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title:“None of the Well-Born Conspirators”
date written:1788-4-23

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:02 a.m. UTC
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"None of the Well-Born Conspirators." Philadelphia Freeman's Journal 1788-04-23 : . Rpt. in The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 17. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1995. 202-06. Print.
Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress

None of the Well-Born Conspirators (April 23, 1788)

In public disquisitions, especially political controversies, one of the parties generally adopt some cant word or phrase, whereby they may be distinguished from their opponents; and what renders the circumstance remarkably curious, the word or phrase is nineteen times out of twenty wrong applied. Thus in the party politics of Britain, under one administration candor was their shibbolith, when the most abusive, uncandid, and dirty mouthed scoundrels in the kingdom were the favourites of court; under another, œconomy, was the watch-word, yet profuseness and prodigality in public concerns, was then at their ne plus ultra; again, national honor, was buzzed about, when not a fragment of honor, principle, or even national courage could be traced at court; this was in Lord North's ever memorable administration. Now in an exact agreement with this plan, one of our American political parties, are incessantly bellowing out, federalism, federal measures, federal gentlemen, &c. &c.
If the words, Federal, Federalism, &c. are to be taken in their general and common acceptation, as derived from Fœdus, a league, or covenant, entered into for the mutual advantage of all; there cannot be found a greater abuse of words than in this instance; for our modern fœderalists, namely, the advocates of the new constitution, evidently aim at nothing but the elevation and aggrandizement of a few over the many. The liberty, property, and every social comfort in life of the yeomanry in America, are to be sacrificed at the altar of tyranny. Federalism then taken in this sense must imply something very remote from its original natural import; it must, (and truly there is no help for saying so) signify a league entered into against the sacred liberties of the people; that is in plain terms a conspiracy; and this is the fifth signification of the word Fœdus, given by Ainsworth in his excellent Latin dictionary Perhaps the consciences of the conspirators in the dark conclave urged them to assume a name which might be in some measure a key to disclose their perfidy. Conscience is a stern arbiter, and often compels us to witness against ourselves. Accompanied by such a faithful monitor the abettors of despotism adopted an epithet that should, when perfectly understood, be the true index to their base intentions. Take the word Federalism directly or indirectly, and it amounts neither to more nor less in its modern acceptation than a conspiracy of the Well-born few, against the sacred rights and privileges of their fellow citizens.

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