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

B. The Dissent of the Minority of the Convention,   pp. 617-640


Page 638

III. PENNSYLVANIA CONVENTION
An ambitious man who may have the army at his devotion may step
up into the throne, and seize upon absolute power.
The absolute unqualified command that Congress have over the
militia may be made instrumental to the destruction of all liberty,
both public and private; whether of a personal, civil, or religious
nature.
First, the personal liberty of every man probably from sixteen to
sixty years of age may be destroyed by the power Congress have in
organizing and governing of the militia. As militia they may be sub-
jected to fines to any amount, levied in a military manner; they may
be subjected to corporal punishments of the most disgraceful and
humiliating kind, and to death itself, by the sentence of a court martial.
To this our young men will be more immediately subjected, a, a select
militia, composed of them, will best answer the purposes of govern-
ment.
Secondly, the rights of conscience may be violated, as there is no
exemption of those persons who are conscientiously scrupulous of
bearing arms. These compose a respectable proportion of the com-
munity in the state. This is the more remarkable, because even when
the distresses of the late war, and the evident disaffection of many
citizens of that description, inflamed our passions, and when every
person, who was obliged to risk his own life, must have been exas-
perated against such as on any account kept back from the common
danger, yet even then, when outrage and violence might have been
expected, the rights of conscience were held sacred.
At this momentous crisis, the framers of our state constitution made
the most express and decided declaration and stipulations in favor
of the rights of conscience;12 but now when no necessity exists, those
dearest rights of men are left insecure.
Thirdly, the absolute command of Congress over the militia may be
destructive of public liberty; for under the guidance of an arbitrary
government, they may be made the unwilling instruments of tyranny.
The militia of Pennsylvania may be marched to New England or
Virginia to quell an insurrection occasioned by the most galling op-
pression, and aided by the standing army, they will no doubt. be suc-
cessful in subduing their liberty and independency; but in so doing,
although the magnanimity of their minds will be extinguished, yet
the meaner passions of resentment and revenge will be increased, and
these in turn will be the ready and obedient instruments of despotism
to enslave the others; and that with an irritated vengeance. Thus
may the militia be made the instruments of crushing the last efforts
of expiring liberty, of riveting the chains of despotism on their fellow
citizens, and on one another. This power can be exercised not only
without violating the constitution, but in strict conformity with it;
638


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