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Kaminski, John P.; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Reid, Jonathan M.; Flamingo, Margaret R.; Lannér-Cusin, Johanna E.; Fields, David P.; Conley, Patrick T.; Moore, Timothy D. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Rhode Island (3)
(2013)

VI. The debate over the Constitution in Rhode Island, 20 January-29 May 1790,   pp. 711-897


Page 729

COMMENTARIES, 18 FEBRUARY 1790
Navigation Laws, as it regards this State, to the first of April next;5 and
by private letters we are informed, that Congress viewed the assurances
conveyed by this Resolution of the Assembly, as leaving no doubt of an
immediate adoption of the Constitution: Should we therefore reject it,
Congress must consider the Assembly either as purposely deceiving
them, or totally ignorant of the principles of their constituents: Or
should the State Convention adjourn, it must be viewed by them as a
pitiful trifling with government.
It hath been a subject of astonishment, that the Constitution should
have been opposed by the landed interest, as it evidently bears harder
on the mercantile.-The revenue for the exigencies of government, is
raised only by imposts on the importation of foreign goods, while ag-
riculture and manufactures are encouraged-The consumer, it is true,
will eventually pay this tax; but are not the inhabitants of (sea-port)6
towns the greatest consumers of foreign luxuries? and is it not a heavier
tax on them, than by quotaing a sum according to wealth, or numbers?
besides no one is obliged to pay, but he who dresses in rich attire, or
satiates his appetite with dainties of foreign climes; for our lands with
industry, will yield every thing necessary for the support and conve-
nience of life.
The prosperity of this State is much dependent on commerce; it is
the medium for disposing of the produce of our country, besides en-
abling us to build ships and be the carriers for others.
(The value of lands have risen or fallen according to the thriftiness
or decline of our sea ports: Before the war, lands in this State were sold
from 50 to 200 per cent. higher than the price they will now command;
and the lands upon this island7 are valued at a proportionable higher
rate, than lands of equal goodness, but not so contiguous to the mar-
ket-hence it is evident, that the landed interest is connected with the
mercantile, and that the landholders upon this island are more inter-
ested than others in the success of this town-It was therefore with
surprize the inhabitants of it learnt that the towns of Portsmouth and
Middletown, upon this island, should be opposed to the Constitution,
as the existence of this town is so dependent upon its adoption.
If the State Convention should be so regardless to the true interest
of this State, as to reject the Constitution, or even to adjourn the de-
cision of it, the situation of Newport would be ruinous, unless remedied
in a way that would be painful to their connexion with the State-
Their coasting vessels could no longer sail under the high imposition
of foreign tonnage and port charges, and their foreign vessels would
be rotting in the docks, for want of markets in the neighboring States
to vend the excess of the supply here, they would therefore be pre-
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