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

VI. The Connecticut Convention, 3-9 January 1788,   pp. 535-562


Page 546

CONNECTICUT/4 JAN.
came a transgressor. It did an injury to the other states to which it
had plighted its faith for the performance of what it had stipulated
in the Articles of Confederation. The other states have a right
to redress; they have a right by the law of nature and nations to
insist upon and compel a performance. How shall this be done?
There is no other way but by force of arms. What is the consequence?
This way of enforcing federal decrees leads directly to civil war and
national ruin. This was the case with the ancient leagues. The states
in confederacy were bound by compact to bear certain proportions
of the public burdens. Some of the states were delinquent; they failed
in performing their stipulations. This injurious conduct provoked
the others; they had recourse to arms for redress. While they were
thus involved in civil war, neighboring powers took advantage of it
and availed themselves of the forces of a part to subdue the rest.
Such is the nature of this kind of confederacies, that the general de-
crees must either remain without efficacy or be put in execution by
a military force.
The Convention saw this imperfection in attempting to legislate
for states in their political capacity; that the coercion of law can
be exercised by nothing but a military force. They have therefore
gone upon entirely new ground. They have formed one new nation
out of the individual states. The Constitution vests in the general
legislature a power to make laws in matters of national concern, to
appoint judges to decide upon these laws, and to appoint officers
to carry them into execution. This excludes the idea of an armed
force. The power which is to enforce these laws is to be a legal power
vested in proper magistrates. The force which is to be employed is
the energy of law; and this force is to operate only upon individuals
who fail in their duty to their country. This is the peculiar glory of
the Constitution, that it depends upon the mild and equal energy of
the magistracy for the execution of the laws. The Convention have
framed a system of government and now submit it to the wisdom
of their country. We address ourselves, not to your passions, but to
your reason; we speak as to wise men. Judge ye what we say. As to
the old system, we can go no further with it; experience has shown it
to be utterly inefficient. The states were sensible of this. To remedy
the evil, they appointed the Convention. Though no enthusiast, I
cannot but impute it to a signal intervention of Divine Providence
that a Convention from states differing in circumstances, interests,
and manners should be so harmonious in adopting one grand system.
If we reject a plan of government which with such favorable circum-
stances is offered for our acceptance, I fear our national existence
must come to a final end. [Connecticut Courant, 14 January]2
546


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