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“7. The authority of the president to take command of the armies of the United States, &c. “8. The cession of the whole treaty-making power to the president and senate was considered one of the most formidable features in the instrument.” He thought the lower house ought to be included. “9. The immense patronage of the president was objected to. “10. The irresponsibility of the whole gang of federal officers [as they were called] was found fault with. He considered the power of impeachment that was pretended to be given in some instances was mere show and mockery. “11. It was insisted, if we must adopt a Constitution, ceding away such vast powers, expressed and implied, and so fraught with danger to the liberties of the people, it ought at least to be guarded by a bill of rights; that, in all free governments, and in the estimation of all men attached to liberty, there were certain rights inalienable and imprescriptible, and of so sacred a character that they could not be guarded with too much caution. Among these were the liberty of speech and of the press: what security have we that these sacred privileges shall not be invaded ? Congress might think it necessary, to carry into effect the given powers, to silence the clamors and censures of the people; and, if they meditated views of LAwless AMBITIon, they certainly will so think. - What, then, will become of liberty of speech and of the press 2 “Several objections of a minor character were urged, such as, – “1. The ambiguity with which the directions for publishing the proceedings of congress was expressed, &c. “2. That the 9th section of the 1st article, professing to set out restrictions upon the power of congress, gave them, by irresistible implication, the sovereign power over all subjects not excepted, and thus enlarged the constructive power ad infinitum. “3. That congress had the power of involving the Southern States in all the horrors which would result from the total emancipation of their slaves ; and that the Northern States, uninterested in the consequences of such an act, had a controlling majority which possessed the power, and would not probably want the inclination, to effect it. “4. That the pay of the members was to be fixed by themselves.” " He made these, together with many other objections, and, in reply to Mr. Madison and Mr. Corbin, who said the “Constitution was of a mixed nature; ” “it is in a manner unprecedented; we cannot find one express example in the experience of the world; it stands by itself; in some respects it is a government of a federal nature; in others it is of a consolidated nature ; ” “it was a representative federal government, as contradistinguished from a confederation,”—he said, “This government is so new it wants a name ! I wish its other novelties were as harmless as this. We are told, however, that, collectively taken, it is without example ! that it is national in this part, and federal in that part, &c. We may be amused, if we please, by a treatise of political anatomy. In the brain it is national; the stamina are federal; some limbs are federal, others national. The senators are voted for by the State legislatures; so far it is federal. Individuals choose the members of the first branch; here it is national. It is federal in conferring federal powers, but national in re
straining them. It is not to be supported by the States; the pockets of the people are to be searched for its maintenance. What signifies it to me that you have the most curious anatomical, description of it in its creation 2 To all common purposes of legislation it is a great consolidated government. You have not a right to legislate but in trivial cases; you are not to touch private contracts; you are not to have the right of having ..your armies in your own defence; you are not to be trusted with dealing out justice between man and man. What shall the States have to do to take care of the poor, repair and make highways, erect bridges, and so on, and so on 1 Abolish the State legislatures at once. What purposes should they be continued for Our legislature will indeed be a curious spectacle ; one hundred and eighty men marching in solemn farcical procession, eachibiting a mournful proof of the lost liberties of their country, without the power of restoring it. But, sir, we have the consolation, that it is a mixed government' that is, it may work sorely in your necks, but you will have some comfort by saying that it was a federal government in its origin l’’’ Mr. Henry, however, did not depend on ridicule to prevent the adoption of the Constitution, and he acknowledged the talent that was opposed to him. Mr. Wirt observes, before this Mr. Henry's eloquence had appeared in occasional flights, but, during this discussion, every power of his mind was put in requisition, and, in the great competition of talents, Mr. Henry's powers of debate shone preeminent. It was nearly at the conclusion of this debate when that celebrated incident occurred, in which the members of the convention
* Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry, p. 306.
rose without the formality of an adjournment; the members rushing from their seats with precipitation and confusion, being unable to witness the scene. The time approached when the question was about to be taken on the adoption of the Constitution, and there was some doubt what would be the result. Taking advantage of the excitement that prevailed, -
He “made an appeal, which, in point of sublimity, has never been surpassed in any age or country of the world. After describing, in accents which spoke to the soul, and to which every other bosom deeply responded, the awful immensity of the question to the present and future generations, and the thrilling apprehensions with which he looked to the issue, he passed from the house, from the earth, and looking, as he said, ‘beyond the horizon that binds mortal eyes,” he pointed, with a countenance and action that made the blood run back upon the aching heart, to those celestial beings who were hovering over the scene, and waiting with anxiety for a decision which involved the happiness or misery of more than half of the human race. To those beings — with the same thrilling look and action — he had just addressed an invocation that made every nerve shudder with supernatural horror, when, lo a storm at that instant arose, which shook the whole building, and the spirits whom he had called seemed to come at his bidding. Nor did his eloquence or the storm immediately cease; but, availing himself of the incident, with a master’s art he seemed to mix in the fight of his ethereal auxiliaries, and, rising on the wings of the tempest, to seize upon the artillery of heaven, and direct its fiercest thunders against the heads of his adversaries.” "
* Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry, p. 313.
“But all his efforts were in vain. Either the justice of the opposing cause, or the power of his adversaries, or the prejudged opinions or instructions of the members, rendered his reasoning and his eloquence equally unavailing. Out of a house of 168 members, the ratification was carried by a majority of 10.”"
He closed his last speech with the following remarks: -
“I beg pardon of this house for taking up more time than came to my share; and I thank them for the patience and polite attention with which I have been heard. If I be in a minority, I shall have the painful sensations which arise from the conviction of being overpowered in a good cause. Yet I will be a peaceable citizen My head, my hand, and my heart shall be free to retrieve the loss of liberty, and remove the defects of that system in a constitutional way. I wish not to go to violence, but will wait with hopes that the spirit which predominated in the Revolution is not yet gone, nor the cause of those who are attached to the Revolution yet lost. I shall, therefore, patiently wait, in expectation of seeing that government changed, so as to be compatible with the safety, liberty, and happiness of the people.””
If Mr. Henry had lived in these days, and seen the subserviency of all classes of people to the slave power, , we cannot but suppose he would have thought the free spirit which pervaded the land in the days of our Revolution had entirely left us, and that our people had become too debased to be reckoned among free nations. This power, as we have seen, early began to show it
! Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry, p. 314. * Idem, p. 314.