If a wrong step be nowmade, the republic may be lost forever. If this new government will not come upto the expectation of the people, and they shall be disappointed, their libertywill be lost, and tyranny must and will arise. I repeat it again, and I beggentlemen to consider, that a wrong step, made now, will plunge us into misery,and our republic will be lost. It will be necessary for this Convention to havea faithful historical detail of the facts that preceded the session of thefederal Convention, and the reasons that actuated its members in proposing anentire alteration of government, and to demonstrate the dangers that awaitedus.
If they were of such awful magnitude as towarrant a proposal so extremely perilous as this, I must assert, that thisConvention has an absolute right to a thorough discovery of every circumstancerelative to this great event. And here I would make this inquiry of thoseworthy characters who composed a part of the late federal Convention. I am surethey were fully impressed with the necessity of forming a great consolidatedgovernment, instead of a confederation. That this is a consolidated governmentis demonstrably clear; and the danger of such a government is, to my mind, verystriking. I have the highest veneration for those gentlemen; but, sir, give meleave to demand, What right had they to say, We, the people? My politicalcuriosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads meto ask, Who authorized them to speak the language of, We, the people, instead of,We, the states? States are the characteristics and the soul of a confederation.If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great,consolidated, national government, of the people of all the states.
I have the highest respect for those gentlemenwho formed the Convention, and, were some of them not here, I would expresssome testimonial of esteem for them. America had, on a former occasion, put theutmost confidence in them — a confidence which was well placed; and I amsure, sir, I would give up any thing to them; I would cheerfully confide inthem as my representatives. But, sir, on this great occasion, I would demandthe cause of their conduct. Even from that illustrious man who saved us by hisvalor, I would have a reason for his conduct: that liberty which he has givenus by his valor, tells me to ask this reason; and sure I am, were he here, hewould give us that reason. But there are other gentlemen here, who can give usthis information. The people gave them no power to use their name. That theyexceeded their power is perfectly clear. It is not mere curiosity that actuatesme: I wish to hear the real, actual, existing danger, which should lead us totake those steps, so dangerous in my conception. Disorders have arisen in otherparts of America; but here, sir, no dangers, no insurrection or tumult havehappened; every thing has been calm and tranquil. But, notwithstanding this, weare wandering on the great ocean of human affairs. I see no landmark to guideus. We are running we know not whither. Difference of opinion has gone to adegree of inflammatory resentment in different parts of the country, which hasbeen occasioned by this perilous innovation.
The federal Convention ought to have amended theold system; for this purpose they were solely delegated; the object of theirmission extended to no other consideration. You must, therefore, forgive thesolicitation of one unworthy member to know what danger could have arisen underthe present Confederation, and what are the causes of this proposal to changeour government.