University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

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)

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

Page 732

pregnant with the most interesting consequences-The citizen there-
fore, who shall communicate his sentiments on public affairs with de-
cency, hath, at least, a claim to attention and candor.
Regular government is essential to the happiness of society, to protect
the poor from the rich, and the weak from the strong, to give security
to the fruits of our labor, and safety to our persons,-All civilized so-
cieties have therefore considered it as the greatest of human blessings:
but so uninformed have been the mass of the people in the first origin
of social compacts, in the various nations of Europe, that they have
neglected improving an important crisis to form a free and efficient
government, but left it to chance or ambition-Hence there is a chaos
in their systems, and a tyranny more or less in the executions of them:
But America hath shaken off the yoke of ancient ignorance, and seized
the favorable moment, to deliberate upon and form a Constitution
upon the great principles of liberty and security: How far the present
Constitution of the United States comports with those principles, and
is adapted to the happiness of this State, is with you, GENTLEMEN, a
subject of serious consideration, you are honored by the suffrages of a
free people, to fully investigate and decide this question-a question
the most important that can be submitted to a public body:-It is there-
fore presumed, that in your discussions and determination of it, you
will act unbiassed by party attachments, or sinister motives.
The Constitution is calculated for a confederacy of States: It vests in
Congress the power, of making war, peace, and treaties; over concerns
of a foreign and general nature, of regulating commerce, providing for
the support of government, and establishing correspondent judicial
and executive authorities-Can these powers, or any of them, be ex-
ercised to effect or advantage by this State, in its individual capacity?
Experience hath taught us they cannot.
States or individuals, entering into civil compacts, must give up a
share of liberty to preserve the rest in a more perfect manner; and
where the interests are various, arising from situation, habits, or trade,
concessions must be made by each: Upon these principles (which are
sanctioned by the experience and wisdom of mankind) the merits of
the Constitution appear; for there is not a right, important to the States,
which are not by them retained; nor will this State cede greater advan-
tages to the Union, in the adoption of the Constitution, than the State
which is the least benefited by it.
It is prudent and wise, not only to consider of the merits of the
Constitution before you adopt it; but in case you meditate an adjourn-
ment or a rejection, that you look forward to consequences which may
result therefrom.

Go up to Top of Page