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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 167

A. COMMENTARIES/6 OCT.
1. The quotations from the Constitution are printed as they are given by
"Centinel." For the national circulation of the essay, see CC:133.
2. The reference is to George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. For Federalist
replies, see "A Federalist," 10 October, II:C below and CC:150-A. For "Centinel's"
rejoinder, see "Centinel" II, 24 October, CC:190. The second half of this para-
graph, beginning "These characters . . . ," was omitted from the German transla-
tion. See Pennsylvania Gazette, 24 October, II:C below.
3. The reference is to Adams's A Defence of the Constitutions of Government
of the United States of America (CC:16).
James Wilson's Speech in the State House Yard,
Philadelphia, 6 October1
Mr. Wilson then rose, and delivered a long and eloquent speech
upon the principles of the Federal Constitution proposed by the late
Convention. The outlines of this speech we shall endeavor to lay
before the public, as tending to reflect great light upon the interesting
subject now in general discussion.
Mr. Chairman and Fellow Citizens: Having received the honor
of an appointment to represent you in the late Convention, it is
perhaps, my duty to comply with the request of many gentlemen
whose characters and judgments I sincerely respect, and who have
urged, that this would be a proper occasion to lay before you any
information which will serve to explain and elucidate the principles
and arrangements of the Constitution, that has been submitted to
the consideration of the United States. I confess that I am unprepared
for so extensive and so important a disquisition; but the insidious
attempts which are clandestinely and industriously made to pervert
and destroy the new plan, induce me the more readily to engage in
its defense; and the impressions of four months constant attention
to the subject have not been so easily effaced as to leave me without
an answer to the objections which have been raised.
It will be proper, however, before I enter into the refutation of
the charges that are alleged, to mark the leading discrimination be-
tween the state constitutions and the Constitution of the United States.
When the people established the powers of legislation under their
separate governments, they invested their representatives with every
right and authority which they did not in explicit terms reserve; and
therefore upon every question, respecting the jurisdiction of the house
of assembly, if the frame of government is silent, the jurisdiction is
efficient and complete. But in delegating federal powers, another
criterion was necessarily introduced, and the congressional authority
is to be collected, not from tacit implication, but from the positive
grant expressed in the instrument of union. Hence it is evident, that
in the former case everything which is not reserved is given, but in the
latter the reverse of the proposition prevails, and everything which
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