974. Agricola
Herald of Freedom, 17, 20 March 1789

Messrs. PRINTERS, There is a characteristic facility in the dispatch of publick business, almost peculiar to his Excellency, joined to the civility, good behaviour and address, with which he conducts the most arduous undertakings, that it is confessed, even by the enemies of the revolution, as well as by those who envy his influence and justly acquired popularity, that in this view, he almost stands alone, and unrivalled. It is astonishing, therefore, when we consider the tediousness of large and popular assemblies, owing almost always to the want of these necessary qualities in their presiding officers what sums of money he has saved to the publick, by his officiating on these occasions, when this talent of his has been so transcendently brilliant, and so usefully exerted—To illustrate this observation, it is scarcely necessary to call to mind the skill and propriety with which he presided in the state convention of this Commonwealth; and it is almost reduced to a certainty, that had his health admitted of his attendance at an earlier period of its sessions, it would have been much shortened in its course—Besides this amiable trait, there is, I am sensible, a variety of other talents by which a politician ought to be distinguished, though there is none, perhaps, of more importance, than to discern the fortunate opportunity of deciding where an interesting point is to be determined—In the moment of a conflagration, it is a poor apology that we have very sagely deliberated, while not only the building is consumed, but, most probably the vicinity endangered—It is much so, in the more important affairs of a community—to act with effect on a delicate and uncommon emergency, it is necessary not only to act with expedition on the least appearance of a difficulty, but it is doubly important that the officer in command, should have had the happiness and address to have secured the full confidence of the people—If an idea prevails, that it is his own interest he is pursuing, when it ought to be believed that he had nothing but the good of the community at heart, this circumstance must embarrass his measures, and will most probably defeat their effect—I do not say that the people may not be deceived, and that the man of their suspicion may not, in many instances, be the just object of their confidence, if his character was rightly understood, but I say, though this confidence is indispensibly necessary to exist, that it is not very easily acquired—It is in these points that the present Governour claims the admiration of all, and I assert, if a person possessed no other qualification, he could do as much to the purpose, as if he had the most excellent and well regulated understanding, without their assistance.

One of the patriotick and virtuous writers against his Excellency, has been so peculiarly modest and refined in his opinions, as to ascribe the late insurrection itself, to the policy of the Governour, in having renewed the commission of a great many justices of the peace in his former administration, in order to secure their influence in the government, in his favour—But I should be glad to be informed on what this influence depended, before he was first chosen as the head of our executive; as it is well known, that the same opposition was then made, and I verily believe nearly by the same persons; that he then had as large a majority of the freeholders in his favour, as at any subsequent period—Appointments or no appointments, scandal or silence, the success of his electioneering opponents, has been generally the same, and his administration has been remarkably quiet, at all times, except under the momentary impression which his adversaries have made by their artful and unprincipled attempts to perplex the operations of his government, to work themselves again into its first and most elevated places—This absurd, and truly ridiculous accusation against the Governour, is nearly of a piece with another charge, which to the honour of their wisdom, as well as charity, they have fabricated against him—To talk “of its being said” that the Governour had a secret intercourse with the insurgents, during their criminal opposition to government, is really so wicked as well as ludicrous an idea, that I do not know whether it deserves refutation. For though I do not doubt that insinuations of this kind, were thrown out at the time of the commotion, yet, I as well remember that they were the effusions of the very party who are now in opposition, though, they were then pretending to be the zealous supporters of not only the laws and constitution, but of the officers of government, as indispensibly requisite to the weight and efficiency of the government itself. So far indeed from his Excellency or his friends disturbing the administration of Mr. Bowdoin, that there was not even a single speculation to the prejudice of the measures he pursued, nor any, excepting some that appeared in answer to the libellous handbills which were then indeed circulated against the publick and private character of Mr. Hancock, by his enemies, and which they had the matchless effrontery to charge on his friends.

It is scarcely possible to conceive more curiously insulting suggestions than have been thrown out by these busy and intriguing fomenters of sedition and calumny. The Governor, like an honest man, lamented the publick disorders which attended the administration of his predecessor in office; he felt, like a patriot, for the honour of the Commonwealth, and the character of its citizens, and, with the filial piety of the son of the patriarch he wished to draw an early veil over the infirmity of the deluded persons who were then in opposition to the government. He was neither the friend nor the persecutor of these unhappy people; he wished to reclaim, but not to punish, and his measures have been prospered by a degree of tranquillity, I hope not disagreeable, though it was most certainly unexpected by his opponents. Posterity will look with wonder at the restoration of peace without a single victim being led to the altar, as a sacrifice to party resentments, under cover of justice, and will learn a new lesson of humanity from the administration of a Hancock.

[20 March] It was the good sense and penetration alone of the people at large, bursting through all the artificial enlargements that acts of disqualification, conditional pardons, and other expedients played off by the Jesuitical sophistry of some of the managers against Mr. Hancock, which placed him in the chair; and it is very certain that not a single inconvenience has attended his promotion. On the other hand, a very great and striking revolution in the government of the United States in general, and of this in particular, has been effected so far by his influence, that, if opposition was not silenced, it was, at least, disarmed of its rising resentment, by the ease and prudence of his behaviour.—But the malignancy of his ancient enemies, aware of this, have endeavoured to give a colouring to this memorable transaction, which, though highly agreeable to the depravity of their own conceptions, is directly in opposition to the truth; for they have ventured to assert his efforts to secure the adoption of the Federal Constitution arose from an infamous bargain with those they call the “advocates” of the constitution, to secure their influence on the ensuing election. In what point of light these vaunted “advocates” are placed by this horrid insinuation let them determine—for if the allegation was true, I should scarcely know whether the tempter or the tempted ought to be most the object of publick execration. If any of these advocates would pollute the source of power itself, by exerting their pretended influence in favour of a person so wholly unworthy as they now pretend this true patriot to be, whatever may have been their merit in defence of the constitution, this single fact, in my opinion, is sufficient to deface the lustre of their efforts on that occasion.—But the truth is, that this charge is equally a false and malicious libel against them and his Excellency; for as they would never have had the effrontery to make the proposition, so on the other hand, he would have rejected the offer with the detestation and contempt it deserved—But is it not incumbent on these envenomed disturbers of the publick peace, to mention the name of a single person who will give his testimony upon this occasion—<Why do not these gentlemen substantiate the charge, and say who is acquainted with this excellent manœuvre? if they consider it so on the part of these “advocates”—But this cannot be done, any more than the “advocates” referred to, can be proved to be the authors of the amendments which his Excellency proposed—the fact is, the amendments were suggested by the gentlemen who opposed the Constitution, as any person may be satisfied who will take the trouble of reading the debates, as they were published in Boston; and the very warm and sanguine admirers of the Constitution always declared, not only that there were no defects in it, but, that every pretended amendment was an essential injury to this celebrated instrument—How then, they or any of the persons alluded to, can be mentioned as the authors of these amendments, is very hard to explain.

It is well known that the amendments, not as the condition of acceptance, but to accompany the ratification, was not a new idea—for it had been done on the acceptance of the old articles of Confederation, by many States in the union, and was suggested in Convention, and before by the friends of the Governour; as this idea was by none more warmly supported than by the late worthy Lt. Governour, who has since paid the debt of nature, and will, no doubt, receive the reward for his never having connived at any measures for the advancement of his own interest, at the expense of the general tranquility—It is well known by many irreproachable characters of all professions, that this was the theme of his conversation, as well with his Excellency, as with other persons; and if any man, besides his Excellency, deserves the credit of applying this happy expedient on this occasion, perhaps he was the person—It was certainly not the scheme of the high flying federalists, though I believe many deserve not this honourable appellation, as they are not the friends of a federal government, but of an actual consolidation of the Union itself—It was in consequence of mature and early deliberations with the friends of peace and good government, with the real federalists, and with the friends of republicanism, that his Excellency made his celebrated proposition, and as to the circumstance of the clerkship, it was certainly very immaterial in whose hand writing it appeared, as long as it corresponded with his own favourite opinions, and this it certainly did; as it had in view the two great objects of amending the Constitution, at the same time it had a direct tendency to allay the zeal of opposition—For this act alone, is his Excellency deserving the thanks of every true friend of the peace and union of America, and although no one man deserves the pre-eminent distinction of being considered as the Saviour of his Country, yet, in this point, he is entitled to our full approbation, and our warmest and most grateful sensations.

There are other palpable misrepresentations in some of the papers against his Excellency, with respect to his celebrated proposition of amendments, which has already been adopted by five of the ratifying states—though I have not time to expose their inconsistency at present—I really think that these writers themselves, do not believe the strange and contradictory accounts which they are daily imposing on the publick—but they hope, notwithstanding, to add to the zeal and malignancy of their own party, and to furnish something which has the appearance of argument, to carry on their deep and injurious designs against the peace of the community, and I am clearly convinced, against the government itself; and intending, if possible, to change the genius and nature of our most excellent constitution, they wish to remove those faithful centinels who have been stationed at the portals of the temple of freedom, in order the more securely to destroy the treasure which is lodged within it.>1

1. A manuscript copy (probably made at a later date from the newspaper) of the material in angle brackets is in the James Sullivan Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.