713. Massachusetts Centinel, 13 February 17881

The FEDERAL ANTI-FEDERALIST, returned to his neighbours.

Fed. Good-morrow, I am glad to see you.

Neigh. How do you do, Sir—but I can’t return the compliment.

Fed. I am sorry for that—I hope we are friends.

Neigh. No, Sir—I cannot be friendly to a man who I think has betrayed his country.

Fed. But how does that apply to me?

Neigh. You voted for the Constitution, when we expected you to vote against it.

Fed. True perhaps—but why did you send me to the Convention?

Neigh. Because you said you was opposed to the Constitution.

Fed. And so I was—But did you suppose because I was jealous of it, that I was determined to be deaf to all that should be said by its friends?—Did you imagine that I, or any man, could instantly comprehend so great a system, and critically judge of its merits?

Neigh. Why then did you oppose it?

Fed. Because a people ought always to be jealous of their liberties—and to guard against innovations.—And because I thought I saw several dangerous encroachments.

Neigh. And how came you to alter your opinion?

Fed. By the superiour weight of arguments on the federal side—and the indiscriminate and (generally) unprincipled attack of the other.

Neigh. Who appeared to you to be the most friendly to the liberties of the people? Answer me that.

Fed. With pleasure—the Federalists.

Neigh. A paradox. How?

Fed. By advocating government, without which the people are slaves to the multitude, and to the chance of an hour—without which, there can be no permanent security for property nor even life.

Neigh. But were not the opposers, for government?

Fed. So they said—but the kind of government they wanted, was, in fact, no government at all, for the purposes of national honour and safety—nor would it secure the individual from injustice in other States.—In fact, they proposed no form, and as they were wholly employed in opposition to this, it seemed that they were determined to have none, at least for the present.

Neigh. But do you think the Federal Constitution a perfect system?

Fed. No. But I think it is a better one than we could expect, and I chuse it rather than disunion, which I think would be the consequence of rejecting it.—You have seen the amendments?

Neigh. Yes.—But who supposes they will take?

Fed. I for one of many. Their object is the security of personal rights in general, as now enjoyed; or certain exemptions from the power of Congress that will be equally in favour of all the States. Can you generally calculate more certainly upon a man than when you take his interest for your rule?

Neigh. But why did you not make them a condition of your ratification?

Fed. Because it was not necessary if what I said last be true—and because it would have established a precedent that would have prevented the adoption of any Constitution at all.—Had there been any thing peculiarly disadvantageous to Massachusetts, there would have been some reason to talk of a conditional acceptance—but nothing like this was shewn.

Neigh. Did nothing like it exist?

Fed. Not that I know, upon my honour—except the abrogation of the tender-act—and as to that, the wisdom of our Legislature will devise a way to prepare the people before the Constitution is settled.

Neigh. But do you not apprehend an insurrection of the people?

Fed. Not in the least. Against what will they rise? Against a ratification? Against an invisible, immaterial thing?—No—When the future Congress abuse the people, if they should, I hope the people will teach them their duty. But at present, if the people should be so foolish as to rebel, not one of them could tell his object.

Neigh. But how will you satisfy the town?

Fed. I hope they will satisfy themselves. Let them peruse the debates, and judge anew of the Constitution. Let them be sure that while they oppose this Constitution, they are not opposed to all government. Let them endeavour to substitute a new form. Let them be perfectly honest at heart—and I think they will acquiesce, nay, even rejoice in the ratification.

Neigh. But there are men of sense and property opposed.

Fed. Doubtless, and I am glad it is so, for the honour of a people that were ever jealous of power; and for another reason, that their conviction may quiet the minds of many honest men—I verily think that when they shall have considered the matter they will be of my opinion.

Neigh. And you really voted without sinister views?

Fed. I really did.—Such is our present precarious situation as a people, that a government is essential to our existence. This Constitution in the main is a good one, and far better than thirteen States could have been expected to make. I glory in the liberality of spirit that prevails, and renders the adoption of any general Constitution possible. I hope this will be well administered, and am determined to be a good subject, until I find the contrary—and then I will take the best apparent method for redress.

Neigh. Well—I believe you are an honest man, and though I expected a different line of conduct from you, I feel disposed to think of you as I have ever done until lately.

Fed. I thank you—and will endeavour to merit (as I think I do now) the good opinion of every honest man.

1. Reprinted: Massachusetts Gazette, 15 February; Norwich Packet, 6 March.