Connecticut's Roger Sherman
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§ "Connecticut on the Eve of Ratification," by Mark Williams- a background essay explaining the most important political issues in Connecticut at the time, and detailing the emergence of the merchant-nationalist coalition that eventually succeeded in getting the Constitution ratified.
§ The Call for the Convention - a declaration by the Connecticut legislature that a special convention be called to consider ratifying the Constitution
§ Newspaper clippings from three issues of The Connecticut Courant and Weekly Intelligencer, and one issue of The Middlesex Gazette containing arguments pro and con the new Constitution, including installments of Oliver Ellsworth's "Landholder" series.
§ 20 roles for delegates to the convention -many of these include excerpts from speeches and writings of the delegates.
This site was created by Mark Williams, a history teacher at The Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor, Connecticut, under a grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council. Some of the materials published here were originally created by Mark Williams as Connecticut Case Studies, under a grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council, and printed by the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. John F. Sutherland of Manchester Community College, Ronald P. Dufour of Rhode Island College, Thomas P. Weinland of the University of Connecticut, Tracey Wilson of Conard High School, Robert K. Andrian of The Loomis Chaffee School, and State Historian Christopher Collier served as consultants. The Connecticut Humanities Council is the State Committee of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The viewpoints or recommendations expressed in the materials on this site of are not necessarily those of the Council or the Endowment. Teachers are encouraged to print and make copies of these materials for their students.
Connecticut on the Eve of Ratification
by Mark Williams
The people of Connecticut were, as much as the people of any state, intensely proud of the "new order" that had been won in the years of the Revolution. At the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, they, like Americans all over the thirteen former colonies (except the loyalists), betrayed a nationalist fervor in their celebrations. However, they were far from nationalists, most of them. That is, just because they were proud of their nation, they did not necessarily believe in a strong national government, or think of themselves as having a great deal in common with people from other states. Furthermore, there were deep issues that divided them within their own state, and the divisions over these issues would shape the division over the Constitution.
The Commutation Controversy
Serving in the Continental Army was no picnic. Most Connecticut veterans of the Revolutionary War were proud of their service, and yet, while the war raged, many Connecticut men practiced draft evasion. Towns had quotas to fill for the Continental line, but few managed to meet them. Instead, they protested that they preferred to form their own militia companies, with officers elected by the men themselves, and to stay put until their part of the country was threatened. Unfortunately for Washington and his efforts to remain a surviving "fox," if seldom a predator, the experience of Concord and the siege of Boston had led people to believe the war could be successfully fought on that pattern. Also the experience of the disaster at New York in the summer of 1776 had convinced many that it was best not to go too far from home.
In an effort to deal with this aversion to winter campouts in backwoods Pennsylvania, and to do something about Washington's increasingly angry correspondence, Congress, in 1778, promised seven years half pay after the war to officers in the Continental Army. In 1780, with officers dropping out all along the seaboard as the British seemed on the verge of winning, Congress extended the benefit to half pay for life.
Since this benefit was not given, for obvious reasons of cost, to enlisted men, there was always a good deal of bitterness about it. Nevertheless, Congress again bowed to the wishes of officers in 1783 and "commuted" the benefit to full pay for five years. Despite of the fact that one of Connecticut's Congressmen, Eliphalet Dyer of Windham, had cast the deciding vote in favor, Connecticut was in an uproar over the measure.
Opponents, who used the issue to secure victories in the state election (Governor Jonathan Trumbull, Connecticut's War Governor of 18 years, decided to retire the following year, and Dyer lost his place on the Council), were afraid that this was the beginning of Congress becoming as powerful as Parliament had claimed to have been. At a series of special ad hoc conventions in Middletown in 1783, delegates mainly from rural towns in the north and west of Connecticut, many of whom were former militia officers and members of the General Assembly, passed resolves championing states rights, opposing commutation, decrying the need to spend a lot of money on ambassadors to foreign countries, and condemning the elitist Society of Cincinnati (an organization of former Continental Army officers led in Connecticut by Col. David Humphreys).
The supporters of commutation tended to be former Continental officers, obviously, and merchants who had shares of the national debt. Thus, the lines began to be drawn between an agrarian group, which favored a weak central government and was suspicious that attempts were being made to create a new aristocracy, and a merchant-nationalist coalition, which looked to Congress for solution to the problems it perceived.
In a similar fashion, the two groups polarized on the issue of the taxation powers of the national government. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that the national government needed funds. How much and how they were to be obtained was another matter. An amendment to the Articles of Confederation, giving Congress power to impose import duties, failed to pass because one state (Rhode Island) opposed it. As a compromise proposal, in 1784, Congress asked the states for fifteen years of exclusive regulation of commerce and a 5% impost. Supporters in Connecticut, particularly merchants in Fairfield County, were quick to support the proposal, noting that individual state regulation of commerce had led to a disastrous balance of payments problem with New York State. In spite of the recent fate of other nationalists in state elections, the Governor and Council also came out in favor of the idea.
Again the agrarians protested - they weren't in the least interested in paying higher prices for the products they imported. Led by James Wadsworth of Durham, a militia officer, they voiced suspicion of greater concentration of power in the national government. They also suspected, possibly quite correctly, that the whole effort to pass an import tax was connected to the effort to give the Continental officers special privileges, thus creating an aristocracy at the expense of many others who had also fought (on occasion) for Liberty. However, they were willing to compromise on a plan that would grant the impost for three years in order to reduce the national debt. Nothing ever came of this, because the whole thing met with even more opposition in other states.
The Economy and the Farmers' Plight
While Connecticut did not really experience an intense rural depression, as occurred in some other states, the farmers could well see that they were lagging behind other elements in the state. Connecticut merchants, frustrated as they were with the convoluted and inflation-ridden currency situation after the war, were really doing very well. Some, like Silas Deane of Wethersfield and Jeremiah Wadsworth of Hartford, had become enormously wealthy during the war, engaging in (of all things) the arms trade. They supplied the Continental Army with a large portion of the arms that could be gotten only from foreign merchants. In the process, they had made sure to allow themselves a healthy commission for the risks they took. And, as usual, the "trickle down" process never worked the way the merchants said it would. The contrast between the growing wealth of these and other merchants and the ordinary farmers of Connecticut did not go unnoticed.
While farmers were mumbling about uneven distribution of the goodies, they were still paying taxes. During the war the state taxes had been high, and were compounded by such staggering inflation that some towns petitioned the Assembly that they might have to give state tax collectors the same treatment British customs and stamp agents had once been accorded. Uninterested in giving tar and feathers a try, the Assembly passed some tax relief and restructuring measures after the war. Still, everyone had to pay an equal poll tax, and for many self-sufficient, cash-poor farmers, that alone was too much.
Just the same, because of the tax-relief measures and the reassurance they offered to Connecticut farmers, the situation never developed into a Shays' Rebellion. There were some plots in Sharon and Preston in 1786 to support the Shaysites, but apparently Connecticut stayed calm enough for the Governor to issue a proclamation offering a reward for Shays' and his followers' capture. Cincinnati Society boss David Humphreys of Derby raised a regiment with the Governor's blessing to help suppress the Massachusetts rebellion. Among the established political order, Shays' Rebellion incited some real fear.
The mumblings and mutterings did not amount to much this time, but the lines between the farmers and the nationalist-merchants were still clear.
The Western Reserve and Religion
One other issue that kept these two groups antagonistic toward each other was the matter of disposing western lands. Some of Connecticut's old "sea-to-sea" claim had been ceded to Pennsylvania by 1786, but the state still retained title to a sizable tract south of Lake Erie to use to pay State Militiamen. The conflict that emerged over the Western Reserve concerned the question of whether to sell large lots or small lots. As might be expected, the agrarian dominated Assembly favored sale of small lots that ordinary farmers could afford. Others wanted the state to auction off large parcels and be done with the matter (leaving it to the real estate brokers). Finally, a compromise was reached on both price and minimum acreage, but not after more aggravation of the political rift. Western lands had been the cause of political division in the state before the Revolution, but the division then had been more between geographic regions than between economic classes. A large group of people in eastern Connecticut had supported the promoting of settlement in western Pennsylvania before the Revolution, but they met with a lot of opposition from residents of western Connecticut.
Another pre-Revolution issue that lurked in the background at this time was the problem of religion. Connecticut had been founded as a Puritan Commonwealth in which the state supported one church with everyone's tax money; but during the 18th Century there was a good deal of dissension among Puritans. The Great Awakening had splintered the colony into New Lights and Old Lights, as well as offering an opportunity for Anglicans, Baptists, and Methodists to find a place in society.
The colonial government, independent though it was from British control, had been reluctant to move away from the established "presbyterian" church structure and doctrine. Only intense pressure had resulted in increased toleration of different sects under the "certificate" laws. With the exception of the Anglicans, though, the clergy had generally united behind the Revolution, and by 1783, the New Light-Old Light factionalism had lost much of its heat in the political arena. Nevertheless, people who had grown up in an atmosphere of protest about local autonomy in religious matters were clearly influenced by those times. Particularly communities that had moved in the direction of New Light doctrine, which argued that individual congregations, not county supervision "associations," should control their own practices and beliefs, tended to be suspicious of ideas about a strong central government.
The Ratification Convention Approaches
The lines were clear as the General Assembly debated whether to respond to the call for a Constitutional Convention in May of 1787. The rural interest feared the state government would not send delegates "close to the people's hearts," and that the liberties of the people were in danger. The three chosen, Oliver Ellsworth of Windsor, Roger Sherman of New Haven, who had signed the Declaration of Independence, and William Samuel Johnson of Stratford, were not intense nationalists, but certainly became so on their return. At Philadelphia they engineered a compromise on the national legislature that had been responsible for the Constitution coming into existence. Now they made every effort, in print and in person, to see to it that their handiwork was ratified.
Their task seemed nearly impossible at first. Not only was there great suspicion among the rural interest about what had been done at Philadelphia, but the rural interest was more numerous than ever. In a fit of independence seeking, over twenty new towns had split off from "mother" towns since the Revolution. The Council had made an effort to keep the influence of these fiercely independent "outlanders" to a minimum by allowing the new towns only one seat (as opposed to the normal two) in the Assembly. Nevertheless, there were more votes for the agrarians, and the legislature decided to allow each town the same number of delegates at the Ratification Convention as it had representatives in the Assembly.
The merchant-nationalist coalition had its work cut out for it in a deeply divided state. Old issues would now become part of the debate over the new Constitution, old lines would form again, old suspicions would be kindled anew, and "reason" would be hard-pressed to win the day. Nevertheless, those supporting the new Constitution were undaunted in their determination to establish their new order and secure the safety of the nation. Those who opposed them were equally intent on securing that nation's safety, but saw entirely different threats.
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The Call for the Convention
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Newspaper Clippings from Connecticut Papers
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Roles for the Ratification Convention
Governor Samuel Huntington, Norwich
You, Samuel Huntington, have been Governor of Connecticut since 1786. You are a self-taught lawyer, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a former close adviser to Governor Trumbull, and one-time President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation. Although somewhat shy, and, in some respects, stern in demeanor, you are known for your sensitivity to the less fortunate in your state. You are a personal friend of Roger Sherman and a strong supporter of the new Constitution, for you are well aware of the necessity for coercive power in the national government and for support of the government by the nation of people. You do not think the interests of your state will be endangered by the powers vested in Congress. In fact, as leader of a small and relatively weak state, which is currently not in good shape financially, you know that placing taxation, treaty-making, war-making, and commerce regulation powers in Congress is the best thing that can happen to Connecticut. Too long has your state been subject to the whims of more economically and militarily powerful states like New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the state is going to have to strain to continue to fund its large debt. Inflation, the plight of the poor and the veterans, the need for education and incentive for manufacturing, and the need to assist the merchants in developing stronger maritime trade networks all concern you. You are not afraid of Congress becoming despotic. In fact, you suspect the new order will tend to destroy aristocracy, especially in ports such as your Norwich, and will give farmers more opportunity to participate in politics.
Of course, the new government's success will depend upon the ability of the people to make it work. "No Constitution can make a people happy without Virtue and Wisdom," you wrote the governor of North Carolina. The new Constitution, which requires a well-educated and clear-thinking society for its survival, is well suited, you think, to the people of the United States. This people will be able to keep this republic. In that respect, too, there is no need for a Bill of Rights, since "all right and authority in Government is derived from the People" anyway.
You are confident that you have made the right decision to support this new order. The vast majority of people in your town and in your county, being sensitive to the need for better regulation of commerce by a central government, agree with you. You intend to speak for them in your closing remarks just before the vote at the Ratification Convention:
Mr. President, I do not rise to detain this Convention for any length of time. The subject has been so fully discussed, that very little can be added to what has already been offered. I have heard and attended with pleasure to what has been said on it. The importance of it merited a full and ample discussion. It does not give me pain, but pleasure, to hear the sentiments of those gentlemen who differ from me. It is not to be expected from human nature that we should all have the same opinion. The best way to learn the nature and effects of different systems of government, is not from theoretical dissertations, but from experience - from what has actually taken place among mankind. From this same source it is that mankind have obtained a more complete knowledge of the nature of government than they had in ages past. It is an established truth that no nation can exist without a coercive power - a power to enforce the execution of its political regulations. There is such a love of liberty implanted in the human heart, that no nation ever willingly gave up its liberty. If they lose this inestimable birthright of men, it is not for a want of the will, but of the proper means to support it. If we look into history, we shall find that the common avenue through which tyranny has entered in, and enslaved nations who were once free, has been their not supporting government.
The great secret of preserving liberty is, to lodge the supreme power so as to be well supported, and not abused. If this could be effected, no nation would ever lose its liberty. The history of man clearly shows that it is dangerous to intrust the supreme power in the hands of one man. The same source of knowledge proves that it is not only inconvenient, but dangerous to liberty, for the people of a large community to attempt to exercise in person the supreme authority. Hence arises the necessity that the people should act by their representatives; but this method, so necessary for civil liberty, is an improvement of modern times. Liberty, however, is not so well secured as it ought to be when the supreme power is lodged in one body of representatives. There ought to be two branches of the legislature, that one may be a check upon the other. It is difficult for the people at large to know when the supreme power is verging towards abuse, and to apply the proper remedy. But if the government be properly balanced, it will possess a renovating principle, by which it will be able to right itself. The constitution of the British nation affords us great light upon the subject of government. Learned men in other countries have admired it, though they thought it too fine-spun to prove beneficial in practice. But a long trial has now shown its excellence; and the difficulties which that nation now experiences arise not from their constitution, but from other circumstances.
The Author of nature has given mankind a certain degree of insight into futurity. As far as we can see a probability that certain events will happen, so far we do well to provide and guard. But we may attempt to go too far. It is in vain to think of providing against every possible contingency. The happiness of society depends not merely upon its constitution of government, but upon a variety of circumstances. One constitution may suit one particular nation exceedingly well, when a different one would suit another nation in different circumstances. Even among the American states, there is such a difference in sentiments, habits, and customs, that a government which might be very suitable for one might not be agreeable to the other.
I am fully of opinion that the great council of the Union must have a controlling power with respect to national concerns. There is, at present, an extreme want of power in the national government; and it is my opinion that this Constitution does not give too much. As to the subject of representation, at the first view it appears small; but on the whole, the purposes of the Union could not be so well answered by a greater number. It is impracticable to have the number of representatives as great, and times of election as frequent, as they are in our state governments. Nor is this necessary for the security of our liberty. It is sufficient if the choice of our representatives be so frequent that they must depend upon the people, and that an inseparable connection be kept up between the electors and the elected.
The state governments, I think, will not be endangered by the powers vested by this Constitution in the general government. While I have attended in Congress, I have observed that the members were quite as strenuous advocates for the rights of their respective states, as for those of the Union. I doubt not but that this will continue to be the case; and hence I infer that the general government will not have the disposition to encroach upon the states. But still the people themselves must be the chief support of liberty. While the great body of freeholders are acquainted with the duties which they owe to their God, to themselves, and to men, they will remain free. But if ignorance and depravity should prevail, they will inevitably lead to slavery and ruin. Upon the whole view of this Constitution, I am in favor of it, and think it bids fair to promote our national prosperity. This is a new event in the history of mankind. Heretofore most governments have been formed by tyrants, and imposed on mankind by force. Never before did a people, in time of peace and tranquility, meet together by their representatives, and, with calm deliberation, frame for themselves a system of government. This noble attempt does honor to our country. While I express my sentiments in favor of this Constitution, I candidly believe that those gentlemen who oppose it are actuated by principles of regard to the public welfare. If we will exercise mutual candor for each other, and sincerely endeavor to maintain our liberties, we may long continue to be a free and happy people.
General Jedediah Huntington, Esq., Norwich
You are Jedediah Huntington, a delegate from Norwich. Along with the other delegate from Norwich, Governor Samuel Huntington, you are a strong supporter of the new constitution.
You are a small man of sedate temperament, yet energetic and very active in civil affairs. Your somewhat reserved and polished manner disguises a man who has had a great deal of political and military experience. You graduated from Cambridge University, trained in law, in 1763, but that brief experience in England did nothing to diminish your enthusiasm for your native Connecticut. An intensely religious man, you consider the old world too corrupt to be a part of; and upon your return to Connecticut you soon became appalled at the high-handed way the ministry was treating the colonists. You were a member of the Sons of Liberty, and rose in the ranks during the war to become a General in the Continental Army. After the war you were active in the Order of Cincinnati, serving as its Vice-president in Connecticut, and you held numerous political offices, including High Sheriff of New London County, Judge of Probate for the district of Norwich, First Alderman of the city of Norwich, and Representative for Norwich in the State Legislature. It is little wonder that your constituents thought you fit to represent them in this important gathering in Hartford. Some may not have shared your enthusiasm for the new constitution, and a number of them resent your activity in the Order of Cincinnati, but none will deny they have great respect for your abilities. It is this sort of society, where men of talent, integrity, and wisdom are recognized and respected, which you think is capable of sustaining a national republic which others think will never survive.
In fact, you think the new constitution is needed now more than ever before. While you are a believer in doing all that is necessary to prevent tyranny (your record in the Revolution proves that), you are certain that the public good demands a stronger, more powerful, more efficient government than that under the Articles of Confederation. You still want the states to exist in a federal relationship, but feel that they must give up some of their powers for the nation to avoid ruin. You stand in awe of the system created in Philadelphia, and doubt a better one could ever be found. While some say the new constitution is too ambiguous, you admire its flexibility to change with the times, the degree of representation the people have to protect their liberties, the remarkable system of checks and balances so that no one person or faction can get too much power, and the unifying features of the commerce clause and the ability of raise an army.
States divided will inevitably fall, while those that are united will triumph. Here, at last, after a decade of confusion and near loss of liberty, is a way of achieving the necessary liberty. Also, you are sick of the extreme taxation those in the port towns like Norwich must endure. This new system, where Congress controls interstate commerce, will ensure a fairer system of raising revenue and regulating trade to the equal advantage of all the states. Finally, having one commander-in-chief, elected in a sensible fashion (the electoral college), where the people have a say, is the best and only way to provide for the defense of a democratic republic.
These are the views you will express at the Convention in Hartford.
The Honorable Richard Law, New London
You are Richard Law, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court and one of the most respected leaders of the state. Because of your early support for the constitution you earned the endorsement of The Connecticut Courant and, quite easily, the support of your townspeople as a delegate to the Ratification Convention. You are well aware that no system of government is perfect, but you see this constitution's basic principles, among them being dependency on the people, as being sound and wise. Roger Sherman has convinced you that the amendment procedure should ensure the correction of any defects, at any rate. You are firmly behind ratification and support your friends Sherman, Ellsworth and Johnson in their efforts to achieve it. If the Constitution is not ratified you see only a cloud of tyranny drifting over the nation.
Toward the end of the Ratification Convention, you plan to deliver this speech:
Mr. President, the important subject before us has been examined so particularly, that I do not expect to add any thing new. As we have been a long time poring upon the defective parts of the Constitution, I think it will not be amiss to pay some attention to its excellences. There is one clause in it which provides a remedy for whatever defects it may have. The clause to which I refer is that which provides that, whenever two thirds of Congress, or a convention to be called at the instance of two thirds of the states, shall propose amendments, and they be agreed to by three fourths of the states, such amendments shall be valid, as part of the Constitution. This is an easy and peaceable way of amending any parts of the Constitution which may be found inconvenient in practice.
As this is a most important question, as it concerns not only present but future generations, we ought to consider it upon its real merits, without suffering our minds to be misled by examples of other nations, whose circumstances are very different from ours. Some have been led into a mistake, by comparing a part of this Constitution with that of Great Britain. But this is very different from theirs. Our President is not a King, nor our Senate a House of Lords. They do not claim an independent, hereditary authority. But the whole is elective; all dependent on the people. The President, the Senate, the Representatives, are all creatures of the people. Therefore the people will be secure from oppression; though I admit that, if our President and Senate were possessed of an independent, hereditary authority, the democratical branch would be too weak for the others.
Some suppose that the general government, which extends over the whole, will annihilate the state governments. But consider that this general government rests upon the state governments for its support. It is like a vast and magnificent bridge, built upon thirteen strong and stately pillars. Now, the rulers, who occupy the bridge, cannot be so beside themselves as to knock away the pillars which support the whole fabric. But, some say, a free government, like this, has not energy enough to pervade a country of such vast extent.
We are not satisfied with this assertion. We want to try the experiment. A free system of government is now presented to our acceptance. We shall be wanting to ourselves, if, instead of adopting it, we wait for the arm of tyranny to impose upon us a system of despotism. The old Articles of Confederation were once the best that we should have been willing to adopt. We have been led on by imperceptible degrees to see that they are defective; and now, if it be the design of Providence to make us a great and happy people, I believe that he who turns the hearts of the children of men as the rivers of water are turned, will induce the people of the United States to accept of a Constitution which is well calculated to promote their national welfare.
Amasa Learned, New London
You are Amasa Learned, wealthy merchant from New London. You graduated from Yale in 1772, taught school until the war broke out, and then fought in the war until 1780. Afterward, you married into the rich and powerful Hallam family of New London, and began a career in politics and business that has led to respect and prosperity.
You are very much in favor of the new Constitution, as is practically everyone from all of New London county. Your attention has been drawn, in particular, to the commerce clauses in Article I (section 8, and section 9). As a merchant in a seacoast town doing trade with other states and other nations, you like the idea that Congress will be regulating interstate trade, will eliminate tariffs between states (which are currently inflicting disaster on Connecticut merchants to the benefit of New York State), will not tax exports, and will not favor one port over any other. You realize that some tariffs are important to raise necessary revenue to protect the nation and its shipping against foreign attack, and you are glad to pay those taxes as long as they are fairly imposed on all. It is a small sacrifice for such a great benefit of national security and unity. Thus, along with Richard Law, your co-delegate from New London, you plan to speak in favor of ratification and vote "yes" when the vote is called.
The Honorable Oliver Wolcott,Sr., Litchfield
You are Oliver Wolcott, Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut. You are a very respected citizen of the state. You are a graduate of Yale College, a physician, and you have had a long career of public service as an officeholder, judge, and an officer during the Revolution. In 1776 you were elected to the Continental Congress, and you signed the Declaration of Independence. You have a number of concerns over this constitution. You feel there is a need for a national government that has power to remedy some of the national problems of the recent decade and to promote more unity among the states. You don't look at the states as sovereignties, but as corporations - the people are sovereign and they establish governments. (In this respect you like the new government because its seems to be founded on the election of the people.) You do feel that the rights and interests of individual states must remain secure - but then states are as capable of violating individual rights as a national government (Connecticut's tax supported religious establishment is an example of that). If you can be assured that the new government will always be founded upon the election of the people, you will vote for the new constitution. Something must be done. Just recently in nearby Sharon some farmers were caught planning a rebellion much like the one led by Daniel Shays in Massachusetts a few years ago. A strong government is needed to establish order and unity, and, actually you expect the Constitution will pass fairly easily. One private concern you have, though, is that the states will disappear - have no powers at all. You hold a large number of state bonds you purchased during the war , and you don't want them to become worthless. At the convention you will ask your friend Roger Sherman for assurance they will be safe.
Only if you can receive assurances from Sherman that the states will continue to exist and that the new government will not become tyrannical, will you support the Constitution. You have a speech prepared, in the event you are reassured:
Mr. President, I do not expect to throw any new light on a subject which has been so fully discussed. Yet I cannot content myself without giving my opinion more explicitly than by a silent vote. It is generally agreed that the present Confederation is inadequate to the exigencies of our national affairs. We must therefore adopt this plan of government, or some other, or risk the consequences of disunion. As the present Articles of Confederation are inadequate, we ought to consider whether this Constitution be as good as can be agreed on by so many different states, or whether it be a dangerous system; whether it secures the liberties of the people, or whether its tendency be unfavorable to the rights of a free people. I have given it all the consideration in my power, and I have, a considerable time since, made up my mind on the subject, and think it my duty to give my voice in favor of adopting it. It is founded upon the election of the people. If it varies from the former system, or if it is to be altered hereafter, it must be with the consent of the people. This is all the security in favor of liberty that can be expected. Mankind may become corrupt, and give upon the cause of freedom; but I believe that love of liberty which prevails among the people of this country will prevent such a direful calamity.
The Constitution effectually secures the states in their several rights. It must secure them for its own sake; for they are the pillars which uphold the general system. The Senate, a constituent branch of the general legislature, without whose assent no public act can be made, are appointed by the states, and will secure the rights of the several states. The other branch of the legislature, the Representatives, are to be elected by the people at large. They will therefore be the guardians of the rights of the great body of the citizens. So well guarded is this Constitution throughout, that it seems impossible that the rights either of the states or of the people would be destroyed.
I do not see the necessity of such a test as some gentlemen wish for [that is, a religious test for those who would hold office under the new government - William Williams of Lebanon was concerned that the Constitution forbade such a test]. The Constitution enjoins an oath upon all the officers of the United States. This is a direct appeal to that God who is the avenger of perjury. Such an appeal to him is a full acknowledgment of his being and providence. An acknowledgment of these great truths is all that the gentleman contends for. For myself, I should be content either with or without that clause in the Constitution which excludes test laws. Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens; I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause which secures us from the possibility of such oppression. I shall only add, that I give my assent to this Constitution, and am happy to see the states in a fair way to adopt a Constitution which will protect their rights and promote their welfare.
William Samuel Johnson, Stratford
You are William Samuel Johnson, a graduate of Yale College and Oxford Law School, and a leading lawyer of your times. You have had a long career of public service - in Connecticut's State Assembly, at the Stamp Act Congress, and in the Continental Congress. You are now a justice of the Supreme Court of Connecticut and will soon assume the duties of President of Columbia University in New York City. As a member of Connecticut's delegation to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia you helped to incorporate the Great Compromise into the new Constitution. You are greatly respected throughout Connecticut and in the nation for your background and for your "learning and eloquence." There was some question, at one time, about your future. In 1776 you actually opposed independence, and were arrested for correspondence with the enemy in 1779. (You were also a member of the Church of England, and, at one time were in favor of a Bishop for Americans to "reduce them to a better state of unity." Needless to say, the Congregational establishment probably remembered these things when arresting you.) However, you were freed after taking an oath of loyalty to the state - able men like yourself were much in demand. Now you must use your prestige to achieve a very necessary goal. After a number of years of doubting the need for a strong central government you now have come to believe that it is necessary to have one with power to enforce laws directly upon individuals, rather than having to operate via state governments. For one thing, there is no monetary system in this new nation - a disgrace! Furthermore, the state governments have come under the influence of people who would use them to achieve their own selfish ends. Note how the New Light faction got control of Connecticut, and more recently a faction that wanted the state to print worthless paper money caused harmful inflation during the war. At the Philadelphia convention you said,
States are political societies. &emdash; For whom are we to form a government? for the people of America, or for those societies? Undoubtedly the latter. They must, therefore, have a voice in the second branch of the general government, if you mean to preserve their existence. The people already compose the first branch. The mixture is proper and necessary&emdash;For we cannot form a general government on any other ground.
Now you and your colleagues have forged such a government that will deal effectively with the present crisis of disunity, regional jealousies, and military weakness, and ensure that the people are properly represented at the same time. With all your renowned eloquence you plan to support this new order.
Stephen Mix Mitchell, Wethersfield
You are Stephen Mix Mitchell, a powerful figure in state politics. Last year you strongly opposed the idea of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. You felt it was illegal, and most of the people of Wethersfield liked government under the Articles of Confederation anyway. Many of them, as do you, also hold state bonds, issued during the war, and they and you fear that a new national government would mean the credit of the states would be worthless (and thus would their bonds be worthless). Will the new government redeem the bonds at equal to face value, or at their current value on the market (much lower)?
You don't want to see the states swallowed up by a strong central government. This is the main concern you will express at the Convention at Hartford. However, if you can be convinced that the procedure for adoption of the new constitution is proper, and that your bonds will be safe, you might vote "yes." While Wethersfield is suspicious of the constitution, the town does trust you and gives your judgment the respect that a person of your social and economic station deserves. You have great respect, yourself, for Roger Sherman and William Samuel Johnson, and their influence may pull you over.
William Williams, Lebanon
You are William Williams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, patriot, member of Governor Huntington's Council, son-in-law of former governor Trumbull, and highly respected gentleman. The new Constitution worries you greatly. You believe that the Revolution was fought in order to secure the independence of a very important venture: Connecticut. When the colony was established, it was established in the name of God by the elect of God. In your part of the state people have always tried to live up to that tradition - to live simple, pure, and, Godly lives in harmony with each other and in peace with other towns. To maintain this tradition Connecticut has had to avoid many threats to its independence from corrupt and ungodly governments in Britain - especially in 1687 (the Charter Oak incident) and in 1765 when people from your area joined in a great protest against the Stamp Act and won control of the State government from those who would give in to Britain. Now, 100 years after the Charter Oak incident, the independence of Connecticut, and thus the future of a godly community, may be at stake. For one thing the new constitution expressly forbids state religious tests for officeholding. How else might this new and powerful government interfere with Connecticut's effort to remain pure and Godly? It seems like such a secular document. Admittedly there are problems that a stronger central government could solve, but couldn't there at least have been "an explicit acknowledgment of the being of God, his perfections, and his providence" included in the preamble? Your town has instructed you to vote "no."
Your views, have, in fact, long been a thorn in the side of many of the leaders of Connecticut. In 1786 you authored the "Agricola" letters to the newspapers arguing in favor of dividing the western lands into small lots for sale to persons of moderate means; and earlier you had written vituperative articles opposing the Society of Cincinnati. These writings had caused much consternation among certain factions in the state. While you had attempted to keep your identity as their author a secret, General Samuel Holden Parsons, leader of the Connecticut Chapter of the Society of Cincinnati and a land speculator, got hold of some of the correspondence and revealed your identity to the governor. Then his allies vilified you in the press as "William Wimble." (If Parsons is at this convention you plan to lambaste him in public for his selfish greed at the expense of the small farmers and militiamen of Connecticut). During Shays' Rebellion you, as Judge of Windham County Court, adjourned the December, 1786 session, thinking it "improper to hold Courts in this state at a time when the sessions of Court had probably involved a neighboring state in a scene of blood and carnage." Parsons' allies, the "Connecticut Wits" again criticized you for your apparent sympathy to Shays.
Your most recently published concerns about the religious test clause have also drawn attack from Oliver Ellsworth, who seems to have completely misunderstood your point. You didn't mean to say you wanted all officers to have to pass a religious test - you simply did not want to see religion (and thus morality) disappear from Connecticut.
Just the same, in spite of past antagonism between you and some of the pro-constitution leaders among the state's establishment, you greatly admire Roger Sherman, and you know him too well to suspect him of sacrificing the interests of Connecticut. He too was a great patriot, and he has already argued well for the new constitution in conversations with you. In fact, you are fast becoming a convert to the idea that a strong national government is wise and necessary. As to your town's instructions, they did not even reelect you as Selectman after 27 years of service in that post - you are not sure how much you owe them as a representative! If Sherman argues as well at the convention as he has in person, you may just ignore the instructions and vote yes. After all, aside from the religious test clause, there is not much else in the document you object to, as long as Connecticut can maintain its independence.
Captain Ephraim Carpenter, Lebanon
You are Captain Ephraim Carpenter, second delegate from Lebanon with William Williams. You have served your town as an officeholder for a number of years, and are now a member of the General Assembly of Connecticut. Your town has instructed you to vote "no" on the new Constitution, and you, yourself, are strongly opposed to ratification.
Your principle objection is to the clauses in the Constitution related to taxes, imposts and excises. You think it is potentially despotic to give "the power of the purse" to a government that also has "the power of the sword." Furthermore, you think that the operation of the new tax system will be partial to the southern states. Their primary trade is in the export trade, which would not be taxed, while Connecticut farmers will have to pay even higher prices (because of import taxes) for the goods they need to import, such as textile goods (to ward off the cold winters that southerners do not face), and hardware. And how will the new government avoid being partial against Connecticut when Connecticut has so few representatives in the House compared to many other states?
Overall, you suspect that this new government will become tyrannical. One might as well call the President, Senate and House "King, Lords and Commons." Did we fight the Revolution to reestablish that tyranny on this side of the Atlantic? The farmers of Lebanon have voiced a resounding "NO!" Furthermore, they see all of those bigwig merchants, land-speculators and Cincinnati aristocrats lining up behind the Constitution. There must be something in that that bodes ill for the ordinary farmer. You plan to give this convention and the Connecticut establishment a piece of your mind in defense of Liberty! This country does not need a stronger government - this country needs a government of the people.
Matthew Griswold, Lyme
You are Matthew Griswold, President of the Convention. You were Governor of Connecticut from 1784-1786, and your election to preside over the Convention is a sign of your continued high status among the leadership class of the state. You were a devoted patriot during the Revolution, and before that, you were a supporter of the "New Light" cause. During your life you have risen from a simple farmer to the wealthiest person in your town. You were a lawyer, the King's attorney in New London County, and a Justice on the Superior Court, before being elected to Deputy Governor and then Governor. You support the new Constitution, and were in favor of its being written "to render the Constitution of the federal government adequate to the exigencies of the union." Nevertheless, you will do everything you can to insure all views get a fair hearing. It was this basic fairness that has always earned you much respect.
One might think that you, being a former governor, would be sensitive to the issue of the states losing power to the central government. However, you are not afraid that the state governments will be swallowed up, as some have predicted. Nor do you feel the new plan is destructive to liberty. You are impressed by the arguments of Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth that the government's powers are sufficiently checked, and that they rest on the people's consent originally. Also, you feel William Samuel Johnson is right in saying that the economic benefits of freer trade will be great for Connecticut, and will outweigh any burden of taxation on imports the new government may impose. You doubt that burden would be too great, since most states would have to carry it and would not enact and unfair tax. The nation is in desperate need of unity, and some sacrifice is in order for that great end.
Procedure: You will have to decide whether or not to take up the Constitution as a whole, or "by single articles, sections, paragraphs, or detached clauses and sentences as occasion might require." Once this is decided, announce some ground rules, such as delegates must raise their hands to be recognized, and may not interrupt other delegates unless the delegate who has the floor consents. Also ask each delegate to identify himself and the town he represents each time he speaks. When all views on all parts of the new Constitution have been heard, you should call a vote. Make a list of the delegates present ahead of time, so that you may take a roll-call vote.
William Noyes, Lyme
You are William Noyes, a Yale graduate, and highly respected man in Lyme. Your town is composed mainly of farmers, and they have some concerns about turning over powers of taxation and raising an army to the new central government under the Constitution. However, since both you and the former Governor, Matthew Griswold, whom they have also elected as a delegate to the Ratification Convention, are strongly in favor of the new Constitution, most of them are persuaded that you should go ahead and vote in favor of it.
Your community is certainly jealous of its independence. As part of the "New Light" movement before the Revolution, these people wanted to be free from control of the New London "Association," a group of ministers who controlled what sort of preaching each congregation was allowed to have in its church. When Parliament began passing tax laws and other regulations restraining the inclinations of the colonists, the people of your community naturally resisted these impositions so strongly they even voted to unseat those magistrates at the state level who did not oppose the Parliamentary actions vigorously enough. This also put people in power sympathetic to the "New Light" movement for independent congregations.
Thus, it is surprising that such a community would tolerate a new Constitution that gives a distant central government significant powers over the lives of individual citizens. However, you feel, judging from the current crises of the times, that such power is necessary. You also are convinced by Roger Sherman, that these powers of the government are sufficiently checked through representation of the people in the various branches in various ways. You think the new Constitution is an ideal solution for a republican people who are currently suffering from the potential chaos that often causes the fall of republics. This is the message you will try to get across to your fellow delegates at Hartford.
Eliphalet Dyer, Windham
You are Eliphalet Dyer, a member of the Superior Court of Connecticut, and highly respected citizen of a fast-growing town (too fast for the land available) in the northeastern part of the state. You are also well known throughout the state for your abilities in political affairs - The Connecticut Courant recently recommended your election as a delegate to this convention, and the voters of your town agreed.
You were educated at Yale College, served in the Connecticut militia as a regimental commander during the French and Indian War, and sat in the General Assembly from 1747 until 1762 and on the Governor's Council from then until 1784. You were also a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress and a member of the Continental Congress. As organizer of the Susquehanna Company in 1753 you hoped to open up settlement of that part of western Pennsylvania which was supposedly granted to Connecticut in its original charter The Company had bought title to a great amount of this land on the Susquehanna River and stood to profit if Connecticut would pursue its proper claims. Then the children of Connecticut farmers, who now had slim prospects of getting arable land, would have some possibilities open to them. Factions in the Assembly from the western part of the state worked against you, however, and, eventually the state lost most of its claim in that area.
You have also had difficulties during your service in the Continental Congress. In 1784 you cast the deciding vote in favor of commutation. So incensed were people from Connecticut, that they voted you out of office that year, and you lost your seat on the Governor's Council as well.
Actually, you tend to identify with those who have opposed you on these two issues, and are somewhat frustrated that they have misunderstood your intentions so. You see yourself as a person who stands up for the independent farmer and militiaman who, you feel, is at the heart of the new republic. Your constituents have expressed a great deal of concern about the new Constitution, and you can see why they are upset. They resent distant governments that have power to tax and raise an army. They are suspicious of any form of government, whether republican or monarchical, which attempts to make laws for Virginians and well as New Englanders. In fact, they do not even like the General Assembly making laws for them, as they feel that the Assembly is not looking out for the interests of ordinary farmers. The problems with the western lands have shown that.
In spite of your empathy for their views, it is often difficult for you to get people to see that you are on their side. You are not a very good public speaker, and it takes you a long time to explain your position. In actuality, you have a difficult task here. You think that this new government will be more likely to protect what is left of Connecticut's western land claims than was the Congress under the Articles of Confederation. This way, children of Connecticut farmers will be able to purchase lands at a reasonable rate. Therefore, you support this new Constitution, because you have seen the difficulties Connecticut has had in trying to negotiate with Pennsylvania. Apparently, your voters are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and send you to Hartford. Now you need to explain your views to the other delegates, and you are not terribly confident of your ability to present this complex issue in a way that will not alienate those whom you most want to help.
General Samuel Holden Parsons, Middletown
You are Samuel Parsons, a strong supporter of the new Constitution and devotee of Oliver Ellsworth. You are very anxious that it be ratified with all possible speed, and at all costs. You believe that it is necessary to give the opposition a chance to speak, but then you have, as yet, been totally unimpressed with their arguments and suspect they will have little that is worthwhile to say. So ardent is your desire for ratification that you have suggested that persons not supporting the new Constitution (the "Wrongheads") ought to be shut out of positions in state and local government.
As soon as possible, you will make the motion "That this convention do assent to, ratify and adopt the Constitution by the Convention of Delegates in Philadelphia on the 17th Day of September A.D. 1787 and referred to the determination of this Convention by an Act of the General Assembly in October last."
You wrote the following letter to Roger Alden in December:
I suppose you, with many other good men, are anxiously expecting the fate of the new Constitution in this State. The efforts of its enemies have been crowned with Shame and disappointment; their unceasing endeavors to alarm the fears of (and) awake the jealousies of the people have produced examination and candid attention among the citizens of this state, and there are many more friends added to it.
In fact, you find that those who oppose the new Constitution are some of the most offensive, ill-advised and foolish people in the state. William Williams is a good example (you like to call him "William Wimble"). He has done everything he could to obstruct the efforts of responsible people like yourself to settle the western land question in a wise manner. You favor the state getting out of the affair as quickly as possible by selling the Western Reserve off in large lots to persons, like yourself, who are much more experienced in dealing with land settlement and can arrange for proper sale and settling of the area. Williams, that underhanded imbecile, has tried to have articles printed opposing your ideas all in the name of his precious small farmer (who would not know the first thing about what to do with the land). You foiled him, however, by exposing his tactics, once you had intercepted articles he had written and had hoped to publish anonymously.
Also, you find among the anti-federalist party many of those who have written and spoken wild accusations about the Society of Cincinnati, of which you are President. Among these are James Wadsworth of Durham and Noah Phelps of Simsbury. You are deeply interested in the welfare of former Continental line officers. You want Congress to grant them lands in the west, and you wanted Congress to give them full pay for five years after the war was over to honor its commitments to them during the war. Those who sat at home, the "summertime patriots," are unwilling to recognize the great sacrifice these officers made, risking their lives, honor and fortune, in the late war.
There is a crying need for a strong central government that can put things right, for former officers, and for all those who look forward to an era of order and harmony in a new national republic. You suspect, further, that a national republic will be more likely to encourage men of stature and talent to acquire positions of power to which they are well suited. A new class of men will rise to the top because of their recognized ability, not because they have inherited their wealth and status, and not, on the other hand, because their demagogic rhetoric can turn the heads of the rabble.
Pierpont Edwards, New Haven
You are Pierpont Edwards, a leading lawyer of New Haven. You were born in Northampton, Mass., the son of the great evangelist Jonathan Edwards. You were educated at Princeton, and became a lawyer in Connecticut in 1771. You have served in the General Assembly and in Congress, and are well-respected throughout the state.
You have great respect for Oliver Ellsworth, and, of course, Roger Sherman, and think they have put together a marvelous constitution for a national government. At the Convention you plan to speak on behalf of this new plan. Under this form the new government will be able to settle all of the problems of the last several years - especially those difficulties between the states (like New York and Connecticut ). The merchants of New Haven are solidly behind this document for that reason, and you are eager to retain their confidence in you by supporting their views at the Ratification Convention. They and you think that only good fortune can come to Connecticut as a result of central regulation of commerce, where New York would not be able to charge prohibitive imposts on Connecticut trade goods. While some are concerned about possible tyranny arising in this new government, Roger Sherman has convinced you that the document provides many checks against abuses of power. You are ready join him in arguing the virtues of the document and to vote "yes" at the convention.
Roger Sherman, New Haven
You are Roger Sherman, a man with an impressive background. Originally trained as a shoemaker, you educated yourself to be a surveyor, then a merchant, and then a lawyer, at all of which trades you were successful. You have been a member of the House of Representatives of Connecticut, a justice of the Superior Court, mayor of New Haven, member of the Continental Congress, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and the new Constitution, whose existence is due largely to your persistence in engineering the Great Compromise over representation in the national legislature. By 1787 you have held more state and national offices than anyone in the nation, and no one in Connecticut, not even Oliver Ellsworth, has a better grasp of the details of the new Constitution.
Originally, you had not been an enthusiastic delegate to the Philadelphia Convention. You had always frowned upon extralegal conventions, and generally were reluctant to take a lead in Revolutionary ventures. Furthermore, you are a believer in state sovereignty and states rights, and accurately sensed that the Philadelphia convention would be inclined toward nationalism. However, you did always think it ridiculous that Congress had no real power to levy taxes for the support of the new nation, or that states would not necessarily consider laws of Congress and treaties the new nation made to be binding upon them. Also, you were well aware of the many other problems of the times, such as the currency crisis and the absurd trade duties between the states. Your commitment to a representative republic, and your sensitivity to the desire of your constituents not to have too radical a change in their government, allowed you to take a balanced approach toward these problems and fight for essential republican features in the new, more powerful central government.
Now you will use your widely reputed hardheaded common sense to insure Connecticut is among the early ratifiers of the new republic. Already you have been active in that effort - traveling about the state to talk with delegates to the ratifying Convention, and writing letters from "A Countryman" in The New Haven Gazette and in The Connecticut Courant. Your town supports you strongly - New Haven was the first to call for a ratification convention last October.
At the convention you have decided your role will be to explain the constitution and to quiet fears. You will prove that the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances insures that there is no threat to liberty. To do this you will refer to actual clauses in the Constitution itself, such as the provision for impeachment, veto power, and the independent judiciary. You will particularly stress the fact that every branch of the government gets its power either directly or indirectly from the people.
The new government will have only "sufficient" powers. The people will not lose any power or rights. The powers Congress will be getting will be taken from the state assemblies - powers the people have already given up. In the hands of the national government these powers will be more useful to secure the rights and property of the people who, in the end, control the central government themselves. And, of course, "property" includes state bonds, held by people such as yourself and Oliver Wolcott. On the issue of state bonds, you must explain to their holders that the new government will not swallow up the states, but that a "federal" relationship will exist. To every argument of the opponents of the new Constitution you will respond that this is, indeed, a republic, more capable than ever of ensuring their liberties than were the states alone or under the Articles of Confederation.
The Honorable James Wadsworth, Durham
You are James Wadsworth. You graduated from Yale in 1748, and have had a long military career since you first raised a company in 1758 to invade Canada during the French and Indian War. As a General in Connecticut's militia, a Judge on the Superior Court, and as State Comptroller on the Governor's Council (the highest paying position in the state government), you are a powerful and widely respected man. Still, you have often been at odds with many of the leading Connecticut officials (Roger Sherman, Pierpont Edwards, and Governor Huntington). You feel that the interests of your town and other farming communities have often been overlooked in favor of the merchant class. Specifically, you opposed commutation of military pensions on the grounds that it would only increase national power, and promote a new aristocracy. You feared that it was wrong to create a powerful military "caste" with a national army. You are a militiaman yourself, and are firmly opposed to special privileges for Continental officers.
As for the new constitution, you oppose it, as do the farmers of your town, who voted 67-4 to instruct their delegates to vote "no" at the Ratification Convention. Delegates from other towns who oppose the Constitution look to you for leadership. Generally you find that those same people who favored commutation also favor the new Constitution. They are even more obnoxious than ever, suggesting that those who oppose the Constitution ought to be barred from any national or state offices once the Constitution is ratified (they call you and your followers "Wrongheads"). You object especially to the grant of power to lay taxes on imports on the grounds that it favors the southern states, who export much, but import little from abroad as your state does. Your constituents, mostly farmers, need to import textiles to ward off the winter cold, and they often buy manufactured tools, rather than make them themselves. The prices of these items would go up with import taxes. You don't see how Connecticut will gain much - even with free interstate trade, if the new government will be taxing imports. Privately you suspect that some self-interest is also involved on the part of New England merchants. You also suspect the army will have far too much power in the new order. Once a standing army is established it will be impossible to disband it. Generally, you think the new national government is given despotic powers. By uniting "the power of the sword" and "the power of the purse" the framers of the new constitution created a machine potentially as tyrannical as Parliament. As you have said, "though the convention that formed it, supposed that they guarded the rights of the State, advantage would be taken of it, in times of popular excitement, to encroach upon state rights." You will work very hard to persuade others that government under the Articles of Confederation was consistent with the principles of the Revolution.
Col. Noah Phelps, Simsbury
You are Col. Noah Phelps. You are one of the wealthiest and most respected men of Simsbury, and a well-known figure in the State Assembly. During the War you served with distinction, first in a daring raid on Fort Ticonderoga, and later as a leader of the Connecticut Militia. You risked much for the ideals of the Revolution, and you now have serious doubts that those ideals will survive. The new constitution, you feel, threatens both individual liberty and the independence of states. You never had any use for powerful national governments making rules for people thousands of miles away from them. Parliament, with its atrocious taxes and its closing of the Boston Port was a good example of this. So was the Continental Congress after the war when they tried to enact an impost and give enormous sums of money as a pension to officers of the standing army. You are a militiaman, and you rose to serve your country in time of need. Now your country ignores that service, and also considers it necessary to give people incentive to serve as officers of a permanent army, an obnoxious institution that has no place in a freedom-loving country.
You are equally unimpressed by many of the leaders of the state - like Oliver Ellsworth. While you were risking your life in the war spying out the fortifications of Ticonderoga, which held the guns necessary for the siege of Boston, many of them were sitting around bickering with each other. And while they sat in comfort in the state house and in Philadelphia, your townspeople endured great sacrifices, shortages, and a smallpox epidemic. Just two years ago the state establishment accepted a petition which separated half of the town from Simsbury, creating Granby. You strongly opposed this because it would make it nearly impossible for Simsbury to finance its government and pay for such projects as bridges over the Farmington River; but the state ignored you, and further had the gall to reduce Simsbury's representation from two to one in the General Assembly (after much argument you managed to get that insult repaired). Most men in Simsbury agree with your feelings, and see the new constitution as a plot by aristocratic merchants and Continental officers to further suppress the farmers of Connecticut and make them pay more than their fair share for government. These men of Simsbury have sent you to the ratification convention with clear instructions to vote "no" and to argue against ratification, and you see no reason to do otherwise.
Hezekiah Holcomb, Granby
You are Hezekiah Holcomb, a leading citizen of Granby, a fast growing town just recently incorporated from the northern part of Simsbury. You live in the eastern section (Turkey Hills) of the new town with the more affluent farmers, and, in fact, you and a number of your friends had hoped that Turkey Hills would leave Simsbury as a separate town from Salmon Brook, the western part of Granby. There are good people in Turkey Hills and you have your own ecclesiastical society already. Salmon Brook has more people and will always be able to outvote your area on the issue of location of schools and the town meetinghouse. Also there are many religious dissenters in Salmon Brook - Baptists and nonbelievers, and people of lower social orders who have trouble remembering their place at town meetings. You would rather manage your local affairs separately if you can get the Assembly to set up a town of East Granby. In the meantime, you do your best to stay in a position of authority in town politics. Your record as a soldier in the war helps you here, for you commanded Connecticut's 11th Regiment and helped to win the Battle of Saratoga. The majority of Granby seems to recognize your leadership talent, for they chose you last year as their first representative to the General Assembly. You, yourself, are not strongly opposed to the new Constitution, but most of the people of Salmon Brook are. If you vote "yes," at the ratification convention, you risk alienating these people, and will probably lose your prominent position in town politics, thus setting back hopes for separation of your section (and generally endangering the interests of eastern Granby at the hands of an irresponsible and unruly majority).
Actually, you do understand their concern. They have always been a fiercely independent people, having separated from Simsbury ecclesiastically in 1736, having thumbed their noses at the Hartford County Association of elders and installed numerous New Light preachers in the 1740's, and having been staunchly opposed to Parliament's policies in the 1770's. You remember well the night Salmon Brook people danced in wild abandon around their "Liberty Tree," cursing the ministry; and you also remember how they nearly shackled the Simsbury town clerk to his chair the day they held their somewhat illegal town meeting to pass resolves against commutation and in favor of splitting the town. They would be upset about anything that looks like aristocracy or rule by a faraway government (even five miles away is too far for them).
You think that this new Constitution does not pose a great threat to their precious Liberty, but politically you realize you cannot possibly support it and serve the interests of Turkey Hills. Therefore, much as you dislike it, you will defer to the wishes of the rabble. You are not exactly sure what you are going to say at the Convention, but you are resigned to the fact that you will have to vote "no."
General Andrew Ward, Guilford
You are Andrew Ward. You strongly oppose the new constitution along with James Wadsworth of Durham, and you plan to make no bones about your opposition when you get a chance to speak at the Convention at Hartford. You look at the document as another trick by the merchants of America, like those in nearby New Haven, to make a fortune at the expense of the farmers. Guilford is a farming community, and its people agree with you. For years they have been suffering as New Haven creditors grew wealthy collecting high interest rates from them, refusing to accept paper money issued by the state itself. Now the merchant-creditor interest has insured the new government will only tax things that people buy (imports), not things that merchants sell to their damnable slave-trading West Indies clients (exports). In almost every clause you can see a plot by the high-class coastal and city merchants, and the great slave-owning planters of Virginia, to secure their hegemony as the rulers of the United States. In this Constitution there is a monarch (the President) with his own personal standing army, taxing power for a distant Congress dominated by the large states like New York (our virtual enemy!), extra protection for rich creditors, protection for the evil slave trade, a nearly permanent House of Lords (the Senate), and, above all, absolutely no guarantee anywhere of individual rights and liberties. This was not what you fought for in the War of the Revolution!
Oliver Ellsworth, Windsor
You are Oliver Ellsworth, former member of the Continental Congress (1777-1784), member of Connecticut's delegation to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, and member of the Superior Court of Connecticut. You graduated from Princeton, where you had been trained for the ministry, in 1766, and immediately allied yourself with the opponents of Parliamentary taxation. Your interests in these matters directed you into practicing law (you began your practice in Windsor [that part which is presently Bloomfield in 1771).
At the Philadelphia Convention you were instrumental in creating the first draft of the Constitution, and in shaping its style and language. A delegate from Georgia described you in this fashion:
...he is a Gentleman of a clear, deep and copious understanding; eloquent and connected in public debate; and always attentive to his duty. His is very happy in a reply, and choice in selecting such parts of his adversary's arguments as he finds make the strongest impressions, &emdash;in order to take off the force of them so as to admit the power of his own.
To you more than anyone else, the supporters of the new Constitution will look for leadership in the debates at Hartford for ratifying the Constitution. Recently your "Letters of a Landholder" printed by The Connecticut Courant have done much to persuade wavering citizens to support the Constitution. You have made many important arguments, as you, yourself, will note by reviewing these many articles. You also wrote a biting criticism of William Williams, that old troublemaker from Lebanon. Williams criticized the Constitution because it prohibited a religious test for holding public office and made no mention of God. You defended the religious test clause and noted it would prohibit the sort of persecution the founders of Connecticut had sought to escape. Most of your efforts now are aimed at people from the farming communities who seem to need more persuasion than others. For the most part your efforts are succeeding and they have chosen friends of the Constitution to be their delegates at the convention in Hartford.
Here are some excerpts from speeches you have prepared for the debates in Hartford:
Mr. President, it is observable that there is no preface to the proposed Constitution; but it evidently presupposes two things: one is, the necessity of a federal government; the other is the inefficacy of the old Articles of Confederation. A union is necessary for the purposes of a national defence. United, we are strong; divided we are weak. It is easy for hostile nations to sweep off a number of separate states, one after another. Witness the states in the neighborhood of ancient Rome. They were successively subdued by that ambitious city, which they might have conquered with the utmost ease, if they had been united. Witness the Canaanitish nations, whose divided situation rendered them an easy prey....Thus it always happens to small states, and to great ones, if divided....
We must unite, in order to preserve peace among ourselves. If we be divided, what is to prevent 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 be 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 prevent 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 the vast territory which she claims and holds? Do we not already see in her the seeds of an overbearing ambition?... New Jersey and Delaware have seen this, and have adopted the Constitution unanimously.
A more energetic system is necessary. The present is merely advisory. It has no coercive power. Without this, government is ineffectual, 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?...
But to come nearer to home. Mr. President, have we not seen and felt the necessity of such a coercive power? What was the consequence of the want of it during the late war, particularly towards the close? A few states bore the burden of the war. While we and one or two more of the states were paying eighty or a hundred dollars per man to recruit the Continental army, the regiments of some states had scarcely men enough to wait on their officers. Since the close of the war, some of the states have done nothing towards complying with the requisitions of Congress. Others, who did something at first, seeing that they were left to bear the whole burden, have become equally remiss. What is the consequence? To what shifts have we been driven? To the wretched expedient of negotiating new loans in Europe, to pay the interest of the foreign debt. And what is still worse, we have even been obliged to apply the new loans to the support of our own civil government at home.
Another ill consequence of this want of energy is, that treaties are not performed. The treaty of peace with Great Britain was a very favorable one for us. But it did not happen perfectly to please some of the states, and they would not comply with it. The consequence is, Britain charges us with the breach, and refuses to deliver up the forts on our northern quarter.
Our being tributaries to our sister states is in consequence of the want of a federal system. The state of New York raises 60 or £80,000 a year by impost. Connecticut consumes about one third of the goods upon which this impost is laid, and consequently pays one third of this sum to New York. If we import by the medium of Massachusetts, she has an impost, and to her we pay a tribute. If this is done when we have the shadow of a national government, what shall we not suffer when even that shadow is gone!
If we go on as we have done, what is to become of the foreign debt? Will sovereign nations forgive us this debt, because we neglect to pay? or will they levy it by reprisals as the laws of nations authorize them? Will our weakness induce Spain to relinquish the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi, or the territory which she claims on 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 are pleased to see us disconnected 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!....
The Constitution before us is a complete system of legislative, judicial, 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.
[On the power of Congress to lay taxes]
Mr. President, this is a most important clause in the Constitution; and the gentlemen do well to offer all the objections which they have against it....There are three objections against this clause - first, that it is too extensive, as it extends to all the objects of taxation; secondly, that it is partial; thirdly, that Congress ought not to have power to lay taxes at all.
....It does not say that Congress shall have all these sources of revenue, and the states none. All, excepting the impost, still lie open to the states. This state owes a debt; it must provide for the payment of it. So do all the other states. This will not escape the attention of Congress....They will not take away that which is necessary for the states. They are the head, and will take care that the members do not perish. The state debt, which now lies heavy upon us, arose from the want of powers in the federal system. Give the necessary powers to the national government, and the state will not be again necessitated to involve itself in debt for its defence in war....A government which can command but half its resources is like a man with but one arm to defend himself.
The second objection is, that the impost is not a proper mode of taxation; that it is partial to the Southern States. I confess I am mortified when I find gentlemen supposing that their delegates in Convention were inattentive to their duty, and made a sacrifice of the interest of their constituents....But I think there are three special reasons why an impost is the best way of raising a national revenue.
The first is, it is the most fruitful and easy way. All nations have found it to be so....This does not take away the tools of a man's business, or the necessary utensils of his family: it only comes in when he is taking his pleasure, and feels generous; when he is laying out a shilling for superfluities, it takes twopence of it for public use, and the remainder will do him as much good as the whole. I will instance two facts, which show how easily and insensibly a revenue is raised by indirect taxation. I suppose people in general are not sensible that we pay a tax to the state of New York. Yet it is an incontrovertible fact, that we, the people of Connecticut, pay annually into the treasury of New York more than fifty thousand dollars. Another instant I will mention: one of our common river sloops pays in the West Indies a portage bill of £60. This is a tax which foreigners lay upon us, and we pay it; for a duty laid upon our shipping, which transports our produce to foreign markets, sinks the price of our produce, and operates as an effectual tax upon those who till the ground, and bring the fruits of it to market....
The experiments, which have been made in our own country, show the productive nature of indirect taxes. The imports into the United States amount to a very large sum. They never will be less, but will continue to increase for centuries to come. As the population of our country increases, the imports will necessarily increase. They will increase, because our citizens will choose to be farmers, living independently on their freeholds, rather than to be manufacturers and work for a groat a day. I find by calculation that a general impost of 5 per cent. would raise the sum of £245,000 per annum, deducting 8 per cent. for the charges of collecting. a further sum might be deducted for smuggling - a business which is too well understood among us, and which is looked upon in too favorable a light. But this loss in the public revenue will be overbalanced by an increase of importations. And a further sum may be reckoned upon some articles which will bear a higher duty than the one recommended by Congress. Rum, instead of 4d. per gallon, may be set higher without any detriment to our health or morals....In only three of the states, in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, 160 to £180,000 per annum have been raised by impost. From this fact, we may certainly conclude that, if a general impost should be laid, it would raise a greater sum than I have calculated. It is a strong argument in favor of an impost, that the collection of it will interfere less with the internal police of the states than any other species of taxation....if we do not give it to Congress the individual states will have it. It will give some states the opportunity of oppressing others, and destroy all harmony between them.
"But," says the honorable gentleman near me, "the impost will be a partial tax; the Southern States will pay but little in comparison with the Northern." I ask, What reason is there for this assertion? Why, says, he, we live in a cold climate, and want warming. Do not they live in a hot climate, and want quenching? Until you get as far south as the Carolinas, there is no material difference in the quantity of clothing which is worn. In Virginia, they have the same course of clothing that we have; in Carolina, they have a great deal of cold, raw, chilly weather; even in Georgia, the River Savannah has been crossed upon the ice. In these states, we manufacture one half of our clothing, and all our tools of husbandry; in those, they manufacture none, none ever will. They will not manufacture, because they find it much more profitable to cultivate their lands, which are exceedingly fertile. Hence they import almost every thing, not excepting the carriages in which they ride, the hoes with which they till the ground, and the boots which they wear. If we doubt of the extent of their importations, let us look at their exports. So exceedingly fertile and profitable are their lands, that a hundred large ships are every year loaded with rice and indigo from the single port of Charleston. The rich return of these cargoes of immense value will be all subject to the impost. Nothing is omitted; a duty is to be paid upon the blacks which they import....Where, then, exists this partiality, which has been objected? it exists nowhere but in the uninformed mind.
....I ask, sir, if ever there were a government without the power of the sword and the purse? This is not a new-coined phrase; but it is misapplied: it belongs to quite another subject. It was brought into use in Great Britain, where they have a king vested with hereditary power. Here, say they, it is dangerous to place the power of the sword and the purse in the hands of one man, who claims an authority independent of the people: therefore we will have a Parliament. But the king and Parliament together, the supreme power of the nation, - they have the sword and the purse. And they must have both; else, how could the country be defended? For the sword without the purse is of no effect: it is a sword in the scabbard. But does it follow, because it is dangerous to give the power of the sword and purse to an hereditary prince, who is independent of the people, that therefore it is dangerous to give it to the Parliament - to Congress, which is your Parliament - to men appointed by yourselves, and dependent upon yourselves? This argument amounts to this: you must cut a man in two in the middle, to prevent his hurting himself.
....In republics, it is a fundamental principle that the majority govern, and that the minority comply with the general voice. How contrary, then, to republican principles, how humiliating, is our present situation! A single state can rise up, and put a veto upon the most important public measures. We have seen this actually take place. A single state has controlled the general voice of the Union; a minority, a very small minority, has governed us. So far is this from being consistent with republican principles, that it is, in effect, the worst species of monarchy.
Hence we see how necessary for the Union is a coercive principle. No man pretends the contrary: we all see and feel this necessity. The only question is, Shall it be a coercion of law, or a coercion of arms? There is no other possible alternative. Where will those who oppose a coercion of law come out? Where will they end? A necessary consequence of their principles is a war of the states one against the other. I am for coercion by law - that coercion which acts only upon delinquent individuals. This Constitution does not attempt to coerce sovereign bodies, states, in their political capacity. No coercion is applicable to such bodies, but that of an armed force. If we should attempt to execute the laws of the Union by sending an armed force against a delinquent state, it would involve the good and bad, the innocent and guilty, in the same calamity.
But this legal coercion singles out the guilty individual, and punishes him for breaking the laws of the Union. All men will see the reasonableness of this; they will acquiesce, and say, Let the guilty suffer.
How have the morals of the people been depraved for the want of an efficient government, which might establish justice and righteousness! For the want of this, iniquity has come in upon us like an overflowing flood. If we wish to prevent this alarming evil, if we wish to protect the good citizen in his right, we must lift up the standard of justice; we must establish a national government, to be enforced by the equal decisions of law, and the peaceable arm of the magistrate.
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