961. Philadelphia Federal Gazette, 3 December 17881

Extract of a letter from a French gentleman in Boston,

to his friend in Martinique.

“The Bostonians in general are famed for their sagacity and penetration—they are candid in their sentiments, and liberal in their constructions of any thing which at first appears dubious; never condemning till ample proof designates the guilty, and the criminal’s conduct is such as to render him an object of public detestation. This I have seen verified in many instances: Once, however, since my residence here, I thought they rather stepped aside from that line of conduct which they in general observe with the strictest punctuality. What I refer to, is the federal constitution, which, doubtless, from present appearances, will shortly be a government which the Americans will maintain. When the plan of this constitution was first laid before the public, a man might as well have avowed himself an open enemy to the United States, as professed himself to be an anti-federalist (which is the term applied to every one in opposition to the federal constitution.) Their conduct, in regard to this matter, I at first thought bordered on illiberality, especially, as they had but so recently been the hardy defenders of freedom against the encroachments of a despotic foe; and had been contending not only for the privilege of making their own laws, but likewise for all the rights of human nature. Upon second reflection, however, I could not blame that enthusiasm which spread like lightning through the majority of all ranks of the people, for they had but a short time before severely felt the evils attendant on anarchy, and the dreadful effects of a weak, enervated government. A SHAYS had excited a civil war in the land, and the avenues to justice had been stopped by the temerity of mobs; the requisitions of Congress had been treated with neglect, and in some states with the most infamous contempt. When I considered these things, my former opinion was changed into admiration of their conduct. I beheld, in their eager attempts to effect the adoption of the constitution, a wish to live honestly, to obey good and wholesome laws, which should protect their persons from the dagger of civil discord, and their property from the daring invasion of a lawless banditti.

“Although, as I have before mentioned in a former letter, the PRESS in this country is not shackled with tyrannical edicts, but runs briskly on the ribs of liberty, yet it is only by a strict impartiality, both with regard to private concerns, and political opinions, that a printer can secure the public patronage. To the truth of this observation I have myself been a witness. During the time that the federal constitution was deliberated upon by the state of Massachusetts, a printer in this metropolis having submitted himself to be guided by the influence of a number of anti-federal characters, became the vehicle of their opinions alone, through the channel of his press, to the public, neglecting to publish any of the debates in convention, in his paper, except such as were in opposition to the new system: a perseverance in a line of conduct so censurable, exasperated the inhabitants to such a degree, that they discontinued to take his publications, and his own party being too small to afford him support, he was soon obliged to quit the town, and take up his residence in a place where the inhabitants were better disposed toward him.”

1. Reprinted in the Pennsylvania Mercury, 6 December, and Winchester Virginia Gazette, 31 December. The Federal Gazette printed the extract under a New York, 29 November, dateline; the extract has not been located in any extant New York City paper for 29 November.