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tions of their rulers may be concealed from them. The most iniquitous plots may be carried on against their liberty and happiness. I am not an advocate for divulging indiscriminately all the operations of government, though the practice of our ancestors in some degree justifies it. Such transactions as relate to military operations, or affairs of great consequence, the immediate promulgation of which might defeat the interests of the community, I would not wish to be published, till the end which required their secrecy should have been effected. But to cover, with the veil of secrecy, the common routine of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man, and every friend to his country.
[Mr. Henry then, in a very animated manner, expatiated on the evil and pernicious tendency of keeping secret the common proceedings of government, and said, that it was contrary to the practice of other free nations. The people of England, he asserted, had gained immortal honor, by the manly boldness wherewith they divulged to all the world their political disquisitions and operations; and that such a conduct inspired other nations with respect. He illustrated his arguments by several quotations.] He then continued :
I appeal to this convention, if it would not be better for America to take off the veil of secrecy. Look at us-hear our transactions. If this had been the language of the federal convention, what would have been the result? Such a constitution would not have come out to your utter astonishment, conceding such dangerous powers, and recommending secrecy in the future transactions of government. I believe it would have given more general satisfaction, if the proceedings of that convention had not been concealed from the public eye. This constitution authorizes the same conduct. There is not an English feature in it. The transactions of Congress may be concealed a century from the public consistently with the constitution.
This, sir, is a laudable imitation of the transactions of the Spanish treaty. We have not forgotten with what a thick veil of secrecy those transactions were covered.
We are told that this government, collectively taken, is without an example; that it is national in this part, and federal in that part, &c. We may be amused, if we please, by a treatise of political anatomy. In the brain it is national: the stamina are federal-some limbs are federal, others national. The senators are voted for by the state legislatures; so far it is federal. Individuals choose the members of the first branch; here it is national. It is federal in conferring general powers, but national in retaining them. It is not to be supported by the states—the pockets of individuals are to be searched for its maintenance. What signifies it to me, that you have the most curious anatomical description of it in its creation ? To all the common purposes of legislation it is a great consolidation of government. You are not to have the right to legislate in any but trivial cases: you are not to touch private contracts: you are not to have the right of having arms in your own defence: you cannot be trusted with dealing out justice between man and man. What shall the states have to do?- Take care of the poor, repair and make highways, erect bridges, and so on and so on. Abolish the state legislatures at once. What purposes should they be continued for? Our legislature will indeed be a ludicrous spectacle-one hundred and eighty men marching in solemn, farcical procession, exhibiting a mournful proof of the lost liberty of their country, without the power of restoring it. But, sir, we have the consolation, that it is a mixed government; that is, it may work sorely on your neck, but you will have some comfort by saying, that it was a federal government in its origin.
I beg gentlemen to consider; lay aside your prejudices is this a federal government? Is it not a consolidated government for every purpose almost ? Is
the government of Virginia a state government, after this government is adopted ? I grant that it is a republican government; but for what purposes ? For such trivial, domestic considerations, as render it unworthy the name of a legislature. I shall take leave of this political anatomy by observing, that it is the most extraordinary that ever entered into the imagination of man. If our political diseases demand a cure, this is an unheard of medicine. The honorable member, I am convinced, wanted a name for it. health in danger, would you take new medicine? I need not make use of these exclamations; for every member in this committee must be alarmed at making new and unusual experiments in government. Let us have national credit and a national treasury in case of
You never can want national resources in time of war, if the war be a national one, if it be necessary, and this necessity be obvious to the meanest capacity. The utmost exertions will be used by the people of America in that case. A republic has this advantage over a monarchy, that its wars are generally founded on more just grounds. A republic can never enter into a war, unless it be a national war, unless it be approvéd of, or desired by the whole community. Did ever a republic fail to use the utmost resources of the community when a war was necessary? I call for an example. I call also for an example, when a republic has been engaged in a war contrary to the wishes of its people. There are thousands of examples where the ambition of its prince has precipitated a nation into the most destructive war. No nation ever withheld power when its object was just and right. I will hazard an observation; I find fault with the paper before you, because the same power that declares war, has the ability to carry it on. Is it so in England ? The king declares war: the house of commons gives the means of carrying it on. This is a strong check on the king. He will enter into no war that is unnecessary; for the commons, having the power of withholding
the means, will exercise that power, unless the object of the war be for the interest of the nation. How is it here? The Congress can both declare war and carry it on, and levy your money as long as you have a shilling to pay.
I shall now speak a little of the colonial confederacy which was proposed at Albany. Massachusetts did not give her consent to the project at Albany so as to consolidate with the other colonies. Had there been a consolidation at Albany, where would have been their charter? Would that confederacy have preserved their charter from Britain? The strength and energy of the then designed government would have crushed American opposition.
The American revolution took its origin from the comparative weakness of the British government not being concentred in one point. A concentration of the strength and interest of the British government in one point, would have rendered opposition to its ty. rannies fruitless. For want of that consolidation do we now enjoy liberty, and the privilege of debating at this moment. I am pleased with the colonial establishment. The example, which the honorable member has produced to persuade us to depart from our present confederacy, rivets me to my former opinion, and convinces me that consolidation must end in the destruction of our liberties.
The honorable gentleman has told us of our ingratitude to France. She does not intend to take payment by force. Ingratitude shall not be laid to my charge. I wish to see the friendship between this country and that magnanimous ally perpetuated. Requisitions will enable us to pay the debts we owe to France and other countries. She does not desire us to go from our beloved republican government. The change is inconsistent with our engagements with those nations. It is cried out, that those in opposition wish disunion. This is not true. They are the most strenuous friends to it. This government will clearly operate disunion.
If it be heard on the other side of the Atlantic, that you are going to disunite and dissolve the confederacy, what says France? Will she be indifferent to an event that will so radically affect her treaties with us? Our treaty with her is founded on the confederation-we are bound to her as thirteen states confederated. What will become of the treaty? It is said that trcaties will be on a better footing. How so? Will the president, senate and house of representatives be parties to them? I cannot conceive how the treaties can be as binding, if the confederacy is dissolved, as they
Those nations will not continue their friendship then; they will become our enemies. I look on the treaties as the greatest pillars of safety. If the house of Bourbon keeps us, we are safe. Dissolve that confederacy-who has you ?-The British. Federalism will not protect you from the British. Is a connexion with that country more desirable? I was amazed when gentlemen forgot the friends of America. I hope that this dangerous change will not be effected. It is safe for the French and Spaniards, that we should continue to be thirteen states; but it is not so, that we should be consolidated into one government. They have settlements in America; will they like schemes of popular ambition ? Will they not have some serious reflections ? You may tell them you have not changed your situation; but they will not believe you. If there be a real check intended to be left on Congress, it must be left in the state governments. There will be some check, as long as the judges are incorrupt. As long as they are upright, you may preserve your liberty. But what will the judges determine when the state and federal authority come to be contrasted? Will your liberty then be secure, when the congressional laws are declared paramount to the laws of your state, and the judges are sworn to support them?
I am constrained to make a few remarks on the absurdity of adopting this system, and relying on the