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title:“Luther Martin’s Defense of Gerry”
authors:Luther Martin
date written:1788-1-18

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retrieved:March 4, 2024, 4:57 p.m. UTC

Martin, Luther. "Luther Martin’s Defense of Gerry." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Luther Martin’s Defense of Gerry (January 18, 1788)

I beg leave, through the channel of your Paper, to declare to the Public that from the time I took my seat in convention, which was early in June, until the fourth day of September, when I left Philadelphia, I am satisfied I was not ten minutes absent from convention while sitting (excepting only five days in the beginning of August, immediately after the committee of detail had reported, during which but little business was done.) That during my attendance I never heard Mr. Gerry or any other member introduce a proposition for the redemption of continental money according to its nominal or any other value, nor did I ever hear that such a proposition had been offered to consideration or had been thought of.1 I was intimate with Mr. Gerry, and never heard him express, in private conversation or otherwise, a wish for the redemption of continental money, or assign the want of such a provision as a defect. Nor did I ever hear in Convention, or anywhere else, such a motive of conduct attributed to Mr. Gerry. I also declare to the Public that a considerable time before I left the convention Mr. Gerry's opposition to the System was warm and decided; that in a particular manner he strenuously opposed that provision by which the power and authority over the militia is taken away from the States and given to the general government;1 that in the debate he declared if that measure was adopted it would be the most convincing proof that the destruction of the State governments and the introduction of a king was designed, and that no declarations to the contrary ought to be credited, since it was giving the states the last coup de grace by taking from them the only means of self preservation. The conduct of the advocates and framers of this system towards the thirteen States, in pretending that it was designed for their advantage, and gradually obtaining power after power to the general government, which could not but end in their slavery, he compared to the conduct of a number of jockeys who had thirteen young colts to break; they begin with the appearance of kindness, giving them a lock of hay, or a handful of oats, and stroaking them while they eat, until being rendered sufficiently gentle they suffer a halter to be put round their necks; obtaining a further degree of their confidence, the jockeys slip a curb bridle on their heads and the bit into their mouths, after which the saddle follows of course, and well booted and spurred, with good whips in their hands, they mount and ride them at their pleasure, and although they may kick and flounce a little at first, nor being able to get rid of their riders, they soon become as tame and passive as their masters could wish them. In the course of public debate in the convention Mr. Gerry applied to the system of government, as then under discussion, the words of Pope with respect to vice, "that it was a monster of such horrid mien, as to be hated need but to be seen." And some time before I left Philadelphia, he in the same public manner declared in convention that he should consider himself a traitor to his country if he did not oppose the system there, and also when he left the convention. These, sir, are facts which I do not fear being contradicted by any member of the convention, and will, I apprehend, satisfactorily shew that Mr. Gerry's opposition proceeded from a conviction in his own mind that the government, if adopted, would terminate in the destruction of the States and in the introduction of a kingly government.
[Footnotes as included or written by Farrand]
  • 1 See CLVII above. Gerry's reply is in CLXII, the controversy is continued in CLXXXIX-CXCII and CXCIX.
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