AntiFederalist #40 is a compilation of articles.
But the members of the Federal Convention were men w e been all tried in the field of action, say some; they have fought for American liberty. Then the more to their shame be it said; curse on the villain who protects virgin innocence only with a view that he may himself become the ravisher; so that if the assertion were true, it only turns to their disgrace; but as it happens it is not truth, or at least only so in part. This was a scheme taken by the despots and their sycophants to bias the public mind in favor of the constitution. For the convention was composed of a variety of characters: ambitious men, Jesuits, Tories, lawyers, etc., formed the majority, whose similitude to each other, consisted only in their determination to lord it over their fellow citizens; like the rays that converging from every direction meet in a point, their sentiments and deliberations concentered in tyranny alone; they were unanimous in forming a government that should raise the fortunes and respectability of the well born few, and oppress the plebeians.
Does our soil produce no more Washington's? Is there none who would oppose the attempt to establish a government by force? Can we not call from the fields, the counters, the bar, and mechanics' shops, any more Generals? Is our soil exhausted? And does any one suppose that the Americans, like the Romans, will submit to an army merely because they have conquered a foreign enemy? . . .
I revere the characters of some of the gentlemen that composed the convention at Philadelphia, yet I think they were human, and subject to imposition and error, as well as the rest of mankind. You lost eight or ten years of your lives and labor by the last war, and you were left at last with your debts and encumbrances on you, and numbers of you were soon after the close of it, sued and harassed for them. Your persons have been put into a loathsome prison, and others of you have had your property sold for taxes, and sometimes for one tenth of its former and actual value and you now pay very grievous and heavy taxes, double and treble what you paid before the war; and should you adopt this new government, your taxes will be great, increased to support their . . . servants and retainers, who will be multiplied upon you to keep you in obedience, and collect their duties, taxes, impositions, and excises. Some of you may say the rich men were virtuous in the last war; yes, my countrymen, they had reason then to be so! Our liberty then was in dispute with a mighty and powerful tyrant, and it was for their interest to promote and carry on the opposition, as long as they could stay at home and send the common people into the field to fight their battles. After the war began, they could not with decency recede, for the sword and enemy were at the very entrance of their gates. The case is greatly altered now; you conquered the enemy, and the rich men now think to subdue you by their wiles and arts, or make you, or persuade you, to do it yourselves. Their aim, I perceive, is now to destroy that liberty which you set up as a reward for the blood and treasure you expended in the pursuit of and establishment of it. They well know that open force will not succeed at this time, and have chosen a safer method, by offering you a plan of a new Federal Government, contrived with great art, and shaded with obscurity, and recommended to you to adopt; which if you do, their scheme is completed, the yoke is -- fixed on your necks, and you will be undone, perhaps for ever, and your boasted liberty is but a sound, Farewell! Be wise, be watchful, guard yourselves against the dangers that are concealed in this plan of a new Federal Government.
A FARMER AND PLANTER
Make the best of this new government -- say it is composed of any thing 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 shall 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 [Virginia Ratifying] 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 discovery 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 government, 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 they exceeded their power is perfectly clear. . . . 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.
What then are we to think of the motives and designs of those men who are urging the
implicit and immediate adoption of the proposed government; are they fearful, that if you
exercise your good sense and discernment, you will discover the masked aristocracy, that
they are attempting to smuggle upon you under the suspicious garb of republicanism? When
we find that the principal agents in this business are the very men who fabricated the
form of government, it certainly ought to be conclusive evidence of their invidious design
to deprive us of our liberties. The circumstances attending this matter, are such as
should in a peculiar manner excite your suspicion; it might not be useless to take a
review of some of them.
. . . Another thing they tell us, that the constitution must be good, from the characters which composed the Convention that framed it. It is graced with the names of a Washington and a Franklin. Illustrious names, we know -- worthy characters in civil society. Yet we cannot suppose them to be infallible guides; neither yet that a man must necessarily incur guilt to himself merely by dissenting from them in opinion. We cannot think the noble general has the same ideas with ourselves, with regard to the rules of right and wrong. We cannot think he acts a very consistent part, or did through the whole of the contest with Great Britain. Notwithstanding he wielded the sword in defense of American liberty, yet at the same time was, and is to this day, living upon the labors of several hundreds of miserable Africans, as free born as himself; and some of them very likely, descended from parents who, in point of property and dignity in their own country, might cope with any man in America. We do not conceive we are to be overborne by the weight of any names, however revered. "ALL MEN ARE BORN FREE AND EQUAL;......
THE YEOMANRY OF MASSACHUSETTS