The following essay is in two parts: the first is by "Massachusettensis," and is reprinted from The Massachusetts Gazette of January 29, 1788; the second part was written by "An Old Whig," and is taken from The New-York Journal of November 27, 1787.
Again, the constitution makes no consistent, adequate provision for amendments to be made to it by states, as states. Not they who drew up the amendments (should any be made), but they who ratify them, must be considered as making them. Three fourths of the legislatures of the several states, as they are now called, may ratify amendments -- that is, if Congress see fit, but not without. Where is then any independent state authority recognized in the plan? And if there is no independent state authority, how can there be a union of states? But is it not a question of importance why the states in their present capacity, cannot ratify the original? I mean, why the legislatures of the several states cannot do this business? I wish to be informed where to find the regular exercise and legal sanction of state power, if the legislative authority of the state is set aside. Have the people some other constitutional means by which they can give their united voice in state affairs? This leads me to observe, that should the new constitution be received as it stands, it can never be proved that it originated from any proper state authority; because there is no such authority recognized either in the form of it, or in the mode fixed upon for its ratification. It says, "We the people of the United States," etc., make this constitution; but does this phrase, "We the people of the United States," prove that the people are acting in state character, or that the several states must of necessity exist with separate governments? Who that understands the subject will believe either? ...
The plan does not acknowledge any constitutional state authority as necessary in the ratification of it. This work is to be done by a mere convention, only in consequence of mere recommendation; which does by no means amount to a proper state act. As no state act can exist independent of the supreme authority of the state, and this authority is out of the question in the ratification of the new constitution, it clearly follows that the ratifying of it, by a mere convention, is no proper state business. To conclude, the people may make the original, but the people have no right to alter it. Congress may order this matter just as they please, and consequently have whom they please elected for governors or representatives, not of the states but of the people; and not of the people as men but as property. . . .
It appears to me that I was mistaken in supposing that we could so very easily make
trial of this constitution, and again change it at our pleasure. The conventions of the
several states cannot propose any alterations -- they are only to give their assent and
ratification. And after the constitution is once ratified, it must remain fixed until two
thirds of both the houses of Congress shall deem it necessary to propose amendments; or
the legislatures of two thirds of the several states shall make application to Congress
for the calling a convention for proposing amendments -- which amendments shall not be
valid until they are ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states,
or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as one or the other mode of ratification may
be proposed by Congress. This appears to me to be only a cunning way of saying that no
alteration shall ever be made; so that whether it is a good constitution or a bad
constitution, it will remain forever unamended. Lycurgus, when he promulgated his laws to
the Spartans, made them swear that they would make no alterations in them until he should
return from a journey which he was then about to undertake. He chose never to return, and
therefore no alteration could be made in his laws. The people were made to believe that
they could make trial of his laws for a few months or years, during his absence, and as
soon as he returned they could continue to observe them or reject at pleasure. Thus this
celebrated republic was in reality established by a trick. In like manner the proposed
constitution holds out a prospect of being subject to be changed if it be found necessary
or convenient to change it; but the conditions upon which an alteration can take place,
are such as in all probability will never exist. The consequence will be that when the
constitution is once established it never can be altered or amended without some violent
convulsion or civil war.
AN OLD WHIG