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Post by thelivyjr » Mon Feb 15, 2021 1:40 p

John DeWitt III, continued ...

John DeWitt

November 5, 1787

All contracts are to be construed according to the meaning of the parties at the time of making them.

By which is meant, that mutual communications shall take place, and each shall explain to the other their ideas of the contract before them.

If any unfair practices are made use of, if its real tendency is concealed by either party, or any advantage taken in the execution of it, it is in itself fraudulent and may be avoided.

There is no difference in the constitution of government.

Consent it is allowed is the spring.

The form is the mode in which the people choose to direct their affairs, and the magistrates are but trustees to put that mode in force.

It will not be denied, that this people, of any under Heaven, have a right of living under a government of their own choosing.

That government, originally consented to, which is in practice, what it purports to be in theory, is a government of choice; on the contrary, that which is essentially different in practice, from its appearance in theory, however it may be in letter a government of choice, it never can be so in spirit.

Of this latter kind appear to me to be the proceedings of the Federal Convention.

They are presented as a Frame of Government purely Republican, and perfectly consistent with the individual governments in the Union.

It is declared to be constructed for national purposes only, and not calculated to interfere with domestic concerns.

You are told, that the rights of the people are very amply secured, and when the wheels of it are put in motion, it will wear a milder aspect than its present one.

Whereas the very contrary of all this doctrine appears to be true.

Upon an attentive examination you can pronounce it nothing less, than a government which in a few years, will degenerate to a complete Aristocracy, armed with powers unnecessary in any case to bestow, and which in its vortex swallows up every other Government upon the Continent.

In short, my fellow—citizens, it can be said to be nothing less than a hasty stride to Universal Empire in this Western World, flattering, very flattering to young ambitious minds, but fatal to the liberties of the people.

The cord is strained to the very utmost.

There is every spice of the SIC. JUBEO possible in the composition.

Your consent is requested, because it is essential to the introduction of it, after having received confirmation, your complaints may increase the whistling of the wind, and they will be equally regarded.


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Post by thelivyjr » Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:40 p

John DeWitt III, continued ...

John DeWitt

November 5, 1787

It cannot be doubted at this day by any men of common sense, that there is a charm in politicks.

That persons who enter reluctantly into office become habitated, grow fond of it, and are loath to resign it.

They feel themselves flattered and elevated, and are apt to forget their constituents, until the time returns that they again feel the want of them.

They uniformly exercise all the powers granted to them, and ninety—nine in a hundred are for grasping at more.

It is this passionate thirst for power, which has produced different branches to exercise different departments and mutual checks upon those branches.

The aristocratical hath ever been found to have the most influence, and the people in most countries have been particularly attentive in providing checks against it.

Let us see if it is the case here.

A President, a Senate, and a House of Representatives are proposed.

The Judicial Department is at present out of the question, being separated excepting in impeachments.

The Legislative is divided between the People who are the Democratical, and the Senate who are the Aristocratical part, and the Executive between the same Senate and the President who represents the Monarchial Branch.

In the construction of this System, their interests are put in opposite scales.

If they are exactly balanced, the Government will remain perfect; if there is a prepondency, it will firmly prevail.

After the first four years, each Senator will hold his seat for the term of six years.

This length of time will be amply sufficient of itself to remove any checks that he may have upon his independency, from the fear of a future election.

He will consider that it is a serious portion of his life after the age of thirty; that places of honour and trust are not generally obtained unsolicited.

The same means that placed him there may be again made use of, his influence and his abilities arising from his opportunities, will during the whole term increase those means, he will have a complete negative upon all laws that shall be general, or that shall favor individuals, and a voice in the appointment of all officers in the United States.

Thus habituated to power, and living in the daily practice of granting favors and receiving solicitations, he may hold himself completely independent of the people, and at the same time ensure his election.

If there remains even a risque, the blessed assistance of a little well—distributed money, will remove it.


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Post by thelivyjr » Wed Feb 17, 2021 1:40 p

John DeWitt III, continued ...

John DeWitt

November 5, 1787

With respect to the Executive, the Senate excepting in nomination, have a negative upon the President, and if we but a moment attended to their situation and to his, and to the power of persuasion over the human mind, especially when employed in behalf of friends and favorites, we cannot hesitate to say, that he will be infinitely less apt to disoblige them, than they to refuse him.

It is far easier for twenty to gain over one, than one twenty; besides, in the one case, we can ascertain where the denial comes from, and the other we cannot.

It is also highly improbable but some of the members, perhaps a major part, will hold their seats during their lives.

We see it daily in our own Government, and we see it in every Government we are acquainted with, however many the cautions, and however frequent the elections.

These considerations, added to their share above mentioned in the Executive department must give them a decided superiority over House of Representatives.

But that superiority is greatly enhanced, when we consider the difference of time for which they are chosen.

They will have become adepts in the mystery of administration, while the House of Representatives may be composed perhaps two thirds of members, just entering into office little used to the course of business, and totally unacquainted with the means made use of to accomplish it.

Very possible also in a country where they are total strangers.

But, my fellow citizens, the important question here arises, who are this House of Representatives?

“A representative Assembly, says the celebrated Mr. Adams, is the sense of the people, and the perfection of the portrait, consists in the likeness.”

Can this Assembly be said to contain the sense of the people?

Do they resemble the people in any one single feature?

Do you represent your wants, your grievances, your wishes, in person?

If that is impracticable, have you a right to send one of your townsmen for that purpose?

Have you a right to send one from your county?

Have you a right to send more than one for every thirty thousand of you?

Can he be presumed knowing to your different, peculiar situations —your abilities to pay public taxes, when they ought to be abated, and when increased?

Or is there any possibility of giving him information?

All these questions must be answered in the negative.

But how are these men to be chosen?

Is there any other way than by dividing the Senate into districts?

May not you as well at once invest your annual Assemblies with the power of choosing them — where is the essential difference?

The nature of the thing will admit of none.

Nay, you give them the power to prescribe the mode.

They may invest it in themselves.

If you choose them yourselves, you must take them upon credit, and elect those persons you know only by common fame.

Even this privilege is denied you annually, through fear that you might withhold the shadow of control over them.


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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Feb 19, 2021 1:40 p

John DeWitt III, concluded ...

John DeWitt

November 5, 1787

In this view of the System, let me sincerely ask you, where is the people in this House of Representatives?

Where is the boasted popular part of this much admired System?

Are they not cousins — germane in every sense to the Senate?

May they not with propriety be termed an Assistant Aristocratical Branch, who will be infinitely more inclined to co—operate and compromise with each other, than to be the careful guardians of the rights of their constituents?

Who is there among you would not start at being told, that instead of your present House of Representatives, consisting of members chosen from every town, your future Houses were to consist of but ten in number, and these to be chosen by districts?

What man among you would betray his country and approve of it?

And yet how infinitely preferable to the plan proposed?

In the one case the elections would be annual, the persons elected would reside in the center of you, their interests would be yours, they would be subject to your immediate control, and nobody to consult in their deliberations.

But in the other, they are chosen for double the time, during which, however well disposed, they become strangers to the very people choosing them, they reside at a distance from you, you have no control over them, you cannot observe their conduct, and they have to consult and finally be guided by twelve other States, whose interests are, in all material points, directly opposed to yours.

Let me again ask you, What citizen is there in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that would deliberately consent laying aside the mode proposed, that the several Senates of the several States, should be the popular Branch, and together, form one National House of Representatives?

And yet one moment’s attention will evince to you, that this blessed proposed Representation of the People, this apparent faithful Mirror, this striking Likeness, is to be still further refined, and more Aristocratical four times told.

Where now is the exact balance which has been so diligently attended to?

Where lies the security of the people?

What assurances have they that either their taxes will not be exacted but in the greatest emergencies, and then sparingly, or that standing armies will be raised and supported for the very plausible purpose only of cantoning them upon their frontiers?

There is but one answer to these questions.

They have none.

Nor was it intended by the makers they should have for meaning to make a different use of the latter, they never will be at a loss for ways and means to expend the former.

They do not design to beg a second time.

Knowing the danger of frequent applications to the people, they ask for the whole at once, and are now by their conduct, tearing and absolutely haunting of you into a compliance.

If you choose all these things should take place, by all means gratify them.

Go, and establish this Government which is unanimously confessed imperfect, yet incapable of alteration.

Intrust it to men, subject to the same unbounded passions and infirmities as yourselves, possessed with an insatiable thirst for power, and many of them, carrying in them vices, tho’ tinsel’d and concealed, yet, in themselves, not less dangerous than those more naked and exposed.

But in the mean time, add an additional weight to the stone that now covers the remains of the Great WARREN and MONTGOMERY; prepare an apology for the blood and treasure, profusely spent to obtain those rights which you now so timely part with.

Conceal yourselves from the ridicule of your enemies, and bring your New England spirits to a level with the contempt of mankind.

Henceforth you may sit yourselves down with propriety, and say, Blessed are they that never expect, for they shall not be disappointed.

John DeWitt.

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Post by thelivyjr » Sat Feb 20, 2021 1:40 p

A Landholder I

Oliver Ellsworth

November 5, 1787

To the Holders and Tillers of Land.

The writer of the following passed the first part of his life in mercantile employments, and by industry and economy acquired a sufficient sum on retiring from trade to purchase and stock a decent plantation, on which he now lives in the state of a farmer.

By his present employment he is interested in the prosperity of Agriculture, and those who derive a support from cultivating the earth.

An acquaintance with business has freed him from many prejudices and jealousies, which he sees in his neighbours, who have not intermingled with mankind, nor learned by experience the method of managing an extensive circulating property.

Conscious of an honest intention he wishes to address his brethren on some political subjects which now engage the public attention, and will in the sequel greatly influence the value of landed property.

The new constitution for the United States is now before the public, the people are to determine, and the people at large generally determine right, when they have had means of information.

It proves the honesty and patriotism of the gentlemen who composed the general Convention, that they chose to submit their system to the people rather than the legislatures, whose decisions are often influenced by men in the higher departments of government, who have provided well for themselves and dread any change lest they should be injured by its operation.

I would not wish to exclude from a State Convention those gentlemen who compose the higher branches of the assemblies in the several states, but choose to see them stand on an even floor with their brethren, where the artifice of a small number cannot negative a vast majority of the people.


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Post by thelivyjr » Mon Feb 22, 2021 1:40 p

A Landholder I, continued ...

Oliver Ellsworth

November 5, 1787

This danger was foreseen by the Federal Convention, and they have wisely avoided it by appealing directly to the people.

The landholders and farmers are more than any other men concerned in the present decision, whether the proposed alteration is best they are to determine; but that an alteration is necessary, an individual may assert.

It may be assumed as a fixed truth that the prosperity and riches of the farmer must depend on the prosperity, and good national regulation of trade.

Artful men may insinuate the contrary – tell you let trade take care of itself, and excite your jealousy against the merchant because his business leads him to wear a gayer coat, than your economy directs.

But let your own experience refute such insinuations.

Your property and riches depend on a ready demand and generous price for the produce you can annually spare.

When and where do you find this?

Is it not where trade flourishes, and when the merchant can freely export the produce of the country to such parts of the world as will bring the richest return?

When the merchant doth not purchase, your produce is low, finds a dull market – in vexation you call the trader a jockey, and curse the man whom you ought to pity.

A desire of gain is common to mankind, and the general motive to business and industry.

You cannot expect many purchasers when trade is restricted, and your merchants are shut out from nine tenths of the ports in the world.

While they depend on the mercy of foreign nations, you are the first persons who will be humbled.

Confined to a few foreign ports they must sell low, or not at all; and can you expect they will greedily buy in at a high price, the very articles which they must sell under every restriction.

Every foreign prohibition on American trade is aimed in the most deadly manner against the holders and tillers of the land, and they are the men made poor.

Your only remedy is such a national government as will make the country respectable; such a supreme government as can boldly meet the supremacy of proud and self-interested nations.

The regulation of trade ever was and ever must be a national matter.

A single state in the American union cannot direct, much less controul it.

This must be a work of the whole, and requires all the wisdom and force of the continent; and until it is effected our commerce may be insulted by every overgrown merchant in Europe.

Think not the evil will rest on your merchants alone; it may distress them but it will destroy those who cultivate the earth.

Their produce will bear a low price, and require bad pay; the labourer will not find employment; the value of lands will fall, and the landholder become poor.


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Post by thelivyjr » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:40 p

A Landholder I, concluded ...

Oliver Ellsworth

November 5, 1787

While our shipping rots at home by being prohibited from ports abroad, foreigners will bring you such articles and at such price as they please.

Even the necessary article of salt has the present year, been chiefly imported in foreign bottoms, and you already feel the consequence, your flax-seed in barter has not returned you more that two thirds of the usual quantity.

From this beginning learn what is to come.

Blame not our merchants, the fault is not in them but in the public.

A federal government of energy is the only means which will deliver us, and now or never is your opportunity to establish it, on such basis as will preserve your liberty and riches.

Think not that time without your own exertions will remedy the disorder.

Other nations will be pleased with your poverty; they know the advantage of commanding trade, and carrying in their own bottoms.

By these means they can govern prices and breed up a hardy race of seamen, to man their ships of war when they wish again to conquer you by arms.

It is strange the holders and tillers of the land have had patience so long.

They are men of resolution as well as patience, and will I presume be no longer deluded by British emissaries, and those men who think their own offices will be hazarded by any change in the constitution.

Having opportunity, they will coolly demand a government which can protect what they have bravely defended in war.

A Landholder

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Post by thelivyjr » Wed Feb 24, 2021 1:40 p

An Officer of the Late Continental Army

November 6, 1787

Friends, Countrymen, Brethren, and Fellow Citizens:

The important day is drawing near when you are to elect delegates to represent you in a convention, on the result of whose deliberations will depend, in a great measure, your future happiness.

This convention is to determine whether or not the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania shall adopt the plan of government proposed by the late Convention of delegates from the different states, which sat in this city.

With a heart full of anxiety for the preservation of your dearest rights, I presume to address you on this important occasion.

In the name of sacred liberty, dearer to us than our property and our lives, I request your most earnest attention.

The proposed plan of continental government is now fully known to you.

You have read it, I trust, with the attention it deserves.

You have heard the objections that have been made to it.

You have heard the answers to these objections.

If you have attended to the whole with candor and unbiased minds, as becomes men that are possessed and deserving of freedom, you must have been alarmed at the result of your observations.

Notwithstanding the splendor of names which has attended the publication of the new Constitution, notwithstanding the sophistry and vain reasoning that have been urged to support its principles; alas! you must at least have concluded that great men are not always infallible, and that patriotism itself may be led into essential errors.

The objections that have been made to the new Constitution are these:

It is not merely (as it ought to be) a CONFEDERATION of STATES, but a GOVERNMENT of INDIVIDUALS.

The powers of Congress extend to the lives, the liberties and the property of every citizen.

The sovereignty of the different states is ipso facto destroyed in its most essential parts.

What remains of it will only tend to create violent dissensions between the state governments and the Congress, and terminate in the ruin of the one or the other.

The consequence must therefore be, either that the Union of the states will be destroyed by a violent struggle or that their sovereignty will be swallowed up by silent encroachments into a universal aristocracy; because it is clear, that if two different sovereign powers have a coequal command over the purses of the citizens, they will struggle for the spoils, and the weakest will be in the end obliged to yield to the efforts of the strongest.

Congress being possessed of these immense powers, the liberties of the states and of the people are not secured by a bill or DECLARATION of RIGHTS.

The sovereignty of the states is not expressly reserved, the form only, and not the SUBSTANCE of their government, is guaranteed’ to them by express words.

TRIAL BY JURY, that sacred bulwark of liberty, is ABOLISHED IN CIVIL CASES, and Mr. [James] W[ilson], one of the Convention, has told you, that not being able to agree as to the FORM of establishing this point, they have left you deprived of the SUBSTANCE.

Here are his own words: “The subject was involved in difficulties."

"The Convention found the task TOO DIFFICULT for them, and left the business as it stands.“

THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS is not secured, and the powers of Congress are fully adequate to its destruction, as they are to have the trial of libels, or pretended libels against the United States, and may by a cursed abominable STAMP ACT (as the Bowdoin administration has done in Massachusetts) preclude you effectually from all means of information.

Mr. W[ilson] has given you no answer to these arguments.

Congress have the power of keeping up a STANDING ARMY in time of peace, and Mr. W[ilson] has told you THAT IT WAS NECESSARY.

The LEGISLATIVE and EXECUTIVE powers are not kept separate as every one of the American constitutions declares they ought to be; but they are mixed in a manner entirely novel and unknown, even to the constitution of Great Britain; because, In England the king only has a nominal negative over the proceedings of the legislature, which he has NEVER DARED TO EXERCISE since the days of King William, whereas by the new Constitution, both the President General and the Senate, TWO EXECUTIVE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT, have that negative and are intended to support each other in the exercise of it.

The representation of the lower house is too small, consisting only of 65 members.


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Post by thelivyjr » Thu Feb 25, 2021 1:40 p

An Officer of the Late Continental Army, continued ...

November 6, 1787

That of the Senate is so small that it renders its extensive powers extremely dangerous.

It is to consist only of 26 members, two-thirds of whom must concur to conclude any treaty or alliance with foreign powers.

Now we will suppose that five of them are absent, sick, dead, or unable to attend; twenty-one will remain, and eight of these (one-third, and one over) may prevent the conclusion of any treaty, even the most favorable to America.

Here will be a fine field for the intrigues and even the bribery and corruption of European powers.

The most important branches of the EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT are to be put into the hands of a single magistrate, who will be in fact an ELECTIVE KING.

The MILITARY, the land and naval forces are to be entirely at his disposal, and therefore:

Should the Senate, by the intrigues of foreign powers, become devoted to foreign influence, as was the case of late in Sweden, the people will be obliged, as the Swedes have been, to seek their refuge in the arms of the monarch or PRESIDENT GENERAL.

ROTATION, that noble prerogative of liberty, is entirely excluded from the new system of government, and great men may and probably will be continued in office during their lives.

ANNUAL ELECTIONS are abolished, and the people are not to reassume their rights until the expiration of two, four and six years.

Congress are to have the power of fixing the time, place and manner of holding elections, so as to keep them forever subjected to their influence.

The importation of slaves is not to be prohibited until the year 1808, and SLAVERY will probably resume its empire in Pennsylvania.

The MILITIA is to be under the immediate command of Congress, and men conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms may be compelled to perform military duty.

The new government will be EXPENSIVE beyond any we have ever experienced, the judicial department alone, with its concomitant train of judges, justices, chancellors, clerks, sheriffs, coroners, escheators, state attornies and solicitors, constables, etc. in every state and in every county in each state, will be a burden beyond the utmost abilities of the people to bear, and upon the whole.


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Post by thelivyjr » Fri Feb 26, 2021 1:40 p

An Officer of the Late Continental Army, continued ...

November 6, 1787

A government partaking of MONARCHY and aristocracy will be fully and firmly established, and liberty will be but a name to adorn the short historic page of the halcyon days of America.

These, my countrymen, are the objections that have been made to the new proposed system of government; and if you read the system itself with attention, you will find them all to be founded in truth.

But what have you been told in answer?

I pass over the sophistry of Mr. W[ilson], in his equivocal speech at the State House.

His pretended arguments have been echoed and reechoed by every retailer of politics, and victoriously refuted by several patriotic pens.

Indeed if you read this famous speech in a cool dispassionate moment, you will find it to contain no more than a train of pitiful sophistry and evasions, unworthy of the man who spoke them.

I have taken notice of some of them in stating the objections, and they must, I am sure, have excited your pity and indignation.

Mr. W[ilson] is a man of sense, learning and extensive information; unfortunately for him he has never sought the more solid fame of patriotism.

During the late war he narrowly escaped the effects of popular rage, and the people seldom arm themselves against a citizen in vain.

The whole tenor of his political conduct has always been strongly tainted with the spirit of high aristocracy; West or Peale, or the pen of a Valerius.

And yet that speech, weak and insidious as it is, is the only attempt that has been made to support by argument that political monster THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTION.

I have sought in vain amidst the immense heap of trash that has been published on the subject, an argument worthy of refutation, and I have not been able to find it.

If you can bear the disgust which the reading of those pieces must naturally occasion, and which I have felt in the highest degree, read them, my fellow citizens, and say whether they contain the least shadow of logical reasoning.

Say (laying your hands upon your hearts) whether there is anything in them that can impress unfeigned conviction upon your unprejudiced minds.


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