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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 515

V. COMMENTARIES
interests of the people. America is at this moment in tenfold greater
danger of slavery than ever she was from the councils of a British
monarchy or the triumph of British arms. She is in danger from herself
and her own citizens, not from giving too much, but from denying
all power to her rulers-not from a constitution on despotic principles,
but from having no constitution at all. Should this great effort to
organize the empire prove abortive, Heaven only knows the situation
in which we shall find ourselves; but there is reason to fear it will
be troublesome enough. It is awful to meet the passions of a people
who not only believe but feel themselves uncontrolled-who not find-
ing from government the expected protection of their interests, tho
otherwise honest, become desperate, each man determining to share
by the spoils of anarchy what he would wish to acquire by industry
under an efficient national protection. It becomes the deputies of
the people to consider what will be the consequence of a miscarriage
in this business. Ardent expectation is waiting for its issue-all allow
something is necessary-thousands of sufferers have stifled their sighs
in reverence to the public effort-the industrious classes of men are
waiting with patience for better times, and should that be rejected on
which they make dependence, will not the public convulsion be great.
Or if the civil state should survive the first effects of disappointment,
what will be the consequences of slower operations. The men who
have done their best to give relief will despair of success and gloomily
determine that greater sufferings must open the eyes of the deluded.
The men who oppose, tho they may claim a temporary triumph, will
find themselves totally unable to propose, and much less to adopt, a
better system. The narrowness of policy that they have pursued will
instantly appear more ridiculous than at present, and the triumph
will spoil that importance which nature designed them to receive not
by succeeding, but by impeding national councils. These men cannot
therefore be the saviors of their country. While those who have been
foremost in the political contention disappear, either thro despondence
or neglect, every man will do what is right in his own eyes and his
hand will be against his neighbor-industry will cease-the states will
be filled with jealousy-some opposing and others endeavoring to
retaliate-a thousand existing factions and acts of public injustice,
thro the temporary influence of parties, will prepare the way for
chance to erect a government which might now be established by
deliberate wisdom. When government thus arises, it carries an iron
hand. Should the states reject a union upon solid and efficient princi-
ples, there needs but some daring genius to step forth and impose an
authority which future deliberation never can correct. Anarchy, or
a want of such government as can protect the interests of the subjects
against foreign and domestic injustice, is the worst of all conditions.
515


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