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stitution under examination is framed upon truly republican principles; and that, as it is expressly designed to provide for the common protection and the general welfare of the United States, it must be utterly repugnant to this Constitution to subvert the State governments or oppress the people.
(BORN 1751, DIED 1836).
ON THE EXPEDIENCY OF ADOPTING THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION-CONVENTION OF VIRGINIA,
JUNE 6, 1788.
MR. CHAIRMAN :
In what I am about to offer to this assembly, I shall not attempt to make impressions by any ardent professions of zeal for the public welfare. We know that the principles of every man will be, and ought to be, judged not by his professions and declarations, but by his conduct. By that criterion, I wish, in common with every other member, to be judged; and even though it should prove unfavorable to my reputation, yet it is a criterion from which I by no means would depart, nor could if I would. Comparisons have been made between We ought
* For notes on Madison see Appendix, p. 350.
the friends of this constitution and those who oppose it. Although I disapprove of such comparisons, I trust that in everything that regards truth, honor, candor, and rectitude of motives, the friends of this system, here and in other States, are not inferior to its opponents. But professions of attachment to the public good, and comparisons of parties, at all times invidious, ought not to govern or influence us now. We ought, sir, to examine the Constitution exclusively on its own merits. to inquire whether it will promote the public happiness; and its aptitude to produce that desirable object ought to be the exclusive subject of our researches. In this pursuit, we ought to address our arguments not to the feelings and passions, but to those understandings and judgments which have been selected, by the people of this country, to decide that great question by a calm and rational investigation. I hope that gentlemen, in displaying their abilities on this occasion, will, instead of giving opinions and making assertions, condescend to prove and demonstrate, by fair and regular discussion. It gives me pain to hear gentlemen continually distorting the natural construction of language. Assuredly, it is sufficient if any human production can stand a fair discussion. Before I proceed to make some additions to the reasons which have been adduced by my honorable friend over the way, I must take the liberty to make some observations on what was said by another gentleman (Mr. Henry). He told us that this constitution ought to be rejected, because, in his opinion, it endangered the public liberty in many instances. Give me leave to make one answer to that observation-let the dangers with which this system is supposed to be replete, be clearly pointed out. If any dangerous and unnecessary powers be given to the general legislature, let them be plainly demonstrated, and let us not rest satisfied with general assertions of dangers, without proof, without examination. If powers be necessary, apparent danger is not a sufficient reason against conceding them. He has suggested, that licentiousness has seldom produced the loss of liberty; but that the tyranny of rulers has almost always effected it. Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations; but on a candid examination of history, we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power, by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions which, in republics, have, more frequently than any other cause, produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes. If we consider the peculiar situation of the United States, and go to the sources of that diversity of sentiment which pervades its inhabitants, we shall find great danger to fear that the same causes may terminate here in the same fatal effects which they produced in those republics. This danger ought to be wisely guarded against. In the progress of this discussion, it will perhaps appear, that the only possible remedy for those evils, and the only certain means of preserving and protecting the principles of republicanism, will be found in that very system which is now exclaimed against as the parent of oppression. I must confess that I have not been able to find his usual consistency in the gentleman's arguments on this occasion. He informs us that the people of this country are at perfect