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Jensen, Merrill; Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Pennsylvania
2 (1976)

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


Page 166

II. DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTION
great body of the people, and that so far from being a regular bal-
anced government, it would be in practice a permanent ARISTO-
CRACY.
The framers of it, actuated by the true spirit of such a government,
which ever abominates and suppresses all free enquiry and discussion,
have made no provision for the liberty of the press, that grand palla-
dium of freedom and scourge of tyrants, but observed a total silence
on that head. It is the opinion of some great writers, that if the liberty
of the press, by an institution of religion, or otherwise, could be ren-
dered sacred, even in Turkey, that despotism would fly before it. And
it is worthy of remark, that there is no declaration of personal rights,
premised in most free constitutions; and that trial by jury in civil
cases is taken away; for what other construction can be put on the
following, viz., Article III, section 2d. "In all cases affecting am-
bassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a
State shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction.
In all the other cases above mentioned, the Supreme Court shall
have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact." It would be
a novelty in jurisprudence, as well as evidently improper to allow
an appeal from the verdict of a jury, on the matter of fact; there-
fore, it implies and allows of a dismission of the jury in civil cases,
and especially when it is considered, that jury trial in criminal cases
is expressly stipulated for, but not in civil cases.
But our situation is represented to be so critically dreadful, that
however reprehensible and exceptionable the proposed plan of gov-
ernment may be, there is no alternative between the adoption of it
and absolute ruin. My fellow citizens, things are not at that crisis;
it is the argument of tyrants. The present distracted state of Europe
secures us from injury on that quarter, and as to domestic dissensions,
we have not so much to fear from them, as to precipitate us into this
form of government, without it is a safe and a proper one. For
remember, of all possible evils, that of despotism is the worst and
the most to be dreaded.
Besides, it cannot be supposed, that the first essay on so difficult a
subject, is so well digested, as it ought to be. If the proposed plan,
after a mature deliberation, should meet the approbation of the
respective states, the matter will end; but if it should be found to be
fraught with dangers and inconveniencies, a future general conven-
tion, being in possession of the objections, will be the better enabled
to plan a suitable government.
Who's here so base, that would a bondman be?
If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who's here so vile, that will not love his country?
If any, speak; for him have I offended.
166


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