Mr. President I have preserved a respectfull silence during the debates of the Committee of the whole house; without flattery to others or meaness of spirit with respect to myself I can acknowledge my Inferiority, to the Members of this hon[orab]le convention, in an acquaintance with the political history of this Country; a laborious application to the business of my profession has not afforded me much Opportunity for attendance here in order to collect Information, nor time for reflecting on the few Ideas with which my Mind was stored relative to the Object of our present meeting, these considerations operate powerfully in favor of doing no more than [casting] a silent Vote on the several questions to be determined, but other motives still more cogent, impel me, to a full & free communication of my sentiments, the situation of our Country I consider as critical & alarming, I was sent here not to devolve upon others the trouble of thinking for me but to judge & act for myself, I may err but my intentions are the best— I confess it appears to me that difficulties almost insuperable, attend every possible plan that can be suggested, to introduce a System unexceptionable in itself & relatively so, authorized & yet efficacious, is scarcely within the Sphere of Possibility— The Attempt however must be made, & the first great Question which presents itself is, shall we delineate a Scheme of Government national or fœderal? for I cannot but think that this principle once established, a variety of consequences serious & important are necessarily connected & deducible— In order to make our Choice between an establishment national or fœderal, let us trace the Causes of the present publick Distress, thence we may be able to point out the proper Characteristicks of the new Government, its Nature
& its extent
.— It is a very common error, to mistake a concomitant fact for a cause, perhaps it has happened in the present Instance, & that we have imputed to the want of power in Congress, difficulties inevitable for sometime yet to come, when under the best Government, the most ably administered, the dismembrement of the Empire of Great Britain, by the Independancey of this Country, is an incident peculiarly offensive to that haughty people, those who have conquered may be expected to forgive with equal Magninimity, but a power foiled in its attempts at Dominion, feasts with a malevolent satisfaction at every humiliating circumstance in the Affairs of those whom they could not subdue & therefore wish to disappoint & vex, for this reason the Court of St. James, affects to treat us with comtempt & avoids a treaty, & France our great & good Ally resents the Conduct of our Ministers in the course of the negotiations for a peace, & immediate Interest unites all the powers of Europe, in a combination to exclude from their West-India Islands, if not all our Vessels at least those of considerable burthen & enumerated Articles, comprising nearly every particular, which we can export to those Markets & while enumerating misfortunes that admit of no immediate relief let us not forget that our domestic Debt is 28,000,000 of Dollars our foreign, The variety of situations under which the Colonies were situated when they became States, the disproportioned Magnitude of the several independent Sovereignties, & that a very great proportion of the Inhabitants secretly wish destruction to the Polity under which they live, & we must confess, that our Patriotism must in some measure be put to the Test, under any Form of Government that may be introduced— That the United States, ought to have a Revennue to discharge the Interest of the Debt, incurred by a War undertaken in defence of the inherent rights of human Nature, & eventually the principal, is as far as I know uncontroverted, as a natural attendant & because the States individually are incompetent to the purpose that the United-States should also regulate the Commerce of the United-States foreign & internal, is I believe also a matter of general Consent, & that the United-States should also fix the Currency & determine what should be the circulating Medium, from New-Hampshire, to Georgia would meet but few or no Opponents within these Walls & those who agree to the propositions already stated would certainly as generally concur in the appointment of proper Judiciaries, to carry into execution the laws of the two former descriptions, respecting either Commerce or Impost,— It is said, this provision is a measure inadequate that our wants require further interference & that should our Deliberations produce no other effect the World will say, that the Fable of the Mountain in labour producing a Mouse is again exemplified— I will not contend that the additions of power which I have mentioned will answer the expectations of our Constituents, I do not believe that they will, the possibility of reconciling a federal Government with State inferiour Governments I will consider more particularly by & by—I do not hesitate to express my apprehensions that in the present temper of the people in some of the States at least, any power of Congress less than physical will be opposed But it is contended that the Causes of our troubles are beyond what has been recited, that something more than a federal Union is necessary, a Physical power to carry into effect the measures that the Sovereignty shall determine upon, & to attain the primary objects of Government— I deny that the situation of any particular state or states is the measure by which we are to regulate our proceedings, we are not to examine whether sufficient powers are properly distributed in the several Governments, to controul the Subjects but whether as between the United-States & the Individual States, the proportion of power is properly distributed— Still it is contended that this is taking the matter up in a very confined limited view that the Sovereignty of the United States should not act merely on the respective States but immediately on the Individual Delinquent, that in this way, the people lose no Rights altho the Sovereignty acquires Authority & that one Government comprehending the territory now subdivided among thirteen, would secure Liberty & Property & be better able to exercise a Democracy— This suggestion gives rise to three questions or different views of the subject—First what is best on abstracted principles 2 Secondly what is practicable & Thirdly what are we authorised to do— Suppose for a moment, that the thirteen united States should be extinguished & annihilated, & that we were about to devise the best & most eligible System of Government unembarrassed by Instructions, & without any reasonable apprehensions of difficulty from the prejudices or prepossessions of the people of this Country and which would be best a national Government or a fœderal Union? some Members will be surprised when I add, that I am by no means clear that a national Government would deserve the preference! I shall readily acknowledge & will state particularly by & by, the Inconveniences of a federal Union—we need not refer ourselves to Writers of antient or modern times to know that every political Institution certainly therfore the highest ought to be prepared with a reference to that C[——t] state of property & other local circumstances— these are so different in different parts of the Continent, that no one Form will suit or apply throughout, should this difficulty be got over, still another remains the Laws must be entirely different, the Fisheries & Manufactures of New-England, The Flour Lumber Flaxseed & Ginseng of New York New Jersey Pennsylvania & Delaware The Tobacco of Maryland & Virginia the Pitch Tar, Rice & Indigo & Cotton of North Carolina South Carolina & Georgia, can never be regulated by the same Law nor the same Legislature, nor is this diversity by any means confined to Articles of Commerce, at the Eastward Slavery is not acknowledged, with us it exists in a certain qualified manner, at the Southward in its full extent, time would fail me to enumerate the many particulars, in which such a variety of provisions will be necessary, for descent of Estates, validity of last Wills & Testaments, &c that
it would indeed be a political Phenomenon to see the same Legislature enacting at the same time Laws for the abolition of Slavery, for the gradual Abolition of it & for its continuance, & the regulation of the Objects of its Jurisdiction—will it be said that the Laws should be uniform they ought not unless at the same time you can alter the Climate, Produce, Soil, & even Genius of the people—and controul the operation of the common & best established principles of human nature—even in addition from long habits & Education there are principles so interlaced & interwoven that to wrest them would be to burst the common bands of Society—but it is said I am combating imaginary objects that no such one Government is intended, but that the State Governments are to subsist & this general Government only to regulate some few general specified matters, others not particularly needed to remain with the several States—1
I cannot but think that the present System is more objectionable much than a general Government,—in the first place I conceive & will endeavour to shew, that every person who would object to a general Government would find fault with this they will say as it has been expressed it is the foetus of a Monarchy, in addition to this others will say & I must be of the Number that this Government is consonant to no principle whatever, on the principle of the Union it is too much on the Idea of a general Government it is too little—that it has all the expence of a National Government without its energy—will give equal Alarm, equal opportunity to excite prejudice, without affording any dignity to Government or securing Obedience or obtaining any of the primary Objects of Government, that an eternal Contest will be excited between the several Governments & this monstrous sluggard, that the activity of the latter will be able to thwart the overgrown lubber [?], that all that can be expected from it is securing a Revennue, the whole of which will be absorbed in the collection that so much might be obtained nearly in the present system & a great part of the expence saved that it is [?] . If as has been suggested by an hon[orab]le Member from Virginia, we have prejudices to guard against & fears of a Monarchy which will be excited unless circumspection be exercized, this Scheme will most of all excite them, it will be said it is impossible that so much should be done unless more was intended, that it is impossible things should rest here, for all will concur in saying that a Contest between the National Government & the individual States must terminate either in Monarchy or an abolition of the present Systems, concurrent, independent Sovereignties, undefined Imperia in Imperio cannot subsist, none ever did any length of time, that at first the Democratick part will be found too powerfull for the Aristocratick & Executive, the same reasons that began this System must compleat it that it is a mutilated unsistematick Imitation of the british Constitution— If even you denominate the several States Corporations only yet as has been observed they move in such large orbits that they will be able to put themselves in competition with the United-States—if there are these reasons for doubting if the proposed plan be the best even in the minds of the most candid—how far have we reason to believe it practicable—the people of the united-States, excited to Arms by the insidious designs of the then Mother Country have become admirers of liberty warmly & passionately so—they snuff Tyranny in every tainted Gale—they are jealous of their liberty—they are pleased with their present Governments, they think them as energetick as they ought to be framed, they are continually planning subdivisions of the present Governments, they are complaining of the expence of the present Governments—they are jealous of designs to introduce a Monarchy, under specious pretences & different names in the despotick empire of Rome, for some time every thing was transacted under the conciliating Names of the Commonwealth—Consuls—Senate&c—they are apprehensive of designs to abridge the liberties of the common people— to make a greater difference of Ranks than the present Government admits of—even in the Assembly of Connecticutt you see these sentiments—they are prejudiced each against the neighbouring State—of no humour to coalesce.