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Jensen, Merrill; Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Pennsylvania
2 (1976)

A. Public and private commentaries on the Constitution, 17 September-6 October 1787,   pp. 130-172


Page 137

A. COMMENTARIES/26 SEPT.
You must tell them further, that by the constitution of Pennsylvania,
which you are sworne to support (and no wonder, for its treasury
supports you) the federal government cannot be adopted in Pennsyl-
vania. Even the people themselves cannot consent to any alterations
of the constitution; for the constitution is above them all, and above
every thing else, except you, five gentlemen, who live by it, and who
may break it, and twist it, and turn it when ever it suits your interest
and party.
You must try further to put off the recommendation of a Conven-
tion, till the next session of your Assembly. This will give you time to
look about you, and perhaps to throw a lock upon one of the wheels
of the great continental waggon; for you may depend upon it your
wheelbarrow, and the new flying machine, cannot long travel the
same road together.
With great regard, and sincere wishes for your success in every thing
that tends to anarchy, distress, poverty, and tyranny, I am your friend
and humble servant, DANIEL SHAYS.
1. LT. This fictitious letter was reprinted in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 26
September, the Carlisle Gazette on 17 October, and in eight newspapers from
Massachusetts to South Carolina. For the national circulation, see CC:94. For
a similar piece, see "Wat Tyler, A Proclamation," 24 October, II:C below. From
the language in the letter, especially the next to last paragraph, there is a possi-
bility that Benjamin Rush was the author. He used similar language in a letter
to Timothy Pickering on 30 August 1787: "The new federal government like a
new continental wagon will overset our state dung cart, with all its dirty contents
(reverend and irreverent) and thereby restore order and happiness to Pennsylvania"
(Philadelphia, RC, Pickering Papers, MHi).
2. Tioga Point was in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania, an area claimed
and settled by Connecticut people before the War for Independence. After years
of violence, a commission appointed by Congress awarded jurisdiction to Pennsyl-
vania in 1782. The settlers, led by John Franklin, who was looked upon in eastern
Pennsylvania as the equivalent of Daniel Shays, attempted to create an independent
state in 1787. (See Taylor, IX, X.)
3. Among the principal opponents of the Constitution in Philadelphia were George
Bryan, James Hutchinson, Reverend John Ewing, John Nicholson, Charles Pettit,
and Jonathan Bayard Smith. For other examples of the argument that opposition
was negligible, see "Southwark," 3 October, II:A below; and Mfm:Pa. 94, 129.
4. The assertion that Antifederalists opposed the Constitution because they held
state offices was a common Federalist argument.
Pennsylvania Gazette, 26 September1
In the city and neighborhood of Philadelphia, a petition to our
Assembly to call a convention in order to adopt this government has
been almost unanimously signed. The zeal of our citizens in favor
of this excellent Constitution has never been equalled, but by their
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