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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 519

V. COMMENTARIES
my countrymen, be not deceived with fair words and plausible speeches.
You have eyes; use them for yourselves-employ your own good sense
-read and examine the Constitution-trust not to others to do it for
you-narrowly inspect every part of it. Then, you will be convinced
that the objection is wholly groundless, having no existence but in
imagination. Believe for once that many who pretend to be so tender
for your rights, and are so deeply concerned for your liberties, and
on all occasions boast of their love and veneration for liberty, only
mean to dupe you. I am credibly informed that in a certain town,
when the inhabitants were convened in pursuance of the order of
the General Court to choose delegates to sit in Convention to deter-
mine whether this state will assent to and ratify a Constitution which
has for its object the establishment of the dignity, freedom, and hap-
piness of our country, a great man made a great speech, in length two
hours, in breadth one hair, and closed with this striking observation:
My fellow citizens, this is the day in which you are to vote whether
you will be freemen or slaves; if we reject the Constitution, we shall
be free; if we adopt it, we shall be slaves.' The candor and justice
of this representation, I presume, will be discerned by every man of
common sense. Such an observation not obliquely, but directly in-
sinuates that the Constitution will infallibly make us a nation of slaves.
There certainly is nothing in it that looks this way. On the contrary
it seems to guard you on every side from despotism and shows an un-
common solicitude to prevent any infringement upon the liberties
of the people; gives all the liberty which a judicious people could
desire. Liberty, a word that has charms sufficient to captivate a gen-
erous mind, is revered in the Constitution; and is totally different
from licentiousness. Many have no other idea of liberty, but for ev-
eryone to do as he pleases-to be as honest as he pleases-to be as
knavish as he pleases-to revere the laws and authority of the state
as much as he pleases-and to traduce and revile the rulers as much
as he pleases. Such a liberty, which to our shame has for several
years been our idol, ought to be done away and never more stop the
progress of justice or with its foul streams pollute this beautiful coun-
try. Every government which is worth having and supporting must
have a competent degree of power in it to answer the great ends of its
creation-the happiness of the people, the protection of their persons,
and security of their property. A government without such a power
is only a burden. That government, provided for us by the concen-
tered wisdom of the states, secures all our liberties that ought to be
secured.
1. No evidence has been found to indicate where such a speech might have been
given.
519


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