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title:“The Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Constitution”
date written:1787-10-2

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:33 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 16, 2024, 7:43 a.m. UTC

"The Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Constitution." 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. 295-97. Print.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Constitution (October 2, 1787)

. . . We cannot conclude without requesting you to turn your serious attention to the government now offered to your consideration; "We are persuaded that a free and candid discussion of any subject tends greatly to the improvement of knowledge, and that a matter in which the public are so deeply interested cannot be too well understood." A good constitution and government is "a blessing from heaven, and the right of posterity and mankind; suffer then we intreat you, no interested motive, sinister view or improper influence to direct your determinations or biass your Judgments." Provide yourselves with the new constitution offered to you by the Convention, look it over with attention that you be enabled to think for yourselves. We confess when the Legislature appointed delegates to attend the Convention, our ideas extended no farther than a revision or amendment of the present confederation, nor were our delegates, by the acts of assembly appointing them, authorized to do more as will appear by referring to the said act, the second section of which describes their powers in the following words, viz.
2. Be it enacted, and it is hereby enacted by the Representatives of the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in General Assembly met, and by the authority of the same, That Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Jared Ingersoll, Thomas Fitzsimons, James Wilson and Governeur Morris, Esquires, are hereby appointed deputies from this state to meet in the Convention of the deputies of the respective states of North-America, to be held at the city of Philadelphia, on the second day of the month of May next. And the said Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Jared Ingersoll, Thomas Fitzsimons, James Wilson and Governeur Morris, Esquires, or any four of them are hereby constituted and appointed deputies from this state, with powers to meet such deputies as may be appointed and authorised by the other states to assemble in the said convention at the city aforesaid, and to join with them in devising deliberating on, and discussing all such alterations and further provisions as may be necessary to render the federal constitution fully adequate to the exigencies of the Union; and in reporting such act or acts for that purpose, to the United States in Congress assembled, as when agreed to by them, and duly confirmed by the several states, will effectually provide for the same.
You will therefore perceive that they had no authority whatever from the Legislature, to annihilate the present confederation and form a constitution entirely new, and in doing which they have acted as mere individuals, not as the official deputies of this commonwealth. If however, after mature deliberation you are of opinion that the plan of government which they have offered for your consideration is best calculated to promote your political happiness and preserve those invaluable priviledges you at present enjoy, you will no doubt chose men to represent you in Convention who will adopt it; if you think otherwise you will, with your usual firmness, determine accordingly.
You have a right, and we have no doubt you will consider whether or not you are in a situation to support the expence of such a government as is now offered to you, as well as the expence of your state government? or whether a Legislature consisting of three branches, neither of them chosen annually, and that the Senate, the most powerful, the members of which are for six years, are likely to lessen your burthens or encrease your taxes?1 or whether in case your state government should be annihilated, which will probably be the case, or dwindle into a mere corporation, the continental government will be competent to attend to your local concerns? You can also best determine whether the power of levying and imposing internal taxes at pleasure, will be of real use to you or not? or whether a continental collector assisted by a few faithful soldiers will be more eligible than your present collectors of taxes?2 You will also in your deliberations on this important business judge, whether the liberty of the press may be considered as a blessing or a curse in a free government, and whether a declaration for the preservation of it is necessary?3 or whether in a plan of government any declaration of rights should be prefixed or inserted? You will be able likewise to determine, whether in a free government there ought or ought not to be any provision against a standing army in time of peace? or whether the trial by jury in civil causes is become dangerous and ought to be abolished? and whether the judiciary of the United States is not so constructed as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the several states? you will also be able to judge whether such inconveniences have been experienced by the present mode of tryal between citizen and citizen, of different states as to render a continental court necessary for that purpose?4 or whether there can be any real use in the appellate jurisdiction with respect to fact as well as law?5 we shall not dwell longer on the subject; one thing however, it is proper you should be informed of; the convention were not unanimous with respect to men though they were as states, several of those who have signed did not fully approve of the plan of government, and three of the members viz. Governor Randolph and Col. George Mason of Virginia, and Eldredge Gerry, Esq. of Massachusets, whose characters are very respectable, had such strong objections as to refuse signing. The confederation no doubt is defective and requires amendment and revision, and had the convention extended their plan to the enabling the United States to regulate commerce, equalize the impost, collect it throughout the United States and have the entire jurisdiction over maritime affairs, leaving the exercise of internal taxation to the separate states, we apprehend there would have been no objection to the plan of government.
The matter will be before you, and you will be able to judge for yourselves. "Shew that you seek not yourselves, but the good of your country and may He who alone has dominion over the passions and understandings of men enlighten and direct you aright, that posterity may bless God for the Wisdom of their ancestors."

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