<Debate and Ratification

Agrippa XI

January 8, 1788

To the People.

My last Address contained the outlines of a system fully adequate to all the useful purposes of the union. Its object is to raise a sufficient revenue from the foreign trade, and the sale of our publick lands, to satisfy all the publick exigencies, and to encourage, at the same time, our internal industry and manufactures. It also secures each state in its own separate rights, while the continental concerns are thrown into the general department. The only deficiencies that I have been able to discover in the plan, and in the view of federalists they are very great ones, are, that it does not allow the interference of Congress in the domestick concerns of the state, and that it does not render our national councils so liable to foreign influence. The first of these articles tends to guard us from that infinite multiplication of officers which the report of the Convention of Philadelphia proposes. With regard to the second, it is evidently not of much importance to any foreign nation to purchase, at a very high price, a majority of votes in an assembly, whose members are continually exposed to a recall. But give those members a right to sit six, or even two, years, with such extensive powers as the new system proposes, and their friendship will be well worth a purchase. This is the only sense in which the Philadelphia system will render us more respectable in the eyes of foreigners. In every other view they lose their respect for us, as it will render us more like their own degraded models. It is a maxim with them, that every man has his price. If, therefore we were to judge of what passes in the hearts of the federalists when they urge us, as they continually do, to be like other nations, and when they assign mercenary motives to the opposers of their plan, we should conclude very fairly, that themselves wish to be provided for at the publick expense. However that may be, if we look upon the men we shall find some of their leaders to have formed pretty strong attachments to foreign nations. Whether those attachments arose from their being educated under a royal government, from a former unfortunate mistake in politicks, or from the agencies for foreigners, or any other cause, is not in my province to determine. But certain it is. that some of the principal fomenters of this plan have never shewn themselves capable of that generous system of policy which is founded in the affections of freemen. Power and high life are their idols, and national funds are necessary to support them.

Some of the principal powers of Europe have already entered into treaties with us, and that some of the rest have not done it, is not owing, as is falsely pretended, to the want of power in Congress. Holland never found any difficulty of this kind from the multitude of sovereignties in that country, which must all be consulted on such an occasion. The resentment of Great Britain for our victories in the late war has induced that power to restrain our intercourse with their subjects. Probably an hope, the only solace of the wretched, that their affairs would take a more favourable turn on this continent, has had some influence on their proceedings. All their restrictions have answered the end of securing our independence by driving us into many valuable manufactures. Their own colonies in the mean time have languished for want of an intercourse with these states. The new settlement in Nova Scotia has miserably decayed, and the West India Islands have suffered for want of our supplies, and by the loss of our market. This has affected the revenue; and however contemptuously some men may affect to speak of our trade, the supply of six millions of people is an object worth the attention of any nation upon earth. Interest in such a nation as Britain will surmount their resentment. However their pride may be stung, they will pursue after wealth. Increase of revenue to a nation overwhelmed with a debt of near two hundred and ninety millions sterling is an object to which little piques must give way; and there is no doubt that their interest consists in securing as much of our trade as they can.

These are topicks from which are drawn some of the most plausible reasons that have been given by the federalists in favour of their plan, as derived from the sentiments of foreigners. We have weighed them and found them wanting. That they had not themselves full confidence in their own reasons at Philadelphia is evident from the method they took to bias the state Convention. Mess’rs Wilson and M’Kean, two Scottish names, were repeatedly worsted in the argument. To make amends for their own incapacity, the gallery was filled with a rabble, who shouted their applause, and these heroes of aristocracy were not ashamed, though modesty is their national virtue, to vindicate such a violation of decency: Means not less criminal, but not so flagrantly indecent, have been frequently mentioned among us to secure a majority. But those who vote for a price, can never sanctify wrong, and treason will still retain its deformity.