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title:“A Patriotic Citizen”
date written:1788-5-10

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:30 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Sept. 27, 2023, 8:56 p.m. UTC

"A Patriotic Citizen." Pennsylvania Mercury 1788-05-10 : . Rpt. in The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 18. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1995. 7-10. Print.
Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress

A Patriotic Citizen (May 10, 1788)

To the WELL-MEANING FEW who are opposed to the new plan of federal government.
Gentlemen, As a friend, a fellow-citizen, and a patriot, I now address you. -That six-sevenths of the people of the United States are firm friends to the proposed system, is a well-known fact. But, though this ensures the ratification of the constitution, by a very respectable majority, and there is no doubt but that a few revolving months will set this master-piece of political wisdom in motion, yet something still is wanting to complete the great work-I wish for the concurrence of every real whig, of every honest citizen amongst us; as for individuals who are anti-federal from interested motives, and designing incendiaries who are enemies to the peace and rising greatness of America, we have very small reason to hope that the former will sacrifice their paltry pelf, or the latter their infamous principles, for the general good: we ought, however, to guard against their weak but desperate efforts, by warning our fellow-citizens of the base motives which actuate those sons of sedition.
When men err through mistake, the criminality of the act ought, in my opinion, to be much extenuated, if not entirely pardoned, because of the honesty of the intention: your conduct, therefore, my worthy fellow-citizens, is only reprehensible in this; that you have suffered yourselves to be imposed on by the scurrilous declamations of designing men; that you have mistaken falsehood for truth, and defamation for argument; and that you have refused to place a reasonable confidence in the chosen patriots of your country, while you have reposed a mistaken and unlimitted one in men who, under the borrowed mask of patriotism, have strained every nerve to destroy private reputation, to sow sedition through the land, and to force the wounds of civil discord, which have been so recently healed, to bleed afresh.
But it is not yet too late to retrieve your lost honor, and to come in for a share of that endless fame, which the enlightened citizens of America shall acquire by the transactions of 1787 and 1788. Suffer yourselves to be deceived no longer, dare to act like men, be your own advisers, let reason resume its place, and I will venture to affirm, that you will act the part of good citizens, in giving your support to a system which is approved of by a truly respectable majority of the people, such as we never before had an instance of.
This circumstance alone should procure the acquiescence of every honest, of every reasonable man: for as the very basis of republican government is, that a majority, even a bare majority, shall govern, how absurd is it to suppose that one seventh of the people should pretend to controul six sevenths?
Had the writers opposed to the constitution confined their strictures to the system itself, and pointed out its defects (or what they thought its defects) with manly candor and decency, they had merited the thanks of their country, and clearly evinced that they were actuated by patriotism, not by that self-interested, turbulent and seditious spirit which uniformly characterises their inflammatory essays.
Finding this constitution proof against all attacks, by argument, they have cautiously avoided reasoning on the subject; but have asserted, in plain English, that the framers of it, and those who have ratified it, are all villainous conspirators, and consequently that this plan of government is calculated to enslave the people of America, to make them hewers of wood and drawers of water, and to force them to make bricks without straw. What an insult to the freemen of America! "They chose delegates to the federal convention who are traitors and conspirators against their liberties!-They are abettors of the treason in approving of the conspirators conduct!" The degrading insult has been felt, and has rendered the incendiaries infamous in the eyes of many, who were at first wavering, but are now decidedly federal. Shortly after the promulgation of the constitution, one of the anti-federal champions, in this city, poured forth a whole torrent of abuse against the federal convention, and particularly pointed his calumny at their illustrious president: the citizens of Philadelphia, to their immortal honor be it told, were fired with a manly resentment, and burned with indignation against the slanderers of their beloved Washington. One prudent step was taken by the incendiary party-They perceived that they had trespassed too far on the patience of the people, who had not yet forgot the tribute of gratitude due to their worthy chief; for this reason, in their German translations, which they circulated through the back counties of this state, they took care to leave out their infamous slander of this truly great and good man. It had been much to their credit to have acted thus at all times; but this was impossible, they soon found all their hopes of duping their fellow-citizens idle and vain; their disappointment was succeeded by envy, malice, rancour and despair, and these infernal passions have produced a plentiful harvest of the most scurrilous abuse and slanderous falsehoods that ever disgraced an enlightened country, or a free press.
So glaringly absurd has their slander been, that it has operated in a manner directly contrary to what they intended, and has prevented due faith being given even to their probable assertions, agreeably to the old adage-A liar, tho' he speak truth, is not believed. This may be the cause why no person has thought worthwhile to refute such charges. But it may not be amiss to examine, what foundation the incendiaries had for applying the appellation of conspirators to the members of the federal convention.
Much might here be said of the patriotism, integrity, abilities, and past services, of almost all the gentlemen who were honored, by their respective states, with seats in that august assembly; but as gratitude for past services is rather unfashionable, and the "authority of great names" is no authority, let us consider them independent of their patriotic bravery in asserting the rights of mankind, of freedom, and their country.
Let us remember that they are citizens, possessed of a considerable share of property in the United States, their security for the peaceable enjoyment of which, must rest upon the just administration of an equitable and well established form of government. Such men are seldom Catalines in any country: conspiracies are usually formed and executed by desperate and abandoned wretches, who have neither fortune nor reputation to lose, but may perchance gain something, by such an event.-Let us consider them as men, who have, in common with their fellow-citizens, their respective connections in society, their circles of friends, and a rising offspring, all of whom must inevitably participate in the miseries of their country; and say, what motives could induce such men to conspire against the liberty and happiness of all who are near and dear to them, and to consign them to endless misery.-Let us consider them as fellow-citizens, not one of whom may, perhaps, ever be elected to a seat either in the federal senate, or in the house representatives, and, if he should, that he may be speedily removed, be forced to share in the general calamity, and obliged to wear those galling chains he had forged for others. Common sense, self-interest and self-preservation, independent of every other motive, must certainly have prevented such men from meditating the overthrow of American freedom, when they well knew that, like Sampson, they must be crushed by the fall and perish in the ruins.-Let us also recollect that they have appealed to the people at large to judge of the uprightness of their conduct, and have submitted to their decision that plan of government which is the result of more than four months deliberation. Surely this is an undeniable proof of conscious integrity; for that the "well-born" (as they are called) should endeavour to enslave their country, and at the same time, leave it in the power of the meanest citizen, to put on, or reject, the chains, at his option, would argue them totally void of that understanding and precaution which even their enemies do not deny them. If they had had any designs hostile to the liberties of the people, they would rather have endeavoured to procure the ratification of the constitution by a few, for instance by the legislatures of the different states. But the truly equitable mode of deciding on this system, pointed out by the federal convention, has, like many more of its greatest perfections, been highly censured. This I only mention to shew that men who are thus capable of finding fault with its best parts, are very suspicious characters indeed, and, if their objections be not the result of ignorance, it is by no means a breach of charity to conclude that they are enemies to the peace, liberty, and happiness, of their country.
Finally, let us bear in mind that the people are the sole, the great source from which all powers delegated to the federal government, by this truly democratic constitution, are to flow; and that if ever they be enslaved, it must be by a spontaneous surrender of their liberties; for they are not only vested with the power of election, of impeachment, and dismission from office for misdemeanors, and of further punishing the culprits by the violated laws of their country; but they will always enjoy the invaluable privilege of making such alterations in their constitution as may, from time to time, be found necessary, still further to secure those liberties which have been purchased by the martyrdom of their fathers, and this, too, they will be enabled to effect in a manner unknown in the political revolutions of other countries- without the effusion of human blood.
Thus it appears that the incendiaries have neither truth, probability, nor reason on their side, when they bestow on the chosen patriots of America the name of conspirators, which I fear is too applicable to themselves.
Blush, ye well-meaning citizens, who have associated with such men as are the ringleaders of anti-federalism (alias sedition) in the United States. Who are they? Let us examine-We must pass over the three states of Delaware, New-Jersey and Georgia; not even one opposer of the constitution having been found in the conventions of those states-In Connecticut nearly one-third were against it; but these like peaceable citizens and good republicans immediately acquiesced in the decision of the majority-In Massachusetts a considerable part of the minority have acted the same praise-worthy part, and none now persevere in anti-federalism but a few, who were, not long since, enrolled under the banners of SHAYS.-Who were the opposers of federal measures in Maryland? None but Luther Martin and his ten followers-Thus we perceive, that in six of the states which have adopted the constitution, the opposition, comparatively speaking, is almost nothing-In the convention of Pennsylvania, 'tis true, we have had twenty-three dissentients, who are well known to be the mere echoes and tools of a few individuals in Philadelphia, who are apprehensive that their loaves and fishes are in danger: The greater part of these twenty-three were of the anti-federal minority in our General Assembly, who were for copying after the worthy example of Rhode-Island, in refusing, even to call a convention to deliberate on the proposed plan, and who were also the avowed advocates of our ruinous paper-money measures.
With these, then, and the respectable groupe of Rhode-Island, you are joined in opposing the almost unanimous voice of United America. Let the idea of being connected with such be no longer harboured in your bosoms. Turn with indignation from them, and their infamous principles. And join the patriotic sons of freedom, who are now about to complete the glory and independence of America.

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