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title:“St. John de Crevecoeur to Comte de la Luzerne”
authors:St. John de Crevecoeur
date written:1788-5-16

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:36 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 10, 2021, 11:33 a.m. UTC

John, St .. "Letter to Comte de la Luzerne." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 18. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1995. 16-18. Print.
Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress

St. John de Crevecoeur to Comte de la Luzerne (May 16, 1788)

In accordance with the orders that I have received by your dispatch of 17 November, I have the honor to transmit to you three copies of the new Constitution. I was getting ready to send you a literal translation when I saw it inserted in the Courier de l'Europe N. 4, 5, 6 & 7.
The Maryland Convention has just adopted this new System of government by a majority of 63 to 11; according to the most authentic Letters recently received from South Carolina, it seems very likely that that State will adopt it also. As for Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, & New York, no definite opinion can yet be formed, since their conventions will not be held until the months of June & July. Fœderalists & Antis (as they are called here) spare no means to have the choice of the people fall on the persons whose principles are similar to those of their parties. The Election of the Town of Alexandria was kept open for three days, in order to give the partisans of the new Constitution, & General Washington's friends, the time to get him to agree to be elected as one of the members of the State Convention but ever restrained by his modesty, he steadfastly refused to do it. It is said that he fears that if he appears to be too zealous a fœderalist, that he would be accused of working for himself since he cannot ignore the fact that if the new Constitution takes place, he is destined to become the first President-general, this conduct does nothing to assure those who maintain that his presence alone in the Convention, would have carried [more than?] twenty votes. The greatest opposition on the part of Antifœderalists is expected in this last state [New York]: This party counts among its members several very popular people it is true, but the other prides itself quite justly on having leaders of the soundest judgment & the best Orators. One awaits the Outcome of this Period of Conventions; South Carolina's was to begin on the 12th of this month; this State's is set for 17 June; Virginia's for the first week, New Hampshire's for the last of the same month, finally that of North Carolina for 4 July.
But although it is very probable that nine or even ten States will accept this new form, I am still far from conceiving that it will be able to have much vigor for a long time yet; it is very likely that the Delegates who will compose the first federal Congress will be specially instructed by their Constituents not to support any act of Legislation before having obtained the ratification of different clauses (amendments) which, depending on the local interests of the confederated States, will all be contradictory;2 & then how to subject to the dominion of laws a people, who for so long have not experienced a salutary check, who confuse a license without bounds under the name of Liberty, who believe that one can be free without government & rich without effort; how to restrain a people who inhabit a Continent so vast and so unlimited, a people whose manners are so changed, for the upheaval in customs & opinions occasioned by its separation from Europe has created a sort of interregnum, a void, that can only be replaced after a long passage of time; perhaps even this century will not witness the complete restoration of a perfect tranquility &calm; the next generation will imperceptibly acquire a greater respect for these new forms; & these happy customs, finally becoming national, will contribute to spreading their salutary influences. Judging these people by their present character, by the geographic situation of all these States, I believe that their union can never be very close, unless it finally becomes the result of force & violence; the inclination for Emigration, the facility with which they leave the dwellings of their fathers, in order to go beyond the Mountains, all these reasons will make the proposed consolidation [very?] difficult.
One of the sources of all the misfortunes that I observe here comes from the fact that with the peace, the Americans believed that the revolution had been accomplished when it had only begun; for although independent from Europe in its government, this country still nevertheless depends on it for the greater part of its customs, & unfortunately for its credit, [whose?] deadly poison makes itself felt everywhere.
Even if this new Constitution is adopted by a sufficient number of States, it must be expected that it will be fought by the opposition that is forming on all sides; some, devotedly attached to their sovereignty & to their independence, regard as sacrilege the [efforts?] fœderalists are making to bring down their opponents, destined to make up the general government; others fearing the impartiality of the new courts of law that it is proposed be established, call these new principles budding tyranny, & fill the gazettes with a flood of declamations addressed to the passions, much more than to the reason of the readers; another class, composed of those who occupy lucrative places in each of these States, which can be called the Oligarchic party, seeing only in this new order of things the end of their mercenary & ambitious lives, sends forth loud cries & endeavors to spread alarm on all sides; and finally, others, carried away by the perversity of human nature, fear the return of order, & would wish to plunge the entire machine into Anarchy & Confusion. It would thus be flattering oneself needlessly to believe that reason alone operates this great marvel; the contrary is to be feared, that submitting to the ordinary fate of Men, they will only be able to receive a uniform &coercive government by means of violence, & in that case the union will be destroyed; the Southern States, whose interests are so different, who are so jealous, and who dread so much the energy, activity & Industry of the inhabitants of the North, will form Alliances in Europe; then all will be irrevocably lost. That is possibly what will become of all these Democratic forms, so grand on paper, which Will have been deadly and deceitful dreams. It is thus not on their Constitutions but on the acts & on the present state of their morals that one must judge the nation, which, although new, is nevertheless corrupted with such rapidity; and how could individuals be honest, when the government was able to support a ruinous war only by transactions that so strongly compromised the public credit, that necessarily aroused fraud & greed. The subsequent conduct of almost all these Sovereignties since the peace was not helped by their paper money, which put the crowning glory on all these misfortunes. How intimate are the ties that exist between the morals of a nation & the value of its money. I see only one hope, [&?] it is based on the unexpected help of some even more unfortunate circumstances than those in which they find themselves today that will finally make them open their eyes to the absurdity of wanting to preserve all the rights of independence & sovereignty for each one of these States, without conceding any of them to the general government. This disastrous opinion, which has occasioned so many errors since the peace, still Militates against the [- - -] principles of the social contract. If heaven in its anger blinds them, if they reject this favorable occasion of obtaining government that promises them dignity & happiness, it is not possible to predict what form sooner or later will come out of the midst of this disorder & this Anarchy; in less than three months they will cross the rubicon, [&?] we shall see what course the fœderalists will adopt. . . .

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