107. George R. Minot Journal
January–February 17881

BAD measures in a GOOD cause.

Never was there a political system introduced by less worthy means, than the new constitution for the United States. The people, as Mr. Dane observed to me when he returned from Congress, were fairly committed. The exigencies of the nation made it necessary for them to give something, and vastly more was asked than was necessary; and they were told that their rulers would have that or nothing. This language alarmed the yeomanry, and made it necessary for the Constitutionalists to pack a Convention whose sense should be different from that of the people. The elections were, therefore strictly attended to. All the members of the continental convention, who were in favour of the constitution, were properly introduced, to decide upon their own doings, while Mr. Gerry, who objected to it, was as carefully kept out. Mr. King was chosen for Newbury Port, though he was not qualified in point of residence, as he had not seen that place for many years. But, he undoubtedly had the animus invertendi. John Bacon the real advocate for the rights of the people was excluded by Mr. Sedgwick. It happened that a dispute had arisen in Stockbridge about the place of fixing their meeting house. Mr. Bacon became unpopular there from the side which he took in this dispute. Mr. Sedgwick who had lately moved into the Town, availed himself of this disaffection of the people of that place, to this real patriot, & carried his own election. If by chance an anti constitutionalist was chosen, no stone was left unturned, to bring him to a renunciation of his principles. Mr Saml Adams was personally insulted in such a manner as not to admit of his speaking or thinkg. with freedom, upon this subject. The press was kept under the most shameful licence. A combination was entered into by ye. Printers not to publish any piece for or against the constitution, without knowing ye. writers name, by which means all freedom of writing was taken away, as ye. mechanicks had been worked up to such a degree of rage, that it was unsafe to be known to oppose it, in Boston

When the Convention met, the division of the members was very striking. Those of the learned professions, and the men of property were almost unanimously in favour of the constitution. But the great body of middling land-holders were opposed to it. The contest was therefore extremely unequal. All the learning and eloquence was on one side; while the plain dictates of common sense suffered from the want of powers of expression, on the other. This difficulty led the yeomanry to procure assistance from any quarter where it could be obtained, and they were obliged to recur to demagogues whose characters very unjustly cast a shade upon their whole party. With such disproportioned abilities the discussion could not be satisfactory. The most serious principles in government were argued away to nothing, by able casuists, & the mouths of the opponents being shut, they were ashamed to say that they were not convinced. Annual elections, rotation in office, qualifications of officers, standing armies, & declarations of rights, were all shewn to be too trivial to be insisted upon. And it was demonstrated that to withhold any powers of taxation, or of any other kind from government, lest they should abuse them, was an unreasonable principle of jealousy which would prevent any government at all. However, illiterate as the members in opposition were, they convinced the learned advocates for the constitution of the necessity of amendments, and these accordingly applied themselves to the President, who was then sick, to introduce certain conciliatory propositions, as it would have been too great an acknowledgment to have introduced them from their own party. Accordingly the President offered them; and, although, he observed that they were formed in the intervals of his pain, yet they were most certainly, in the hand writing of a leading constitutionalist, (Mr. Parsons) a few words excepted, which were in the hand writing of Dr. Jarvis, & one article by Mr. King—

When the President first came into Convention, it was observed to me by a leading member, that there was no people under heaven, more calculated for monarchy, and this observation was founded upon the great respect which was paid to the President as he was led to his place, which seemed to approach to servility, and looked like the blind adoration paid to Kings merely as such. I told the observer, that I thought the appearance only proceeded from civility & good manners, and that it was no evidence, that they ever would sacrifice a single principle to his authority, and it turned out, that the constitutionalists were surprized at the want of effect in the conciliatory propositions, which they supposed through Govr̃ Hancocks influence, would have made many prosylites. But instead of that, it entirely alienated the anti constitutionalists from the Governour, and, when they found he was not their man, they entered into a combination to elect Mr. Gerry in his stead.

1. MS, Minot Papers, MHi.