913. Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant: Address to the Grand Jury
post-26 July 17881

Gentlemen of ye. Grand Jury—

Our Country, after undergoing all ye. Toils, anxieties, Miseries, distresses, calamities & devastations of a cruel, unprovocked, & unjust War for ye. Long Term of eight years arrived, by ye. aids of a kind & indulgent providence ye. assistance of our virtuous allies, & ye. unremitted valiant exertions & courage of our own citizens, to ye. enjoyment of Peace on safe & honorable Terms—

The time of War was marked by our Enemies with every species of cruelty & inhumanity—

our internal Enemies, ye. Friends of great Britain, continually preaching up to us, Terror & ye. miseries we must submit to they with ye. aid of our external enemies, depreciating by cunning & ye. most infamous frauds & finally destroying our currency, greatly embarrassed our public measures—

our commerce almost annihilated—our Seaport Towns impoverished & greatly distressed—our Frontier by Sea & land continually exposed & frequently laid wast[e] by barbarous Foes—our Country ravaged—our dwellings wasted by fires—our wives & daughters ravished—our Valiant Seamen & Soldiers in loathsome Guard Ships, Prisons & Dungeons exposed to perish by famine & putrid diseases—

even this is but a faint portrait of ye miseries we endured in ye time of war—but we have gloriously struggled thrô them and have acquired fame, Honour reputation, & a name among ye. nations of ye. earth—

a Settlement of Peace ought to have put a final end to our miseries & distresses, but unfortunately for us ye. confederation, which we were hurried into for our protection during ye. Tumults and perplexities of ye. war, has proved totally inadequate to ye. purposes of a national Government in time of Peace—our baffled & consequently inveterate enemies ye. Britons, taking advantage of ye weakness and insufficiency of our national Government, have perfidiously neglected to perform their part of ye Treaty of Peace, still holding Several frontier Posts that they long since ought to have evacuated have embarassed our Trade & taught other nations likewise to embarass it for their own advantage—owing to this weakness & insufficiency, our public Funds have been unproductive, our public Creditors have lost all confidence in Government

owing partly to ye same cause, & partly to ye selfish Policy of particular states, Private Credit is brou’t to as low an Ebb as public Credit—consequently Cash that great engine of Business is become very scarce—Persons possessed of Money, rather than trust it out where they don’t find energy in Government or punctuality among individuals, will send it into other countries & let it to much less profit, than what is commonly given here—

such persons wont improve their money in trade & commerce, for it is uncertain whether they can again turn their commodities into Cash—hence it is in part owing that commercial Business is brou’t to so great a Stand—By means of ye. stagnation of trade & commerce arises ye. low prices which our own commodities produce at market—and in a course of time our farmers & manufacturers will be discouraged and impoverished & then we shall be poor indeed—all which plainly shows ye. necessity there was of some essential alterations in our national Government—such alterations as will render us respectable abroad & energetic at home—

we trust ye. time is now come when such a Government has taken place—That this Government is perfect, is not to be expected, as all human inventions are marked with imperfection, but ample provision is made in ye. constitution for amending its defects and rendering it more perfect as trial, time and experience shall dictate—

It is much to be lamented that two of ye. thirteen States have not seen their way clear to adopt it as ye. others have, but we trust they will soon again be united with their Brethren who have shared with them all ye. calamities & distresses of War and Peace—

It is unhappy that so many among ourselves have entertained such fears & Jealousies respecting ye. new Government—but it is not Strange that in a matter of such intricacy & importance, there should be different Sentiments among ye People—This institution has been Submitted to conventions chosen by ye. People in ye. several states, and thô in some of them, there have been but small majorities in favour of it, yet there has been such a conciliating acquiescence in ye. minority as forebodes every thing that is good—

It is not to be wondered at that in a matter of such intricacy & importance, there shou’d be different opinions, but that ye. minority shou’d so quietly acquiesce in ye. decision, discovers such candour and Magnanimity as does them ye. highest honour—

Jealousy is said to be a republican Virtue—but if that Jealousy is suffered to prevail, there is danger that ye force & energy of ye. Government may be so far weakened as to be totally incapable of answering ye great purposes for which it was instituted—we have formed ourselves in one into a nation upon an equal footing with ye. other nations of ye. earth—Therefore to manage our intercourse with foreign nations, it is necessary that there should be a strict and firm Union among ye. members, and that there shou’d be some one Body to declare ye. will & resolutions & to direct ye. force & Power of ye. whole confederacy—

we may then consider ourselves as very happy if ye. Government now formed, shoud. prove adequate to ye. great purposes of Protection and defence—

we have much more reason to fear its want of due Energy, than that it will ever degenerate into despotism & Tyranny—It is not a very bold assertion to say that experience will teach us that we are much more in danger of anarchy than despotism—

1. FC, Sargeant Court Minutes, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem. This address was written some time after New York ratified the Constitution on 26 July.