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

Page View

Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut
3 (1978)

V. Commentaries on the Constitution, 13 November 1787-7 January 1788,   pp. 456-534


Page 505

V. COMMENTARIES
a few days, when he refused signing the Constitution and was called
upon for his reasons. These reasons were committed to writing by one
of his colleagues and likewise by the Secretary, as Mr. Gerry delivered
them. These reasons were totally different from those which he has
published, neither was a single objection which is contained in his
letter to the legislature of Massachusetts ever offered by him in Con-
vention.4
Now, Mr. Gerry, as this is generally known to be the state of facts,
and as neither the reasons which you publish nor those retained on
the Secretary's files can be supposed to' have the least affinity to truth,
or to contain the real motives which induced you to withhold your
name from the Constitution, it appears to me that your plan was not
judiciously contrived. When we act without principle, we ought to be
prepared against embarrassments. You might have expected some dif-
ficulties in realizing your continental money; indeed the chance was
rather against your motion even in the most artful shape in which it
could have been proposed. An experienced hand would therefore have
laid the whole plan beforehand and have guarded against a disappoint-
ment. You should have begun the business with doubts and expressed
your sentiments with great ambiguity upon every subject as it passed.
This method would have secured you many advantages. Your doubts
and ambiguities, if artfully managed, might have passed, like those
of the Delphic Oracle, for wisdom and deliberation; and at the close
of the business you might have acted either for or against the Con-
stitution, according to the success of your motion, without appearing
dishonest or inconsistent with yourself. One further precaution would
have brought you off clear. Instead of waiting till the Convention
rose before you consulted your friends at New York,s you ought to
have applied to them at an earlier period to know what objections
you should make. They could have instructed you as well in August
as October. With these advantages you might have passed for a com-
plete politician, and your duplicity might never have been detected.
The enemies of America have always been extremely unfortunate in
concerting their measures. They have generally betrayed great ignor-
ance of the true spirit and feeling of the country, and they have failed
to act in concert with each other. This is uniformly conspicuous, from
the first Bute Parliament in London to the last Shays Parliament at
Pelham. The conduct of the enemies of the new Constitution com-
pares with that of the other enemies above mentioned only in two
particulars, its object and its tendency. Its object was self-interest built
on the ruins of the country, and its tendency is the disgrace of its
authors and the final prosperity of the same country they meant to
depress. Whether the Constitution will be adopted at the first trial in
the conventions of nine states is at present doubtful. It is certain,
505


Go up to Top of Page