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as men, in the general prosperity of the country; and knowing that at the end of four years, its members became mere citizens, and could become senators again, only, with the appro. bation of the people, expressed by electors, chosen for the purpose by the people themselves, felt really more dependence than was compatible with its duty. To talk of an aristocratic senate, was an absurdity, a solecism—there was nothing which the term fitted, or could with propriety be applied to. And yet, perhaps, it was not the less operative on those for whom it was intended, than if it had been applicable, and appropriate.
In April, a writer, of very respectable abilities, who adopted the significant signature of, Gracchus, addressed the question, "shall There Be A Convention?" to the citizens of Kentucky.
Representing to them, that now was the time for them to act, or lose forever the chance of having a convention to revise their constitution. That six or eight individuals, composing a majority of the senate, had rejected a bill for referring the question to them, whether they were for a convention or not) although passed by a large majority of their immediate representatives. From the past they were to judge of the future. The legislative body had discovered too early a jealousy of the Will of the people. Their immediate representatives had declared there was a majority in favour of a convention; yet, six or eight individuals in the senate have declared otherwise: thus are you controlled by a few men, a small minority, under the present constitution. The judgment of the senate is warp* ed by their situation. The house of representatives feel and know they are the people's representatives; they fear not a convention; they know it will be but a house of representatives of the people.
But whence is it that your Great Men are thus jealous of the power of the people? Does it not indicate something rotten in the situation of your country? Are you sure your liberties are not in danger? Your constitution, which attempts to arrest the progress of the human mind, will be perpetual unless corrected now. These men may for a moment suspend reformation, and bring on revolution.
Those opposed to a convention say, you are free from oppression; that your rights are secured under the present constitution; that any change is unnecessary, and hazardous; that before you feel an injury, you cannot so well devise, or apply a remedy; that in attempting to amend hap-hazard, there is danger that the constitution will be made worse. And what does this mean, but that you are ignorant, and besotted? Well may you blush to find a man among you so destitute of genuine republicanism, as to suggest such degrading ideas.
Another alarm has for its foundation, a fear for the safety and independence of the courts; as if the convention cannot amend a part without overturning the whole of the constitution. Are you frightened at phantoms?—At another time you hear it alleged, that the friends of a convention are for agrarian laws. But you would be the idiots they take you to be, were you to be frightened by suggestions like these.
Discard those insinuations which would make you think meanly of yourselves. And whilst you are told that you are about to strip the Great of their property, be careful that they do not strip you of your power. Remember that all power is in you, The People—that your present constitution admits this at the present, but robs you of it forever hereafter. As, if you have not a convention now, it will rest with two-thirds of the legislature, to say, whether you in future shall have one or not. Then, act for yourselves; act like men; write, for A Convention, on your election tickets, in characters too plain to be overlooked by the attending officers; and thus declare your will, with an unanimity that shall appal the patrons of aristocracy, by- the conviction, that "the will of the people is the supreme law."
Thus, omitting many exaggerating circumstances, is the substance of one of the most decent, and probably best written papers, in favour of convention, given. While it is but declamation, and a false exhibition of the case.
The country became a good deal agitated; and at the elec tion of members to the legislature, voted, both for, and against a convention. The result, however, did not shew what was vol.. Jn H*
required by the constitution, that a majority of actual voters, had, given their voice for it; many counties failing to make returns: while it was certain that a large portion of those entitled to vote had not even attended the election.
The envoys of the United States to France, in the interim, being refused a public reception, insulted by antechamber conferences, and inadmissable propositions; after discussing all the points of differences on paper, and making known the American rights and claims; were about to depart from Paris, when Mr. Gerry was selected by the French cabinet, and requested to remain.—The other two returned to the United States.
Whence the prospects of war, with France were the more increased.
And what must ever remain inexplicable, except on party feelings; all insults, injuries, and contempts, heaped upon the United States, by the actual government of France, from time to time, could not divert the gratitude, due Louis XVI. although murdered, his throne prostrated, his government effaced; and aj new species of despotism, more abominable, because more tyrannical and bloody, than had previously been known, established in its place: yet were there citizens of the United States, and Kentucky had her full proportion, who professed to feel too much indebted to France, to be willing to resent these injuries and insults—notwithstanding they unequivocally menaced their liberty, the independence of their own country, and government, and were actually extended to the most wanton and unjust aggressions on the commerce of the United States.
In relation to this subject, three opinions, or propositions were propagated in Kentucky, with a very general reception, and belief.'
1st. That the government of the United States was quite in the wrong to resist France.
2d. That France if not quite right, was at least excusable, for her depredation on the commerce of the United States, as she was a republic, and at war to maintain her rights, and exterminate monarchies: and
3d. That the government of Great Britain was the most corrupt on earth; that if it was not conquered by France which was much desired, its fall with its own weight of debt, and excess of depravity, was all but inevitable.
Opinions, calculated to unnerve the arm of America, just raised in defence of her own rights, most injuriously assailed and abused, by France.
An author who signed Aristides to his productions, written with temper and gravity, furnishes the following extracts—
"Every friend to American liberty before he can raise his arm to shed the blood of his fellow man, will seriously inquire into the matter of provocation." &c. "A faithful review of the conduct of the American administration, towards the republic of France from the commencement of the struggles for liberty, will unfold the truth more effectually than the noisy declamation of British adherents. It will perhaps be discovered that the balance of j ustice inclines to France." &c.
"The important question is, whether under all the circumstances of the controversy with France you will be justifiable before God and man in drawing your swords and drenching them in the blood of those who surrounded by enemies, are justly struggling for liberty."
"It must be difficult for a grateful American to forget the eventful occurrences of that revolution which has given birth to the present conflict for liberty in Europe."
"Happy for mankind, there is a part of the citizens of this once boasted land of liberty, who could say in an appeal to God, that they verily believe a war with France at present would be impolitic, unjust, and ungrateful," &c.&c.
The foregoing extracts are from a publication of June.
In August, the country was greatly agitated, in consequence of the passage of the alien and sedition laws, by congress.
Many meetings of the people, were held in" different parts of the state, on this occasion; and probably they were never more unanimous, than in the condemnation of those laws. Never failing to express great attachment to the constitution of the United States—the formula being in that wise—and almost as uniformly deprecating a war with France, and expressing their abhorrence of an alliance, offensive and defensive, with the rotten, or the tottering monarchy of Great Britain. While in reality, no idea of the latter was indicated by government, or its friends.