November 2, 1787
To the Opposers of the Federal Constitution. The CHALLENGE of a FOREIGNER, who is materially interested in the Welfare of North-America.
After the establishment of peace and independence on this Continent, all Europe, and in particular the trading nations, looked upon this country as a flourishing empire, which on account of the large quantity of fruitful land it contains, would be the magazine of agricultural produce, for those other countries, which are so much overstocked with people, that a small number only can find employ in the cultivation of the land, and a larger number must apply themselves to the mechanical arts and manufactures; and hoped that they would draw from this part of the world, the necessaries of life, in exchange for the produces of their manufactories. The first and second year after peace, seemed very much to favour this opinion of the merchants of the world, who would wish to draw the surplus from one part and supply the other that is in want. But alas! how greatly were they disappointed at the long run; for instead of receiving provisions in return for the goods transmitted to America, this article was dearer in this part of the world, than in Europe; and no other remittance would be made but cash, which was to be sent to Poland and Ireland to buy grain and beef; and when America was drained of its cash, the people feeling their incapacity for making payments for debts contracted, instead of using the imported luxuries more sparingly, and applying themselves with more industry to agriculture, they studied to find out ways and means to defraud their creditors; and being yet habituated, to the legal and illegal oppressions, which escaped unpunished during the war, when large debts were paid with paper of no value; they fell again upon the same mode of proceedings, and framed tender laws, or raised sedition, and opposition to government, and waged war against each other, to gain a chance for plunder. This was certainly abusing liberty, and greatly disappointing those politicians in Europe, who expected to learn of America, the happiness of a truly Republican empire. All mankind should by their natural rights, enjoy equal liberty, except in such cases which tend to the injury of their neighbours; therefore they should have a government endued with sufficient power, to check the progress of the wicked and to protect the virtuous. But the nice point in establishing this government, is to prevent it from oppressing the community at large, and that the rulers shall not abuse their power and enslave the subjects. For bad men will always be active in mischief. This seems to be the principle and the only apprehension of the old constitutionalists. But I should think this suspicion to be ill-founded, and that the rights and liberties of the people will remain safe, and be held sacred, if only at the days of the several elections of these rulers, the people will be sure, to the best of their knowledge, to chuse the best man among themselves, and no other should ever rule. A generous and benevolent representative in Congress, CANNOT be so selfish and act so much against his disposition and principles, as to propose or vote for a law, which would make his constituents miserable; only because it might be of some benefit for himself during the short time he should be in office, and then subject himself and posterity, under the same yoke which he has framed. No one will ask—Where is that generous and benevolent man, against whose principles and disposition it would be, to introduce and establish an oppressive law when he can do it? Or is there really one, who dares doubt to find such a man among 30,000 of his fellow citizens? That one deserves to be enslaved, and all the 29,999 with him, if there is not one honest man among them, that could be trusted for two years, with the office of a representative in Congress; it is much better for the world to have 30,000 slaves more in it, than so many tyrants and villains, which they would be if they were at liberty to act as they pleased. This argument my antifederalists, will not answer your purpose, it will operate against you; for it is a gross insult upon the characters of all those whom you would wish to join you, it discovers too much of your own heart which, similar to all human nature, will measure other people’s corn with his own bushel. You must bring more persuasive reasons, if the new constitution shall not be adopted. The world has long been in doubt, whether mankind is worthy of the free will, the grand gift of the Creator, and capable of a republican government, or if men are the most voracious beasts upon earth, that would devour each other if they had power and liberty. If this last should prove to be the case in America, it will soon throw the states into the utmost confusion, and the European powers will in pity divide you among themselves, and keep you in future, under better subordination. Until that will be compleated, he that has the least to lose, will have the best chance of gain. That either a firm and uniform government should be established, or that the states may soon go to a dissolution, is the ardent wish of a former friend, and principal creditor to American individuals.