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Jensen, Merrill; Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Pennsylvania
(1976)

A. Public and private commentaries on the Constitution, 17 September-6 October 1787,   pp. 130-172


Page 130

II. DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTION
A. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE COMMENTARIES
ON THE CONSTITUTION
17 September-6 October 1787
By 29 September when the Assembly called the state Convention,
Philadelphia newspapers had printed many articles about the Con-
stitution, some of which circulated nationally. Advocates of the Con-
stitution maintained that it would herald an era of stability at home
and respectability abroad; be a bulwark against tyranny and protect
the rights, liberties, and property of all people; and insure and
guarantee the liberties won by the War for Independence.
Opponents declared that Congress' vast powers, especially the power
of direct taxation and the power to create a standing army, would
be inimical to the rights, liberties, and property of the people. More-
over, the Constitution failed to guarantee the right of trial by jury
in civil cases, and above all, that it was a "consolidated" rather than
a "federal" government.
Simultaneously with the beginning of the newspaper debate, public
meetings to consider the Constitution were held in and around Phila-
delphia. The result was a petition campaign asking the Assembly to
call a state convention. Between 24 and 29 September petitions signed
by more than 4,000 inhabitants of the city of Philadelphia and Phila-
delphia and Montgomery counties were presented to the Assembly
(Mfm:Pa. 61).
During the ten days after the Assembly called the state Convention,
Philadelphia Federalists and Antifederalists outlined many of the
arguments for and against the Constitution that were used throughout
the debate over ratification in Pennsylvania, and in many other states
as well. The three principal statements were the "Address of the
Seceding Assemblymen" (I:B above), "Centinel" I (H:A below), and
James Wilson's Speech in the State House Yard on 6 October (II:A
below). According to the Massachusetts Centinel of 31 October: "The
essence and quintessence of all that can be objected to the American
Constitution are comprised in the address of the Pennsylvania seceders,
and a complete answer to them and the other Antifederalists, may be
found in the address of Mr. Willson." "Other Antifederalists" pre-
sumably included "Centinel" I.
Samuel Bryan, formerly clerk of the General Assembly, was the
author of "Centinel," although contemporaries attributed the essay
to his father, George Bryan (Pennsylvania Gazette, 31 October, Mfm:
Pa. 178). "Centinel" I, first published in the Independent Gazetteer
on 5 October, was also published as broadsides in English and German,
and reprinted in the Carlisle Gazette, 24 October, and excerpted in the
130


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