You have been told also, that after the new constitution takes place the officers under it may become perpetual. Now it is fully and absolutely secured that no Representative, Senator, President or Vice-President can continue beyond a stipulated time, and if the people think that time too long they can get their state legislatures to apply for its being shortened.2
If nine legislatures out of thirteen apply this year, or ten years hence, there must be a convention called to consider the point (or indeed any thing else which you complain of in the constitution) and then if three fourths of the states approve the alteration, it will be made. But if Congress should want to extend the time of their duration, or wickedly wish to make themselves perpetual, they must get three fourths of the state legislatures to consent to it before it can take place. I believe no body therefore, on due reflexion, will see any cause to fear Congress will ever be able to render their seats perpetual. It will seem foolish to some of my countrymen to take so much pains to remove this apprehension, because they know there is no danger of any such thing, but I can assure them that so much deception and mistake has taken place, that there are many worthy inhabitants of our western counties that have been made very unhappy on this point.
I want those good people to read the constitution quietly by themselves, and to judge like reasonable and free men for
themselves. I do not want to inflame their passions, nor to hide the subject from them. I wish them to pass a sober, cool and honest judgment on it.
They will see that every man among them, whether protestant or catholic, rich or poor, may elect or be elected. The Assembly may chuse any of them a Senator, or the people may chuse any of them a federal Representative,34
or any of them may be chosen Vice-President or President of the United States. Nothing in the constitution forbids it, though they must be sensible that a man must be very good and very wise, to deserve and receive such great trusts from the Assembly and from the people. However, as I said before, any man, rich or poor, protestant or catholic, can be chosen, if he is thought fit by the state legislature, or the people at large, and when he is chosen nothing can prevent his taking his seat and performing his high duties.5
In other countries religious tests would prevent him, though he were ever so wise, ever so good, or ever so much beloved and esteemed. In Spain a protestant would be disqualified, in Ireland a presbyterian or a catholic would be disqualified, in England a catholic, presbyterian, or any dissenter from their church, would be disqualified. But our new federal constitution admits all, whether protestant, or catholic, or presbyterian, or episcopalian, &c. for it expressly says there shall be no religious test. Blessed circumstance, for which above all others the favored people of these states should ever raise their grateful voices in praise and thanksgiving to the author of every good and perfect gift. The federal connexion, established on these liberal and generous principles, will lead to a sort of federal union among the various churches which it has pleased God to raise up in the world. Here none can be particularly favored, none can be particularly oppressed, none can be interfered with-all are equal-all independent of each other. They will not render to each other nor to the government, tithes, nor tenths, nor free gifts (as they have been preposterously termed) nor any species of taxes, as religious men or societies. Nothing will be expected, nothing will be required but peace and goodwill, and brotherly loving kindness. This excellent quality of the new government will warm and expand our bosoms whenever we reflect upon it. The liberality and virtue of America in establishing perfect equality and freedom among all religious denominations and societies, will no doubt produce to us a great reward, for when the news of it shall reach the oppressed dissenters from the established churches of Britain, Ireland, Holland, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, and they shall find that it encourages both protestants and catholics, they will at once cry out, America is "the land of promise." There alone can the sincere votaries of religion enjoy their lives, their civil and religious rights and property, without suffering from their attachment to that church in which they have been born and bred, and which they believe to be right and true. Ye Sovereigns of the European world, continue your religious oppressions at your peril. So sure as you persist, thousands of your present subjects, transplanted to the fertile fields, the healthful villages and populous cities of America, shall remind you of your impiety and error, when it shall be too late for you to retrieve the loss.