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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 168

II. DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTION
is not given, is reserved. This distinction being recognized, will furn-
ish an answer to those who think the omission of a bill of rights, a
defect in the proposed Constitution: for it would have been super-
fluous and absurd to have stipulated with a federal body of our own
creation, that we should enjoy those privileges, of which we are not
divested either by the intention or the act, that has brought that
body into existence. For instance, the liberty of the press, which has
been a copious source of declamation and opposition, what control
can proceed from the federal government to shackle or destroy that
sacred palladium of national freedom? If indeed, a power similar
to that which has been granted for the regulation of commerce, had
been granted to regulate literary publications, it would have been as
necessary to stipulate that the liberty of the press should be preserved
inviolate, as that the impost should be general in its operation. With
respect likewise to the particular district of ten miles, which is to
be made the seat of federal government, it will undoubtedly be proper
to observe this salutary precaution, as there the legislative power
will be exclusively lodged in the President, Senate, and House of
Representatives of the United States. But this could not be an ob-
ject with the Convention, for it must naturally depend upon a future
compact, to which the citizens immediately interested will and ought
to be parties; and there is no reason to suspect that so popular a privi-
lege will in that case be neglected. In truth then, the proposed system
possesses no influence whatever upon the press, and it would have
been merely nugatory to have introduced a formal declaration upon
the subject-nay, that very declaration might have been construed to
imply that some degree of power was given, since we undertook to
define its extent.
Another objection that has been fabricated against the new Con-
stitution, is expressed in this disingenuous form-"the trial by jury
is abolished in civil cases." I must be excused, my fellow citizens, if
upon this point, I take advantage of my professional experience to
detect the futility of the assertion. Let it be remembered then, that
the business of the Federal Convention was not local, but general;
not limited to the views and establishments of a single state, but co-
extensive with the continent, and comprehending the views and
establishments of thirteen independent sovereignties. When, there-
fore, this subject was in discussion, we were involved in difficulties
which pressed on all sides, and no precedent could be discovered
to direct our course. The cases open to a trial by jury differed in
the different states, it was therefore impracticable on that ground to
have made a general rule. The want of uniformity would have
rendered any reference to the practice of the states idle and useless;
168


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