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actuates me; I wish to hear the real, actual, existing danger, which should lead us to take those steps so dangerous in my conception. Disorders have arisen in other parts of America, but here, sir, no dangers, no insurrection or tumult, has happened ; every thing has been calm and tranquil
. But notwithstanding this, we are wandering on the great ocean of human affairs. I see no land mark to guide us. We are running we know not whither. Difference in opinion las gone to a degree of inflammatory resentment, in different parts of the country, which has been occasioned by this perilous innovation. The federal convention ought to have amended the old system; for this purpose, they were solely delegated: the object of their mission extended to no other consideration. You must therefore forgive the solicitation of one unworthy member, to know what danger could have arisen under the present confederation, and what are the causes of this proposal to change our government.
Some of the advocates of the proposed constitution, having replied to the preceding remarks of Mr. Henry, on the 5th, he continued his speech as follows.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am much obliged to the very worthy gentleman* for his encomium. I wish I were possessed of talents, or possessed of any thing, that might enable me to elucidate this great subject. I am not free from suspicion: I am apt to entertain doubts: I rose yesterday to ask a question, which arose in my own mind. When I asked that question, I thought the meaning of my interrogation was obvious: the fate of this question and of America, may depend on this. Have they said, we, the states? Have they made a proposal of a compact between states? If they had, this would be a confederation : it is otherwise most clearly a consolidated government. The question turns, sir, on that poor little thing—the expression, We, the people, in
* Mr. Lee, of Westmoreland.
stead of the states of America. I need not take much pains to show, that the principles of this system, are extremely pernicious, impolitic, and dangerous. Is this a monarchy, like England—a compact between prince and people; with checks on the former to secure the liberty of the latter? Is this a confederacy, like Holland-an association of a number of independent states, each of which retains its individual sovereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely. Had these principles been adhered to, we should not have been brought to this alarming transition, from a confederacy to a consolidated government. We have no detail of those great considerations which, in my opinion, ought to have abounded before we should recur to a government of this kind. Here is a revolution as radical as that, which separated us from Great Britain. It is as radical, if in this transition, our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states relinquished. And cannot we plainly see, that this is actually the case? The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all
your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans? It is said eight states have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve states and an half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government. Having premised these things, I shall, with the aid of my judgment and information, which I confess are not extensive, go into the discussion of this system more minutely. Is it necessary for your liberty, that you should
abandon' those great rights by the adoption of this system? Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury, and the liberty of the press, necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights, tend to the security of your liberty ? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings-give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else. But I am fearful Í have lived long enough to become an old-fashioned fellow. Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man, may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned: if so, I am contented to be so. I say, the time has been when every pulse of my heart beat for American liberty, and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American. But suspicions have gone forth-suspicions of my integrity. It has been publicly reported that my professions are not real. Twenty three years ago was I supposed a traitor to my country: I was then said to be a bane of sedition, because I supported the rights of my country: I may be thought suspicious, when I say our privileges and rights are in danger : but, sir, a number of the people of this country are weak enough to think these things are too true. I am happy to find that the gentlemen on the other side, declare they are groundless: but, sir, suspicion is a virtue, as long as its object is the preservation of the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds : should it fall on me, I am contented: conscious rectitude is a powerful consolation: I trust there are many who think my professions for the public good to be real. Let your suspicion look to both sides : there are many on the other side, who, possibly may have been persuaded of the necessity of these measures, which I conceive to be dangerous to your liberty. Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it, but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined. I'am answered by gentlemen, that
though I may speak of terrors, yet the fact is, that we are surrounded by none of the dangers I apprehend. I conceive this new government to be one of those dangers : it has produced those horrors, which distress many of our best citizens. We are come hither to preserve the poor commonwealth of Virginia, if it can be possibly done: something must be done to preserve your liberty and mine. The confederation, this same despised government, merits, in my opinion, the highest encomium: it carried us through a long and dangerous war: it rendered us victorious in that bloody conflict with a powerful nation: it has secured us à territory greater than any European monarch possesses: and shall a government which has been thus strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility, and abandoned for want of energy ? Consider what you are about to do, before you part with this government. Take longer time in reckoning things : revolutions like this have happened in almost every country in Europe: similar examples are to be found in ancient Greece and ancient Rome: instances of the people losing their liberty by their own carelessness and the ambition of a few. We are cautioned by the honorable gentleman who presides, against faction and turbulence. I acknowledge that licentiousness is dangerous, and that it ought to be provided against: I acknowledge also the new form of government may effectually prevent it: yet, there is another thing it will as effectually do: it will oppress and ruin the people. There are sufficient guards placed against sedition and licentiousness : for when power is given to this government to suppress these, or, for any other purpose, the language it assumes is clear, express, and unequivocal; but when this constitution speaks of privileges, there is an ambiguity, sir, a fatal ambiguity-an ambiguity which is very astonishing. In the clause under consideration, there is the strangest language that I can conceive. I mean, when it
that there shall not be more representatives, than one for
every 30,000. Now, sir, how easy is it to evade this privilege ? " The number shall not exceed one for every 30,000.” This
This may be satisfied by one representative from each state. Let our numbers be ever so great, this immense continent, may, by this artful expression, be reduced to have but thirteen representatives. I confess this construction is not natural; but the ambiguity of the expression lays a good ground for a quarrel. Why was it not clearly and unequivocally expressed, that they should be entitled to have one for every 30,000 ? This would have obviated all disputes; and was this difficult to be done? What is the inference ? When population increases, and a state shall send representatives in this proportion, Congress may remand them, because the right of having one for every 30,000 is not clearly expressed. This possibility of reducing the number to one for each state, approximates to probability by that other expression,
66 but each state shall at least have one representative." Now is it not clear that, from the first expression, the number might be reduced so much, that some states should have no representative at all
, were it not for the insertion of this last expression ? And as this is the only restriction upon them, we may fairly conclude that they may restrain the number to one from each state. Perhaps the same horrors may hang over my mind again. I shall be told I am continually afraid : but, sir, I have strong cause of apprehension. In some parts of the plan before you, the great rights of freemen are endangered, in other parts absolutely taken away. How does your trial by jury stand ? In civil cases gone-not sufficiently secured in criminal—this best privilege is gone. But we are told, that we need not fear, because those in power being our representatives, will not abuse the powers-we put in their hands. I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers. I imagine, sir, you will