The conditions, I say, upon which any alterations can take place, appear to me to be such as never will exist-two thirds of both houses of Congress or the legislatures of two thirds of the states, must agree in desiring convention to be called. This will probably never happen; but if it should happen, then the convention may agree to the amendments or not as they think right; and after all, three fourths of the states must ratify the amendments. -Before all this labyrinth can be traced to a conclusion, ages will revolve, and perhaps the great principles upon which our late glorious revolution was founded, will be totally forgotten. If the principles of liberty are not firmly fixed and established in the present constitution, in vain may we hope for retrieving them hereafter. People once possessed of power are always loth to part with it; and we shall never find two thirds of a Congress voting or proposing anything which shall derogate from their own authority and importance, or agreeing to give back to the people any part of those privileges which they have once parted with-so far from it; that the greater occasion there may be for a reformation, the less likelihood will there be of accomplishing it.2
The greater the abuse of power, the more obstinately is it always persisted in. As to any expectation of two thirds of the legislatures concurring in such a request, it is if possible, still more remote. The legislatures of the states will be but forms and shadows, and it will be the height of arrogance and presumption in them, to turn their thoughts to such high subjects. After this constitution is once established, it is too evident that we shall be obliged to fill up the offices of assemblymen and councillors, as we do those of constables, by appointing men to serve whether they will or not, and fining them if they refuse. The members thus appointed, as soon as they can hurry through law or two for repairing highways or impounding cattle, will conclude the business of their sessions as suddenly as possible; that they may return to their own business. -Their heads will not be perplexed with the great affairs of state-We need not expect two thirds of them ever to interfere in so momentous a question as that of calling a Continental convention. -The different legislatures will have no communication - with one another from the time of the new constitution being ratified, to the end of the world. Congress will be the great focus of power as well as the great and only medium communication from one state to another. The great, and the wise, and the mighty will be in possession of places and offices; they will oppose all changes in favor of liberty; they will steadily pursue the acquisition of more and more power to themselves and their adherents. The cause of liberty, if it be now forgotten, will be forgotten forever. -
Even the press which has so long been employed in the cause of liberty, and to which perhaps the greatest part of the liberty which exists in the world is owing at this moment; the press may possibly be restrained of its freedom, and our children may possibly not be suffered to enjoy this most invaluable blessing of a free communication of each others sentiments on political subjects-Such at least appear to be some men's fears, and I cannot find in the proposed constitution any thing expressly calculated to obviate these fears;3
so that they may or may not be realized according to the principles and dispositions of the men who may happen to govern us hereafter. One thing however is calculated to alarm our fears on this head; -I mean the fashionable language which now prevails so much and is so frequent in the mouths of some who formerly held very different opinions; -THAT COMMON PEOPLE HAVE NO BUSINESS TO TROUBLE THEMSELVES ABOUT GOVERNMENT. If this principle is just the consequence is plain that the common people need no information on the subject of politics. Newspapers, pamphlets and essays are calculated only to mislead and inflame them by holding forth to them doctrines which they have no business or right to meddle with, which they ought to leave to their superiors. Should the freedom of the press be restrained on the subject of politics, there is no doubt it will soon after be restrained on all other subjects, religious as well as civil. And if the freedom of the press shall be restrained, it will be another reason to despair of any amendments being made in favor of liberty, after the proposed constitution shall be once established.
Add to this, that under the proposed constitution, it will be in the power of the Congress to raise and maintain a standing army for their support, and when they are supported by an army, it will depend on themselves to say whether any amendments shall be made in favor of liberty.4