country — we 
are colonists again. This is the cry of the very 
men who tell us, that France will resent our 
exercise of the rights of an independent nation 
to adjust our wrongs with an aggressor, with- 
out giving her the opportunity to say, those 
wrongs shall subsist and shall not be adjusted. 
This is an admirable specimen of the spirit of 
independence. The treaty with Great Britain, 
it cannot be denied, is unfavorable to this 
strange sort of independence. 

Few men of any reputation for sense, among 
those who say the treaty is bad, will put that 
reputation so much at hazard as to pretend that 
it is so extremely bad as to warrant and require 
a violation of the public faith. The proper 
ground of the controversy, therefore, is really 
unoccupied by the opposers 6f the treaty ; as 
the very hinge of the debate is on the point, 
not of its being good or otherwise, but whether 
it is intolerably and fatally pernicious. If loose 
and ignorant declaimers have any where as- 
serted the latter idea, it is too extravagant, and 
too solidly refuted, to be repeated here. In- 
stead of any attempt to expose it still further, 
I sviU say, and I appeal with confidence to the 
candor of many opposers of the treaty to ac- 
knowledge, that if it had been permitted to go 
into operation silently, like our other treaties, 
so little alteration of any sort would be made 
by it in the great mass of our commercial and 
agricultural concerns, that it would not- be gen- 
erally discovered by its effects to be in force, 
during the term for which it was contracted. 
I place considerable reliance on the weight 
men of candor will give to this remark, because 
I believe it to be true, and little short of unde- 
niable. "When the panic dread of the treaty 
shall cease, as it certainly must, it will be seen 
through another medium. Those, who shall 
make search into the articles for the cause of 
their alarms, wiU be so far from finding stipu- 
lations that will operate fatally, they will dis- 
cover few of them that will have any lasting 
operation at all. Those, which relate to the 
disputes between the two countries, will spend 
their force on the subjects in dispute, and ex- 
tinguish them. The commercial articles are 
more of a nature to confirm the existing state 
of things, than to change it. The treaty alarm 
was purely an address to the imagination and 
prejudices of the citizens, and not on that ac- 
count the less formidable. Objections that 
proceed upon error, in fact or calculation, may 
be traced and exposed ; but such as are drawn 
from the imagination or addressed to it, elude 
definition, and return to domineer over the 
mind, after having been banished from it by 



I will not so far abuse the momentary strength 
that is lent to me by the zeal of the occasion, 
as to enlarge upon the commercial operation 
of the treaty. I proceed to the second propo- 
sition, which I have stated as indispensably 
requisite to a refusal of the performance of a 
treaty — will the state of public opinion justify 
the deed ? 

No government, not even a despotism, will 
break its faith without some pretext, and it 
must be plausible, it must be such as will carry 
the public opinion along with it. Eeasons of 
policy, if not of morality, dissuade even Turkey 
and Algiers from breaches of treaty in mere 
wantonness of perfidy, in open contempt of the 
reproaches of their subjects. Surely, a popular 
government will not proceed more arbitrarily, 
as it is more free ; nor with less shame or scru- 
ple in proportion as it has better morals. It 
wiU not proceed against the faith of treaties at 
all, unless the strong and decided sense of the 
nation shall pronounce, not simply that the 
treaty is not advantageous, but that it ought to 
be broken and gnnuUed. Such a plain mani- 
festation of the sense of the citizens is indis- 
pensably requisite ; first, because if the popular 
apprehensions be not an infallible criterion of 
the disadvantages of the instrument, their ac- 
qiescence in the operation of it is an irrefraga- 
ble proof, that the extreme case does not exist, 
which alone could justify our setting it aside. 

* In the next place, this approving opinion of 
the citizens is requisite, as the best preventive 
of the ill consequences of a measure always so 
delicate, and often so hazardous. Individuals 
would, in that case at least, attempt to repel 
the opprobrium that would be thrown upon 
Congress by those who will charge it with per- 
fidy. They would give weight to the testimony 
of facts, and the authority of principles, on 
which the government would rest its vindica- 
tion. And if war should ensue upon the viola- 
tion, our citizens would not be divided from 
their government, nor the ardor of their cour- 
age be chilled by the consciousness of injustice, 
and the sense of humiliation, that sense which 
makes those despicable who know they are 

I add a third reason, and with me it has a 
force that no words of mine can augment, that 
a government, wantonly refusing to fulfil its en- 
gagements, is the corrupter of its citizens. Will 
the laws continue to prevail in the hearts of the 
people, when the respect that gives them effi- 
cacy is Avithdrawn from the legislators ? How 
shall we punish vice while we practise it ? We 
have not force, and vain will be our reliance, 
when we have forfeited the resources of opin- 
ion. To weaken government and to corrupt 
morals are effects of a breach of faith not to be 
prevented ; and from effects they become 
causes, producing, with augmented activity, 
more disorder and more corruption ; order will 
be disturbed and the life of the public liberty 

And who, I would inquire, is hardy enough 

to pretend, that the public voice demands the 
violation of the treaty ? The evidence of the 
sense of the great mass of the nation is often 
equivocal ; but when was it ever manifested 
with more energy and precision than at the 
present moment ? The voice of the people is 
raised against the measure of refusing the ap- 
propriations. If gentlemen should urge, never- 
theless, that all this sound of alarm is a coun- 
ferfeit expression of the sense of the public, I 
will proceed to other proofs. If the treaty is 
ruinous to our commerce, what has blinded the 
eyes of the merchants and traders ? Surely they 
are not enemies to trade, or ignorant of thfeir 
own interests. Their sense is not so liable to 
be mistaken as that of a nation, and they are 
almost unanimous. The articles, stipulating 
the redress of our injuries by captures on the 
sea, are said to be delusive. By whom is this 
said ? The very men, whose fortunes are staked 
upon the competency of that redress, say no 
such thing. They wait with anxious fear lest 
you should annul that compact on which aU 
their hopes are rested. 

Thus we offer proof, little short of absolute 
demonstration, that the voice of our country is 
raised not to sanction, but to deprecate the 
non-performance of our engagements. It is 
not the nation, it is one, and but one branch of 
the government that proposes to reject them. 
With this aspect of things, to reject is an act 
of desperation. 

I shall be asked, why a treaty so good in 
some articles, and so harmless in others, has 
met with such unrelenting opposition ; and how 
the clamors against it from New Hampshire to 
Georgia, can be accounted for? The appre- 
hensions so extensively difiused, on its first 
publication, will be vouched as proof, that the 
treaty is bad, and that the people hold it in 

I am not embarrassed to find the answer to 
this insinuation. Certainly a foresight of its 
pernicious operation, could not have created 
all the fears that were felt or affected. The 
alarm spread faster than the publication of the 
treaty. There were more critics than readers. 
Besides, as the subject was examined, th«se 
fears have subsided. 

The movements of passion are quicker than 
those of the understanding. We are to search 
for the causes of first impressions, not in the 
articles of this obnoxious and misrepresented 
instrument, but in the stated of the public 

The fervor of the revolutionary war had not 
entirely cooled, nor its controversies ceased, 
before the sensibilities of our citizens were 
quickened with a tenfold vivacity, by a new 
and extraordinary subject of irritation. One of 
the two great nations of Europe underwent a 
change which has attracted all our wonder, 
and interested all our sympathies. Whatever 
they did, the zeal of many went with them, 
and often went to excess. These impressions 
met with much to inflame, and nothing to re- 



strain them. In our newspapers, in our feasts, 
and some of our elections, enthusiasm was ad- 
mitted a merit, a test of patriotism, and that 
made it contagious. In the opinion of party, 
we could not love or hate enough. I dare say, 
in spite of all the obloquy it may provoke, we 
were extravagant in both. It is my right to 
avow that passions so impetuous, enthusiasm 
so wild, could not subsist without disturbing 
the sober exercise of reason, without putting at 
risk the peace and precious interests of our 
country. They were hazarded. I will not ex- 
haust the little breath I have left, to say how 
much, nor by whom, or by what means they 
were rescued from the .sacrifice. Shall I be 
called upon to offer my proofs ? They are here, 
they are every where. No one has forgotten 
the proceedings of 1794.* No one has forgotten 
the captures of our vessels, and the imminent 
danger of war. The nation thirsted not merely 
for reparation, but vengeance. Suffering such 
Wrongs, and agitated by such resentments, was 
it in the power of any words of compact, or 
could any parchment with its seals prevail at 
once to tranquillize the people ? It was im- 
possible. Treaties in England are seldom pop- 
ular, and least of all when the stipulations of 
amity succeed to the bitterness of hatred. 
Even the best treaty, though nothing be re- 
fused, will choke resentment, but not satisfy it. 

* Soon after France declared war against England, citizen 
Genet (whose civism had assisted the revolution that had 
just been effected at Geneva), was despatched to the United 
States for the purpose, as appears by his instructions, of en- 
gaging them to take part in the war, and in case the govern- 
ment, from motives of prudence and a desire to remain in 
peace, could not be enlisted, the people were to be stirred 
up, and by a revolutionary process, plunged into a contest 
which has done more injury to the morals and happiness of 
nations than all the wars of the last century. 

Citizen Genet, perceiving that the success of this mission 
could only be expected from a revolutionary movement of 
the people, commenced his operations at the place of his 
landing, and by his own agency and that of his partisans, 
every popular passion was inflamed, and every convenient 
means employed through all the States, to produce distrust 
and confusion among our citizens, and a disorganization of 
our government. During this disgraceful contest between 
this foreign agent and our executive, the public opinion for 
a time hung doubtful and undecided— to the honor of our 
country, virtue and good sense ultimately triumphed over 
this incendiary. 

The revolutionary labors of Citizen Genet were performed 
In the spring and summer of 1793 ; his instructions were 
probably early known in England, and the spirit and hostility 
towards that country, which during this season appeared 
throughout the United States, together with the numerous 
equipments in our ports of privateers under French commis- 
sions, must naturally have produced an opinion in the 
British Cabinet, that the United States would ultimately en- 
gage in the war on the side of France. The orders of the 
sixth of November, and the speech of Lord Dorchester to 
the Indians, are more satisfactorily accounted for by suppos- 
ing the existence of this opinion in England, than by the ex- 
tiavagant supposition that has been so often made, that they 
meditated war against the United States because our citizens 
were free and our government a republic. 

Every treaty is as sure to disappoint extrav- 
agant expectations as to disarm extravagant 
passions. Of the latter, hatred is one that 
takes no bribes. They who are animated by 
the spirit of revenge, will not be quieted by the 
possibility of profit. 

Why do they complain, that the West Indies 
are not laid open ? Why do they lament, that 
any restriction is stipulated on the commerce 
of the East Indies? Why do they pretend, 
that if they reject this, and insist upon more, 
more will be accomplished? Let us be explicit 
— more would not satisfy. If all was granted, 
would not a treaty of amity with Great Britain 
still be obnoxious ? Have We not this instant 
heard it urged against our envoy, that he was 
not ardent enough in his hatred of Great Bri- 
tain ? A treaty of amity is condemned because 
it was not made by a foe, and in the spirit of 
one. The same gentleman, at the same Instant, 
repeats a very prevailing objection, that no 
treaty should be made with the enemy of 
France. No treaty, exclaim others, should be 
made with a monarch or a despot : there will 
be no naval security while those sea-robbers 
domineer on the ocean : their den must be 
destroyed : that nation must be extirpated. 

I like this, sir, because it is sincerity. With 
feelings such as these, we do not pant for 
treaties. Such passions seek nothing, and will 
be content with nothing, but the destruction of 
their object. If a treaty left king George his 
island, it would not answer ; not if he stipulated 
to pay rent for it. It has been said, the world 
ought to rejoice if Britain was sunk in the sea; 
if where there are now men and wealth and 
laws and liberty, there was no more than a 
sand bank for the sea-monsters to fatten on ; a 
space for the storms of the ocean to mingle in 

I object nothing to the good sense or human- 
ity of all this. I yield the point, that this is a 
proof that the age of reason is in progress. Let 
it be philanthropy, let it be patriotism, if you 
will, but it is no indication that any treaty 
would be approved. The difficulty is not to 
overcome the objections to the terms ; it is to 
restrain the repugnance to any stipulations of 
amity with the party. 

Having alluded to the rival of Great Britain, 
I am not un willing to explain myself; I affect 
no concealment, and I have practised none. 
While those two great nations agitate all Europe 
with their quarrels, they wiU both equally de- 
sire, and with any chance of success, equally 
endeavor to create an influence in America. 
Each wiU exert all its arts to range our strength 
on its own side. How is this to be effected ? 
Our government is a democratical republic. It 
will not be disposed to pursue a system of poli- 
tics, in subservience to either France or Eng- 
land, -in opposition to the general wishes of 
the citizens: and, if Congress should adopt 
such measures, they would not be pursued long, 
nor with much success. From the nature of 
our government, popularity is the instrument 



of foreign influence. "Without it, all is labor 
and disappointment. Witli that mighty auxi- 
liary, foreign intrigue finds agents, not only 
volunteers, but competitors for employment, 
and any thing like reluctance is understood to 
be a crime. Has Britain this means of influ- 
ence? Certainly not. If her gold could buy 
adherents, their becoming such would deprive 
them of all political power and importance. 
They would not wield popularity as a weapon, 
but would fall under it. Britain has no influ- 
ence, and for the reasons just given can have 
none. She has enough ; and God forbid she 
ever should have more. France, possessed of 
popular enthusiasm, of party attachments, has 
had, and still has too much influence on our 
politics — any foreign influence is too much, and 
ought to be destroyed. I detest the man and 
disdain the spirit, that can bend to a mean sub- 
serviency to the views of any nation. It is 
enough to be Americans. That character com- 
prehends our duties, and ought to engross our 

But I would not be misunderstood. I would 
not break the alliance with France ; I would 
not have the connection between the two coun- 
tries even a cold one. It should be cordial and 
sincere ; but I would banish that influence, 
which, by acting on the passions of the citizens, 
may acquire a power over the government. 

It is no bad proof of the merit of the treaty, 
that, under all these unfavorable circumstances, 
it should be so well approved. In spite of first 
impressions, in spite of misrepresentation and 
party clamor, inquiry has multiplied its advo- 
cates ; and at last the public sentiment appears 
to me clearly preponderating to its side. 

On the most careful review of the several 
branches of the treaty, those which respect 
political arrangements, the spoliations on our 
trade, and the regulation of commerce, there is 
little to be apprehended. The evil, aggravated 
as it is by party, is little in degree, and short in 
duration ; two years from the end of the Euro- 
pean war. I ask, and I would ask the question 
significantly, what are the inducements to 
reject the treaty? What great object is to be 
gained, and fairly gained by it ? If, however, 
as to the merits of the treaty, candor should 
suspend its approbation, what is there to hold 
patriotism a moment in balance, as to the vio- 
lation of it? Nothing; I repeat confidently, 
nothing. There is nothing before us in that 
event but confusion and dishonor. 

But before I attempt to develope those con- 
sequences, I must put myself at ease by some 

Nothing is worse received among men than 
the confutation of their opinions; and, of these, 
none are more dear or more vulnerable than 
their political opinions. To say that a proposi- 
tion leads to shame and ruin, is almost equiva- 
lent to a charge that the supporters of it intend 
to produce them. I throw myself upon the 
magnanimity and candor of those who hear 
me. I cannot do justice to my subject without 

exposing, as forcibly as I can, all the evils in 
prospect. I readily admit, that in evety science, 
and most of all in politics, error springs from 
other sources than the want of sense or in- 
tegrity. I despise indiscriminate professions of 
candor and respect. There are individuals op- 
posed to me of whom I am not bound to say 
any thing. But of many, perhaps of a majority 
of the opposers of the appropriations, it gives 
me pleasure to declare, they possess my confi- 
dence and regard. There are among them 
individuals for whom I entertain a cordial 

The consequences of refusing to make provi- 
sion for the treaty are not all to be foreseen. 
By rejecting, vast interests are committed to 
the sport c f the winds. Chance becomes the 
arbiter of events, and it is forbidden to human 
foresight to count their number, or measure 
their extent. Before we resolve to leap into 
this abyss, so dark and so profound, it becomes 
us to pause and reflect upon such of the dan- 
gers as are obvious and inevitable. If this as- 
sembly should be wrought into a temper to 
defy these consequences, it is vain, it is decep- 
tive, to pretend that we can escape them. It 
is worse than weakness to say, that as to public 
faith our vote has already settled the question. 
Another tribunal than our own is already erect- 
ed. The public opinion, not merely of our own 
country, but of the enlightened world, will pro- 
nounce a judgment that we cannot resist, that 
we dare not even afiiect to despise. 

Well may I urge it to men who know the 
worth of character, that it is no trivial calamity 
to have it contested. Eefusing to do what the 
treaty stipulates shall be done, opens the con- 
troversy. Even if we should stand justified at 
last, a character that is vindicated is something 
worse than it stood before, unquestioned and 
unquestionable. Like the plaintifi' in an action 
of slander, we recover a reputation disfigured 
by invective, and even tarnished by too much 
handling. In the combat for the hontt- of the 
nation it may receive some wounds, which, 
though they should heal, will leave scars. I 
need not say, for surely the feelings of every 
bosom have anticipated, that we cannot guard 
this sense of national honor, this everlasting 
fire which alone keeps patriotism warm in the 
heart, with a sensibility too vigilant and 

If, by executing the treaty, there is no possi- 
bility of dishonor, and if, by rejecting, there is 
some foundation for doubt and for reproach, it 
is not for me to measure, it is for your own 
feelings to estimate the vast distance that di- 
vides the one side of the alternative from the 

If, therefore, we should enter on the exami- 
nation of the question of duty and obligation 
with some feelings of prepossession, I do not 
hesitate to say, they are such as we ought to 
have : it is an after inquiry to determine 
whether they are such as ought finally to be 



The resolution (Mr. Blount's*) is less explicit 
than the constitution. Its patrons should have 
made it more so, if possible, if they had any 
doubts, or meant the public should entertain 
none. Is it the sense of that vote, as some 
have insinuated, that we claim a right, for any 
cause or no cause at all but our own sovereign 
will and pleasure, to refuse to execute, and 
thereby to annul the stipulations of a treaty — 
that we have nothing to regard but the expe- 
diency or inexpediency of the measure, being 
absolutely free from all obligation by compact 
to give it our sanction? A' doctrine so mon- 
strous, so sHameless, is refuted by being avow- 
ed. There are no words you could express it 
in, that would not convey both confutation and 
reproach. It would outrage the ignorance of 
the tenth century to believe, it would baffle the 
casuistry of a papal council to vindicate. I 
venture to say it is impossible : no less impos- 
sible than that we should desire to assert the 
scandalous privilege of being free after we have 
pledged our 'honor. 

It is doing injustice to the resolution of the 
House. Cwhich I dislike on many accounts) to 
strain the interpretation of it to this extrava- 
gance. The treaty-making power is declared 
by it to be vested exclusively in the President 
and Senate. Will any man in his senses affirm 
that it can be a treaty before it has any binding 
force or obligation ? If it has no binding force 
upon us, it has none upon Great Britain. Let 
candor answer, is Great Britain free from any 
obligation to deliver the posts in June, and are 
we willing to signify to her that we think so ? 
Is it with that nation a question of mere expe- 
diency or inexpediency to do it, and that, too, 
even after we have done all that depends upon 
us to give the treaty effect ? No sober man be- 
lieves this. No one, who would not join in 
condemning the faithless proceedings of that 
nation, if such a doctrine should be avowed 
and carried into practice — and why complain, 
if Great Britain is not bound ? There can be 

* The following are the resolutions moved by Mr. Blount, 
of North Carolina, to which Mr. Ames refers: Resolved, 
That it being declared by the second section of the second 
article of the constitutioB, " that the President shall have 
power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to 
make treaties, provided two-thirds of the senators present 
concur," the House of Eepresentatives do not claim any 
agency in making treaties ; but that when a treaty stipulates 
regulations on any of the subjects submitted by the consti- 
tution to the power of Congress, it must depend for its ex- 
ecution, as to such stipulations, on a law or laws to be passed 
by Congress, and it is the constitutional right and duty of 
the House of Eepresentatives, in all such cases, to deliberate 
on the expediency or inexpediency of carrying such treaty 
into effect, and to determine and act thereon, as in their 
judgment may be most conducive to the public good. 

Resolved, That it is not necessary to the propriety of any 
application from this House to the Executive for information 
desired by them, and which may relate to any constitutional 
functions of the House, that the purposes for which such in- 
formation may be wanted, or to which the same may be ap- 
plied, should be stated in tho application. 

no breach of faith where none is plighted. I 
shall be told that she is bound. Surely it fol- 
lows, that if she is bound to performance, our 
nation is under a similar obligation; if both 
parties be not obliged, neither is obliged, it is 
no compact, no treaty. This is a dictate of law 
and common sense, and every jury in the coun- 
try has sanctioned it on oath. 

It cannot be a treaty and yet no treaty, a 
bargain, yet no promise ; if it is a promise, I am 
not to read a lecture to show why an honest 
man will keep his promise. 

The reason of the thing, and the words of 
the resolution of the House, imply that the 
United States engage their good faith in a 
treaty. We disclaim, say the majority, the 
treaty-making power; we of course disclaim 
(they ought to say) every doctrine that would 
put a negative upon the doings of that power. 
It is the prerogative of folly alone to maintain 
both sides of a proposition. 

Will any man affirm the American nation is 
engaged by good faith to the British nation ; 
but that engagement is nothing to this House ? 
Such a man is not to be reasoned with. Such 
a doctrine is a coat of mail, that would turn 
the edge of all the weapons of argument, if 
they were sharper than a sword. Will it be 
imagined the King of Great Britain and the 
President are mutually bound by the treaty, 
but the two nations are free ? 

It is one thing for this House to stand in a 
position that presents an opportunity to break 
the faith of America, and another to establish 
a principle that will justify the deed. 

We feel less repugnance to believe that any 
other body is bound by obligation than our 
own. There is not a man here who does not 
say that Great Britain is bound by treaty. 
Bring it nearer home. Is the Senate bound? 
Just as much as the House, and no more. Sup- 
pose the Senate, as part of the treaty power, 
by ratifying a treaty on Monday, pledges the 
public faith to do a certain act. Then, in their 
ordinary capacity as a branch of the legisla- 
ture, the Senate is called upon on Tuesday to 
perform that act, for example, an appropria- 
tion of money — is the Senate (so lately under 
obligation) now free to agree or disagree to the 
act? If the twenty ratifying senators should 
rise up and avow these principles, saying, we 
struggle for liberty, we will not be ciphers, 
mere puppets, and give. their votes accordingly, 
would not shame blister their tongues, would 
not infamy tingle in their ears — would not 
their country, which they had insulted and dis- 
honored, though it should be silent and forgiv- 
ing, be a revolutionary tribunal, a rack on 
which their own reflections would stretch 

This, sir, is a cause that would be dishonored 
and betrayed, if I contented myself with ap- 
pealing only to the understanding. It is too 
cold, and its processes are too slow for the oc- 
casion. I desire to thank God, that since he 
has given me an intellect so fallible, he has im- 



pressed upon me an instinct that is sure. On 
a question of shame and honor, reasoning is 
sometimes useless, and worse. I feel the de- 
cision in my pulse — if it throws no light upon 
the brain, it kindles a fire at the heart. 

It is not easy to deny, it is impossible to 
doubt, that a treaty imposes an obligation on 
the American nation. It would be childish to 
consider the President and Senate obliged, and 
the nation and the House free. What is the obli- 
gation — perfect or imperfect ? If perfect, the de- 
bate is brought to a conclusion. If imperfect, 
how large a part of our faith is pawned ? Is half 
our honor put at risk, and is that half too cheap 
to be redeemed ? How long has this hair-split- 
ting subdivision of good faith been discovered, 
and why has it escaped the researches of the 
writers on the law of nations ? Shall we add 
a new chapter to that law, or insert this doc- 
trine as a supplement to, or more properly a 
repeal of the ten commandments ? 

The principles and the example of the British 
Parliament have been alleged to coincide with 
the doctrine of those who deny the obligation 
of the treaty. I have not had the health to 
make very laborious researches into this sub- 
ject. I will, however, sketch my view of it. 
Several instances have been noticed, but the 
treaty of Utrecht is the only one that seems to 
be at all applicable. It has been answered, 
that the conduct of Parliament in that cele- 
brated example, affords no sanction to our re- 
fusal to carry the treaty into effect. The obli- 
gation of the treaty of Utrecht has been 
understood to depend on the concurrence of 
Parliament, as a condition to its becoming of 
force. If that opinion should, however, ap- 
pear incorrect, stiU the precedent proves, not 
that the treaty of Utrecht wanted obligation, 
but that Parliament disregarded it ; a proot" 
not of the construction of the treaty-making 
power, but of the violation of a national en- 
gagement. Admitting still further, that the 
Parliament claimed and exercised its power, 
not as a breach of faith, but as a matter of 
constitutional right, I reply, that the analogy 
between Parliament and Congress totally fails. 
The nature of the British government may re- 
quire and justify a course of proceeding in re- 
spect to treaties, that is unwarrantable here. 

The British government is a mixed one. The 
king, at the head of the army, of the hierarchy, 
with an ample civil list, hereditary, unrespon- 
sible, and possessing the prerogative of peace 
and war, may be properly observed with some 
jealousy in respect to the exercise of the treaty- 
making power. It seems, and perhaps from a 
spirit of caution on this account, to be their 
doctrine, that treaties bind the nation, but are 
not to be regarded by the courts of law, until 
laws have been passed conformably to them. 
Our concurrence has expressly regulated the 
matter ditferently. The concurrence of Parlia- 
ment is necessary to treaties becoming laws in 
England, gentlemen say ; and here the Senate, 
representing the States, must concur in treaties. 

The constitution and the reason of the case, 
make the concurrence of the Senate as effectual 
as the sanction of Parliament, and why not? 
The Senate is an elective body, and the appro- 
bation of a majority of the States aflbrds the 
nation as ample security against the abuse of 
the treaty-making power, as the British nation 
can enjoy iri,the control of Parliament. 

"Whatever doubt there may be as to the Par- 
liamentary doctrine of the obligation of treaties 
in Great Britain, (and perhaps there is some,) 
there is none in their books, or their modern 
practice. Blackstone I'epresents treaties as of 
the highest obligation, when ratititd by the 
king ; and for almost a century, there has been 
no instance of opposition by Parliament to this 
doctrine. Their treaties have been uniformly 
carried into effect, although many have been 
ratified, of a nature most obnoxious to party, 
and have produced louder clamor than we have 
lately witnessed. The example of England, 
therefore, fairly examined, does not warrant, it 
dissuades us from a negative vote. 

Gentlemen have said, with spirit, whatever 
the true doctrine of our constitution may be, 
Great Britain has no right to complain or to 
dictate an interpretation. The sense of the 
American nation as to the treaty power, is to 
be received by all foreign nations. This is 
very true as a m'axim ; but the fact is against 
those who vouch it. The sense of the Ameri- 
can nation is not as the vote of the House has 
declared it. Our claim to some agency in 
givmg force and obligation to treaties, is beyond 
all kind of controversy novel. The sense of the 
nation is probably against it. The sense of -the 
government certainly is. The President denies 
it on constitutional grounds, and therefore can- 
not ever accede to our interpretation. The 
Senate ratified the treaty, and cannot without 
dishonor adopt it, as I have attempted to show. 
Where then do they find the proof that this is 
the American sense of the treaty-making pow- 
er, which is to silence the murmurs of Great 
Britain? Is it because a majority of two or 
three, or at most, of four or five of this House, 
will reject the treaty? Is it thus the sense of 
our nation is to be recognized ? Our govern- 
ment may thus be stopped in its movements — 
a struggle for power may thus commence, and- 
the event of the conflict may decide who is the 
victor, and the quiet possessor of the treaty 
power. But at present it is beyond aU credi- 
bility that our vote, by a bare majority, should 
be believed to do any thing better than to em- 
bitter our divisions, and to tear up the settled 
foundations of our departments. 

If the obligation of a treaty be complete, I 
am aware that cases sometimes exist which 
will justify a nation in refusing a compliance. 
Are our liberties, gentlemen demand, to be bar- 
tered away by a treaty — and is there no reme- 
dy? There is. Extremes are not to be sup- 
posed, but when they happen, they make the 
law for themselves. No such extreme can be 
pretended in this instance, and if it existed, 



the authority it would confer to throw off the 
obligation, would rest where the obligation it- 
self resides — in the nation. This House is not 
the nation — it is not the whole delegated au- 
thority of the nation. Being only a part of 
that authority, its right to act for the whole 
Bociety obviously depends on the concurrence 
of the other two branches. If they refuse to 
concur, a treaty, once made, remains in fuU 
force, although a breach on the part of a foreign 
nation would confer upon our own a right to 
forbear the execution. I repeat it, even in 
that case the act of this House cannot be ad- 
mitted as the act of the nation, and if the Presi- 
dent and Senate should not concur, the treaty 
would be obligatory. 

I put a case that wUl not fail to produce con- 
viction. Our treaty with France engages that 
free bottoms shall make free goods, and how 
has it been kept ? As such engagements will 
ever be in time of war. France has set it aside, 
and pleads imperious necessity. We have no 
navy to enforce the observance of such articles, 
and paper barriers are weak against the vio- 
lence of those who are on the scramble for ene- 
mies' goods on the high seas. The breach of 
any article of a treaty by one nation gives an 
undoubted right to the other to renounce the 
whole treaty. But has one branch of the gov- 
ernment tliat right, or must it reside with the 
whole authority of the nation? What if the 
Senate should resolve that the French treaty is 
broken, and therefore null and of no effect? 
The answer is obvious, you would deny their 
sole authority. That branch of the legislature 
has equal power in this regard with the House 
of Representatives. One branch alone cannot 
express the will of the nation. 

A right to annul a treaty because a foreign 
nation has broken its articles, is only like the 
case of a sufficient cause to repeal a law. In 
both cases the branches of our government 
must concur in the orderly way, or the law and 
the treaty will remain. 

The very cases supposed by my adversaries 
in this argument, conclude against themselves. 
They will persist in confounding ideas that 
should be kept distinct, they wiU suppose that 
the House of Representatives has no power un- 
less it has all power. The House is nothing Lf 
it be not the whole government — the nation. 
_ On every hypothesis, therefore, the conclu- 
sion is not to be resisted; we are either to 
execute this treaty, or break our faith. 

To expatiate on the value of public faith may 
pass with some men for declamation — to such 
men I have nothing to say. To others I will 
urge — can any circumstance mark upon a peo- 
ple more turpitude and debasement? Can any 
thing tend more to make men think them- 
selves mean, or degrade to a lower point their 
estimation of virtue, and their standard of ac- 

It would not merely demoralize mankind, it 
tends to break all the ligaments of society, to 
dissolve that mysterious charm which attracts 

individuals to the nation, and to inspire Lu its 
stead a repulsive sense of shame and disgust. 

What is patriotism ? Is it a narrow affection 
for the spot where a man was born ? Are the 
very clods where we tread entitled to this ar- 
dent preference because they are greener ? No, 
sir, this is not the character of the virtue, and it 
soars higher for its object. It is an extended 
self-love, mingling with all the enjoyments of 
life, and twisting itself with the minutest fila- 
ments of the heart. It is thus we obey the 
laws of society, because they are the laws of 
virtue. In their authority we see, not the array 
of force and terror, but the venerable image of 
our country's honor. Every good citizen makes 
that honor his own, and cherishes it not only 
as precious, but as sacred. He is wUling to 
risk his life in its defence, and is conscious that 
he gains protection while he gives it. For, 
what rights of a citizen will be deemed invio- 
lable when a state renounces the principles that 
constitute their security? Or if his life should 
not be invaded, what would its enjoyments be 
in a country odious in the eyes of strangers and 
dishonored in his own? Could he look with 
affection and veneration to such a country as ' 
his parent? The sense of having one would 
die within him ; he would blush for his patriot- 
ism, if he retained any, and justly, for it would 
be a vice. He would be a banished man in his 
native land. 

I see no exception to the respect that is paid 
among nations to the law of good faith. If 
there are cases in this enlightened period when 
it is violated, there are none when it is decried. 
It is the philosophy of politics, the religion of 
governments. It is observed by barbarians — 
a whiff of tobacco smoke, or a string of beads, 
gives not merely binding force, but sanctity to 
treaties. Even in Algiers, a truce may be 
bought for money, but when ratified, even 
Algiers is too wise, or too just, to disown and 
annul its obligation. Thus we see, neither the 
ignorance of savages, nor the principles of an 
association for piracy and rapine, permit a 
nation to despise its engagements. If, sir, 
there could be a resurrection from the foot of 
the gallows, if the victims of justice could live 
again, collect together and form a society, they 
would, however loath, soon find themselves 
obliged to make justice, that justice under 
which they fell, the fundamental law of their 
state. They would perceive it was their in- 
terest to make others respect, and they would 
therefore soon pay some respect themselves to 
the obligations of good faith. 

It is painful, I hope it is superfluous, to make 
even the supposition, that America should fur- 
nish the occasion of this opprobrium. No, let 
me not even imagine, that a republican govern- 
ment, sprung, as our own is, from a people 
enlightened and uncorrupted, a government 
whose origin is right, and whose daily disci- 
pline is duty, can, upon solemn debate, make 
its option to be faithless — can dare to act what 
despots dare not avow, what our own example 



evinces, the states of Barbary are unsuspected 
of. No, let me rather make the supposition, 
that Great Britain refuses to execute the treaty, 
after we have done every thing to carry it into 
effect. Is there any language of reproach pun- 
gent enough to express your commentary on 
the fact? What would you say, or rather, 
what would you not say ? Would you not tell 
them, wherever an Englishman might travel, 
shame would stick to him — he would disown 
his country. You would exclaim, England, 
proud of your wealth, and arrogant in the pos- 
session of power — blush for these distinctions, 
which become the vehicles of your dishonor. 
Such a nation might truly say to corruption, 
thou art my father, and to the worm, thou art 
my mother and my sister. We should say of such 
a race of men, their name is a heavier burden 
than their debt. 

I can scarcely persuade myself to believe, 
that the consideration I have suggested requires 
the aid of any auxiliary. But, unfortunately, 
auxiliary arguments are at hand. Five millions 
of dollars, and probably more, on the score of 
spoliations committed on our commerce, depend 
upon the treaty. The treaty offers the only 
prospect of indemnity. Such redress is promised 
as the merchants place some confidence in. 
Will you interpose and frustrate that hope, 
leaving to many families nothing but beggary 
and despair ? It is a smooth proceeding to take 
a vote in this body: it takes less than half an 
hour to call the yeas and nays and reject the 
treaty. But what is the effect of it ? What, 
but this : the very men, formerly so loud for 
redress ; such fierce champions, that even to 
ask for justice was too mean and too slow, now 
turn their capricious fury upon the sufferers, 
and say, by their vote, to them and their fami- 
lies, no longer eat bread ; petitioners, go home 
and starve, we cannot satisfy your wrongs and 
our resentments. 

Will you pay the sufferers out of the trea- 
sury ? No. The answer was given two years 
ago, and appears on our journals. Will you 
give them letters of marque and reprisal to pay 
themselves by force? No, that is war. Besides, 
it would be an opportunity for those who have 
already lost much to lose more. Will you go 
to war to avenge their injury ? If you do, the 
war will leave you no money to indemnify 
them; If it should be unsuccessful, you will 
aggravate existing evils ; if successful, your 
enemy will have no treasure left to give our 
merchants : the first losses will be confounded 
with much greater and be forgotten. At the 
end of a war there must be a negotiation, 
which is the very point we have already gained ; 
and why relinquish it ? And who will be con- 
fident that the terms of the negotiation, after a 
desolating war, would be more acceptable to 
another House of Representatives than the 
treaty before us. Members and opinions may 
be so changed, that the treaty would then be 
rejected for being what the present majority 
say it should be. Whether we shall go on 

making treaties and refusing to execute them, 
I know not. Of this I am certain, it will bo 
very difficult to exercise the treaty-making 
power on the new principles, with much repu- 
tation or advantage to the country. 

The refusal of the posts, (inevitable if we re- 
ject the treaty,) is a measure too decisive in its 
nature to be neutral in its consequences. From 
great causes we are to look for great effects. 
A plain and obvious one will be, the price of 
the western lands will fall. Settlers will not 
choose to fix their habitation on a field of 
battle. Those who talk so much of the interest 
of the United States, should calculate how 
deeply it would be affected by rejecting the 
treaty; how vast a tract of wild land wiU 
almost cease to be property. This loss, let it 
be observed, will fall upon a fund expressly 
devoted to sink the national debt. What, then, 
are we called upon to do ? However the form 
of the vote and the protestations of many may 
disguise the proceeding, our resolution is in 
substance, and it deserves to wear the title of a 
resolution to prevent the sale of the western 
lands and the discharge of the public debt. 

WiU. the tendency to Indian hostilities be 
contested by any one? Experience gives the 
answer. The frontiers were scourged with war 
till the negotiation with Great Britain was far 
advanced, and then the state of hostility ceased. 
Perhaps the public agents of both nations are 
innocent of fomenting the Indian war, and per- 
haps they are not. We ought not, however, to 
expect that neighboring nations, highly irritated 
against each other, will neglect the friendship 
of the savages ; the traders will gain an influ- 
ence and will abuse it; and who is ignorant 
that their passions are easily raised, and hardly 
restrained from violence ? Their situation will 
oblige them to choose between this country 
and Great Britain, in case the treaty should be 
rejected. They will not be our friends, and at 
the same time the friends of our enemies. 

But am I reduced to the necessity of proving 
this point ? Certainly the very men who 
charged the Indian war on the detention of the 
posts, wUl caU for no other proof than the re- 
cital of their own speeches. It is remembered 
with what emphasis, with what acrimony, they 
expatiated on the burden of taxes, and the 
drain of blood and treasure into the western 
country, in consequence of Britain's holding the 
posts. UntU the posts are restored, they ex- 
claimed, the treasury and the frontiers must 

If any, against all these proofs, should main- 
tain that the peace with the Indians will be 
stable without the posts, to them I will urge 
another reply. From arguments calculated to 
produce conviction, I wUl appeal directly to the 
hearts of those who hear me, and ask, whether 
it is not already planted there ? I resort 
especially to the convictions of the western 
gentlemen, whether, supposing no posts and no 
treaty, the settlers will remain in security? 
Can they take it upon them to say that an In- 



dian peace, under these circumstances, will 
prove firm ? No, sir, it will not be peace, but 
a sword : it wiU be no better than a lure to 
draw victims within the reach of the toma- 

On this theme my emotions are unutterable. 
If I could find words for them, if my powers 
bore any proportion to my zeal, I would swell 
my voice to such a note of remonstrance, it 
should reach every log-house beyond the moun- 
tains. I would say to the inhabitants. Wake 
from your false security ; your cruel dangers, 
your more cruel apprehensions are soon to be 
renewed : the wounds, yet unhealed, are to be 
torn open again ; in the day time your path 
through the woods will be ambushed ; the 
darkness of midnight will glitter with the blaze 
of your dwellings. You are a father — the blood 
of your sons shall fatten your corn-fields : you 
are a mother — the warwhoop shall wake the 
sleep of the cradle. 

On this subject you need not suspect any de- 
ception on your feelings. It is a spectacle of 
horror which cannot be overdrawn. If you 
have nature in your hearts, it will speak a lan- 
guage, compared with which all I have said or 
can say wUl be poor and frigid. 

Will it be whispered that the treaty has 
made me a new champion for the protection of 
the frontiers ? It is known that my voice as 
well as vote have been uniformly given in con- 
formity with the ideas I have expressed. Pro- 
tection is the right of the frontiers ; it is our 
duty to give it. 

Who will accuse me of wandering out of the 
subject ? Who wdl say that I exaggerate the 
tendencies of our measures ? Will any one an- 
swer by a sneer, that all this is idle preaching ? 
Will any one deny that we are bound, and I 
would hope to good purpose, by the most solemn 
sanctions of duty for the vote we give ? Are 
despots alone to be reproached for unfeeling in- 
difference to the tears and blood of their sub- 
jects ? Are republicans unresponsible ? Have 
the principles, on which you ground the re- 
proach upon cabinets and kings, no practical 
influence, no binding force ? Are they merely 
themes of idle declamation, introduced to deco- 
rate tlie morality of a newspaper essay, or to 
furnish pretty topics of harangue from the win- 
dows of that State-house ? I trust it is neither 
too presumptuous nor too late to ask : Can you 
put the dearest interests of society at risk with- 
out guilt and without remorse ? 

It is vain to ofier as an excuse, that public 
men are not to be reproached for the evils that 
may happen to ensue from their measures. 
This is very true, where they are unforeseen 
or inevitable. Those I have depicted are not 
unforeseen ; they are so far from inevitable, we 
are going to bring them into being by our vote. 
We choose the consequences, and become as 
justly answerable for them as for the measure 
that we know will produce them. 

By rejecting the posts, we light the savage 
fires, we bind the victims. This day we under- 

take to render account to the widows and or- 
phans whom our decision will make, to the 
wretches that wiU be roasted at the stake, to 
our country, and I do not deem it too serious 
to say, to conscience and to God. We are an- 
sweralile, and if duty be any thing more than 
a word of imposture, if conscience be not a bug- 
bear, we are preparing to make ourselves -as 
wretched as our country. 

There is no mistake in this case, there can 
be none. Experience has already been the pro- 
fit of events, and the cries of our future victims 
have already reached us. The western inhab- 
itants are not a silent and uncomplaining 
sacrifice. The voice of humanity issues from 
the shade of their wilderness. It exclaims, that 
while one hand is held up to reject this treaty, 
the other grasps a tomahawk. It summons our 
imagination to the scenes that will open. It is 
no great effort of the imagination to conceive, 
that events so near are already begun. I can 
fancy that I listen to the yells of savage ven- 
geance, and the shrieks of torture. Already 
they seem to sigh in the west wind — already 
they mingle with every echo from the moun- 

It is not the part of prudence to be inatten- 
tive to the tendencies of measures. Where 
there is any ground to fear that these will be 
pernicious, wisdom and duty forbid that we 
should underrate them. If we reject the treaty, 
will our peace be as safe as if we executed it 
with good faith ? I do honor to the intrepid 
spirit of those who say it will. It was formerly 
understood to constitute the excellence of a 
man's faith to believe without evidence and 
against it. 

But as opinions on this article are changed, 
and we are called to act for our country, it be- 
comes us to explore the dangers that will at- 
tend its peace, and to avoid them if we can. 

Pew of us here, and fewer still in proportion 
of our constituents, will doubt, that, by reject- 
ing, all those dangers will be aggravated. 

The idea of war is treated as a bugbear. 
This levity is at least unseasonable, and most 
of all unbecoming some who resort to it. 

Who has forgotten the philippics of 1794? 
The cry then was reparation — no envoy — no 
treaty — no tedious delays. Now, it seems, the 
passion subsides, or at least the hurry to satisfy 
it. Great Britain, say they, will not wage war 
upon us. 

In 1794, it was urged by those, who now say, 
no war, that if we built frigates, or resisted the 
piracies of Algiers, we could not expect peace. 
Now they give excellent comfort truly. Great 
Britain has seized our vessels and cargoes to 
the amount of millions ; she holds the posts ; 
she interrupts our trade, say they, as a neutral 
nation ; and these gentlemen, formerly so fierce 
for redress, assure us, in terms of the sweetest 
consolation. Great Britain will bear all this 
patiently. But let me ask the late champions 
of our rights, will our nation bear it? Let 
others exult because the aggressor will let our 



•wrongs sleep for ever. Will it add, it is my 
duty to ask, to the patience and quiet of our 
citizens to see their rights abandoned ? Will 
not the disappointment of their hopes, so long 
patronized by the government, now in the crisis 
of their being realized, convert all their pas- 
sions into fury and despair ? 

•Are the posts to remain for ever in the pos- 
session of Great Britain ? Let those who reject 
them, when the treaty offers them to our hands, 
say, if they choose, they are of no importance. 
If they are, will they take them by force? 
The argument I am urging, would then come 
to a point. To use force is war. To talk of 
t-eaty again is too absurd. Posts and redress 
must come from voluntary good will, treaty 
or war. 

The conclusion is plain, if the state of peace 
shall continue, so will the British possession of 
the poets. 

Look again at this state of things. On the 
sea-coast, vast losses uncompensated : on the 
frontier, Indian war, actual encroachment on 
our territory : every where discontent — resent- 
ments tenfold more fierce because they wiU be 
impotent and humbled : national scorn and 

The disputes of the old treaty of 1783, being 
left to rankle, will revive the almost extin- 
guished animosities of that period. Wars, in 
all countries, and most of all in such as are free, 
arise from the impetuosity of the public feel- 
ings. The despotism of Turkey is often obliged 
by clamor, to unsheathe the sword. War might 
perhaps be delayed, but could not be prevented. 
The causes of it would remain, would be aggra- 
vated, would be multiplied, and soon become 
intolerable. More captures, more impressments 
would swell the list of our wrongs, and the cur- 
rent of our rage. I make no calculation of the 
arts of those, whose employment it has been, 
on former occasions, to fan the fire. I say no- 
thing of the foreign money and emissaries that 
might foment the spirit of hostility, because the 
state of things will naturally run to violence. 
With less than their former exertion, they 
would be successful. 

Will our government be able to temper and 
restrain the turbulence of such a crisis ? The 
government, alas, will be in no capacity to gov- 
ern. A divided people — and divided councils ! 
Shall we cherish the spirit of peace, or show 
the energies of war ? Shall we make our ad- 
versary afraid of our strength, or dispose him, 
by the measures of resentment and broken 
faith, to respect our rights? Do gentlemen 
rely on the state of peace because both nations 
will be worse disposed to keep it ; because in- 
juries, and insults still harder to endure, will 
be mutually offered ? 

Such a state of things will exist, if we should 
long avoid war, as will be worse than war. 
Peace without security, accumulation of injury 
without redress, or the hope of it, resentment 
against the aggressor, contempt for ourselves, 
intestine discord and anarchy. Worse than 

this need not be apprehended, for if worse could 
happen, anarchy would bring it. Is this the 
peace, gentlemen undertake with such fearless 
confidence to maintain ? is this the 'station of 
American dignity, which the high-spirited 
champions of our national independence and 
honor could endure — nay, which they are 
anxious and almost violent to seize for the 
country? What is there in the treaty, that 
could humble us so low ? Are they the men 
to swallow their resentments, who so lately 
were choking with them? If in the case con- 
templated by them, it should be peace, I do 
not hesitate to declare it ought not to be 

Is there any thing in the prospect of the in- 
terior state of the country, to encourage us to 
aggravate the dangers of a war ? Would not 
the shock of that evil produce another, and 
shake down the feeble and then unbraced 
structure of our government? Is this a chi- 
mera ? Is it going off the ground of matter of 
fact to say, the rejection of the appropriation 
proceeds upon the doctrine of a civil war of the 
departments ? Two branches have ratified a 
treaty, and we are going to set it aside. How 
is this disorder in the machine to be rectified ? 
While it exists, its movements must stop, and 
when we talk of a remedy, is that any other 
than the formidable one of a revolutionary in- 
terposition of the people ? And is this, in the 
judgment even of my opposers, to execute, to 
preserve the constitution and the public order? 
Is this the state of hazard, if not of convulsion, 
which they can have the courage to contem- 
plate and to brave, or beyond which their 
penetration can reach and see the issue ? They 
seem to believe, and they act as if they believed, 
that our union, our peace, our liberty are in- 
vulnerable and immortal — as if our happy state 
was not to be disturbed by our dissensions, 
and that we are not capable of falling from it 
by our unworthiness. Some of them have no 
doubt better nerves and better discernment 
than mine. They can see the bright aspects 
and happy consequences of all this array of 
horrors. They can see intestine discords, our 
government disorganized, our wrongs aggra- 
vated, multiplied and unredressed, peace with 
dishonor, or war without justice, union, or re- 
sources, in " the calm lights of mild philos- 

But whatever they may anticipate as the 
next measure of prudence and safety, they 
have explained nothing to the House. After 
rejecting the treaty, what is to be the next 
step ? They must have foreseen what ought to 
be done, they have doubtless resolved what to 
propose. Why, then, are they silent? Dare 
they not avow their plan of conduct, or do 
they wait till our progress towards confusion 
shall guide them in forming it ? 

Let me cheer the mind, weary, no doubt, and 
ready to despond on this prospect, by present- 
ing another, which it is yet in our power to 
realize. Is it possible for a real American to 



look at the prosperity of this country without 
some desire for its continuance, without some re- 
spect for the measures which, many will say, 
produced, and all will confess, have preserved it? 
Will he not feel some dread that a change of 
system will reverse the scene ? The well- 
grounded fears of our citizens in IVQi, were 
removed hy the treaty, but are not forgotten. 
Then they deemed war nearly inevitable, and 
would not this adjustment have been consider- 
ed, at that day, as a happy escape from the 
calamity ? The great interest and the general 
desire of our people, was to enjoy the advan- 
tages of neutrality. This instrument, however 
misrepresented, affor4s America that inesti- 
mable security. The causes of our disputes are 
either cut up by the roots, or referred to a new 
negotiation after the end of the European war. 
This was gaining every thing, because it con- 
firmed our neutrality, by which our citizens are 
gaining every thing. This alone would justify 
the engagements of the government. For, 
when the fiery vapors of the war lowered in 
the skirts of our horizon, all our wishes were 
concentred in this one, that we might escape 
the desolation of the storm. This treaty, like 
a rainbow on the edge of the cloud, marked to 
our eyes the space where it was raging, and af- 
forded, at the same time, the sure prognostic of 
fair weather. If we reject it, the vivid colors 
will grow pale, it will be a baleful meteor, por- 
tending tempest and war. 

Let us not hesitate, then, to agree to the ap- 
propriation to carry it into faithful execution. 
Thus we shall save the faith of our nation, se- 
cure its peace, and diffuse the spirit of confi- 
dence and enterprise, that will augment its 
prosperity. The progress of wealth and im- 
provement is wonderful, and some will think, 
too rapid. The field for exertion is fruitful and 
vast, and if peace and good government should 
be preserved, the acquisitions of our citizens 

are not so pleasing as the proofs of their indus- 
try, as the instruments of their future success. 
The rewards of exertion go to augment its 
power. Profit is every hour becoming capital. 
The vast crop of our neutrality is all seed- 
wheat, and is sown again to swell, almost be- 
yond calculation, the future harvest of pros- 
perity. And in this progress, what seems to 
be fiction is found to fall short of experience. 

I rose to speak under impressions that I 
would have resisted if I could. Those who 
see me will believe, that the reduced state of 
my health has unfitted me, almost equally, for 
much exertion of body or mind. Unprepared 
for debate, by careful reflection in my retire- 
ment, or by long attention here, I thought the 
resolution I had taken to sit sUent, was im- 
posed by necessity, and would cost me no effort 
to maintain. With a mind thus vacant of ideas, 
and sinking, as I really am, under a sense of 
weakness, I imagined the very desire of speak- 
ing was extinguished by the persuasion that I 
had nothing to say. Yet when I come to the 
moment of deciding the vote, I start back with 
dread from the edge of the pit into which we 
are plunging. In my view, even the minutes I 
have spent in expostulation have their value, 
because they protract the crisis, and the short 
period in which alone we may resolve to es- 
cape it. 

I have thus been led by my feelings to speak 
more at length than I had intended. Yet I 
have, perhaps, as little personal interest in the 
event as any one here. There is, I believe, no 
member who will not think his chance to be 
a witness of the consequences greater than 
mine. If, however, the vote should pass to 
reject, and a spirit should rise, as it wUl, with 
the public disorders, to make confusion worse 
confounded, even I, slender and almost broken 
as my hold upon life is, may outlive the govern- 
ment and constitution of my country. 


About the year 1735, Doctor John Eutledge and his brother arrived in South Carolina, where 
they commenced the practice of their professions ; one as a physician, the other as a counsellor 
and advocate at law. Dr. Eutledge was married to Miss Hext, who in the fifteenth year of her 
age gave birth to the illustrious subject of this memoir. Shortly after this period Doctor Eut- 
ledge died, and the young child was left to the sole guardianship of its mother. Pursuing his 
elementary studies under the supervision of one of the most efficient and successful of South 
Carolina's early instructors, and after he had made some progress in the classics, Mr. Eutledge 
entered the law oflSce of James Parsons. Soon after he went to England and studied in the 
Temple, from which place he returned to Charleston in ITGl, and commenced practice. One 
of the first causes in which he was engaged, originated his reputation as an orator and a pleader 
of extraordinary talent. Instead of rising gradually to the foremost position in his profession, 
he burst forth at once the able lawyer and the accomplished orator. His professional engage- 
ments became numerous, and the client who was so fortunate as to obtain his services, was 
thought to be in a fair way to gain his cause. 

In the controversy during the year 1764, consequent upon the refusal of Governor Boone to 
administer to Christopher Gadsden* the oaths usual in installing members of the House of As- 
sembly, Mr. Eutledge took a decided stand against that "assumption of power," and in an elo- 
quent appeal, roused the Assembly and the people to resist all interferences of royal governors. 
In this resistance "Eutledge kindled a spark which has never since been extinguished." The 
proposition of the Massachusetts Assembly, at the time of the stamp act excitement, to the 
assemblies of the different provinces, to meet for consultation "on the present circumstances of 
the colonies, and the difiiculties to which they are and must be reduced»by the operation of the 
acts of Parliament," was warmly advocated by Mr. Eutledge, and in 1765 he took his seat in 
the first Congress at New York. In this assembly, wherein was generated the spirit of union, 
and the independence of the colonies, Mr. Eutledge distinguished himself as much by the force 
of his reasoning as by the splendor of his eloquence. The delegates from the other provinces 
were astonished at the young rhetorician, and the impressions he left on their minds produced a 
favorable opinion of the colony from which he came. 

Of the Congress which convened at Philadelphia in 1774, Mr. Eutledge was a member. 
Previous to his election to this assembly, there was much difference of opinion expressed by 
the people of South Carolina, in reference to the extent of the pledges which were to be made 
by that province to the Bostonians, and a proposition was offered to instruct the delegates how 
far to support them. This motion was opposed by Mr. Eutledge in an eloquent and masterly 
speech, demonstrating that any thing less than unlimited powers would be unequal to the crisis. 
In this effort he was successful. The delegates were invested with full authority to concur in 
whatever course they should think expedient, and their subsequent conduct fully justified the 

* Christopher Gadsden was born in Charleston, in 1724 He was educated in England, where he became accomplished 
in the learned languages. He returned to America at the age of sixteen, and entered the counting-house of a merchant in 


confidence reposed in them. Mr. Eutledge remained in Congress until 1776, when he returned 
to Charleston and was elected President and Commander-in-Chief of South Carolina, under the 
republican constitution established by the people on the twenty-sixth of March of that year. 
On the third of April following, the Legislative Council and House of Assembly presented a 
joint address to President Eutledge, in which they set forth their reasons for assuming the pow- 
ers of government. "When we reflect," said they, "upon the unprovoked, cruel, and accumu- 
lated oppressions under which America in general, and this colony in particular, has long con- 
tinued ; oppressions which, gradually increasing in injustice and violence, are now, by inexorable 
tyranny, perpetrated against the United Colonies, under the various forms of robbery, conflagra- 
tions, massacre, breach of public faith, and open war ; conscious of our natural and unalienable 
rights, and determined to make every effort in our power to retain them, we see your Excel- 
lency's elevation from the midst of us, to govern this country, as the natural consequence of such 

" By the suffrages of a free people, sir, you have been chosen to hold the reins of govern- 
ment, an event as honorable to yourself as beneficial to the public. We firmly trust that you 
will make the constitution the great rule of your conduct ; and in the most solemn manner we 
do assure your Excellency that, in the discharge of your duties, under that constitution which 
looks forward to an accommodation with Great Britain, (an event which, though traduced and 
treated as rebels, we still earnestly desire,) we will support you with our lives and fortunes." 

President Eutledge's answer to this firm and decisive address, evinces a spirit of the loftiest 
patriotism and self-sacrifice. " My most cordial thanks are due," says he, " and I request that 
you will accept them, for this solemn engagement of support, in discharging the duty of the 
honorable station to which, by your favor, I have been elected. 

" Be persuaded, that no man would embrace a just and equitable accommodation with Great 
Britain more gladly than myself; but, imtil so desirable an object can be obtained, the defence 
of my country, and preservation of that constitution which, from a perfect knowledge of the 
rights, and a laudable regard to the happiness of the people, you have so wisely framed, shall 
engross my whole attention. To this country I owe all that is dear and valuable, and would, with 
the greatest pleasure, sacrifice every temporal felicity to establish and perpetuate her freedom." 

From this time he employed himself in arranging the affairs of the State, and particularly 
in preparing for her defence against an expected invasion by the British. Late in June (1776), 
General Sir Henry Clinton and Sir Peter Parker, with a powerful fieet and army, attempted 
the reduction of Charleston. After an engagement of over ten hours with the Americans, in 
the fort on Sullivan's Island, they were repulsed. On this occasion President Eutledge ren- 
dered signal service to his country. General Lee, who commanded the continental troops, 
pronounced Sullivan's Island to be a " slaughter pen," and was disposed to give orders for its 
evacuation. To prevent this unwise course, the following laconic note was sent to General 
Moultrie, a short time before the attack was made by the British : " General Lee wishes you to 
evacuate the fort. You will not without an order from me. I would sooner cut off my hand 
than write one. — J. Eutledge." 

In March, 1778, President Eutledge resigned his ofiice, and was soon after elected Governor, 

Philadelphia, in which position he remained until he was twenty-one years of age. He then went to England, and on Ms 
return engaged in mercantile pursuits in Charleston. 

Mr. Gadsden was one of the earliest opponents of Great Britain in South Carolina, and, as the revolution advanced, was 
one of its firmest supporters. This circumstance caused the refusal of Gov. Boono to qualify him for his position in the 
assembly. He was a delegiite in the first Continental Congress in 1774, and his name is attached to the American Asso- 
ciaiion agreed to by that body. In 1775 he was elected senior colonel and commandant of three South Carolina regiments, 
nnd was subsequently made a brigadier. He was in the engagement at the siege of Charleston in 1776. Ho was one of the 
framers of the Constitution of South Carolina, adopted in 1773. He resigned his commission in 1779, and when Charleston 
was taken by Clinton, in 1780, he was lieutenant-governor ; as such, he signed the capitulation. Three months afterward 
he was taken, with others, and cast into the loathsome prison at St. Augustine. There he suffered for eleven months, until 
exchanged in June, 1781, when he sailed to Philadelphia with other prisoners. He returned to Charleston, and was a mem- 
ber of the assembly convened at .Jaeksonburg in the T\inter of 1782. He opposed the confiscation of the property of the 
loyalists, and thereby won their esteem. He was elected governor of the State in 1782, but declined the honor, and went 
Into the retirement of private life. He died on the twenty-eighth of August, 1805, at the ago of eighty-one years. 



under a new constitution. His exertions in this position were nntiring and important. On the 
termination of his executive duties in 1782, he was elected to Congress, where he remained 
nntU the next year. " In this period," says Dr. Eamsay, " he was called upon to perform an extra- 
ordinary duty. The surrender of Lord Cornwallis, in Octoher, 1781, seemed to paralyze the 
exertions of the States. Thinking the war and all its dangers past, they no longer acted with 
suitable vigor. Congress, fearing that this state of affairs would encourage Great Britain to 
recommence hostilities, sent deputations of their members to arouse the States to a sense ol 
their danger and duty. On the twenty-second of May, 1782, John Eutledge and George 
Clymer* were sent in this capacity, and instructed 'to make such representations to the several 
States southward of Philadelphia, as were best adapted to their respective circumstances and 
the present situation of public affairs, as might induce them to carry the requisitions of Congress 
into eflfect with the greatest dispatch.' They were permitted to make a personal address to the 
Virginia Assembly. In the execution of this duty, Mr. Eutledge drew such a picture of the 
United States, and of the danger to which they were exposed by the backwardness of the par- 
ticular States to comply with the requisitions of Congress, as produced a very beneficial effect. 
The orator acquitted himself with so much ability, that the Virginians, who, not without reason, 
are proud of their statesmen and orators, began to doubt whether their Patrick Henry or the 
Carolina Eutledge was the most accomplished speaker." Shortly after this period, Mr. Eutledge 
was appointed Minister from the United States to Holland, but declined the ofBce. In the year 
1784 he was elected Judge of the Court of Chancery in South Carolina, and afterwards was 
appointed, by President Washington, to the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, 
in which office he remained until 1791, when he was elected Chief Justice of his native State, 
In the several public stations to which Judge Eutledge was elevated, he displayed the greatest 
ability and the highest qualities of statesmanship. He died in July, 1800. " While Massachu- 
setts boasts of her John Adams," says Dr. Eamsay — " Connecticut of her Ellsworth — New York 
of her Jay — Pennsylvania of her Wilson — Delaware of her Bayard — Virginia of her Henry — 
South Carolina rests her claims on the talents and eloquence of John Eutledge." 


This speech was delivered by President Eut- 
ledge, to the Legislative Council and House of 
Assembly of South Carolina, at Charleston, on 
the eleventh of April, 1776. 

* George Clymer was born at Philadelphia, in 1739. He 
was among the first to resist the oppressors of his country, 
and proclaim to his fellow-citizens the principles of liberty. 
In 1773 he opposed the sale of tea sent out by the British 
government. In 1775 he became one of the first continental 
treasurers, and was very efficient in r.aising funds and sup- 
plies for the army. As a member of the Continental Con- 
gress, in the next year he signed the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence. With Robert Morris he co-operated in the 
establishment of the Bank of North America. After the 
adoption of the Federal Constitution, he was again a member 
of Congress. In 1796 he was sent to Georgia, to negotiate 
with Hawkins and Pickens a treaty with the Cherokee and 
Creek Indians. He was afterwards the president of the 
Philadelphia bank, and of the Academy of Fine Arts. In 
the various stations he filled, he was remarkable for the 
panctual and conscientious discharge of duty. He died on 
the twenty-third of January, 1818, at Morrisville, Bucks 
County, Penn. 

HosroEABLE Gentlemen of the Legislatite 
Council — Me. Speakee and Gentlemen of the 
Geneeal Assembly : It has afforded me much 
satisfaction to observe, that though the season 
of the year rendered your sitting very incon- 
venient, your private concerns, which must 
have suffered greatly by your long and close 
application, in the late Congress, to the affairs 
of the colony, requiring your presence in the 
county, yet continuing to prefer the public weal 
to ease and retirement, you have been busily 
engaged in framing such laws as our peculiar 
circumstances rendered absolutely necessary to 
be passed before your adjournment. Having 
given my assent to them, I presume you are 
now desirous of a recess. 

On my part, a most solemn oath has been 
taken for the faithful discharge of my duty ; 
on yours, a solemn assurance has been given to 
support me therein. Thus, a public compact 
between us stands recorded. You may rest 
assured that I shall keep this oath ever in 
mind — the constitution shall be the invariable 
rule of my conduct — my ears shall be always 



open to the complaints of the injured, justice, 
in mercy, shall neither be denied, or delayed. 
Our laws and religion, and the liberties of 
America, shall be maintained and defended, to 
the utmost of my power. I repose the most 
perfect confidence in your engagement. 

And now, gentlemen, let me entreat that you 
will, in your several parishes and districts, use 
your influence and authority to keep peace and 
good order, and procure strict observance of, 
and ready obedience to the law. If any per- 
sons therein are stiU strangers to the nature 
and merits of the dispute between Great Britain 
and the colonies, you wiU explain it to them 
fully, and teach them, if they are so unfortunate 
as not to know their inherent rights. Prove to 
them, that the privileges of being tried by a 
jury of the vicinage, acquainted with the par- 
ties and witnesses ; of being taxed only with 
their own consent, given by their representa- 
tives, freely chosen by, and sharing the bur- 
then equally with themselves, not for the 
aggrandizing a rapacious minister, and his de- 
pendent favorites, and for corrupting the people, 
and subverting their liberties, but for such wise 
and salutary purposes, as they themselves ap- 
prove ; and of having their internal polity regu- 
lated, only by laws consented to by competent 
judges of what is best adapted to their situa- 
tion and circumstances, equally bound too by 
those laws, are inestimable, and derived from 
that constitution, which is the birth-right of 
the poorest man, and the best inheritance of 
the most wealthy. Relate to them the various, 
unjust and cruel statutes, which the British 
parliament, claiming a right to make laws for 
binding the colonies in all cases whatsoever, 
have enacted ; and the many sanguinary mea- 
sures which have been, and are daily pursued 
and threatened, to wrest from them those in- 
valuable benefits, and to enforce such an un- 
limited and destructive claim. To the most 
illerate it must appear, that no power on earth 
can, of right, deprive them of the hardly earned 
fruits of their honest industry, toil and labor — 
even to them, the impious attempt to prevent 
many thousands from using the means of sub- 
sistence provided for man by the bounty of his 
Creator, and to compel them, by famine, to 
surrender their rights, will seem to call for 
Divine vengeance. The endeavors, by deceit 
and bribery, to engage barbarous nations to 
imbrue their hands in the innocent blood of 
helpless women and children ; and the attempts 
by fair but false promises, to make ignorant 
domestics subservient to the most wicked 

purposes, are acts at which humanity must 

Show your constituents, then, the indispen- 
sable necessity which there was for establishing 
some mode of government in this colony ; the 
benefits of that, which a full and free repre- 
sentation has established ; and that the consent 
of the people is the origin, and their happiness 
the end of government. Eemove the appre- 
hensions with which honest and well-meaning, 
but weak and credulous, minds, may be alarm- 
ed, and prevent ill impressions by artful and 
designing enemies. Let it be known that this 
constitution is but temporary, till an accommo- 
dation of the unhappy differences between 
Great Britain and America can be obtained ; 
and that such an event is still desired by men 
who yet remember former friendships and inti- 
mate connections, though, for defending their 
persons and properties, they are stigmatized 
and treated as rebels. 

Truth, being known, will prevail over arti- 
fice and misrepresentation. In such case no 
man, who is worthy of life, liberty, or property, 
will, or can, refuse to join with you, in defend- 
ing them to the last extremity, disdaining every 
sordid view, and the mean paltry considerations 
of private interest and present emolument, when 
placed in competition with the liberties of mil- 
lions ; and seeing that there is no alternative 
but absolute, unconditional submission, and the 
most abject slavery, or a defence becoming men 
born to freedom, he will not hesitate about the 
choice. Although superior force may, by the 
permission of Heaven, lay waste our towns, and 
ravage our country, it can never eradicate from 
the breasts of freemen, those principles which 
are ingrafted in their very nature. Such men 
will do their duty, neither knowing, nor re- 
garding consequences ; but submitting them, 
with humble confidence, to the omniscient and 
omnipotent arbiter and director of the fate of 
empires, and trusting that his Almighty arm, 
which has been so signally stretched out for 
our defence, will deliver them in a righteous 

The eyes of Europe, nay of the whole world, 
are on America. The eyes of every other 
colony are on this ; a colony, whose reputation 
for generosity and magnanimity, is universally 
acknowledged. I trust, therefore, it will not 
be diminished by our future conduct, that there 
will be no civil discord here ; and that the only 
strife amongst brethren will be, who shall do 
most to serve and to save an oppressed and 
injured country. 




Governor Eutledge delivered the following 
speech to the General Assembly of South Caro- 
lina, met at Jacksonburgh, in that State, on 
Friday, the eighteenth day of January, 1782. 
It evinces his unwearied zeal and attention to 
the interests of the colonies, and presents a 
vivid picture of the perfidy, rapine, and cruelty 
which distinguished the British arms ia the 
Southern campaign.* 

HoNOEABLE Gentlemen of the Senate — 
Me. Speaker and Gentlemen oe the House 
OF Repeesentatives : Since the last meeting 
of a General Assembly, the good people of this 
State have not only felt the common calamities 
of war, but from the wanton and savage man- 
ner, in which it has been prosecuted, they have 
experienced such severities as are unpractised, 
and wUl scarcely be credited by civilized na- 

The enemy unable to make any impression 
on the JSTorthern States, the number of whose 
inhabitants, and the strength of whose country, 
had baffled their repeated elforts, turned their 
views towards the Southern, which a difference 
of circumstances afforded some expectation of 
conquering, or at least of greatly distressing. 
After along resistance, the reduction of Charles- 
ton was effected, by the vast superiority of 
force with which it had been besieged. The 
loss of that garrison, as it consisted of the Con- 
tinental troops of Virginia and the Carolinas, 
and of a number of militia, facilitated the ene- 
my's march into the country, and their estab- 
lishment of strong posts in the upper and 
interior parts of it ; and the unfavorable issue 
of the action near Camden, induced them vain- 
ly to imagine, that no other army could be 
collected which they might not easily defeat. 
The militia, commanded by the Brigadiers 
Surapter and Marion, whose enterprising spirit 
and unremitted perseverance under many diffi- 
culties, are deserving of great applause, harass- 
ed and often defeated large parties ; but the 
numbers of those militia were too few to con- 
tend effectually with the collected strength of 
the enemy. Regardless, therefore, of the sacred 
ties of honor, destitute of the feelings of hu- 
manity, and determined to extinguish, if possi- 
ble, every spark of freedom in this country ; 
they, with the insolent pride of conquerors, 
gave unbounded scope to the exercises of tlieir 
tyrannical disposition, infringed their public 
engagements, and violated the most solemn 
capitulations ; many of our worthiest citizens, 
were without cause, long and closely confined, 
some on board of prison ships, and others in 

* This speech was published in the Pennsylvania Pactet, 
ofthe 14th of March, 1782. 

the town and castle of St. Augustine, their pro- 
perties disposed of at the wUl and caprice of 
the enemy, and their families sent to different 
and distant parts of the continent without the 
means of support ; many who had surrendered 
as prisoners of war were kUled in cold blood ; 
several suffered death in the most ignominious 
manner, and others were delivered up to sav- 
ages, and put to tortures, under which they ex- 
pired ; thus, the lives, liberties, and properties 
of the people were dependent, solely, on the 
pleasure of British officers, who deprived them 
of either or all on the most frivolous pretences ; 
Indians, slaves, and a desperate banditti of the 
most profligate characters, were caressed and 
employed by the enemy to execute their infa- 
mous purposes; devastation and ruin marked 
their progress and that of their adherents, nor 
were their violences restrained by the charms 
or influence of beauty and innocence ; even the 
fair sex, whom it is the duty of all, and the 
pleasure and pride of the brave to protect, they 
and their tender offspring were victims to 
the inveterate malice of an unrelenting foe; 
neither the tears of mothers nor the cries of 
infants could excite in their breasts pity or 
compassion ; not only the peaceful habitation 
of the widow, the aged, and the infirm, but the 
holy temples of the Most High were consumed, 
in flames kindled by their sacrilegious hands ; 
they have tarnished the glory of the British 
arms, disgraced the profession of a soldier, and 
fixed indelible stigmas of rapine, cruelty, per- 
fidy, and profaneness on the British name. 
But I can now congratulate you, and I do most 
cordially on the pleasing change of affairs, 
which, under the blessing of God, the wisdom, 
prudence, address, and bravery of the great and 
gallant General Greene, and the intrepidity of 
the officers and men under his command have 
happily effected. A general who is .justly en- 
titled, from his many signal services to honor- 
able and singular marks of your approbation 
and gratitude; his successes have been more 
rapid and complete than the most sanguine 
could have expected ; the enemy, compelled to 
surrender or evacuate every post which they 
held in the country, frequently defeated and 
driven from place to place, are obliged to seek 
refuge under the walls of Charleston, and on 
islands in its vicinity ; we have now the full 
and absolute possession of every other part of 
the State, and tlie legislative, executive, and 
judicial powers are in the free exercise of their 
respective authorities. 

I also most heartily congratulate you on the 
glorious victory obtained by the combined 
forces of America and France, over their com- 
mon enemy : when the very general who was 
second in command at the reduction of Charles- 
ton, and to whose boasted prowess and highly 
extoUed abilities the conquest of no less than 



three States had been aiTogantly committed, 
was speedily compelled to accept of the same 
mortifying terms which had been imposed on 
that brave but unfortunate garrison : to sur- 
render an army of many thousand regulars, and 
to abandon his wretched followers, whom he 
had artfully seduced from their allegiance by 
specious promises of protection, which he could 
never have hoped to fulfil, to the justice or 
mercy of their country, on the naval superiority 
established by the illustrious ally of the United 
States — a superiority in itself so decided, and 
in its consequences so extensive, as must in- 
evitably soon oblige the enemy to yield to us 
the only post which they occupy in this State : 
and on the reiterated proofs of the sincerest 
friendship, and on the great support which 
America has received from that powerful mon- 
arch — a monarch whose magnanimity is uni- 
versally acknowledged and admired, and on 
whose royal word we may confidently rely for 
every necessary assistance : on the perfect har- 
mony which subsists between France and Ame- 
rica : on the stability which her independence 
has acquired, and the certainty that it is too 
deeply rooted ever to be shaken ; for animated 
as they are by national honor, and united by 
one common interest, it must and will be main- 
tained. . 

What may be the immediate effects on the 
British nation, of the events which I have 
mentioned, of their loss of territory in other 
parts of the world, and of their well-founded 
apprehensions from the powers of France, 
Spain, and Holland, it is impossible to foretell. 
If experience can teach wisdom to a haughty 
and infatuated people, and if they will now be 
governed by reason, they will have learnt they 
can have no solid ground of hope to conquer 
any State in the Union ; for though their armies 
have obtained temporary advantages over our 
troops, yet the citizens of these States, firmly 
resolved as they are never to return to a domi- 
nation which, near six years ago, they unan- 
imously and justly renounced, cannot be sub- 
dued ; and they must now be convinced, that 
it is the height of foUy and madness to persist 
in so ruinous a war. If, however, we judge, as 
we ought, of their future by their past conduct, 
we may presume that they will not only en- 
deavor to keep possession of our capital, but 
make another attempt, howsoever improbable 
the success of it may appear, to subjugate this 
country : it is therefore highly incumbent upon 
us, to use our most strenuous efforts to frustrate 
so fatal a design ; and I earnestly conjure you, 
by the sacred love which you bear to your 
country, by the constant remembrance of her 
bitter sufferings, and by the just detestation of 
British government which you and your pos- 
terity must for ever possess, to exert your ut- 
most faculties for that purpose, by raising and 
equipping, with all possible expedition, a re- 
spectable permanent force, and by making 
ample provision for their comfortable subsist- 
ence. I am sensible the expense will be great ; 

but a measure so indispensable to the preserva- 
tion of our freedom is above every pecuniary 

The organization of our militia is likewise a 
subject of infinite importance: a clear and con- 
cise law, by which the burdens of service will 
be equally sustained, and a competent number 
of men brought forth and kept in the field, 
when their assistance may be required, is essen- 
tial to our security, and therefore j ustly claims 
your immediate and serious attention : certain 
it is, that some of our militia have, upon several 
occasions, exhibited symptoms of valor which 
would have reflected honor on veteran troops. 
The courage and conduct of the generals whom 
I have mentioned; the cool and determined 
bravery displayed by Brigadier Pickens, and, 
indeed, the behavior of many officers and men 
in every brigade, are unquestionable testimonies 
of the truth of this assertion. But such beha- 
vior cannot be expected from militia in gene- 
ral, without good order and strict discipline ; 
nor can that order and discipline be established, 
but by a salutary law, steadily executed. 

Another important matter for your delibera- 
tion, is the conduct of such of our citizens as, 
voluntarily avowing their allegiance, and even 
glorying in their professions of loyalty and 
attachment to his Britannic Majesty, have 
offered their congratulations on the success of 
his arms, prayed to be embodied as loyal mili- 
tia, accepted commissions in his service, or en- 
deavored to subvert our constitution and estab- 
lish his power in its stead ; of those who have 
returned to this State, in defiance of law, by 
which such return was declared to be a capital 
offence, and have bettered the British interest, 
and of such whose behavior has been so repre- 
hensible, that justice and policy forbid their 
free re-admission to the rights and privileges of 

The extraordinary lenity of this State has 
been remarkably conspicuous. Other States 
have thought it just and expedient to appro- 
priate the property of British subjects to the 
public use ; but we have forborne even to take 
the profits of the estates of our most implacable 
enemies. It is with you to determine whether 
the forfeiture and appropriation of their pro- 
perty should now take place : if such should be 
your determination, though many of our warm- 
est friends have been reduced for their inflex- 
ible attachment to the cause of their country, 
from opulence to inconceivable distress, and, if 
the enemy's will and power had prevailed, 
would have been doomed to indigence and 
beggary, yet it will redound to the reputation 
of this State, to provide a becoming support for 
the families of those whom you may deprive of 
their property. 

The value of paper currency became of late 
so much depreciated, that it was requisite, 
under the powers vested in the executive during 
the recess of the General Assembly, to suspend 
the laws by which it was made a tender. You 
will now consider whether it may not be proper 



to repeal those laws, and fix some equitable 
mode for the discharge of debts contracted 
whilst paper money was in circulation. 

In the present scarcity of specie, it would be 
difficult, if not impracticable, to levy a tax to 
any considerable amount, towards sinking the 
public debt, nor will the creditors of the State 
expect that such a tax should at this time be 
imposed; but it is just and reasonable, that 

all unsettled demands should be liquidated, and 
satisfactory assurances of payment given to the 
public creditors. 

The interest and honor, the safety and happi- 
ness of our country, depend so much on the 
result of your deliberations, that I flatter myself 
you will proceed in the weighty business before 
you with firmness and temper, with vigor, 
unanimity and despatch. 


James Madison was born on the sixteenth of March, 1751, at the dwelling of his maternal 
grandmother, near the town of Port Eoyal, on the bants of the Eappahannock, in Virginia. 
After acquiring the rudiments of a classical education, under the tuition of Donald Eobertson, a 
native of Scotland, and the Keverend Thomas Martin, his parish minister, he entered the college 
of New Jersey, at Princeton, which was then under the presidency of the " sterling Doctor John 
Witherspoon." Here he completed his collegiate studies, and in the autumn of 1771, received 
the degree of bachelor of arts. "While at college his health became impaired by too strict appli- 
cation to his studies, and remained delicate and feeble for some years. These infirmities, how- 
ever, did not deter him from persevering in his literary pursuits. He devoted himself to a sys- 
tematic and extensive course of reading, somewhat miscellaneous, but principally with reference 
to the law, although he formed no absolute determination to enter upon its practice ; which, 
Burke says, while it sharpens the wits, does not always enlarge the mind. 

Early instilled with the noble principles of civil and reli_gious Jiberty, he strenuously resisted 
all forms of cruelty or oppression. He was particularly active in opposing the persecution of 
the early Baptists in Virginia, who were, in some instances, consigned to jail for violating the 
law which prohibited preaching by dissenters from the established church. At the beginning 
of the dispute with Great Britain, he manifested great zeal in the cause of the Americans, and 
was prevented from taking up arms only by the feeble condition of his health, hi the spring 
of 1776 he was chosen a member of the Virginia legislature, and in 1778 was appointed one of 
the executive councillors, which place he retained until the next year, when he was elected a 
delegate to the Continental Congress. Of this body he became an active and leading member, 
taking a prominent part in many of its important transactions. During the years 1784, 1785, 
and part of 1786, he was a member of the legislature of his native State, and distinguished him- 
self by his laborious efforts to establish a reform in the federal system. All his energies were 
devoted to this olyect. The Virginia legislature appointed him a delegate to the Annapolis 
Convention, which met in September, 1786, to devise a uniform system of commercial regula- 
tions, which should be binding on the whole confederacy when acceded to by all the States. 
This movement residted in the recommendation of a convention of delegates from all the States, 
to be held at Philadelphia, in May, 1787, and finally in the adoption of the Federal Constitution. 
Of that convention Mr. Madison was one of the most distinguished members. He took a promi- 
nent part in the debates, and rendered eminent service in perfecting the constitution as adopted. 
His notes of those proceedings and debates, published since his death, form an invaluable chap- 
ter in the legislative history of the country. Mr. Madison, in his will, dated the fifteenth of 
April, 1835, thus notices this work: "Considering the peculiarity and magnitude of the occa- 
sion which produced the convention at Philadelphia in 1787, the characters who composed it, 
the constitution which resulted from their deliberations, its effects during the trial of so many 
years on the people living under it, and the interest it has inspired among the friends of free 
government, it is not an unreasonable inference that a careful and extended report of the pro- 
ceedings and discussions of that body, which were with closed doors, by a member who was 


constant in his attendance, will be particularly gratifying ±0 the people of the United States, and 
to all who take an interest ia the progress of political science and the cause of true liberty. It 
is my desire that the report as made by me should be published." 

The constitution, on its adoption by the National Convention, was submitted to the several 
States for ratification. The Virginia Convention assembled for that purpose in June, 1788. Mr. 
Madison was a member of that body. His speeches were full of power, and evinced a high 
order of statesmanship; Although opposed by the vehement and torrent-like oratory of Patrick 
Henry, and the persuasive eloquence of George Mason, he gained his cause : the constitution 
was adopted, and Virginia entered the Union. 

In the interval between the adjournment of the Federal Convention at Philadelphia, and the 
meeting of the State Committees to sanction it, Mr. Madison was associated with Hamilton and 
Jay in the production of the celebrated series of essays under the title of The Federalist* 
These essays exerted an important influence with the people in favor of the constitution. In 
April, 1789, he took his seat in the Congress assembled at New York. Here he was continued 
by re-elections until March, 1797, the close of the administration of Washington. In the pro- 
ceedings of Congress during this time, he bore an active and important pwt ; addressed the 
House upon all matters of moment, and in aU the leading measures occupied an influential posi- 
tion. He opposed the funding system, the national bank, and other measures of the adminis- 
tration which originated with Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury ; and acted generally with 
the anti-federalists, who sustained the views of Mr. Jefferson, then Secretary of State. On Mr. 
Madison's retirement from Congress, in 1797, he was elected to the Virginia legislature, where 
he distinguished himself by his opposition to the alien and sedition laws which had been passed 
by the federal party in Congress. 

Mr. Jefferson being elected President of the United States in 1801, appointed Mr. Madison to 
the office of Secretary of State. He remained in that station during the whole of Mr. Jeffer- 
son's administration, and in 1809 was himself elected to the presidency. In 1812 Congress de- 
clared war against Great Britain. To this measure Mr. Madison reluctantly consented, consider- 
ing war " only and rarely tolerable as a necessary evU, to be kept off as long, and whenever it 
takes place, to be closed as soon, as possible." The same year he was re-elected President, and 
performed his duties during the exigencies of the war with firmness and ability. On the cap- 
ture of "Washington by the British, in 1814, he, with many of the principal officers, was obliged 
to fly to escape from being made prisoner. After the return of peace, which was consummated 
by the Treaty of Ghent, in December, 1814, the remaininder of his administration was pros- 
perous and tranquil, and when he retired from office the country was flourishing, with a reviving 
commerce and rapidly increasing manufactures. At the close of his presidency he retired to his 
estate at Montpelier, Virginia, where he lived until his death, which occurred on the twenty-eighth 
of June, 1836. On the annunciation of his decease, by President Jackson, to the Senate and 
House of Eepresentatives, John Quincy Adams, the only surviving ex-president, and then a 
member of the lower House, delivered the following eloquent tribute to his memory : " It is 
not without some hesitation and some diffidence, that I have risen to offer, in my own behalf 
and that of my colleagues upon this floor, and of our common constituents, to join our voice at 
once of mourning and of exultation, at the event announced to both Houses of Congress by the 
message from the President of the United States — of mourning at the bereavement which has 
befallen our common country, by the decease of one of her most illustrious sons ; of exultation 
at the spectacle afforded to the observation of the civilized world, and for the emulation of after 
times, by the close of a life of usefulness and glory, after forty years of service in trusts of the 
highest dignity and splendor that a confiding country could bestow, succeeded by twenty years 
of retirement and private life, not inferior, in the estimation of the virtuous and wise, to the 
honors of the highest station that ambition can ever attain. • 

* The authorship of the diflferent numbers of this work, Mr. Madison designates in his own copy and in his own 
handwriting, as follows : Nos. 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 28, 24, 25, 26, 27, 2S, 29, 80, SI, S2, 83, 34, 35, 36, 69, 60, 
61, 65 to 85 inclusive, by Alexander Hamilton. Nos. 10, 14, 18, 19, 20, 37 to 58 inclusive, and 62 and 63, by James Madi- 
son. Nos, 2, 3, 4, 5, 64, by John Ja/y. 



" Of the public life of James Madison, what could I say that is not deeply impressed upon 
the memory and upon the heart of every one within the Bound of my voice ? Of his private 
life, what but must meet an echoing shout of applause from every voice within this hall ? Is it 
not, in a pre-eminent degree, by emanations from his mind that we are assembled here as the 
representatives of the people and States of this Union ? Is it not transcendently by his exer- 
tions that we all address each other here by the endearing appellation of countrymen and fel- 
low-citizens ? Of that band of benefactors of the human race, the founders of the Constitution 
of the United States, James Madison is the last who has gone to his reward. Their glorious 
work has survived them all. They have transmitted the precious bond of union to us, now 
entirely a succeeding generation to them. May it never cease to be a voice of admonition to 
us of our duty to transmit the inheritance unimpaired to our children of the rising age." 


This speech is composed of several delivered 
by Mr. Madison, in the Virginia Convention, 
during the session of that assembly in June, 

Mr. Chairman : In what I am about to offer 
to this assembly, I shall not attempt to make 
impressions by any ardent professions of zeal 
for the public welfare. We know that the prin- 
ciples of every man wiU be, and ought to be 
judged, not by his professions and declarations, 
but by his conduct. By that criterion, I wish, 
in common with every other member, to be 
judged ; and even though it should prove un- 
favorable to my reputation, yet it is a criterion 
from which I by no means would depart, nor 
could if I would. Comparisons have been 
made between the friends of this constitution 
and those who oppose it. Although I disap- 
prove of such comparisons, I trust that in every 
thing that regards truth, honor, candor and rec- 
titude of motives, the friends of this system, 
here and in other States, are not inferior to its 
opponents. But professions of attachment to 
the public good, and comparisons of parties, at 
all times invidious, ought not to govern or in- 
fluence us now. We ought, sir, to examine the 
constitution exclusively on its own merits. We 
ought to inquire whether it will promote the 
public hajipiness; and its aptitude to produce 
that desirable object, ought to be the exclusive 
subject of our researches. In this pursuit, we 
ought to address our arguments not to the feel- 
ings and passions, but to those understandings 
and judgments which have been selected, by 
the people of this country, to decide that great 
question, by a^calm and rational investigation. 
I hope that gentlemen, in displaying their abili- 
ties on this occasion, will, instead of giving 
opinions and making assertions, condescend to 
prove and demonstrate, by fair and regular dis- 
cussion. It gives me pain to hear gentlemen 

t See second note at page 18. 

continually distorting the natural construction 
of language. Assuredly, it is sufficient if any 
human production can stand a fair discussion. 
Before I proceed to make some additions to the 
reasons which have been adduced by my hon- 
orable friend over the way, I must take the 
liberty to make some observations on what was 
said by another gentleman, (Mr. Henry.) He 
told us that this constitution ought to be reject- 
ed, because, in his opinion, it endangered the 
public liberty, in many instances. Give me 
leave to make one answer to that observation 
— let the dangers with which this system is 
supposed to be replete, be clearly pointed out. 
If any dangerous and unnecessary powers be 
given to the general legislature, let them be 
plainly demonstrated, and let us not rest satis- 
fied with general assertions of dangers, without 
proof, without examination. If powers be 
necessary, apparent danger is not a sufficient 
reason against conceding them. He has sug- 
gested, that licentiousness has seldom produced 
the loss of liberty; but that the tyranny of 
rulers has almost always effected it. Since 
the general civilization of mankind, I believe 
there are more instances of the abridgment of 
the freedom of the people, by gradual and silent 
encroachments of those in power, than by vio- 
lent and sudden usurpations : bvit on a candid 
examination of history, we shall find that tur- 
bulence, violence and abuse of power, by the 
majority trampling on the rights of the mi- 
nority, have produced factions and commotions 
which, in republics, have more frequently than 
any other cause, produced despotism. If we go 
over the whole history of ancient and modern 
republics, we shall find their destruction to have 
generally resulted from those causes. If we 
consider the peculiar situation of the United 
States, and go to the sources of that diversity 
of sentiment which pervades its inhabitants, 
we shall find great danger to fear that the same 
causes may terminate here in the same fatal 
effects which they produced in those i-epublics. 
This danger ought to be wisely guarded against. 



In the progress of this discussion, it will per- 
haps appear, that the only possible remedy for 
those evils, and the only certain means of pre- 
serving and protecting the principles of repub- 
licanism, vi^ill be found in that very system 
which is now exclaimed against as the parent 
of oppression. I must confess that I have not 
been able to find his usual consistency in the 
gentleman's arguments on this occasion. He 
informs us that the people of this country are 
at perfect repose ; that every man enjoys the 
fruits of his labor peaceably and securely, and 
that every thing is in perfect tranquillity 
and safety. I wish sincerely, sir, this were 
true. But if this be really their situation, 
^why has every State acknowledged the con- 
trary ? Why were deputies from aU the States 
sent to the general convention? Why have 
complaints of national and individual distresses 
been echoed and re-echoed throughout the con- 
tinent ? Why has our general government been 
so shamefully disgraced, and our constitution 
violated? Wherefore have laws been made to 
authorize a change, and wherefore are we now 
assembled here? A federal government is 
:&me3 for the protection of its individual 
members. Ours was itself attacked with im- 
punity. Its authority has been boldly disobey- 
ed and openly despised. I think I perceive a 
glaring inconsistency in another of his argu- 
ments. He complains of this constitution, be- 
cause it requires the consent of at least three- 
fourths of the States to introduce amendments, 
which shall be necessary for the happiness of 
the people. The assent of so many, he con- 
siders as too great an obstacle to the admission 
of salutary amendments, which he strongly in- 
sists ought to be at the will of a bare ma,jority, 
and we hear this argument at the very mo- 
ment we are called upon to assign reasons 
for proposing a constitution, which puts it in 
the power of nine States to abolish the present 
inadequate, unsafe and pernicious confedera- 
tion ! In the first case, he asserts that a ma- 
jority ought to have the power of altering the 
government, when found to be inadequate to 
the security of public happiness. In the last 
case, he affirms that even three-fourths of the 
community have not a right to alter a govern- 
ment, which experience has proved to be sub- 
versive of national felicity ; nay, that the most 
necessary and urgent alterations cannot be made 
without the absolute unanimity of all the States. 
Does not the thirteenth article of the confede- 
ration expressly require, that no alteration shall 
be made without the unanimous consent of all 
the States ? Can any thing in theory be more 
perniciously improvident and injudicious than 
this submission of the will of the majority to 
the most trifling minority ? Have not experi- 
ence and practice actually manifested this theo- 
retical inconvenience to be extremely impoli- 
tic? Let me mention one fact, which I con- 
ceive must carry conviction to the mind of any 
one, — the smallest State in the Union has ob- 
structed every attempt to reform the govern- 

ment ; that little member has repeatedly diso- 
beyed and counteracted the general authority; 
nay, has even supplied the enemies of its coim- 
try with provisions. Twelve States had agreed 
to certain improvements which were proposed, 
being thought absolutely necessary to preserve 
the existence of the general government ; but 
as these improvements, though really indispen- 
sable, could not, by the confederation, be in- 
troduced into it without the consent of every 
State, the refractory dissent of that little State 
prevented their adoption. The inconveniences 
resulting from this requisition of unanimous con- 
currence in alterations of the confederation, 
must be known to every member in this con- 
vention ; it is therefore needless to remind them 
of them. Is it not self-evident, that a trifling 
minority ought not to bind the majority? 
Would not foreign influence be exerted with 
facility over a small minority ? Would the 
honorable gentleman agree to continue the 
most radical defects in the old system, because 
the petty State of Ehode Island would not 
agree to remove them ? 

He next objects to the exclusive legislation^ 
over the district where the seat of the govern- 
ment may be fixed. Would he submit that the 
representatives of this State should carry on their 
deliberations under the control of any one mem- 
ber of the Union ? If any State had the power 
of legislation over the place where Congress 
should fix the general government, it would 
impair the dignity, and hazard the safety of 
Congress. If the safety of the Union were un- 
der the control of any particular State, would 
not foreign corruption probably prevail in such 
a State, to induce it to exert its controlling in- 
fluence over the members of the general gov- 
ernment? Gentlemen cannot have forgotten 
the disgraceful insult which Congress received 
some years ago. And, sir, when we also re- 
flect, that the previous cession of particular 
States is necessary, before Congress can legis- 
late exclusively any where, we must, instead of 
being alarmed at this part, heartily approve of it. 

But the honorable member sees great danger 
in the provision concerning the militia. Now, 
sir, this I conceive to be an additional security 
to our liberties, without diminishing the power 
of the States in any considerable degree; it 
appears to me so highly expedient, that I should 
imagine it would have found advocates even in 
the warmest friends of the present system. 
The aiithority of training the militia and ap- 
pointing the officers, is reserved to the States. 
But Congress ought to have the power of es- 
tablishing a uniform system of discipline 
throughout the States ; and to provide for the 
execution of the laws, suppress insurrections, 
and repel invasions. These are the only cases 
wherein they can interfere with the militia; 
and the obvious necessity of their having pow- 
er over them in these cases, must flash convic- 
tion on any reflecting mind. Without uni- 
formity of discipline, militai-y bodies woidd be 
incapable of action ; without a general control- 



ling power to call forth tlie strength of the Union, 
for the purpose of repelling invasions, the 
country might be overrun, and conquered by 
foreign enemies. Without such a power to 
suppress insurrections, our liberties might be 
destroyed by intestine faction, and domestic 
tyranny be established. 

The honorable member then told us, that 
there was no instance of power once trans- 
ferred being voluntarily renounced. Not to 
produce European examples, which may pro- 
bably be done before the rising of this con- 
vention, have we not seen already, in seven 
States, (and probably in an eighth State,) legis- 
latures surrendering some of the most important 
powers they possessed ? But, sir, by this gov- 
ernment, powers are not given to any particular 
set of men — they are in the hands of the people 
— delegated to their representatives chosen for 
short terms — to representatives at all times 
responsible to the people, and whose situation 
is perfectly similar to their own : — as long as 
this is the case, we have no dangejr to appre- 
hend. When the gentleman called to our re- 
collection the usual efl'ects of the concession of 
powers, and imputed the loss of liberty gene- 
rally to open tyranny, I wish he had gone 
something further. Upon a review of history, 
he would have found, that the loss of liberty 
very often resulted from factions and divisions ; 
from local considerations, which eternally lead 
to quarrels : he would have found internal dis- 
sensions to have more frequently demolished 
civil liberty, than a tenacious disposition in 
rulers to retain any stipulated powers. 

[Here Mr. Madison enumerated the various 
means whereby nations had lost their liberties.] 

The power of raising and supporting armies 
is exclaimed against, as dangerous and unneces- 
sary. I sincerely wish, sir, that there were no 
necessity for vesting this power in the general 
government. But suppose a foreign, nation 
should declare war against the United States, 
must not the general legislature have the power" 
of defending the United States ? Ought it to 
be known to foreign nations, that the general 
government of the United States of America 
has no power to raise or support an army, even 
in the utmost danger, when attacked by ex- 
ternal enemies? Would not their knowledge 
of such a circumstance' stimulate them to fall 
upon us? If, sir, Congress be not invested 
with this power, any great nation, prompted 
by ambition or avarice, wiU be invited by our 
weakness to attack us ; and such an attack, by 
disciplined veterans, would certainly be attend- 
ed with success, when only opposed by irre- 
gular, undisciplined militia. Whoever considers 
the peculiar situation of this country, the mul- 
tiplicity of its excellent inlets and harbors, and 
the uncommon facility of attacking it, however 
much he may regret the necessity of such a 
power, cannot hesitate a moment in granting 
it. One fact may elucidate this argument. In 
the course of the late war, when the weak 
parts of the Union were exposed, and many 

States were placed in the most deplorable situa- 
tion by the enemy's ravages, the assistance of 
foreign nations was thought so urgently neces- 
sary for our protection, that the relinquishment 
of territorial advantages was not deemed too 
great a sacrifice for the acquisition of one ally. 
This expedient was admitted with great reluc- 
tance, even by those States who expected most 
advantages from it. The crisis, however, at 
length arrived, when it was judged necessary for 
the salvation of this country, to make certain 
cessions to Spain ; whether wisely, or other- 
wise, is not for me to say ; but the fact was, 
that instructions were sent to our representative 
at the court of Spain, to empower him to enter 
into negotiations for that purpose. How it 
terminated is well known. This fact shows the 
extremities to which nations will recur in cases 
of imminent danger, and demonstrates the ne- 
cessity of making ourselves more respectable. 
The necessity of making dangerous cessions, 
and of applying to foreign aid, ought to be pro- 
vided against. 

The honorable member then told us, that 
there are heart-burnings in the States that have 
assented to the new constitution, and that Vir- 
ginia may, if she does not come into the mea- 
sure, continue in amicable confederacy with 
those adopting States. I wish, as seldom as 
possible, to contradict the assertions of gentle- 
men ; but I can venture to affirm, without 
danger of being detected in an error, that there 
is the most conclusive evidence of the satisfac- 
tion of those States being every day augmented, 
and that, in that State where it was adopted 
only by a majority of nineteen, there is not, at 
this time, one-fifth of the people dissatisfied. 
There are some reasons which induce us to 
conclude, that the grounds of proselytism ex- 
tend every where ; its principles begin to be 
better understood ; and the inflammatory vio- 
lence wherewith it was opposed by designing, 
illiberal and unthinking minds, begins to sub- 
side. I will not enumerate the causes from 
which, in my conception, the heart-burnings of 
a majority of its opposers have originated. 
Suffice it to say, that in all cases, they were 
founded on a misconception of the nature and 
tendency of the new government. Had it been 
candidly examined and fairly discussed, I be- 
lieve, sir, that but a very inconsiderable minor- 
ity of the people of the United States would at 
any time have opposed it. With respect to the 
Swiss confederacy, which the honorable gentle- 
man has proposed for our example, as far as 
historical authority may be relied upon, we 
shall find their government quite unworthy of 
our imitation. I am sure if tlie honorable 
member had sufficiently considered their history , 
and government, he never would have quoted 
their example in this place, lie would have 
found that, instead of respecting the rights of 
mankind, their government (at least that of 
several of their cantons) is one of the vilest 
aristocracies that ever was instituted. The 
peasants of some of their cantons are more op- 



pressed and degraded tlian the subjects of any 
monarch of Europe ; nay, almost as much so as 
those of any eastern despot. It is a novelty in 
politics, that from the worst of systems the 
happiest consequences should arise. For it is 
their aristooratical rigor, and the peculiarity of 
their situation, that have so long supported 
their union. Without the closest compress- 
ment, dismemberment would unquestionably 
ensue, and their powerful, ambitious neighbors 
would immediately avail themselves of their 
least jarrings. As we are not circumstanced 
like them, however, no conclusive precedent 
can be drawn from their situation. I trust the 
gentleman does not carry his idea so far as to 
recommend a separation from the adopting 
States. This government may secure our hap- 
piness; this is at least as probable as that it 
shall be oppressive. If eight States have, from 
a persuasion of its policy and utility, adopted 
it, shall Virginia shrink from it, without a full 
conviction of its danger and inutility ? I hope 
she will never shrink from any duty : I trust 
she will not determine without the most serious 
reflection and deliberation. 

I confess to you, sir, that were uniformity of 
religion to be introduced by this system, it 
would, in my opinion, be ineligible ; but I have 
no reason to conclude, that uniformity of gov- 
ernment will produce that of religion. To the 
great honor of America, that right is perfectly 
free and unshackled among us. The govern- 
ment has no jurisdiction over it ; the least re- 
flection will convince us, there is no danger to 
be feared on that ground. ' 

But we are flattered with the probability of 
obtaining previous amendments. This point 
calls for the most serious care of the conven- 
tion. If amendments are to be proposed by 
one State, other States have the same right, 
and will also propose alterations. These can- 
not but be dissimilar and opposite in their 
nature. I beg leave to remark, that the gov- 
ernments of the different States are in many 
respects dissimilar in their structure ; their 
legislative bodies are not similar ; their execu- 
tives are still more different. In several of the 
States, the first magistrate is elected by the 
people at large; in others, by joint ballot of 
the members of both branches of the legisla- 
ture ; and in others again, in other different 
manners. This dissimilarity has occasioned a 
diversity of opinion on the theory of govern- 
ment, which will, without many reciprocal 
concessions, render a concurrence impossible. 
Although the appointment of an executive 
magistrate has not been thought destructive to 
the principles of democracy, in any of the 
States, yet, in the course of the debate, we find 
objections made to the federal executive : it is 
urged that the president will degenerate into a 
tyrant. I intended, in compliance with the call 
of the honorable member, to explain the rea- 
sons of proposing this constitution, and develope 
its principles ; but I shall postpone my remarks, 
till we hear the supplement which he has in- 

formed us he means to add to what he haa 
already offered. 

Give me leave to say something of the nature 
of the government, and to show that it is per- 
fectly safe and just, to vest it with the power 
of taxation. There are a number of opinions ; 
but the principal question is, whether it be a 
federal or a consolidated government. In order 
to judge properly of the question before us, we 
must consider it minutely, in its principal parts. 
I myself conceive, that it is of a mixed nature ; 
it is, in a manner, unprecedented. We cannot 
find one express prototype in the experience 
of the world : it stands by itself. In some re- 
spects, it is a government of a federal nature : 
in others, it is of a consolidated nature. Even 
if we attend to the manner in which the con- 
stitution is investigated, ratified and made the 
act of the people of America, I can say, not- 
withstanding what the honorable gentleman 
has alleged, that this government is not com- 
pletely consolidated ; nor is it entirely federal. 
Who are the parties to it ? The people — not 
the people ' as composing one great body, but 
the people as composing thirteen sovereignties. 
Were it, as the gentleman asserts, a consoli- 
dated government, the assent of a majority of 
the people would be suflicient for its establish- 
ment, and as a majority have adopted it al- 
ready, the remaining States would be bound by 
the act of the majority, even if they unani- 
mously reprobated it. Were it such a govern- 
ment as is suggested, it would be now binding 
on the people of this State, without having had 
the privilege of deliberating upon it ; but, sir, 
no State is bound by it, as it is, without its own 
consent. Should all the States adopt it, it will 
be then a government established by the thir- 
teen States of America, not through the inter- 
vention of the legislatures, but by the people 
at large. In this particular respect, the dis- 
tinction between the existing and proposed 
governments, is very material. The existing 
system has been derived from the dependent, 
derivative authority of the legislatures of the 
States ; whereas this is derived from the supe- 
rior power of the people. If we look at the 
manner in which alterations are to be made in 
it, the same idea is in some degree attended to. 
By the new system, a majority of the States 
cannot introduce amendments ; nor are all the 
States required for that purpose ; three fourths 
of them must concur in alterations ; in this 
there is a departure from the federal idea. The 
members to the national House of Representa- 
tives are to be chosen by the people at large, 
in proportion to the numbers in the respective 
districts. When we come to the Senate, its 
members are elected by the States in their 
equal and political capacity ; but had the gov-. 
ernment been completely consolidated, the 
Senate would have been chosen by the peo- 
ple, in their individual capacity, in the same 
manner as the members of the other House. 
Thus it is of a complicated nature, and this 
complication, I trust, will be found to exclude 



the evils of absolute consolidation, as well as 
of a mere confederacy. If Virginia was sepa- 
rated from all the States, her power and au- 
thority would extend to all cases ; in like 
manner, were all powers vested in the general 
government, it would be a consolidated gov- 
ernment : but tlie powers of the federal .-govr 
ernment are enumerated ; it can only operate 
in certain cases : it. has legislative powers on 
defined and limited objects, beyond which it 

cannot extend its jurisdiction. . ~ 

■ But the honoraljte member has satirized, 
with peculiar acrimony, the powers given to 
the general government by this constitution. 
I conceive that the first question on this .subject 
is, whether these powers be necessary ; if they 
be, we are reduced to the dilemma of either 
submitting to the inconvenience, or losing the 
Union. Let us consider the most important of 
these reprobated powers ; that of direct taxa- 
tion is most generally objected to. "With re- 
spect to the exigencies of government, there is 
no question but the most easy mode of provid- 
ing for them will be adopted. "When, there- 
fore, direct taxes are not necessary, they will 
not be recurred to. It can be of little advan- 
tage to those in power, to raise money in a 
manner oppressive to the people. To consult 
the conveniences of the people, will cost them 
nothing, and in many respects will be advan- 
tageous to them. Direct taxes will only be 
recurred to for great purposes. "What has 
brought on other nations those immense debts, 
under the pressure of which many of them la- 
bor ? Not the expenses of their governments, 
but war. If this country should be engaged in 
war, (and I conceive we ought to provide for 
the possibility of such a case,) how would it be 
carried on? By the usual means provided 
from year to year? As our imports will be 
necessary for the expenses of government, and 
other common exigencies, how are we to carry 
on the means of defence ? How is it possible 
a war could be supported without money or 
credit ? And would it be possible for govern- 
ment to have credit, without having the power 
of raising money ? No, it would be impossible 
for any government, in such a case, to defend 
itself. Then, I say, sir, that it is necessary to 
establish funds for extraordinary exigencies, 
and give this power to the general govern- 
ment ; for the utter inutility of previous requi- 
sitions on the States is too well known. "Would 
it be possible for those countries, whose finances 
and revenues are carried to the highest perfec- 
tion, to carry on the operations of government 
on great emergencies, such as the maintenance 
of a war, without an uncontrolled power of 
raising money ? Has it not been necessary for 
Great Britain, notwithstanding the facility of 
the collection of her taxes, to have recourse 
very often to this and other extraordinary me- 
thods of procuring money? "Would not her 
public credit have been ruined, if it was known 
that her power to raise money was limited ? 
Has not France been obliged, on great occa- 

sions, to recur to unusual means, in order to 
raise funds? It has been the case in many 
countries, and no government can exist, unless 
its powers extend to make provisions for every 
contingency. If we were actually attacked by 
a powerful nation, and our general government 
had not the power of raising money, but de- 
pended solely on requisitions, our condition 
would be truly deplorable : if the revenues of 
this commonwealth were to depend on twenty 
distinct authorities, it would be impossible for 
it to carry on its operations. This must be 
obvious to every member here : I think, there- 
fore, that itjs, Jiecfissary for the preservation 
of the Union, that this power should-be given 
to the general government. 

But it is urged, that its consolidated nature, 
joined to the power of direct taxation, will give 
it a tendency to destroy all subordinate author- 
ity ; that its increasing influence will speedily 
enable it to absorb the State governments. I 
cannot bring myself to think that this will be 
the case. If the general government were 
wholly independent of the governments of the 
particular States, then indeed, usurpation might 
be expected to the fullest extent : but, sir, on 
whom does this general government depend? 
It derives its authority from these governments, 
and from the same sources from which their 
authority is derived. The members of the 
federal government are taken from the same 
men from whom those of the State legislatures 
are taken. If we consider the mode in which 
the federal representatives will be chosen, we 
shall be convinced, that the general never 
will destroy the individual governments ; and 
this conviction must be strengthened by an 
attention to the construction of the Senate. 
The representatives will be chosen, probably 
under the influence of the members of the State 
legislatures : but there is not the least proba- 
bility that the election of the latter will be in- 
fluenced by the former. One hundred and sixty 
members representing this commonwealth in 
one branch of the legislature, are drawn from 
the people at large, and must ever possess more 
influence than the few men who will be elected 
to the general legislature. Those who wish to 
become federal representatives, must depend on 
their credit with that class of men who will be 
the most popular in their counties, who gener- 
ally represent the people in the State govern- 
ments : they can, therefore, never succeed in 
any measure contrary to the wishes of those on 
whom they depend. So that on the whole, it 
is almost certain, that the deliberations of the 
members of the federal House of Eepresenta- 
tives, will be directed to the interests of the 
people of America. As to the other branch, 
the senators will be appointed by the legisla- 
tures, and though elected for six years, I do 
not conceive they will so soon forget the source 
from whence they derive their political exist- 
ence. This election of one branch of the fede- 
ral, by the State legislatm'es, absolute 
dependence of the former on the latter. The 



■biennial exclusion of one third, will lessen the 
facility of a combination, and preclude all like- 
lihood of intrigues. I appeal to our past expe- 
rience, whether they will attend to the inter- 
ests of their constituent States. Have not those 
gentlemen who have been honored with seats 
in Congress, often signalized themselves by 
their attachment to their States ? Sir, I pledge 
myself that this government wiU answer the 
expectations of its friends, and foil the appre- 
hensions of its enemies. I am persuaded that 
the patriotism of the people will continue, and 
be a suiBcient guard to their liberties, and that 
the tendency of the constitution will be, that 
the State governments will counteract the gen- 
eral interest, and ultimately prevail. The num- 
ber of the representatives is yet suflScient for 
our safety, and Avill gradually increase ; and if 
we consider their different sources of informa- 
tion, the number will not appear too small. 

Sir, that part of the proposed constitution 
which gives the general government the power 
of laying and collecting taxes, is indispensable 
and essential to the existence of any efficient, 
or well organized system of government : if we 
consult reason, and be ruled by its dictates, we 
shall find its justification there : if we review 
the experience we have had, or contemplate 
the history of nations, there too we shall find 
ample reasons to prove its expediency. It 
would be preposterous to depend for necessary 
supplies on a body which is fully possessed of 
the power of witliholding them. If a govern- 
ment depends on other govei'nments for its 
revenues; if it must depend on the voluntary 
contributions of its members, its existence must 
he precarious. A government that relies on 
thirteen independent sovereignties for the 
means of its existence, is a solecism in theory, 
and a mere nullity in practice. Is it consistent 
with reason, that such a government can pro- 
mote the happiness of any people? It is sub- 
versive of every principle of sound policy, to 
trust the safety of a community with a govern- 
ment totally destitute of the means of protect- 
ing itself or its members. Can Congress, after 
the repeated unequivocal proofs it has experi- 
enced of the utter inutility and ineflBcacy of 
requisitions, reasonably expect that they would 
be hereafter effectual or productive ? Will not 
the same local interests, and other causes, mili- 
tate against a compliance ? "Whoever hopes 
the contrary must for ever be disappointed. 
The effect, sir, cannot be changed without a 
removal of the cause. Let each county in this 
commonwealth be supposed free and indepen- 
dent : let your revenues depend on requisitions 
of proportionate quotas from them : let appli- 
cation be made to them repeatedly, and then 
ask yourself, is it to be presumed that they 
would comply, or that an adequate collection 
could be made from partial compliances ? It is 
now diflBcult to collect the taxes from them : 
how much would that difiiculty be enhanced, 
were you to depend solely on their generosity ? 
I appeal to the reason of evej'y gentleman here. 

and to his candor, to say whether he is not per- 
suaded that the present confederation is as fee- 
ble as the government of Virginia would be in 
that case : to the same reason I appeal, whether 
it be compatible with prudence to continue a 
government of such manifest and palpable 
weakness and inefliciency. 

If we recur to history, and review the an- 
nals of mankind, I undertake to say, that no 
instance can be produced by the most learned 
man, of any confederate government, that will 
justify a continuation of the present system; 
or that win not, on the contrary, demonstrate the 
necessity of this change, and of substituting to 
the present pernicious and fatal plan, the sys- 
tem now under consideration, or one equally en- 
ergetic. The uniform conclusion drawn from a 
review of ancient and modern confederacies, is, 
that instead of promoting the public happiness, 
or securing public tranquillity, they have, ui 
every instance, been productive of anarchy 
and confusion — ineffectual for the preservation 
of harmony, and a prey to their own dissen- 
sions and foreign invasions. 

The Amphictyonic league resembled our con- 
federation in its nominal powers : it was pos- 
sessed of rather more efiiciency. The compo- 
nent States retained their sovereignty, and 
enjoyed an equality of suffrage in the federal 
council. But though its powers were more 
considerahle in many respects than those of 
our present system, yet it had the same radical 
defect. Its powers were exercised over its in- 
dividual members in their political capacities. 
To this capital defect it owed its disorders, and 
final destruction. It was compelled to recur to 
the sanguinary coercion of war to enforce its 
decrees. The struggles consequent on a re- 
fusal to obey a decree, and an attempt to en- 
force it, produced the necessity of applying to 
foreign assistance : by complying with tliat ap- 
plication, and employing his wUes and in- 
trigues, Philip of Macedon acquired sufficient 
influence to become a member of the league ; 
and that artful and insidious prince soon after 
became master of their liberties. 

, The Achffian league, though better construct- 
ed than the Amphictyonic, in material respects, 
was continually agitated with domestic dissen- 
sions, and driven to the necessity of calling in 
foreign aid ; this also eventuated in the demo- 
lition of their confederacy. Had they been 
more closely united, their people would have 
been happier; and their united wisdom and 
strength would not only have rendered unne- 
cessary all foreign interpositions in their affairs, 
but would have enabled them to repel the at- 
tack of any enemy. If we descend to more 
modern examples, we shall find the same evils 
resulting from the same sources. 

The Germanic system is neither adequate to 
the external defence or internal felicity of the 
people ; the doctrine of quotas and requisitions 
flourishes here. "Without energy — without sta- 
bility — the empire is a nerveless body. The 
most furious conflicts, and the most implacable 



.inimosities between its members, strikingly 
distinguish its history. Concert and co-ope- 
ration are incompatible with such an injudi- 
ciously constructed system. 
[ . The republic of the Swiss is sometimes in- 
stanced for its stability, but even there, dis- 
sensions and wars of a bloody nature, have 
been frequently seen between the cantons. A 
peculiar coincidence of circumstances contrib- 
utes to the continuance of their political connec- 
tion. Their feeble association owes its existence 
to their singular situation. There is a schism 
this moment in their confederacy, which, with- 
out the necessity of uniting for their external 
defence, would immediately produce its disso- 

^ The confederate government of Holland is a 
further confirmation of the characteristic imbe- 
cility of such governments. From the history 
of this government, we might derive lessons 
of the most important utility. 

[Here Mr. Madison quoted sundry passages 
from DeWitt, respecting the people of Holland, 
and the war which they had so long supported 
against the Spanish monarch; showing the 
impolitic and injudicious structure of their con- 
federacy ; that it was entirely destitute of ener- 
gy, because their revenues depended chiefly on 
requisitions; that, during that long war, the 
provinces of Guelderland and Overyssel had not 
paid their respective quotas, but had evaded 
altogether their payments ; in consequence of 
which, two-sevenths of the resources of the 
community had never been brought into action ; 
nor contributed in the least towards the prose- 
cution of the war: that the fear of pressing 
danger stimulated Holland and the other pro- 
vinces to pay all the charges of the war ; that 
those two provinces had continued their delin- 
quencies ; that, the province of Holland alone 
paid more than all the rest ; still those provinces 
which paid up their proportional shares, claim- 
ed from the failing states the amounts of their 
arrearages; that the most fatal consequences 
had nearly resulted from the difficulty of ad- 
justing those claims, and from the extreme 
aversion of the delinquent states to discharge 
even their most solemn engagements: that 
there are existing controversies between the 
provinces on this account at present ; and to 
add to the evils consequent upon requisitions, 
that unanimity and the revision and sanction 
of their constituents, were necessary to give 
validity to the decisions of the states general. 
He then proceeded, — [Sir, these radical defects 
in their confederacy must have dissolved their 
association long ago, were it not for their pecu- 
liar position— circumscribed in a narrow terri- 
tory ; surrounded by the most powerful nations 
in the world; possessing peculiar advantages 
from their situation; an extensive navigation 
and a powerful navy — advantages which it was 
clearly the interest of those nations to diminish 
or deprive them of. Their late unhappy dis- 
sensions were manifestly produced by the vices 
of their system. We may derive much benefit 

from the experience of that unhappy country. 
Governments, destitute of energy, will always 
produce anarchy. These facts are worthy the 
most serious consideration of every gentleman 
here. Does not the history of these confedera- 
cies coincide with the lessons drawn from our 
own experience ? I most earnestly pray that 
America may have sufficient wisdom to avail 
herself of the instructive information she may 
derive from a contemplation of the sources of 
their misfortunes, and that she may escape a 
similar fate, by avoiding the causes from which 
their infelicity sprung. If the general govern- 
ment is to depend on the voluntary contributions 
of the States for its support, dismemberment of 
the United States may be tlie consequence. In 
cases of imminent danger, those States alone, 
more immediately exposed to it, would exert 
themselves ; those remote from it would be too 
supine to interest themselves warmly in the 
fate of those whose distresses they did not im- 
mediately perceive. The general government 
ought, therefore, to be armed with power to 
defend the whole Union. 

Must we not suppose, that those parts of 
America which are most exposed, will first be 
the scenes of war ? Those nations, whose in- 
terest is incompatible with an extension of our 
power, and who are jealous of our resources to 
become powerful and wealthy, must naturally 
be inclined to exert every means to prevent 
our becoming formidable. "Will they not be 
impelled to attack the most exposed parts of 
the Union ? Will not their knowledge of the 
weakness of our government stimulate them 
the more readily to such an attack? Those 
parts to which relief can be aiforded with most 
difficulty, are the extremities of the country, 
and will be the first objects of our enemies. 
The general government, having no resources 
beyond what are adequate to its existing neces- 
sities, will not be able to affiard any effectual 
succor to those parts which may be invaded. 

In such a case, America must perceive the 
danger and folly of withholding from the Union, 
a power sufficient to protect the whole territory 
of the United States. Such an attack is far 
from improbable, and if it be actually made, it 
is difficult to conceive a possibility of escaping 
the catastrophe of a dismemberment. On this 
subject, we may receive an estimable and in- 
structive lesson, from an American confederacy ; 
from an example which has happened in our 
country, and which applies to us with peculiar 
force, being most analogous to our situation. I XMAM>^<i- 
mean that species of association or union which * 

subsisted in New England. The colonies of 
Massachusetts, Bristol, Connecticut, and New 
Hampshire, were confederated together. 

The object of that confederacy was primarily 
to defend themselves against the inroads and 
depredations of the Indians. They had a com- 
mon council, consisting of deputies from each 
party, with an equality of suffrage in their delib- 
erations. The general expenditures and charges 
were to be adequately defrayed. Its powers 



■were very similar to those of the confederation. 
Its history proves clearly, that a government, 
founded on such principles, must ever disappoint 
the hopes of those who expect its operations to 
be conducive to public happiness. 

There are facts on record to prove, that in- 
stead of answering the end of its institution, or 
the expectation of its framers, it was violated 
with impunity; and only regarded when it coin- 
cided perfectly with the views and immediate 
interests of the respective parties. 

The strongest member of the union availed 
itself of its circumstances to infringe their con- 
federacy. Massachusetts refused to pay its quo- 
tas. In the war between England and Holland, 
it was found particularly necessary to make 
more exertions for the protection of that coun- 

Massachusetts being then more powerful and 
less exposed than the other colonies, refused its 
contributions to the general defence. In con- 
sequence of this, the common councU remon- 
strated against the council of Massachusetts. 
This altercation terminated in the dissolution 
of their union. From this brief account of a 
system perfectly resembling our present one, 
we may easily divine the inevitable consequen- 
ces of a longer adherence to the latter. 

[Mr. Madison then recapitulated many instan- 
ces of the prevalent persuasion of the wisest 
patriots of the States, that the safety of all 
America depended on union ; and that the gov- 
ernment of the United States must be possessed 
of an adequate degree of energy, or that other- 
wise their connection could not be justly de- 
nominated an union. He likewise enumerated 
the expedients that had been attempted by the 
people of America to form an intimate associa- 
tion, from the meeting at New York in the 
year 1754, downwards; that their sentiments 
on this subject had been uniform, both in their 
colonial and independent conditions ; and that 
a variety of causes had hitherto prevented the 
adoption of an adequate system. He then con- 
tinued thus : ] 

If we take experience for our guide, we shall 
find still more instructive direction on this sub- 
ject. The weakness of the existing articles of 
the union, showed itself during the war. It 
has manifested itself since the peace, to such a 
degree as can leave no doubt in any rational, 
intelligent and unbiassed mind, of the necessity 
of an alteration : nay, this necessity is obvious 
to all America; it has forced ftself on the minds 
of the people. The committee has been inform- 
ed, that the confederation was not comjileted 
till the year 1781, when a great portion of the 
war was ended; part of the 
merit of the antecedent operations of the war 
could justly be attributed to that system. Its 
debility was perceived almost as soon as it was 
put ir operation. A recapitulation of the proofs 
which have been experienced of its inefficacy, 
is imnecessary. It is most notorious, that fee- 
bleness universally marked its character. Shall 
we be safe in another war in the same situation ? 

That instrument required the voluntary contri- 
butions of the States, and thereby sacrificed 
some of our best privileges. The most intole- 
rable and unwarrantable oppressions were com- 
mitted on the people during the late war. The 
gross enormity of those oppressions might have 
produced the most serious consequences, were 
it not for the spirit of liberty, which prepon- 
derated against every consideration. 

A scene of injustice, partiality and oppression, 
may bring heavenly vengeance on any people. 
We are now by our sufiferings, expiating the 
crimes of the otherwise glorious revolution. Is 
it not known to every member of this commit- 
tee, that the great principles of a free govern- 
ment were reversed through the whole progress 
of that scene? Was not every State har- 
assed? Was not every individual oppressed 
and subjected to repeated distresses? Was this 
right ? Was it a proper form of government, 
that warranted, authorized, or overlooked, the 
most wanton violations of property ? Had the 
government been vested with complete power 
to procure a regular and adequate supply of 
revenue, those oppressive measures would have 
been unnecessary. But, sir, can it be supposed 
that a repetition of such measures would ever 
be acquiesced in ? Can a government, that 
stands in need of such measures, secure the 
liberty, or promote the happiness or glory of 
any country ? If we do not change this system, 
consequences must ensue, that gentlemen do 
not now apprehend. If other testimony were 
necessary, I might appeal to that which I am 
sure is very weighty, but which I mention with 
reluctance. At the conclusion of the war, that 
man who had the most extensive acquaintance 
with the nature of the country, who well un- 
derstood its interests, and who had given the 
most unequivocal and most brilliant proofs of 
his attachment to its welfare, — when he laid 
down his arms, wherewith he had so nobly and 
successfully defended his country, publicly tes- 
tified his disapprobation of the present system, 
and suggested that some alteration was neces- 
sary to render it adequate to the security of 
our happiness. I did not introduce that great 
name to bias any gentleman here. Much as I 
admire and revere the man, I consider these 
members as not to be actuated by the influence 
of any man ; but I introduced him as a respec- 
table witness to prove that the articles of the 
confederation were inadequate, and that we 
must resort to something else. His modesty 
did not point out what ought to be done, but 
said, that some great change was necessary. 
But, sir, testimony, if wished for, may be found 
in abundance, and numerous conclusive reasons 
may be urged for this change. Experience daily 
produced such irresistible proofs of the defects 
of that system, that this commonwealth was 
induced to exert her influence to meliorate it; 
she began that noble work, in which I hope 
she will persist ; she proposed to revise it ; her 
proposition met with the concurrence, which 
that of a respectable party will always meet. 



I am sure if demonstration were necessary on 
the part of this commonwealth, reasons have 
heen abundantly heard in the course of this 
debate, manifold and cogent enough, not only 
to operate conviction, but to disgust an atten- 
tive hearer. Recollect the resolution of the 
year 1784. It was then found that the whole 
burden of the Union was sustained by a few 
States. This State was likely to be saddled 
with a very disproportionate share. That ex- 
pedient was proposed to obviate this incon- 
venience, which has been placed in its true 
light. It has been painted in sufficient horrors 
by the honorable gentleman who spoke last. 

I agree with the honorable gentleman, (Mr. 
Henry,) that national splendor and glory are 
not our objects : but does he distinguish between 
what will render us secure and happy at home, 
and what will render us respectable abroad? 
If we be free and happy at home, we cannot 
fail to be respectable abroad. 

The confederation is so notoriously feeble, 
that foreign nations are unwilling to form any 
treaties with us ; they are apprised that our 
general government cannot perform any of its 
engagements : but, that they may be violated, 
at pleasure, by any of the States. Our viola- 
tion of treaties already entered into, proves this 
truth unequivocally. No nation will therefore 
make any stipulations with Congress, conced- 
ing any advantages of importance to us ; they 
will he the more averse to entering into engage- 
ments with us, as the imbecUity of our govern- 
ment enables them to derive many advantages 
from our trade, without granting us any return. 
"Were this country united by proper bands, in 
addition to other great advantages, we could 
form very beneficial treaties with foreign states. 
But this can never happen without a change in 
our system. Were we not laughed at by the 
minister of that nation, from which we may be 
able yet to extort some of the most salutary 
measures for this country ? Were we not told 
that it was necessary to temporize till our gov- 
ernment acquired consistency ? Will any na- 
tion relinquish national advantages to us ? You 
will be greatly disappointed, if you expect any 
such good effects from this contemptible sys- 
tem. Let us recollect our conduct to that coun- 
try from which we have received the most 
friendly aid. How have we dealt with that 
benevolent ally — France ? Have we complied 
with our most sacred obligations to that na- 
tion ? Have we paid the interest punctually 
from year to year ? Is not the interest accu- 
mulating, while not a shilling is discharged of 
the principal ? The magnanimity and forbear- 
ance of that friendly monarch are so great, that 
he has not called upon us for his claims, 
/ even in his own distress and necessity. This, 
sii", is an additional motive to increase our ex- 
ertions. At this moment of time, a very con- 
siderable amount is due from us to that coun- 
try and to others. [Here Mr. Madison men- 
tioned tlie amount of the debts due to different 
foreign nations.] We have been obliged to 

borrow money, even to pay the interest of our 
debts. This is a ruinous and most digraceful 
expedient. Is this a situation on which Amer- 
ica can rely for security and happiness ? How 
are we to extricate ourselves ? The honorable 
member tells us, we might rely on the punc- 
tuality and friendship of the States, and that 
they will discharge their quotas for the future : 
but, sir, the contributions of the States have 
been found inadequate from the beginning, and 
are every day diminishing instead of increasing. 
From the month, of June, 1787, till June, 1788, 
they have only paid two hundred and seventy- 
six thousand six hundred and forty-one dollars 
into the federal treasury for the purposes of 
supporting the national government, and dis- 
charging the interest of the national debts : a 
sum so very insulficient, that it must greatly 
alarm the friends of their country. Suggestions 
and strong assertions dissipate before these 

Sir, the subject of direct taxation is perhaps 
one of the most important that can engage our 
attention, or that can be involved in the dis- 
cussion of this great and momentous question. 
If it be to be judged by the comments made 
upon it, by the opposers and favorers of the 
proposed system, it requires a most clear and 
critical investigation. The objections against 
the exercise of this power by the general gov- 
ernment, as far as I am able to comprehend 
them, are founded upon the supposition of its 
being unnecessary, impracticable, unsafe and 
accumulative of expense. I shall therefore 
consider, first, how far it may be necessary ; 
secondly, how far it may be practicable ; third- 
ly, how far it may be safe, as well with respect 
to the public liberty at large, as to the State 
legislatures ; and fourthly, with respect to 

First then, is it necessary ? I must acknow- 
ledge that I concur in opinion with those gen- 
tlemen who told you, that this branch of reve- 
nue was essential to the salvation of the Union. 
It appears to me necessary, in order to secure 
that punctuality which is requisite in revenue 
matters. Without punctuality individuals will 
refuse it that confidence, without which it cannot 
get resources. I beg gentlemen to consider the 
situation of this country, if unliappily the gov- 
ernment were to be deprived of this power. 
Let us suppose for a moment that one of those 
great nations that may be unfriendly to us, 
should take advantage of our weakness, whicji 
they will be more ready to do when they know 
the want of this resource in our government, 
and should attack us, what forces could we 
oppose to it? Could we find safety in such 
forces as we could call out ? Could we call forth 
a sufficient number, either by drafts, or in any 
other way, to repel a powerful enemy ? The 
inability of the government to rniso and sup- 
port regular troops, would compel us to depend 
on militia. It would then be necessary to give 
this power to the government, or run the 
risk of national anniliUatiou. It is my firm be- 



lie^ that if a hostile attack were made this 
moment on the United States, it would at once 
flash conviction on the minds of the citizens, 
and show them, to their deep regret, the neces- 
sity of vesting the government with this power, 
which alone can enable it to protect the com- 
munity. I do not wish to frighten the mem- 
bers of this convention into a concession of 
this power, but to bring to their minds those 
considerations which demonstrate its necessity. 
If we were secured from the possibility, or the 
probability of danger, it might be unnecessary. 
I shall not review that concourse of dangers 
which may probably arise at remote periods 
of futurity, nor all those which we have imme- 
diately to apprehend ; for this would lead me 
beyond the bounds which I have prescribed to 
myself. But I will mention one single con- 
sideration, drawn from the fact itself. I hope 
to have your attention. 

By the treaty between the United States and 
his most Christian majesty, among other things 
it is stipulated, that the great principle on 
which the armed neutrality in Europe was 
founded, should prevail in case of future wars. 
The principle is this, that free ships shall make 
free goods, and that vessels and goods shall be 
both free from condemnation. Great Britain 
did not recognize it. While all Europe was 
against her, she held out without acceding to 
it. It has been considered for some time past, 
that the flames of war, already kindled, would 
spread, and that France and England were 
likely to draw those swords which were so 
recently put up. This is judged probable. We 
should not be surprised, in a short time, if we 
found ourselves as a neutral nation — France 
being on one side, and Great Britain on the 
other. Then, what would be the situation of 
America ? She is remote from Europe, and 
ought not to engage in her politics or wars. 
The American vessels, if they can do it with 
advantage, may carry on the commerce of the 
contending nations. It is a source of wealth 
which we ought not to deny to our citizens. 
But, sir, is there not infinite danger, that in 
despite of all our caution, we shall be drawn 
into the war ? If American vessels have French 
property on board. Great Britain will seize 
them. By this means, we shall be obliged to 
relinquish the advantage of a neutral nation, 
or be engaged in a war. A neutral nation 
ought to ibe respectable, or else it will be in- 
sulted and attacked. America, in her present 
impotent situation, would run the risk of being 
drawn in, as a party in the war, and lose the 
advantage of being neutral. Should it happen, 
that the British fleet should be superior, have 
we not reason to conclude, from the spirit dis- 
played by that nation to us and to all the world, 
that we should be insulted in our own ports, 
and our vessels seized ? But if we be in a re- 
spectable situation ; if it be known that our 
government can command the whole resources 
of the Union, we shall be sufifered to enjoy the 
great advantages of carrying on the commerce 

of the nations at war ; for none of them would 
be willing to add us to the number of their 
enemies. I shaU say no more on this point, 
there being others which merit your consider- 

The expedient, proposed by the gentlemen 
opposed to this clause, is, that requisitions shall 
be made, and if not complied with, in a certain 
time, that then taxation shall be recurred to. 
I am clearly convinced, that whenever requi- 
sitions shall be made, they will disappoint those 
who put their trust in them. One reason to 
prevent the concurrent exertions of aU the 
States, will arise from the suspicion, in some 
States, of delinquency in others. States will 
be governed by the motives that actuate in- 

When a tax law is in operation, in a particu- 
lar State, every citizen, if he knows of the 
energy of the laws to enforce payment, and 
that every other citizen is performing his duty, 
will cheerfully discharge his duty ; but were it 
known, that the citizens of one district were 
not performing their duty, and that it was left 
to the policy of the government to make them 
come up with it, the citizens of the other dis- 
tricts would be very supine and careless in 
making provisions for payment. Our own ex- 
perience makes the illustration more natural. 
If requisitions be made on thirteen difierent 
States, when one deliberates on the subject, 
slie will know that aU the rest will deliberate 
upon it also. This, sir, has been a principal 
cause of the inefficacy of the requisitions here- 
tofore, and will hereafter produce the same 
evil. If the legislatures are to deliberate on 
this subject, (and the honorable gentleman op- 
posed to this clause, thinks their deliberation 
necessary,) is it not presumable, that they will 
consider peculiar local circumstances ? In the 
general council, on the contrary, the sense of 
all America will be drawn to a single point. 
The collective interest of the Union at large, 
will be known and pursued. No local views 
will be permitted to operate against the general 
welfare. But when propositions should come 
before a particular State, there is every reason 
to believe, that qualifications of the requisitions 
would be proposed ; compliance might be pro- 
mised, and some instant remittances might be 
made. This will cause delays, which, in the 
first instance, will produce disappointment, 
and produce failures every where else. This, 
I hope, will be considered with the attention it 
deserves. The public creditors will be disap- 
pointed, and of course, become more pressing. 
Requisitions will be made for purposes equally 
pervading all America ; but the exertions to 
make compliances, will probably not be uni- 
form in the States. If requisitions be made for 
future occasions for putting the States in a con- 
dition of military defence, or to repel an inva- 
sion, will the exertions be uniform and equal 
in all the States ? Some parts of the United 
States are more exposed than others. Will the 
least exposed States exert themselves equally ? 



We know that the most exposed will be more 
immediately interested, and will incur less 
sacrifices in making exertions. I beg gentle- 
men to consider, that this argument will apply 
with most etfect to the States which are most 
defenceless and exposed. The Southern States 
are most exposed, whether we consider their 
situation, or the smallness of their population. 
And there are other circumstances which ren- 
der them still more vulnerable, which do not 
apply to the Northern States. They are there- 
fore more interested in giving the government 
a power to command the whole strength of the 
Union in cases of emergency. Do not gentle- 
men conceive that this mode of obtaining sup- 
plies from the States, will keep alive animosi- 
ties between the general government and 
particular States ? "Where the chances of fail- 
ures are so numerous as thirteen, by the thirteen 
States, disappointment, in the first place, and con- 
sequent animosity, must inevitably take place. 

Let us consider the alternatives, proposed by 
gentlemen, instead of the power of laying direct 
taxes. After the States shall have refused to 
comply, weigh the consequences of the exercise 
of this power by Congress. When it comes in 
the form of a punishment, great clamors will 
be raised among the people against the govern- 
ment; hatred wUl be excited against it. It 
will be regarded as an ignominious stigma on 
the State. It will be considered at least in 
this light by the State where the failure is 
made, and these sentiments will, no doubt, be 
dilfused through the other States. Now let us 
consider the effect, if collectors are sent where 
the State governments refuse to comply with 
requisitions. It is too much in the disposition 
of mankind not to stop at one violation of duty. 
I conceive that every requisition that will be 
made on any part of America, will kindle a 
contention between the delinquent member, 
and the general government. Is there no rea- 
son to suppose divisions in the government (for 
seldom does any thing pass with unanimity,) 
on the subject of requisitions ? The parts least 
exposed will oppose those measures which may 
be adopted for the defence of the weakest 
parts. Is there no reason to presume, that the 
representatives from the delinquent States will 
be more likely to foster disobedience to the 
requisitions of the government, than to endea- 
vor to recommend a compliance with them to 
the public ? 

There is, in my opinion, another point of 
view in which this alternative will produce 
great evil. I will suppose a case that is very 
probable, namely, that partial compliances will 
be made. A difficulty here arises, which fully 
demonstrates its impolicy. If a part be paid, 
and the rest be withheld, how is the general 
government to proceed ? They are to impose 
a tax, but how shall it be done in this case ? 
Are they to impose it by way of punishment, 
on those who have paid, as well as those who 
have not ? All these considerations taken into 
view, (for they are not visionary or fanciful 

speculations,) will certainly produce this con- 
sequence. The general government, to avoid 
those disappointments first described, and to 
avoid the contentions and embarrassments 
which I have last described, will, in all prob- 
ability, throw the public burdens on those 
branches of revenue that will be more in their 
power. They will be continually necessitated 
to augment the imposts. If we throw a dis- 
proportion of the burdens on that side, shall 
we not discourage commerce, and snfier many 
political evils ? Shall we not increase that dis- 
proportion on the Southern States, which for 
some time will operate against us ? The South- 
ern States, from having fewer manufactures, 
will import and consume more. They will 
therefore pay more of the imposts. Tlie more 
commerce is burdened, the more the dispropor- 
tion will operate against them. If direct taxa- 
tion be mixed with other taxes, it will be in the 
power of the general government to lessen that 
inequality. But this inequality will be increased 
to the utmost extent, if the general government 
have not this power. There is another point 
of view in which this subject affords us instruc- 
tion. The imports will decrease in time of war. 
An honorable gentleman has said, that the im- 
posts would be so productive that there would 
be no occasion for laying taxes. I will submit 
two observations to him and to the committee. 
First, in time of war the imposts will be less ; 
and, as I hope we are considering a government 
for a perpetual duration, we ought to provide 
for every future contingency. At present, our 
importations bear a full proportion to the full 
amount of our sales, and to the number of our 
inhabitants ; but when we have inhabitants 
enough, our imports will decrease ; and as the 
national demands will increase with our popu- 
lation, our resources will increase as our wants 
increase. The other consideration, which I 
will submit on this part of the subject, is this. 
I believe it will be found in practice, that those 
who fix the public burdens, will feel a greater 
degree of responsibility when they are to im- 
pose them on the citizens immediately, than if 
they were to say what sum should bo paid by 
the States. If they exceed the limits of pro- 
priety, universal discontent and clamor will 
arise. Let us suppose they were to collect the 
taxes from the citizens of America ; would they 
not consider their circumstances ? Would they 
not attentively weigh what could be done by 
the citizens at large ? Were they to exceed in 
their demands, what were reasonable burdens, 
the people would impute it to the right source, 
and look on the imposers as odious. 

When I consider the nature of the various 
objections brought against tliis clause, I should 
be led to think, that the difficulties were such 
that gentlemen would not be able to get over 
them, and that the power, as defined in the 
plan of the convention, was impracticable. I 
shall trouble them with a few observations on 
that point. 

It has been said, that ten men deputed from 



this State, and others in proportion from other 
States, will not be able to adjust direct taxes 
so as to accommodate the various citizens in 
thirteen States. 

I confess I do not see the force of this ob- 
servation. Could not ten intelligent men, 
chosen from ten districts from this State, lay 
direct taxes on a few objects in the most judi- 
cious manner ? It is easily to be conceived, 
that they would be acquainted with the situa- 
tion of the different citizens of this country. 
Can any one divide this State into any ten dis- 
tricts so as not to contain men of sufficient in- 
formation ? Could not one man of knowledge 
be found in a district ? "When thus selected, 
will they not be able to carry their knowledge 
into the general council ? I may say with great 
propriety, that the experience of our own legis- 
lature demonstrates the competency of Con- 
gress to lay taxes wisely. Our Assembly con- 
sists of considerably more than a hundred, yet 
from the nature of the business, it devolves on 
a much smaller number. It is through their 
sanction, approved of by all the others. It will 
be found that there are seldom more than ten 
men who rise to high information on this sub- 
ject. Our federal representatives, as has been 
said by an honorable member, who has en- 
tered into the subject with a great deal of abil- 
ity, will get information from the State govern- 
ments. They will be perfectly well informed 
of the circumstances of the people of the differ- 
ent States, and the mode of taxation that would 
be most convenient for them, from the laws of 
the States. In laying taxes, they may even refer 
to the State systems of taxation. Let it not be 
forgotten, that there is a probability, that that 
ignorance, which is complained of in some 
parts of America, will be continually diminish- 
ing. Let us compare the degree of knowledge 
which the people had in time past, to their 
present information. Does not our own expe- 
rience teach us, that the people are better 
informed than they were a few years ago? 
The citizen of Georgia knows more now of the 
affairs of Few Hampshire, than he did, before 
the revolution, of those of South Carolina. 
When the representatives from the different 
States are collected together, to consider this 
subject, they will interchange their knowledge 
with one another, and will have the laws of 
each State on the table. Besides this, the in- 
tercourse of the States wUl be continually 
increasing. It is now much greater than before 
the revolution. An honorable friend of mine 
seems to conceive, as an insuperable objection, 
that if land were made the particular object of 
taxation, it would be \mjust, as it would exon- 
erate the commercial part of the community ; 
that if it were laid on trade, it would be unjust 
in discharging the landholders ; and that any 
exclusive selection would be unequal and un- 
fair. If the general government were tied 
down to one object, I confess the objection 
would have some force in it. But if this be not 
the case, it can have no weight. If it should 

have a general power of taxation, they could 
select the most proper objects, and distribute 
the taxes in such a manner, as that they should 
fall in a due degree on every member of the 
community. They will be limited to fix the 
proportion of each State, and they must raise 
it in the most convenient and satisfactory man- 
ner to the public. 

The honorable member considered it as ano- 
ther insuperable objection, that uniform laws, 
could not be made for thirteen States, and that 
dissonance would produce inconvenience and 
oppression. Perhaps it may not be found, on 
due inquiry, to be so impracticable as he sup- 
poses. But were it so, where is the evil of dif- 
ferent laws operating in different States, to raise 
money for the general government ? Where is 
the evil cf such laws ? There are instances in 
other countries, of different laws operating in 
different parts of the country, without producing 
any kind of oppression. Tlie revenue laws are 
different in England and Scotland in several re- 
spects. Their laws relating to custom, exer- 
cises and trade, are similar ; but those respect- 
ing direct taxation are dissimilar. There is a 
land tax in England, and a land tax in Scot- 
land, but the laws concerning them are not the 
same. It is much heavier in proportion in the 
former than in the latter. The mode of col- 
lection is different ; yet this is not productive 
of any national inconvenience. AVere we to 
argue from the objections against the proposed 
plan, we must conclude that this dissimilarity 
would, in that point alone, have involved those 
kingdoms in difficulties. In England itself, 
there is a variety of different laws operating 
differently in different places. 

I will make another observation on the ob- 
jection of my honorable friend. He seemed to 
conclude, that concurrent collections under dif- 
ferent authorities, were not reducible to prac- 
tice. I agree that were they independent of 
the people, the argument would be good. But 
they must serve one common master. They 
must act in concert, or the defaulting party 
must bring on itself the resentment of the peo- 
I)le. If the general government be so con- 
structed that it will not dare to impose such 
burdens as will distress the people, where is 
the evil of its having a power of taxation con- 
current with the States? The people would 
not support it, were it to impose oppressive 
burdens. Let me make one more comparison 
of the State governments to this plan. Do not 
the States impose taxes for local purposes? 
Does the concurrent collection of taxes, im- 
posed by the legislatures for general purposes, 
and of levies laid by the counties for parochial 
and county purposes, produce any inconveni- 
ence or oppression ? The collection of these 
taxes is perfectly practicable, and consistent 
with the views of both parties. The people at 
large are the common superior of the State 
governments, and the generah government. It 
is reasonable to conclude, that they will avoid 
interferences for two causes — to avoid public 



oppression, and to render the collections more 
productive. I conceive they will be more like- 
ly to produce disputes, in rendering it inconve- 
nient for the people, than to run into interfering 

In the third place, I shall consider, whether 
the power of taxation to be given to the gene- 
ral government be safe : and first, whether it 
be safe as to the public liberty in general. It 
would be sufficient to remark, that it is, be- 
cause, I conceive, the point has been clearly es- 
tablished by more than one gentleman who 
have already spoken on the same side with me. 
In the decision of this question, it is of impor- 
tance to examine, whether elections of repre- 
sentatives by great districts of freeholders, be 
favorable to the fidelity of representatives. 
The greatest degree of treachery in representa- 
tives, is to be apprehended where they are 
chosen by the least number of electors; be- 
cause there is a greater facility of using undue 
influence, and because the electors must be less 
independent. This position is verified in the 
most unanswerable manner, in that country to 
which appeals are so often made, and some- 
times instructively. Who are the most corrupt 
members of Parliament? Are they not the 
inhabitants of small towns and districts ? The 
supporters of liberty are from the great coun- 
ties. Have we not seen that the representa- 
tives of the city of London, who are chosen by 
such thousands of voters, have continually 
studied and supported the liberties of the peo- 
ple, and opposed the corruption of the crown ? 
We have seen continually, that most of the 
members in the ministerial majority are drawn 
from small circumscribed districts. We may 
therefore conclude, that our representatives be- 
ing chosen by such extensive districts, will be 
upright and independent. In proportion as we 
have security against corruption in representa- 
tives, we have security against corruption from 
every other quarter whatsoever. 

I shall take a view of certain subjects which 
will lead to some reflections, to quiet the minds 
of those gentlemen who think that the indi- 
vidual governments will be swallowed up by 
the general government. In order to eifect 
this, it is proper to compare the State govern- 
ments to the general government with respect 
to reciprocal dependence, and with respect to 
the means they have of supporting themselves, 
or of encroaching upon one another. At the 
first comparison, we must be struck with these 
remarkable facts. The general government 
has not the appointment of a single branch of 
the individual governments, or of any officers 
within the States, to execute their laws. Are 
not the States integral parts of the general gov- 
ernment ? Is not the President chosen under 
the influence of the State legislatures? May 
we not suppose that he will be complaisant to 
those from whom he has his appointment, and 
from whom he riiust have his re-appointment? 
The senators ara appointed altogether by the 

_ The honorable gentleman apprehends a coali- 
tion between the President, Senate and House 
of Kepresentatives, against the States. This 
could be supposed only from a similarity of the 
component parts. 

A coalition is not likely to take place, be- 
cause its component parts are heterogeneous in 
their nature. The House of Representatives is 
not chosen by the State governments, but un- 
der the influence of those who compose the 
State legislature. Let us suppose ten men ap- 
pointed to carry the government into eflect; 
there is every degree of certainty that they 
would be indebted for their re-election to the 
members of the legislatures. If they derive 
their appointment from them, will they not ex- 
ecute their duty to them ? Besides this, will 
not the people, (whose predominant interest 
will ultimately prevail,) feel great attachment 
to the State legislatures ? They have the care of 
all local interests — those familiar, domestic ob- 
jects, for which men have the strongest predi- 
lection. The general government, on the con- 
trary, has the preservation of the aggregate in- 
terests of the Union; objects, which being less 
familiar, and more remote from men's notice, 
have a less powerful influence on their minds. 
Do we not see great and natural attachments 
arising from local considerations ? This will be 
the case, in a much stronger degree, in the 
State governments, than in the general gov- 
ernment. The people will be attached to their 
State legislatures from a thousand causes ; and 
into whatever scale the people at large will 
throw themselves, that scale will preponderate. 
Did we not perceive, in the early stages of this 
war, when Congress was the idol of America, 
and when in pursuit of the object most dear to 
America, that they were attached to their 
States ? Afterwards, the whole current of 
their afiection was to the States, and it would 
be still the case, were it not for the alarming 
situation of America. 

At one period of the congressional history, 
they had power to trample on the States. 
When they had that fund of paper money in 
their hands, and could carry on all their mea- 
sures without any dependence on the States, 
was there any disposition to debase the State 
governments? All that municipal authority 
which was necessary to carry on the adminis- 
tration of the government, they still retained 
unimpaired. There was no attempt to dimin- 
ish it. 

I am led, by what has fallen from gentlemen, 
to take this supposed combination in another 
view. Is it supposed, that the influence of the" 
general government will facilitate a'combination 
between the members ? Is it supposed, that it 
will preponderate against that of the State 
governments ? The means of influence consist 
in having the disposal of gifts and emoluments, 
and in the number of persons employed by, and 
dependent upon a government. Will any gen- 
tleman compare the number of persons who 
will be employed in the general government 



■with the number of those that will be ia the 
State governments? The number of depend- 
ents upon the State governments will be infi- 
nitely greater than those on the general govern- 
ment. I may say with truth, that there never 
was a more economical government in any age 
or country ; nor which will require fewer 
agents, or give less influence. 

Let us compare the members composing the 
legislative, executive and judicial powers in the 
general government, with those in the States, 
and let us take into view the vast number of 
persons employed in the States ; from the chief 
oflicers to the lowest, we shall find the_.scale 
preponderating so much in favor of the States, 
that while so many persons are attached to 
them, it will be impossible to turn the balance 
against them. There will be an irresistible 
bias towards the State governments. Consider 
the number of militia officers, the number of 
justices of the peace, the number of the mem- 
bers of the legislatures, and all the various 
oflicers for districts, towns and corporations, 
all intermixing with, and residing among the 
people at large. "While this part of the com- 
munity retains its aflfection to the State govern- 
ments, I conceive the fact to be, that the State 
governments, and not the general government, 
will preponderate. It cannot be contradicted, 
that they have more extensive means of influ- 
ence. I have my fears, as well as the honor- 
able gentleman ; but my fears are on the other 
side. Experience, I think, will prove, (though 
there be no infallible proof of it here,) that the 
powerful and prevailing influence of the States, 
will produce such attention to local considera- 
tions, as will be inconsistent with the advance- 
ment of the interests of the Union. But I 
choose rather to indulge my hopes than fears, 
because I flatter myself, if inconveniences 
should result from it, that the clause which 
provides amendments will remedy them. The 
combination of powers vested in those per- 
sons, would seem conclusive in favor of the 

The powers of the general government relate 
to external objects, and are but few. But the 
powers in the States relate to those great ob- 
jects which immediately concern the prosperity 
of the people. Let us observe also, that the 
powers in the general government are those 
which will be exercised mostly in time of war, 
while those of the State governments will be 
exercised ia time of peace. But I hope the 
time of war will be little, compared to that of 
peace. I could not complete the view which 
ought to be taken of this subject, without mak- 
ing this additional remark, that the powers 
vested in the proposed government, are not so 
much au augmentation of authority in the 
general government, as a change rendered ne- 
cessary, for the purpose of giving efficacy to 
those which were vested in it before. It can- 
not escape any gentleman, that this power in 
theory, exists in the confederation as fully as 
in this constitution. The only diflerence is this. 

that now they tax States, and by this plan, 
they will tax individuals. There is no theoretic 
difierence between the two. But in practice 
there will be an infinite difierence between 
them. The one is an inefiectual power : the 
other is adequate to the purpose for which it is 
given. This change was necessary for the pub- 
lic safety. 

Let us suppose, for a moment, that the acts 
of Congress, requiring money from the States, 
had been as effectual as the paper on the table : 
suppose all the laws of Congress had had com- 
plete compliance, will any gentleman say, that 
as far as we can judge from past experience, 
the State governments would have been de- 
based, and all consolidated and incorporated in 
one system ? My imagination cannot reach it. 
I conceive, that had those acts the effect which 
all laws ought to have, the States would have 
retained their sovereignty. 

It seems to be supposed, that it will intro- 
duce new expenses and burdens on the people. 
I believe it is not necessary here to make a 
comparison between the expenses of the present 
and of the proposed government. All agree 
that the general government ought to have 
power for the regulation of commerce. I will 
venture to say, that very great improvements, 
and very economical regulations will be made. 
It will be a principal object to guard against 
smuggling, and such other attacks on the reve- 
nue as other nations are subject to. "We are 
now obliged to defend against those lawless 
attempts ; but from the interfering regulations 
of different States, with very little success. 
There are regulations in different States which 
are unfavorable to the inhabitants of other 
States, and which militate against the revenue. 
New "York levies money from New Jersey by 
her imposts. In New Jersey, instead of co- 
operating with New York, the legislature fa- 
vors encroachments on her regulations. This 
will not be the case when uniform an-ange- 
ments shall be made. 

Requisitions, though ineffectual, are unfriend- 
ly to economy. "When requisitions are sub- 
mitted to the States, there are near two 
thousand five hundred persons deliberating on 
the mode of payment. All these, during their 
deliberation, receive public pay. A great pro- 
portion of every session, in every State, is em- 
ployed to consider whether they will pay at 
all, and in what mode. Let us suppose fifteen 
hundred persons deliberating on this subject. 
Let any one make a calculation ; and it will be 
found that a very few days of their delibera- 
tion will consume more of the public money, 
than one year of that of the general legislature. 
This is not all, Mr. Chairman. "When general 
powers shall be vested in the general govern- 
ment, there will be less of that mutability which 
is seen in the legislation of the States. The con- 
sequence will be a great saving of expense and 
time. There is another great advantage which 
I will but barely mention. The greatest cala- 
mity to which the United States can be sub- 



ject, is a vicissitude of laws, and. a continual 
shifting and changing from one object to an- 
other, that must expose the people to various 
inconveniences. This has a certain effect, of 
which sagacious men always have, and always 
will make an advantage. From whom is ad- 
vantage made ? From the industrious farmers 
and tradesmen, who are ignorant of the means 
of making such advantages. The people will 
not be exposed to these inconveniences under 
a uniform and steady course of legislation. But 
they have been so heretofore. 

Sir, it has been said, that by giving up the 
;cwer of taxation, we should give up every 
thing ; that roquisitions ought to be made on 
the States, and that then, if they be not com- 
plied with. Congress should lay direct taxes by 
way of penalty. Let us consider the dilemma 
which arises from this doctrine. Either requi- 
sitions will be eflScacious or they will not. If 
they be etficacious, then I say, sir, we give up 
every thing as much as by direct taxation. 
The same amount will be paid by the people as 
by direct taxes. If they be not efficacious, 
where is the advantage of this plan ? In what 
respect will it relieve us from the inconveniences 
which we have experienced from requisitions ? 
The power of laying direct taxes by the general 
government, is supposed by the honorable gen- 
tleman, to be chimerical and impracticable. 
What is the consequence of the alternative he 
proposes ? We are to rely upon this power to 
be ultimately used, as a penalty to compel the 
States to comply. If it be chimerical and im- 
practicable in the first instance, it will be 
equally so when it will be exercised as a pen- 
alty. A reference has been made to concurrent 
executions, as an instance of the possibility of 
interference between the two governments. 
But it may be answered that, under the State 
governments, concurrent executions cannot 
produce the inconvenience here dreaded, be- 
cause they are executed by the same olHcer. 
Is it not in the power of the general govern- 
ment to employ the State officers ? Is nothing 
to be left to future legislation, or must every 
thing be immutably fixed in the constitution ? 
Where exclusive power is given to the Union, 
there can be no interference. Where the gen- 
eral and State legislatures have concurrent 
power, such regulations will be made, as may 
be found necessary to exclude interferences and 
other inconveniences. It wUl be their interest 
to make such regulations. 

It has been said, that there is no similarity be- 
tween petty corporations and independent States. 
I admit that, in many points of view, there is 
a great dissimilarity, but in others, there is a 
striking similarity between them, which illus- 
trates what is before us. Have we not seen in 
our own country (as has been already suggested 
in the course of the debates) concurrentcollec- 
tions of taxes going on at once, without pro- 
ducing any inconvenience ? We have seen 
three distinct collections of taxes for three dis- 
tinct purposes. Has it not been found practi- 

cable and easy for collections of taxes, for 
parochial, county, and State purposes, to go on 
at the same time ? Every gentleman must 
know that this is now the case, and though 
there be a subordination in these cases which 
will not be in the general government, yet in 
practice it has been found that these ditferent 
collections have been concurrently carried on, 
with convenience to the people, without clash- 
ing with one another, and without deriving 
their harmony from the circumstance of being 
subordinate to one legislative body. The taxes 
will be laid for different purposes. The mem- 
bers of the one government, as well as of the 
other, are the agents of, and subordinate to, 
the people. I conceive that the collections of 
the taxes of the one will not impede those of 
the other, and that there can be no interference. 
This concurrent collection appears to me neither 
chimerical nor impracticable. 

Gentlemen compare resistance of the people 
to collectors, to refusal of requisitions. This 
goes against all government. It is as much as 
to urge that there should be no legislature. 
The gentlemen who favored us with their ob- 
servations on this subject, seemed to have rea- 
soned on a supposition that the general gov- 
ernment was confined, by the paper on your 
table, to lay general uniform taxes. Is it neces- 
sary that there should be a tax on any given 
article throughout the United States? It is 
represented to be oppressive, that the States 
who have slaves and make tobacco, should pay 
taxes on these for federal wants, when other 
States, who have them not, would escape. But 
does the constitution on the table admit of 
this ? On the contrary, there is a proportion 
to be laid on each State, according to its popu- 
lation. The most proper articles will be se- 
lected in each State. If one article in any 
State should be deficient, it will be laid on ano- 
ther article. Our State is secured on this 
foundation. Its proportion will be commensu- 
rate to its population. This is a constitutional 
scale, which is an insuperable bar against dis- 
proportion, and ought to satisfy all reasonable 
minds. If the taxes be not uniform, and the 
representatives of some States contribute to lay 
a tax of which they bear no proportion, is not 
this principle reciprocal ? Does not the same 
principle hold in our State government in some 
degree ? It has been found inconvenient to fix 
on uniform objects of taxation in this State, as 
the back parts are not circumstanced like the 
lower parts of the country. In both cases, the 
reciprocity of the principle will prevent a dis- 
position in one part to oppress the other. An 
honorable gentleman seems to suppose that 
Congress, by the possession of this ultimate 
power as a penalty, will have as much credit, 
and will be as able to procure any sums, on 
any emergency, as if they were possessed of it 
in the first instance ; and that the votes of Con- 
gress will be as competent to procure loans, as 
the votes of the British Commons. Would the 
votes of the British House of Commons have 



that credit which they now have, if they were 
liable to be retarded in their operation, and per- 
haps rendered ultimately nugatory as those of 
Congress must be by the proposed alternative ? 
When their vote passes, it usually receives the 
concurrence of the other branch, and it is 
known that there is sufficient energy in the 
' government, to carry it into effect. But here, 
the votes of Congress are, in the first place, de- 
pendent on the compliance of thirteen different 
bodies, and after non-compliance, are liable to 
be opposed and defeated, by the jealousy of the 
States against the exercise of this power, and 
by the opposition of the people, which may be 
expected, if this power be exercised by Con- 
gress after partial compliances. These circum- 
stances being known, Congress could not com- 
mand one shilling. He seems to think that we 
ought to spare the present generation, and 
throw our biu-dens upon posterity. I will not 
contest the equity of this reasoning, but I must 
say that good policy, as well as views of econo- 
my, strongly urge us even to distress ourselves 
to comply with our most solemn engagements. 
We must make effectual provision for the pay- 
ment of the interest of our public debts. In 
order to do justice to our creditors, and sup- 
port our credit and reputation, we must lodge 
power somewhere or other for this purpose. 
As yet the United States have not been able, 
by any energy contained in the old system, to 
accomplish this end. Our creditors have a 
right to demand the principal, but would be 
satisfied with a punctual payment of the in- 
terest. If we have been unable to pay the 
interest, much less shall we be able to discharge 
the principal. It appears to me, that the whole 
reasoning used on tliis occasion shows, that we 
ought to adopt this system, in order to enable 
us to throw our burdens on posterity. Tlie 
honorable member spoke of the decemviri at 
Eome, as having some similitude to the ten 
representatives who are to be appointed by this 
State. I can see no point of similitude here, to 
enable us to draw any conclusion. For what 
purpose were the decemviri appointed ? They 
were invested with a plenary commission to 
make a code of laws. By whom were they 
appointed — by the people at large ? No ; my 
memory is not infallible, but it tells me they 
were appointed by the senate and composed of 
the most influential characters among the no- 
bles. Can any thing be inferred from that 
against our federal representatives ? Who 
made a discrimination between the nobles and 
the people?— the senate. Those men totally 
perverted the powers which were given them 
for the purpose above specified, to the sub- 
version of the public liberty. Can we suppose 
that a similar usurpation might be made, by 
men appointed in a totally different manner? 
As their circumstances were totally dissimilar, 
I conceive that no arguments drawn from that 
source can apply to this government. I do not 
thoroughly comprehend the reasoning of the 
honorable gentleman, when he teUs us, that the 

federal government will predominate, and that 
the State interests will be lost ; when, at the 
same time, he tells us, that it will be a faction 
of seven States. If seven States will prevail as 
States, I conceive that State influence will pre- 
vail. If State influence under the present feeble 
government has prevailed, I think that a remedy 
ought to be introduced hj giving the general 
government power to suppress it. 

He supposes that any argument with respect 
to a future war between Great Britain and 
France is fallacious. The other nations of Eu- 
rope have acceded to that neutrality, while 
Great Britain opposed it. We need not expect, 
in case of erch a war, that we should be suf- 
fered to participate of the profitable emolu- 
ments of the carrying trade, unless we were ia 
a respectable situation. Recollect the last war. 
Was there ever a war in which the British 
nation stood opposed to so many nations ? All 
the belligerent powers in Europe, with nearly 
one half of the British empire, wore united 
against it. Yet that nation, though defeated, 
and humbled beyond any previous example, 
stood out against this. From her firmness and 
spirit in such desperate circumstances, we may 
divine what her future conduct may be. I did 
not contend, that it was necessary for the 
United States to establish a navy for that sole 
purpose, but instanced it as one reason out of 
several, for rendering ourselves respectable. I 
am no friend to naval or land armaments in 
time of peace, but if they be necessary, the 
calamity must be submitted to. Weakness will 
invite insults. A respectable government will 
not only entitle us to a participation of the 
advantages which are enjoyed by other nations, 
but will be a security against attacks and insults. 
It is to avoid the calamity of being obliged to 
have large armaments, that we should estab- 
lish this government. The best way to avoid 
danger, is to be in a capacity to withstand it. 

The imposts, we are told, will not diminish, 
because the emigrations to the westward will 
prevent the increase of population. Gentlemen 
have reasoned on this subject justly, to a cer- 
tain degree. I admit, that the imposts will 
increase till population becomes so great as to 
compel us to recur to manufactures. The pe- 
riod cannot be very far distant, when the un- 
settled parts of America will be inhabited. At 
the expiration of twenty-five years hence, I 
conceive, that in every part of the United 
States, there will be as great a population as 
there is now in the settled parts. We see 
already, that in the most populous parts of the 
Union, and where there is but a medium, manu- 
factures are beginning to be established. Where 
this is the case, the amount of importations will 
begin to diminish. Altliough the imposts may 
even increase during the term of twenty-five 
years, yet when we are preparing a government 
for perpetuity, we ought to found it on per- 
manent principles, and not on those of a tem- 
porary nature. 

Holland is a favorite quotation with honor- 



able members on the other side of the question. 
Had not their sentiments been discovered by 
other circumstances, I should have concluded 
from their reasonings on this occasion, that 
they were friends to the constitution. I should 
suppose, that they had forgotten vs'hich side of 
the question they were defending. Holland has 
been called a republic, and a government friend- 
ly to liberty. Though it may be greatly supe- 
rior to some other governments in Europe, still 
it is not a republic, nor a democracy. Their 
legislature consists, in some degree, of men who 
legislate for life. Their councils consist of men 
who hold their offices for life, and who fill 'ip 
ofiices and appoint their salaries themselves. 
The people have no agency, mediate or imme- 
diate, in the government. If we look at their 
history we shall find, that every mischief which 
has befallen them, has resulted from the exist- 
ing confederacy. If the stadtholder has been 
productive of mischief — if we ought to guard 
against such a magistrate more than any evil, 
let me beseech the honorable gentleman to take 
notice of what produced that, and of those 
troubles which interrupted their tranquillity 
from time to time. The weakness of their con- 
federacy produced both. When the French 
arms were ready to overpower their republic, 
and the Hollanders were feeble in the means of 
defence, which was principally owing to the 
violence of parties, they then appointed a stadt- 
holder, who sustained them. If we look at 
more recent events, we shall have a more 
pointed demonstration, that their political in- 
felicity arose from the imbecility of their gov- 
ernment. In the late disorders, the states were 
almost equally divided, three provinces on one 
side, three on the other, and the other divided : 
one party inclined to the Prussians, and the 
other to the French. The situation of France 
did not admit of their interposing immediately 
in their disputes by an army ; that of the Prus- 
sians did. A powerful and large army marched 
into Holland and compelled the other party to 
surrender. "We know the distressing conse- 
quences to the people. What produced those 
disputes and the necessity of foreign interfer- 
ence but the debility of their confederacy ? We 
may be warned by their example, and shun 
their fate, by removing the causes which pro- 
duced their misfortunes. 

My honorable friend has referred to the 
transactions of the federal council with respect 
to the navigation of the Mississippi. I wish it 
was consistent with delicacy and prudence to 
lay a complete view of the whole matter before 
this committee. The history of it is singular 
and curious, and perhaps its origin ought to be 
taken into consideration. I will touch on some 
circumstances, and introduce nearly the sub- 
stance of most of the facts relative to it, that I 
may not seem to shrink from explanation. It 
was soon perceived, sir, after the commence- 
ment of the war with Britain, that among the 
various objects that would affect the happiness 
of the people of America, the navigation of the 

Mississippi was one. Throughout the whole 
history of foreign negotiation, great stress was 
laid on its preservation. In the time of our 
greatest distresses, and particularly when the 
southern States were the scene of war, the 
southern States cast their eyes around to be 
relieved from their misfortunes. It was sup- 
posed that assistance might be obtained for the 
relinquishment of that navigation. It was 
thought that, for so substantial a consideration, 
Spain might be induced to afford decisive suc- 
cor. It was opposed by the northern and east- 
ern States. They were sensible that it might 
be dangerous to surrender this important right, 
particularly to the inhabitants of the western 
country. But so it was, that the southern 
States were for it, and the eastern States op- 
posed it. Since obtaining that happy peace, 
which secures to us all our claims, this subject 
has been taken again into consideration, and 
deliberated upon in the federal government. 
A temporary relinquishment has been agitated. 
Several members from the different States, but 
particularly from the northern, were for a tem- 
porary surrender, because it would terminate 
disputes, and at the end of the short period for 
which it was to be given, the right would re- 
vert, of course, to those who had given it up. 
And for this temporary surrender some com- 
mercial advantages were offered. For my part, 
I considered that this measure, though founded 
on considerations plausible and honorable, was 
yet not justifiable but on grounds of inevitable 
necessity. I must declare, in justice to many 
characters who were in Congress, that they 
declared they never would agree to the mea- 
sure, unless the situation of the United States 
was such as could not prevent it. 

On the whole, I am persuaded that the adop- 
tion of this government wUl be favorable to the 
preservation of the right to that navigation. 
Emigrations will be made from those parts of 
the United States which are settled, to those 
which are unsettled. If we afford protection 
to the western country, we shall see it rapidly 
peopled. Emigrations from some of the north- 
ern States have lately increased. We may con- 
clude, that those who emigrate to that country, 
will leave behind them all their friends and 
connections as advocates for this right. 

What was the cause of those States being the 
champions of this right, when the southern 
States were disposed to surrender it ? The pre- 
servation of this right will be for the general 
interest of the Union. The western country 
will be settled from the north as well as from 
the south, and its prosperity will add to the 
strength and security of the nation. I am not 
able to recollect all those circumstances which 
would be necessary to give gentlemen a full 
view of the subject. I can only add, that I 
consider the establishment of the new govern- 
ment to be the best possible means of securing 
our rights as weU in the western parts as else- 

I will not sit down tUl I make one more ob- 



servation on what fell from an honorable mem- 
ber. He said that the true difference between 
the States lies in this circumstance — ^that some 
are carrying States, and others productive, and 
that the operation of the new government will 
be, that there will be a plurality of the former 
to combine against the interest of the latter, 
and that, consequently, it will be dangerous to 
put it in their power to do so. I would join 
with him in sentiment if this were the case. 
Were this within the bounds of probability, I 
should be equally alarmed; but I think that 
those States which are contradistinguished as 
carrying States, from the non-importing States, 
will be but few. I suppose the southern States 
will be considered by all as under the latter de- 
scription. Some other States have been men- 
tioned by an honorable member on the same 

side, which are not considered as carrying 
States. New Jersey and Connecticut can by 
no means be enumerated among the carrying 
States. They receive their supplies through 
New York. Here then is a plurality of non- 
importing States. I could add another, if 
necessary. Delaware, though situated upon 
the water, is upon the list of non-carrying 
States. I might say that a great part of New 
Hampshire is so. I believe a majority of the 
people of that State receive their supplies from 
Massachusetts, Ehode Island, and Connecticut. 
Might I not add all those States which will be 
admitted hereafter into the Union ? These will 
be non-carrying States, and will support Vir- 
ginia in case the carrying States should attempt 
to combine against the rest. This objection 
must therefore fall to the ground. 


Mr. Madison delivered the subjoined speech, 
in the House of Eepresentatives of the United 
States, on the fifteenth of April, 1796.* 

Me. Chairman: The subject now under the 
consideration of the committee is of such vast 
extent, of such vital importance to this country, 
and involves so many topics which demand mi- 
nute investigation, that I wish, at setting out, 
to be understood as not pretending to go through 
all the observations that may be applicable to 
its circumstances, but as endeavoring to present 
it in a mere general view, persuaded that the 
omissions I shall make, will be amply supplied 
by other gentlemen who are to foUow me in 
the discussion. 

The proposition, sir, immediately before the 
committee, amounts to this ; that the treaty 
lately made with Great Britain ought to be di- 
rectly carried into effect, by all such means and 
provisions as are peculiarly within the province 
and the competency of the House of Repre- 
sentatives to supply. This, sir, is the substance 
of the point immediately in question ; but it 
will, in examining it, be proper to keep con- 
stantly in view another proposition which was 
made yesterday, by the gentleman from Penn- 
sylvania,! and referred to the committee, and 
which will be taken up of course, if the imme- 
diate question shall be decided in the negative. 

Sir, if the proposition for carrying the treaty 
into effect be agreed to by the House, it must 
necessarily be upon some one or other of the 
three following considerations : That the legis- 
lature is bound by a constitutional necessity to 

* See introduction at page 104 

t Mr. Maclay, wlio mored a resolution " that it is not ex- 
pedient at this time to concur in passing the lawa necessary 
for carrying the said treaty into effect." 

pass the requisite laws, without examining the 
treaty or considering its merits — or that, on 
due examination, the treaty is deemed to be in 
itself a good one — or that, apart from these 
considerations, there shall appear extraneous 
reasons of sufficient weight to induce the House 
to carry the treaty into effect, even though it 
be in itself a bad treaty. The first of these 
considerations, however, is now completely ex- 
cluded by the late decision of the House, that 
they have a right to judge of the expediency or 
inexpediency of passing laws relative to treaties ; 
the question then first to be examined by the 
committee, is that which relates to the merits 
of the present treaty. I will now, therefore, 
proceed to discuss those merits, and to present 
them to the committee under three different 
aspects. The first, as it relates to the execu- 
tion of the treaty of peace, made in the year 
1783. The second, as it bears upon and deter- 
mines the several points in the law of nations 
connected with it. And the third, as it in- 
fringes upon and may be supposed to affect the 
commercial intercourse of the two nations. 

Sir, in animadverting upon the first of these, 
I will not take upon me the invidious oflice oi 
inquiring which party it is to whom the censure 
may justly be ascribed of having more than the 
other contributed to the delay of its execution, 
though I am far from entertaining any desire 
to shrink from the task, under an apprehension 
that tlie result might be disadvantageous to this 
country. The present treaty has itself, in ex- 
press terms, waived this inquiry, and professes 
that its purpose is to adjust all controversies on 
the subjects of which it is conversant, without 
regard to the mutual complaints or pretensions 
of the parties. Naturally, therefore, and most 
justly was it to be expected, that the arrange- 
ments for carrying that treaty into effect, would 
have been founded on the most exact, scrupu- 



Iou9, and equitable reciprocity. But has t^is 
been the case, sir ? I venture to say that it has 
not, and it grieves me to add, what neverthe- 
less trutli and justice compel me to declare, 
that, on tlio contrary, the arrangements were 
founded on the grossest violation of this princi- 
ple. This, sir, is undoubtedly strong language, 
and as such I should be one of the last men liv- 
ing to give it utterance, if I were not supported 
in it by facts no less strong and unequivocal. 
There are two articles in the old treaty, for the 
execution of which no prpvision whatsoever is 
made in the new one. The first is that which 
relates to the restitution of, or compensation 
for, the negroes and other property carried 
away by the British. The second, that which 
provides for the surrender to the United States 
of the posts, so long withheld by them, on our 
territory. The article that remains unexecuted 
on the part of the United States, is that which 
stipulates for the payment of all lonafide debts 
owing to British creditors ; and the present 
treaty guarantees the carrying of this article 
into the most complete effect by the United 
States, together with all damages sustained by 
the delay, even to the most rigid extent of ex- 
action, while it contains no stipulation what- 
ever, on the part of Great Britain, for the faith- 
ful performance of the articles left unexecuted 
by her. Look to the treaty, sir, and you will 
find nothing like it, nothing allusive to it. No, 
on the contrary, she is entirely and formally 
absolved from her obligation to fulfil that arti- 
cle which relates to the negroes, and is dis- 
charged from making any compensation what- 
soever for Iier having delayed to fulfil that 
which provides for the surrender of the posts. 

I am aware, sir, of its being urged in apology, 
or by way of extenuation for these very une- 
qual_ stipulations, that the injury which may 
possibly be sustained by us, in consequence of 
the detention of the posts by the British gov- 
ernment, is not susceptible of an accurate valu- 
ation ; that between such an injury and money 
there is no common measure, and that there- 
fore the wrong is incapable of liquidation, and 
affords no fair basis for a calculation of pecu- 
niary dama^'os. This apology, sir, may appear 
plausible, but it is by no means satisfactory. 
Commissioners might easily have been appoint- 
ed (as they are, vested, too, with full discretion 
for other purposes) to take charge of this sub- 
ject, with instructions to do what they could, 
if unable to do what they ought, and if incapa- 
ble of effecting positive justice, at least to miti- 
gate the injustice of doing nothing. 

For the very extraordinary abandonment of 
the compensation due for the negroes and other 
property carried off by the British, apologies 
Lave also been lamely attempted; and these 
apologies demand consideration. It is said to 
be at least doubtful whether this claim is au- 
thorized by the seventh article of the treaty of 
peace, and tliat Great Britain has uniformly de- 
nied the meaning put by the United States on 
that ai-ticlc. In reply to these assertions, it is 

sufiicient for me to remark, that so far from its 
being true that Great Britain has uniformly de- 
nied the American construction of this article, 
it is susceptible of positive proof, that till very 
lately. Great Britain has uniformly admitted 
our construction of it, and that she has rejected 
the claim on no other ground than the alleged 
violation of the fourth article on the part of the 
United States. But on the supposition that it 
had been true, that Great Britain had uniformly 
asserted a different construction of the article, 
and refused to accede to ours, I beg leave to 
ask the House what ought to have been done ? 
Ought we to have acceded at once to her con- 
struction ? You will anticipate me, sir, in say- 
ing, assuredly not. Each party had an equal 
right to interpret the compact; and if they 
could not agree, they ought to have done in 
this what they did in other cases where they 
could not agree ; that is, have referred the set- 
tlement of the meaning of the compact to arbi- 
tration : but, for us to give up the claim alto- 
gether because the other party to the compact 
thought proper to disallow our construction of 
it, was in eft'ect to admit nothing less than that 
Great Britain had a better right than the 
United States to explain the point in contro- 
versy, or that the United States had done some- 
thing which in justice called for a sacrifice of 
one of their essential rights. 

From this view of the subject, sir, I consider 
it to be evident, that the arrangements in this 
treaty which relate to the treaty of peace of 
1783, are in several instances deficient both in 
justice and reciprocity. And here a circum- 
stance occurs, that in my opinion deserves the 
very particular attention of the committee. 
From the face of the treaty generally, and par- 
ticularly from the order of the articles, it would 
seem that the compensation for the spoliations 
on our trade have been combined with the exe- 
cution of the treaty of peace, and may therefore 
have been viewed as a substitute for the equiv- 
alent stipulated for the negroes. If this be 
really the meaning of the instrument, it cannot 
be the less obnoxious to reasonable and fair 
judges. No man can be more firmly convinced 
than I myself am, of the perfect justice on 
which the claims of the merchants on Great 
Britain are founded, nor can any one be more 
desirous to see them fully indemnified. But 
surely, sir, it will not be asserted that compen- 
sation to them is a just substitute for the compen- 
sation due to others. It is impossible that any 
claims can be better founded than those of the 
sufferers under the seventh article of the treaty 
of peace ; because they are supported by posi- 
tive and acknowledged stipulation, as well as 
by equity and right. Just and undeniable as 
the claims of the merchants may be, and cer- 
tainly are, the United States cannot be obliged 
to take more care of them than of the claims 
equally just and unquestionable of other citi- 
zens; much less to sacrifice the latter to the 
former. To set this matter in a light that will 
exhibit it in the clearest and most familiar way 



possible to the understanding and the bosom of 
every member in this house, I will invert the 
case. Let us suppose for a moment, that in- 
stead of relinquishing the claims for property 
wrongfully carried off at the close of the war, 
and obtaining stipulations in favor of the mer- 
cantile claims, the mercantile claims had been 
relinquished, and the other claims provided for 
— I ask, would not the complaints of the mer- 
chants have been as universal and as loud as 
they would have been just ? 

Sir, besides the omissions in favor of Great 
Britain, which I have already pointed out, as 
particularly connected with the execution of 
the treaty of peace, the committee will perceive 
that there are conditions annexed to the partial 
execution of it in the surrender of the Avestern 
posts, which increase the general inequality of 
this part of the treaty, and essentially affect the 
value of those' objects. I beseech the commit- 
tee to examine the point with the attention a 
subject of so very important a character de- 

The value of the posts to the United States is 
to be estimated by the influence of those posts : 
first, on the trade with the Indians, and sec- 
ondly, on the temper and conduct of the Indians 
to the United States. 

Their influence on the Indian trade depends 
principally on the exclusive command they give 
to the several carrying places connected with 
the posts. These places are understood to be 
of such importance in this respect, that those 
who possess them exclusively will have a mo- 
nopoly of that lucrative intercourse with a great 
part of the savage nations. Great Britain hav- 
ing exclusively possessed those places, has pos- 
sessed aU those advantages without a rival-, 
and it was reasonably enough expected, that 
with the exclusive possession of the posts, the 
exclusive benefits of that trade and intercourse 
would be transferred also ; but by the treaty 
now under consideration, the carrying places 
are to be enjoyed in common, and it will be de- 
termined by the respective advantages under 
which British and American traders will en- 
gage in the trade, which of them is to have the 
larger share in it. In this point of view, even 
if in no other, I view this regulation in the 
treaty as highly impolitic and injurious to the 
interests of this country. I need not dwell 
upon the signal advantages the British will 
have in their superior capital, which we shall 
have to encounter in all our commercial rival- 
ships ; but there is another consideration which 
ought to have, and no doubt will have great 
weight with the committee on this subject. 
The goods imported for the Indian trade through 
Canada pay no duties, whilst those imported 
through the United States for that trade will 
have paid duties from seven to ten per centum. 
At the same time, every man must see that a 
drawback is impracticaljle, or would be attend- 
ed with an expense which the business would 
not bear. Whatever the value or the impor- 
tance, therefore, which the posts may be sup- 

posed to derive from those considerations, they 
are in a great measure stripped of them by the 
condition annexed by this treaty to the surren- 
der of the posts. Instead of securing, as it 
ought to have done, a monopoly in our favor, 
the carrying places are made common to both 
countries under circumstances which will, in all 
probability, throw a monopoly into the hands 
of Great Britain. Nor is this a transient or a 
temporary evil, for that article of the treaty is 
to last for ever. As to the influence of the posts 
on the conduct of the Indians, it is well known 
to depend chiefly upon their influence on the 
Indian trade. In proportion, therefore, as the 
condition annexed to the surrender of the posts 
affects the one, it must affect the other. So 
long and in such degree as the British continue 
to enjoy the Indian trade, they will continue to 
influence the Indian conduct ; and though that 
should not be in the same degree as heretofore, 
it will be at least in a degree sufiiciently great 
to pass sentence of condemnation on the article 
in question. 

Another very extraordinary feature in this 
part of the treaty, sir, is the permission that it 
grants to aliens to hold lands in perpetuity. I 
wUl not inquire how far this may be authorized 
by constitutional principles, but I will always 
maintain that there cannot be found, in any 
treaty that ever was made, either where terri- 
tory was ceded, or where it was acknowledged 
by one nation to another, one other such stipu- 
lation. Although I admit, that in such cases it 
has been common, and may be right, to make 
regulations for the conservation of the prop- 
erty of the inhabitants, yet I believe it will ap- 
pear that in every case of the kind that has oc- 
curred, the owners of landed property, when 
they were so favored, were either called upon 
to swear allegiance to the new sovereign, or 
compelled to dispose of their landed property 
within a reasonable time. 

Sir, the stipulation by which all the ports of 
the United States are to open to Great Britain, 
as a valuable consideration for, or condition 
upon which those of one of her unimportant 
provinces are to be opened to us in return, is 
marked with such signal inequality that it ought 
not only to be rejected, but marked with cen- 
sure. Nor is the clause respecting the Missis- 
sippi less censurable. To me, indeed, it ap- 
pears singularly reprehensible. Happy is it for 
the United States, that the adjustment of our 
claims with Spain has been brought about, be- 
fore any evil operation of the clause has been 
experienced. But of the tendency of the thing, 
I am persuaded, there can be no doubt. It is 
the more remarkable that this extension of the 
privileges of Great Britain on the Mississippi, 
beyond those contained in the treaty of peace, 
should have been admitted into the new treaty, 
because, by the latter itself, the supposition is 
suggested that Great Britain may be deprived, 
by her real boundary, of all pretensions to a 
share in the waters and the banks of the Mis- 



And now, sir, to turn to the second aspect, in 
which I have undertaken to examine the ques- 
tion ; namely, as it determines the several points 
in tlie law of nations connected with it. And 
here, I must say, that the same want of real 
reciprocity, and the same sacrifice of the in- 
terests of the United States, are conspicuous. 
Sir, it is well known that the principle that 
"feee ships make feee goods," has ever been 
a great and favorite object with the United 
States ; they have established this prmciple in 
all their treaties; they have witnessed with 
anxiety the general eftbrt and the successful ad- 
vances towards incorporating this principle in 
the law of nations — a principle friendly to all 
neutral nations, and particularly interesting to 
the United States. I know, sir, that it has be- 
fore now been conceded, on the part of the 
United States, that the law of nations stands 
as the present treaty regulates it ; but it does 
not follow that more than acquiescence in this 
doctrine is proper. There is an evident and a 
material distinction between silently acqui- 
escing in it, and giving it the additional force 
and support of a formal and positive stipula- 
tion. The former is all that could have been 
required, and the latter is more than ought to 
have been unnecessarily yielded. The treaty 
is liable to similar objections in respect to the 
enumeration it contains of contraband articles, 
in which, sir, I am sorry to be obliged to re- 
mark, that the circumstances and interests of 
the United States, have been made to give way 
to the particular views of the other party, 
while the examples held out in our other 
treaties have been disregarded. Hemp, tar, 
pitch, turpentine, &c., important staples of this 
country, have, without even a pretext of reci- 
procity, been subjected to confiscation. No 
nation which produces these articles has, I be- 
lieve, any treaties at present, making the same 
sacrifice, with the exception of Denmark, who, 
in the year 1780, by what means I know not, 
was induced to agree to an explanation of the 
ti-eaty of 1670, by which these articles are de- 
clared to be contraband. Now, sir, it appears to 
me, that this same supplementary and explana- 
tory agreement between Great Britain and Den- 
mark, has been the model selected for the con- 
traband list of the treaty, at present in ques- 
tion ; the enumeration in the latter being tran- 
scribed, word for word, from the former, with 
a single exception, which, not only is in itself, 
but renders the whole transaction extremely 
remarkable. The article "Hoeses," which 
stands as one part of the original, is entirely 
omitted in the copy; and what renders the 
omission more worthy of scrutiny, is, that 
though the treaty, in general, seems to have 
availed itself, wherever it readily could, of the 
authority of Vattel, the omission of horses is 
no less a departure from him, than from the 
original, from which that part of the treaty 
was copied. Indeed, the whole of this particu- 
lar transaction seems fraught with singularity 
and just liability to suspicion; for, strange as 

it may appear, it is certainly true, that the copy 
proceeded exactly from the original, till it got 
as far as the purposes of Great Britain required, 
and at that point stopped short. I entreat the 
committee to pay attention to this fact. After 
enumerating the articles that are to be deemed 
contraband, the Danish article goes on in the 
words following, viz. : " But it is expressly de- 
clared, that among contraband merchandises, 
shall not be comprehended fish and meats, 
whether fresh or salted ; wheat, flour, corn, or 
other grain ; beans, oil, wines, and generally 
whatever serves for the nourishment and sup- 
port of life; all of which may at all times be sold 
and transported, like any other merchandises, 
even to places held by an enemy of the two 
crowns, provided they be not besieged or block-, 

This view of the subject naturally leads me 
to make some observations on that clause of 
the treaty which relates to provisions, and 
which, to say the least of it, wears a very am- 
biguous and disagreeable countenance ; or, to 
speak more precisely, seems to carry with it a 
necessary implication that provisions, though 
not bound to besieged or blockaded places, may 
according to the law of nations, as it now ex- 
ists, be regarded and treated as contraband. 
According to the genuine law of nations, no 
articles, which are not expressly and generally 
contraband, are so, in any particular instance, 
except in the single case of their going to a 
place besieged; yet it is recognized by this 
treaty, that there are other cases in which pro- 
visions may be deemed contraband, from which 
recognition, implication fairly results, that one 
of those cases may be that which has been as- 
sumed and put in force by Great Britain, in re- 
lation to the United States. Such trivial cases, 
as might be devised by way of appurtenances 
to the law, that condemns what is bound to 
blockaded places, can by no means satisfy the 
import of the stipulation; because such cases 
cannot be presumed to have been in contem- 
plation of the parties. And if the particular 
case, of provisions bound to a country at war, 
although not to a besieged place, was not meant 
to be one of the cases of contraband according 
to the existing law of nations, how necessary 
was it to have said so ; and how easy and natu- 
ral would that course have been, with the 
Danish example on the subject before their 

On the supposition that provisions, in our 
own vessels, bound to countries at war with 
Great Britain, can be now seized by her for her 
own use, on the condition stipulated, this fea- 
ture of the treaty, sir, presents itself in a very 
serious light indeed ; especially if the doctrine 
be resorted to, that has been laid down by the 
executive in the letter of Mr. Jetferson, then 
Secretary of State, to Mr. Pinckney, on the 
7th of September, 1793. This letter is a com- 
ment on the British instructions of June the 
8th, 1793, for seizing neutral provisions. After 
stating the measure as a flagrant breach of the 



law of nations, and as ruinous to our commerce 
and agriculture, it has the following paragraph : 
"This act, too, tends to draw us from that state 
of peace in which we are willing to remain. It 
is an essential character of neutrality to furnish 
no aids not stipulated by treaty" — that is, sir, 
by a treaty made prior to the war — " to one 
party, which we are not equally ready to fur- 
nish to the other. If we permit corn to be 
sent to Great Britain and her friends, we are 
equally bound to permit it to be sent to France. 
To restrain it would be a partiality that must 
lead to war ; and between restraining it our- 
selves, and permitting her enemies to restrain 
it unrightfully, there is no difference. She 
would consider it as a mere pretext, of which 
she certainly would not agree to be the dupe ; 
and on what honorable ground could we other- 
wise explain it? Thus we should see ourselves 
plunged, by this unauthorized act of Great 
Britain, into a war, with which we meddle not, 
and which we wish to avoid, if justice to all 
parties, and from all parties, will enable us to 
avoid it."* Sir, I entreat the committee to 
give this very interesting executive document 
aU the attention which it demands, and which 
they have in their power to bestow. 

I am now, sir, come to that article of the 
treaty by which the sequestration of British 
property is prohibited; upon which I must 
say, that though I should, in all probability, be 
one of the last men existing, to have recourse 
to such an expedient for redress, I cannot ap- 
prove of a perpetual and irrevocable abandon- 
ment of a defensive weapon, the existence of 
which may render the use of it unnecessary. 
Sir, there is an extraordinary peculiarity in the 
situation of this country, as it stands in its 
relations to Great Britain. As we have no 
fleets or armies, to command a respect for our 
rights, we ought to keep in our own hands all 
such means as our situation gives us. This 
article, sir, is another instance of the very little 
regard that has been paid to reciprocity. It is 
well known, that British subjects now have, 
and are likely always to have in this countrj', 
a vast quantity of property of the kind made 
sacred. American citizens, it is known, have 
little, and are likely to have little of the kind 
in Great Britain. If a real reciprocity was in- 
tended, why are not other kinds of private 
property, such as vessels and their cargoes, 
equally protected against violation ? These, 
even within the jurisdiction of Great Britain, are 
left open to seizure and sequestration, if Great 
Britain shall find it expedient ; and why is not 
property on the high seas, xinder the protection 
of the law of nations, which is said to be a part 
of the law of the land, made secure by a like 
stipulation ? This would have given a face of 
equality and reciprocity to the bargain. But 
nothing of the sort makes a part of it. TVhere 
Great Britain has a particular interest at stake, 
the treaty watchfully provides for it ; when the 

* Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Ed. 1854, vol 4, page 61. 

United States have an equal interest at stake, 
and equally entitled to protection, it is aban- 
doned to aU the dangers which it has expe- 

Having taken this brief review of the posi- 
tive evils in this part of the treaty, I might add 
the various omissions, which are chargeable 
upon it : but, as I shall not pretend to exhaust 
the subject, I will mention only one, and that 
is, the utterly neglecting to provide for the ex- 
hibition of sea papers ; and, I cannot help re- 
garding this omission as truly extraordinary, 
when I observe that in almost every modern 
treaty, and particularly in all our other trea- 
ties, an article on this subject has been regu- 
larly inserted. Indeed it has become almost an 
article of course in the treaties of the present 

I shall now, sir, consider the aspect in which 
the commercial articles of this treaty present 
themselves for consideration. In the free in- 
tercourse stipulated between the United States 
and Great Britain, it cannot be pretended that 
any advantage is gained by the former. A 
treaty is surely not necessary to induce Great 
Britain to receive our raw materials and to sell 
us her manufactures. Let us, on the other 
hand, consider what is given up by the United 

It is well known that when our government 
came into operation, the tonnage of America, 
employed in the British trade, bore a very in- 
considerable proportion to the British tonnage. 
There being nothing on our side to counteract 
the influence of capital and other circumstances 
on the British side, that disproportion was the 
natural stale of things. As some small balance 
to the British advantages, and particularly that 
of her capital, our laws have made several re- 
gulations in favor of our shipping, among which 
is the important encouragement resulting from 
the difference of ten per centum in the duties 
paid by American and foreign vessels. Under 
this encouragement, the American tonnage has 
increased in a very respectable degree of pro- 
portion to the British tonnage. Great Britain 
has never deemed it prudent to frustrate or 
diminish the effects of this, by attemping any 
countervailing measures for her shipping ; 
being aware, no doubt, that we could easily 
preserve the diflerence by further measures on 
our side : but by this treaty, she has reserved 
to herself the right to take such countervailing 
measures against our existing regulations, and 
we have surrendered our right to pursue fur- 
ther defensive measures against the influence of 
her capital. It is justly to be apprehended, 
therefore, that under such a restoration of 
things to their former state, the American ton- 
nage will relapse into its former disproportion 
to the British tonnage. 

Sir, when I turn my attention to that branch 
of the subject which relates to the Vest Indies, 
I see still greater cause for astonishment and 
dissatisfaction. As the treaty now stands. Great 
Britain is left as free, as she ever has been, to 



continue to herself and her shipping, the entire 
monoi)oly of the intercourse. Recollecting, as 
I do, and as every member of the committee 
must do, the whole history of this subject, from 
the peace of 1783, through every subsequent 
stage of our independence, down to the mission 
of the late envoy, I find it impossible, ade- 
quately to express my astonishment, that any 
treaty of commerce should ever have been ac- 
ceded to, that so entirely abandoned the very 
object for which alone such a treaty could have 
been contemplated ; I never could have be- 
lieved that the time was so near, when all the 
principles, claims and calculations, which have 
heretofore prevailed among all classes of peo- 
ple, in every part of the Union, on this inter- 
esting point, were to be so completely re- 
nounced. A treaty of commerce with Great 
Britain, excluding a reciprocity for our vessels 
in the West India trade, is a phenomenon which 
fills me with great surprise. 

I may be told, perhaps, that in the first place. 
Great Britain grants to no other nation the 
privilege granted to the United States of trad- 
ing at all with her West Indies, and that, in the 
second place, this is an important relaxation of 
the colonial system established among the na- 
tions of Europe. To the first of these observa- 
tions, I reply, that no other nation bears the 
same relation to the West Indies as the United 
States ; that the supplies of the United States 
are essential to those islands ; and that the 
trade with them has been permitted purely on 
that account, and not as a beneficial privilege 
to the United States. 

To the second, I reply, that it is not true, 
that the colony system requires an exclusion 
of foreign vessels from the carrying trade be- 
tween the colonies and foreign countries. On 
the contrary, the principle and practice of the 
colony system are, to prohibit, as much as may 
be convenient, all trade between the colonies 
and foreign countries ; but when such a trade 
is permitted at all, as necessary for the colonies, 
then to allow the vessels of such foreign coun- 
tries a reciprocal right of being employed in 
the trade. Great Britain has accordingly re- 
strained the trade of her islands with this 
country, as far as her interest in them will 
permit. But, has she allowed our vessels the 
reciprocal right to carry on the trade so far as 
it is not restrained ? — ISTo such thing. Here 
she enforces a monopoly in her own favor, 
contrary to justice, and contrary to the colonial 
system of every European nation that possesses 
any colonies ; none of whom, without a single 
exception, ever open a trade between their 
colonies and other countries, without opening 
it equally to vessels on both sides. This is 
evidently nothing more than strict justice. A 
colony is a part of an empire, if a nation 
choose, she may prohibit all trade between a 
colony and a foreign country, as she may be- 
tween any other part of her dominions and a 
foreign country ; but if she permit such a trade 
at all, it must be free to vessels on both sides. 

as well in the case of colonies as of any other 
part of her dominions. Great Britain has the 
same right to prohibit foreign trade between 
London and the United States, as between 
Jamaica and the United States ; but if no such 
prohibition be made with respect to either, she 
is equally bound to allow foreign vessels a com- 
mon right with her own in both. If Great 
Britain were to say, that no trade whatever 
should be carried on between London and the 
United States, she would exercise a right of 
which we could not reasonably complain. If 
she were to say, that no American vessels 
should be employed in the trade, it would pro- 
duce just complaints, and justity a reciprocal 
regulation as to her vessels. The case of the 
trade from a port in the West Indies is precisely 

In order that the omission of the treaty to 
provide a reciprocity for our vessels in the 
West India trade, may be placed in its true 
light, it will be proper to attend to another 
part of the treaty, which ties up the hands of 
this country against every etfort for making it 
the interest of Great Britain to yield to our 
reasonable claims. For this end I beg leave to 
point out to the committee the clause which 
restrains the United States from imposing pro- 
hibitions or duties on Great Britain, in any 
case, which shall not extend to all other nations, 
and to observe, that the clause makes it im- 
possible to operate on the unreasonable policy 
of that nation, without suspending our com- 
merce at the same time with all other nations, 
whose regulations, with respect to us, may be 
ever so favorable and satisfactory. 

The fifteenth article, Mr. Chairman, has ano- 
ther extraordinary feature, which I should 
imagine must strike every observer. In other 
treaties, which profess to put the parties on the 
footing of the most favored nation, it is stipu- 
lated that where new favors are granted to a 
particular nation in return for favors received, 
tlie party claiming the new favor shall pay the 
price of it. This is just and proper where the 
footing of the most favored nation is established 
at all. But this article gives to Great Britain 
the full benefit of all privileges that may be 
granted to any other nation, without requiring 
from her the same or equivalent privileges with 
those granted by such nation. Hence it wiU 
happen, that if Spain, Portugal or France shall 
open their colonial ports to the United States, 
in consideration of certain privileges in our 
trade, the same privileges will result gratis and 
ipso facto to Great Britain. Tliis stipulation, 
sir, I consider as peculiarly impolitic, and such 
an one as cannot fail to form, in the view of 
the committee, a very solid and weighty ob- 
jection to the treaty. 

I dare say, sir, that by the advocates of the 
treaty great stress will be laid on the article 
relating to the East Indies. To those who are 
better acquainted with the subject than I can 
pretend to be, I shall resign tlie task of ex- 
amining and explaining that part of the subject. 



"With two observations, however, I must trouble 
tbe committee, before I drop the subject of this 
article ; one is, that some gentlemen, as judi- 
cious and well informed as any who can be 
consulted, declare that they consider this article 
as affording not a shadow of advantage to the 
United States. The other is, that no privilege 
is stipulated in it, which has not heretofore 
been uniformly granted without stipulation ; 
and as the grant can have proceeded from no 
motive but a pure regard to the British interest 
in that country, there was every reasonable 
security that the trade would continue open as 
it had been, under the same consideration. 

Such, Mr. Chairman, being the character of 
this treaty, with respect to the execution of 
the treaty of peace, the great principles of the 
law of nations, and the regulations of com- 
merce, it never can be viewed as having any 
claim to be carried into effect on its own ac- 
count. Is there then any consideration, extra- 
neous to the treaty, that can furnish the requi- 
site motives ? On this part of the subject, the 
House is wholly without information. The 
continuance of the spoliations on our trade, 
and the impressment of our seamen, whether 
to be understood as practical comments on the 
treaty, or as infractions of it, cannot but enforce 
on the minds of the committee the most serious 
reflections. And here, sir, I beg leave to refer 
once more to the passage I have already read, 
extracted from the letter of Mr. Jefferson to 
Mr. Pinckney, and to ask if, as there stated by 
the executive, our neutrality and peace are to 
be exposed, by permitting practices of that 
kind, what must be thought of our giving 
effect, in the midst of such practices, to a treaty 
from which a countenance may be derived by 
that nation for going on further with them ? 

I am aware that the executive, notwithstand- 
ing the doctrine and policy laid down as above, 
has finally concurred in the treaty under all 
these circumstances. But I do not consider 
that as invalidating the reasoning drawn from 
the present state of things. I may be treading 
on delicate ground, but I cannot think it im- 
proper to remark, because it is a known fact, 
that the executive paused for some weeks after 
the concurrence of the Senate, before he ratified 
the treaty with his signature ; and I think it 
may fairly be presumed, that the true grounds 
of that pause were the renewal of spoliations, 
and a recollection of the light in which they 
had been represented; that, on that supposition, 
he was probably influenced in signing the 
treaty when he did, by an expectation that 
such a mark of confidence in the British gov- 
ernment would produce an abolition of the un- 
lawful proceeding, and consequently, if it were 
foreseen that the spoliations would have been 
continued, as we find them to be, the treaty 
would not have been then signed, or if it had 
not been then signed, it would not be signed 
under the circumstances of the moment, when 
it falls under our consideration. 

I shall conclude. Mi-. Chairman, with taking 

notice of two considerations, which have been li 
made great use of by way of inducing Congress >l 
to carry the treaty into effect. In the first ' 
place, it has been said, that the greater part of 
the treaty is to continue in force for no longer 
time than two years after the termination of kl 
the present war in Europe ; and that no very I 
great evils can grow out of it in that short 
period. To this I reply, that ten of the articles, 
containing very objectionable stipulations, are 
perpetual ; and that, in the next place, it will 
be in the power of Great Britain, at the expira- 
tion of the other articles, to produce the same 
causes for the renewal of them, as are now 
urged in their support. If we are now to en- 
force the treaty, lest Great Britain should stir 
up the Indians, and refuse to pay our merchants 
for the property of which she has plundered 
them, can she not, at the end of two or three 
years, plunder them again, to the same or a 
greater amount ? Cannot the same apprehen- 
sions be revived with respect to the Indians, 
and will not the arguments then be as strong as 
they are now, for renewing the same treaty, or 
for making any other equal sacrifices that her 
purposes may dictate ? 

It has been asked, "What will be the conse- 
quences of refusing to carry the treaty into ef- 
fect ? I answer, that the only supposable con- 
sequence is, that the executive, if governed by 
the prudence and patriotism which I do not 
doubt will govern that department, will of 
course pursue the measures most likely to ob- 
tain a reconsideration and remodification of the 
offensive parts of the treaty. The idea of war 
as a consequence of refusing to give effect to 
the treaty is too visionary and incredible to bo 
admitted into the question. No man will say 
that the United States, if they be really an in- 
dependent people, have not a right to judge of 
their own interests, and to decline any treaty 
that does not duly provide for them. A refu- 
sal, therefore, in such cases, can afford no 
cause, nor pretext, nor provocation for war, or 
for any just resentment. But, apart from this, 
is it conceivable that Great Britain, with all 
the dangers and embarrassments that are thick- 
ening on her, will wantonly make war on a 
country which is the best market she has in 
the world for her manufactures, which pays her 
an annual balance, in specie, of ten or twelve 
millions of dollars, and whose supplies, more- 
over, are essential to an important part of her 
dominions ? Such a degree of infatuation ought 
not to be ascribed to any country. And, at the 
present crisis, for reasons well known, an un- 
provoked war from Great Britain, on this coun- 
try, would argue a degree of madness greater 
than any other circumstances that can well be 

"With all the objections, therefore, to the 
treaty, which I have stated, I hope it will not 
now be carried into effect, and that an oppor- 
tunity will take place for reconsidering the 
subject, on principles more just and favorable 
to the "United States. 


Among those Huguenots who were compelled, on the revocation of the edict of Nantes, to 
abandon their country or renounce their religion, was Pierre Jay, the great grandfather of the 
subject of the present memoir. After suifering great contumely at the hands of the Catholics, 
he fled to England, managing, through the strictest precaution, to carry with him a suiBciency 
adequate to the support of himself and his family. Having escaped from persecution and 
reached a friendly country, nothing remained to cause anxiety hut the fate of his son Augustus, 
who had gone on a voyage to Africa, and would probably return to France without having been 
apprised of the troubles and flight of his family. This accordingly happened. On his arrival 
at Eochelle he found himself in a situation not easy to be described. The persecution was pro- 
ceeding with increasing severity, and every circumstance pressed him to decide, without delay, 
on the measures proper to pursue. The kindness of his friends facilitated every necessary ar- 
rangement for his departure, and in a short time he embarked for Charleston in South Carolina. 
Finding the climate of that locality unfavorable to his health, he went to Philadelphia, and from 
thence to New York. Here he met many friends who had left Eochelle to escape the Popish 
persecution, and soon established himself in business. In 1697 he married a daughter of Mr. 
Balthazar, by whom he had four children, the youngest a son, "whom, in honor of his father, 
he named Peter." This son married a daughter of Jacobus Van Cortlandt, in 1728, and was 
blessed with ten children. 

John Jay, the eighth child of Peter, was born in the city of New York, on the twelfth day of 
December, 1745. At an early period he manifested a grave and studious disposition. Under the 
care and instruction of his mother, he acquired the rudiments of English and the Latin grammar, 
and, at the age of eight years, was placed at a school kept by the Reverend Mr. Stoope, at New 
Eochelle. Here he remained about two years, continuing his subsequent studies at home, under 
a private tutor, until he reached the age of fourteen years. In 1760 he entered the Freshman 
class of King's (now Columbia) College, where he applied himself with resolution and persever- 
ance. His studious habits and correct deportment acquired for him the friendship of the Presi- 
dent, Dr. Samuel Johnson, who, on his retirement from the college, during the third year of 
young Jay's course, wrote a letter to his favorite pupil, inviting him to visit him, and assuring 
him of his prayers that he might " continue to act a good part." On the fifteenth of May, 1764, 
Mr. Jay graduated with the highest honors of his class, and two weeks after, entered the oflnce 
of Mr. Benjamin Kissam, as a student at law. "His talents and virtues gave at that period," 
says the celebrated Lindley Murray,* " pleasing indications of future eminence. He was re- 
markable for strong reasoning powers, comprehensive views, indefatigable application, and un- 
common firnmess of mind. With these qualifications, added to a just taste in literature, and 
ample stores of learning and knowledge, he was happily prepared to enter on that career of 
public virtue by which he was afterward honorably distinguished, and made instrumental in pro- 
moting the good of bis country." On his admission to the bar in 1768, he entered into partner- 

• Lindley Murray, the celebrated author of several works on grammar and religion, was a fellow-student with Mr. Jay, 
In tho oQice of Mr. Kissam. — Murrai/s M&moir. 

152 JOHN JAY. 

ship with Eobert R. Livingston, afterward Chancellor of the State of New York, and immedi- 
ately commenced an extensive and profitable practice. 

In 1774 Mr. Jay married Sarah, the youngest daughter of William Livingston, afterward Gov- 
ernor of New Jersey, and a political writer of great wit and power. At this period his pros- 
pects of domestic happiness and professional eminence were unusually brilliant ; but the storm 
of the Eevolution soon darkened the political horizon, and he was called upon to support the 
rights of his countrymen, abroad and at home. On the passage of the Boston Port Bill, a meet- 
ing was holden in New York, " to consult on the measures proper to be pursued in consequence 
of the late extraordinary advices received from England," and a committee of fifty was organized 
to correspond with the other Colonies " on all matters of moment." Of this committee Mr. Jay 
was an active member, being placed on a sub-committee, appointed to prepare answers to what- 
ever letters might be received. In this position his services were of the highest importance.* 

On the fifth day of September, 1774, Mr. Jay took his seat in the Congress at Philadelphia, 
as a delegate from New York. He was then in the twenty-ninth year of his age, and probably 
the youngest member of that body. The first day of the session. Congress appointed a commit- 
tee " to state the rights of the Colonies in general, the several instances in which those rights 
are violated or infringed, and the means most proper to be pursued for obtaining a restoration 
of them." Mr. Jay was a member of that committee, and soon after was placed on another for 
preparing an address to the inhabitants of Great Britain, and a memorial to the people of 
British America. The preparation of the former was assigned to him. To secure himself 
from interruption, he left his lodgings and shut himself up in a neighboring tavern, and there 
completed that eloquent state paper which Mr. Jefferson declared to be " a production, cer- 
tainly, of the finest pen in America," and which elicited the highest applause and admiration, 
both at home and abroad.t On the return of Mr. Jay from the Congress to New York, he was 
elected a member of a Committee of Observation " for carrying into effect the measures proposed 
for interrupting the commerce of Great Britain with her colonies," and shortly after a member 
of a committee of Association. This committee was invested with general undefined powers, and 
in the absence of all legal authority, was not unmindful of the interests of the people which had 
been assigned to its care. They called out the militia, perfected their discipline, and ordered 
them to patrol the streets by night, to prevent any disobedience to the " people's rules concern- 
ing exportation." They also addressed a letter to the Lord Mayor and magistrates of London, 
on the subject of American grievances. This letter bore the signature of Mr. Jay. The Pro- 
vincial Congress assembled at New York on the twenty-eighth of May, and assuming the pow- 
ers of government, relieved this committee of its responsibility. 

The second Congress assembled at Philadelphia, on the tenth of May, 1775, where Mr. Jay 
attended as a member. The battl« of Lexington had occurred a short time previous to the 
meeting, and it was apparent that the English ministry purposed to use force wherever they 
should find it necessary to carry out their designs. The defence of New York now attracted the 
attention of Congress, and application was made by the New York members for advice as to 
the course proper to be observed by their constituents, in the event of an arrival of British 
armament at their city. Congress recommended that the people should " not commence hos- 
tilities, but to repel force by force, and not to permit the British to erect fortifications, or to cut 
off the communication between the town and country." But it being evident that an organized 
force would be necessary to carry out even the defensive which had been recommended. Con- 
gress took measures to raise a militia, and adopted a code of "Utiles and Eegulations of the 
American ArmyP On the appointment of the subordinate generals, a few days after Washing- 
ton was chosen commander-in-chief, Mr. Jay proposed Mr. Sullivan, then a delegate in Con- 
gress from New Hampshire, saying " that his good sense was known to the House, and as to his 
military talents, he would take his chance for them." The nomination was confirmed, and the 

* This meeting of the citizens of New York, was holden on the 16th of May, 1774 The minutes of the committee ap- 
pointed by them, are still preserved in the library of the New York Historical Society, and form a valuable and interestlDg 

+ Autobiography; in the Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Eil 1853, vol. 1, page 10. 

JOHN JAY. 153 

discernment which prompted it was abundantly justified by General Sullivan's active and useful 
career.* About this time Mr. Jay prepared the letter To the oppressed Inhabitants of Canada, 
and that to i^Q People of Ireland, both of which evince the deepest classic learning and religious 

In the fall of lYVS, he received a commission of "colonel of the second regiment of 
militia of foot, of the city of New York," which he accepted, but the pressure of his civil duties 
prevented any active military service, and he remained at his post in Congress. " Some time in 
the course of this year," says Mr. Jay's biographer, "probably about the month of November, 
Congress was informed that a foreigner was then in Philadelphia, who was desirous of making 
to them an important and confidential communication. This intimation having been several 
times repeated, a committee, consisting of Mr. Jay, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Jefferson, was ap- 
pointed to hear what the foreigner had to say. These gentlemen agreed to meet him in one of 
the committee rooms in Carpenter's Hall. At the time appointed they went there, and found 
already arrived an elderly lame gentleman, having the appearance of an old wounded French 
officer. They told him they were authorized to receive his communication ; upon which he 
said that his most Christian majesty had heard with pleasure of the exertions made by the 
American colonies in defence of their rights and privileges ; that his majesty wished them suc- 
cess, and would, whenever it should be necessary, manifest more openly his friendly sentiment 
towards them. The committee requested to know his authority for giving these assurances. 
He answered only by drawing his hand across his throat, and saying, ' Gentlemen, I shall take 
care of my head.' They then asked what demonstrations of friendship they might expect from 
the king of France. 'Gentlemen,' answered the foreigner, 'if you want arms, you shall have 
them; if you want ammunition, you shall have it ; if you want money, you shall have it.' The 
committee observed that these assurances were indeed important, but again desired to know by 
what authority they were made. ' Gentlemen,' said he, repeating his former gesture, ' I shall 
take care of my head ! ' and this was the. only answer they could obtain from him. He was 
seen in Philadelphia no more. It was the opinion of the committee that he was a secret agent 
of the French court, directed to give these indirect assurances, but in such a manner that he 
might be disavowed if necessary. Mr. Jay stated that his communications were not without 
their effect on the procee"dings of this Congress." 

In April of the next year, while attending in Congress, Mr. Jay was elected a member of the 
Colonial Convention or Congress of New York, in which assembly he took his seat on the 
twenty-fifth of May following. Here he remained during the rest of the year, constantly and 
actively engaged. On the thirty -first of May he reported a series of resolutions, calling on the 
people to elect deputies to a new convention, with power to establish a form of government. 
Those resolutions were adopted, when the elections were held, and he was returned to the new 

On the arrival of Lord Howe and his army, in June, 1776, the convention adjourned to White 
Plains, a village about thirty miles north of New York. Here, on the ninth of July following, 
the new convention assembled. The same day the Declaration of Independence was announced 
to that body, and immediately referred to a committee, of which Mr. Jay was chairman. He 
" almost instanter " reported the subjoined resolution, which was unanimously adopted : '■'■Re- 
solved unanimously, That the reasons assigned by the Continental Congress for declaring these 
United Colonies free and independent States are cogent and conclusive, and that while we lament 
the cruel necessity which has rendered this measure unavoidable, we approve the same, and will, 
at the risk of our lives and fortunes, join with the other colonies in supporting it." 

On the seventeenth cf July, Mr. Jay was appointed on a secret committee, for the purpose 
of obstructing the navigation of the Hudson, and harassing Lord Howe's fieet, a part of which 
had passed up that river. At this crisis, he displayed the greatest zeal and energy. He 
was sent by the committee to Connecticut, to obtain a supply of cannon and shot, and transport 
them to the river, with authority " to impress carriages, teams, sloops, and horses, and to caU 

* Life of John Jay, vol 1, pago 83. 

154 JOHN JAY. 

out detachments of the militia, and generally to do, or cause to be done at his discretion, all 
such matters and things as he may deem necessary or expedient to forward and complete the 
business committed to his care." Invested with this authority, he obtained conveyances, and in 
a short time delivered twenty cannon at West Point. 

In August, 1776, the convention appointed a committee to prepare and report a constitution 
for the State. Of this committee Mr. Jay was chairman, and its duty appears to have been as- 
signed to him. On the twelfth of March, 1777, the committee submitted a plan of government, 
which, with several amendments, was adopted on the twentieth of April following. A short 
time before the final question on the constitution was taken, Mr. Jay was called to attend his 
dying mother, and thereby prevented from offering some amendments that he deemed important, 
and opposing others that had been made during his absence. In a letter written about this time, 
he expresses himself with great freedom on the hurried manner in which the business had been 
concluded, and pointed out his objections. "Though the birth of the constitution is," says he, 
"in my opinion premature, I shall, nevertheless, do all in my power to nurse and keep it alive; 
being far from approving the Spartan law, which encouraged parents to destroy such of their 
children as, perhaps by some cross accident, might come into this world defective and mis- 
shapen." * 

New York being now provided with a constitution, Mr. Jay was appointed chief justice of 
the Supreme Court, and soon after a member of the Council of Safety. On the ninth of Sep- 
tember, the Supreme Court commenced its first term, and Judge Jay delivered the charge to the 
Grand Jury. The interest attached to this event was of the highest importance. The govern- 
ment under which the people had been reared, and which their habits and education had taught 
them to venerate and love, had been abolished, and a new one raised, amid the tumult of war, 
and in the presence of a haughty and victorious enemy. The success of the undertaking was by 
no means certain. Burgoyne, with a large army, had penetrated the north, and was approach- 
ing the Hudson at Albany, while another army was preparing to effect a junction with the first. 
Under these circumstances, John Jay, "with an unruflled mind and undaunted eye, looked for- 
ward to the end of his labors, with the fuU assurance of the righteousness of the cause and the 
favor of heaven." 

" It affords me, gentlemen," he said, " very sensible pleasure to congratulate you on the dawn 
of that free, mild, and equal government which now begins to rise and break from amidst those 
clouds of anarchy, confusion, and licentiousness, which the arbitrary and violent domination of 
the king of Great Britain had spread, in greater or less degrees, throughout this and the other 
American States. And it gives me particular satisfaction to remark, that the first fruits of our 
excellent constitution appear in a part of this State, whose inhabitants have distinguished them- 
selves by having unanimously endeavored to deserve them. 

"This is one of those signal instances in which Divine Providence has made the tyranny of 
princes instrumental in breaking the chains of their subjects, and rendered the most inhuman 
designs productive of the best consequences to those against whom they were intended. 

"The infatuated sovereign of Britain, forgetful that kings were the servants, not the proprie- 
tors, and ought to be the fathers, not the incendiaries of their people, hath, by destroying our 
former constitutions, enabled us to erect more eligible systems of government on their ruins; 
and, by unwarrantable attempts to bind vs, in all cases whatever, has reduced us to the happy 
necessity of hamg free from his control in any. 

" Whoever compares our present with our former constitution, will find abundant reason to 

rejoice in the exchange, and readily admit that all the calamities incident to this war, will be 

amply compensated by the many blessings flowing from this glorious revolution ; a revolution 

- which, in the whole course of its rise and progress, is distinguished by so many marks of the 

Divine favor and interposition, that no doubt can remain of its being finally accomplished. 

" It was begun and has been supported in a manner so singular, and I may say miraculous, 
that when future ages shall read its history, they will be tempted to consider a great part of it 

* Life of John Jay, vol. 1, page ( 

JOHN JAY. 155 

as fabulous. "What, among otlier things, can appear more unworthy of credit, than that in an 
enlightened age, in a civilized and Christian country, in a nation so celebrated for Immanity, as 
well as love of liberty and justice, as the English once justly were, a prince should arise, who, 
by the influence of corruption alone, should be able to seduce them into a combination to reduce 
three millions of his most loyal and affectionate subjects to absolute slavery, under pretence of 
a right, appertaining to God alone, of binding them in all cases whatever, not even excepting 
cases of conscience and religion ? "What can appear more improbable, although true, than that 
this prince, and this people, should obstinately steel their hearts and shut their ears against the 
most humble petitions and affectionate remonstrances ; and unjustly determine, by violence and 
force, to execute designs which were reprobated by every principle of humanity, equity, grati- 
tude, and policy — designs which would have been execrable, if intended against savages and 
enemies, and yet formed against men descended from the same common ancestors with them- 
selves ; men who had liberally contributed to their support, and cheerfully fought their battles, 
even in remote and baleful climates ? "Will it not appear extraordinary that thirteen colonies, 
the object of their wicked designs, divided by variety of governments and manners, should im- 
mediately become one people, and though without funds, without magazines, without disciplined 
troops, in the face of their enemies, unanimously determine to be free ; and, undaunted by the 
power of Britain, refer their cause to the justice of the Almighty, and resolve to repel force by 
force ? thereby presenting to the world an illustrious example of magnanimity and virtue scarcely 
to be paralleled. "Will it not be matter of doubt and wonder, that, notwithstanding these diffi- 
culties, they should raise armies, establish funds, carry on commerce, grow rich by the spoils of 
their enemies, and bid defiance to the armies of Britain, the mercenaries of Germany, and the 
savages of the wilderness? But, however incredible these things may in future appear, we 
know them to be true, and we should always remember that the many remarkable and unex- 
pected means and events, by which our wants have been supplied, and our enemies repelled or 
restrained, are such strong and striking proofs of the interposition of Heaven, that our having 
been hitherto delivered from the threatened bondage of Britain, ought, like the emancipation of 
the Jews from Egyptian servitude, to be for ever ascribed to its true cause, and instead of swell- 
ing our breasts with arrogant ideas of our prowess and importance, kindle in them a flame of 
gratitude and piety, which may consume all remains of vice and irreligion. 

" Blessed be God ! the time will now never arrive when the prince of a country, in another 
quarter of the globe, will command your obedience and hold you in vassalage. His consent has 
ceased to be necessary to enable you to enact laws essential to your welfare ; nor will you, in 
future, be subject to the imperious sway of rulers, instructed to sacrifice your happiness, when- 
ever it might be inconsistent with the ambitious views of their royal master." 

After referring to the perfection of the new Constitution, and the general satisfaction it 
afforded to the people, he continued : " Adequate security is also given to the rights of con- 
science and private judgment. They are, by nature, subject to no control but that of the Deity, 
and in that free situation they are now left. Every man is permitted to consider, to adore and 
to worship his Creator in the manner most agreeable to his conscience. No opinions are 
dictated ; no rules of faith prescribed ; no preference given to one sect to the prejudice of 
others. The constitution, however, has wisely declared, that the ' liberty of conscience, 
thereby granted, shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices 
inconsistent with the peace or safety of this State.' In a word, the convention, by whom that 
constitution was formed, were of opinion, that the Gospel of Cheist, like the ark of God, would 
not fall, though unsupported by the arm of flesh ; and happy would it be for mankind if that 
opinion prevailed more generally. 

" But let it be remembered, that whatever marks of wisdom, experience and patriotism there 
may be in your constitution, yet, like the beautiful symmetry, the just proportions, and elegant 
forms of our first parents, before their Maker breathed into them the breath of life, it is yet to 
be animated, and till then, may indeed excite admiration, but will be of no use — from the people 
it must receive its spirit, and by them be quickened. Let virtue, honor, the love of liberty and 
of science be, and remain, the soul of this constitution, and it will become the source of great 

156 JOHN JAY. 

and extensive happiness to this and future generations. Vice, ignorance, and want of vigilance, 
■will be the only enemies able to destroy it. Against these provide, and, of these, be for ever 
jealous. Every member of the State ought diligently to read and study the constitution of his 
country, and teach the rising generation to be free. By knowing their rights, they wiU sooner 
perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend and assert them. 

" This, gentlemen, is the first court held under the authority of our constitution, and I hope 
its proceedings will be such, as to merit the approbation of the friends, and avoid giving cause 
of censure to the enemies of the present establishment." 

As a judge of the Supreme Court, Mr. Jay was prevented by the Constitution of the State, 
from occupying any other ofiice, except that of delegate to Congress on a special occasion. A 
special occasion was afibrded when the dispute originated between the people of Vermont and 
the Legislature of New York ; and he was elected on the 10th of November, 1778. In De- 
cember following, he took his seat in Congress, and, on the resignation of Mr. Laurens, three 
days after, was elected in his place as President of that body. Here he remained until the 
twenty-seventh of September, 1779, when he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain. 
On the twentieth of October he sailed, in company with M. Gerard, the French minister, on 
board the American frigate Confederacy. A few days out, the frigate was dismasted in a ter- 
rific storm, and with difficulty reached Martinico about the middle of December. From this 
place he sailed ten days after his arrival, and landed at Cadiz on the twenty-eighth of 
January, 1780. 

Mr. Jay lost no time in going to Madrid. On his arrival at that place he discovered that 
the Spanish government were not inclined to enter into negotiations with him ; and that 
although that government was at war with our common enemy, she was not disposed even to 
acknowledge our independence, unconditionally.* While in this situation, he learned that Con- 
gress had resolved upon a singular expedient for raising funds, (on the presumption of the 
success of his mission,) by drawing on him for the payment of large sums at six months' sight. 
These bills soon were presented ; and Mr. Jay accepted them ; becoming personally responsible 
for a greater portion of them.t 

Mr. Adams was appointed, in 1779, as sole minister plenipotentiary for peace, and at the 
same time to make a treaty of commerce with Great Britain. In 1781, Mr. Jay, Mr. Franklin, 
Mr. Laurens, and Mr. Jefierson, were associated with Mr. Adams, by Congress, in the commis- 
sion for peace, and Mr. Adams' commission to negotiate a treaty of commerce was annulled. 
Early in the summer of 1782, having been informed of his appointment as commissioner, Mr. 
Jay left Madrid and arrived at Paris. Dr. Franklin was the only member of the commission at 
Paris on his arrival. Mr. Adams still remained at Amsterdam, Mr. Jefferson in America, 
and Mr. Laurens was in England, worn down with ill-health, debating whether he had not 
better retui-n to the United States rather than proceed to Paris. Mr. Jay and Dr. Franklin, 
therefore, undertook the "skirmishing" business of the negotiation. 

In July, Mr. Richard Oswald was empowered by the King of England " to treat, consult of, 
and conclude, with any commissioner or commissioners named, or to be named by the thirteen 
colonies or plantations in North America, and any body or bodies, corporate or politic, or any 
assembly or assemblies, or description of men, or any person or persons whatsoever, a peace or 
truce with the said colonies or plantations, or any part thereof." On the seventh of August, 
this commission was communicated to Mr. Jay and Dr. Franklin ; the former thought that the 
expression of th^ commission did not acknowledge the independence of the United States, and 
insisted that it would be an acquiescence in that idea, if they should treat under the denomina- 
tion of colonies. " I told the minister," he says, '' that we neither could nor would treat with 
any nation in the world on any other than an equal footing." % This difficulty being obviated 
by the reception of a new commission, from England, describing the constituents of Mr. Jay 

* Life of John Jay, vol. 1, page 106, et seq. 

+ Flander's Lives of the Chief Justices. First series, pp. 276-S28. 

t Letter to Gouverneur Morris, October 18th, 1TS2. Jay's Writings. 

JOHN JAY. 15r 

and Dr. Franklin, as the Thirteen United States of America ; the negotiation commenced, and, 
on the thirtieth of Novemher, 1782, the provisional articles agreed upon were signed by Oswald 
on the one part and the four American commissioners on the other, Mr. Adams and Mr. Laurens 
havin" arrived at Paris pending the negotiation. The value of Mr. Jay's services in this im- 
portant transaction cannot be overestimated. 

On the sixteenth of May, 1784, Mr. Jay left Paris, and on the twenty-fourth of July, arrived 
at New York. " At length," he said in a letter to a friend, " I am arrived in the land of my 
nativity ; and I bless God that it is also the land of light, liberty, and plenty. My emotions 
cannot be described." * His fellow-citizens received him on his retutn with expressions of 
admiration and esteem. The corporation of New York presented to him an address accom- 
panied with the freedom of the city, " as a public testimony of the respectful sentiments we 
entertain towards you, and as a pledge of our affection, and of our sincere wishes for your 

On the meeting of the State Legislature in the fall, they appointed Mr. Jay a delegate to 
Congress, and on the sixth of December he took his seat in that assembly, which was convened 
at Ti-enton. A short time after, he accepted the position as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, to 
which place he had been appointed previous to his return to America. The prominent feature 
of this portion of his course was the renewal of negotiations with Spain, and the forma- 
tion of the federal constitution. After the convention at Philadelphia had submitted the con- 
stitution to the people, a strong and violent opposition manifested itself. In this state of the 
public mind, Mr. Jay, associated with Hamilton and Madison, vindicated the proposed plan of 
government, in the essays entitled The Federalist, "equally admirable for the depth of its 
wisdom, the comprehensiveness of its views, the sagacity of its reflections, and the fearlessness, 
patriotism, candor, simplicity and elegance with which its truths are uttered and recommended." t 
In these papers, he discussed the dangers to be apprehended from foreign influence and power, 
and the authority of the Senate in making treaties. 

In June, the convention of the State of New York, authorized to adopt or reject the federal 
constitution, met at Poughkeepsie. Of this convention Mr. Jay was a member, and the services 
he rendered were signal and important. The new Congress assembled on the fourth of March, 
1789, and a few days after, Washington was elected President of the United States. After the 
passage of the Judiciary Bill, Mr. Jay was offered, by the President, a choice of the offices 
under the government. Expressing a preference, for the Chief Justiceship, he wiis nominated, 
and on the twenty-sixth of September, 1789, was confirmed by the Senate. "In nominating 
you for the important station which you now fill," wrote President Washington, " I not only 
acted in conformity to my best judgment, but I trust I did a grateful thing to the good citizens 
of the United States ; and I have a full confidence, that the love which you bear to our country, 
and a desire to promote the general happiness, will not suflTer you to hesitate a moment to bring 
into action the talents, knowledge and integrity which are so necessary to be exercised at the 
head of that department, which must be considered as the keystone of our political fabric." J 
Mr. Jay's decisions, while he remained on the bench, evince a power of analysis, great logical 
acquirements, and a ready apprehension of principles. § 

The next important service rendered by Mr. Jay, was the negotiation of the treaty with 
Great Britain, in 1794. He was appointed commissioner, and sailed from New York in May, 
and on the fifteenth of June arrived at London. Lord Grenville, a son of the celebrated George 
Grenville, was the negotiator on the part of Great Britain. The negotiation progressed favorably, 
as will be seen by the following, written by Mr. Jay to Washington, early in August : " Our 
prospects become more and more promising as we advance in the business .... A treaty of 
commerce is on the carpet .... The King observed to me the other day, ' Well, sir, I imagine 
you begin to see that your mission will probably be successful.' — ' I am happy, may it please 

* Life of John Jay, vol 1, page 183. 

t Kent's Commentaries. Tlie particular numbers of The Federalist, written by Mr. Jay, are ^ven at page 126, ante. 
t Wasliington to Jay, enclosing the latter's commission, 6th October, 1739. Washington's Writings, vol 10, page 86. 
S Flander'a Chief Justices, page 335. 

158 JOHN JAY. 

your Majesty, to find that you entertain that idea.' — ' Well, but don't you perceive that it is like 
to be so?' — ' There are some recent circumstances (the answer to my representation, &c.) which 
induce me to ilatter myself that it will be so.' He nodded with a smile, signifying that it was 
to those circumstances that he alluded. The conversation then turned to indifferent topics."* 
The treaty was concluded on the nineteenth of November, 1794, and Mr. Jay returned to New 
York in the latter part of May of the next year. He was received by his fellow-citizens with 
demonstrations of gratitude and joy, and was attended to his dwelling by a large concourse, 
" amid the ringing of bells and the firing of cannon." 

To many, Jay's treaty was objectionable : by those it was opposed with uncommon bitter- 
ness, t But it enlisted the ablest defenders : Hamilton, in its support, under the signature of 
Oamillus, " extorted the admiration of his foes ;" and Fisher Ames urged the passage of laws 
to give it effect, in a powerful speech, which drew forth tears, and made an impression that 
" will never be forgotten.'' J 

Mr. Jay was elected governor of New York two days before he arrived from England, and 
continued in office during six years. In the fall of the year 1800, he was solicited to consent to 
be a candidate for re-election, but declined, preferring to pass the remainder of his days in the 
retirement of his home. " The period is now arrived," he wrote, "at which I have for many 
years intended to retire from the cares of public life, and for which I have been for more than 
two years preparing ; not perceiving, after mature consideration, that any duties require me to 
postpone it, I shall retire accordingly. But I retain and cherish the warmest affection for my 
country, as well as the esteem which I entertain for many, and the good will which I bear to all 
my fellow-citizens." § 

On the nineteenth of December, he was nominated by President Adams to the Chief Jus- 
ticeship of the United States, but his determination to retire from public life prevented his ac- 
ceptance of that post. In the month of May following, he resigned the office of governor, " and 
passed the remainder of his days at the family estate at "Westchester. He took no part in po- 
litical affairs, and was not publicly heard of, except in two or three instances, when he answered 
inquiries concerning facts within his knowledge." | In the night of the fourteenth of May, 
1829, he was attacked with palsy, which, on the seventeenth, terminated his honorable and dis- 
tinguished life. " History will assign to John Jay an elevated rank among the great," says Mr. 
Sullivan; "not only so, it will place him equally high among the pure and the virtuous. 
Throughout his useful life, he was governed* by the dictates of an enlightened Christian con- 
science. He thought and acted under the conviction that there is an accountability far more 
serious than any which men can have to their fellow-men. The bravest soldiers and the wor- 
thiest statesmen have ever been those who believed in such accountability." 

* Jay to Washington, Augnst 6th, 1794. Life and 'Writings of Jay, vol. 2, pp. 220-221. 
+ See page lOS, ante. 
i See Ames' speech at page 104, ante. 

§ Jay to Eichard Hatfield, chairman of Federal meeting, &c., 8th November, 1800. Life and Writings of John Jay, vol 
1, page 419. 

J Sullivan's Public Men of the Kevolution, page 91, 




Congress, on the eleventh day of October, 
ITH, appointed Mr. Lee, Mr. Livingston and 
Mr. Jay a committee to prepare a memorial to 
the people of British America, and an address 
to the people of Great Britain. It was agreed 
in the committee that Mr. Lee should prepare 
the former, and that Mr. Jay should prepare 
the latter. On the eighteenth, Mr. Jay report- 
ed a draught of the address, which was dis- 
cussed and amended on the day following, and 
on the twenty-first was approved by Congress.* 

FEiEisros AND Fellow-Subjects : When a na- 
tion led to greatness by the hand of liberty, 
and possessed of all the glory that heroism, 
munificence, and humanity can bestow, de- 
scends to the ungrateful task of forging chains 
for her friends and children, and instead of 
giving support to freedom, turns advocate for 
slavery and oppression, there is reason to sus- 
pect she has either ceased to be virtuous or 
been extremely negligent in the appointment 
of her rulers. 

In almost every age, in repeated conflicts in 
long and bloody wars, as well civil as foreign, 
against many and powerful nations, against the 
open assaults of enemies, and the more danger- 
ous treachery of friends, have the inhabitants 
of your island, your great and glorious ances- 
tors, maintained their independence and trans- 
mitted the rights of men and the blessings of 
liberty to you, their posterity. 

Be not surprised, therefore, that we who are 
descended from the same common ancestors, 
that we whose forefathers participated in all 
the rights, the liberties, and the constitution 
you so justly boast of, and who have carefully 
conveyed the same fair inheritance to us, guar- 
anteed by the plighted faith of government, 
and the most solemn compacts with British 
sovereigns, should refuse to surrender them to 
men who found their claims on no principles of 
reason, and who prosecute them with a design 
that, by having our lives and property in their 
power, they may, with the greatest facility, en- 
slave you. 

The cause of America is now the object of 
universal attention; it has at length become 
very serious. This unhappy country has not 
only been oppressed, but abused and misrepre- 
sented ; and the duty we owe to ourselves and 
posterity, to your interest, and the general wel- 
fare of the British empire, leads us to address 
you on this very important subject. 

Know, then, That we consider ourselves, and 
do insist, that we are and ought to be as free 

♦Journals of Congress, 1774, Ed. 1823. Vol. 1, pp. 18-31. 
Bee ante, p. 43 ; also Jay's letter, in tho Life of E. H. Loo. 
Vol. 1, pp. 270-272. 

as our fellow-subjects in Britain, and that no 
power on earth has a right to take our property 
from us without our consent. 

That we claim all the benefits secured to the 
subject by the English constitution, and par- 
ticularly that inestimable one of trial by jury. 

That we hold it essential to English liberty 
that no man be condemned unheard, or punish- 
ed for supposed ofl:ences, without having an op- 
portunity of making his defence. 

That we think the legislature of Great Britain 
is not authorized by the constitution to estab- 
lish a religion fraught with sanguinary and im- 
pious tenets ; or to erect an arbitrary form of 
government in any quarter of the globe. These 
rights we, as well as you, deem sacred ; and 
yet, sacred as they are, they have, with many 
others, been repeatedly and flagrantly violated. 

Are not the proprietors of the soil of Great 
Britain lords of their own property ? Can it 
be taken from them without their consent? 
Will they yield it to the arbitrary disposal of 
any man or number of men whatever ? You 
know they will not. 

Why, then, are the proprietors of the soil of 
America less lords of their property than you 
are of yours ? or why should they submit it to 
the disposal of your Parliament, or any other 
parliament or council in the world, not of their 
election ? Can the intervention of the sea that 
divides us cause disparity in rights, or can any 
reason be given why English subjects who live 
three thousand miles from the Royal Palace, 
should enjoy less liberty than those who are 
three hundred miles distant from it? 
_ Reason looks with indignation on such dis- 
tinctions, and freemen can never perceive their 
propriety. And yet, however chimerical and 
unjust such discriminations are, the Parliament 
assert that they have a right to bind us, in all 
cases, without exception, whether we consent 
or not; that they may take and use our prop- 
erty when and in what manner they please ; 
that we are pensioners on -their bounty for all 
that we possess, and can hold it no longer than 
they vouchsafe to permit. Such declarations 
we consider as heresies in English politics, and 
which can no more operate to deprive us of our 
property than the interdicts of the Pope can 
divest kings of sceptres which the laws of the 
land and the voice of the people have placed in 
their hands. 

At the conclusion of the late war — a war 
rendered glorious by the abilities and integrity 
of a minister to whose efibrts the British em- 
pire owes its safety and its fame ; at the conclu- 
sion of this war, which was succeeded by an 
inglorious peace, formed under the auspices of 
a minister of principles, and of a family, un- 
friendly to the Protestant cause, and inimical 
to liberty — we say at this period, and under 
the influence of that man, a plan for enslaving 



your fellow-subjects in America was concerted, 
and has ever since been pertinaciously carrying 
into execution. 

Prior to this era ycti were content with draw- 
ing from us the wealth produced by our com- 
merce : you restrained your trade in every way 
that could conduce to your emolument. You 
exercised unbounded sovereignty over the sea. 
You named the ports and nations to which 
alone our merchandise should be carried, and 
with whom alone we should trade ; and though 
some of these restrictions were grievous, we 
nevertheless did not complain. "We looked up 
to you as to our parent state, to which we were 
bound by the strongest ties, and were happy in 
being instrumental to your prosperity and your 

"We call upon you, yourselves, to witness our 
loyalty and attachment to the common interest 
of the whole empire. Did we not, in the last 
war, add all the strength of this vast continent 
to the force which repelled our common ene- 
my? Did we not leave our native shores and 
meet disease and death to promote the success 
of British arms in foreign climates ? Did you 
not thank us for our zeal, and even reimburse 
us large sums of money, which you confessed 
we had advanced beyond our proportion, and 
far beyond our abilities? You did. 

To what causes, then, are we to attribute the 
sudden change of treatment, and that system of 
slavery, which was prepared for us at the re- 
storation of peace ? 

Before we had recovered from the distresses 
which ever attend war, an attempt was made 
to drain this country of all its money, by the 
oppressive stamp act. Paint, glass, and other 
commodities, which you would not permit us 
to purchase of other nations, were taxed ; nay, 
although no wine is made in any country, sub-^ 
ject to the British state, you prohibited our 
procuring it of foreigners without paying a tax, 
imposed by your Parliament, on all we im- 
ported. These, and many other impositions, 
were laid upon us, most unjustly and unconsti- 
tutionally, for the express purpose of raising a 
revenue. In order to silence complaint, it was 
indeed provided that this revenue should be 
expended in America for its protection and de- 
fence. These exactions, however, can receive 
no justification from a pretended necessity of 
protecting and defending us. They are lavishly 
squandered on court favorites and ministerial 
dependants, generally avowed enemies to 
America, and employing themselves by partial 
representations to traduce and embroil the colo- 
nies. For the necessary support of government 
here, we ever were and ever shall be ready to 
provide. And whenever the exigencies of the 
state may require it, we shall, as we have here- 
tofore done, cheerfully contribute our full pro- 
portion of men and money. To enforce this 
unconstitutional and unjust scheme of taxation, 
every fence that the wisdom of our British an- 
cestors had carefully erected against arbitrary 
power, has been violently tlu-own down in 

America, and the inestimable right of trial by 
jury taken away, in cases that touch both life 
and property. It was ordained that whenever 
offences should be committed in the colonies 
against particular acts, imposing various duties 
and restrictions upon trade, the prosecutor 
might bring his action for the penalties in the 
Courts of Admiralty, by which means the sub- 
ject lost the advantage of being tried by an 
honest, uninfluenced jury of the vicinage, and 
was subjected to the sad necessity of being 
judged by a single man, a creature of the 
crown, and according to the course of a law 
which exempts the prosecutor from the trouble 
of proving his accusation, and obliges the de- 
fendant either to evince his innocence or to 
suffer. To give this new judicatory the greater 
importance, and as if with design to protect 
false accusers, it is further provided, that the 
judge's certificate of there having been proba- 
ble causes of seizure and prosecution, shall pro- 
tect the prosecutor from actions at common 
law for recovery of damages. 

By the course of our law, offences committed 
in such of the British dominions in which 
courts are established, and justice duly and 
regularly administered, shall be there tried by 
a jury of the vicinage. There the offenders 
and the witnesses are known, and the degree 
of credibility to be given to their testimony can 
be ascertained. 

In all these colonies justice is regularly and 
impartially administered ; and yet, by the con- 
struction of some, and the direction of other 
acts of Parliament, offenders are to be taken by 
force, together with all such persons as may be 
pointed out as witnesses, and carried to Eng- 
land, there to be tried in a distant land, by a 
jury of strangers, and subject to all the disad- 
vantages that result from the want of friends, 
want of witnesses, and want of money. 

When the design of raising a revenue from 
the duties imposed on the importation of tea 
into America, had in great measure been ren- 
dered abortive by our ceasing to import that 
commodity, a scheme was concerted by the 
ministry with the East India Company, and an 
act passed, enabling and encouraging them to 
transport and vend it in the colonies. Aware 
of the danger of giving success to this insidious 
manoeuvre, and of permitting a precedent of 
taxation thus to be established among us, va- 
rious methods were adopted to elude the stroke. 
The people of Boston, then ruled by a governor 
whom, as well as his predecessor. Sir Francis 
Bernard, all America considers as her enemy, 
were exceedingly embarrassed. The ships 
which had arrived with the tea were, by his 
management, prevented from returning. The 
duties would have been paid ; the cargoes 
landed and exposed to sale ; a governor's influ- 
ence would have procured and protected many ' 
purchasers. "While the town was suspended 
by deliberations on this important subject the 
tea was destroyed. Even supposing a trespass 
was thereby committed, and the proprietors of 



the tea entitled to damages, the courts of law 
were opeu, and judges, appointed by the crown, 
presided in them. The East India Company, 
however, did not think proper to commence 
any suits, nor did they even demand satisfac- 
tion, either from individuals or from the com- 
munity in general. The ministry, it seems, 
officiously made the case their own, and the 
great council of the nation descended to inter- 
meddle with a dispute about private property. 
Divers papers, letters, and other unauthenticat- 
ed e.v parte evidence, were laid before them. 
Neither the persons who destroyed the tea, nor 
the people of Boston, were called upon to an- 
swer the complaint. The ministry, incensed by 
being disappointed in a favorite scheme, were 
determined to reciar from the little arts of fi- 
nesse to open force and unmanly violence. The 
port of Boston was blocked up by a fleet, and 
an army placed in the town. Their trade was 
to be suspended, and thousands reduced to the 
necessity of gaining subsi|tence from charity, 
till they should submit to pass under the yoke 
and consent to become slaves, by confessing 
the omnipotence of Parliament, and acquiescing 
in whatever disposition they might think proper 
to make of their lives and property. 

Let justice and humanity cease to be the 
boast of your nation! Consult your history; 
examine your records of former transactions ; 
nay, turn to the annals of the many arbitrary 
states and kingdoms that surround you, and 
show us a single instance of men being con- 
demned to suffer for imputed crimes, unheard, 
unquestioned, and without even the specious 
formality of a trial ; and that, too, by laws 
made expressly for the purpose, and which had 
no existence at the time of the fact committed. 
If it be difficult to reconcile these proceedings 
to the genius and temper of your laws and con- 
stitution, the task will become more arduous 
when we call upon our ministerial enemies to 
justify, not only condemning men untried and 
by hearsay, but involving the innocent in one 
common punishment with the guilty, and for 
the act of thirty or forty to bring poverty, dis- 
tress, and calamity on thirty thousand souls, 
and those not your enemies, but your friends, 
brethren, and fellow-subjects. 

It would be some consolation to us if the 
catalogue of American oppressions ended here. 
It gives us pain to be reduced to the necessity 
of reminding you, that under the confidence re- 
posed in the faith of government, pledged in a 
royal charter from a British sovereign, the fore- 
fathers of the present inhabitants of the Massa- 
chusetts Bay left their former habitations, and 
established that great, flourishing, and loyal 
3olony. Without incurring or being charged 
with a forfeiture of their rights, without being 
heard, without being tried, without law and 
without justice, by an act of Parliament their 
charter is destroyed, their liberties violated, 
their constitution and form of government 
changed ; and all this upon no better pretence 
than because in one of their towns a trespass 


was committed on some merchandise, said to 
belong to one of the companies, and because 
the ministry were of opinion that such high 
political regulations were necessary to compel 
due subordination and obedience to their man- 

Nor are these the only capital grievances 
under which we labor. We might tell of dis- 
solute, weak and wicked governors having been 
set over us ; of legislatures being suspended for 
asserting the rights of British subjects; of 
needy ind ignorant dependents on great men 
advanced to the seats of justice, and to other 
places of trust and importance ; of hard restric- 
tions on commerce, and a great variety of lesser 
evils, the recollection of which is almost lost 
under the weight and pressure of greater and 
more poignant calamities. 

Now mark the progression of the ministerial 
plan for enslaving us. 

Well aware that such hardy attempts to take 
our property from us; to deprive us of that 
valuable right of trial by jury; to seize our 
persons, and carry us for trial to Great Britain ; 
to blockade our ports ; to destroy our charters 
and change our forms of government; would 
occasion, and had already occasioned, great 
discontent in the colonies, which might pro- 
duce opposition to these measures, an act was 
passed to protect, indemnify, and screen from 
punishment, such as might be guilty even of 
murder, in endeavoring to carry their oppres- 
sive edicts into execution ; and by another act, 
the dominion of Canada is to be so extended, 
modelled and governed, as that, by being dis- 
united from us, detached from our interests, by 
civil as well as religious prejudices; that by 
their numbers daily swelling with Catholic 
emigrants from Europe, and by their devotion 
to an administration so friendly to their reli- 
gion, they might become formidable to us, and 
on occasion be fit instruments, in the hands of 
power, to reduce the ancient free Protestant 
colonies to the same state of slavery with them- 

This was evidently the object of the act; and 
in this view, being extremely dangerous to our 
liberty and quiet, we cannot forbear complain- 
ing of it, as hostile to British America. Super- 
added to these considerations, we cannot help 
deploring the unhappy condition to which it 
has reduced the many English settlers who, 
encouraged by the royal proclamation, promis- 
ing the enjoyment of all their rights, have pur- 
chased estates in that country. They are now 
the subjects of an arbitrary government, de- 
prived of trial by jury, and when imprisoned, 
cannot claim the benefit of the habeas corpus 
act — that great bulwark and palladium of Eng- 
lish liberty. Nor can we suppress our astonish- 
ment, that a British Parliament should ever 
consent to establish in that country, a religion 
that has deluged your island in blood, and 
dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, mur- 
der and rebellion through every part of the 



This being a true state of facts, let us beseech 
you to consider to what end they may lead. 

Admit that the ministry, by the powers of 
Britain and the aid of our Eoman Catholic 
neighbors, should be able to carry the point of 
taxation, and reduce us to a state of perfect 
humiliation and slavery: such an enterprise 
would doubtless make some addition to your 
national debt, which already presses down your 
liberties, and fills you with pensioners and 
placemen. We presume, also, that your com- 
merce will somewhat be diminished. However, 
suppose you should prove victorious, in what 
condition will you then be ? What advantages 
or laurels will you reap from such a conquest? 

May not a ministry, with the same armies 
enslave you ? It may be said, you will cease 
to pay them — but remember the taxes from 
America, the wealth, and we may add the men, 
and particularly the Roman Catholics of this 
vast continent, will then be in the power of 
your enemies ; nor will you have any reason 
to expect that after making slaves of us, many 
among us should refuse to assist in reducing 
you to the same abject state. 

Do not treat this as chimerical. Know that 
in less than half a century, the quit rents re- 
served to the Crown, from the numberless 
grants of this vast continent, wiU pour large 
streams of wealth into the royal coiiers, and if 
to this be added the power of taxing America 
at pleasure, the Crown will be rendered inde- 
pendent of you for supplies, and will possess more 
treasure than may be necessary to purchase the 
remains of liberty in your island. In a word, 
take care that you do not fall into the pit that 
is preparing for us. 

We believe there is yet much virtue, much 
justice, and much public spirit in the English 
nation. To that justice we now appeal. You 
have been told that we are seditious, impatient 
of government, and desirous of independency. 
Be assured that these are not facts, but calum- 
nies. Permit us to be as free as yourselves, 
and we shall ever esteem a union with you, to 
be our greatest glory, and our greatest happi- 
ness ; we shall ever be ready to contribute all 
in our power to the welfare of the empire ; we 

shall consider your enemies as our enemies, 
and your interest as our own. 

But, if you are determined that your minis- 
ters shall wantonly sport with the rights of 
mankind — if neither the voice of justice, the 
dictates of the law, the principles of the Con- 
stitution, or the suggestions of humanity, can 
restrain your hands from shedding human 
blood, in such an impious cause, we must then 
tell you, that we will never submit to be hew- 
ers of wood or drawers of water, for any 
ministry, or nation in the world. 

Place us in the same situation that we were 
in, at the close of the last war, and our former 
harmony will be restored. 

But lest the same supineness, and the same inat- 
tention to our common interest, which you have 
for several years shown, should continue, we 
think it prudent to anticipate the consequences. 

By the destruction of the trade of Boston, 
the ministry have endeavored to induce sub- 
mission to their measures. The like fate may 
befaU us all. We will endeavor, therefore, to 
live without trade, and recur for subsistence to 
the fertility and bounty of our native soil, 
which will afford us all the necessaries, and 
some of the conveniences of life. We have 
suspended our importation from Great Britain 
and Ireland ; and, in less than a year's time, 
unless our grievances should be redressed, shall 
discontinue our exports to those kingdoms, and 
the West Indies. 

It is with the utmost regret, however, that 
we find ourselves compelled, by the overruling 
principles of self-preservation, to adopt mea- 
sures detrimental in their consequences, to 
numbers of our fellow-subjects in Great Britain 
and Ireland. But, we hope, that the magna- 
nimity and justice of the British nation will 
furnish a Parliament of such wisdom, inde- 
pendence, and public spirit, as may save the 
violated rights of the whole empire, from the 
devices of wicked ministers and evil counsel- 
lors, whether in or out of ofiice ; and thereby 
restore that harmony, friendship, and fraternal 
affection between all the inhabitants of his 
Majesty's kingdoms and territories, so ardently 
wished for by every true and honest American. 


Thomas Kandolph, the poet and cotemporary of Ben Jonson, and who, before " death put 
a stop to his rising genius and fame," had gained a sterling reputation among the wits of his 
age, was the great-uncle of Sir John, the grandfather of Edmund Randolph. The family were 
Mgh LoialisU, in the civil wars, and being entirely broken and dispersed. Sir John's father* de- 
termined, as many other Cavaliers did, to try his fortune in the Western world. From his 
earliest childhood, Sir John evinced a great propensity to letters ; to improve which he was first 
put under the care of a Protestant clergyman, who came over among the French Eefugees. But 
afterwards he received a more complete education at William and Mary College, in Virginia. 
He finished his studies in the law, in Gray's Inn and the Temple ; and having put on his Barris- 
ter's gown, returned to his native country, where, from his first appearance at the bar, he was 
ranked among the practitioners of the first figure and distinction. At the time of the disputes 
in New York relative to the establishment of a new Court of Exchequer, Sir John expressed 
his sentiments upon the subject, which were clear and forcible, and now form a part of tho 
judicial history of that State.t In the autumn of 1731, he went to England and "presented to 
his Majesty a state of the colony of Virginia, drawn up with great accuracy, which his Majesty 
was pleased to receive very graciously, and to confer the honor of knighthood on the said gen- 
tleman." I After his return to Virginia, he was elected Speaker of the House of Burgesses, 
and on the twenty-eighth of August, 1734, delivered his inaugural before that body. " If I 
shall endeavor," he said, " to make the established rules of our proceedings subservient to my 
own fancies and humors, or interests ; or shall bring into this chair a restlessness and impatience 
about points that may be carried against my sentiments, or shall pretend to any authority of 
swaying any member in his opinion ; I say, then I shall deserve to have no influence upon your 
proceedings, but do not doubt, nay, I hope, you will mortify me with the utmost of your con- 
tempt for the inconsistence of my theory and practice. And if I shall happen to succeed better, 
I wiU pretend to no other praise but that of not having deceived the expectations of so many 
worthy gentlemen who have continued to heap upon me such a series of favors, which, so long 
as I retain the memory of any thing, I must look upon as the chief foundation of the credit 
and reputation of my life." § 

In March, 1737, Sir John Randolph died at the age of forty-four years, and was interred in 
the chapel of WOlitto and Mary College. According with his directions, he was borne to the 
place of interment " by six honest, industrious, poor housekeepers of Bruton parish, who were 

* This was William Randolph, of Turkey Island, in Virginia. Little is known of him. Tradition says that ho cama 
over from Yorkshire poor, and made his living by building barns, and by his industry acquired large possessions of land. 

t Sir .lohn's letter on this subject, is published in the appendix of Smith's History of New York. Ed. 1830. Vol 1, 
page 874. New York Historical Society's Collections. 

t Bradford's American Weekly Mercury, Jan. 30th— Feb. 6th, 1782-3. The editor of this paper, after noticing these 
facts, concludes: "Tho public is Impatient to see the contents of those papers, which are said to bo designed for public 

§ A full report of this speech is published in the American Weekly Mercury, Sept 19-26, 17y-l. 


to have twenty pounds divided amoiig them, and attended by a numerous assembly of gentle- 
men and others, who paid the last honors to him with great solemnity, decency and respect."* 

Edmund Eandolph was born on the tenth of August, 1753. His father early adhered to the 
cause of Great Britain, joined the fortunes of Lord Dunmore, and finally disinherited his son 
for refusing to follow in the same course. t Of the youth and early education of Edmund Ran- 
dolph we have no particulars. At the age of twenty-two years, in August, 1775, he joined the 
American army at Cambridge, and was taken into the military family of General Washington 
as an aid-de-camp. He remained here but a short time, being recalled to Virginia in the fol- 
lowing November, by the death of his uncle, Peyton Randolph. In 1776 he was delegated to 
the Virginia Convention as the alternate of George Wythe, and before the termination of the 
year was elected Mayor of Williamsburg, the city he represented in the Convention. Subse- 
quently he was appointed Attorney-General of the State of Virginia, under the new constitu- 
tion, and at a future session of the House of Delegates he was elected its clerk. 

In the practice of his profession, which was the law, his success was eminent and extraor- 
dinary. Clients filled his ofiice, and beset him on his way from the oifice to the court-house, 
"with their papers in one hand and their guineas in the other." J He was a member of the 
Continental Congress from 1779 until 1782, and in 1786 was elected Governor of Virginia, suc- 
ceeding in that office Patrick Henry. The same year he was chosen a delegate to the Annapo- 
lis Convention, and subsequently to the Convention which met at Philadelphia in 1787, to revise 
the articles of confederation. His career in that assembly was marked and efiective.§ He af- 
terward was a member of the Virginia Convention, summoned to ratify the Federal Constitu- 
tion. President Washington appointed him the first Attorney-General under the federal 
system, and in 1795 he was elevated to the oflSce of Secretary of State, as successor of Mr. 
Jefierson. He remained in this position but a short time, resuming the practice of the law at 
Richmond in the autumn of the following year. At the celebrated trial of Aaron Burr, on the 
charge of treason, in May, 1807, Mr. Randolph was associated with Luther Martin and other 
distinguished lawyers, in the defence of that unfortunate man. 

He died on the twelfth of September, 1813, in Frederic (now Page) county, Virginia, in the 
sixtieth year of his age, leaving an extremely valuable manuscript history of Virginia, in which 
he occupies a prominent position. This never appeared in print, and finally was destroyed. | 

* Obituary notice of Sir John Eandolph, puhlished in the Virginia Gazette, of March 11th, 1737, and reproduced in the 
Virginia Historical Register, Vol. 4, page 188. 

t John Eandolph, the father of Edmund, was attorney-general of Virginia, uni'er the royal government. He was ft 
brother of Peyton Eandolph, president of the Continental Congress. 

X Virginia Convention of 1776, by Hugh Blair Grigsby, page 76, et seq. 

§ As chief magistrate of Virginia, it became the duty of Mr. Eandolph to secure the attendance of Washington upon the 
Federal Convention. This matter he managed ■vvith great tact and delicacy ; and, by the aid of other friends, ho succeeded in 
overcoming the scruples of the illustrious patriot, then reposing in the retirement of Mount Vernon. Governor Eandolph"s 
conduct with regard to the constitution might seem to be marked by inconsistency, if we were not able to explain it by the 
motive of disinterested patriotism from which he evidently acted. He brought to the convention the most serious appre- 
hensions for the fate of the Union. But he thought that the dangers with which it was surrounded might be averted, by 
correcting and enlarging the Articles of Confederation. "When, at length, the government, which was actually framed, was 
found to bo a system containing far greater restraints upon the powers of the States than he believed to bo either expedient 
or safe, he endeavored to procure a vote authorizing amendments to be submitted by the State conventions, and to bo 
finally decided on by another general convention. This proposition was rejected, and he declined to sign the constitution 
desiring to be free to oppose or advocate its adoption, when it should come before his own State, as his judgment might 
dictate.— Curtis's History of the ConMitution, Vol. 1, page 4S1 : Madison papers. 

I While Mr. Wirt was preparing his eloquent Life of Patrick Henry, he saw and consulted this manuscript. Somo 
years after, it was destroyed by a fire at New Orleans, while in the possession of a grandson of Edmund Eandolph. — Preface 
of Wirt's Patrick Henry, page IL Grigsby's Virginia Convention of 111^, page 78. 




Mr. Eandolph delivered the following speech 
in the Convention of Virginia, on the sixth of 
June, 1788 — the first and second sections of the 
first article of the Constitution being under 

Mr. Chaieman : I am a child of the Revolu- 
tion. My country, very early indeed, took me 
under her protection at a time when I most 
wanted it ; and by a succession of favors and 
honors, prevented even my most ardent wishes. 
I feel the highest gratitude and attachment to 
my country ; her felicity is the most fervent 
prayer of my heart. Conscious of having ex- 
erted my faculties to the utmost in her behalf, 
if I have not succeeded in securing the esteem 
of my countrymen, I shall reap abundant con- 
solation from the rectitude of my intentions : 
honors, when compared to the satisfaction ac- 
cruing from a conscious independence and rec- 
titude of conduct, are no equivalent. The un- 
wearied study of my life, shall be to promote 
her happiness. As a citizen, ambition and 
popularity are no objects with me. I expect, 
in the course of a year, to retire to that private 
station which I most sincerely and cordially 
prefer to all others.t The security of public 
justice, sir, is what I most fervently wish — as I 
consider that object to be the primary step to 
the attainment of public happiness. I can de- 
clare to the whole world, that in the part I 
take in this very important question, I am actu- 
ated by a regard for what I conceive to be our 
true interest. I can also, with equal sincerity, 
declare that I would join heart and hand in re- 
jecting this system, did I conceive it would pro- 
mote our happiness : but having a strong con- 
viction on my mind, at this time, that, by a 
disunion, we shall throw away all those bless- 
ings we have so earnestly fought for, and that 
a rejection of the constitution will operate dis- 
union — pardon me if I discharge the obligation 
I owe to my country by voting for its adoption. 
We are told that the report of dangers is false. 
The cry of peace, sir, is false : say peace, when 
there is peace : it is but a sudden calm. The 
tempest growls over you — look around — where- 
soever you look, you see danger. When there 
are so many witnesses, in many parts of Amer- 
ica, that justice is suftbcated, shall peace and 
happiness still be said to reign ? Candor, sir, 
requires an undisguised representation of our 
situation. Candor, sir, demands a faithful ex- 
position of facts. Many citizens have found 
justice strangled and trampled under foot, 
through the course of jurisprudence in this 
country. Are those who have debts due them, 
satisfied with your government ? Are not cred- 

* Ante, pp. 13-164. 

t Mj. Eandolph was at this time Governor of Virginia. 

itors wearied with the tedious procrastination 
of your legal process — a process obscured by 
legislative mists ? Cast your eyes to your sea- 
ports, see how commerce languishes: this coun- 
try, so blessed by nature with every advantage 
that can render commerce profitable, through 
defective legislation, is deprived of all the ben- 
efits and emoluments she might otherwise reap 
from it. We hear many complaints on the sub- 
ject of located lands — a variety of competitors 
claiming the same lands under legislative acts- 
public faith prostrated, and private confidence 
destroyed. I ask you if your laws are reve- 
renced ? In every well regulated community, 
the laws command respect. Are yours entitled 
to reverence ? We not only see violations of 
the constitution, but of national principles in 
repeated instances. How is the fact? The 
history of the violations of the constitution ex- 
tends from the year 1776, to this present time — 
violations made by formal acts of the legisla- 
ture ; every thing has been drawn within the 
legislative vortex. There is one example of this 
violation in Virginia, of a most striking and 
shocking nature ; an example so horrid, that if 
I conceived my country would passively permit 
a repetition of it, dear as it is to me, I would 
seek means of expatriating myself from it. A 
man, who was then a citizen, was deprived of 
his life, thus : from a mere reliance on general 
reports, a gentleman in the House of Delegates 
informed the House, that a certain man (Josiah 
Phillips) had committed several crimes, and 
was running at large, perpetrating other 
crimes; he therefore moved for leave to at- 
taint him. He obtained that leave instantly. 
No sooner did he obtain it, than he drew from 
his pocket a bill already written for that efl:ect; 
it was read three times in one day, and carried 
to the Senate : I will not say that it passed the 
same day through the Senate ; but he was at- 
tainted very speedily and precipitately, with- 
out any proof better than vague reports! 
Without being confronted with his accusers 
and witnesses; without the privilege of calling 
for evidence in his behalf, he was sentenced to 
death, and was afterwards actually executed.'' 
Was this arbitrary deprivation of life, the 
dearest gift of God to man, consistent with the 
genius of a republican government? Is this 
compatible with the spirit of freedom ? This, 
sir, has made the deepest impression on my 
heart, and I cannot contemplate it without 

There are still a multiplicity of complaints 
of the debility of the laws. Justice, in many 
instances, is so unattainable, that commerce 
may, in fact, be said to be stopped entirely. 
There is no peace, sir, in this land : can peace 

* Mr. Wirt has satisfactorily sliown that this statement is' 
founded in error. Life of Patricli Henry, page 291, et seq. 



exist with injustice, licentiousness, insecurity 
and oppression? These considerations, inde- 
pendent of many others which I have not yet 
enumerated, would be a sufficient reason for 
the adoption of this constitution, because it se- 
cures the liberty of the citizen, his person and 
property, and will invigorate and restore com- 
merce and industry. 

An additional reason to induce us to adopt it 
is that excessive licentiousness which has re- 
sulted from the relaxation of our laws, and 
which will be checked by this government. 
Let us judge from the fate of more ancient na- 
tions. Licentiousness has produced tyranny 
among many of them. It has contributed as 
much (if not more) as any other cause whatso- 
ever, to the loss of their liberties. I have re- 
spect for the integrity of our legislators ; I be- 
lieve them to be virtuous : but as long as the 
defects of the constitution exist, so long will 
laws be imperfect. The honorable gentleman 
went on further, and said that the accession of 
eight States is not a reason for our adoption. 
Many other things have been alleged out of or- 
der ; instead of discussing the system regularly, 
a variety of points are promiscuously debated, 
in order to make temporary impressions on the 
members. Sir, were I convinced of the validity 
of their arguments, I would join them heart 
and hand. Were I convinced that the acces- 
sion of eight States did not render our acces- 
sion also necessary to preserve the Union, I 
would not accede to it till it should be pre- 
viously amended; but, sir, I am convinced that 
the Union will be lost by our rejection. Mas- 
sachusetts has adopted it ; she has recommend- 
ed subsequent amendments ; her influence must 
be very considerable to obtain them : I trust 
my countrymen have sufficient wisdom and vir- 
tue to entitle them to equal respect. 

Is it urged, that being wiser, we ought to 
prescribe amendments to the other States ? I 
have considered this subject deliberately ; wea- 
ried myself in endeavoring to find a possibility 
of preserving the Union, without our uncondi- 
tional ratification ; but, sir, in vain ; I find no 
other means. I ask myself a variety of ques- 
tions applicable to the adopting States, and I 
conclude, will they repent of what they have 
done? Will they acknowledge themselves in 
an error ? Or will they recede to gratify Vir- 
ginia? My prediction is that they will not. 
Shall we stand by ourselves, and be severed 
from the Union if amendments cannot be had ? 
I have every reason for determining within 
myself that our rejection must dissolve the 
Union, and that that dissolution will destroy 
our political happiness. The honorable gentle- 
man was pleased to draw out several other ar- 
guments, out of order: that this government 
would destroy the State governments, the trial 
by jury, &c., &c., and concluded, by an illus- 
tration of his opinion, by a reference to the 
confederacy of the Swiss. Let us argue with 
unprejudiced minds. He says that the trial by 
jury is gone ; is this so ? Although I have de- 

clared my determination to give my vote for it, 
yet I shall freely censure those parts which ap- 
pear to me reprehensible. The trial by jury, in 
criminal cases, is secured; in civil cases it is 
not so expressly secured as I could wish it ; but 
it does not follow that Congress has the power 
of taking away this privilege, which is secured 
by the constitution of each State, and not given 
away by this constitution. I have no fear on 
this subject; Congress must regulate it so as 
to suit every State. I will risk my property 
on the certainty that they will institute the 
trial by jury in such manner as shall accommo- 
date the conveniences of the inhabitants in 
every State ; the difficulty of ascertaining this 
accommodation was the principal cause of its 
not being provided for. It will be the interest 
of the individuals composing Congress to put it 
on this convenient footing. Shall we not 
choose men respectable for their good qualities ? 
Or can we suppose that men, tainted with the 
worst vices, will get into Congress? I beg 
leave to differ from the honorable gentleman, 
in another point. He dreads that great incon- 
veniences will ensue from the federal court; 
that our citizens will be harassed by being 
carried thither. I cannot think that this power 
of the federal judiciary will necessarily be 
abused. The inconvenience here suggested 
being of a general nature, affecting most of the 
States, will, by general consent of the States, 
be removed; and, I trust, such regulations 
shall be made, in this case, as will accommodate 
the people in every State. The honorable gen- 
tleman instanced the Swiss cantons as an ex- 
ample, to show us the possibility, if not expe- 
diency, of being in amicable alliance with the 
other States, without adopting this system. 
Sir, references to history will be fatal in politi- 
cal reasoning, unless well guarded. Our men- 
tal ability is often so contracted, and powers of 
investigation so limited, that sometimes we ad- 
duce as an example in our favor what in fact 
militates against us. Examine the situation of 
that country comparatively to us. Its extent 
and situation are totally different from ours ; it 
is surrounded by powerful, ambitious, and re- 
ciprocally jealous nations ; its territory small, 
and the soil not very fertile. The peculiarity, 
sir, of their situation, has kept these cantons 
together, and not that system of alliance to 
which the gentleman seems to attribute the 
durability and felicity of their connection. 

[Here Mr. Randolph quoted some passages 
from Stanyard, illustrating his argument, and 
largely commented upon them ; the effect of 
which was, that the narrow confines of that 
country rendered it very possible for a system 
of confederacy to accommodate those cantons, 
that would not suit the United States ; that it 
was the fear of the ambitious and warlike na- 
tions that surrounded them, and the reciprocal 
jealousy of the other European powers, that 
rendered their union so durable ; and that not- 
withstanding these circumstances, and their 
being a hardy race of people, yet such was the 



injudicious construction of their confederacy, 
that very considerable broils sometimes inter- 
rupted their harmony.] 

He then continued — I have produced this 
example to show that we ought not to be 
amused with historical references which have 
no kind of analogy to the points under our con- 
sideration. We ought to confine ourselves to 
those points solely which have an immediate 
and strict similitude to the subject of our dis- 
cussion. The reference made by the honorable 
gentleman over the way is extremely inappli- 
cable to us. Are the Swiss cantons circum- 
stanced as we are? Are we surrounded by 
formidable nations, or are we situated in any 
manner like them ? We are not, sir. Then it 
naturally results that no such friendly intercourse 
as he flattered himself with could take place, in 
case of a dissolution of our Union. We are re- 
motely situated from powerful nations, the 
dread of whose attack might impel us to unite 
firmly with one another ; we are not situated 
in an inaccessible, strong position ; we have to 
fear much from one another ; we must soon 
feel the fatal effects of an imperfect system of 

The honorable gentleman attacks the consti- 
tution, as he thinks it contrary to our bill of 
rights. Do we not appeal to the people, by 
whose authority all government is made ? That 
bill of rights is of no validity, because, I con- 
ceive, it is not formed on due authority. It is 
not a part of our constitution ; it has never se- 
cured us against any danger ; it has been re- 
peatedly disregarded and violated. But we 
must not discard the confederation, for the re- 
membrance of its past services. I am attached 
to old servants. I have regard and tenderness 
for this old servant ; but when reason tells us 
that it can no longer be retained without 
throwing away all that it has gained us, and 
running the risk of losing every thing dear to 
us, must we still continue our attachment? 
Reason and my duty tell me not. Other gen- 
tlemen may think otherwise. But, sir, is it 
not possible that men may differ in sentiments, 
and stUl be honest ? We have an inquisition 
within ourselves that leads us not to offend so 
much against charity. The gentleman ex- 
presses a necessity of being suspicious of those 
who govern. I will agree with him in the ne- 
cessity of political jealousy to a certain extent ; 
but we ought to examine how far this political 
jealousy ought to be carried. I confess that a 
certain degree of it is highly necessary to the 
preservation of liberty ; but it ought not to be 
extended to a degree which is degrading and 
humiliating to human nature ; to a degree of 
restlessness and active disquietude sufficient to 
disturb a community or preclude the possibility 
of political happiness and contentment. Con- 
fidence ought also to be equally limited. Wis- 
dom shrinks from extremes, and fixes on a 
medium as her choice. Experience and history, 
the least fallible judges, teach us that in form- 
ing a government, the powers to be given must 

be commensurate to the object. A less degree 
will defeat the intention, and a greater will 
subject the people to the depravity of rulers, 
who, though, they are but the agents of the 
people, pervert their powers to their own 
emolument and ambitious views. 

Mr. Chairman, I am sorry to be obliged to 
detain the House, but the relation of a variety 
of matters renders it now unavoidable. ' I in- 
formed the House yesterday, before rising, that 
I intended to show the necessity of having a 
national government, in preference to the con- 
federation ; also, to show the necessity of con- 
ceding the power of taxation, and of distin- 
guishing between its objects; and I am the 
more happj', that I possess materials of infor- 
mation for that purpose. My intention then is, 
to satisfy the gentlemen of this committee, that 
a national government is absolutely indispensa- 
ble, and that a confederacy is not eligible, in 
our present situation. The introductory step 
to this will be, to endeavor to convince the 
House of the necessity of the Union, and that 
the present confederation is actually inadequate 
and unamendable. The extent of the country 
is objected to, by the gentleman over the way, 
as an insurmountable obstacle to the establish- 
ing a national government in the United States. 
It is a very strange and inconsistent doctrine, 
to admit the necessity of the Union, and yet 
urge this last objection, which I think goes 
radically to the existence of the Union itself. 
If the extent of the country be a conclusive 
argument against a national government, it is 
equally so against an union with the other 
States. Instead of entering largely into a dis- 
cussion of the nature and effect of the different 
kinds of government, or into an inquiry into 
the particular extent of country, that may suit 
the genius of this or that government, I ask this 
question — is this government necessary for the 
safety of Virginia ? Is the Union indispensable 
for our happiness ? I confess it is imprudent 
for any nation to form alliance with another, 
whose situation and construction of government >, 
are dissimilar with its own. It is impolitic 
and improper for men of opulence to join their 
interest with men of indigence and chance. 
But we are now inquiring, particularly, whether 
Virginia, as contradistinguished from the other 
States, can exist without the Union — a hard 
question, perhaps, after what has been said. 1 
will venture, however, to say, she cannot. 
I shall not rest contented with asserting, I shall 
endeavor to prove. Look at the most powerful 
nations on earth. England and Franco have 
had recourse to this expedient. Those coun- 
tries found it necessary to unite with their im- 
mediate neighbors, and this union has prevented 
the most lamentable mischiefs. What divine 
pre-eminence is Virginia possessed of, above 
other States ? Can Virginia send her navy and 
thunder, to bid defiance to foreign nations? 
And can she exist without an union with her 
neighbors, when the most potent nations hate 
found such an union necessary, not only to 



their political felicity, but their national exist- 
ence ? Let us examine her ability. Although 
it be impossible to determine, with accuracy, 
what degree of internal strength a nation ought 
to possess, to enable it to stand by itself; yet 
there are certain sure facts and circumstances, 
which demonstrate that a particular nation 
cannot stand singly. I have spoken with free- 
dom, and, I trust, I have done it with decency ; 
but I must also speak with truth. If Virginia 
can exist without the Union, she must derive 
that ability from one or other of these sources, 
viz. : from her natural situation, or because she 
has no reason to fear from other nations. What 
is her situation ? She is not inaccessible. She 
is not a petty republic, like that of St. Marino, 
surrounded with rocks and mountains, with a 
soil not very fertile, nor worthy the envy of 
surrounding nations. Were this, sir, her situ- 
ation, she might, like that petty state, subsist, 
separated from all the world. On the contrary, 
she is very accessible : the large, capacious bay 
of Chesapeake, which is but too excellently 
adapted for the admission of enemies, renders 
her very vulnerable. I am informed, and I 
believe rightly, because I derive my informa- 
tion from those whose knowledge is most re- 
spectable, that Virginia is in a very unhappy 
position, with respect to the access of foes by 
sea, though happily situated for commerce. 
This being her situation by sea, let us look at 
land. She has frontiers adjoining the States 
of Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina. 
Two of those States have declared themselves 
members of the Union. Will she be inaccessi- 
ble to the inhabitants of those States? Cast 
your eyes to the western country, that is in- 
habited by cruel savages, your natual enemies. 
Besides their natural propensity to barbarity, 
they may be excited, by the gold of foreign 
enemies, to commit the most horrid ravages on 
your people. Our great, increasing population, 
is one remedy to this evil; but, being scattered 
thinly over so extensive a country, how difficult 
it is to collect their strength, or defend the 
country. This is one point of weakness. I 
wish, for the honor of my countrymen, that it 
was the only one. There is another circum- 
fetance which renders us more vulnerable. Are 
we not weakened by the population of those 
whom we hold in slavery ? The day may come, 
when they may make an impression upon us. 
Gentlemen who have been long accustomed to 
the contemplation of the subject, think there is 
a cause of alarm in this case. The number of 
those people, compared to that of the whites, 
is in an immense proportion: their number 
amounts to two hundred and thirty-six thou- 
sand, that of the whites only to three hundred 
and fifty-two thousand. Will the American 
spirit, so much spoken of, repel an invading 
enemy, or enable you to obtain an advantageous 
peace ? Manufactures and military stores may 
afford relief to a country exposed : have we 
these at present? Attempts have been made 
to have these here. If we shall be separated 

from the Union, shall our chance of having 
these be greater? Or, will not the waot of 
these be more deplorable ? We shall be told of 
the exertions of Virginia, under the confedera- 
tion — her achievements, when she had no com- 
merce. These, sir, were necessary for her 
immediate safety ; nor would these have availed, 
without the aid of the other States. Those 
States, then our friends, brothers and support- 
ers, will, if disunited from us, be our bitterest 

If then, sir, Virginia, from her situation, is 
not inaccessible, or invulnerable, let us consider 
if she be protected, by having no cause to fear 
from other nations : has she no cause to fear ? 
You will have cause to fear, as a nation, if dis- 
united; you will not only have this cause to 
fear from yourselves, from that species of pop- 
ulation I have before mentioned, and your once 
sister States, but from the arms of other na- 
tions. Have you no cause of fear from Spain, 
whose dominions border on your country? 
Every nation, every people, in our circum- 
stances, have always had abundant cause to 
fear. Let us see the danger to be apprehended 
from France : let us suppose Virginia separated 
from the other States: as part of the former 
confederated States, she will owe France a very 
considerable sum — France will be as magnani- 
mous as ever. France, by the law of nations, 
wUl have a right to demand the whole of her, 
or of the others. If France were to demand it, 
what would become of the property of Amer- 
ica? Could she not destroy what little com- 
merce we have ? Could she not seize our ships, 
and carry havoc and destruction before her on 
our shores? The most lamentable desolation 
would take place. We owe a debt to Spain 
also ; do we expect indulgence from that quar- 
ter? That nation has a right to demand the 
debt due to it, and power to enforce that right. 
Will the Dutch be silent about the debt due to 
them ? Is there any one pretension, that any 
of these nations wiU be patient ? The debts 
due the British are also very considerable : 
these debts have been withheld contrary to 
treaty : if Great Britain will demand the pay- 
ment of these debts peremptorily, what will 
be the consequence ? Can we pay them if de- 
manded? Will no danger result from a refusal? 
Will the British nation suffer their subjects to 
be stripped of their property? Is not that 
nation amply able to do its subjects justice ? 
Will the resentment of that powerful and super- 
cilious nation sleep for ever? If we become 
one, sole nation, uniting with our sister States, 
our means of defence will be greater ; the in- 
dulgence for the payment of those debts will be 
greater, and the danger of an attack less proba- 
ble. Moreover, vast quantities of lands have 
been sold, by citizens of this country, to Euro- 
peans, and these lands cannot be found. Will 
this fraud be countenanced or endured? Among 
so many causes of danger, shall we be secure, 
separated from our sister States? Weakness 
itself, sir, will invite some attack upon your 



country. Contemplate our situation deliberate- 
ly, and consult liistory: it will inform you, 
that people in our circumstances have ever 
been attacked, and successfully : open any page, 
and you will there find our danger truly de- 
picted. If such a people had any thing, was it 
not taken? The fate which will befall us, I 
fear, sir, will be, that we shall be made a par- 
tifion of. How will these, our troubles, be re- 
moved? Can we have any dependence on 
commerce ? Can we make any computation 
on this subject? Where will our flag appear? 
So high is tiie spirit of commercial nations, that 
they will spend five times the value of the 
object, to exclude their rivals from a participa- 
tion in commercial profits : they seldom regard 
any expenses. If we should be divided from 
the rest of the States, upon what footing would 
our navigation in the Mississippi be? What 
would be the pi-obable conduct of France and 
Spain ? Every gentleman may imagine, in his 
own mind, the natural consequences. To these 
considerations, I might add many others of a 
similar nature. Were I to say, that the bound- 
ary between us and North Carolina is not yet 
settled, I should be told that Virginia and that 
State go together. But what, sir, will be the 
consequence of the dispute that may arise be- 
tween us and Maryland, on the subject of Poto- 
mac river ? It is thought, Virginia has a right 
to an equal navigation with them in that river. 
If ever it should be decided on grounds of prior 
right, their charter will inevitably determine it 
in their favor. The country called the North- 
ern Neck, will probably be severed from Vir- 
ginia. There is not a doubt but the inhabit- 
ants of that part will annex themselves to 
Maryland, if Virginia refuse to accede to the 
Union. The recent example of those regula- 
tions lately made respecting that territory, will 
illustrate that probability.. Virginia will also 
be in danger of a conflict with Pennsylvania, 
on the subject of boundaries. I know that 
some gentlemen are thoroughly persuaded, that 
we have a right to those disputed boundaries : 
if we have such a right, I know not where it is 
to be found. 

Are we not borderers on States that will be 
separated from us ? Call to mind the history 
of every part of the world, where nations have 
bordered on one another, and consider the con- 
sequences of our separation from the Union. 
Peruse those histories, and you find such coun- 
tries to have ever been almost a perpetual 
scene of bloodshed and slaughter. The inhab- 
itants of one escaping from punishment into the 
other, protection given them, consequent pur- 
suit, robbery, cruelty, and murder. A numer- 
ous standing army, that dangerous expedient, 
would be necessary, but not sufficient for the 
defence of such borders. Every gentleman 
will amplify the scene in his own mind. If you 
wish to know the extent of such a scene, look 
at the history of England and Scotland before 
the union ; you will see their borderers con- 
tinually committing depredations and cruelties, 

of the most calamitous and deplorable nature, 
on one another. 

Mr. Chairman, were we struck off from the 
Union, and disputes of the back lands should be 
renewed, which are of the most alarming na- 
ture, and which must produce uncommon mis- 
chiefs, can you inform me how this great sub- 
ject would be settled? Virginia has a large 
unsettled country ; she has, at last, quieted it ; 
but there are great doubts wliether slie has 
taken the best way to efiect it. If she has not, 
disagreeable consequences may ensue. I have 
before hinted at some other causes of quarrel 
between the other States and us ; particularly 
the hatred that would be generated by com- 
mercial competition. I will only add, on that 
subject, that controversies may arise concern- 
ing the fisheries, which must terminate in wars. 
Paper money may also be an additional source 
of disputes. Rhode Island has been in one 
continued train of opposition to national duties 
and integrity ; they have defrauded their cred- 
itors by their paper money. Other States have 
also had emissions of paper money, to the ruin 
of credit and commerce. May not Virginia, at 
a future day, also recur to the same expedient? 
Has Virginia no affection for paper money, or 
disposition to violate contracts ? I fear she is 
as fond of these measures as most other States 
in the Union. The inhabitants of the adjacent 
States would be affected by the depreciation of 
paper money, which would assuredly produce 
a dispute with those States. This danger is 
taken away by the present constitution, as it 
provides "That no State shaU emit biUs of 
credit." Maryland has counteracted the policy 
of this State frequently, and may be meditating 
examples of this kind again. Before the revo- 
lution there was a contest about those back 
lands, in which even government was a party ; 
it was put an end to by the war. Pennsylvania 
was ready to enter into a war with us for the 
disputed lands near the boundaries, and nothing 
but the superior prudence of the man who was 
at the head of affairs in Virginia could have 
prevented it. 

I beg leave to remind you of the strength of 
Massachusetts and other States to the north, 
and what would their conduct be to us if dis- 
united from them? In case of a conflict be- 
tween us and Maryland or Pennsylvania, they 
would be aided by the whole strength of the 
more northern States ; in short, by that of all 
the adopting States. For these reasons, I con- 
ceive, that if Virginia supposes she has no cause 
of apprehension, she will find herself in a fatal 
error. Suppose the American spirit in the full- 
est vigor in Virginia; what military prepara- 
tions and exertions is she capable of making? 
The other States have upwards of three hun- 
dred and thirty thousand men capable of bear- 
ing arms ; this will be a good army, or they 
can very easily raise a good army out of so 
great a number. Our militia amounts to fifty 
thousand ; even stretching it to the improbable 
amount (urged by some) of sixty thousand ; in 



case of an attack, what defence can we make ? 
Who are militia ? Can we depend solely upon 
these ? I will pay the last tribute of gratitude 
to the militia of my country ; they performed 
some of the most gallant feats during the last 
war, and acted as nobly as men inured to other 
avocations could be expected to do ; but, sir, it 
is dangerous to look to them as our sole pro- 
tectors. Did ever militia defend a country ? 
Those of Pennsylvania were said to differ very 
little from regulars, yet these, sir, were insuffi- 
cient for the defence of that State. The militia 
of our country will be wanted for agriculture ; 
on this noblest of arts depends the virtue and 
the very existence of a country ; if it be ne- 
glected, every thing else must be in a state of 
ruin and decay. It must be neglected if those 
hands which ought to attend to it are occasion- 
ally called forth on military expeditions. 
Some, also, will be necessary for manufactures, 
and those mechanic arts which are necessary 
for the aid of the farmer and planter. If we 
had men sufficient in number to defend our- 
selves, it could not avail without other requi- 
sites. We must have a navy, to be supported 
in time of peace as well as war, to guard our 
coasts and defend us against invasions. The 
impossibility of building and equipping a fleet, in 
a short time, constitutes the necessity of having 
a certain number of ships of war always ready 
in time of peace. The maintaining a navy will 
require money ; and where, sir, can we get 
money for this and other purposes? How 
shall we raise it ? Eeview the enormity of the 
debts due by this country ; the amount of debt 
we owe to the continent for bills of credit, 
rating at forty for one, will amount to between 
six and seven hundred thousand pounds. There 
is also due the continent the balance of requisi- 
tions due by us, and, in addition to this pro- 
portion of the old continental debt, there are 
the foreign, domestic, State, military, and loan- 
office debts, to which, when you add the British 
debt, where is the possibility of finding money 
to raise an army or navy? Eeview then your 
real ability. Shall we recur to loans ? Nothing 
can be more impolitic ; they impoverish a na- 
tion; we, sir, have nothing to repay them; 
nor, sir, can we procure them. Our numbers 
are daily increasing by emigration ; but this, 
sir, will not relieve us, when our credit is gone, 
and it is impossible to borrow money. If the 
imposts and duties in Virginia, even on the 
present footing, be very unproductive, and not 
equal to our necessities, what would they be if 
we were separated from the Union ? From the 
first of September to the first of June, the 
amount put into the treasury is only fifty-nine 
thousand pounds, or a little more. But, sir, if 
smuggling be introduced in consequence of high 
duties, or otherwise, and the Potomac should 
be lost, what hope is there of getting money 
from these ? 

Shall we be asked if the impost would be 
bettered by the Union ? I answer that it will, 
sir. Credit being restored and confidence dif- 

fused in the country, merchants and men of 
wealth will be induced to come among us; 
emigration will increase, and commerce will 
flourish ; the impost will therefore be more 
sure and productive. Under these circumstan- 
ces, can you find men to defend you ? If not 
men, where can you have a navy ? It is an 
old observation, that he who commands at sea 
will command the land ; and it is justified by 
modern experience in war. The sea can only 
be commanded by commercial nations. The 
United States have every means, by nature, to 
enable them to distribute supplies mutually 
among one another, to supply other nations 
with many articles, and to carry for other na- 
tions. Our commerce would not be kindly re- 
ceived by foreigners, if transacted solely by 
ourselves, as it is the spirit of commercial na- 
tions to engross, as much as possible, the carry- 
ing trade ; this makes it necessary to defend 
our commerce; but how shaU we encompass 
this end ? England has arisen to the greatest 
height, in modern times, by her navigation act 
and other excellent regulations. The same 
means would produce the same effects. We 
have inland navigation. Our last exports did 
not exceed one million of pounds. Our export 
trade is entirely in the hands of foreigners. 
We have no manufactures ; depend for supplies 
on other nations, and so far are we from having 
any carrying trade, that, as I have already 
said, our exports are in the hands of foreigners. 
Besides the profit that might be made by our 
natural materials, much greater gains would 
accrue from their being first wrought before 
they were exported. England has reaped im- 
mense profits by this ; nay, even by purchasing 
and working up those materials which her 
country did not aftbrd; her success in com- 
merce is generally ascribed to her navigation 
act. Virginia would not, encumbered as she 
is, agree to have such an act. Thus, for the 
want of a navy, are we deprived of the multi- 
farious advantages of our natural situation ; nor 
is it possible, that if the Union is dissolved, we 
ever should have a navy sufficient either for our 
defence or the extension of our trade. I beg 
gentlemen to consider these two things — our 
inability to raise and man a navy, and the 
dreadful consequences of the dissolution of the 

I will close this catalogue of the evils of the 
dissolution of the Union, by recalling to your 
mind what passed in the year 1781. Such was 
the situation of our affairs then, that the pow- 
ers of a dictator were given to the commander- 
in-chief to save us from destruction. This 
shows the situation of the country to have been 
such as made it ready to embrace an actual dic- 
tator. At some future period, will not our dis- 
tresses impel us to do what the Dutch have 
done — throw all power into the hands of a 
stadtholder? How infinitely more wise and 
eligible, than this desperate alternative, is an 
union with our American brethren ? I feel 
myself so abhorrent to any thing that will dis- 



solve our Union, that I cannot prevail with my- 
self to assent to it directly or indirectly. If 
the Union is to be dissolved, what step is to be 
taken ? Shall we form a partial confederacy ; 
or, is it expected that we shall successfully ap- 
ply to foreign alliance for military aid ? This 
last measure, sir, has ruined almost every na- 
tion that has used it ; so dreadful an example 
ought to be most cautiously avoided ; for sel- 
dom has a nation recurred to the expedient of 
foreign succor, without being ultimately crush- 
ed by that succor. We may lose our liberty 
and independence by this injudicious scheme 
of policy. Admitting it to be a scheme re- 
plete with safety, what nation shall we solicit — 
France? She will disdain a connection with a 
people in our predicament. I would trust every 
thing to the magnanimity of that nation, but 
she would despise a people who had, like us, so 
imprudently separated from their brethren ; 
and, sir, were she to accede to our proposal, with 
what facility could she become mistress of our 
country. To what nation, then, shall we ap- 
ply — to Great Britain? Nobody has as yet 
trusted that idea. An application to any other 
must be either fruitless or dangerous ; to those 
who advocate local confederacies, and at the 
same time preach up for republican liberty, I 
answer, that their conduct is inconsistent ; the 
defence of such partial confederacies will re- 
quire such a degree of force and expense as will 
destroy every feature of republicanism. Give 
me leave to say, that I see naught but destruc- 
tion in a local confederacy. With what State 
can we confederate but North Carolina — North 
Carolina, situated worse than ourselves ? Con- 
sult your own reason : I beseech , gentlemen 
most seriously to reflect on the consequences 
of such a confederacy ; I beseech them to con- 
sider, whether Virginia and North Carolina, 
both oppressed with debts and slaves, can de- 
fend themselves externally, or make their peo- 
ple happy internally. North Carolina having 
no strength but militia, and Virginia in the 
same situation, will make, I fear, but a despi- 
cable figure in history. Thus, sir, I hope that 
I have satisfied you that we are unsafe without 
an union, and that in union alone safety con- 

I come now, sir, to the great inquiry, whether 
the confederation be such a government as we 
ought to continue under ; whether it be such a 
government as can secure the felicity of any 
free people. Did I believe the confederation 
was a good thread, which might be broken 
without destroying its utility entirely, I might 
be induced to concur in putting it together ; 
but I am so thoroughly convinced of its inca- 
pacity to be mended or spliced, that I would 
sooner recur to any other expedient. 

When I spoke last, I endeavored to express 
my sentiments concerning that system, and to 
apologize (if an apology was necessary) for 
the conduct of its framers — that it was hastily 
devised, to enable us to repel a powerful enemy 
— that the subject was novel, and that its inef- 

ficacy was not discovered, till requisitions came 
to be made by Congress. In the then situation 
of America, a speedy remedy was necessary to 
ward off the danger, and this sufiiciently an- 
swered that purpose ; but so universally is its 
imbecility now known, that it is almost useless 
for me to exhibit it at this time. Has not Vir- 
ginia, as well as every other State, acknowl- 
edged its debility, by sending delegates to the 
general convention? The confederation is, of 
all things, the most unsafe, not only to trust to, 
in its present form, but even to amend. The 
object of a federal government is to remedy 
and strengthen the weakness of its individual 
branches; whether that weakness arises from 
situation, or any other external cause. With 
respect to the first, is it not a miracle that the 
confederation carried ua through the last war ? 
It was our unanimity, sir, that carried us 
through it. That system was not ultimately 
concluded till the year 1781 — although the 
greatest exertions were made before that time. 
Then came requisitions of men and money ; its 
defects then were immediately discovered ; the 
quotas of men were readily sent — not so those 
of money. One State feigned inability, another 
would not comply till the rest did, and various 
excuses were offered ; so that no money was 
sent into the treasury — not a requisition was 
fully complied with. Loans were the next 
measure fallen upon : upwards of eighty mil- 
lions of dollars were wanting, besides the emis- 
sions of dollars, forty for one. These things 
show the impossibility of relying on requisi- 
tions. [Here Mr. Randolph enumerated the 
different delinquencies of different States, and 
the consequent distresses of Congress.] If the 
American spirit is to be depended upon, I 
call him to awake, to see how his Americans 
have been disgraced : but I have no hopes that 
things will be better hereafter. I fully expect 
things will be as they have been, and that the 
same derangements will produce similar mis- 
carriages. Will the American spirit produce 
money or credit, unless we alter our system ? 
Are we not in a contemptible situation — are we 
not the jest of other nations ? 

But it is insinuated, by the honorable gentle- 
man, that we want to be a grand, splendid and 
magnificent people : we wish not to become so. 
The magnificence of a royal court is not our 
object. We want government, sir — a govern- 
ment that will have stability, and give us secu- 
rity; for our present government is destitute of 
the one, and incapable of producing the other. 
It cannot perhaps, with propriety, be denomi- 
nated a government — being void of that energy 
requisite to enforce its sanctions. I wish my 
country not to be contemptible in the eyes of 
foreign nations. A well regulated community 
is always respected. It is the internal situa- 
tion, the defects of government, that attract 
foreign contempt — that contempt, sir, is too 
often followed by subjugation. Advert to the 
contemptuous manner in which a shrewd poli- 
tician speaks of our government. [Here Mr. 



Eandolph quoted a passage from Lord ShefiBeld, 
the purport of -which was, that Great Britain 
might engross our trade on her own terms: 
that the imbecility and ineflScacy of our gene- 
ral government were such, that it was impos- 
sible we could counteract her policy, however 
rigid or illiberal towards us her commercial 
regulations might he.] Eeflect but a moment 
on our situation. Does it not invite real hos- 
tility ? The conduct of the British ministry to 
us, is the natural effect of our unnerved govern- 
ment. Consider the commercial regulations be- 
tween us and Maryland. Is it not known to 
gentlemen that this State and that have been 
making reprisals on each other, to obviate a 
repetition of which, in some degree, these reg- 
ulations have been made? Can we not see 
from this circumstance, the jealousy, rivalship 
and hatred that would subsist between them, 
in case this State was out of the Union ? They 
are importing States, and importing States will 
ever be competitors and rivals. Ehode Island 
and Connecticut have been on the point of war, 
on the subject of their paper money — Congress 
did not attempt to interpose. When Massachu- 
setts was distressed by the late insurrection, 
Congress could not relieve her. Who headed 
that insurrection ? Eecollect the facility with 
which it was raised, and the very little ability 
of the ringleader, and you cannot but deplore 
the extreme debility of our merely nominal 
government ; we are too despicable to be re- 
garded by foreign nations. The defects of the 
confederation consisted principally in the want 
of power. It had nominally powers — powers 
on paper, which it could not use. The power 
of making peace and war is expressly delegated 
to Congress ; yet the power of granting pass- 
ports, though within that of making peace and 
war, was considered by Virginia as belonging 
to herself. Without adequate powers, vested 
in Congress, America cannot be respectable in 
the eyes of other nations. Congress, sir, ought 
to be fully vested with power to support the 
Union, protect the interest of the United States, 
maintain their commerce, and defend them 
from external invasions and insults, and inter- 
nal insurrections ; to maintain justice, and pro- 
mote harmony and public tranquillity among 
the States. A government not vested with 
these powers, will ever be found unable to 
make us happy or respectable : how far the 
confederation is different from such a govern- 
ment, is known to all America. Instead of be- 
ing able to cherish and protect the States, it 
has been unable to defend itself against the 
encroachments made upon it by the States: 
every one of them has conspired against it — 
Virginia as much as any. This fact could be 
proved by reference to actual histo^)^ I might 
quote the observations of an able modern au- 
thor, (not because he is decorated with the 
name of author, but because his sentiments are 
drawn from human nature,) to prove the dan- 
gerous impolicy of withholding necessary powers 
from Congress ; but I shall at this time fatigue 

the House as little as possible. What are the 
powers of Congress ? They have full authority 
to recommend what they please. This recom- 
mendatory power reduces them to the condi- 
tion of poor supplicants. Consider the digni- 
fied language of the members of the American 
Congress — May it please your high mighti- 
nesses, of Virginia, to pay your just, propor- 
tionate quota of our national debt : we humbly 
supplicate that it may please you to comply 
with your federal duties ! We implore, we beg 
your obedience ! Is not this, sir, a fair repre>- 
sentation of the powers of Congi-ess ? Their 
operations are of no validity, when counteract- 
ed by the States. Their authority to recom- 
mend is a mere mockery of government. 

But the amendability of the confederation 
seems to have great weight on the minds of 
some gentlemen. To what point will the 
amendments go? What part makes the most 
important figure ? What part deserves to be 
retained ? In it, one body has the legislative, 
executive and judicial powers : but the want of 
efficient powers has prevented tlie dangers 
naturally consequent on the union of these. Is 
this union consistent with an augmentation of 
their power? Will you then amend it, by 
taking away one of these three powers? Sup- 
pose, for instance, you only vested it with the 
legislative and executive powers, without any 
control on the judiciary, what must be the 
result? Are we not taught by reason, expe- 
rience and governmental history, that tyranny 
is the natural and certain consequence of unit- 
ing these two powers, or the legislative and 
judicial powers, exclusively, in the same body? 
If any one denies it, I shall pass by him, as an 
infidel not to be reclaimed. Wherever any two 
of these three powers are vested in one single 
body, they must, at one time or other, termi- 
nate in the destruction of liberty. In the most 
important cases, the assent of nine States is 
necessary to pass a law : this is too great a re- 
striction, and whatever good consequences it 
may in some cases produce, yet it will prevent 
energy in many other cases; it will prevent 
energy, which is most necessary on some emer- 
gencies, even in cases wherein the existence of 
the community depends on vigor and expedi- 
tion. It is incompatible with that secrecy 
which is the life of execution and dispatch. 
Did ever thirty or forty men retain a secret ? 
Without secrecy, no government can carry on 
its operations, on great occasions : this is what 
gives that superiority in action to the government 
of one. If anything were wanting to complete 
this farce, it would be, that a resolution of the 
assembly of Virginia, and the other legislatures, 
should be necessary to confirm and render of 
any validity, the congressional acts: this would 
openly discover the debility of the general gov- 
ernment to all the world. But, in fact, its im- 
becility is now nearly the same as if such acts 
were formally requisite. An act of the assem- 
bly of Virginia, controverting a resolution of 
Congress, would certainly prevail. I therefore 



conclude, that the confederation is too defective 
to deserve correction. Let us take farewell of 
it, with reverential respect, as an old bene- 
factor. It is gone, whether this House says so, 
or not. It is gone, sir, by its own weakness. 

I am afraid I have tired the patience of this 
House ; but I trust you will pardon me, as I 
was urged by the importunity of the gentleman, 
in calling for the reasons of laying the ground- 
work of this plan. It is objected by the honor- 
able gentleman over the way, (Mr. George 
Mason,) that a republican government is im- 
practicable in an extensive territory, and the 
extent of the United States is urged as a reason 
for the rejection of this constitution. Let us 
consider the definition of a republican govern- 
ment, as laid down by a man who is higlily 
esteemed. Montesquieu, so celebrated among 
politicians, says, "that a republican government 
is that, in which the body, or only a part of 
the people, is possessed of the supreme power ; 
a monarchical, that in which a single person 
governs, by fixed and established laws ; a des- 
potic government, that in which a single per- 
son, without law and without rule, directs 
every thing, by his own will and caprice. This 
author has not distinguished a republican gov- 
ernment from a monarchy, by the extent of its 
boundaries, but by the nature of its principles. 
He, in another place, contradistinguishes it, as 
a government of laws, in opposition to others, 
which he denominates a government of men. 
The empire, or government of laws, according 
to that phrase, is that in which the laws are 
made with the free will of the people ; hence 
then, if laws be made by the assent of the peo- 
ple, the government may be deemed free. 
When laws are made with integrity, and exe- 
cuted with wisdom, the question is, whether a 
great extent of country will tend to abridge the 
liberty of the people. If defensive force be 
necessary, in proportion to the extent of coun- 
try, I conceive that, in a judiciously constructed 
government, be the country ever so extensive, 
its inhabitants will be proportionably numerous, 
and able to defend it. Extent of country, in 
my conception, ought to be no bar to the adop- 
tion of a good government. No extent on earth 
seems to me too great, provided the laws be 
wisely made and executed. The principles of 
representation and responsibility may pervade 
a large, as well as a small territory: and ty- 
ranny is as easily introduced into -a small, as 
into a large district. If it be answered, that 
some of the most illustrious and distinguished 
authors are of a contrary opinion, I reply, that 

authority has no weight with me, till I am con- 
vinced — that not the dignity of names, but the 
force of reasoning, gains my assent. 

I intended to have shown the nature of the 
powers which ought to have been given to the 
general government, and the reason of invest- 
ing it with tlie power of taxation ; but this 
would require more time than my strength, or 
the patience of the committee, would now 
admit of. I shall conclude with a few observa- 
tions, which come from my heart. I have 
labored for the continuance of the Union — the 
rock of our salvation. I believe that, as sure 
as there is a God in Heaven, our safety, our 
political happiness and existence, depend on the 
union of the States; and, that without this 
union, the people of this and the other States 
will undergo the unspeakable calamities which 
discord, faction, turbulence, war and bloodshed, 
have produced in other countries. The Amer- 
ican spirit ought to be mixed with American 
pride — pride to see the Union magnificently 
triumph. Let that glorious pride, which once 
defied the British thunder, reanimate you again. 
Let it not be recorded of Americans, that, after 
having performed the most gallant exploits, 
after having overcome the most astonishing 
difliculties, and after having gained the admira- 
tion of the world by their incomparable valor 
and policy, they lost their acquired reputation, 
their national consequence and happiness, by 
their own indiscretion. Let no future historian 
inform posterity, that they wanted wisdom and 
virtue to concur in any regular, efticient gov- 
ernment. Should any writer, doomed to so 
disagreeable a task, feel the indignation of an 
honest historian, he would reprehend and re- 
criminate our folly, with equal severity and 
justice. Catch the present moment, seize it 
with avidity and eagerness, for it may be lost, 
never to be regained. If the Union be now 
lost, I fear it will remain so for ever. I believe 
gentlemen are sincere in their opposition, and 
actuated by pure motives ; but when I maturely 
weigh the advantages of the Union, and dread- 
ful consequences of its dissolution ; when I see 
safety on my right, and destruction on my left; 
when I behold respectability and happiness 
acquired by the one, but annihilated by the 
other, I cannot hesitate to decide in favor of 
the former. I hope my weakness, from speak- 
ing so long, will apologize for my leaving this 
subject in so mutilated a condition. If a further 
explanation be desired, I shall take the liberty 
to enter into it more fully another time. 




In May, 1807, Aaron Burr was arraigned in 
the Circuit Court of the United States, held at 
Richmond, Virginia, for treason, in preparing 
the means of a military expedition against the 
possessions of the King of Spain, with whom 
the United States were at peace.* Mr. Ran- 
dolph, associated with Mr. Luther Martin and 
other distinguished lawyers, appeared in the 
defence of Mr. Burr, and spoke as follows : 

The little fragment of time that is left for me, 
may it please your Honors, I shall not abuse. 
The day before yesterday I informed the court 
that I had reserved to myself the right of fully 
answering the arguments of gentlemen on the 
other side ; bnt I forbore to exercise it, in con- 
sideration of my respect for Mr. Martin. But I 
said, that if any thing should be omitted by 
him, I would take the liberty of addressing the 
court, to supply the omission. There is scarcely 
any thing which Mr. Martin has not noticed. 
He has amused and instructed us; but it is 
difficult to come within that condition I had 
prescribed to myself; and there are two or 
three sentiments which I have much at heart, 
and on which I could not justify to myself to 
remain silent. 

I do not mean to pass through the long series 
of authorities to which reference has been had, 
because not a single case has been adduced, by 
the gentlemen for the prosecution, that has not 
been fully answered, and its intended effects 
repelled. I shall endeavor to connect the ob- 
servations I am about to make with the general 
subject already submitted to you ; but though 
this cannot be done without mentioning princi- 
ples which have been sufficiently discussed, I 
shall avoid repetition as much as possible, and 
endeavor to place the subject in such a clear 
point of view that our object cannot be misun- 

We have been charged with attempting to 

* A full report of this ostraordinnry trial, was taken in 
ehort-liand by Mr. T. Carpenter, and published in 8 vols., 
8vo. 180T. 

"As to 'Burr's conspir.^cy,' " says Mr. Sullivan, "that un- 
fortunate man, on leaving the vice-presidency, in 1805, bc- 
camo ft wanderer. He appeared in the western States, in 
the course of that year, and there attempted to carry into 
effect some designs, but precisely of what character is not 
certain. It may be that he calculated on a war with Spain, 
and intended to advance his own interests under the sup- 
posed approbation of the administration, as Miranda did. It 
may be that he intended to possess himself of Mexico; or 
perhaps to plunder New Orleans ; or to serve the Union with 
the aid of Spain, and found a western empire ; perhaps he 
intended, as a Last resort, to effect a settlement of lands on 
the Washita river. His purposes do not appear to have 
been disclosed, so that they can be placed beyond conjec- 
ture."— J^'amiMor Letters on PuUic Characters, page 243. 

exclude further testimony, and thereby en- 
croaching on the sacred rights of the jury. 
Courts have their rights, and juries have theirs. 
They are capable of being reconciled, for they 
are bodies of the same system. But, although 
the court has no right to dictate the motion of 
the jury, it has a right to restrain them within 
their proper orbits. They are brethren in the 
administration of justice, not rivals in power ; 
and if I were permitted to draw an analogy, I 
would say that the court is the father of the 
judicial family — that both are essential to ad- 
minister justice according to law. This the 
court is bound to enforce, and this the jury are 
bound to obey. 

"Why should they complain? Because, say 
gentlemen, we suppress testimony. How do 
we suppress testimony? They have a carte 
llanche, and are at liberty to suppose every 
other evidence, except what they know does 
not exist; that is, the presence of Mr. Burr, 
and that actual force was employed. They 
may, if they can, prove every thing short of 
these things. Have not gentlemen seized these 
with great eagerness ? They have kept their 
eyes on the court, but alarmed the ears of the 
jury. Tliey have professed to talk in the ab- 
stract, but have described with a pencil whose 
strokes, dark as Erebus, and intended similitude 
and application, could not be mistaken. They 
have thrown, with rhetorical magic, into the 
cauldron of public opinion, already overboiling, 
poisonous ingredients, to the ruin of Colonel 
Burr. We wage an unequal war — an individual 
against the whole power and influence of the 
United States. We have to defend ourselves 
but with law and fact. Only permit us, if you 
please, to come with this dreadful disparity 
(for thus we have to contend), even when 
clothed with the mail of innocence. We ask 
for the benefit of the law. Why should we be 
upbraided for asking no more than the law has 
given us ? That we must have. There is not 
a power on earth that can refuse us what the 
law gives. It is a privilege given for good rea- 
sons as a check to prevent the danger of per- 
version to oppression ; of degeneracy to tyran- 
ny. We have fundamental fact to proceed 
upon — the absence of Colonel Burr from the 
scene of action. His absence is acknowledged ; 
and if it were not, it is proved by us. Hence 
emerges a question, whether any facts, which 
can be proved, can convict him as a principal 
in the treason alleged to have been committed 
in his absence. If he were not present at 
Blannerhassett's Island, as stated in this indict- 
ment, how can he be convicted as a principal ? 
After the admission that he was absent, how 
can they succeed ? They cannot add one iota 
to what relates to this part of the business. 
It is a rule that cannot be controverted, that 
when an indispensable position cannot be 



proved, the court may interpose with respect 
to the law, and state its necessity to the jury. 
This is not a case of equivocal testimony, where 
credibility and mere weight are to be consid- 
ered, which it would be improper for the court 
to decide upon. We ask your opinion of facts, 
concerning which there is no doubt. Why 
should the trial proceed, if it should be the 
opinion of the court that proof of his absence 
cannot support the charge of his being present 
as an actor? Surely not to add fuel to the 
general inflammation, which has already spread 
far and' wide, and that only for the mere pur- 
pose of gratit'ying any one man or set of men ; 
for this court sits not for the amusement of the 
public fancy or the gratification of public ma- 

But, say they, may not the jury decide the 
law and the fact against the opinion of the 
court? But is it proper to produce a struggle 
between the court and jury? Ought the jury 
to disregard the opinion of the court when it is 
confessedly correct? When the court tells the 
jury truly, that the substratum does not exist, 
a respectable jury never did and never will find 
a verdict of guilty. 

They say that they are determined to probe 
this conspiracy, as it is called, to the bottom ; 
and therefore they make these extraordinary 
efibrts; but is there no respect that counsel 
ought to have for their character, to prevent 
them from pressing on the jury doctrines which 
they know to be illegal ? Is there no respect 
due from the jury to the admonition of the 
court? If ii-relevant testimony be to be ad- 
mitted, twenty or twenty-five days, or more, 
may be spent in hearing what has no relation 
to the subject, and cannot afiect us. It is in 
vain, therefore, to proceed. What ought we 
to expect from the court? Its authority. If 
the law is to be regarded, we have a right to 
call on the court for the exercise of its au- 
thority to prevent the introduction of illegal 

If, indeed, as Mr. Hay and Mr. Wirt said, the 
consequences of this interposition of the court 
would be the annihilation of the rights of the 
jury, I would answer, that any individual on 
earth ought to be sacrificed rather than that so 
great a danger should be realized. I wish not 
to touch so inestimable an institution. But 
there exists no such danger. Why do we wish 
to have juries? It is that men of our own 
condition, and who have a fellow-feeling for 
us, should determine controversies and try ac- 
cusations against individuals among us; so 
that no standing jurisdiction or permanent tri- 
bunal is to be employed to dictate the fate of 
any individual. It is a wise and humane regu- 
lation, that a jury should thus interpose be- 
tween the public and an individual. For it is 
very improbable that oppression will ever take 
place on that side. All is safe while decisions 
are on the side of tenderness. No precedent 
can be drawn from all this to sanction injustice 
or oppression. 

It is objected that juries would thus be pros- 
trated, and that the court might, on the same 
principle, decide against the accused. Who 
thus complains ? Was it ever argued that the 
rights of the jury and the safety of the citizen 
were destroyed by a favorable opinion to the 
accused ? 

Let a Jeffreys arise and succeed you on that 
seat ; let him arrogate to himself what powers 
he pleases ; let him encroach on privileges and 
tyrannize over the rights of juries, and all 
those who shall advocate them ; yet what ex- 
amples would he take? If he would permit 
precedent to be quoted as authority before him, 
would he take the exercise of mercy for his 
example ? 

When this Jefireys shall arise he will not act 
on precedent, but will boldly bound over every 
barrier if he wish to seize his victim ; but if he 
were to follow precedent, he would never take 
one on the side of mercy. He would pursue 
an example of rigid severity and cruelty. 
Would Judge Chase have been impeached, if, 
in the case of Callender, he had decided on the 
side of mercy ; if he had yielded to the high- 
wrought pretensions of Callender ? Would he 
have been impeached for a misdirection, in is- 
suing process, had he directed a summons to 
issue instead of a capias? Sir, it is a phenome- 
non in law and judicial proceedings, that the 
accused should sufl'er now (as the counsel for 
the prosecution insist), in order to provide se- 
curity for persons who may be accused here- 
after ; that his rights must be taken from him, 
in order that others may not lose theirs ! 

Sir, I am not surprised that the people have 
been taught to believe that we mean to smother 
testimony. I have been told of it out of doors, 
and I have no doubt that such is the general 
opinion. This is the eftect of the improper 
publicity given to whatever passes here. I 
have remonstrated against this malpractice, but 
in vain. We see that not a particle of intelli- 
gence is received, no step is taken, nothing 
happens here, which is not in twelve hours 
made public. This intelligence will be diflused, 
augmented, and distorted. We make no at- 
tempts of this sort. These reports remain un- 
contradicted, and excite prejudices against us. 
I wish to know, then, how it can be shown 
that we have such an object in view. Where 
is the proof of smothering testimony ? We de- 
ny the truth of the accusation. AVe wish not 
to suppress testimony, but it is our duty to op- 
pose the admission of what is not lawful evi- 
dence, since so much prejudice has been excited 
against the accused. 

Away, then, with this idea, that we wish to 
suppress testimony. We only claim what the 
law allows ; and I am afraid that if he be de- 
prived of this right, there never will be again 
found, in this country, a tribunal able to fortify 
itself against popular clamor, or counsel sufli- 
ciently firm to support an unfortunate client 
against popular fury. I want no precedents. 
I want nothing but pre-eminence of virtue and 



talents to discern and decide. And while you 
are placed on the seat of justice, we fear not to 
meet that high tone of popularity, that popular 
rage which is so much, and, we say, so unjustly 
inflamed against us ; if not met now, it never 
can be met. 

We are told that every man is a politician, 
and even judges may be so hereafter. Then 
we shall be in danger. When they become po- 
litical partisans we shall be in danger. This 
evinces the greater necessity of adhering in- 
flexibly to principle. 

I do not wish to go beyond the seas for ex- 
amples, but I cannot help reminding the court 
of the conduct of the illustrious Mansfield. He 
stood, on a critical occasion, as this court stood 
at the beginning of this trial. I am inclined to 
believe that the public prejudice has relented ; 
but suppose it to be still in its full fury, the situ- 
ations are similar. When the popular frenzy 
was at its utmost height he had to encounter it. 
He displayed that unshaken firmness which 
this court now feels. He was unmoved by 
popular clamor, unawed by popular fury. He 
wanted no popularity but that which he was 
sure would follow him and survive when he was 
no more ; that which ever pursues meritorious 
conduct, the high meed of virtue, which is the 
best stimulus to the most honorable exertions. 

If it were to be said that we want authority 
and precedent here for this firmness of conduct, 
we can say that our Washington is recorded in 
trials not wholly different. He was once in a 
situation where he might have been alarmed 
with what was called the popular voice. He 
was assailed by popular clamor and discontent, 
but he was firm to his purpose. I can only say- 
that he would have been without a historian if 
he had not withstood them. 

An argument has been already used, which, 
if well xinderstood, cannot be resisted. I feel 
it to be firmly established, but I hope the court 
will excuse me for indulging myself in further 
explaining the principle ; not because I deem it 
necessary after what has been said, but because 
I want the jury, this audience, and all the world 
to know and be impressed with what are the 
rights of the accused. It is this : that when a 
fact, essential to the guilt of the accused, does 
not exist, all further proceedings against him 
should cease. , 

Another circumstance has been offered to 
your consideration with a view of exciting the 
public indignation. Blannerhassett has been 
most piteously represented as a seduced person, 
and it is asked, what ! shall the seducer be ac- 
quitted, and the seduced be the victim ? And 
in order to make the representation more af- 
fecting, and to excite our sympathy to a higher 
degree, the gentleman has gravely introduced 
his lovely wife and prattling children, his hatred 
of war, his love of music, of literature, and 
chemistry, till his seduction by the arts of Mr. 

* Vido post. Speech of Mr. Wirt. 

Sir, I believe that Blannerhassett is innocent. 
I know him to be innocent, and he may defy- 
all the efforts to be made against him. But the 
situation in which he is placed does not reflect 
criminality on Colonel Burr. Do you examine 
into the character and conduct of the accessory 
in examining the principal— as whether he 
were under the influence of the principal or 
not? Is not this an invitation to subvert all 
the rules of the law ? Blannerhassett is not to 
be examined, but he is to be called small in 
guilt, because that of Mr. Burr is to be magni- 
fied. Th.c is done, not out of any cordiality to 
him, but in hatred of Burr. The question now, 
when he is tried as a principal, is, is he guilty 
or not ? Did he commit the fact ? Whereas, 
according to law, when an accessory before the 
fact is examined or tried, the only question is, 
did he abet or aid him who committed the act? 
and not whether he committed the act himself. 
This argument was not addressed to you, but 
to those who surround this great tribunal. 

But the constitution, the law of England, 
and American decisions have been quoted, to 
show that the prime mover is at any distance a 
principal. I will examine all these ; but the 
constitution is what I have most at heart, and 
what I will first consider. 

Mr. Hay says that he would rather the con- 
stitution should perish than the rights of juries. 
I revere both. I revere the constitution, be- 
cause, among other blessings, it secures the 
rights of juries ; and there is no man who 
hears me, but is convinced that the rights in- 
cident to the trial by jury are secured by it. 

The constitution is not express upon this 
subject; and if it be not express, are you to 
narrow it ? Are you to conjecture so as to 
create a new crime, not only in name but in 
substance, by introducing a new person which 
the constitution never contemplated, by adding 
" procuring" as a crime to " doing?" 

But we are told that the constitution has 
adopted terms in treason which are well known. 
Be it so. But it is only to tell you what is the 
'■'■ lasa majestas'''' of the nation. It tells you 
that the legislature should never avail them- 
selves of the malignant passions of the people, 
so as to call that " loesa majestas" which is not 
so in fact. 

The constitution only intended the classifica- 
tion of crimes which should be considered as 
tending directly to the subversion of the gov- 
ernment. It was left to the legislature to say 
what particular acts should have this tendency, 
and to provide the punishment. The constitu- 
tion supposed that there could be only two 
classes of cases in which the government could 
be subverted: levying war, and adhering to 
the enemies of the country. It never could 
have been intended to import aid from the 
common law to expound the constitution. It 
is only a general description ; and the legisla- 
ture are left to provide a proper remedy for the 
evil. The legislature, therefore, might have 
declared at any time, what should be done with 



an accessory before the fact. They might 
punish this and other accessorial oftences, by a 
law coming within the sweeping clause which 
empowers Congress to make all laws which 
shall be necessary and proper to carry their 
enumerated powers into effect. 

But the constitution is to be considered ac- 
cording to reason and moral right; and both 
ask if a transcendent offender be to slip down 
into an accessory? The answer is, that if rea- 
son which judges of the fitness of things, moral 
right which gives more latitude, or even com- 
mon sense, be permitted to add persons accord- 
ing to difl'erent men's ideas of propriety, what 
advantage is derived from the principle which 
has been so long cherished, that penal laws 
shall be construed strictly? What becomes of 
the doctrine ? What benefit can be had from 
the constitution containing precise terms and 
an express enumeration of powers, if moral 
right, common sense and reason, according to 
the diversity of human opinions, are to be ap- 
plied to infer and imply its meaning ? We may 
apply these to Eutopia, Oceana, or even the 
visions of Plato, or rather, the tribunal of 
Draco : for wherever they, or what is the same 
thing, men's different conceptions of them, are 
to determine what shall be right construction, 
there will be a tribunal of blood. Language 
must indeed be understood as the world under- 
stands it; but the ideas must not be extended 
beyond the natural import. I will ask a man 
of the most common understanding, who is not 
connected with the cause of Colonel Burr, 
whether a man, at the distance of three hundred 
miles from the scene of operation, can be the 
same as the actual perpetrator? Whether a 
man could be charged as present at the spot, 
and doing an act when he was at three hundred 
miles' distance ? What would be his answer ? 
Would he not call it the grossest absurdity? 
Does not the very idea of law revolt at such a 
construction? The constitution does not impose 
it. The common law, the gentleman admits, 
does not impose it ; but common sense requires 
it ! So that common sense shall say absence is 
presence, and shall consider one man as an- 
other, and plunge a dagger into his breast against 
justice and reason ! It is contrary to the com- 
mon understanding of the world. It is impossi- 
ble, in the nature of things, that a man at the 
distance of three hundred miles can be present. 
This transcends the wildest extravagance of 
fancy. By metaphysical legerdemain they an- 
nihilate space and consolidate identities ! 

The apprehensions which were entertained, 
and the dangers predicted but a short time past 
from construction, seem to have been soon for- 
gotten. If you begin so early with creating 
ofi'ences by mere analogy, as constructive pres- 
ence, where will you stop ? Trace the conse- 
quences of taking one man for another. Refiect 
how many shades and approaches there are to 
guilt. If you can confound these without dis- 
tinction, and charge a man, who commanded 
an act to be done by his agent, to have been 
VOL. I. — 12 

present and to have done it himself; it yon 
charge a crime directly contrary to facts, you 
mislead and surprise ; you are arriving at a 
point which will involve doctrines of treason 
which were never intended by the framers of 
the constitution. 

There is a passage in Hume's history which 
well applies to this subject. I do not say that 
it wiU be considered as an authority in a case 
of treason ; but it merits our attention as sug- 
gesting useful reflections with respect to the 
progress of guilt and the promptitude with 
which the agents of those in power will oppress 
and destroy, to gratify their employers. The 
court will recollect the conduct of Henry II. 
towards Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canter- 
bury, whom he had raised from a low station 
to the highest offices ; but whom he cordially 
hated and persecuted a long time, on account 
of his signal ingratitude, his haughtiness, and 
rigid opposition to his power, which he con- 
sidered to be trea'ir'U. 

After lie naa issued sentence of excommuni- 
cation against some of the king's best friends, 
when the king was informed of it, being vehe- 
mently agitated, he burst into an exclamation 
against his servants, " whose want of zeal," he 
said, " had so long left him exposed to the 
enterprises of that ungrateful and imperious 
prelate." Four gentlemen of his household, 
taking these passionate expressions for a hint 
for Becket's death, immediately communicated 
their thoughts to each other, and swearing to 
avenge their prince's quarrel, secretly with- 
drew. They took different routes, but moving 
in concert, and having an eye to the same end, 
arrived at the appointed place of meeting about 
the same time, and soon committed the horrid 
deed of assassination. Thus a supposed hint 
from a prince was sufficient for the murder of 
the prelate. 

When the constitution was debated clause by 
clause in the convention, it was not insinuated 
by any of its opposers, that the construction 
now contended for should ever be resorted to. 
The idea was never advanced, that a man might 
be thus made a traitor by fiction and relation, 
and considered as constructively present and 
constructively an actor, though at the distance 
of several hundred miles from the place of 
action; much less that such a construction 
would ever be countenanced in any of our 
courts of justice. Not even so much as a con- 
jecture was hazarded to that effect. It never 
entered into my mind, nor do I believe it en- 
tered into that of any other member of that 
body. And if the common law, with this doc- 
trine of constructive presence, had been a part 
of this constitution, all the talents on earth 
would never have been able to have carried it. 

The people of Virginia thought themselves 
safe on this subject. The construction, now 
advocated, was not avowed, much less support- 
ed, in the State Convention. 

It is contended that this ought to be con- 
strued by the same rules as a common statutory 



crime. What is the reason why, when an of- 
fence is made felony by the statute, it has all 
the consequences of a felony at common law ? 
When the legislature declare a particular of- 
fence in positive terms to be a felony, then it 
must necessarily in the nature of things, like 
all other felonies, partate of their incidents, 
nature and consequences ; for it would not be 
a felony without having the qualities and con- 
ditions of a felony. But though this be the in- 
evitable construction when a felony is created 
in general terms by a statute, yet if it be not 
so expressed, it is not to be interpreted so as to 
advance the remedy. There never was a ques- 
tion upon it as applied to statutes in capital 
cases. The books are uniformly against it, be- 
cause penal laws must be strictly construed. 
The courts make an exception in favor of the 
accused, when there is the smallest departure 
from the letter of the statute. Is it not a prin- 
ciple that wherever a part faUs to apply, the 
rest will be construed not to apply? If in 
England, a particular crime be created a felony, 
that is the generical description of th# oifence ; 
and by the principles of the common law, all 
the consequences of a felony at common law 
follow. So that the common law is applied to 
and ingrafted on the statute. But as the com- 
mon law does not exist in the United States, it 
cannot be constructively applied to treason. It 
is true that common law terms are adopted in 
the constitution and certain laws made under 
it ; but they are not used in reference to the 
common law as a system, but in the common 
acceptation as mere terms of art ; of which the 
true meaning may be found in any dictionary. 
And in relation to treason, the words used 
mean only a classification of the crime. They 
have no connection with the common law. 
How, then, is it to be interpreted ? The gen- 
tleman asks what the members of the conven- 
tion would have said of this case. I am not 
sure what the members of the convention would 
have said of this construction, nor that any in- 
dividual there would have said what his opin- 
ion was ; but this I will undertake to say, that 
there never was a more fruitful source of op- 
pression than this interpretation. The mem- 
bers of the convention would have particularly 
provided for such a case, if they had intended 
so uncommon a construction. They would 
have expressed it in the instrument itself, if 
they had contemplated a construction never 
heard of before ; for you meet no instance of 
it in all the books. But there is no need of 
construction. The terms are plain. Construc- 
tive presence is neither expressed nor necessary 
to be implied. It was never thought of But 
I will answer to the gentleman's question, what 
the members of the convention would have 
said, that, rather than that it was a '■'•cams 
omissus,'''' it was not intended to punish such 
ofi'ences. If it be asked why it was not men- 
tioned, it may be answered, because it was not 
intended to be considered as guilt. But, with- 
out adopting this exposition, it may be said that 

it was left to the future care of the legislature 
to enact laws on the subject and punish acts of 
accessorial agency ; so that nothing should be 
referred to the imagination. When laws should 
take place, they would be understood in the 
plain and natural sense of the terms employed 
to express them. 

Mr. Hay and Mr. Wirt have availed them- 
selves of a learned description of the statute of 
the United States, and the effect of its different 
clauses, in order to show the responsibility, as 
principal traitors, of persons standing in the 
situation of the accused ; and that it is impos- 
sible that it could ever have been intended that 
they should escape unpunished. The legisla- 
ture may pass laws, at any time, to prevent 
their impunity ; but if they were to escape by 
legislative failure or want of power, it would 
be better than that this court should transcend 
its authority and construe that to be treason 
which is not so within the true meaning of the 
constitution ; which it would do, if it were to 
consider Colonel Burr as present and an actor. 
Both Mr. Hay and Mr. Wirt allege, that he 
ought not to be considered as an accessory; 
that he is the prime mover and projector; and, 
therefore, he ought not to escape punishment. 
If he escape, is it not because the law declares 
that he ought to escape ? Ought they to com- 
plain, if the law pronounce him to be inno- 
cent? Is the acquittal of the accused, in a 
capital case, matter of regret? Ought any 
man to be punished but according to law ? 

By what rule, then, shall this question be 
decided? By example? Washington himself 
was assailed many years before he died. Jef- 
ferson has been also assailed ; and Eobertson, 
whose character was above censure, was also 
assailed. His history was assailed ; but he left 
it to mankind to judge for him ; and posterity 
will do him justice. (See his letter to Gibbon.) 
And many other great and eminent characters 
have been in like manner assailed. So that 
neither virtue nor talents can secure from cen- 
sure and obloquy. 

By prudence ? What would prudence accom- 
plish? Criticism is severe and unjust every 
where ; and many, from mere motives of indo- 
lence, are indisposed to inquire: some from 
party spirit, malignity in general, and particu- 
lar enmity. Every thing, even what had no 
aflBnity to the subject, would have been raked 
up, that could injure Colonel Burr. 

By the effect ? Assertion is nothing. Testi- 
mony, complete and satisfactory, is not to be 
collected. What would have been the effect 
of the affidavits published against him in the 
public prints, though taken ex parte ? If be- 
lieved, for a moment, he ought not to have at- 
tended to them. The facility of denying that 
such a partial examination of witnesses ought 
to be considered an acquittal would have ren- 
dered his efforts unavailing. 

By communicating his answer to their sus- 
picions, to men in office ? Nothing would have 
led them to listen to him but curiosity. Gov- 



emment ought not to be answered tiU it call. 
All the protestations of innocence on earth 
would have had no effect. They would have 
been as unavailing as in a case of murder ; but 
on every proper occasion, Burr did communi- 
cate and answer every call. 

By imparting to confidential friends ? It will 
be shown that he has done this always. After 
■ he had done it, they assailed him worse. If 
arguments like these prevaU, do not use a cob- 
web veU ; but give an air of magnanimity to 
your conduct by avowing a resolve to condemn 
and save trouble. Choose to be a Robespierre 
or a jury of Stuarts. If he make such com- 
munications, he is violently assailed. If he be 
sUent, he is charged with mysterious conduct. 
It is true, that by the law of England, all per- 
sons concerned, principal and accessories, are 
equally punishable. As Mr. Hay says, the 
crime covers the whole ground ; what is not 
occupied by the one is held by the other. 
What then? Does he mean to say, that be- 
cause it is not so here, because the whole 
ground is not covered here, you must stretch 
the law sufficiently to cover it ? Is this his 
plan for supplying omitted cases ? Suppose an 
act merely preparatory, as writing a letter to 
advise or deputing an agent to encourage by a 
person who had never carried arms, nor been 
at Blannerhassett's, nor joined them at the 
mouth of Cumberland or any other place, could 
he be indicted as a principal who had carried 
arms and levied war ? However unlawful such 
an act might be, it certainly could not amount 
to levying war. What the law would be on 
such occasion, I will not venture to say ; but I 
ask, where is the book that declares it to be an 
act of levying war? Compare that part which 
you consider as authority, with that case, or 
that now before the court, and you will find 
that neither case would be treason of levying 
war. Though a person who forms a scheme 
and conducts it to maturity, and is at the head 
of his party, may be considered as a principal, 
yet he who only performs a mere preparatory 
act, as writing a letter, giving an advice rela- 
tive to the acts at Blannerhassett's island, can- 
not be deemed guilty of levying war. He can- 
not have levied war, when he has done nothing 
more than to advise. To advise treason, when 
treason is not actually begun, cannot be con- 
sidered more than as an accessorial act. Is 
there not a plain difference between these two 

The man who instigates another to murder a 
man, is considered only as an accessory; be- 
cause not in a situation to afford immediate as- 
sistance to the person who perpetrates the act. 
If you apply this reasoning to Colonel Burr, as 
he was at a great distance, and could not give 
immediate aid to the actors, the same conclu- 
sion must result : that he could not be consid- 
ered in any other light than that of an accessory 
before the fact. The gentleman says that Bona- 
parte was not present at the battle of Auster- 
litz. We know that he commanded the army ; 

that he was on the ground ; that he directed 
its movements and laid the plan of the battle, 
as much as if he had been in the heat of the 
action. He was present, and tlie principal 
actor. When you consider this case according 
to the English decisions, you can never believe 
that Mr. Burr can be considered as being at 
Blannerhassett's island. 

But we are told that he is not said to be at 
Blannerhassett's island ; that he is not alleged 
to have been there. The indictment charges 
him with having committed treason on Blan- 
nerhassett's island, with a great multitude of 
persons traitorously assembled and gathered 
together, armed and arrayed in a warlike man- 
ner ; that he and those persons joined together 
at Blannerhassett's island; and that he did 
with them, then and there, ordain, prepare, and 
kvj war against the United States. Is not this 
a declaration that he was present ? Could he 
have joined them there without being present 
with them ? You must understand most clearly, 
from the terms of the indictment, that he was 
actually there. It admits of no other construc- 
tion. But, sir, the American decisions have 
been quoted upon this point. It is said that 
the opinion of the Supreme Court, in the case 
of Bollman and Swartwout, was that any per- 
son " who performs any part, however minute, 
and however remote from the scene of action, 
and who is leagued in the general conspiracy, 
shall be considered as a traitor." The import 
of these words, "perform any part, however 
minute, or however remote from the scene of 
action," as meant by the Supreme Court, has 
certainly been misunderstood by gentlemen. 
Does the opinion of the Supreme Court mean 
by these words, "minute and remote part," 
that a party may be indicted as present who 
was absent ? or that he who did not act, but 
merely advised, shall be indicted as having 
actually performed a part ? The language of 
that court does not warrant the inference that 
the indictment may be so drawn as to mislead, 
instead of giving the accused notice of the proof 
to be exhibited against him, that he may pre- 
pare his defence. Does it mean that a person, 
at the distance of five hundred miles, sljall be 
considered as present ? Does it mean that they 
shall be punished according to the degree of 
their guilt ? Does it mean to say that persons, 
in the character of accessories, shall be pun- 
ished ? Does it mean to say that there are no 
accessories in treason, and that all are princi- 
pals? What then is the meaning of the opinion? 
It must be this : by "remote from the scene of 
action," must be intended that any person, di- 
rectly and indissolubly connected with the party 
perpetrating the act, though not at the spot, 
but near enough to give immediate aid at the 
time and place, if necessary, is to be considered 
as engaged in the plot and guilty of treason. 
The judges viewed this subject without con- 
sidering the question whether a man could be a 
principal notwithstanding his absence. Such 
an idea never occurred. The constitution ought 



to be construed according to the plain and ob- 
vious import of its words. It will be in danger 
if there should be a departure from this con- 
struction. It never can be supposed that its 
framers intended that this fancy and imagina- 
tion should be indulged in its future exposition. 

But, say gentlemen, whether he be an acces- 
sory or a principal, the indictment stands right. 
I deny it, sir. We have the soundest reasons 
to say that it cannot be supported in either case. 
Eegarding him as a principal, ;he evidence can- 
not support it ; and as it does not charge him 
as an accessory, no evidence of accessorial acts 
could prove it. The specification of the offence, 
according to the evidence to be brought to sup- 
port it, has been always held necessary in Eng- 
land, and will never be deemed less useful by 
the people of this country. Are we to regard 
British forms and precedents ? You have seen 
what they are. There have been several quo- 
tations from Hale and others on this point. 
But one quotation from 1 Hale, p. 238,