WEDNESDAY, June 25, 1788.

Mr. NICHOLAS. Mr. Chairman, I do not mean to enter into any further debate. The friends of the Constitution wish to take up no more time, the matter being now fully discussed. They are convinced that further time will answer no end but to serve the cause of those who wish to destroy the Constitution. We wish it to be ratified, and such amendments as may be thought necessary to be subsequently considered by a committee, in order to be recommended to Congress, to be acted upon according to the amendatory mode presented in itself. Gentlemen in the opposition have said that the friends of the Constitution would depart after the adoption, without entering into any consideration of subsequent amendments. I wish to know their authority. I wish for subsequent amendments as a friend to the Constitution; I trust its other friends wish so too; and I believe no gentleman has any intention of departing. The amendments contained in this paper are those we wish; but we shall agree to any others which will not destroy the spirit of the Constitution, or that will better secure liberty.

He then moved that the clerk should read the resolution proposed by Mr. Wythe, in order that the question might be put upon it; which being done, Mr. TYLER moved to read she amendments and bill of rights proposed by Mr. Henry, for the same purpose.

Mr. HARRISON. Mr. Chairman, the little states refused to come into the Union without extravagant concessions. It will be the same case on every other occasion. Can it be supposed that the little states, whose interest and importance are greatly advanced by the Constitution as it now stands, will ever agree to any alteration which must infallibly diminish their political influence? On this occasion, let us behave with that fortitude which animated us in our resistance to Great Britain.

The situation and disposition of the states reader subsequent {628} amendments dangerous and impolitic, and previous amendments eligible.

New Hampshire does not approve of the Constitution as it stands.

They have refused it so. In Massachusetts, we are told that there was a decided majority in their Convention who opposed the Constitution as it stood, and were in favor of previous amendments, but were afterwards, by the address and artifice of the federalists, prevailed upon to ratify it.

Rhode Island is not worthy the attention of this house. She is of no weight or importance to influence any general subject of consequence.

Connecticut adopted it, without proposing amendments.

New York, we have every reason to believe, will reject the Constitution, unless amendments be obtained. Hence it clearly appears that there are three states which wish for amendments.

Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, have adopted it unconditionally.

In Maryland, there is a considerable number who wish amendments to be had.

Virginia is divided, let this question be determined which way it will. One half of the people, at least, wish amendments to be obtained.

North Carolina is decidedly against it. South Carolina has proposed amendments.

Under this representation, it appears that there are seven states who wish to get amendments. Can it be doubted, if the seven states insert amendments as the condition of their accession, that they would be agreed to? Let us not, then, be persuaded into an opinion that the Union will be dissolved if we should reject it. I have no such idea.

As far as I am acquainted with history, there never existed a constitution where the liberty of the people was established in this way. States have risen by gradual steps: let us follow their example. The line which we ought to pursue is equally bounded. How comes that paper on your table to be now here discussed? The state of Virginia, finding the power of the Confederation insufficient for the happiness of the people, invited the other states to call a convention, in order that the powers of Congress might be enlarged. I was not in the Assembly then; and if I had been, {629} I have no vanity to suppose I could have decided more cautiously. They were bound to do what we ought to do now. I have no idea of danger to the Union. A vast majority, from every calculation, are invincibly attached to it. I see an earnest desire in gentlemen to bring this country to be great and powerful. Considering the very late period when this country was first settled, and the present state of population and wealth, this is impossible now. The attempt will bring ruin and destruction upon us. These things must not be forced. They must come of course, like the course of rivers, gently going on. As to the inconveniences, to me, from adoption, they are none at all. I am not prejudiced against New England, or any part. They are held up to us as a people from whom protection will come. Will any protection come from thence for many years? When we were invaded, did any gentleman from the Northern States come to relieve us? No, sir, we were left to be buffeted. General Washington, in the greatness of his soul, came with the French auxiliaries, and relieved us opportunely. Were it not for this, we should have been ruined. I call Heaven to witness that I am a friend to the Union. But I conceive the measure of adoption to be unwarrantable, precipitate, and dangerously impolitic. Should we rush into sudden perdition, I should resist with the fortitude of a man. As to the amendments proposed by gentlemen, I do not object to them: they are inherently good. But they are put in the wrong place — subsequent instead of previous. [Mr. Harrison added other observations, which could not be heard.]

Mr. MADISON. Mr. Chairman, I should not have risen at all, were it not for what the honorable gentleman said. If there be any suspicions that, if the ratification be made, the friends of the system will withdraw their concurrence, and much more, their persons, it shall never be with my approbation. Permit me to remark that, if he has given us a true state of the disposition of the several members of the Union, there is no doubt they will agree to the same amendments after adoption. If we propose the conditional amendments, I entreat gentlemen to consider the distance to which they throw the ultimate settlement, and the extreme risk of perpetual disunion. They cannot but see how easy it will be to obtain subsequent amendments. They can be proposed when the legislatures of two thirds of the states {630} shall make application for that purpose; and the legislatures of three fourths of the states, or conventions in the same, can fix the amendments so proposed. If there be an equal zeal in every state, can there be a doubt that they will concur in reasonable amendments? If, on the other hand, we call on the states to rescind what they have done, and confess that they have done wrong, and to consider the subject again, it will produce such unnecessary delays, and is pregnant with such infinite dangers, that I cannot contemplate it without horror. There are uncertainty and confusion on the one hand, and order, tranquillity, and certainty, on the other. Let us not hesitate to elect the latter alternative. Let us join with cordiality in those alterations we think proper. There is no friend to the Constitution but who will concur in that mode.

Mr. MONROE, after an exordium which could not be heard, remarking that the question now before the committee was, whether previous or subsequent amendments were the most prudent, strongly supported the former. He could not conceive that a conditional ratification would, in the most remote degree, endanger the Union; for that it was as clearly the interest of the adopting states to be united with Virginia, as it could be her interest to be in union with them. He demanded if they would arm the states against one another, and make themselves enemies of those who were respectable and powerful from their situation and numbers. He had no doubt that they would, in preference to such a desperate and violent measure, come forward and make a proposition to the other states, so far as it would be consistent with the general interest. Adopt it now, unconditionally, says he, and it will never be amended, not even when experience shall have proved its defects. An alteration will be a diminution of their power, and there will be great exertions made to prevent it. I have no dread that they will immediately infringe the dearest rights of the people, but that the operation of the government will be oppressive in process of time. Shall we not pursue the dictates of common sense, and the example of all free and wise nations, and insist on amendments with manly fortitude?

It is urged that there is an impossibility of getting previous amendments, and that a variety of circumstances concur to render it impracticable. This argument appears to {631} me fallacious, and as a specious evasion. The same cause which has hitherto produced a spirit of unanimity, and a predilection for the Union, will hereafter produce the same effects.

How did the federal Convention meet? From the beginning of time, in any age or country, did ever men meet under so loose, uncurbed a commission? There was nothing to restrain them but their characters and reputation. They could not organize a system without defects. This cannot, then, be perfect. Is it not presumable that by subsequent attempts we shall make it more complete and perfect?

What are the great objections now made? Are they local? What are the amendments brought forth by my friends? Do they not contemplate the great interests of the people, and of the Union at large? I am satisfied, from what we have seen of the disposition of the other states, that, instead of disunion and national confusion, there will be harmony and perfect concord. Disunion is more to be apprehended from the adoption of a system reprobated by some, and allowed by all to be defective. The arguments of gentlemen have no weight on my mind. It is unnecessary to enter into the refutation of them. My honorable friends have done it highly to my satisfaction. Permit me only to observe, with respect to those amendments, that they are harmless. Do they change a feature of the Constitution? They secure our rights without altering a single feature; I trust, therefore, that gentlemen will concur with them.

Mr. INNES. Mr. Chairman, I have hitherto been silent on this great and interesting question. But my silence has not proceeded from a neutrality of sentiments, or a supineness of disposition. The session of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, at this time, has indispensably called my attention to the prosecutions for the commonwealth. Had I taken an earlier part in the discussion, my observations would have been desultory, and perhaps not satisfactory, not being apprized of all the arguments which had been used by gentlemen. We are now brought to that great part of the system where it is necessary for me to take a decided part. This is one of the most important questions that ever agitated the councils of America. When I see in this house, {632} divided in opinion, several of those brave officers whom I have seen so gallantly fighting and bleeding for their country, the question is doubly interesting to me. I thought it would be the last of human events, that I should be on a different side from them on so awful an occasion. However painful and distressing to me the recollection of this diversity of sentiment may be, I am consoled by this reflection — that difference of opinion has a happy consequence; it aids discussion, and is a friend to truth. We ought (and I hope we have the temper) to be regulated by candor and moderation — without which, in a deliberative body, every thing with respect to the public good evaporates into nothing.

I came hither under a persuasion that the felicity of our country required that we should accede to this system; but I am free to declare that I came in with my mind open to conviction, and a predetermination to recede from my opinion, if I should find it to be erroneous. I have heard nothing hitherto that would warrant a change of one idea. The objections urged by the advocates of the opposition have been ably, and, in my conception, satisfactorily answered by the friends of the Constitution. I wish, instead of reasoning from possible abuses, that the government had been considered as an abstract position, drawn from the history of alterations and such theoretic opinions as experience has demonstrated to be right. I have waited to hear this mode of reasoning, but in vain. Instead of this, sir, horrors have been called up, chimeras suggested, and every terrific and melancholy idea adduced to prevent what I think indispensably necessary for our national honor, happiness, and safety — I mean the adoption of the system under consideration.

How are we to decide this question? Shall we take the system by way of subsequent amendments, or propose amendments as the previous condition of our adoption? Let us consider this question coolly. In my humble opinion, it transcends the power of this Convention to take it with previous amendments. If you take it so, I say that you transcend and violate the commission of the people; for, if it be taken with amendments, the opinions of the people at large ought to be consulted on them. Have they an opportunity of considering previous amendments? They have seen the Constitution, and sent us hither to adopt or reject it. Have we more latitude on this subject? If you propose {633} previous amendments as the condition of your adoption, they may radically change the paper on the table, and the people will be bound by what they know not. Subsequent amendments would not have that effect. They would not operate till the people had an opportunity of considering and altering them, if they thought proper. They could have it in their power to give contrary directions to their members of Congress.

But I observe, with regret, that there is a general spirit of jealousy with respect to our northern brethren. Had we this political jealousy in 1775? If we had had, it would have damped our ardor and intrepidity, and prevented that unanimous resistance which enabled us to triumph over our enemies. It was not a Virginian, Carolinian, or Pennsylvanian, but the glorious name of an American, that extended from one end of the continent to the other, that was then beloved and confided in. Did we then expect that, in case of success, we should be armed against one another? I would have submitted to British tyranny rather than to northern tyranny, had what we have been told been true — that they had no part of that philanthropic spirit which cherishes fraternal affection, unites friends, enables them to achieve the most gallant exploits, and renders them formidable to other nations.

Gentlemen say that the states have not similar interests that what will accommodate their interests will be incompatible with ours; and that the northern oppression will fetter and manacle the hands of the southern people. Wherein does the dissimilarity consist? Does not our existence as a nation depend on our union? Is it to be supposed that their principles will be so constuprated, and that they will be so blind to their own true interests, as to alienate the affections of the Southern States, and adopt measures which will produce discontents, and terminate in a dissolution of a union as necessary to their happiness as to ours? Will not brotherly affection rather be cultivated? Will not the great principles of reciprocal friendship and mutual amity be constantly inculcated, so as to conciliate all parts of the Union? This will be inevitably necessary, from the unity of their interests with ours. To suppose that they would act contrary to these principles, would be to suppose them to be not {634} only destitute of honor and probity, but void of reason — not only bad, but mad men.

The honorable gentleman has warned us to guard against European politics. Shall we not be more able to set their machinations at defiance, by uniting our councils and strength, than by splitting into factions and divisions? Our divisions, and consequent debility, are the objects most ardently wished for by the nations of Europe. What cause induced Great Britain, and other European nations which had settlements in America, to keep their colonies in an infantine condition? What cause leads them to exclude our vessels from the West Indies? The fear of our becoming important and powerful. Will not they be perpetually stimulated by this fear? Will not they incessantly endeavor to depress us by force or stratagem? Is there no danger to be apprehended from Spain, whose extensive and invaluable possessions are in our vicinity? Will that nation rejoice at an augmentation of our strength or wealth?

But we are told that we need not be afraid of Great Britain. Will that great, that warlike, that vindictive nation lose the desire of revenging her losses and disgraces? Will she passively overlook flagrant violations of the treaty? Will she lose the desire of retrieving those laurels which are buried in America? Should I transfuse into the breast of a Briton that amor patriæ which so strongly predominates in my own, he would say, While I have a guinea, I shall give it to recover lost America!

But, says another gentleman, the maritime powers of Europe look with anxious and jealous eyes on you. While you are helpless, they will let you alone; but if you attempt to become respectable, they will crush you! Is this the language or consolation of an American? Must we acquiesce to continue in this situation? We should, by this way of reasoning, sacrifice our own honor and interests, to please those supercilious nations, and promote their interests; and, with every means of acquiring a powerful fleet, would never have a ship of the line. To promote their glory, we should become wretched and contemptible. Our national glory, our honor, our interests, forbid this disgraceful conduct. It may be said that the ancients, who deserved and acquired glory, have lost their liberty. Call to mind the many nations of Indians and cannibals that have lost it likewise. {635} And who would not rather be a Roman, than one of those who hardly deserve to be enumerated among the human species?

This question is as important as the revolution which severed us from the British empire. It rests now to be determined whether America has in reality gained by that change Which has been thought so glorious, and whether those hecatombs of American heroes, whose blood was so freely shed at the shrine of liberty, fell in vain, or whether we Shall establish such a government as shall render America respectable and happy. I wish her not only to be internally possessed of political and civil liberty, but to be formidable, terrible, and dignified in war, and not depend on the ambitious princes of Europe for tranquillity, security, or safety, I ask, if the most petty of those princes, even the dey of Algiers, were to make war upon us, if the other states of Europe should keep a neutrality, whether we should not be reduced to the greatest distress? Is it not in the power of any maritime power to seize our vessels, and destroy our commerce, with impunity?

But we are told that the New Englanders mean to take our trade from us, and make us hewers of wood and carriers of water; and, the next moment, that they will emancipate our slaves! But how inconsistent is this! They tell you that the admission of the importation of slaves for twenty years shows that their policy is to keep us weak; and yet, the next moment, they tell you that they intend to set them free! If it be their object to corrupt and enervate us, will they emancipate our slaves? Thus they complain and argue against it on contradictory principles. The Constitution is to turn the world topsy-turvy, to make it answer their various purposes!

Can it be said that liberty of conscience is in danger? I observe on the side of the Constitution those who have been champions of religious liberty, an attack on which I would as soon resist as one on civil liberty. Do they employ consistent arguments to show that it is in danger? They inform you that Turks, Jews, Infidels, Christians, arm all other sects, may be Presidents, and command the fleet and army, there being no test to be required; and yet the tyrannical and inquisitorial Congress will ask me, as a private citizen, what is my opinion on religion, and punish {636} me if it does not conform to theirs. I cannot think the gentleman could be serious when he made these repugnant and incompatible objections.

With respect to previous amendments, what will be the consequence? Virginia first discovered the defects of the existing confederacy. When the legislature was sitting, a few years ago, they sent an invitation to the other states to make amendments to it. After some preparatory steps, the late federal Convention was called. To this were sent select deputies from all the states except Rhode Island. After five months spent in tedious and painful investigation, they, with great difficulty, devised the paper on the table; and it has been adopted by every state which has considered and discussed it. Virginia is about dictating again to the other states. Eight states have exercised their sovereignty in ratifying it. Yet, with a great deal of humility, we ask them to rescind, and make such alterations as the ancient dominion shall think proper. States are but an aggregate of individuals. Would not an individual spurn at such a requisition? They will say, It has been laid before you, and if you do not like it, consider the consequences. We are as free, sister Virginia, and as independent, as you are; we do not like to be dictated to by you. But, say gentlemen, we can afterwards come into the Union; we may come in at another time; that is, if they do not accede to our dictatorial mandate. They are not of such yielding, pliant stuff, as to revoke a decision founded on their most solemn deliberations, to gratify our capricious wishes.

After hearing the arguments on this subject, and finding such a variety of contradictory objections, I am the more averse to solicit another convention, from which I should expect great discord, and no good effect at all. Not doubting the sincerity of gentlemen's protestations, I say, the mode pointed out in the Constitution is much better; for, according to their mode, the Union would never be complete till the thirteen states had acceded to it, and eight states must rescind and revoke what they have done. By the paper before you, if two thirds of the states think amendments necessary, Congress are obliged to call a convention to propose amendments, which are to be submitted to the legislatures, or conventions, in three fourths of the states, the acquiescence of which will render them binding. Now, is there not a {637} greater probability of obtaining the one than the other? ill not nine states more probably agree to any amendments than thirteen? The doctrine of chances is in favor of it.

Unless we in vain look for a perfect constitutions we ought to take it. In vain you will seek, from India to the pole, for a perfect constitution. Though it may have certain defects, yet I doubt whether any system more perfect can be obtained at this time. Let us no longer pursue chimerical and ridiculous systems. Let us try it: experience is the best test. It will bear equally on all the states from New Hampshire to Georgia; and as it will operate equally on all, they will all call for amendments; and whatever the spirit of America calls for, must doubtless take place immediately.

I consider Congress as ourselves, as our fellow-citizens, and no more different from us than our delegates in the state legislature. I consider them as having all a fellow-feeling for us, and that they will never forget that this government is that of the people. Under this impression, I conclude that they will never dare to go beyond the bounds prescribed in the Constitution, and that, as they are eligible and removable by ourselves, there is sufficient responsibility; for where the power of election frequently reverts to the people, and that reversion is unimpeded, there can be no danger. Upon the whole, this is the question — Shall it be adopted or rejected? With respect to previous amendments, they are equal to rejection. They are abhorrent to my mind. I consider them as the greatest of evils. I think myself bound to vote against every measure which I conceive to be a total rejection, than which nothing, in my conceptions, can be more imprudent, destructive, and calamitous.

Mr. TYLER. Mr. Chairman, I should have been satisfied with giving my vote on the question to-day; but, as I wish to hand down to posterity my opposition to this system, t conceive it to be my duty to declare the principles on which I disapprove it, and the cause of my opposition. I have seriously considered the subject in my mind, and when I consider the effects which may happen to this country from its adoption, I tremble at it. My opposition to it arose first from general principles, independent of any local consideration. But when I find that the Constitution is expressed in indefinite terms, in terms which the gentlemen who composed it do not all concur in the meaning of, — I say that, {638} when it is thus liable to objections and different constructions, I. find no rest in my mind. Those clauses which answer different constructions will be used to serve particular purposes. If the able members who composed it cannot agree on the construction of it, shall I be thought rash or wrong to pass censure on its ambiguity?

The worthy member last up has brought us to a degrading situation — that we have no right to propose amendments. I should have expected such language had we already adopted a Constitution which will preclude us from this advantage. If we propose to them to reconsider what they have done, and not rescind it, will it be dictating to them? I do nor undertake to say that our amendments will bind other states: I hope no gentleman will be so weak as to say so. But no gentleman on the other side will deny our right of proposing amendments. Wherefore is it called dictatorial? It is not my wish that they should rescind but so much as will secure our peace and liberty. We wish to propose such amendments to the sister states as will reconcile all the states. Will gentlemen think this will dissolve the Union?

Among all the chimeras adduced on this occasion, we are intimidated with the fear of being attacked by the petty princes of Europe. The little predatory nations of Europe are to cross the Atlantic and fall upon us; and to avoid this, we must adopt this government, with all its defects. Are we to be frightened into its adoption?

The gentleman has objected to previous amendments, because the people did not know them. Have they seen their subsequent amendments?

[Here Mr. Innes rose, and explained the difference — that previous amendments would be binding on the people, though they had never seen them, and should have no opportunity of considering them before they should operate; but that subsequent amendments, being only recommendatory in their nature, could be reviewed by the people before they would become a part of the system; and, if they disapproved of them, they might direct their delegates in Congress to alter and modify them.]

Mr. TYLER then proceeded: I have seen their subsequent amendments, and, although they hold out something like the thing we wish, yet they have not entered pointedly and substantially into it. What have they said about direct taxation? They have said nothing on this subject. Is there any limitation of, or restriction on, the federal judicial {639} power? I think not. So that gentlemen hold out the idea of amendments which will not alter one dangerous part of it. It contains many dangerous articles. No gentleman here can give such a construction of it as will give general satisfaction. Shall we be told that we shall be attacked by the Algerines, and that disunion will take place, unless we adopt it? Such language as this I did not expect here. Little did I think that matters would come to this, when we separated from the mother country. There, sir, every man is amenable to punishment. There is far less responsibility in this government. British tyranny would have been more tolerable. By our present government, every man is secure in his person, and the enjoyment of his property. There is no man who is not liable to be punished for misdeeds. I ask, What is it that disturbs men whose liberty is in the highest zenith? Human nature will always be the same. Men never were, nor ever will, be satisfied with their happiness.

They tell you that one letter's alteration will destroy it. I say that it is very far from being perfect. I ask, if it were put in immediate operation, whether the people could bear it — whether two bodies can tax the same species of property. The idea of two omnipotent powers is inconsistent. The natural tendency must be, either a revolt, or the destruction of the state governments, and a consolidation of them all into one general system. If we are to be consolidated, let it be on better grounds. So long as climate will have effect on men, so long will the different climates of the United Status render us different. Therefore a consolidation is contrary to our nature, and can only be supported by an arbitrary government.

Previous and subsequent amendments are now the only dispute; and when gentlemen say that there is a greater probability of obtaining the one than the other, they accompany their assertions with no kind of argument. What is the reason that amendments cannot be got after ratification? Because we have granted power. Because the amendments you propose will diminish their power, and undo some clauses in that paper. This argument proves to me that they cannot be serious. It has been plainly proved to you that it is impracticable. Local advantages are given up, as well as the regulation of trade, When it is the case, will the little {640} states agree to an alteration? When gentlemen insist on this, without producing any argument, they will find no credulity in me. Another convention ought to be had, whether the amendments be previous or subsequent. They say another convention is dangerous. How is this proved? It is only their assertion. Gentlemen tell us we shall be mined without adoption. Is this reasonable? It docs not appear so to me.

Much has been said on the subject of war by foreigners, and the Indians; but a great deal has been said in refutation of it. Give me leave to say that, from the situation of the powers of Europe at this time, no danger is to be apprehended from thence. Will the French go to war with you, if you do not pay them what you owe them? Will they thereby destroy that balance, to preserve which they have taken such immense trouble? But Great Britain wilt go to war with you, unless you comply with the treaty. Great Britain, which, to my sorrow, has monopolized our trade, is to go to war with us unless the law of treaties be binding. Is this reasonable? It is not the interest of Britain to quarrel with us. She will not hazard any measure which may tend to take our trade out of her hands. It is not the interest of Holland to see us destroyed or oppressed. It is the interest of every nation in Europe to keep up the balance of power, and therefore they will not suffer any nation to attack us, without immediately interfering.

But much is said of the propriety of our becoming a great and powerful nation. There is a great difference between offensive and defensive war. If we can defend ourselves, it is sufficient. Shall we sacrifice the peace and happiness of this country, to enable us to make wanton war?

My conduct throughout the revolution will justify me. I have invariably wished to oppose oppressions. It is true that I have now a paltry office, I am willing to give it up — away with it! It has no influence on my present conduct. I wish Congress to have the regulation of trade. I was of opinion that a partial regulation alone would not suffice. I was among those members who, a few years ago, proposed that regulation. I have lamented that I have put my hand to it, since this measure may have grown out of it. It was the hopes of our people to have their trade on a respectable footing. But it never entered into my head that {641} we should quit liberty, and throw ourselves into.the hands of an energetic government. Do you want men to be more free, or less free, than they are? Gentlemen have been called upon to show the causes of this measure. None have been shown. Gentlemen say we shall be ruined unless we adopt it. We must give up our opinions. We cannot judge for ourselves. I hope gentlemen, before this, have been satisfied that such language is improper. All states which have heretofore been lavish in the concession of power and relinquishment of privileges have lost their liberty. It has been often observed (and it cannot be too often observed) that liberty ought not to be given up without knowing the terms. The gentlemen themselves cannot agree in the construction of various clauses of it; and so long as this is the case, so long shall liberty be in danger.

Gentlemen say we are jealous. I am not jealous of this house. I could trust my life with them. If this Constitution were safer, I should not be afraid. But its defects warrant my Suspicions and fears. We are not passing laws now, but laying the foundation on which laws are to be made. We ought, therefore, to be cautious how we decide. When I consider the Constitution in all its parts, I cannot but dread its operation. It contains a variety of powers too dangerous to be vested in any set of men whatsoever. Its power of direct taxation, the supremacy of the laws of the Union, and of treaties, are exceedingly dangerous. I have never heard any manner of calling the President to account for his conduct, nor even the members of the democratic branch of the government. We may turn out our ten members, but what can we do with the other fifty-five? The wisdom of Great Britain gave each state its own legislative assembly and judiciary, and a right to tax themselves. When they attempted to infringe that right, we declared war. This system violates that right. In the year 1781 the Assembly were obliged to pass a law, that forty members could pass laws. I have heard many members say that it was a great departure from the constitution, and that it would lead to aristocracy. If we could not trust forty, can we trust ten? Those who lay a tax ought to be amenable to the payment of a proportionate share of it. I see nothing in their subsequent amendments going to this point — that we shall have a right to tax ourselves.

{642} But gentlemen say that this would destroy the Constitution. Of what avail, then, will their subsequent amendments be? Will gentlemen satisfy themselves that, when they adopt this Constitution, their country will be happy? Is not the country divided? Is it a happy government, which divides the people, and sets brother in opposition to brother? This measure has produced anarchy and confusion. We ought to have been unanimous, and gone side by side, as we went through the revolution. Instead of unanimity, it has produced a general diversity of opinions, which may terminate in the most unhappy consequences. We only wish to do away ambiguities, and establish our rights on clear and explicit terms. If this be done, we shall all be like one man — we shall unite and be happy. But if we adopt it in its present form, unanimity or concord can never take place. After adoption, we can never expect to see it amended; because they will consider requests and solicitations for amendments as in a high degree dictatorial. They will say, You have signed and sealed, and you cannot now retract.

When I review all these considerations, my heart is full, and can never be at peace till I see these defects removed. Our only consolation is the virtue of the present age. It is possible that, when they see the country divided, these politicians will reconcile the minds of their countrymen, by introducing such alterations as shall be deemed necessary. Were it not for this hope, I should he in despair. I shall say no more, but that I wish my name to be seen in the yeas and nays, that it may be known that my opposition arose from a full persuasion and conviction of its being dangerous to the liberties of my country.

Mr. STEPHEN addressed the chairman, but in so low a voice that he could not be distinctly heard. He described, in a feeling manner, the unhappy situation of the country, and the absolute necessity of preventing a dismemberment of the confederacy. I was, said he, sent hither to adopt the Constitution as it is; but such is my regard for my fellow-citizens, that I would concur in amendments. The gentlemen on the other side have adduced no reasons or proofs to convince us that the amendments should become a part of the system before ratification. What reason have we to suspect that persons who are chosen from among ourselves {643} will not agree to the introduction of such amendments as will be desired by the people at large?

In all safe and free governments, there ought to be a judicious mixture in the three different kinds of government. This government is a compound of those different kinds. But the democratic kind preponderates, as it ought to do. The members of one branch are immediately chosen by the people; and the people also elect, in a secondary degree, the members of the other two. At present we have no confederate government. It exists but in name. The honorable gentleman asked, Where is the genius of America? What else but that genius has stimulated the people to reform that government which woful experience has proved to be totally inefficient? What has produced the unison of sentiments in the states on this subject? I expected that filial duty and affection would have impelled him to inquire for the genius of Virginia — that genius which formerly resisted British tyranny, and, in the language of manly intrepidity and fortitude, said to that nation, Thus far, and no farther, shall you proceed!

What has become of that genius which spoke that magnanimous language — that genius which produced the federal Convention? Yonder she is, in mournful attire, her hair dishevelled, distressed with grief and sorrow, supplicating our assistance against gorgons, fiends, and hydras, which are ready to devour her and carry desolation throughout her country. She bewails the decay of trade and neglect of agriculture — her farmers discouraged — her ship-carpenters, blacksmiths, and all other tradesmen, unemployed. She casts her eyes on these, and deplores her inability to relieve them. She sees and laments that the profit of her commerce goes to foreign states. She further bewails that all she can raise by taxation is inadequate to her necessities. She sees religion die by her side, public faith prostituted, and private confidence lost between man and man. Are the hearts of her citizens so deaf to compassion that they will not go to her relief? If they are so infatuated, the dire consequences may be easily foreseen. Expostulations must be made for the defection of Virginia, when Congress meets. They will inquire where she has lately discovered so much political wisdom — she that gave an immense tract of country to relieve the general distresses. Wherein consists her {644} superiority to her friends of South Carolina and the respectable state of Massachusetts, who, to prevent a dissolution of the Union, adopted the Constitution, and proposed such amendments as they thought necessary, placing confidence in the other states, that they would accede to them?

After making several other remarks, he concluded by declaring that, in his opinion, they were about to determine whether we should be one of the United States or not.

Mr. ZACHARIAH JOHNSON. Mr. Chairman, I am now called upon to decide the greatest of all questions — a question which may involve the felicity or misery of myself and posterity. I have hitherto listened attentively to the arguments adduced by both sides, and attended to hear the discussion of the most complicated parts of the system by gentlemen of great abilities. Having now come to the ultimate stage of the investigation, I think it my duty to declare my sentiments on the subject. When I view the necessity of government among mankind, and its happy operation when judiciously constructed; and when I view the principles of this Constitution, and the satisfactory and liberal manner ill which they have been developed by the gentleman in the chair, and several other gentlemen; and when I view, on the other hand, the strained construction which has been put, by the gentlemen on the other side, on every word and syllable, in endeavoring to prove oppressions which can never possibly happen, — my judgment is convinced of the safety and propriety of this system. This conviction has not arisen from a blind acquiescence or dependence on the assertions and opinions of others, but from a full persuasion of its rectitude, after an attentive and mature consideration of the subject; the arguments of other gentlemen having only confirmed the opinion which I had previously formed, and which I was determined to abandon, should I find it to be ill founded.

As to the principle of representation, I find it attended to in this government in the fullest manner. It is founded on absolute equality. When I see the power of electing the representatives — the principal branch — in the people at large — in those very persons who are the constituents of the state legislatures; when I find that the other branch is chosen by the state legislature; that the executive is eligible in a secondary degree by the people likewise, and that the {645} terms of elections are short, and proportionate to the difficulty and magnitude of the objects which they are to act upon; and when, in addition to this, I find that no person holding any office under the United States shall be a member of either branch, — I say, when I review all these things, that I plainly see a security of the liberties of this country, to which we may safely trust. Were this government defective in this fundamental principle of representation, it would be so radical that it would admit of no remedy.

I shall consider several other parts which are much objected to. As to the regulation of the militia, I feel myself doubly interested. Having a numerous offspring, I am careful to prevent the establishment of any regulation that might entail oppression on them. When gentlemen of high abilities in this house, and whom I respect, tell us that the militia may be subjected to martial law in time of peace, and whensoever Congress may please, I am much astonished. My judgment is astray, and exceedingly undiscerning, if it can bear such a construction. Congress has only the power of arming and disciplining them. The states have the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia, according to the discipline prescribed by Congress. When called into the actual service of the United States, they shall be subject to the marching orders of the United States. Then, and then only, it ought to be so. When we advert to the plain and obvious meaning of the words, without twisting and torturing their natural signification, we must be satisfied that this objection is groundless. Had we adverted to the true meaning, and not gone farther, we should not be here to-day, but should have come to a decision long ago. We are also told that religion is not secured; that religious tests are not required. You will find that the exclusion of tests will strongly tend to establish religious freedom. If tests were required, and if the Church of England, or any other, were established, I might be excluded from any office under the government, because my conscience might not permit me to take the test required. The diversity of opinions and variety of sects in the United States have justly been reckoned a great security with respect to religious liberty. The difficulty of establishing a uniformity of religion in this country is immense. The extent of the country is very great. The multiplicity of sects is very great {646} likewise. The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them. The government is administered by the representatives of the people, voluntarily and freely chosen.

Under these circumstances, should any one attempt to establish their own system, in prejudice of the rest, they would be universally detested and opposed, and easily frustrated. This is a principle which secures religious liberty most firmly. The government will depend on the assistance of the people in the day of distress. This is the case in all governments. It never was otherwise. They object to this government because it is strong and energetic, and, with respect to the rich and poor, that it will be favorable to the one and oppressive to the other. It is right it should be energetic. This does not show that the poor shall be more oppressed than the rich. Let us examine it. If it admits that private and public justice should be done, it admits what is just. As to the indolent and fraudulent, nothing will reclaim these but the hand of force and compulsion. Is there any thing in this government which will shiny that it will bear hardly and unequally on the honest and industrious part of the community? I think not. As to the mode of taxation, the proportion of each state, being known, cannot be exceeded; and such proportion will be raised, in the most equitable manner, of the people, according to their ability. There is nothing to warrant a supposition that the poor will be equally taxed with the wealthy and opulent.

I shall make a comparison, to illustrate my observations, between the state and the general government. In our state government, so much admired by the worthy gentleman over the way, though there are 1700 militia in some counties, and but 150 in others, yet every county sends two members, to assist in legislating for the whole community. There is disproportion between the respectable county of Augusta, which l have the honor to represent, and the circumscribed, narrow county of Warwick. Will any gentleman tell us that this is a more equal representation than is fixed in the Constitution, whereby 30,000 are to send one representative, in whatever place they may reside? By the same state system. the poor, in many instances, pay as much as the rich. Many laws occur to my mind where I could show you that the representation and taxation bear hard on those who live {647} in large, remote, back counties. The mode of taxation is more oppressive to us than to the rest of the Community. Last fall, when the principle of taxation was debated, it was determined that tobacco should be received in discharge of taxes; but this did not relieve us, for it would not fetch what it cost us, as the distance is so great, and the carriage so difficult. Other specific articles were not received in payment of taxes; so that we had no other alternative than to pay specie, which was a peculiar hardship. I could point out many other disadvantages which we labor under; but I shall not now fatigue the house.

It is my lot to be among the poor people. The most that I can claim or flatter myself with, is to be of the middle rank. I wish no more, for I am contented. But I shall give my opinion unbiased and uninfluenced, without erudition or eloquence, but with firmness and candor; and in so doing I will satisfy my Conscience. If this Constitution be bad, it will bear equally as hard on me as on any other member of the society. It will bear hard on my children, who are as dear to me as any man's children can be to him. Having their felicity and happiness at heart, the vote I shall give in its favor can only be imputed to a conviction of its utility and propriety. When I look for responsibility, I fully find it in that paper. When the members of the government depend on ourselves for their appointment, and will bear an equal share of the burdens imposed on the people, — when their duty is inseparably connected with their interests, — I conceive there can be no danger. Will they forfeit the friendship and confidence of their countrymen, and counteract their own interest? As they will probably have families, they cannot forget them. When one of them sees that Providence has given him a numerous family, he will be averse to lay taxes on his own posterity. They cannot escape them. They will be as liable to be taxed as any other persons in the community. Neither is he sure that he shall enjoy the place again, if he breaks his faith. When I take these things into consideration, I think there is sufficient responsibility.

As to the amendments now on your table, besides the impropriety of proposing them to be obtained previous to ratification, they appear to me to be evidently and clearly objectionable. Look at the bill of rights; it is totally mutilated {648} and destroyed, in that paper. The 15th article of the bill of rights of Virginia is omitted entirely in this proposed bill of rights. That article says that "no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." This article is the best of the whole. Take away this, and all is gone. Look at the first article of our bill of rights. It says that all men are by nature equally free and independent. Does that paper acknowledge this? No; it denies it.

They tell us that they see a progressive danger of bringing about emancipation. The principle has begun since the revolution. Let us do what we will, it will come round. Slavery has been the foundation of that impiety and dissipation which have been so much disseminated among our countrymen. If it were totally abolished, it would do much good.

Gentlemen say that we destroy our own principles by subsequent amendments. They say that it is acting inconsistently with our reasons. Let us examine this position. Here is a principle of united wisdom founded on mutual benefits; and, as experience may show defects, we stipulate that, when they shall happen, they shall be amended; that, when a majority finds defects, we will search a remedy and apply it. There are two ways of amending it pointed out in the system itself. When introduced, either way, it is to be binding.

I am happy to see that happy day approaching when we lose sight of dissensions and discord, which are the greatest sources of political misfortunes. Division is a dreadful thing. This Constitution may have defects. There can be no human institution without defects. We must go out of this world to find it otherwise. The annals of mankind do not show us one example of a perfect constitution.

When I see such a diversity of opinions among gentlemen on this occasion, it brings to my recollection a portion of history which strongly warns us to be moderate and cautious.

The historical facts to which I allude happened in a situation similar to our own. When the Parliament of England beheaded King Charles I., conquered their enemies, obtained liberty, and established a kind of republic, one would think {649} that they would have had sufficient wisdom and policy to preserve that freedom and independence which they had with such difficulty acquired. What was the consequence? That they would not bend to the sanction of laws or legal authority. For the want of an efficient and judicious system of republican government, confusion and anarchy took place. Men became so lawless, so destitute of principle, and so utterly ungovernable, that, to avoid greater calamities, they were driven to the expedient of sending for the son of that monarch whom they had beheaded, that he might become their master. This is like our situation in some degree. It will completely resemble it, should we lose our liberty as they did. It warns and cautions us to shun their fate, by avoiding the causes which produced it. Shall we lose our blood and treasure, which we lost in the revolution, and permit anarchy and misery to complete the ruin of this country? Under these impressions, and for these reasons, I am for adopting the Constitution without previous amendments. I will go any length afterwards, to reconcile it to gentlemen, by proposing subsequent amendments. The great and wise state of Massachusetts has taken this step. The great and wise state of Virginia might safely do the same. I am contented to rest my happiness on that footing.

Mr. HENRY. Mr. Chairman, when we were told of the difficulty of obtaining previous amendments, I contended that they might be as easily obtained as subsequent amendments. We are told that nine states have adopted it. If so, when the government gets in motion, have they not a right to consider our amendments as well as if we adopted first? If we remonstrate, may they not consider and admit our amendments? But now, sir, when we have been favored with a view of their subsequent amendments, I am confirmed in what I apprehended; and that is, subsequent amendments will make our condition worse; for they are placed in such a point of view as will make this Convention ridiculous. I speak in plain, direct language. It is extorted from me. If this Convention will say, that the very right by which amendments are desired is not secured, then I say our rights are not secured. As we have the right of desiring amendments, why not exercise it? But gentlemen deny this right, It follows, of course, that, if this right be not secured, our other fights are not. The proposition of subsequent amendments {650} is only to lull our apprehensions. We speak the language of contradiction and inconsistency, to say that rights are secured, and then say that they are not. Is not this placing this Convention in a contemptible light? Will not this produce contempt of us in Congress, and every other part of the world? Will gentlemen tell me that they are in earnest about these amendments?

I am convinced they mean nothing serious. What are the rights which they do not propose to secure — which they reject? — for I contend there are many essential and vital rights which are omitted. One is the power of direct taxation. Gentlemen will not even give this invaluable right a place among their subsequent amendments. And do gentlemen mean seriously that they will oppose us on this ground on the floor of Congress? If Virginia thinks it one of her dearest rights, she need not expect to have it amended. No, sir; it will be opposed. Taxes and excises are to be laid on us. The people are to be oppressed, and the state legislature prostrated. Very material amendments are omitted With respect to your militia, we only request that, if Congress should refuse to find arms for them, this country may lay out their own money to purchase them. But what do the gentlemen on the other side say? As much as that they will oppose you in this point also; for, if my recollection has not failed inc, they have discarded this also. And shall we be deprived of this privilege? We propose to have it, in case there shall be a necessity to claim it. And is this claim incompatible with the safety of this country — with the grandeur and strength of the United States? If gentlemen find peace and rest on their minds, when the relinquishment of our rights is declared to be necessary for the aggrandizement of the government, they are more contented than I am.

Another thing which they have not mentioned, is the power of treaties. Two thirds of the senators present can make treaties; and they are, when made, to be the supreme law of the land, and are to be paramount to the state constitutions. We wish to guard against the temporary suspension of our great national rights. We wish some qualification of this dangerous power. We wish to modify it. One amendment which has been wished for, in this respect, is, that no treaty should be made without the {651} consent of a considerable majority of both houses. I might go on and enumerate many other great rights entirely neglected by their subsequent amendments; but I shall pass over them in silence. I am astonished at what my worthy friend (Mr. Innes) said — that we have no right of proposing previous amendments. That honorable gentleman is endowed with great eloquence — eloquence splendid, magnificent, and sufficient to shake the human mind! He has brought the whole force of America against this state. He has also strongly represented our comparative weakness, with respect to the powers of Europe. But when I review the actual state of things, I see that dangers from thence are merely ideal. His reasoning has no effect on me. He cannot shake my political faith. He admits our power over subsequent amendments, though not over previous amendments. Where is the distinction between them? If we have a right to depart from the letter of our commission in one instance, we have in the other; for subsequent amendments have no higher authority than previous. We shall be absolutely certain of escaping danger in the one case, but not in the other. I think the apprehension expressed by another honorable gentleman has no good foundation. He apprehended civil discord if we did not adopt. I am willing to concede that he loves his country. I will, for the sake of argument, allow that I am one of the meanest of those who love their country. But what does this amount to? The great and direct end of government is liberty. Secure our liberty and privileges, and the end of government is answered. If this be not effectually done, government is an evil. What amendments does he propose which secure our liberty? I ask pardon if I make a mistake, but it seems to me that his proposed subsequent amendments do not secure one single right. They say that your rights are secured in the paper on the table, so that these subsequent amendments are a mere supererogation. They are not necessary, because the objects intended to be secured by them are secured already. What is to become of the trial by jury? Had its security been made a part of the Constitution, it would have been sufficiently guarded. But as it is, in that proposition it is by no means explicitly secured. Is it not trifling to admit the necessity of securing it, and not do it in a positive, unequivocal manner? I wish I could place it in any other view {652} than a trifling one. It is only intended to attack every project of introducing amendments. If they are serious, why do they not join us, and ask, in a manly, firm, and resolute manner, for these amendments? Their view is to defeat every attempt to amend. When they speak of their subsequent recommendations, they tell you that amendments must be got, and the next moment they say they are unnecessary!

I beg pardon of this house for having taken up more time than came to my share, and I thank them for the patience and polite attention with which I have been heard. If I shall be in the minority, I shall have those painful sensations which arise from a conviction of being overpowered in a good cause. Yet I will be a peaceable citizen. My head, my hand, and my heart, shall be at liberty to retrieve the loss of liberty, and remove the defects of that system in a constitutional way. I wish not to go to violence, but will wait with hopes that the spirit which predominated in the revolution is not yet gone, nor the cause of those who are attached to the revolution yet lost. I shall therefore patiently wait in expectation of seeing that government changed, so as to be compatible with the safety, liberty, and happiness, of the people.

Gov. RANDOLPH. Mr. Chairman, one parting word I humbly supplicate.

The suffrage which I shall give in favor of the Constitution will he ascribed, by malice, to motives unknown to my breast. But, although for every other act of my life t shall seek refuge in the mercy of God, for this I request his justice only. Lest, however, some future annalist should, in the spirit of party vengeance, deign to mention my name, let him recite these truths — that I went to the federal Convention with the strongest affection for the Union; that I acted them in full conformity with this affection; that I refused to subscribe, because I had, as I still have, objections to the Constitution, and wished a free inquiry into its merits; and that the accession of eight states reduced our deliberations to the single question of Union or no Union.

Mr. President now resumed the chair, and Mr. Matthews reported, that the committee had, according to order, again had the proposed Constitution under their consideration, and had gone through the same, and come {653} to several resolutions thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the clerk's table, where the same were again read, and are as followeth: —

"Whereas the powers granted under the proposed Constitution are the gift of the people, and every power not granted thereby remains with them, and at their will, — no right, therefore, of any denomination, can be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by the Congress, by the Senate or House of Representatives, acting in any capacity, by the President, or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes; and, among other essential rights, liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of the United States.

"And whereas any imperfections, which may exist in the said Constitution, ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein for obtaining amendments, than by a delay, with a hope of obtaining previous amendments, to bring the Union into danger,

"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that the said Constitution be ratified. But in order to relieve the apprehensions of those who may be solicitous for amendments, —

"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that whatsoever amendments may be deemed necessary, be recommended to the consideration of the Congress which shall first assemble under the said Constitution, to be acted upon according to the mode prescribed in the 5th article thereof."

The 1st resolution being read a second time, a motion was made, and the question being put, to amend the same by substituting, in lieu of the said resolution and its preamble, the following resolution, —

"Resolved, That, previous to the ratification of the new Constitution of government recommended by the late federal Convention, a declaration of rights, asserting, and securing from encroachment, the great principles of civil and religious liberty, and the unalienable rights of the people, together with amendments to the most exceptionable parts of the said Constitution of government, ought to be referred by this Convention to the other states in the American confederacy for their consideration," —

It passed in the negative — ayes, 80; noes, 88.

On motion of Mr. Patrick Henry, seconded by Mr. Theodorick Bland, the ayes and noes, on the said question, were taken, as follows: —

And then, the main question being put that the Convention do agree with the committee in the said 1st resolution, it was resolved in the affirmative — ayes, 89; noes, 79.

On the motion of Mr. George Mason, seconded by Mr. Patrick Henry, the ayes and noes, on the said main question, were taken, as follows: —

The 2d resolution being then read a second time, a motion was made, and, the question being put to amend the same by striking out the preamble thereto, it was resolved in the affirmative.

And then, the main question being put, that the Convention do agree with the committee in the 2d resolution so amended, it was resolved in the affirmative.

On motion, Ordered, That a committee be appointed to prepare and {656} report a form of ratification pursuant to the first resolution; and that Governor Randolph, Mr. Nicholas, Mr. Madison, Mr. Marshall, and Mr. Corbin, compose the said committee.

On motion, Ordered, That a committee be appointed to prepare and report such amendments as by them shall be deemed necessary, to be recommended, pursuant to the second resolution; and that the Hon. George Wythe, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Henry, Governor Randolph, Mr. George Mason, Mr. Nicholas, Mr. Grayson, Mr. Madison, Mr. Tyler, Mr. John Marshall, Mr. Monroe, Mr. Ronald, Mr. Bland, Mr. Meriwether Smith, Mr. Paul Carrington, Mr. Innes, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. John Blair, and Mr. Simms, compose the said committee.

His excellency, Governor RANDOLPH, reported, from the committee appointed, according to order, a form of ratification, which was read and agreed to by the Convention, in the words following: VIRGINIA, TO WIT:

"We, the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly, and now met in Convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceeding of the federal Convention, and being prepared, as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon, Do, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known, that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, be resumed by them whensoever the same shah be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power, not granted thereby, remains with them, and at their will; that, therefore, no right, of any denomination, can be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by the Congress, by the Senate or House of Representatives, acting in any capacity, by the President, or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes; and that, among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of the United States.

"With these impressions, with a solemn appeal to the Searcher of hearts for the purity of our intentions, and under the conviction that whatsoever imperfections may exist in the Constitution ought rather to be examined m the mode prescribed therein, than to bring the Union into danger by delay, with a hope of obtaining amendments previous to the ratifications, —

"We, the said delegates, in the name and behalf of the people of Virginia, do by these presents, assent to and ratify the Constitution, recommended on the seventeenth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, by the federal Convention, for the government of the United States; hereby announcing to all those whom it may concern, that the said Constitution is binding upon the said people, according to an authentic copy hereto annexed, in the words following."

[For the Constitution, see the commencement of Vol. I.]

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