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title:“Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention”
date written:1788-1-25

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:18 a.m. UTC
retrieved:June 27, 2022, 3:19 p.m. UTC

"Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 6. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2000. 1352-55. Print.

Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention (January 25, 1788)

Hon. Mr. DALTON. Mr. President, it has been demanded by some gentlemen in opposition to this Constitution, why those who were opposed to the augmentation of the powers of Congress a few years since, should now be the warmest advocates for the powers to be granted by the sect. under debate. Sir, I was opposed to the 5 per cent, impost being granted to Congress; and I conceived that such a grant under the confederation, would produce great difficulties and embarrassments. But, sir, as Congress is by the proposed Constitution to be differently constructed,-as a proportionate voice of the states in that body, is to be substituted for the present equal (or rather unequal one) my objections will be removed. In my opinion, the delegating of power to a government, in which the people have so many checks, will be perfectly safe, and consistent with the preservation of liberties.
Mr. AMES said, that in the course of the debates, gentlemen had justified the confederation; but he wished to ask, whether there was any danger in this constitution, which is not in the confederation? If gentlemen are willing to confederate, why, he asked, ought not Congress to have the powers granted by this section. In the confederation, said Mr. A. the checks are wanting, which are to be found in this Constitution. And the fears of gentlemen, that this Constitution will provide for a permanent aristocracy, are therefore ill founded-for the rulers will always be dependent on the people; like the insects of a sunshine day, may by the breath of their displeasure, be annhilated.
Mr. WIDGERY. Mr. President. Enough has, I think, been said on the 8th section. It has been repeated over and over again, that the adoption of the Constitution will please all ranks of people, that the present inefficiency of the confederation is obvious; and that blessed things will surely be the result of this Constitution. Many say ask the Merchants? Ask the yeomanry? But they do not tell us what the answer of these will be All we hear is, that the merchant and farmer will flourish-and that the mechanick and tradesman are to make their fortunes directly if the Constitution goes down. Is it, sir because the seat of government is to be carried to Philadelphia? Who, sir is to pay the debts of the yeomanry and others? Sir when oil will quench fire, I will believe all this-and not till then: On the contrary I think the adopting this Constitution, makes against them; though it may be something in favour of the merchants. Have not Congress power to tax polls-for there is no other way of levying a dry tax; and by this means, the poor will pay as much as the rich.1 Gentlemen say we are undone-and that there is no resource, unless this Constitution is adopted. I cannot see why we need swallow a great bone for the sake of a little meat, which if it should happen to stick in our throats, can never be got out. Some gentlemen have given out, that we are surrounded by enemies that we owe debts, and that the nations will make war against us, and take our shipping, &c-Sir I ask, if this is a fact? Or whether gentlemen think as they say-I believe they do not-For I believe they are convinced, that the nations we owe, do not wish us at present to pay more than the interest.
Mr W after considering some other observations which had dropped from gentlemen in the course of the debates on the 8th section, concluded by saying, that he could not see the great danger that would arise from rejecting the Constitution.
The Hon. Mr GORHAM adverted to the suggestion of some gentle men, that by granting the impost to Congress this state would pay more than its proportion; and said, that it could be made an objection as much against one government as another But he believed, gentlemen would accede, that the impost was a very proper tax. As to the tax on polls, which the gentleman from New-Gloucester2 had said would take place, he saw he said, no article in the Constitution which warranted the assertion-It was, he said, a distressful tax, and would never be adopted. By impost and excise, the man of luxury will pay and the middling and the poor parts of the community who live by their industry - will go clear; and as this would be the easiest method of raising a revenue, it was the most natural to suppose it would be resorted to-2 20 per cent. he said, may as well be paid for some luxuries, as 5, nay 100 per cent. impost on some articles, might be laid on, as is done in England and France. How often, observed the Hon. Gentleman, has Mr Adams tried to accomplish commercial treaty with England, but they think Congress but a feeble power They prohibit our oil, fish,, lumber pot and pearl ashes, from being imported into their territories, in order to favour Nova-Scotia, for they know we cannot make general. 1354 V. MASSACHUSETTS CONVENTION retaliating laws. They have a design in Nova-Scotia to rival us in the fishery and our situation at present favours their design. From the abundance of our markets, we could supply them with beef butter pork, &c. but they lay what restrictions on them they please, which they dare not do, was there an adequate power lodged in the general government to regulate commerce.
Mr JONES, Col. PORTER, and Col. VARNUM, said a few words in favour of the article-when the Convention proceeded to the consideration of The 9th section.
Mr NEAL (from Kittery) went over the ground of objection to this sect. on the idea, that the slave trade was allowed to be continued for 20 years. His profession, he said, obliged him to bear witness against any thing that should favour the making merchandize of the bodies of men; and unless his objection was removed, he could not put his hand to the constitution. Other gentlemen said, in addition to this idea, that there was not even a provision that the negroes ever shall be free3and Gen. Thompson exclaimed:
Mr President-Shall it be said, that after we have established our own independence and freedom, we make slaves of others. Oh! Washington, what a name has he had! How he has immortalized himself!- but he holds those in slavery who have a good right to be free as he has-He is still for self and in my opinion, his character has sunk 50 per cent.
On the other side gentlemen said, that the step taken in this article, towards the abolition of slavery was one of the beauties of the Constitution. They observed that in the confederation there was no provision whatever for its ever being abolished; but this constitution provides, that Congress may after 20 years, totally annihilate the slave trade; and that all the states, except two, have passed laws to this effect,5 it might reasonably be expected, that it would then be done-in the interim, all the states were at liberty to prohibit it.

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