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

A. Responses to ratification and to The Dissent of the Minority,   pp. 646-669


Page 649

A. RESPONSES TO RATIFICATION/25 DEC.
You must be so tired of various and perverse speculation on the new
Constitution that I must not add to the common trespass but as little
as possible. I confess I am far from pretending to know what is the
best system of government, and ready to question whether any man
knows it, otherwise than by a general knowledge of human nature
and the particular circumstances of the people for whom it is framed.
The people of best discernment this way instead of caviling are rather
amazed that so many states with their different prejudices have been
brought to meet on so good ground. Dr. [Charles] Nesbit, with great
strength of reason is clear for adopting it, keeping in view such
amendments as experience and a fitter time shall point out.2 And
indeed when we consider our situation at home (on the confines of
anarchy) and our need of reputation abroad, it appears to me in the
light of moral certainty, that immediate adoption is not only our
wisest course, but also the shortest and safest mode to obtain such
amendments as may either be found to be really salutary in them-
selves, or only calculated merely to please. In this view my small
support shall not be wanting; more apprehensive as I am of a failure
in the duty of the people, than of any early encroachment of a new
Congress-nor would the body of the people but by undue influence
give any opposition. Stale and careless jealousy, or prejudice and
private motives, have thrown too many men into a political phrenzy,
which in Pennsylvania we now have to regret. Your last speech in
the Federal Convention, being just up, will be in our paper tomor-
row.3 It is come in good time, and I think can scarcely fail of some
good effects.
The tenor of the minority's Dissent and particularly a few explicit
[sentences?] appears to have a wild and pernicious tendency4 We
must not pray God to reward them according to their works, but
beseech Him to restrain the residue of their wrath, to still the tumults
of the people which they seem to provoke; and forgive their abettors
for the Mediator's sake, for they either care not, or know not what
they do.
1. RC, Franklin Papers, PPAmP.
2. Nisbet, a Presbyterian clergyman, was president of Dickinson College at
Carlisle. For his support of the Constitution, see Mfm:Pa. 259, 642.
3. Franklin's speech on 17 September was reprinted in the Carlisle Gazette, 26
December (see CC:77).
4. The Carlisle Gazette published the first installment of the "Dissent" on
26 December, the day after Armstrong made this observation.
649


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