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Cincinnatus V: To James Wilson, Esquire

29 November 1787


Sir, In my former observations on your speech, to your fellow-citizens, explanatory

and defensive of the new constitution; it has appeared, by arguments to my judgment

unanswerable, that by ratifying the constitution, as the convention proposed it, the

people will leave the liberty of the press, and the trial by jury, in civil cases, to the mercy

of their rulers–that the project is to burthen them with enormous taxes, in order to raise

and maintain armies, for the purposes of ambition and arbitrary power–that this power

is to be vested in an aristocratic senate, who will either be themselves the tyrants, or

the support of tyranny, in a president, who will know how to manage them, so as to

make that body at once the instrument and the shield of his absolute authority.–Even

the Roman Emperors found it necessary to have a senate for this purpose. To compass

this object, we have seen powers, in every branch of government, in violation of all

principle, and all safety condensed in this aristocratic senate: we have seen the

representative, or democratic branch, weakened exactly in proportion to the

strengthing the aristocratic, or, what means the same thing, and will be more pleasing

to your ear, Mr. Wilson, the republican branch. We have seen with what cunning the

power of impeachment is apparently given to the representative of the people, but

really to the senate; since, as they advise these measures of government, which

experience has shewn, are the general matters of impunity the executive officers will be

sure of impeachment when they act in conformity to their will. Impeachment will

therefore have no terrors, but for those who displease or oppose the senate.


Let us suppose that the privy councils who advise the executive government in

England, were vested with the sole power of trying impeachments; would any man say

that this would not render that body absolute; and impeachment to all popular

purposes, negatory? I shall appeal to those very citizens, Mr. Wilson, whom you was

misleading, for the propriety of what I am going to observe. They know that their

constitution was democratic–that it secured the powers of government in the body of

the people. They have seen an aristocratical party rise up against this constitution, and

without the aid of such a senate, but from the mere influence of wealth, however

unduly obtained, they have seen this aristocracy, under the orignatical title of

republicans, procure such a preference in the legislature, as to appoint a majority of the

state members in the late convention, out of their body. Had such a senate, as they

have now proposed, been part of your constitution, would the popular part of it, have

been in effect more than a name. Can your fellow citizens then doubt that these men

planned this senate, to effect the very purpose which has been the constant object of

their endeavors, that is to overthrow the present constitution. And can you, O citizens of

Philadelphia, so soon forget the constitution which you formed, for which you fought,

which you have solemnly engaged to defend–can you so soon forget all this, as to be the

willing ministers of that ambition, which aims only at making you its footstool–the

confirmers of that constitution, which gives your aristocratic enemies their wish, and

must trample your state constitution in the dust. Reflect a moment–who wish to erect

an aristocracy among you–Mr. Wilson and his party; who were your delegates in

framing the constitution now proposed to you–Mr. Wilson, and his party; who

harangues you to smooth its passage to your approbation–Mr. Wilson; who have you

chosen to approve of it in your state convention–Mr. Wilson.–O sense where is your

guard! shame where is your blush!


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