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15 over the militia, and especially to the omission Madison, and Randolph. In arguof a Bill of Rights — seconded and sustained with

mentative powers Randolph and great ability by George Mason, who had been a member of the Convention which formed the Con- Henry were nearly matched, but Ranstitution, by James Monroe and William Gray dolph was heavily handicapped by his son, there was not a controvertible point, real or imaginary, in the whole instrument which escaped

record as a recusant and by the printheir embittered opposition; while upon every ciples he had vainly defended in the point Mr. Madison was prepared to meet them, with cogent argument, with intent and anxious

Convention at Philadelphia. Ranfeeling, and with mild, conciliatory gentleness of dolph's strongest weapon was peril of temper, disarming the adversary by the very act

disunion, for if in the Union, amendof seeming to decline contention with him. Mr. Madison, devoted himself particularly to the task

ments could be obtained, but if out of of answering and replying to the objections of it, none. But on the other hand RanPatrick Henry, following him step by step, and

dolph was burdened by the fact that meeting him at every turn. His principal coadjutors were Governor Randolph, Edmund Pen- he had profoundly differed from the dleton, the President of the Convention, John

majority of his associates regarding Marshall, George Nicholas, and Henry Lee of Westmoreland. Never was there assembled in

State sovereignty, survivals of which Virginia a body of men, of more surpassing tal- in the new instrument his opponents ent, of bolder energy, or of purer integrity than in that Convention. The volume of their debates regarded as the redeeming features. * should be the pocket and the pillow companion Henry, to whom it was Virginia's lifeof every youthful American aspiring to the honor

and-death struggle, hurled at his of rendering important service to his country; and there, as he reads and meditates, will he not antagonists arrows forged and feathfail to perceive the steady, unfaltering mind of ered by himself. His speeches are so James Madison, marching from victory to victory, over the dazzling but then beclouded genius long that only the most important and eloquence of Patrick Henry.” *

phrases can here be given, but they

should be read by all who wish to Patrick Henry was the spokesman

understand the arguments against the of the Anti-Federalists in this Con

adoption.t Said he: vention and he spoke frequently and forcefully in condemnation of the

“Mr. Chairman: The public mind, as well as

my own, is extremely uneasy at the proposed proposed Constitution, bringing into

change of government. Give me leave to form one play all his persuasive powers to

of the number of those who wish to be thoroughly

acquainted with the reasons of this perilous and prevent its adoption. The struggle

uneasy situation, and why we are brought hither was mainly a combat between Henry, to decide on this great national question. I

consider myself as the servant of the people of

this commonwealth, as a sentinel over their rights, * J. Q. Adams, Life of James Madison, pp. 46– liberty, and happiness. I represent their feelings 48.

when I say that they are exceedingly uneasy, be. † In volume iii. of Elliot's Debates some of ing brought from that state of full security, which Henry's speeches fill 8, 10, 16, 21, and 40 pages respectively, while in the aggregate his speeches Conway, Edmund Randolph, p. 107. cover nearly one quarter of the volume — a book † Mr. Wirt gives a summing up of Henry's obof 663 pages. See also Tyler, Life of Patrick jections to the new Constitution, in his Life of Henry, p. 286. Regarding Henry's attitude see Patrick Henry, pp. 299–306. See also Tyler, Life Curtis, Constitutional History, vol. i., p. 663 et of Patrick Henry, p. 287 et seq.; Henry, Life of seq.

Patrick Henry, vol. ii., chaps. xxxvi-xxxvii.

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they enjoy, to the present delusive appearance of things. Before the meeting of the late Federal convention at Philadelphia, a general peace and a universal tranquility prevailed in this country, and the minds of our citizens were at perfect repose; but since that period, they are exceedingly uneasy and disquieted. When I wished for an appointment to this convention, my mind was extremely agitated for the situation of public affairs. I conceive the republic to be in extreme danger. If our situation be thus uneasy, whence has arisen this fearful jeopardy? It arises from this fatal system; it arises from a proposal that goes to the utter annihilation of the most solemn engagements of the states into a confederacy, to the eventual exclusion of four states. It goes to the annihilation of those solemn treaties we have formed with foreign nations. The present circumstances of France, the good offices rendered us by that kingdom, require our most faithful and most punctual adherence to our treaty with her. We are in alliance with the Spaniards, the Dutch, the Prussians; those treaties bound us as thirteen states, confederated together. Yet here is a proposal to sever that confederacy. Is it possible that we shall abandon all our treaties and national engagements? And for what? I expected to have heard the reasons of an event so unexpected to my mind, and many others. Was our civil polity or public justice endangered or sapped? Was the real existence of the country threatened, or was this preceded by a mournful progression of events? This proposal of altering federal gove ernment is of a most alarming nature: make the best of this new government — say it is composed of everything but inspiration - you ought to be extremely cautious, watchful, jealous of your liberty; for, instead of securing your rights, you may lose them forever. If a wrong step be now made, the republic may be lost forever. If this new government will not come up to the expectation of the people, and they should be disappointed, their liberty will be lost, and tyranny must and will arise. I repeat it again, and I beg gentlemen to consider, that a wrong step, made now, will plunge us into misery, and our republic will be lost. It will be necessary for this Convention to have a faithful historical detail of the facts that preceded the session of the Federal Convention, and the reasons that actuated its members in proposing an entire alteration of government and to demonstrate the dangers that awaited us. If they were of such awful magnitude as to warrant a proposal so extremely perilous as this, I must assert that this Convention has an absolute right to a thorough dis

covery of every circumstance relative to this great event. And here I would make this inquiry of those worthy characters who composed a part of the late Federal Convention. I am sure they were fully impressed with the necessity of forming a great consolidated government, instead of a confederation. That this is a consolidated government is demonstrably clear; and the danger of such a government is, to my mind, very striking. I have the highest veneration for those gentlemen; but, sir, give me leave to demand, what right had they to say, “We, the People?' My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, who authorized them to speak the language of, 'We, the People,' instead of We, the States? States are the characteristics and the soul of a confederation. If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great consolidated national govern. ment of the people of all the states. * I have the highest respect for those gentlemen who formed the Convention; and were some of them not here, I would express some testimonial of esteem for them. America had on a former occasion put the utmost confidence in them; a confidence which was well placed; and I am sure, sir, I would give up any thing to them. I would cheerfully confide in them as my representatives. But, sir, on this great occasion, I would demand the cause of their conduct. Even from that illustrious man, who saved us by his valor, I would have a reason for his conduct; that liberty which he has given us by his valor tells me to ask this reason, and sure I am, were he here, he would give us that reason: but there are other gentlemen here, who can give us this information. The people gave them no power to use their name. That they exceeded their power is perfectly clear. It is not mere curiosity that actuates me; I wish to hear the rea!, 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 has 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

* On this question, see Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, vol. i., p. 350 et seq.

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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."

The next day, Mr. Henry further remarked:

a king, lords, and commons, than a government, 80 replete with such insupportable evils. If we make a king, we may prescribe the rules by which he shall rule his people, and interpose such checks as shall prevent him from infringing them: but the president in the field, at the head of his army, can prescribe the terms on which he shall reign master, so far that it will puzzle any American ever to get his neck from under the galling yoke. I cannot with patience think of this idea. If ever he violates the laws, one of two things will happen: he will come at the head of his army to carry every thing before him; or, he will give bail, or do what Mr. Chief Justice will order him. if he be guilty, will not the recollection of his crimes teach him to make one bold push for the American throne? Will not the immense differ. ence between being master of every thing, and being ignominiously tried and punished, power. fully excite him to make this bold push? But, sir, where is the existing force to punish him? Can he not, at the head of his army, beat down every opposition ? Away with your president; we shall have a king: the army will salute him monarch; your militia will leave you, and assist in making him king, and fight against you: and what have you to oppose this force ? What will then become of you and your rights? Will not absolute despotism ensue?'

“ This Constitution is said to have beautiful features; but when I come to examine these features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightful. Among other deformities, it has an awful squinting; it squints towards monarchy; and does not this raise indignation in the breast of every true American? Your president may easily become king. Your senate is so imperfectly constructed, that your dearest rights may be sacri. ficed by what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue forever unchangeably this government, although horridly defective. Where are your checks in this govern. ment? Your strong-holds will be in the hands of your enemies. It is on a supposition that your American governors shall be honest, that all the good qualities of this government are founded; but its defective and imperfect construction, puts it in their power to perpetrate the worst of mischiefs, should they be bad men; and, sir, would not all the world, from the eastern to the western hemisphere, blame our distracted folly in resting our rights upon the contingency of our rulers being good or bad? Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty? I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has ever followed with absolute certainty, every such mad attempt.

“ If your American chief be a man of ambition and abilities, how easy will it be for him to ren. der himself absolute! The army is in his hands, and, if he be a man of address, it will be attached to him; and it will be the subject of long meditation with him to seize the first auspicious moment to accomplish his design; and, sir, will the Ameri. can spirit solely relieve you when this happens ? I would rather infinitely, and I am sure most of this Convention are of the same opinion, have

On June 9, in the course of a long speech, Henry said:

“We are told that this government, collectively taken, is without an example – that it is national in this part, and federal in that part, etc. 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. Indi. viduals 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 gove ernment. You are not to have the right to legis. late in any but trivial cases: you are not to touch private contracts: you are not to have

See The South in the Building of the Nation, vol. ix., pp. 175-178; Henry, Life of Patrick Henry, vol. iii., pp. 431-434.

Henry, Life of Patrick Henry, vol. iii., pp. 451-452.



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 — 180 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.” *

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On June 24, when the question of ratification came up, Henry again spoke on the subject as follows:

“I have labored for the continuance of the Union - the rock of our salvation. I believe, that, as sure as there is a God in Heaven, our safety, our political happiness and existence, depend on the Union of the states; and, that without this Union, the people of this and the other states, will undergo the unspeakable calamities, which discord, faction, turbulence, war, and bloodshed, have produced in other countries. The American spirit ought to be mixed with American pride pride to see the Union magnificently triumph. Let that glorious pride, which once defied the British thunder, reanimate you again. Let it not be recorded of Americans, that, after having per. formed the most gallant exploits, after having overcome the most astonishing difficulties, and after having gained the admiration of the world by their incomparable valor and policy, they lost their acquired reputation, their national consequence and happiness, by their own indiscretion. Let no future historian inform posterity, that


“ Have gentlemen no respect to the actual dis. positions of the people in the adopting States ? Look at Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. These two great States have raised as great objections to that government as we do. There was a ma. jority of only nineteen in Massachusetts. We are told that only ten thousand were representeil in Pennsylvania, although seventy thousand had a right to be represented. Is not this a serious thing? Is it not worth while to turn your eyes for moment from subsequent amendments, to the situation of your country? Can you have a lasting union in these circumstances ? It will be in vain to expect it. But if you agree to previous amendments, you shall have union, firm and solid. I cannot conclude without say. ing, that I shall have nothing to do with it, if subsequent amendments be determined upon. Oppressions will be carried on as radically by the majority when adjustments and accommodations will be held up. I say, I conceive it my duty, if this government is adopted before it is amended, to go home. I shall act as I think my duty requires.- Every other gentleman will do the same. Previous amendments, in my opinion, are neces. sary to procure, peace and tranquility. I fear, if they be not agreed to, every movement and operation of government will cease, and how long that baneful thing, civil discord, will stay from this country, God only knows. When men are free from restraint, how long will you suspend

* Henry, Life of Patrick Henry, vol. iii., pp. 578-579: Henry, finding himself likely to be overpowered, said: “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 there. fore patiently wait in expectation of seeing that government changed, so as to be compatible with the safety, liberty, and happiness of the people." - Elliot, Debates vol. iii., p. 652; Tyler, Life of Patrick Henry, p. 296; Madison's Works (Codgress ed.), vol. i., p. 402.

* Henry, Life of Patrick Henry, vol. iii., pp. 497-498.



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they wanted wisdom and virtue, to concur in any objected to it on your side of the water. But it regular, efficient government. Should any writer, will be of cruel distress to our country, even in doomed to so disagreeable a task, feel the indigna. your day and mine. The importance to France tion of an honest historian, he would reprehend and England to have our government in the hands and recriminate our folly, with equal severity of a friend or foe will occasion their interference and justice. Catch the present moment, seize it by money and even by arms. Our president will with avidity and eagerness, for it may be lost be of as much more consequence to them than a never to be regained. If the Union be now lost, king of Poland. We must take care, however, I fear it will remain so forever, I believe that neither this nor any other objection to the gentlemen are sincere in their opposition, and new form produces a schism in our Union. That actuated by pure motives: but when I maturely would be an incurable evil, because near friends weigh the advantages of the Union, and dreadful falling out never reunite cordially; whereas, all consequences of its dissolution; when I see safety of us going together, we shall be sure to cure the on my right, and destruction on my left; when evils of our new Constitution before they do I behold respectability and happiness acquired by great harm.” * the one, but annihilated by the other; I cannot hesitate to decide in favor of the former. I hope

Henry construed this letter as admy weakness, from speaking so long, will apologize for my leaving this subject in so mutilated

vising Virginia to reject the Constia condition. If a further explanation be desired, tution, saying that “this illustrious

a I shall take the liberty to enter into it more fully

citizen advises you to reject this Conanother time."

stitution till it be amended. * * * Let Now finding himself sorely pressed, us follow the sage advice of this comHenry alluded to Jefferson as being mon friend of our happiness."† But opposed to the Constitution. Writ- this use of Jefferson's opinion was ing to a friend in Virginia, February not strictly justifiable, for, while he 7, 1787,* Jefferson had said:

undoubtedly wished his opinions to “I wish with all my soul, that the nine first

be known, he did not actually advise conventions may accept the new Constitution, be- the rejection of the Constitution and cause it will secure to us the good it contains,

on May 27, 1788, he wrote to Colonel which I think great and important. But I equally wish that the four latest conventions, whichever Carrington as follows: they be, may refuse to accede to it till a Declara

“I learn with great pleasure the progress of tion of Rights be annexed. This would probably

the new Constitution. Indeed, I have presumed command the offer of such a declaration, and thus

it would gain on the public mind, as I confess it give to the whole fabric, perhaps, as much perfec

has on my own. At first, tho' I saw that the tion as any one of that kind ever had. By a

great mass & ground work was good, I disliked Declaration of Rights, I mean one which shall

many appendages. Reflection and discussion have stipulate freedom of religion, freedom of the

cleared off most of these. You have satisfied me press, freedom of commerce against monopolies,

as to the query I had put to you about the right trial by juries in all cases, no suspensions of the

of direct taxation. My first wish was that nine habeas corpus, no standing armies. These are

states would adopt it in order to insure what fetters against doing evil which no honest govern

was good in it and that the others might, by hold. ment should decline. There is another strong

ing off, produce the necessary amendments. But feature in the new constitution which I as strongly

the plan of Massachusetts is far preferable, and dislike. That is, the perpetual re-eligibility of the

will I hope be followed by those who are yet to president. Of this I expect no amendment at

decide "I present, because I do not see that anybody has

* Jefferson's Works, vol. ii., p. 355. * For other letters expressing the same senti. † Elliot, Debates, vol. iji., p. 152. ments, see Ford's ed. of Jefferson's Writings, vol. | Ford's ed. of Jefferson's Writings, vol. V., PP. V., pp. 2–3, 4, 5, 7-8, 11-12, 41-42, 46, 76–78.


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