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title:“Journal Notes of the Virginia Ratification Convention Proceedings”
authors:Anonymous
date written:1788-6-7

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"Journal Notes of the Virginia Ratification Convention Proceedings." Virginia Independent Chronicle 1788-06-07 : . Rpt. in The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 9. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1990. 1006-49. Print.
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The Library of Virginia

Journal Notes of the Virginia Ratification Convention Proceedings (June 7, 1788)

ir option to assume constructive power, danger will follow. Trial by jury and liberty of the press, are also on this foundation of implication.1 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."2 Implication is dangerous, because it is unbounded: If it be admitted at all, and no limits be prescribed, it admits of the utmost extension. They say that every thing that is not given is retained. The reverse of the proposition 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 necessarywhen 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 situation.3
Implication in England has been a source of dissention. There has been a war of implication between the King and people. For 100 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 successfully. Thirteen or fourteen years ago, the most important thing 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 indispensably 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.
The Committee then rose—And on motion, Resolved, That this Convention will, on Monday next, again resolve itself into a Committee of the whole Convention, to take into farther consideration, the proposed Constitution of Government.
And then the Convention adjourned until Monday morning, ten o'clock.
(a) Alluding to a motion made in the House of Delegates in the year 1784, to enable Congress to compel the delinquen States to pay their respective quotas, by means of an armed force.
(b) Alluding to his Excellency's letter on that subject to the Speaker of the House of Delegates.
(c) Governor Randolph had cursorily mentioned the word herd in his second speech. Mr. Wythe reported from the Committee of Privileges and Elections, that the Committee had, according to order, had under their consideration, the petition of Richard Morris, complaining of an undue election and return of Mr. William White, as a Delegate to serve in this Convention for the county of Louisa, and had come to several resolutions thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the clerk's table, where the same were again severally twice read, and agreed to by the House, as followeth:
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee, That the petitioner do, either by himself or his agent, within two days, deliver to the sitting member, or his agent, lists of the persons intended by the petitioner to be objected to, who voted for the sitting member, giving in the said lists the several heads of objections, and distinguishing the same against the names of the votes objected to; and that the sitting member do, by himself or his agent, on or before the 16th day of this instant, (June) deliver the like lists, on his part, to the petitioner, or his agent.
Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Committee, That the depositions of the witnesses, as well on behalf of the petitioner as the sitting member, be taken before Nelson Anderson, Waddy Thompson, and Charles Yancey, Gentlemen, and Thomas Johnson, the sheriff of the said county of Louisa, or any three of them.
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee, That the further consideration of the said petition be deferred until Wednesday the 18th of this instant, (June.)
The Convention then, according to the order of the day, resolved itself into a Committee of the whole Convention, to take into farther consideration the proposed plan of Government. —Mr. Wythe in the chair.
(The first and second sections still under consideration.)
Mr. Corbin. —Mr. Chairman—Permit to make a few observations on this great question. It is with great difficulty I prevail on myself to enter into the debate, when I consider the great abilities of those Gentlemen who have already spoken on the subject. But as I am urged by my duty to my constituents, and as I conceive that the different manner of treating the subject, may make different impressions; I shall offer my observations with diffident respect, but with firmness and independence. I will premise acknowledgments to those Honorable Gentlemen, who were in the Federal Convention, for the able and satisfactory manner in which they discharged their duty to their country. The introductory expression of "We the people," has been thought improper by the Honorable Gentleman [Patrick Henry]—I expected no such objection as this. Ought not the people, Sir, to judge of that Government, whereby they are to be ruled? We are, Sir, deliberating on a question of great consequence to the people of America, and to the world in general. We ought therefore to decide with extreme tion and circumspection: It is incumbent upon us to proceed prejudice, or prepossession. No member of the Committee a greater regard, than myself for the Gentleman, on the other who has placed himself in the front of opposition (Mr. Henry.) No admires more than I do, his declamatory talents: But I trust, that neither declamation, nor elegance of periods, will mislead the judgment of any member here, and that nothing but the force of reasoning will operate conviction. He has asked, with an air of triumph, the Confederation was not adequate to the purposes of the Federal Government: Permit me to say, No. If Sir, perfection existed in system, why was the Federal Convention called? Why did every except Rhode-Island, send deputies to that Convention? Was it from a persuasion of its inefficacy? If this be not sufficient to him, let me call the recollection of the Honorable Gentleman to other circumstances; let him go into the interior parts of the country, and enquire into the situation of the farmers. He will be told, that tobacco and other produce, are miserably low, merchandize dear, and taxes high: Let him go through the United States, he will perceive apperances of ruin and decay everywhere. Let him visit the sea coast—go to our ports and inlets. In those ports, Sir, where we had every to see the fleets of all nations, he will behold but a few trifling little boats—He will everywhere see commerce languish;—The disconsolate merchant, with his arms folded, ruminating in dispair, on the wretched ruins of his fortune, and deploring the impossibility of retrieving it. The West-Indies are blocked up against us. Not the British, only other nations exclude us from those islands—Our fur trade gone to Canada—British centinels within our own territories—Our posts withheld:—To these distresses, we may add the derangement of finances: Yet the Honorable Gentleman tells us, they are not sufficient to justify so radical a change. Does he know the deranged finances? What confusions, disorders, and even revolutions, have resulted from this cause in many nations? Look at France at time—That kingdom is almost convulsed—Ministers of State, and first Princes of the blood, banished—Manufacturers and merchants become bankrupts, and the people discontented:—All owing to the derangement of their finances. The Honorable Gentleman must be well aquainted with the debts due by the United States, and how much is due to foreign nations. Have not the payment of these been shamefully withheld? How long, Sir, shall we be able, by fair promises, to those satisfy those creditors? How long can we amuse, by idle words, those who are amply possessed of the means of doing themselves justice? No part of the principal is paid to those nations—Nor has even the interest been paid as honorably and punctually as it ought,—Nay, we were obliged to borrow money last year to pay the interest! What?—Borrow money to discharge the interest of what was borrowed, and continually augment the amount of the public debt! Such a plan would destroy the richest country on earth. What is to be done? Compel the delinquent States to pay requisitions to Congress? How are they to be compelled? By the instrumentality of such a scheme as was proposed to be introduced in the year 1784? Is this cruel mode of compulsion eligible? Is it consistent with the spirit republicanism? This savage mode, which could be made use of under the confederation, leads directly to civil war and destruction. How different is this from the genius of the proposed Constitution? By this proposed plan, the public money is to be collected by mild and gentle means; by a peaceable and friendly application to the individuals of the community. Whereas by the other scheme, the public treasury must be supplied through the medium of the sword—by desolation and murder—by the blood of the citizens. Yet we are told, there is too much energy in this system: Coercion is necessary in every Government. Justice, Sir, cannot be done without it. It is more necessary in Federal Governments than any other, because of the natural imbecility of such Governments. The Honorable Gentleman is possessed of much historical knowledge—I appeal to that knowledge therefore. Will he not agree, that there was a coercive power in the Federal Government of the Amphyctionics? The coercive power of the Amphyctionic Council was so great, as to enable it to punish disobedience and refractory behavior in the most severe manner. Is there not an instance of its carrying fire and sword through the territories, and levelling to the ground the towns of those who disobeyed it? (Here Mr. Corbin mentions particular instances.)—Is there no coercion in the Germanic body? This body, though composed of 300 different component sovereignties, principalities and cities, and divided into nine circles, is controuled by one superintending power, the Emperor. Is there no coercive power in the confederate Government of the Swiss? In the alliance between them and France there is a provision, whereby the latter is to interpose and settle differences that may arise among them; and this interposition has been more than once used. Is there none in Holland? What is the Stadholder? This power is necessary in all Governments—A superintending coercive power is absolutely indispensible. This does not exist under the present articles of Confederation. To vest it with such a power, on its present construction, without any alteration, would be extremely dangerous, and might lead to civil war. Gentlemen must, before this, have been convinced of the necessity of an alteration. Our state-vessel has sprung a-leak—We must embark in a new bottom, or sink into perdition. The Honorable Gentleman has objected to the Constitution, on the old worn out idea, that a republican Government is best calculated for a small territory. If a republic, Sir, cannot be accommodated to an extensive country, let me ask, how small must a country be to suit the genius republicanism? In what particular extent of country can a republican Government exist? If contracted into as small a compass as you please, it must labour under many disadvantages. Too small an extent will render a republic weak, vulnerable, and contemptible—Liberty, in such a petty State, must be on a precarious footing;—its existence must depend on the philanthropy and good nature of its neighbours. Too large an extent, it is said, will produce confusion and tyranny. What has been so often deprecated will be removed by this plan. The extent of the United States cannot render this Government oppressive. The powers of the General Government are only of a general nature; and their object is to protect, defend, and strengthen the United States: But the internal administration of Government is left to the State Legislatures, who exclusively retain such powers as will give the States the advantages of small republics, without the danger commonly attendant on the weakness of such Governments. There are controversies even about the name of this Government. It is denominated by some a Federal, by others, a Consolidated Government. The definition given of it by my honorable friend (Mr. Madison) is, in my opinion, accurate. Let me, however, call it by another name, a Representative Federal Republic, as contradistinguished from a Confederacy. The former is more wisely constructed than the latter—It places the remedy in the hands which feel the disorder—The other places the remedy in those hands which cause the disorder. The evils that are most complained of in such Governments (and with justice) are faction, dissension, and consequent subjection of the minority, to the caprice and arbitrary decisions of the majority, who, instead of consulting the interest of the whole community collectively, attend sometimes to partial and local advantages. To avoid this evil, is perhaps the great desiderata of republican wisdom; it may be termed the Philosopher's stone. Yet, Sir, this evil will be avoided by this Constitution: Faction will be removed by the system now under consideration, because all the causes which are generally productive of faction are removed. This evil does not take its flight entirely: For were jealousies and divisions entirely at an end, it might produce such lethargy, as would ultimately terminate in the destruction of liberty; to the preservation of which, watchfulness is absolutely necessary. It is transferred from the State Legislatures to Congress, where it will be more easily controuled. Faction will decrease in proportion to the diminution of counsellors. It is much easier to controul it in small, than in large bodies. Our State Legislature consists of upwards of 160, which is a greater number than Congress will consist of at first. Will not more concord and unanimity exist in one, than in thirteen such bodies? Faction will more probably decrease, or be entirely removed, if the interest of a nation be entirely concentrated, than if entirely diversified. If thirteen men agree, there will be no faction. Yet if of opposite, and of heterogeneous dispositions, it is impossible that a majority of such clashing minds can ever concur to oppress the minority. It is impossible that this Government, which will make us one people, will have a tendency to assimilate our situations; and is admirably calculated to produce harmony and unanimity, can ever admit of an oppressive combination, by one part of the Union against the other. A Confederate Government is of all others best calculated for an extensive country. Its component individual Governments, administer and afford all the local conveniences, that the most compact Governments can do; and the strength and energy of the confederacy may be equal to those of any Government. A Government of this kind may extend to all the Western world: Nay, I may say, ad infinitum. But it is needless to dwell any longer on this subject, for the objection that an extensive territory is repugnant to a republican Government, applies against this and every State in the Union, except Delaware and Rhode-Island. Were the objection well founded, a republican Government could exist in none of the States except those two. Such an argument goes to the dissolution of the Union, and its absurdity is demonstrated by our own experience. But an objection is urged against this Government, because of its power of laying direct taxes. Let me ask the Honorable Gentleman who opposes it on this ground, if he reflects whether this power be indispensible or not? Sir, if it be not vested with the power of commanding all the resources of the States when necessary, it will be trifling. Wars are as much (and more) carried on by the length of the purse, as by that of the sword. They cannot be carried on without money. Unless this power be given to Congress, foreign nations may crush you. The concession of this power is necessary to do Virginia justice, by compelling the delinquent States to pay as well as her: While she paid her quotas, and her citizens were much distressed to pay their taxes, other States most shamefully neglected, or refused, to pay their proportions. I trust Gentlemen need not be alarmed on the subject of taxation, nor intimidated by the idea of double collectors, who they tell us will oppress and ruin the people. From an attention to our situation we shall see that this mode of levying money, though indispensibly necessary on great emergencies, will be but seldom recurred to. Let us attend to the finances of this country.—(Mr. Corbin then stated the probable annual amount of duties on imported articles, throughout the Continent, including West-India produce, which, he said, from the best calculation he could procure, would exceed the annual expences of the administration of the General Government, including the civil list, contingent charges, and the interest of the foreign and domestic debts, by 80 or 90,000 pounds; which, he said, would enable the United States to discharge, in a few years, the principal debts due to foreign nations: That in the course of thirty years that surplus would enable the United States to perform the most splendid enterprises. He then concluded, that no danger was to be apprehended from the power of direct taxation, since there was every reason to believe it would be very seldom used. He then made an estimate of the state debt, and clearly proved, that with œconomical regulations, all the demands of the internal administration of Government would be paid with facility and ease from the different resources of the State; and that there would also be a considerable surplus, which with prudence and œconomy might answer many valuable purposes.)—Mr. Corbin then continued as follows: The Honorable Gentleman [Patrick Henry] declared, in the most solemn manner, that if he could see one single trait in that Government to secure liberty, he would not object to it. I meet him on this ground. Liberty is secured, Sir, by the limitation of its powers; which are clearly and unequivocally defined, and which are to be exercised by our own Representatives freely chosen. What power is given that will endanger liberty? I consider all the traits of this system, as having a tendency to the security of public liberty. I consider all its powers necessary, and only given to avoid greater evils; and if this conclusion of mine be well founded, let me ask, if public liberty is not secured by bars and adamantine bolts? Secured by the strongest guards and checks which human ingenuity can invent. Will this dreaded power of taxation render liberty insecure? Sir, without this power, other powers will answer no purpose. Governments cannot exist without the means of procuring money. My honorable friend told us, he considered this clause as the vitals of that Constitution. I will change the phrase, and say, that I consider this part as the lungs of the Constitution. If it be sick, the whole system is consumptive, and must soon decay: And this power can never be dangerous if the principles of equal and free representation be fully attended to. While the right of suffrage is secured, we have little to fear. This Government, Sir, does fully secure us this noble privilege, on the purest and simplest principles of equality. That number, which in anyone part of the country, has a right to send a Representative, has the same right in another part. What does the Constitution say? That 30,000 shall have one Representative—No matter where. If this be not equal representation, what, in the name of God, is equal representation? But says the Honorable Gentleman [Patrick Henry], the Constitution may be satisfied by one from each State. I conceive there is no fear of this. There is not a power to diminish the number. Does it not say, that Representatives shall be apportioned according to the number of the people, and that direct taxes shall be regulated by the same rule? Virginia in the first instance will have ten times as many as Delaware, and afterwards in proportion to her numbers. What is the criterion of representation? Do the people wish land only to be represented? They have their wish: For the qualifications which the laws of the States require to entitle a man to vote for a State Representative, are the qualifications required by this plan, to vote for a Representative to Congress; and in this State, and most of the others, the possession of a freehold is necessary to entitle a man to the privilege of a vote. Do they wish persons to be represented? Here also they are indulged: For the number of Representatives is determined by the number of people: This idea is so well attended to, that even three-fifths of those who are not free, are included among those of whom 30,000 shall have a right to elect one Representative; so that in either point of view their wish is gratified. Is not liberty secured on this foundation? If it be not secured by the one or the other mode, or by both, I am totally without reason. Liberty seems intrenched on this ground. But the Gentleman objects, that the number is not sufficient. My opinion, with deference to that Gentleman, and others who may be of a different opinion from me, is, that it is fully sufficient. Being delegated solely for general purposes, a few intelligent men will suffice: At least one for every 30,000, aided by the Senate, seem sufficient. Are combinations, or factions, so often formed in small as in numerous bodies? Are laws better made in large, than in small assemblies? Is not the influence of popular declaimers less in small, than in great bodies? Would not a more numerous representation be very expensive? Is œconomy of no consideration? We ought, Sir, to attend to the situation of the people: and our measures should be as œconomical as possible, without extending, however, our parsimony to a dangerous length. Objections should be founded on just and real grounds, and ought not to be urged out of mere obstinacy! Besides, it is by no means certain that a very numerous body is more independent, or upright, than a small one. Why should the number of our Representatives be greater Mr. Chairman? The county of Middlesex, in England, which includes the cities of London and Westminster, contains upwards of 990,000 souls, and yet sends to Parliament no more than eight members. Among all the clamors of the people there, it never entered into the brain of anyone of them, that those eight were not enough. They complain, that the boroughs of old Sarum, Newton, and Gotton, and other such places, should send each two members to Parliament, although without houses or inhabitants, while the richest city sent but four. They also complain of the influence of the landed interest in some cases; that the county of Cornwall sends 40 members to Parliament, although it pays but 18 parts out of 513, to the subsidy and land tax, when the county of Middlesex, which is calculated to pay 250 parts out of 513, sends but eight members. In that country it has been uniformly found, that those members, who are chosen by numerous respectable electors, make the greatest opposition to oppression and corruption, and signalize themselves for the preservation of liberty. The collective body of the Commons there have generally exerted themselves in the defence of freedom, and have been successful in their exertions, notwithstanding the inequality of their election. Our Representatives are chosen in the fairest manner—Their election is founded in absolute equality. Is the American spirit so degenerated, notwithstanding these advantages, that the love of liberty is more predominant and warm in the breast of a Briton, than in that of an American? When liberty is on a more solid foundation here than in Britain, will Americans be less ready to maintain and defend it than Britons? No, Sir—The spirit of liberty and independence of the people of this country at present, is such, that they could not be enslaved under any Government that could be described. What danger is there then to be apprehended from a Government which is theoretically perfect, and the possible blemishes of which can be only demonstrated by actual experience? The Honorable Gentleman then urges an objection respecting the militia, who, he tells us, will be made the instruments of tyranny to deprive us of our liberty. Your militia, says he, will fight against you. Who are the militia? Are we not militia? Shall we fight against ourselves? No, Sir—The idea is absurd. We are also terrified with the dread of a standing army. It cannot be denied, that we ought to have the means of defence, and be able to repel an attack. If some of the community are exclusively inured to its defence, and the rest attend to agriculture, the consequence will be, that the arts of war and defence, and of cultivating the soil, will be understood. Agriculture will flourish, and military discipline will be perfect. If on the contrary, our defence be solely trusted to militia, ignorance of arms, and negligence of farming, will ensue: The former plan is, in every respect, more to the interest of the State—By it we shall have good farmers and soldiers—By the latter we shall have neither. If the inhabitants be called out on sudden emergencies of war, their crops, the means of their subsistence, may be destroyed by it. If they are called in the time of sowing seed, or of harvest, the means of subsistence might be lost; and the loss of one year's crop might have been prevented by a trivial expence, if appropriated to the purpose of supporting part of the community, exclusively occupied in the defence of the whole. I conceive that this idea, if it be a new one, is yet founded on solid and very substantial reasons. But, Sir, we are told of the expediency and propriety of previous amendments. What end would it answer to attempt it? Will the States which have adopted the Con stitution, rescind their adopting resolutions? Had we adopted it, would we recede from it to please the caprice of any other State? Pride, Sir, revolts at the idea. Admitting this State proposes amendments previous to her adoption, must there not be another Federal Convention? Must there not be also a Convention in each State? Suppose some of our proposed conditions to be rejected, will not our exclusion out of the Union be the consequence? Or, would other Conventions again be called? And would we be eternally revolving and devising expedients, without coming to a final decision? The loss of the Union, Sir, must be the result of a pertinacious demand of precedent conditions. My idea is, that we should go hand in hand with Massachusetts; adopt it first, and then propose amendments of a general nature, for local ones cannot be expected. Consider the situation of Massachusetts, commanding the North; and the importance and respectability of Virginia to the South: These, Sir, are the two most populous, wealthy, and powerful States in the Union. Is it not very probable their influence would have very great weight in carrying any amendments? Would any Gentleman turn a deaf ear to their solicitations? By Union alone we can exist—By no other means can we be happy. Union must be the object of every Gentleman here. I never yet have heard any Gentleman so wild and frantic in his opposition, as to avow an attachment to partial confederacies. By previous adoption, the Union will be preserved: By insisting on alterations previous to our adoption, the Union may be lost, and our political happiness destroyed by internal dissentions. I trust, therefore, that this Convention, after deliberate discussion, will not hesitate to determine on a previous ratification, of a system, which, even in its present form, seems competent to the perpetual preservation of our security and happiness. Mr. Henry then arose, and expressed a desire, that the Honorable Gentleman on the other side (Governor Randolph) should continue his observations on the subject he had left unfinished the day before: That he had before, and would now, give him a very patient hearing, as he wished to be informed of every thing that Gentlemen could urge in defence of that system, which appeared to him so defective.
Governor Randolph.—Mr. Chairman—As the Gentleman who was last up has given us an opportunity of continuing our observations, I shall, in resuming the subject, endeavor to put this question in a more correct and accurate point of view, than it has yet been put in. I took the liberty yesterday of declaring to the House, the necessity of a national, rather than a Federal Government; and that the Union was necessary for Virginia for many powerful reasons—That this necessity arose, from the certainty of her being involved in disputes and war, with the adjoining States, and the probability of an attack by foreign nations; particularly by those nations to which she is greatly in debt, and which she is unable to pay—From her inability to raise an army to protect her citizens from internal seditions and external attacks—and her inability to raise a navy to protect her trade, and her coasts against descents and invasions. I also, in the course of my argument on this occasion, shewed the imbecility of the present system, in order to obviate, and detect the sophistry of that truly delusive opinion, which has taken possession of the minds of some Gentlemen, that this shipwrecked vessel is sufficiently strong and safe for us to embark in. Whether I have succeeded, or not, I have given the full effusions of my soul, in my attempt to prove the futility of that opinion. Permit me now to pursue the object of my enquiry, respecting the powers necessary to be given to the General Government. I shall discard general considerations at present, as I wish to be as brief as possible, and take up the particular idea of direct taxation. Is it necessary, that the Legislative power of the United States should be authorised to levy taxes? A strange question, to be agitated in this House, after hearing the delinquency of the other States, and even of Virginia herself! Money is the nerves—the life, and soul of a Government. It is the utmost folly to say, that a Government could be carried on without this great agent of human affairs. Wars cannot be carried on without a full and uncontrouled discretionary power to raise money in the most eligible manner. Nay, Sir, Government cannot be administered in time of peace without this power. For how is it to be done? It is needless to impress any farther on the minds of the Gentlemen who hear me, the necessity of this power in Governments. If so, ought the General Government to be more circumscribed in the power of providing for its own safety and existence, than any other Government? Ought it to depend for the means of its preservation on other bodies? This is actually the case with the Confederation. The power of raising money was nominally vested in that system. In March, 1781, even Maryland, the most backward State then, conceded that , Congress should have the power of receiving and demanding their proportionate quotas of the States. This was an acknowledgment of the necessity of vesting a power in Congress, to raise such sums as emergencies might require; but the means, which were proposed, have been found inadequate to encompass the end: The propriety of the means is alone disputed. No doubt it is the universal opinion, of the people of this Commonwealth, that its Legislature should have the power of raising money at its own will and pleasure. There are two ways whereby this may be effected—By requisitions, or taxation—There is no other manner—For it surpasses the ingenuity of man to devise any other mode of raising money, than by one of these two methods. If the alternative of requisitions be determined upon, as more eligible, it will not avail without coercion. If that of taxation be preferred, it will be sufficient, without any coercion. If our Legislature were to depend on requisitions for money to answer the ends of Government, then, Sir, the absurdity and sophistry of the arguments urged in defence of such a mode of procuring money, would strike the weakest intellect. If the mere pleasure of individuals were alone to be consulted: If it were left to the choice of your people to pay or not, your treasury would be much poorer than it is; and the advocates of this pernicious policy, would perhaps be ashamed of their pertinacity. Suppose, for a moment, the only existing mode of raising a revenue in Virginia, to be that of requisitions—Suppose your requisitions sent on to every county—Say, that money is wanted—Assume the most pressing language. We earnestly intreat you. We humbly supplicate and solicit you would furnish us with one thousand, or one hundred pounds to defray the necessary charges of our Government. What would be the result of such applications for voluntary contributions? You would be laughed at for your folly, for thinking human nature could be thus operated upon: From my knowledge of human nature, and of my countrymen, I am perfectly certain this would be the case. The argument will be found good in all cases. It will admit of any extension. I ask any Gentleman in this House, if States would comply, with what even a few individuals would refuse? Would not the requisitions of Congress meet a similar fate? This, Sir, has as often happened, as it has been the pleasure of the States to withhold their quotas. Not a shilling has been put into the Continental Treasury, but/by the utmost reluctance. The probable delinquency of other States has been the pretext for non-compliance with every State. has been thought hard, that our General Assembly should pay, when Congress ordered us.—Our Representatives have been supposed careless of our interest, in paying the demands of Congress, while delinquencies happened in other States. Punctuality, Sir, instead of being held in that estimation which it really merits, has been looked upon as an improvident expenditure of the substance of the people; and a subjugation of the inhabitants to grievances and burthens, to which the people of delinquent States were not exposed.—This idea has been held in many States, and would hold again. Whosoever depends on the mere right to demand their respective proportions of the States, shews a total ignorance of human actions, and betrays an unacquaintance with the principles of true policy.—The principal ends of all political institutions, are the happiness and safety of the community; but a reliance on Congressional requisitions would leave the country exposed and open to those who should choose to invade us; or lead to such sedition and confusion among ourselves, as must subvert and destroy every object of human society. If requisitions be not faithfully complied with, military coercion seems necessary: Coercion judiciously and moderately used is proper, but if severely and cruelly inflicted, begets unconquerable aversion and hatred. If the spirit of resentment actuates individuals, will not States be equally vindictive? What species of military coercion could the General Government adopt, for the enforcement of obedience to its demands? Either an army sent into the heart of a delinquent State, or blocking up its ports! Have we lived to this then, that in order to suppress and exclude tyranny, it is necessary to render the most affectionate friends the most bitter enemies; set the father against the son, and make the brother slay the brother? Is this the happy expedient that is to preserve liberty? Will it not destroy it? If an army be once introduced to force us; if once marched into Virginia, figure to yourselves what the dreadful consequence will be: The most lamentable civil war must ensue. Have we any troops but militia, to confront those disciplined bands that would be sent to force our compliance with requisitions? The most virulent railings are vented against the Federal Executive. We are told that the President can fix himself in the chair of State-establish himself a monarch—and destroy the liberties of the people. It has too often happened, that powers delegated for the purpose of promoting the happiness of a community, have been perverted to the advancement of the personal emoluments of the agents of the people; but the powers of the President are too well guarded and checked to warrant this illiberal aspersion. Let us candidly consider the consequences of the favorite plan requisitions, and see whether instead of imaginary or problematical, there be not real palpable dangers. To compel your obedience, a rapacious army will penetrate into the bosom of your country, carrying destruction and desolation before it. The commander of such an army will be liable to the corruption and passions incident to other men. If he be possessed of military genius, address, and ambition, he may procure this army to proclaim him King. Who can tell the result? Who can oppose him with success? Who can say to him, Sir you shall not be a despot? This reasoning however inconclusive or illogical it may appear to some, is, in my estimation, more accurate than arguments drawn from the possibility of a President's becoming tyrant. Mr. Chairman, I should object to the so much admired alternative of Gentlemen, were there no other reason, than the danger of an army to enforce requisitions, and the danger of its General becoming our master. I will not mention those nations that might be applied to for aid in such a case: It could easily be procured, but the remedy would be worse than the disease. I speak with respect to Virginia alone. Suppose our trade was to be taken into the hands of Congress, they would find little to satisfy their demands. If permitted by other nations, the compensation they could derive from the exclusive controul of our trade would be but trivial. Great-Britain, France, and Holland are intimately concerned to carry on trade with us: Those nations would disapprove of the measure; and such evasions would be practised on such an occasion as would render it totally ineffectual. If Congress were then to block up our ports, or send an army into our country, Virginia would be in such a horrid situation as would induce her to call for the aid of foreign nations—They have their eyes fixed on us— They watch every opportunity to avail themselves of our divisions. I—It is their interest, we should be weak and divided.—Any of them would readily engage in our dissentions—None of them would be displeased at our distractions. But what would be their object in assisting us? On what principles have auxilaries ever been sent to the aid of a country? Shew me an instance (except the conduct of France to America) where auxilaries have not either attempted, or actually made themselves masters of those they assisted? With respect to France, her magnanimity to America, is almost unprecedented. She has displayed a degree of disinterestedness and generosity not often exampled in the annals of mankind. Till France joined us, our troops were not able to withstand the enemy. Yet the fate of many other nations ought to convince us, that the assistance of foreigners is the most dangerous, and the last experiment that ought to be recurred to. Yet the predilection for retaining the power of direct taxation is not to be overcome. An expedient, proposed by a Gentleman whom I do not now see in the House (Mr. George Mason) is, that this power shall be only given to the General Government, as an alternative after requisitions shall have been refused. The most positive requisitions will be unavailable, and failure will produce war. A formal refusal, or negligent non-compliance with the demands of Congress, under a knowledge of the existence of this execrated alternative, would be a prelude to active opposition. I consider this expedient very little better than the ineffectual mode of simple requisitions. The only difference is, that it gives a little more time to a refractory State to provide itself with arms and foreign alliance, to enable it to oppose the operation of this alternative, and resist federal collectors, as was observed by the Honorable Gentleman in the chair [Edmund Pendleton]. The proper time will be picked for the commencement of opposition, and for putting the bayonet to the breasts of their fellow-citizens.—Suppose a requisition to be made on Virginia for 200,000 pounds: She fails to comply: Taxes are then to be collected in the common manner. Is it not probable that the aversion to the exercise of this power by the General Government will incite discontented minds to oppose it? Then, Sir, the dogs of war are to be let loose, and inconceivable mischief to ensue. If the inability of the people requires an extension of the time of payment; let them be indulged as far as may be consistent with a regard for the public exigencies: But let us not be so infatuated as to choose an expedient, which must either be inadequate to the destined purpose, or eventuate in bloodshed and war.—Requisitions, Sir, however modified, must come within this description: They strike me with horror and disgust. —I would as soon see a separation from the Union, and trust to the genius, patriotism, vigilance, and activity; to the morals and natural uprightness of the people, as to ask a Government with no other powers than those whereof our present system is possessed. This is an improvement on that system; and if we reject it, we are ruined. Our credit is depressed, and irretrievably gone, without a change of that system which has caused its depression. It is humiliating and disgraceful, to recur to loans, situated as we are. It is ruinous on any condition, on which our credit could be competent to obtain them: Though under a regular judicious system of administration, they may be verysalutary and beneficial. If some accounts be believed, your Ambassador has received from the King of France, those stipends which have supported him. Is this honorable? Is it safe for America? Safety, Sir, forbids so dishonorable and despicable a conduct as to leave our Representative in a state of absolute dependence on another power. Will not his situation be freely and forcibly represented to him? Remember Sir, the bread you eat to-morrow, depends on the bounty of the Count de Vergennes. Is it possible that in our present circumstances, we can inspire any one with confidence in our engagements? Where in the hour of distress and calamity shall Congress be able to borrow money? The present revenues are appropriated to different purposes, and are from the incompetency requisitions, inadequate to the public exigencies. Admitting the impost will be sufficiently productive to enable Congress to discharge its engagements, and answer all the demands of Government, in case of a war, will not necessity and the fear of danger render it necessary for the General Government to divert the revenues from the usual appropriations, to the defence of the Union? The necessity of such a diversion, does not lessen the certainty, that public credit would be destroyed by it—The interest on the public debt could not be paid—Foreign and domestic creditors would be disappointed and irritated—And the displeasure of the former might lead to the most serious consequences. What could the General Government do in such a situation, without the power of providing money by taxation: Requisitions would be fruitless and ineffectual: Nor could a Government which depended on such a slender and inefficient source, meet with credulity enough anywhere to trust it. Will you expose the Continental Congress to such a critical distress? Do you consult public liberty by reducing it to an extremity, whereof none can with certainty foretell the dangerous consequences? Is it not laying a train by which liberty is to be blown up? By withholding necessary power, you may unwarrily lay the foundation of usurpation itself.
I conclude with my firm belief that I shew my friendship for Virginia more steadfastly by discarding these requisitions, than by any proposition I could suggest.
The benefits arising from loans, are innumerable. Every nation, even the most wealthy, and the oldest nations, have found it necessary to recur to loans in time of war. This country has found it so, even in time of peace; but on a supposition of war, we must borrow money—it will be inevitable. How can Congress have credit to borrow any sum of a considerable amount, on any reasonable conditions, unless it have full scope, and complete command over the resources of the Union? Whatever may be the visionary and fanciful conclusions of political sceptics, the credit of a nation will be found to be co-extensive with its ability. If Congress have an uncontrouled power to raise money, as contingencies may render it necessary, it can borrow with ease: But if it have not this power, it is not possible that any confidence can be put in it.
The difficulty of justly apportioning the taxes among the States under the present system, has been complained of: the rule of apporrtionment being the value of all lands and improvements within the States: The inequality between the rich lands of James river and the barrens of Massachusetts, has been thought to militate against Virginia. If taxes could be laid according to the real value, no inconvenience could follow; but from a variety of reasons this value was very difficult to be ascertained; and an error in the estimation must necessarily have been oppressive to a part of the community. But in this new Constitution, there is a more just and equitable rule fixed; a limitation beyond which they cannot go. Representatives and taxes go hand in hand; according to the one will the other be regulated. The number of Representatives are determined by the number of the inhabitants—They have nothing to do but to lay taxes accordingly. I will illustrate it by a familiar example. At present, before the people are actually numbered, the number of Representatives is sixty-five; of this number Virginia has a right to send ten; consequently she will have to pay ten parts out of sixty-five parts, of any sum that may be necessary to be raised by Congress: This, Sir, is the line.—Can Congress go beyond the bounds prescribed in the Constitution? Has Congress a power to say, that she shall pay fifteen parts out of sixty-five parts? Were they to assume such a power, it would be an usurpation so glaring, that rebellion would be the immediate consequence. Congress is only to say on what subject the tax is to be laid. It is a matter of very little consequence, how it will be imposed, since it must be clearly laid on the most productive article in each particular State. I am surprised that such strong objections should have been made to, and such fears and alarms excited by, this power of direct taxation; since experience shews daily, that it is neither inconvenient (n)or oppressive.—A collector goes to a man's house; the man pays him with freedom, or makes an apology for his inability to do it then:—At a further day, if payment be not made, distress is made, and acquiesced in by the party. What difference is there between this and a tax imposed by Congress? Is it not done by lawful authority? The distinction is between a Virginian and Continental authority. Yet in both cases it is imposed by ourselves, through the medium of our Representatives. When a tax will come to be laid by Congress, the collector will apply in like manner, and in the same manner receives payment, or an apology; at a future day, likewise, the same consequences will result from a failure. I presume, Sir, there is a manifest similarity between the two cases. When Gentlemen complain of the novelty, they ought to advert to the singular one that must be the consequence of requisitions; an army sent into your country to force you to comply. Will not this be the dissolution of the Union, if ever it takes effect? Let us be candid on this subject: Let us see if the criterion here fixed be not equal and just. Were the tax laid on one uniform article through the Union, its operation would be oppressive on a considerable part of the people. When any sum is necessary for the General Government, every State will immediately know its exact proportion of it, from the number of their people and Representatives; nor can it be doubted that the tax will be laid in each State, in the manner that will best accommodate the people of such State, as thereby it will be raised with more facility; for an oppressive mode can never be so productive as the most easy for the people. The system under consideration is objected to in an unconnected and irregular manner: Detached parts are attacked without considering the whole: This, Sir, is disengenious and unreasonable.—Ask if the powers be unnecessary. If the end proposed can be attained by any other means, (the) powers may be unnecessary. Infallibility was not arrogated by the Convention—They included in the system those powers they thought necessary. If you do not think those powers indispensible, never give them up. But I trust this power of imposing direct taxes has been proved to be essential to the very existence of the Union. The advocates for the national Government, circumstanced as they are, with the accession of so many States never will give their assent to leave it in the power of the States to sacrifice the Union. It has been observed by an Honorable Gentleman over the way (Mr. George Mason) that there could not be a fellow-feeling between the national Representatives and their constituents, and that oppression must be inseparable from their exercise of the power of imposing taxes. I beg leave to remind you of a similar complaint made on a similar occasion. I allude to the Scotch Union. If Gentlemen cast their eyes to that period, they will find there an instructive similitude between our circumstances and the situation of those people. The advocates for an Union with England, declared that it would be a foundation of lasting peace, remove all jealousies between them, increase their strength and riches, and enable them to resist more effectually the efforts of the Pretender. These were irresistible arguments one would be inclined to believe; arguments a priori, which challenge conviction; and which appear perfectly conclusive, since now verified by actual events.—Yet the opposers to that Union, declaimed, that the independence of Scotland was gone; that the peerage of Scotland was degraded; that the people of England would alone be gainers, and that the people of Scotland would be the loosers. How are the facts? Both kingdoms have derived great benefits from that Union, and the predictions of the advocates for that Union have been fully verified. The arguments used on that occasion apply with more cogency to our situation.—The people of Rhode-Island may say, their independence will be lost by an Union with the other States; that they will be degraded; their consequence lost, and their liberties endangered. Many such specious and plausible arguments may be urged by their great men, who would no longer retain the importance, which their paper money, and other causes give them in a single State; yet the topographical situation of that State renders Union more essential to its existence, than to that of any other State. Is it urged that the independence of Virginia will be gone by the Union? Will not all the happy effects of the Union I have just mentioned, and more, redound to Virginia from this Union? But our Representatives are suspected. On a further inspection of the system before you, this objection must vanish. Ten Representatives will have no fellow-feeling for their constituents! Will not the people choose men of integrity, and of similar circumstances with themselves, to represent them? What laws can they make that will not operate on themselves and friends, as well as on the rest of the people? Will the people re-elect the same men to repeat oppressive legislation? Will the people commit suicide against themselves, and discard all those maxims and principles of interest and self-preservation which actuate mankind in all their transactions? Will the ten miles square transform our Representatives into brutes and tyrants? I see no grounds to distrust them: But suppose they will be inclined to do us mischief how can they effect it? If the Federal necessities call for the sum of 65,000 pounds, our proportion of that sum is 10,000 pounds. If instead of this just proportion, they should require a greater sum, a conflict would ensue. What steps could they take to enforce the payment of this unjust and tyrannical demand? They must summon up all the genius of better men: But in case of actual violence, they could not raise the thousandth part of 10,000 pounds. In case of a struggle, Sir, the people would be irresistible. If they should be so liable to lapse from virtue, yet would not one man be found out of a multitude to guard the interest of the people? Not one man to hold up his head, to discover the tyrannical projects of a corrupt and depraved majority? Suppose the House of Representatives all equally infatuated and determined on so wicked an intention as to infringe the rights of the people, they have not the whole authority in their own hands. There are twenty-six Senators, distinguished for their wisdom, not elevated by popular favor, but chosen by a select body of intelligent men: Will they also be corrupt? Will their honor and virtue be contaminated and disgraced in one instant? Sixty-five Representatives and twenty-six Senators are then to be suddenly changed from upright men to monsters: Ninety-one persons selected for superior qualities are to compose this pandemonium of iniquity. The supposition of their degenerating to such a degree is unwarrantable, and inconsistent with an admission of their being freely chosen, by a people capable of discerning merit: And should a majority ever be so forgetful of their duty, as to wish to trample on the immunities of the people, there is no reason to doubt, that some of them will be so far inspired with a zeal for liberty, as to warn their country of any dangerous combinations against their privileges.—The people, to heighten their security, may send those to the General Government who have been signalized for their wisdom and virtue. What security have the people of Virginia against the possible abuses of their Legislature, that is not here?—But their number is objected to, as being too small. I should reluctantly assent to this representative body, did I conceive it consisted of too few. It is an established maxim, that such a body ought to be numerous enough to be well acquainted with the interest of the people, to prevent corruption, and to give a chance to men of merit to be elected. If the number be not sufficient for these purposes, I confess it to be a defect. The number is sixty-five, of which ten represent this State. Cannot they inform themselves of the situation of America? I appeal to those who hear me, if they could not rely on the intelligence of ten men they could fix upon, sooner than upon any crowd they could have? I do not reflect on my countrymen, but there are certain listlessness and inattention to the interests of the community, or indecision and faction in numerous bodies, that I would rather depend on the virtue and knowledge of some few men, than on ever so many. The mode of their election must induce us to believe, that they will be men of experience and information. The State will be laid off and divided into ten districts; from each of these a man is to be elected. He must be really the choice of the people: Not the man who can distribute the most gold; for the riches of Crœsus would not avail. The qualifications of the electors being the same as those of the Representatives for the State Legislature, and the election being under the controul of the Legislature; the prohibitory provisions against undue means of procuring votes to the State representation, extend to the Federal Representatives: The extension of the sphere of election to so considerable a district, will render it impossible for contracted influence, or local intrigues, or personal interest to procure an election. Enquiries will be made by the voters, into the characters of the candidates.—Greater talents, and a more extensive reputation will be necessary, to procure an election for the Federal, than for the State representation. The Federal Representatives must therefore be well acquainted for their integrity, and their knowledge of the country they represent. We shall have ten men thus elected. What are they going yonder for? Not to consult for Virginia alone, but for the interest of the United States collectively. Will not such men derive sufficient information, from their own knowledge, of their respective States, and from the codes of the different States? The want of information ought no longer to be urged as an objection. With respect to merit, Sir, the House must be satisfied that there is ample room open for it. A cottager will receive the votes of his country, as well as the descendant of any aristocrat of this country. Is it not notorious that virtue and ability have been preferred generally here to riches and connections? The present number, sixty-five, is to be increased according to the progressive augmentation of the number of the people. From the present number of inhabitants, which is estimated at 352,000 whites, and 236,000 blacks, we shall be entitled to fifteen Representatives. But here another objection will be offered: It will be complained, that the taxes will be increased according to the number of Representatives, on which I will only observe here, that the same rule operates in all the States, and that it is not more unjust or oppressive in one State than in another. The number of Representatives is as great, as can be paid by America at this time: And, whatever other Gentlemen may conclude, on that subject, I think for my part, that it would be fortunate if the number was to continue as it is at present, for a long time; or at least, that it should be limited, not to exceed a certain amount; for, if you swell the Legislative list to such a degree, as the increase of population, at a reasonable calculation, will at a period not very remote, entitle the people to send, it will introduce corruption and confusion, and prevent that secrecy, without which, success can never be expected in negotiations, or other transactions. It was my purpose to answer the objections against the power of the national Government to lay direct taxes; and against the mode of representation.—It is needless to dwell much longer on the subject: Were one to rise from the dead to declare the expediency of that power, I could not be more firmly persuaded, than I am now, of its propriety. To dissuade us from conceding this power, Gentlemen alarm us with apprehensions, that the most intolerable oppressions will be committed by the federal collectors. Let us consider this dispassionately, and whether the idea be well founded, which is suggested, that a conflict will frequently happen between the State and Congressional collector, for property seized and claimed by both. If there be no necessity, or strong temptation, to increase the present number of officers, no addition will be made to them. Congress will have every inducement, and, from the mode of their appointment, must be inclined to lighten the burthens of the people. They can derive no advantage from a contrary conduct. In other countries, where the face of the poor is ground, offices are created merely for the emolument of certain individuals; but by the structure of this Government, the interest of the people must always be considered—Nor will any but necessary offices be created. The number of officers, and their compensations, will be as inconsiderable, as the nature of their business will admit of. With respect to collectors of the general taxes, I have not the least doubt, that Congress will employ the State officers and sheriffs; because it will be œconomical, and agreeable to the people: A considerable sum will be saved by it. They will employ such men, Mr. Chairman, unless they determine to throw away the public money in an unjustifiable manner. They will never adopt measures which may produce discontent in the country, when they can effect the same purpose by peaceable and satisfactory means. With regard to any personal abuse or misconduct of a collector, such an officer would be amenable to the laws, like any other citizen; he is only protected by the law, where he acts lawfully—In such cases the evil would not be repeated—It could not continue. Congress can take away their offices from such men as abuse them, and give them to others. It cannot be believed that they will carry their wickedness so far, as to trust men of this stamp. As to the mode of paying the taxes, little need be said—It is immaterial which way they are to be paid; for they are to be paid only once. I had an objection which pressed heavily on my mind—I was solicitous to know the objects of taxation. I wished to make some discrimination with regard to the demands of Congress, and of the States, on the same object. As neither can restrain the other in this case; as the power of both is unlimited, it will be their interest mutually to avoid interferences. It will most certainly be the interest of either to avoid imposing a tax on an article, which shall have been previously taxed by the other. This consideration, and the structure of the Government satisfy me.—I cannot foretel, in the course of human events, what Virginia and the United States may be exposed to, blindfolded as I am with respect to futurity; but I would not restrict Congress in this case, unless I meant to destroy the Government itself.—What will be the consequence of withholding this power from Congress? Will it not be reduced to the most dangerous distress, if a war should happen? The case has happened, and may again. In case of domestic war, or an invasion, every shilling they could lay their hands on, would be necessary, but not sufficient to carry it on. What could the General Government do, without this source to procure money, for the prosecution of the war, and its other exigencies? I beg the friends of the Union to consider the necessity of this power—Without it we may abandon the Government altogether—It is the soul of the Government—No substitute will answer in its stead.—The history of other confederacies will instruct us, that the General Government must operate on the individuals of the community; or else be totally inefficient. Not ancient confederacies only, but certain modern ones, will point out to us the horrid situation in which those States must be involved, unless the General Government be vested with this power.—The history of those confederacies will discover to us the dreadful misfortunes which their people have suffered by the imbecility of their Governments. If some other Gentleman will not, I shall discover at another opportunity, that mournful history.
Mr. Madison.—Mr. Chairman—In considering this great subject, I trust we shall find that part which gives the General Government, the power of laying and collecting taxes, indispensible 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, here we find ample reasons to prove its expediency. There is little reason to depend for necessary supplies on a body which is fully possessed of the power withholding them. If a Government depends on other Governments for its revenues; if it must depend on the voluntary contributions of its members, its existence must be precarious. A Government which 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 promote the happiness of any people? It is subversive of every principle of sound policy, to trust the safety of a community with a Government, totally destitute of the means of protecting itself or its members. Can Congress, after the repeated unequivocal proofs it has experienced of the utter inutility and inefficacy of requisitions, reasonably expect, that they would be hereafter effectual or productive? Will not the same local interests, and other causes, militate against a compliance? Whoever hopes the contrary must 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 independent: Let your revenues depend on requisitions of proportionate quotas from them: Let application be made to them repeatedly: Is it to be presumed that they would comply, or that an adequate collection could be made from partial compliances? It is now difficult to collect the taxes from them: How much would that difficulty be enhanced, were you to depend solely on their generosity? I appeal to the reason of every Gentleman here, whether he is not persuaded, that the present Confederation is as feeble, 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 debility.—If we recur to history, and review the annals 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 will not demonstrate the necessity of this change; and of substituting to the present pernicious and fatal plan, the system now under consideration, or one equally as energetic. 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, in every instance, been productive of anarchy and confusion; ineffectual for the preservation of harmony, and a prey to their own dissentions and foreign invasions.
The Amphyctionic league resembled our Confederation in its nominal powers; it was possessed of rather more power. The component States retained their sovereignty, and enjoyed an equality of suffrage in the Federal Council. But though its powers were more considerable in many respects than those of our present system; yet it had the same radical defect. Its powers were exercised over its individual 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 inforce its decrees. The struggles consequent on a refusal to obey a decree, and an attempt to enforce it, produced the necessity of applying to foreign assistance: By complying with such an application, together with his intrigues, Philip of Macedon, acquired sufficient influence to become a member of the league. This artful and insiduous Prince soon after became master of their liberties.
The Achæan league, though better constructed than the Amphyctionic, in material respects, was continually agitated with domestic dissentions, and driven to the necessity of calling foreign aid: This also eventuated in the demolition 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 unnecessary all foreign interpositions in their affairs, but would have enabled them to repel the attack 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, nor internal felicity of the people—The doctrine of quotas and requisitions flourishes here. Without energy—without stability—the empire is a nerveless body. The most furious conflicts, and the most implacable animosities between its members, strikingly distinguish its history. Concert and co-operation are incompatible with such an injudiciously constructed system.
The republic of the Swiss is sometimes instanced for its stability, but even there, dissentions and wars of a bloody nature, have been frequently seen between the Cantons. A peculiar coincidence of circumstances contributes to the continuance of their political connection. Their feeble association owes its existence to their singular situation. There is a schism this moment in their Confederacy, which, without the necessity of uniting for their external defence, would immediately produce its dissolution.
The Confederate Government of Holland, is a further confirmation of the characteristic imbecility 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 De Wit, respecting the people of Holland, and the war which they had so long supported against the Spanish Monarch; shewing the impolitic and injudicious structure of their confederacy; that it was entirely destitute of energy, because their revenues depended chiefly on requisitions; that during that long war, the Provinces of Guelderland and Overyssell 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 prosecution of the war: That the fear of pressing danger stimulated Holland and the other Provinces to pay all the charges of the war: That those two Provinces had continued their delinquencies; that the Province of Holland alone paid more than all the rest; still those Provinces who paid up their proportional shares, claimed from the failing States the amounts of their arrearages; that the most fatal consequences had nearly resulted from the difficulty of adjusting 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.)
Mr. Madison then added, That these radical defects in their confederacy must have dissolved their association long ago, were it not for their peculiar position—Circumscribed in a narrow territory; 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: And that their late unhappy dissentions were manifestly produced by the vices of their system. He then continued we may derive much benefit from the experience of that unhappy country Governments destitute of energy, will ever produce anarchy.—These facts are worthy the most serious consideration of every Gentleman here.—Does not the history of these confederacies coincide with the lesson 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 Government is to depend on the voluntary contributions of the States for its support, dismemberment of the United States may be the consequence. In cases of imminent danger, the States more immediately exposed to it, would only exert themselves—Those remote from it, would be too supine to interest themselves warmly in the fate of those whose distresses they did not immediately perceive. The General Government ought therefore to be empowered 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 interest is incompatible with an extention 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 afforded 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 necessities, will not be able to afford any effectual succour to those parts which may be invaded.
America, in such a case, would palpably 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 instructive lesson, from an American confederacy;—from an example which has happened in our own country, and which applies to us with peculiar force, being most analogous to our situation. 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 Common-Council, consisting of deputies from each party, with an equality of suffrage in their deliberations. 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 operation to be conducive to the public happiness.
There are facts on record to prove, that instead of answering the end of its institution, or the expectation of its framers, it was violated with impunity; and only regarded when it coincided 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 confederacy. Massachusetts refused to pay its quotas. In the war between England and Holland, it was found particularly necessary to make more exertions for the protection of that country.
Massachusetts being then more powerful and less exposed than the other Colonies, refused its contributions to the general defence. In consequence of this, the Common-Council remonstrated 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 consequences of a longer adherence to the latter.
(Mr. Madison then recapitulated many instances of the prevalent persuasion of the wisest patriots of the States, that the safety of all America depended on Union; and that the Government of the United States must be possessed of an adequate degree of energy, or that otherwise their connection could not be justly denominated an Union.—He likewise enumerated the expedients that had been attempted by the people of America to form an intimate association, 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 continued thus—If we take experience for our guide, we shall find still more instructive direction on this subject. The weakness of the existing articles of the Union, shewed itself during the war. It has manifested itself since the peace, to such a degree as admits of no doubt to a rational, intelligent, and unbiassed mind, of the necessity of an alteration: Nay, this necessity is obvious to all America—It has forced itself on the minds of the people. The Committee has been informed, that the Confederation was not completed till the year, 1781, when a great portion of the war was ended; consequently no 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 in operation—A recapitulation of the proofs which have been experienced of its inefficacy, is unnecessary.—It is most notorious, that feebleness universally marked its character—Shall we be safe in another war in the same situation? That instrument required the voluntarycontributions of the States, and thereby sacrificed some ofour best privileges.—The most intolerable and unwarrantable oppressions were committed 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 preponderated against every consideration.
A scene of injustice, partiality and oppression, may bring heavenly vengeance on any people. We are now by our sufferings, expiating the crimes of the otherwise glorious revolution. Is it not known to every member of this Committee, that the great principles of a free Government, were reversed through the whole progress of that scene? Was not every State harrassed? Was not every individual oppressed and subjected to repeated distresses? Was this right? Was it a proper form of Government, that warranted, authorised, or overlooked, the most wanton deprivation of property? Had the Government been vested with complete power to procure a regular and adequate supplyof 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 [George Washington] who had the most extensive acquaintance with the nature of the country; who well understood 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 testified his disapprobation of the present system, and suggested that some alteration was necessary 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 respectable 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 urged for this change. Experience was daily producing 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 that 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 been abundantly heard in the course of this debate, manifold and cogent enough, not only to operate conviction, but to disgust an attentive hearer. Recollect the resolution of the year 1784. It was then found that the whole burthen of the Union was sustained by a few States. This State was likely to be saddled with a very disproportionate share. That expedient was proposed (to obviate this inconvenience) which has been placed in its true light. It has been painted in sufficient horrors by the Honorable Gentleman who spoke last [Edmund Randolph].
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 shall 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 violation of treaties already entered into, proves this truth unequivocally. No nation will therefore make any stipulations with Congress, conceding any advantages of importance to us: They will be the more averse to entering into engagements with us, as the imbecility of our Government enables them to derive many advantages from our trade, without grant ing us any return. But 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 temporise till our Government acquired consistency? Will any nation relinquish national advantages to us? You will be greatly disappointed, if you expect any such good effects from this contemptible system. Let us recollect our conduct to that country from which we have received the most friendly aid. How have we dealt with that benevolent ally? Have we complied with our most sacred obligations to that nation? Have we paid the interest punctually from year to year? Is not the interest accumulating, while not a shilling is discharged of the principal? The magnanimity and forbearance of that ally are so great, that she has not called upon us, for her claims, even in her own distress and necessity. This, Sir, is an additional motive to increase our exertions. At this moment of time, a very considerable amount is due from us to that country and others.—(Here Mr. Madison mentioned the 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 disgraceful expedient. Is this a situation on which America can rely for security and happiness? How are we to extricate ourselves? The Honorable member told us, we might rely on the punctuality and friendship of the States, and that they will discharge their quotas for the future. The contributions of the States have been found inadequate from the beginning, and are diminishing instead of increasing.—From the month of June, 1787, till June, 1788, they have only paid 276,641 dollars into the federal treasury for the purposes of supporting the National Government, and discharging the interest of the national debts: A sum so very insufficient, that it must greatly alarm the friends of their country. Suggestions and strong assertions dissipate before these facts. I shall no longer fatigue the Committee at this time, but will resume the subject as early as I can.
Mr. Henry.—I have thought, and still think, that a full investigation of the actual situation of America, ought to precede any decision 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 adoption 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 entail misery on the free people of this country, I then insist, that rejection ought to follow. Gentlemen strongly urge 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, till I see our liberties 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 irritating the avenging hand of Heaven, when a people who are in the full enjoyment of freedom, 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 admiration and engaged the attention of the virtuous and wise in all nations, and have stood the shock of ages. We do not now admit the validity of maxims, which we once delighted in. We have since adopted maxims of a different but more refined nature: New maxims which tend to the prostration of republicanism.
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 maxims.
Now, Sir, I say, let us consider, whether the picture given of American affairs ought to drive us from those beloved maxims.
The Honorable Gentleman (Governor Randolph) has said, that it is too late in the day 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 glaring. That Honorable member will not accuse me of want of candour, 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 that which 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 excuse me, if they should declare again and again, that it was too late, and I should think differently. 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 consideration, 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 dangerous defects? They urge that subsequent amendments are safer than previous amendments, and that they will answer the same ends. At present we have our liberties and privileges in our own hands. Let us not relinquish them. Let us not adopt this system till we see them secured. There is some small possibility, that should we follow the conduct of Massachusetts, amendments might be obtained. There is a small possibility of amending any Government; but, Sir, shall we abandon our most inestimable rights, and rest their security on a mere possibility? The Gentleman [Edmund Randolph] fears the 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? Shall 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 dangerous state, a schism must inevitably be the consequence: I can never, therefore, consent to hazard our most 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 vanished—Citizens going to seek comforts in other parts of the world—Laws insulted—Many instances 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 be attributed 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 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 suffer by a comparison with those who administered it under 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 important, 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 comparison with the former Government. The laws are as well executed, and as patiently acquiesced in, as they were under the royal administration. Compare the situation of the country—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 Commonwealth, whose person can be insulted with impunity? Cannot redress be had here for personal 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 misfortunes and calamities. 'Tis the fortune of a republic 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 intimidated by imaginary dangers. Fear is the passion of slaves. Our political and natural hemisphere[s] 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 misrepresentations 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 recollection to many that happened during the war and since—But every Gentleman here must be apprized of them.
The Honorable member [Edmund Randolph] has given you an elaborate account of what he judges tyrannical legislation, and an ex post facto law (in the case of Josiah Philips.) He has misrepresented the facts. That man was not executed by a tyrannical stroke of power (nor was he a Socrates). He was a fugitive murderer and an out-Iaw—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 shocking barbarities. He was an enemy to the human 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 ceremonies 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 out-law, 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 tells 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 objects. The microscopic eyes of modern States-men can see abundance of defects in old systems; and their illumined imaginations discover 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 but too well founded. I tremble for my country: But, Sir, I trust, I rely, and I am confident, 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 geographical situation, will be more properly considered awhile 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 induced 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 Gentlemen spoke of as being in danger of being separated 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 dismemberment of our country, unless a Constitution be adopted which will enable the Government to plant enemies on our backs. By the Confederation, the rights of territory are secured. No treaty can be made without the consent of nine States. While the consent of nine States is necessary to the cession of territory 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 [Edmund Randolph] cannot be ignorant of the Spanish transactions.—A treaty had been nearly entered into with Spain, to relinquish that navigation. That relinquishment would absolutely have taken place, had the consent of seven States been sufficient. The Honorable Gentleman told us then, that eight States having 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.—Vermont, Sir, withstood the terror of thirteen States. Maryland did not accede to the Confederation 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 admitted freely into the Union. Will not Virginia then be admitted? I flatter myself that those States who have ratified the new plan of Government will open their arms and chearfully receive us, although we should propose certain amendments as the conditions on which we should ratify it. During the late war, all the States were in pursuit of the same object. To obtain that object they made the most strenuous exertions. They did not suffer trivial considerations to impede its acquisition. Give me leave to say, that if the smallest States in the Union were admitted into it, after having unreasonably 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 founded 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 position, and affluence and wealth? Some infatuation 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 propositions of others? Sir, were there nothing objectionable 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 opinion. Are our opinions not to be regarded? I hope that you will recollect, that you are going to join with men who will pay no respect even to this State.
Switzerland consists of thirteen cantons expressly confederated for national defence. They have stood the shock of 400 years: That country has enjoyed internal tranquillity most of that long period. Their dissentions have been comparatively, to those of other countries, very few. What has passed in the neighbouring countries? Wars, dissentions, and intrigues. Germany involved in the most deplorable civil war, thirty years successively—Continually convulsed with intestine divisions, and harrassed by foreign wars. 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 freedom—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 these 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 secured their own liberty, but have been the arbiters of the fate of other people. Here, Sir, contemplate the triumph of republican Governments over the pride of monarchy. I acknowledge, 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 together. But, Sir, they have had wisdom enough to keep together and render themselves formidable. 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 virtuous 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 reputation no less by their undaunted intrepidity, than by the wisdom of their frugal and œcnomical policy. Let us follow their example, and be equally happy. The Honorable member advises us to adopt a measure which will destroy our Bill of Rights. For, after hearing his picture of nations, and his reasons for abandoning all the powers retained to the States by the confederation, 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 us examine it—When 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 revision. Instead of this, a new system, totally different in its nature and vesting the most extensive 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 caution and circumspection are therefore necessary—Nor does this proposed system in its investigation here, deserve the least charity.
The Honorable member [Edmund Randolph] says, that the National Government is without energy. I perfectly 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 acknowledge 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 œconomy.
The Honorable Gentleman alledges, that previous 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- not be denied. The reason offered 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 advantages—That is, that they will deprive you of every advantage if they can. Apply this another way.—Their cheaper way—instead of laying 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 out number ours on the ocean, or that nations whose interest comes in contrast with ours, in the progress of their guilt, will perpetrate the vilest expedients to exclude us from a participation in commercial 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 Senators 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 to 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, sufficient to make me abandon my republican principles.—The Honorable Gentleman ought to have recollected, that there were no tyrants in America, as there are in Europe.—The citizens of republican borders 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 confederacy of States joined together becomes strong as the United Netherlands.—The Government of Holland (execrated as it is) proves that the present Confederation is adequate to every purpose 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 recollection of the situation of that country, would make me execrate monarchy. The singular felicity and success of that people are unparalleled—Freedom has done miracles there in reclaiming 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 affluence and power? Did they consolidate Government, to effect these purposes as we do? No, Sir, they have triumphed over every obstacle and difficulty; and have arrived at the summit of political felicity, and of uncommon opulence, by means of a confederacy; that very Government which Gentlemen affect to despise. They have, Sir, avoided a consolidation as the greatest of evils. They have lately, it is true, made one advance to that fatal progression. This misfortune burst on them by iniquity and artifice. That Stadtholder that Executive Magistrate, contrived it in conjunction with other European nations. It was not the choice of the people. Was it owing to his 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 inconvenience, to have consolidated their different States, and have a ten miles square? Compare that little spot, nurtered 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 debasing the principles and trampling on the rights of their citizens. Sir, they acquired these by their industry, œconomy, 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, precipitated by the rage of ambition or folly, have, in the pursuit of the most magnificent projects, rivetted the fetters of bondage on themselves and descendants, these republicans 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 will 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 [George Nicholas] tells us, that no inconvenience will result 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 collector. A change of Government will not pay money. If from the probable amount of the impost, you take the enormous and extravagant expences, which will certainly attend the support of this great Consolidated Government, I believe you will find no reduction of the public burthens by this new system. The splendid maintenance of the President and of the members of both Houses; and the salaries and fees of the swarm of officers and dependants on the Government will cost this Continent immense sums. Double sets of collectors will double the expence. To these are to be added oppressive excise-men and custom-house officers. 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 administration 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 contaminated by influence of every kind.
The stile of the Government (we the people) 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 assimilating our citizens to a herd.—(Here Governor Randolph arose, and declared that he did not use that word to excite any odium, but merely to convey an idea of a multitude.—Mr. Henry replied, that it made a deep impression on his mind, and that he verily believed, that system would operate as he had said.—He then continued. I will exchange that abominable word for requisitions—requisitions which Gentlemen affect to despise, have nothing degrading 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 [Edmund Randolph] the soul of the Government: Another Gentleman [Francis Corbin], 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 our souls. The State must have our souls. This is dishonorable and disgraceful. These two co-ordinate, interferring unlimited powers of harrassing the community, are unexampled: It is unprecedented 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 with 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 Virginia. They tell us, that one collector may collect the Federal and State taxes. The General Government being paramount to the State Legislatures; if the Sheriff 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. Defficiencies in collections will always operate against the States. Congress being the paramount supreme power, must not be disappointed. Thus Congress will have an unlimited, unbounded command over the soul of this Commonwealth. After satisfying their uncontrouled demands, what can be left for the States? Not a sufficiency even to defray the expence of their internal administration. 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 me.
If we are to have one Representative for every 30,000 souls it must be by implication. 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.4 We are giving power, they are getting power, judge then, on which side the implication will be used. When we once put it in the

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1788-6-7

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