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

B. Commentaries on the convention, 10 January-10 March,   pp. 568-593

Page 573

system tis said will destroy the states' sovereignty or reduce us to the
necessity of adopting the absurd position of Imperium in Imperio.
I admit it will and ought to limit the exercise of sovereign authority
in the states and restrain it to fewer objects. This must be necessary
if a supreme authority [is] the last resort in any matters, and the
absurdity of Imperium in Imperio never existed but where both, pow-
ers were coextensive in their objects. A town, city, or county to some
purposes have complete legislative powers, yet no man supposes a
state cannot exist under those circumstances. A Congress have made
laws to govern their armies, but did we ever find any evil consequence
flowing from it to weaken the powers of civil government?
In the new Constitution, all contracts are left as they were in the
old. This appears to me proper, as we cannot, if we were desirous,
destroy all the debt of the United States. We have other powers to
consult on this subject. Nor would it have been well to have any
new engagements on the subject. The want of power to establish
religious tests is a grievance in the minds of some. In addition to
the very many and conclusive arguments against religious tests, I
am fully convinced of the expediency of inserting the exclusive clause,
lest in future time by construction such right may be supposed to
exist, and, under the influence of the enthusiasm which has impelled
men to the greatest absurdities, we may in future hang witches or es-
tablish such tests as would disgrace human nature. But what will
become of the states who refuse their assent and are in the present
Confederation? I answer, we have all broken that covenant; and it is
now prostrate in the dust and no state can charge another with break-
ing these covenants as they have by common consent dissolved it. I
have to apologize for troubling you; but, can any the least benefit be
derived by new argum ents or old ones placed in different lights, I
have a consciousness you will pardon me.
1. RC, Robert Treat Paine Papers, MHi. On 9 January, Parsons had promised
Cushing a report of the debates (VIILA above). This letter would seem to be an
elaboration of Parsons' views on the issues raised in the Convention rather than a
summary of the debates. For a further statement of Parsons' views, see his letter to
George Washington, 21 April 1788, Mfm:Conn. 94.
Oliver Ellsworth to the Printers
Connecticut Courant, 14 January'
The few cursory observations made by me at the opening of the
Convention were not designed for a newspaper; and what you have
published as the substance of them, from some person'9s minutes I sup-
pose, is less proper for one than the observations themselves were.
It is particularly erroneous with regard to some of the historic facts

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