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
(1978)

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


Page 545

VI. CONVENTION
the east side of that river? Will our weakness induce the British to
give up the northern posts? If a war breaks out, and our situation
invites our enemies to make war, how are we to defend ourselves?
Has government the means to enlist a man or buy an ox? or shall
we rally the remainder of our old army? The European nations, I
believe to be not friendly to us. They were pleased to see us dis-
connected from Great Britain; they are pleased to see us disunited
among ourselves. If we continue so, how easy it is for them to canton
us out among them, as they did the kingdom of Poland? But sup-
posing this is not done. If we suffer the Union to expire, the least
that can be expected is that the European powers will form alliances,
some with one state and some with another, and play the states off
one against another, and that we shall be involved in all the laby-
rinths of European politics. But I do not wish to continue the painful
recital. Enough has been said to show that a power in the general
government to enforce the decrees of the Union is absolutely neces-
sary.
The Constitution before us is a complete system of legislative, ju-
dicial, and executive power. It was designed to supply the defects of
the former system; and, I believe, upon a full discussion, it will be
found calculated to answer the purposes for which it was designed.
[Connecticut Courant, 7 January]1
DR. WILLIAM SAMUEL JOHNSON rose after Mr. Ellsworth and ex-
pressed himself to the following purpose.
My honorable friend has represented to us the miserable state
which we are in with respect to our public affairs. It is a melancholy
picture, but not too highly drawn. Our commerce is annihilated; our
national honor, once in so high esteem, is no more. We have got to
the very brink of ruin; we must turn back and ado't a new system.
The gentleman's arguments have demonstrated that a principle of
coercion is absolutely necessary, if we would have a Union to answer
any beneficial purposes. All ancient leagues have had this principle.
Holland has in fact had it. When a Dutch province has neglected to
furnish her quota for the national expense, taxes have been levied
by an army. It was necessary that each province should be compelled
to pay her part. But how was this effected? There was no other way
but by force of arms, a method most dangerous to the public tran-
quility.
Under our old Confederation, each state was bound by the most
solemn obligations to pay its proportion of the national expense. If
any state did not perform what it had so solemnly promised, it be-
545


Go up to Top of Page