University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut
3 (1978)

VI. The Connecticut Convention, 3-9 January 1788,   pp. 535-562


Page 542

CONNECTICUT/4 JAN.
for a large kingdom, would be intolerable to a petty state. The
Dutch are wealthy, but they are one of the smallest of the European
nations, and their taxes are higher than in any other country of
Europe. Their taxes amount to forty shillings per head, when those
of England do not exceed half that sum.
We must unite in order to preserve peace among ourselves. If we
are divided, what is to hinder wars from  breaking out among the
states? States, as well as individuals, are subject to ambition, to
avarice, to those jarring passions which disturb the peace of society.
What is to check these? If there is a parental hand over the whole,
this, and nothing else, can restrain the unruly conduct of the members.
Union is necessary to preserve commutative justice between the
states. If divided, what is to hinder the large states from oppressing
the small? What is to defend us from the ambition and rapacity of
New York, when she has spread over that vast territory which she
claims and holds? Do we not already see in her the seeds of an over-
bearing ambition? On our other side, there is a large and powerful
state [Massachusetts]. Have we not already begun to be tributaries?
If we do not improve the present critical time, if we do not unite,
shall we not be like Issachar of old, a strong ass crouching down be-
tween two burdens? New Jersey and Delaware have seen this and
have adopted the Constitution unanimously.
A more energetic system is necessary. The present is merely ad-
visory. It has no coercive power. Without this, government is in-
effectual or, rather, is no government at all. But it is said, such a
power is not necessary. States will not do wrong. They need only
to be told their duty, and they will do it. I ask, sir, what warrant is
there for this assertion? Do not states do wrong? Whence come wars?
One of two hostile nations must be in the wrong. But it is said,
among sister states this can never be presumed. But do we not know
that when friends become enemies, their enmity is the most virulent?
The seventeen provinces of the Netherlands were once confederated;
they fought under the same banner. Antwerp, hard pressed by Philip,
applied to the other states for relief. Holland, a rival in trade, opposed
and prevented the needed succors. Antwerp was made a sacrifice. I
wish I could say there were no seeds of similar injustice springing up
among us. Is there not in one of our states [Rhode Island] injustice
too barefaced for Eastern despotism? That state is small; it does little
hurt to any but itself. But it has a spirit which would make a Tophet
of the universe. But some will say, we formerly did well without any
union. I answer, our situation is materially changed. While Great
Britain held her authority, she awed us. She appointed governors
and councils for the American provinces. She had a negative upon
our laws. But now, our circumstances are so altered that there is no
arguing what we shall be from what we have been.
542


Go up to Top of Page