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title:“Newspaper Report 2 of Pennsylvania Convention Proceedings”
date written:1787-11-28

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:57 a.m. UTC
retrieved:June 5, 2020, 10:10 a.m. UTC

"Newspaper Report 2 of Pennsylvania Convention Proceedings." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 2. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1976. 422-23. Print.

Newspaper Report 2 of Pennsylvania Convention Proceedings (November 28, 1787)

On Wednesday Mr. M'Kean closed a long speech on the legislative Article of the new Constitution, with this striking observation. "Though a good system of government is certainly a blessing, yet it is on the administration of the best system that the freedom, wealth, and happiness of the people depend. DESPOTISM, if wisely administered, is the best form of government invented by the ingenuity of man and we find that the people under absolute and limited monarchies, under aristocracies, and mixed governments are as contented and as prosperous as we are, owing, undoubtedly, to the wisdom and virtue of their rulers. In short, the best government may be so conducted as to produce misery and disgrace, and the worst so administered as to insure dignity and happiness to a nation."
On the same day, in an elegant, ingenious, and argumentative speech traced some of the leading defects in the Constitution and endeavored to show that, if not in express terms, yet by inevitable consequence, it would terminate in a consolidation and not a confederation of the states. To this objection (which Mr. Wilson agreed, if taken upon true grounds, was a very serious and important one), the argument respecting the necessary relation between the state legislatures and the federal branches of government was repeated, the latter of which could not exist, it was said, if the former were annihilated. "But," added Mr. Smilie, "let us review the history of Rome, and we shall find, after the most absolute and horrid tyranny was established on the imperial throne, the ancient forms of the commonwealth were preserved; its senate still met and were flattered with a show of authority, but we know the power and dignity of that once illustrious body were dwindled to a name. So, here Mr. President, the shadow of state government may long be retained when the substance is totally lost and forgotten."
"Liberty and happiness," says Mr. Wilson, "have a powerful enemy on each hand; on the one hand tyranny, on the other licentiousness. To guard against the latter, it is necessary to give the proper powers to government; and to guard against the former, it is necessary that those powers should be properly distributed." "I agree," replies Mr. Smilie, "that it is, or ought to be, the object of all governments to fix upon the intermediate point between tyranny and licentiousness; and, I confess, that the plan before us is perfectly armed to repel the latter, but I believe it has deviated too much on the left hand, and rather invites than guards against the approaches of tyranny."

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