Category Archives: Federalists

Item of the Day: Letter from Charles Carroll to James McHenry (1800)

Full Title: Manuscript letter from Charles Carroll to Secretary of War, James McHenry, November 4, 1800.


Annapolis, 4th Nov. 1800

I regret my absence form this city when Mr. Caldwell brought your letter of the 21st past, as it deprived me of shewing those attentions & that civility to which his character & his connection with you justly entitled him.

I hoped to have had the pleasure of a visit from you at the Manor. I wished much to see you to discourse on a variety of subjects & particularly on the present critical situation of this country. The President remarks that we are fallen upon evil times. I fear a great part of the evil may be attributed to his shifting conduct, his passions, his indescretion, vanity & jealousy. I had a high opinion of Mr. Adams, & still I believe him to be an honest man, but his integrity cannot compensate for his weaknesses, which unfit him for his present station. With a competition for places & power between the friends & opposers of the administration the only object of the contest, it would be a matter of indifference to me by what party the governt. should be administered. If Mr. Adams should be reelected I fear our Constitution would be more injured by his unruly passions, anitpathies & jealousy, than by the whimsies of Jefferson. I am not acquainted with the characters of the leaders of the opposition but it is to be apprehanded [sic], that to obtain & retain power they might sacrifice the true interests & real independence of this country to France. Judge Duvall says that now well informed man can doubt of there being a british faction among us wishing to establish a monarchy in lieu of a republican govent. If he unites the north I own I am not one of the number of the well informed. I know of no such faction; if it exists & is endeavouring to effect such a change, its attempts should be crushed. If our country should continue to be the sport of parties, if the mass of the people should be exasperated & roused to pillage the more wealthy, social order will be subverted, anarchy will follow, succeeded by despotism; these changes have in that order of succession taken place in France. Yet the men so far as I am informed, who stile themselves republicans, very generally wish success to France; in other words, the friends of freedom here are the friends of Bounaparte, who has established by a military force the most despotic government in Europe; how are we to reconcile this contradiciton of their avowed principles? Is their aversion to the English constitution the cause of this inconsistency? Do they consider the naval power of that nation as the strongest barrier to the revolutionary arts by which all the rulers of France, each in their turn, have endeavoured & are endeavouring to weaken & subvert all othe governments, that France may establish an influence over all, & thus become too powerful? They dare not avow the sentiments, yet their wishes & their conduct point to it. I wish the british to retain the empire of the seas, while the rulers of France are activated by such motives; the decided naval superiority of Britain is ye only effectual check to ye ambition of that republick; the true interests and independence of this country require that those rival nations should be balanced.

If the people of this coutnry were united it would have nothing to fear from foreign powers; but unhappily this is not the case. Many of the opposers of the present administration, I suspect want a change of the federal constitution; if that should be altered or weakened so as to be rendered a dead letter, it will not answer the purposes of its formation and will expire from mere inanity: other confederacies will start up & ye scene of ye Grecian states after an interval of more than two thousand years will be renewed on this contintent, & some Philip or Bounaparte will met the whole of them into one mass of despotism.

These events will be hastened by the pretended philosophy of France; divine revelation has been scoffed at by the Philosophers of the present day, the immortality of the soul treated as the dreams of fools, or the invention of knaves, & death has been declared by public authority an eternal sleep; these opinions are gaining ground amont us & silently saping the foundations of religion & encouragement of good, the terror of evildoers and the consolation of the poor, the miserable, and the distressed. Remove the hope & dread of future reward & punishment, the most powerful restraint on wicked action, & ye strongest inducement to virtuous ones is done away. Virtue, it may be said, is its own reward; I believe it to be so, and even in this life the only soruce of happiness, and this intimate & necessary connection between virtue & happiness here, & between vice & misery, is to my mind one of the surest pledge of happiness or misery in a future state of existence. But how few practice virtue merely for its own reward? Some of happy dispositon & temperament, calm reflecting men, exempt in a great degree form the turbulance of passions may be vituous for vitrtue’s sake. Small however is the number who are guided by reason alone, & who can always subject their passions to its dictates. He can thust act may be said to be virtuous, but reason is often inlisted on the side of the passions, or at best, when most waanted, is weakest. Hence the necessity of a superior motive for acting virtuously; Now, what motive can be stronger than ye belief, founded on revelation, that a virtuous life will be rewarded by a happy immortality? Without mortals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore, who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, & insures to the good eternal happiness are underming the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free government.

If there be force in this reasoning what judgement ought we to form of our pretended republicans, who admire & applaud the proceedings of the revolutionary France!

These disclaimers in favor of freedom and equality act in such a questionable shape that I cannot help suspecting their sincerity.

This is a long & preaching letter and I fear a tedious & dull one, but you wished to know my sentiments about the present parties & impending fate of our country, and I could not give them without developing the reasons for my opinion. You see that I almost despair of the Commonwealth. The end of every legitimate government is the security of life, liberty and property: if this country is to be revolutionised none of these will be secure. Perhaps the leaders of the opposition, when they get into office, may be content to let the Constitution remain as it is, & may pursue the policy & measures of Washington’s administration, but what will become in that case of their consistency? Patriots you will say are not always consistent; granted, yet other patriots and opposers will arise to arraign this inconsistency, & the storm once raised, who will stop its fury?

Celui que met un pein a la fureur des flots

Sait aussi des mechans arreter les complots

My only hope is in that being who educes good out of evil. May he in his abundant mercy incline the hearts of our countrymen to tpeace, justice and concord.

I have read Mr. Hamilton’s pamphlet; the drift of its publication at this time I conjecture was not so mcuh with a view of vindicating his character as to prevent the electors in Massachusetts from scattering their votes in order to secure the election of Mr. Adams in preference to Mr. Pinckney. All with whom I have conversed, blame however Mr. Hamilton and consider his publication as ill timed, altho I pay a deference to the opinions of others, whose motives I know to be good, yet I cannot help differing from them in this instance. The assertions of the pamphlet I take it for granted are true, and if true, surely it must be admitted that Mr. Adams is not fit to be president, and his unfitness should be made known to the electors, and ye public. I conceive it a species of treason to conceal from the publick his incapacity . . .

Although your remaining rather a spectator of than an actor in the passing scenes is founded on a proper motive, yet you will find it impossible to retain an neutral character, nor do I think it fit you should. We ought all, each in our several spheres, to endeavour to set the publick mind right, & to administer antodotes to the poison that is widely spreading throughout the country.


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Filed under 1800's, Early Republic, Elections, Federalists, Foreign Relations, France, Great Britain, John Adams, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: Miscellany, for The Port Folio (9 July 1803)

Found In: The Port folio. Enlarged. By Oliver Oldschool. Vol. III., No. 28. Philadelphia, Saturday, July 9, 1803. [p. 219]






As you have, for some time, assumed the office, and rather imperiously exercised the functions of perpetual dictator to the good people of Pennsylvania, it may be proper to indicate to an attention so heedless as yours, that there are certain elements, in which you should be tolerably skilled, before you establish yourself over us, as our political schoolmaster.

As from a long and assiduous survey of your works, I have frequently found you not a little imperfect in orthography, a total stranger to grammar, and wholly averse to all purity of diction and elegance of stile. I strongly recommend to you the perusal of certain little volumes, written for the benefit of children and other Tyros, by Mr. Thomas Dilworth, a philosopher of the sixteenth century.

The next science, in the order of the circle, to which I would direct your blundering steps, is rhetoric, which, you must know, is the art of speaking eloquently, and of investing your thoughts in colours, bright and clear. As I know that you flounder in the muddiness of your mind, and are extremely unhappy, both in the choice and perspicuity of your phrases, I would advise you to borrow a few hours from those which you dedicate to the silencing of Mr. Burr, or the solacing of your wife, and commit to memory, Farnaby’s little system. Moreover, as I am told, you sometimes make an effort to speak in the primary assemblies, vulgarly called town meetings, and that your voice and periods are equally tuneless, perhaps some discipline of this kind may lash you into something, like a similitude of eloquence.

In Logic, you are so lame, that I am positive you are not equal to the management of a syllogism in Bocardo. Consult some of your Low German friends and borrow Burgersdyck, and Professor Schiltenbruch de Quidditate. From the leaden pages of laborious stupidity, your own cannot be encreased, and possibly you may learn in the art of reasoning, that some pains are necessary to establish the verity of your premises, before you suffer your zeal to hurry you to the conclusion. An important truth of which I am sorry to say, you are utterly regardless in all your speeches and writings.

With Metaphysics, I will not disturb a brain, so confused as yours; and in charity to your ignorance and incompetence, I will not lead them into a thorny thicket, where they would be miserably scratched, and instantly lose their way. I therefore pass on to Ethics; and here I am constrained to say that you will enter this region of science, as an utter stranger. You are not more an alien to America, than to your duties, as a man and a citizen; and such is my diffidence of your capacity, I know you must be frequently and severely flogged, before you will get by heart, the first lesson in this branch of your education.

Having thus suggested to you a course of studies, comprehending some of the initial sciences, I will reserve what I have to say to you upon mathematics, natural philosophy and theology, to another occasion. Of my didactics, I give you only a dose at a time, presuming that this is as much as so weak a creature can bear; and having thus prescribed what you will think sufficiently drastic, you have my permission to go “to breakfast with what appetite you may.”


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Filed under 1800's, Culture, Early Republic, Federalists, Magazine, Newspapers, Political Commentary, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Perpetual War (1812)

Full Title: Perpetual War, the Policty of Mr. Madison. Being a Candid Examination of his late Message to Congress, so far as Respects the Following Topicks. . . Viz. The Pretended Negotiations for Peace . . .  the Important and Interesting Subject of a Conscript Militia . . . And the Establishment of an Immense Standing Army of Guards and Spies, under the Name of a Local Volunteer Force. By a New-England Farmer. Boston: Printed by Chester Stebbins, 1812.



HOWEVER much to be regretted by every friend to commerce, and civil liberty, must be the re-election of Mr. Madison, still it is a more cheering and consolatory reflection, that the struggle has manifested an energy, an intelligence, a spirit of concord and union, a magnanimous disposition to sacrifice party feelings, and personal considerations, in the citizens of the commercial states, which is unexampled in the history of this country. It was indeed to be feared, that no pressure, however great, no sufferings, however severe, would detach men from those chains of party with which they had been so long bound. But we are most happily undeceived; a sense of common danger, a conviction of common interest, and of the absolute necessity of union for relief from oppression, snapped asunder the bonds of faction. —Mutual condescension, mutual consultation soon obliterated the memory of past distinctions, (which after all were merely nominal,) and we now find, with the exception of the dependents upon goverment, and those under their influence, but one great and united people from Maine to Delaware.

It ought indeed to be so; for, from Maine to Delaware we have one common interest, and that is, the preservation of Commerce, which from Delaware southwards, they are detemined to destroy. Still men do not always perceive their interest. But in this case, they could not shut their eyes; it was like “Heaven’s own lightning,” it flashed conviction upon those who were stone blind.

Five years successive commercial restriction, was found ineffectual; it made us grow leaner to be sure, but we were strong and able to survive it. Our persecutors had not patience to endure our lingering death; they therefore got up the guillotine of a maritime war, to cut off our heads at a stroke.

This last act of desperation, has accomplished our wishes; it has opened the eyes of the people, and notwithstanding the reeclection of Mr. Madison, not in vain. If we are as firm and resolute in the pursuit of our purposes, as moderate and conciliatory as we have hitherto been; if we continue to sacrifice to the attainment of peace and prosperity, our party passions, we are certain of success. Let our political enemies triumph in their partial victory; let them attempt to undervalue our courage, our opinions and our importance; we shall shew them in the next Congress, that no government can wage an unnecessary war against the sentiments and interests of the people.

We predicted this change, as did many others, six months ago, in the pahmphet, entitled “Madison’s War.” We advised the people to despise the anti-republican, despotick opinion, that the citizens have no right to discuss the merits of a war, after it is declared. We recommended a constitutional resistance, a resistance at the polls. The people have done so; and what is the glorious unexampled result?

Never since the Declaration of Independence, has such an union been witnessed. In the lower House of Congress, which alone could have been effected in so short a time by popular elections, we shall probably have a peace majority.

The present prospect is, that no one member of Congress, from Maine to Delaware, will be in favour of the war.

In Massachusetts, at no period in its history, had it ever enjoyed so united a delegation. Its voice will now have, as it ought to, its due weight. Let us examine this respectable power, which has risen up as it were by magick, or by the finger of Heaven against a daring and headstrong administration.

These northern and middle states, who are now united in opinion, posess 3,000,000 of inhabitants, considerabley more than did the whole United States at the time of the Declaration of Independence. —They are a body of freemen, distinguished for their industry and virtue. They are the owners of nearly two third parts of all the tonnage of the Untied States, and furnishes, probably three fourths of all the native seamen. They are totally opposed to a war for the privilege of protecting British seamen against their sovereign. They know from their own experience, that this subject of impressment is a mere instrumet, wielded by men who are utterly indifferent about the sufferings of the sailors or the merchants.

The display of the true principles, upon which this subject ought to be considered, is the main object of the following Essays.

We are aware that the friends of administration, (and some few who ought to know better the rights and duties of a citizen,) with uncommon pretensions to patriotism, have bridled themselves in with a haughty and censorious air, when they have read these essays, and have thought to condemn them, and to render the author odious, by representing him as supporting the claims of Great-Britain, and as abandoning the rights of America.

It is a vulgar clamour, which the author heeds not, he has no popluarity to seek, and he fears not for the reputation of his integrity, with the wise and good; but as such a clamour may lead feeble minds to read with distrust, and to weigh with uneven scales, it may not be amiss to say a word or two upon this subject. . . .



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Filed under 1810's, Early Republic, Embargo, Federalists, Government, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Feature’s of Mr. Jay’s Treaty (1795)

Full Title: Features of Mr. Jay’s Treaty. To which is annexed, A View of the Commerce of the United States. As it stands at present, and as it is fixed by Mr. Jay’s Treaty. Philadelphia: Printed for Mathew Carey, by Lang and Ustick, Oct. 20, 1795.




I. The origin and progress of the negociation [sic]for the Treaty, are not calculated to excite confidence.

1. THE administration of our government have, seemingly at least, manifested a policy favourable to Great Britain, and adverse to France.

2. But the house of representatives of Congress, impressed with the general ill conduct of Great Britain toward America, were adopting measures, of a mild, though retaliating nature, to obtain redress and indemnification. The injuries complained of were, principally, 1st. The detention of the western posts—2dly. The delay in compensating for the negroes carried off at the close of the war—and 3dly, The spoliations committed on our commerce. The remedies proposed, were, principally, 1st. The commercial regulations of Mr. Madison—2dly. The non-intercourse proposition of Mr. Clarke—3dly. The sequestration motion of Mr. Dayton—4thly. An embargo—and 5thly, Military preparations.

3. Every plan of the legislature was, however, suspended, or rather annihilated, by the interposition of the executive authority; and Mr. Jay, the chief Justice of the United States, was taken from his judicial feat, to negociate [sic] with Great Britain, under the influence of the prevailing sentiment of the people, for the redress of our wrongs. Query—Are not his commission and the execution of it, at variance? Is any one of our wrongs actually redressed? Is not an atonement to Great Britain, for the injuries which she pretends to have suffered, a preliminary stipulation?

4. The political dogma of Mr. Jay are well know; his predilection, in relation to France and Great Britain, has not been disguised; and even on the topic of American complaints, his reports, while in the office of secretary of foreign affairs, and his adjudications while in the office of chief justice, were not calculated to point him out as the single citizen of America, fitted for the service in which he was employed. Query—Do not personal feelings too often dictate and govern the public conduct of its ministers? But whatever may have been his personal disqualifications, they are absorbed in the more important consideration of the apparent violence committed by Mr. Jay’s appointment, on the essential principles of the constitution. That tipic, however, has already been discussed, and we may pass to the manner of negociating the treaty in England, which was at once obscure and illusory. We heard of Mr. Jay’s diplomatic honours; of the royal and ministerial courtesy which was shewn to him, and the convivial boards to which he was invited: but, no more! Mr. Jay, enveloped by a dangerous confidence in the intuitive faculties of his own mind, or the inexhaustible fund of his diplomatic information, neither possessed nor wished for external aid; while the British negociator, besides how own acquirements, entered on the points of negociation, fraught with all the auxiliary sagacity of his brother ministers, and with all the practical knowledge of the most enlightened merchants of a commercial nation. The result corresponds with that inauspicious state of things. Mr. Jay was driven from the ground of an injured, to the ground of an agressing, party; he made atonement for imaginary wrongs, before he was allowed justice for real ones; he converted the resentments of the American citizens (under the impressions of which he was avowedly sent to England) into amity and concord; and seems to have been so anxious to rivet a commercial chain about the neck of America, that he even forgot, or disregarded, a principal item of her own produce, (cotton) in order to make a sweeping sacrifice to the insatiable appetite of his maritime antagonist. But the idea of the treaty, given by Mr. Pitt in answer to Mr. Fox, who, before he had seen, applauded it as an act of liberality and justice towards America, was the first authoritative alarm to our interests and our feelings. “When the treaty is laid before the parliament (said the minister) you will best judge whether any improper concession has been made to America!”

5. The treaty being sent here for ratification, the President and the Senate pursue the mysterious plan in which it was negociated. it has been intimated, that till the meeting of the Senate, the instrument was not communicated even to the most confidential officers of the government: and the first resolution taken by the Senate, was to stop the lips and ears of its members against every possibility of giving or receiving information. Every man, like Mr. Jay, was presumed to be inspired. In the course of the discussion, however, some occurrences flashed from beneath the veil of secrecy; and it is conjectured that the whole treaty was, at one time, in jeopardy. But the rhetoric of a minister (not remarkable for the volubility of his tongue) who was brought post-haste from the country; the danger of exposing the odium and disgrace the distinguished American characters, who would be affected by a total rejection of the treaty; and the feeble, but operative, vote of a member transported from the languor and imbecility of a sick room to decide in the Senate a great national question, whose merits he had not heard discussed; triumphed over principle, argument and decorum!

6. But still the treaty remains unratified; for, unless the British government shall assent to suspend the obnoxious twelfth article, (in favour of which, however, many patriotic members declared their readiness to vote) the whole is destroyed by the terms of the ratification: and if the British government shall agree to add an article allowing the suspension, the whole must return for the reconsideration of the Senate. But the forms of mystery are still preserved by our government; and attempts to deceive the people have been made abroad upon a vain presumption, that the treaty could remain a secret, till it became obligatory as a law. . . .


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Filed under 1790's, Commerce, Early Republic, Federalists, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: The Festival of Fools (1797)

In: Porcupine’s Political Censor, For Jan. 1797. Philadelphia: Published by William Cobbett, opposite Christ Church; Where all Letters to the Publsiher are desired to be addressed, post-paid.


“On Thursday, the 6th of February, at O’Eller’s Hotel, the Anniversary of Alliance between the American and French Republics (that is to say French Monarchy) was commemorated by as respectable an association of citizens as was, ever convened, on a similar occasion (well put in). —The company consisted of a large number of members of the Federal and State Legislatures, of citizens of acknowledged patriotism, and foreigners of distinction, among them was Dr. Priestly, (and Citizen Adet.) —Chief Justice M’Kean, and Mr. Langdon (Old Johnny Langdon) presided. —The enthusiasm, convivial gaiety, and elavation of patriotism, inspired by the celebration of an aera interesting in the annals of liberty, shed through the whole company a glow of light, which every one felt and expressed with ardour. The repast was enjoyed with moderation (bless us!), and without even an approach of intemperance.”

Now, hang me. Mr. News-Monger, if I believe this last assertion; for, though I am none of the most incredulous; though I know the magic, and more than magic, power of liberty; though I might even raise my mind to the conception of nonsense, and really believe that this enchantress did shed a glow, and a glow of light too, and that that light was felt; though it is possible that I might be elevated or stupid enough to believe all this, or rascal enough to pretend to believe it, yet I never can or will believe that there was no “approach of intemperance” at this civic festival; unless want of cash prevented it. —When I enter on the pious office of Gazette-Man, I will observe a stricter adherence to truth.

But, to proceed; “After dinner the following TOASTS were drank;” that is to say, in English, drunk. —But why do I attempt to criticise? We all know, that, in literature, a News-Monger ranks next after a dray-horse.

Not to the Toasts that were drank, and that I have kept too long from the thirsty reader.

1. THE Day–may it ever be a festival to freemen; and the alliance which it gave birth to, be regarded, as a key stone in the arch of liberty—Music, Yankee doodle.

2. The People–knowledge to discern theri rights and spirit and firmess to assert them. —Reveil du Peuple.

3. The United States–may they ever be an asylum for the oppressed, and become a terror to oppressors.

As they are now to the vile, infamous gallic oppressors, I suppose?

4. The Republic of France–may she be as distinguished in peace, as she is formidable in war–that her happiness may allure other nations into an imitation of her example. —Ca Ira.

5. The Batavian Republic–may her expereince instruct other nations to shun a tyrant’s grasp, for a freeman’s embrace. —La Carmagnole.

Excellent irony!

6. The Revolutionary Army of the United States–may the fruits of their labours be no longer enjoyed by the enemies of American Independence. —Lexington march.

That is to say: “rise, sans-culottes, and seize on the property of the rich!”

7. The memory of those heroes, who fell in defence of American Liberty–may the inscription upon gheir tombs, call a tear of gratitude, and a blush from apostacy.—Solemn music.

8. The philosphers and patriots, who planned and conducted the American Revolution–may the splendor of their actions and the dignity of their measures, teach governments, that honesty is the best policy.

9. The Constitution of the United States–may it prove an effectual, and not a nominal check on the designs of ambition.

We understand all this pefectly well. The charge of apostacy, the hint at dishonesty, and the check on the designs of ambition, are taken from Paine’s most impudent and infamous letter to Gen. Washington. Would that their beer had been drugged with something that would for ever, ay for ever, have solenced their factious tongues!

10. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, may she be as distinguished in the cause of republicanism, as she had been conspicuous in that of humanity.

“Poor Pennsylvania keeps no gallows!” says a modern poem, in which gallows, what singular elegance and harmony, rhymes to Dallas. Poor unfortuante state! Look at the men who extol thy humanity, and then blush at it.

11. The Freedom of the Press, may this palladium of our rights ever remain ininfluenced by power, unbiassed by party, and unseduced by corruption.

This last toast might have been spared in tenderness to the feelings of Citizen Adet, and Mr. Bache.

12. The memory of Franklin and Rittenhouse–may their example instruct the philosopher and the statesman, that true glory consists in doing good to mankind. —Solemn music.

That deism is philosophy no one will deny, and thereof I cannot dispute the claim here preferred to the title; but what good did Rittenhouse do to mankind? Dr. Rush, indeed, says that he did a great deal, and particularly to his own country; but, with all due submission to the hyperbolical bombast of Dr. Rush, and his eulogium on the politics of Mr. Rittenhouse, I never heard of any good to mankind, and particularly America, that he did, except detemining the boundaries of some of the States, “which he did with great precision,” and which I could have done as well as he, had I received the same pay for it. One singular service, indeed, he rendered his country, and that gratis, too: he volunteered as president of that seditious club, the Democratic Society of Philadelphia, and he himself signed the inflammatory resolves against the excise law, which encouraged the malcontents to rise in open rebellion, for the quelling of which, reader, you and I have paid, and still pay, a portion of our earnings. –The devil take such “good to mankind,” I say! —Doctor Rush is a very fine man, to be sure, and he writes in a fine Doctor-like Manner; but the remorseless Doctor Rush shall bleed me till I am as white as paper, before I’ll allow that this was “doing good to mankind.”  . . .


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Filed under 1790's, Federalists, Peter Porcupine, Political Commentary, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: A Discourse Delivered on The Day of General Election (1809)

Full Title:  A Discourse, Delivered Before the Lieutenant-Governor, The Council, and the Two Houses Composing the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 31, 1809. Being the Day of General Election. By David Osgood, D.D.

. . .  No arts however vile, no intrigues however base and wicked, are scrupled or declined by unprincipled men when circumstances are such as to give them any hope of success.  For the honors and emoluments of office, their thirst is insatiable, and they hurry on to their attainment per fas & nefas.  Though in themselves, weak and worthless, and, from their want of abilities or from their want of integrity, totally incompetent to the duties of a high station; yet, these are the men whose souls are devoured by ambition, in whom it reigns predominant.  They are always aspiring to the chief dignities, always on the watch to burst the doors of public confidence and thrust themselves forward to the chair of State; while, on the other part, the truly wise and good are too modest and diffident thus to obtrude themselves upon the notice of the public.  Instead of placing their happiness in the exercise of dominion over others, they are content with the due government of themselves, and prize the ease and freedom of private life.  It is with no small reluctance, that such men are drawn from their beloved retirement.  The olive tree, the fig tree, the vine, and every good and useful tree, are afraid to turn aside from that course of beneficence allotted them by nature and the author of nature.  Aware of the responsibility annexed to a high station, they dread its snares and temptations.  Doubting of their own capacity to serve the Publick in the best manner, they dread lest by some mistake in their administration, the peace, safety or prosperity of the State should be endangered.  They therefore wish to decline a province to which they fear their talents are not equal.  Nothing but a conviction of duty, of a call in providence will enable them to surmount these scruples.  On the other part, unprincipled men have no difficulties of this kind.  The bramble, whose very nature unfits it to be useful in any place or condition, boldly comes forward, self-assured and self-confident, to be made the head of the whole vegetative creation. . . .

In free governments, during the excitements and tumultuous scenes of popular election while the partisans of rival candidates are discussing the merits and exerting their in behalf of their respective favorites; unpleasant things are unavoidable.  But no truth in the bible is more certain than this, that great and good minds, upright and enlightened statesmen, possessed of a true patriotism, will retain no remembrance of these irritations afterward.  Placed at the helm, from that moment they will cease to know, and from every wish to know, who voted for or against them.  It will be their most studious concern throughout their administration, to show themselves alike blind to, and ignorant of, all parties; bearing an equal relation to, and an equal affection for, each individual and each class and description of the people; entertaining no other thought or design but by an equal, universal, most strenuous and impartial beneficence, to dissolve and melt down into one common mass, all party distinctions.  The will consider themselves as sustaining the representative sovereignty of the country for the good of the whole and of every part; and in the execution of their high office, will regard nothing but the general weal, peace, and prosperity. . . .

Legislators of the commonwealth, as the representatives of the people, chosen and deputed to make their laws, guard their liberties and take care of their concerns; it is natural to suppose that men thus selected and for such purposes, rank among the wisest and most upright of the community.  We have seen however, that a free people, on some occasions, confide these trust to hands unworthy of them.  They are in special danger of committing this folly at a time when the spirits of party is prevalent.  Under the influence of this spirit, the electors consider, not the talents and virtues of good rulers; but whether the candidates to be the bone and flesh of their party — having capacity and zeal to serve its interests.  Their inquiry is, whether he be a brother of the faction to which themselves are attached.  Thus circumstanced, the most violent partisan often obtains the vote.  Could we suppose a legislative assembly, composed of such characters, thus chosen and coming together with such views and dispositions; what would they be but a copse of brambles, the best of them a brier, the most upright sharper than a thorn hedge?

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Filed under 1800's, Early Republic, Federalists, Massachusetts, Political Commentary, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: The Proceedings of a Convention of Delegates Convened At Hartford in the State of Connecticut (1814)

Full Title:  The Proceedings of a Convention of Delegates, From the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode-Island; The Counties of Cheshire and Grafton, in the State of New-Hampshire and the County of Windham, in the State of Vermont;–Convened at Hartford, in the State of Connecticut, December 15th, 1814.  Hartford: Printed by Charles Hosmer, 1815.


The Delegates from the Legislature of the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode-Island, and from the Counties of Grafton and Cheshire in the State of New-Hampshire and the County of Windham in the State of Vermont, assembled in Convention, beg leave to report the following result of their conference.

The convention is deeply impressed with a sense of the arduous nature of the commission which they were appointed to execute, of devising the means of defence against dangers, and of relief from oppressions proceeding from the acts of their own Government, without violating constitutional principles, or disappointing the hopes of a suffering and injured people.  To prescribe patience and firmness to those who are already exhausted by distress, is sometimes to drive them to despair, and the progress towards reform by the regular road, is irksome to those whose imaginations discern, and whose feelings prompt, to a shorter course.–But when abuses, reduced to system and accumulated through a course of years, have pervaded every department of Government, and spread corruption through every region of the State, when these are clothed with the forms of law, and enforced by an Executive whose will is their source, no summary means of relief can be applied without recourse to direct and open resistance.  This experiment, even when justifiable, cannot fail to be painful to the good citizen; and the success of the effort will be no security against the danger of the example.  Precedents of resistance to the worst administration, are eagerly seized by those who are naturally hostile to the best.  Necessity alone can sanction a resort to this measure; and it should never be extended in duration or degree beyond the exigency, until the people, not merely in the fervour of sudden excitement, but after full deliberation, are determined to change the Constitution.

. . .


That it be and hereby is recommended to the Legislatures of the several States represented in this Convention, to adopt all such measures as may be necessary effectually to protect the citizens of said States from the operation and effect of all acts which have been or may be passed by the Congress of the United States, which shall contain provisions, subjecting the militia or other citizens to forcible drafts, conscriptions, or impressments, not authorised by the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved,  That it be and hereby is recommended to the said Legislatures, to authorize and immediate and earnest application to be made to the Government of the United States, requesting their consent to some arrangement, whereby the said States may, separately or in concert, be empowered to assume upon themselves the defence of their territory against the enemy; and a reasonable portion of the taxes, collected within said States, may be paid into the respective treasuries thereof, and appropriated to the payment of the balance due said States, and to the future defence of the same.  The amount so paid into the said treasuries to be credited, and the disbursement made as aforesaid to be charged to the United States.

Resolved, That it be, and it hereby is, recommended to the Legislatures of the aforesaid States, to pass laws (where it has not already been done) authorizing the governours or Commanders in Chief of their militia to make detachments from the same, or to form voluntary corps, as shall be most convenient and conformable to their Constitutions, and to cause the same to be well armed, equipped and disciplined, and held in readiness for service; and upon the request of the Governour of either of the other States to employ the whole of such detachment or corps,  as well as the regular forces of the State, or such part thereof as may be required and can be spared consistently with the safety of the State, in assisting the State, making such request to repel any invasion thereof which shall be made or attempted by the public enemy.

Resolved, That the following amendments of the Constitution of the United States, be recommended to the States represented as aforesaid, to be proposed by them for adoption by the State Legislatures, and, in such cases as may be deemed expedient, by a Convention chosen by the people of each State,

And it is further recommended, that the said States shall persevere in their efforts to obtain such amendments, until the same shall be effected.

First.  Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers of free persons, including those bound to serve for a term of years and excluding Indians not taxed, and all other persons.

 Second.  No new State shall be admitted into the union by Congress in virtue of the power granted by the Constitution, without the concurrence of two thirds of both Houses.

Third.  Congress shall not have power to lay any embargo on the ships or vessels of the citizens of the United States, in the ports or harbours thereof, for more than sixty days.

Fourth.  Congress shall not have power, without the concurrence of two thirds of both Houses, to interdict the commercial intercourse between the United States and any foreign nation of the dependencies thereof.

Fifth.  Congress shall not make or declare war, or authorize acts of hostility against any foreign nation without the concurrence of two thirds of both Houses, except such act as hostility be in defence of the territories of the United States when actually invaded.

Sixth.  No person who shall hereafter be naturalized, shall be eligible as a member of the Senate or House of Representatives of the United States, nor capable of holding any civil office under the authority of the United States.

Seventh.  The same person shall not be elected President of the United States a second time; nor shall the President be elected from the same States two terms in succession.

Resolved,  That if the application of these States to the government of the United States, recommended in a foregoing Resolution, should be unsuccessful, and peace should not be concluded, and the defence of these States should be neglected, as it has been since the commencement of the war, it will in the opinion of this Convention be expedient for the Legislatures of the several States to appoint Delegates to another Convention, to meet at Boston, in the State of Massachusetts, on the third Thursday of June next, with such powers and instructions as the exigency of a crisis so momentous may require.

Resolved,  That the Hon. George Cabot, the Hon. Chauncey Goodrich, and the Hon. Daniel Lyman, or any two of them, be authorized to call another meeting of this Convention, to be holden in Boston, at any time before new Delegates shall be chosen, as recommended in the above Resolution, if in their judgment the situation of the country shall urgently require it.

Hartford, January 4th, 1814.

GEORGE CABOT,                             JAMES HILLHOUSE

NATHAN DANE,                               JOHN TREADWELL,

HARRISON G. OTIS,                         NATHANIEL SMITH,

TIMOTHY BIGELOW,                       CALVIN GODDARD,           

JOSHUA THOMAS,                           ROGER M. SHERMAN,

SAMUEL S. WILDE,                          DANIEL LYMAN,

JOSEPH LYMAN,                              SAMUEL WARD,


DANIEL WALDO,                             BENJAMIN HAZARD,

JODIJAH BAYLIES,                           BENJAMIN WEST,

GEORGE BLISS,                                MILES OLCOTT,


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