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FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution, John DeWitt #1
A Publius/Billthedrill Essay | 18 February 2010 | Publius & Billthedrill

Posted on 02/18/2010 7:50:27 AM PST by Publius

Another Anonymous Writer Makes a Stand

History has not recorded the true identity of John DeWitt, only that he was from Massachusetts. His choice of pseudonym was in honor of Johan de Witt, a 17th Century Dutchman who had defended the people against a central government. His use of question-and-answer in delineating his case would lead one to suspect that he was a lawyer – and probably a fine litigator. One can sense proponents of the Constitution reeling at his relentless interrogation.

John DeWitt #1

22 October 1787

1 To the Free Citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

***

2 Whoever attentively examines the history of America and compares it with that of [an]other will find its commencement, its growth and its present situation without a precedent.

***

3 It must ever prove a source of pleasure to the Philosopher, who ranges the explored parts of this inhabitable globe and takes a comparative view as well of the rise and fall of those nations which have been and are gone, as of the growth and present existence of those which are now in being, to close his prospect with this Western world.

4 In proportion as he loves his fellow creatures, he must here admire and approve, for while they have severally laid their foundations in the blood and slaughter of three, four and sometimes ten successive generations, from their passions have experience[d] every misery to which human nature is subject, and at this day present striking features of usurped power, unequal justice and despotic tyranny.

5 America stands completely systemized without any of these misfortunes.

6 On the contrary, from the first settlement of the country the necessity of civil associations, founded upon equality, consent and proportionate justice have ever been universally acknowledged, the means of education always attended to, and the fountains of science brought within the reach of poverty.

7 Hitherto we have commenced society and advanced in all respects resembling a family, without partial affections, or even a domestic bickering, and if we consider her as an individual instead of an undue proportion of violent passions and bad habits, we must set her down possessed of reason, genius and virtue.

8 I premise these few observations because there are too many among us of narrow minds who live in the practice of blasting the reputation of their own country.

9 They hold it as a maxim that virtues cannot grow in their own soil.

10 They will appreciate those of a man they know nothing about because he is an exotic, while they are sure to depreciate those much more brilliant in their neighbors because they are really acquainted with and know them.

***

11 Civil society is a blessing.

12 It is here universally known as such.

13 The education of every child in this country tends to promote it.

14 There is scarcely a citizen in America who does not wish to bring it, consistent with our situation and circumstances, to its highest state of improvement.

15 Nay, I may say further that the people in general aim to effect this point in a peaceable, laudable and rational way.

16 These assertions are proved by stubborn facts, and I need only resort to that moment when, in contest with a powerful enemy, they paid such an unprecedented attention to civilization as to select from among themselves their different conventions and form their several constitutions, which for their beautiful theoretical structure caught the admiration of our enemies and secured to us the applause of the world.

17 We at this day feel the effects of this disposition and now live under a government of our own choice, constructed by ourselves upon unequivocal principles, and requires but to be well administered to make us as happy under it as generally falls to the lot of humanity.

18 The disturbances in the course of the year past cannot be placed as an objection to the principle I advance.

19 They took their rise in idleness, extravagance and misinformation, a want of knowledge of our several finances, a universal delusion at the close of the war, and in consequence thereof, a pressure of embarrassments, which checked and in many cases destroyed that disposition of forbearance which ought to be exercised towards each other.

20 These were added to the accursed practice of letting money at usury and some few real difficulties and grievances which our late situation unavoidably brought upon us.

21 The issue of them, however, rather proves the position, for – a very few irreclaimables excepted – we find even an anxiety to hearken to reason pervading all classes, industry and frugality increasing, and the advantages arising from good, wholesome laws, confessed by every one.

22 Let who will gainsay it, I am confident we are in a much better situation in all respects than we were at this period the last year, and as fast as can be expected, consistent with the passions and habits of a free people, of men who will think for themselves, coalescing, as a correspondent observes in a late paper, under a firm, wise and efficient government.

23 The powers vested in Congress have hitherto been found inadequate.

24 Who are those that have been against investing them?

25 The people of this Commonwealth have very generally supposed it expedient, and the farmer equally with the merchant have taken steps to effect it.

26 A Convention from the different states for that sole purpose [has] been appointed of their most respectable citizens – respectable indeed I may say for their equity, for their literature and for their love of their country.

27 Their proceedings are now before us for our approbation.

28 The eagerness with which they have been received by certain classes of our fellow citizens naturally forces upon us this question: are we to adopt this government without an examination?

29 Some there are who, literally speaking, are for pressing it upon us at all events.

30 The name of the man who but lisps a sentiment in objection to it is to be handed to the printer, by the printer to the public, and by the public he is to be led to execution.

31 They are themselves stabbing its reputation.

32 For my part, I am a stranger to the necessity for all this haste!

33 Is it not a subject of some small importance?

34 Certainly it is.

35 Are not your lives, your liberties and properties intimately involved in it?

36 Certainly they are.

37 Is it a government for a moment, a day, or a year?

38 By no means, but for ages; altered it may possibly be, but it is easier to correct before it is adopted.

39 Is it for a family, a state, or a small number of people?

40 It is for a number no less respectable than three millions.

41 Are the enemy at our gates, and have we not time to consider it?

42 Certainly we have.

43 Is it so simple in its form as to be comprehended instantly?

44 Every letter, if I may be allowed the expression, is an idea.

45 Does it consist of but few additions to our present Confederation and those which have been from time to time described among us and known to be necessary?

46 Far otherwise.

47 It is a complete system of government and armed with every power that a people in any circumstances ought to bestow.

48 It is a path newly struck out, and a new set of ideas are introduced that have neither occurred or been digested.

49 A government for national purposes, preserving our constitution entire, [has] been the only plan hitherto agitated.

50 I do not pretend to say, but it is in theory the most unexceptionable, and in practice will be the most conducive to our happiness of any possible to be adopted – but it ought to undergo a candid and strict examination.

51 It is the duty of every one in the Commonwealth to communicate his sentiments to his neighbor, divested of passion, and equally so of prejudices.

52 If they are honest, and he is a real friend to his country, he will do it and embrace every opportunity to do it.

53 If thoroughly looked into before it is adopted, the people will be more apt to approve of it in practice, and every man is a traitor to himself and his posterity who shall ratify it with his signature without first endeavoring to understand it.

54 We are but yet in infancy, and we had better proceed slow than too fast.

55 It is much easier to dispense powers [than] recall them.

56 The present generation will not be drawn into any system; they are too enlightened; they have not forfeited their right to a share in government, and they ought to enjoy it.

***

57 Some are heard to say, “When we consider the men who made it, we ought to take it for sterling, and without hesitation – that they were the collected wisdom of the states and had no object but the general good.”

58 I do not doubt all this, but facts ought not to be winked out of sight: they were delegated from different states and nearly equally represented, though vastly disproportionate both in wealth and numbers.

59 They had local prejudices to combat, and in many instances, totally opposite interests to consult.

60 Their situations, their habits, their extent and their particular interest varied each from the other. 61 The gentlemen themselves acknowledge that they have been less rigid upon some points in consequence of those difficulties than they otherwise should have been. 62 Others again tell you that the Convention is or will be dissolved, that we must take their proceedings in whole or reject them.

63 But this surely cannot be a reason for their speedy adoption; it rather works the other way.

64 If evils are acknowledged in the composition, we ought at least to see whose shoulders are to bear the most, to compare ours with those of other states, and take care that we are not saddled with more than our proportion.

65 That the citizens of Philadelphia are running mad after it can be no argument for us to do the like.

66 Their situation is almost contrasted with ours: they suppose themselves a central state, they expect the perpetual residence of Congress, which of itself alone will ensure their aggrandizement.

67 We on the contrary are sure to be near one of the extremes; neither the loaves or fishes will be so plenty with us, or shall we be so handy to procure them.

***

68 We are told by some people that upon the adopting this new government we are to become every thing in a moment.

69 Our foreign and domestic debts will be as a feather; our ports will be crowded with the ships of all the world, soliciting our commerce and our produce.

70 Our manufactures will increase and multiply, and in short if we stand still, our country, notwithstanding, will be like the blessed Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey.

71 Let us not deceive ourselves; the only excellency of any government is in exact proportion to the administration of it.

72 Idleness and luxury will be as much a bane as ever, our passions will be equally at war with us then as now, and if we have men among us trying with all their ability to undermine our present constitution, these very persons will direct their force to sap the vitals of the new one.

***

73 Upon the whole, my fellow countrymen, I am as much a federal man as any person: in a federal union lies our political salvation.

74 To preserve that Union and make it respectable to foreign optics, the national government ought to be armed with all necessary powers, but the subject I conceive of infinite delicacy, and requires both ability and reflection.

75 In discussing points of such moment, America has nothing to do with passions or hard words; every citizen has an undoubted right to examine for himself; neither ought he to be ill treated and abused because he does not think at the same moment exactly as we do.

76 It is true that many of us have but our liberties to lose, but they are dearly bought and are not the least precious in estimation.

77 In the meantime, is it not of infinite consequence that we pursue inflexibly that path which I feel persuaded we are now approaching, wherein we shall discourage all foreign importations, shall see the necessity of greater economy and industry, shall smile upon the husbandman, and reward the industrious mechanic, shall promote the growth of our own country, and wear the produce of our own farms, and finally, shall support measures in proportion to their honesty and wisdom without any respect to men?

78 Nothing more is wanted to make us happy at home and respectable abroad.

John DeWitt’s Critique

DeWitt’s first epistle was written in late October 1787, at which point the Constitutional Convention had been over for roughly a month. The impression one gets from DeWitt is very clearly one of alarm at the haste at which the proceedings had taken place and at which approval was now being pressed.

32 For my part, I am a stranger to the necessity for all this haste!

Was this concern justified? The Convention had proceeded for roughly two weeks without even a quorum, travel to Philadelphia remaining a challenge even then. The Convention itself had evolved through the Virginia Plan, in which representation was by population; the New Jersey Plan, in which representation was strictly by state; a third plan on the British model offered by Charles Pinckney and Alexander Hamilton; and finally a compromise engineered by Roger Sherman of Connecticut.

Between July, when the rough notes were presented to the drafting committees, to mid-September, when the final document was produced, there remained a vigorous debate over the details. By the time DeWitt penned this document, those details had only been public for a month. Referring back to the original difficulties in assembling the Convention at all, one comes to the realization that DeWitt’s concern was fully justified.

Why the haste? There were brewing issues between the states: a long, protracted land dispute between Pennsylvania and Connecticut; war debts contracted by both Congress and the various states; and a sense that the country was about to expand in a threateningly uncontrollable manner in the absence of some form of central government. There were, as well, brewing external challenges from a British government stung into the consideration of its former colonies becoming potential maritime rivals and yet unreconciled to their loss, and a French government that had guaranteed the success of Washington’s Yorktown campaign that was itself reeling from internal challenges and no longer likely to intervene.

It took another eight months before New Hampshire placed its seal of approval on the new Constitution as the required ninth state on 21 June 1788. It is within this time period that the debates took place. These were not without their own extremes of passion. On occasion tempers could run very short indeed. DeWitt exaggerates a bit to make his point.

30 The name of the man who but lisps a sentiment in objection to it is to be handed to the printer, by the printer to the public, and by the public he is to be led to execution.

In literal truth nothing of the sort had taken place, but there had been rioting and the burning of one faction’s printing presses by the zealots of the other. One senses DeWitt’s concern that the matter would be settled in the streets instead of the sober consideration of the state house. Such a thing was, at the time, beginning to eat into Louis XVI’s control of his own country through a government that had already been declared insolvent. DeWitt’s unease would prove fully justified in France during the succeeding decade.

Yet DeWitt appears to fall into an overly rosy view of the existing government.

17 We at this day feel the effects of this disposition and now live under a government of our own choice, constructed by ourselves upon unequivocal principles, and requires but to be well administered to make us as happy under it as generally falls to the lot of humanity.

Alexander Pope’s heroic couplet of a half-century earlier is pertinent.

For Forms of Government let fools contest
Whatever is best administered is best.

One can understand the sentiment. In times of chaos, such as those the American colonies had just passed through, public security demands order and the rule of law first. To Pope, born in the year that William of Orange had finally settled the violent turbulence of the English Civil Wars, the fine points were less important than stanching the flow of blood in the streets. To DeWitt, however, the notion of a potential despotism brought on by an ill-considered approval of the new government trumps that consideration. One suspects that his admission that the current government was not, in fact, well-administered undercuts his point.

23 The powers vested in Congress have hitherto been found inadequate.

One hears an echo of Cromwell's complaint concerning the Parliament of his day. It is a resemblance that did not escape canny political observers in Great Britain such as Pitt and Burke, and so many of the issues were painfully similar to those fought out in England during her own Civil Wars of the mid-17th Century: the relationship of ruler to people, and the necessity of representative government to stand between despotism and the common citizen. This was not ancient history in the eyes of the British, but a sequence of events that was more immediate to them than America’s own Civil War is to the contemporary reader.

Hence the dynamic tension between the proponents and the skeptics that is reflected in DeWitt himself. One senses that DeWitt was firmly in neither party.

73 Upon the whole, my fellow countrymen, I am as much a federal man as any person: in a federal union lies our political salvation.

Yet the currently proposed Constitution was far too important a matter to admit of the sort of haste that results in undue lack of consideration.

28 The eagerness with which they have been received by certain classes of our fellow citizens naturally forces upon us this question: are we to adopt this government without an examination?

Precisely what sort of examination would have to await DeWitt’s next effort. It will certainly be based on historical precedent.

3 It must ever prove a source of pleasure to the Philosopher, who ranges the explored parts of this inhabitable globe and takes a comparative view as well of the rise and fall of those nations which have been and are gone, as of the growth and present existence of those which are now in being, to close his prospect with this Western world.

And it will be based on the idea of American exceptionalism.

5 America stands completely systemized without any of these misfortunes.

The grand treatise on the uniqueness of the American political experiment was yet to come – Alexis de Tocqueville was not yet born, and his work, Democracy in America, was nearly a half-century away. But the roots of it are here in the simple observation that what was significant politically was what America did not have: an entrenched, hereditary aristocracy; a clerical class; an Established Church forever sparring with the King for secular power – and losing as often as it won; and a fabric of what Washington was to call later “entangling alliances.” This was, if contemporary political observers will forgive the characterization, an intensely progressive era, and part of what the critics were warning against was the overenthusiastic embrace of the unprecedented and untried while it was still unconsidered.

Such restraint was not to be found in France despite the presence of champions of egalitarianism such as the Marquis de Lafayette, who nearly lost his head as a result of an unrestrained passion that could not look past his title to see his life’s work. DeWitt dreaded an abrogation of Reason for passion above all. It could lead to chaos in this new country; in France it would lead, as well, to a river of blood.

One places this critical political controversy between the poles of two particularly violent and wrenching revolutions in each of which a king would lose his head – that of England in the mid-17th Century, and the one to come in France during the closing years of the 18th. What DeWitt was calling for was a patient, methodical consideration that would, in the final analysis, prove a stretch of calm water between the two cataracts: no haste, no passion, only the real application of Reason that was the calling card of the Enlightenment, which was itself bounded by those same two bloodstained bookends.

DeWitt closes.

77 In the meantime, is it not of infinite consequence that we pursue inflexibly that path which I feel persuaded we are now approaching, wherein we shall discourage all foreign importations, shall see the necessity of greater economy and industry, shall smile upon the husbandman, and reward the industrious mechanic, shall promote the growth of our own country, and wear the produce of our own farms, and finally, shall support measures in proportion to their honesty and wisdom without any respect to men?

There are hints of all of the issues that were about to challenge the government of a new nation. There is a clear sentiment toward trade protectionism here that would lead Jefferson to furious controversy, and we are reminded that the Founders intended to fund their new government through imposts that could both effect this protectionism and de-fund the government should that protectionism succeed. Here one sees the first application of the principle that taxation may be used for revenue or policy control, but not both.

The appeal to support measures in proportion to their intrinsic merit, apart from the identity of their proponents, is a clear caution to consider the Constitution in the same light despite the numerous luminaries who supported its approval – Washington himself, after all, had been the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention. Benjamin Franklin, by far the greatest international celebrity of the new nation, stated:

…I doubt [too] whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. ... It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does…

Not the men recommending it, then, but the ideas themselves. DeWitt’s was an appeal to Reason over haste, idea over celebrity. It is an appeal that has not staled with time.

Discussion Topics

Coming Monday, 22 February

Federalist #1


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: federalistpapers; freeperbookclub; vanity

1 posted on 02/18/2010 7:50:27 AM PST by Publius
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To: 14themunny; 21stCenturion; 300magnum; A Strict Constructionist; abigail2; AdvisorB; Aggie Mama; ...
FReeper Book Club

The Debate over the Constitution

John DeWitt #1

Ping! The thread has been posted.

Earlier threads:

FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution
5 Oct 1787, Centinel #1
6 Oct 1787, James Wilson’s Speech at the State House
8 Oct 1787, Federal Farmer #1
9 Oct 1787, Federal Farmer #2
18 Oct 1787, Brutus #1

2 posted on 02/18/2010 7:52:09 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
The Constitution was passed in the same manner that the Obomulus package was passed. It was crafted in secret. Once it was completed, it's supporters clamored that death and Hell awaited if it weren't immediately passed. There was no time to reconsider. No time to amend. It was a life and death issue.

In short, they used the typical political devices of ginning up a crisis to intimidate their political opponents and force passage.

The Constitution was a big government boondoggle.

3 posted on 02/18/2010 8:01:31 AM PST by Huck (Q: How can you tell a party is in the majority? A: They're complaining about the fillibuster.)
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To: Publius

I don’t know if I can chew on two of these each week. I’m still studying the Brutus essay, and I was familiar with it!!

This latest post I have not read before, but it has my interest.

Thanks for your hard work!


4 posted on 02/18/2010 9:09:04 AM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Huck

OH? The Constitution was ratified in a month or two?


5 posted on 02/18/2010 9:10:42 AM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Publius

bttt


6 posted on 02/18/2010 9:53:15 AM PST by JDoutrider
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To: Loud Mime
The Constitution got its ninth ratification in June 1788. It was presented to the states in October 1787. Figure 8 months or so.
7 posted on 02/18/2010 10:18:33 AM PST by Publius
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To: Loud Mime
Once you break up those sentences and paragraphs into bite-size pieces, it becomes easier to penetrate that 18th Century English prose. Thus the ideas become clearer.

Bill and I are aware that there is little debate on these threads, and we see three possibilities:

We're still trying to figure out which it is and why this hasn't taken off the was the Atlas Ahruged effort did. Maybe it's just the difference between popular fiction and a course on government.

Glenn Beck wants people to get familiar with the writings of the Framers, and we think we see a way to get people to read them and not fall asleep. How successful we are remains to be seen.

8 posted on 02/18/2010 10:24:08 AM PST by Publius
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To: Huck

Ten years ago we crossed swords on the whole issue of the Constitution and secession. You’ve changed a lot since then.


9 posted on 02/18/2010 10:26:20 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius

The Constitution was presented to the States in its entirety; how big was the stimilus bill; was it all shown to the nation?

I find a comparison of the two to be a risible comparison.

- - - -

The writings of the Founders is political philosophy. How many people wish to be knowledgeable in the field, and how many are willing to undertake the work? I believe the numbers diminish as the course proceeds, just as in any college class.

Your efforts are the best that I have seen. The presentation allows greater inspection and encourages more thought between the sentences. I print each of these up and contemplate their meaning - - and what fostered the author’s thoughts.

Keep it up!


10 posted on 02/18/2010 11:03:47 AM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Publius

ping


11 posted on 02/18/2010 11:12:15 AM PST by Jude in WV
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To: Publius

Yes, I used to hold Madison up as my icon, and I argued the Union side on the old Civil War threads. My views have definitely changed since then, but all of that debate certainly helped me learn and grow to my present day thinking.


12 posted on 02/18/2010 11:33:03 AM PST by Huck (Q: How can you tell a party is in the majority? A: They're complaining about the fillibuster.)
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To: Loud Mime

If things work out, Bill and I will get a book out of this. We’re still waiting for the publshing commmunity to pick up our previous effort on Ayn Rand.


13 posted on 02/18/2010 12:52:43 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
Thank you for all your fine work.

Again we are reminded of the adage..."The more things change the more they stay the same."

8.( I premise these few observations because there are too many among us of narrow minds who live in the practice of blasting the reputation of their own country.)

Any finger pointing her...how about the entire bulk of the liberal intelligentsia since at least the 60's and all those indoctrinated..and the advocacy groups they spawned.

10 .(They will appreciate those of a man they know nothing about because he is an exotic, while they are sure to depreciate those much more brilliant in their neighbors because they are really acquainted with and know them. )

I'm not sure this even needs comment.

28.( The eagerness with which they have been received by certain classes of our fellow citizens naturally forces upon us this question: are we to adopt this government without an examination? )

Obamacare, tarp, cap and trade.

30.(The name of the man who but lisps a sentiment in objection to it is to be handed to the printer, by the printer to the public, and by the public he is to be led to execution. )

Demonizing opponents, character assassination, mud flinging

53.(If thoroughly looked into before it is adopted, the people will be more apt to approve of it in practice, and every man is a traitor to himself and his posterity who shall ratify it with his signature without first endeavoring to understand it. )

Obamacare, Cap and trade. 66.(Their situation is almost contrasted with ours: they suppose themselves a central state, they expect the perpetual residence of Congress, which of itself alone will ensure their aggrandizement.)

The hereditary Kennedy seat.

68-72. (We are told by some people that upon the adopting this new government we are to become every thing in a moment. 69 Our foreign and domestic debts will be as a feather; our ports will be crowded with the ships of all the world, soliciting our commerce and our produce. 70 Our manufactures will increase and multiply, and in short if we stand still, our country, notwithstanding, will be like the blessed Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. 71 Let us not deceive ourselves; the only excellency of any government is in exact proportion to the administration of it. 72 Idleness and luxury will be as much a bane as ever, our passions will be equally at war with us then as now, and if we have men among us trying with all their ability to undermine our present constitution, these very persons will direct their force to sap the vitals of the new one.)

Class warfare, a chicken in every pot...Respect from the world.

If you eliminate the criticisms and cautions it could be an Obama speech.

14 posted on 02/18/2010 1:07:18 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (Liberals are educated above their level of intelligence.. Thanks Sr. Angelica)
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To: Publius

I think there is a lot of head shaking.

Can’t believe we are going through this crap again.

There is also the issue of speaking to the true believer.

Yes, we do need to know this stuff but how do you in turn transmit it to heads full of mush (Rushism) or the class of the indoctrinated that just want to shout you down .

It is very depressing.


15 posted on 02/18/2010 1:11:30 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (Liberals are educated above their level of intelligence.. Thanks Sr. Angelica)
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To: TASMANIANRED
If you eliminate the criticisms and cautions it could be an Obama speech.

I've often wondered where Saul Alinsky was in 1787.

16 posted on 02/18/2010 1:21:30 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
Discussion Topics

•At 30, John DeWitt mentions the political attacks on those who dare to question the Constitution and the haste with which its backers are pushing it through ratification. At 51 through 55, he argues that everybody should be able to study the document and express his honest opinion. In New York, such discussion had already led to violence. While conceding the need for the Union, he asks to slow down the process. To what extent was he right, considering the various crises of the time?

•At 53, he states that “every man is a traitor to himself and his posterity who shall ratify it [the Constitution] with his signature without first endeavoring to understand it.” Compare this sentiment with the haste to pass a healthcare bill on the part of congressmen who haven’t even read it. How can we apply DeWitt’s arguments to that issue?

It's interesting to note His use of an alias and line 30 seems to point to the reason for such. It isn't inconceivable that he feared retribution in some form for simply stating his opinions. At the end of the war there was retribution against those who supported the King. DeWitt must have recognized the danger inherent in taking a position on such an important matter. I can imagine he would have lost some sleep to thoughts of tar and feathers earned by his efforts. Not in any way do I imply cowardice, the passions of a crowd are unpredictable and the use of an alias is one way to insulate oneself. Interestingly, he calls upon others to discuss the subject openly, at their own peril, I suppose.

These were men of action, having seen the results of their previous efforts realized in the form of a free and independent nation. Results were expected and not simply hoped for. To delay excessively would be gambling that the 'men of design' would take any advantage they could. Consider the way our nation united after the September 11th attacks. How long could that window have stayed open? Action had to be taken, I can't imagine how devastating it would have been to have 'tabled the motion'. In which instance would the passions have run higher?

•At 71, he points out that the able administration of government is the key and that everything will not automatically turn rosy once the Constitution is ratified and the new government inaugurated. That he was right is incontrovertible, but why? How do form and function intersect here?

71 Let us not deceive ourselves; the only excellency of any government is in exact proportion to the administration of it.

The answer is that the Constitution is only a single tool in the toolbox used to pursue the perfection of government. The Constitution is the point of tangency where form and function meet.

17 posted on 02/18/2010 5:49:58 PM PST by whodathunkit (The fickle and ardent in any community are the proper tools for establishing despotic government.)
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To: Loud Mime; Publius
The Constitution was presented to the States in its entirety . . . I find a comparison of the two to be a risible comparison.

Yes.

Not to mention that the issues addressed in The Constitution were discussed, pro and con, for more than twenty years prior to the convention in addition to the 9 months between adoption and ratification, and many of these issues were worked out in the practical workshops of numberless American churches and local governments for the prior 150 years. There was no American who was not conversant with the questions at issue. We know this to be true because it is attested by numerous of the finest intellects of that time, such as Thomas Jefferson and William Bradford, and even retrospectively by a famous person, who was French by birth, but spoke and thought like an American . . . Alexis de Tocqueville.

Thanks Publius, for your work. It is appreciated.

18 posted on 02/18/2010 6:54:46 PM PST by YHAOS (you betcha!)
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To: YHAOS; Publius

One of the many fascinating elements in our history is that of Paine’s “Common Sense.” It is beautifully written in a style and vocabulary that makes one slowly digest its meanings.

THAT pamphlet was written for the “common man” of that time.

Think about how far our public’s political intellect has fallen since those times.


19 posted on 02/18/2010 6:59:28 PM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Publius

I’ll buy that book!!!

BTW, my revised edition is finished - - it goes back on sale tomorrow. Enough for now....I need to throw some dice this weekend. HARD 8 on the hop!


20 posted on 02/18/2010 7:01:40 PM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Loud Mime
"Think about how far our public’s political intellect has fallen since those times."

Must I think about that? ( ^: }

21 posted on 02/18/2010 7:06:12 PM PST by YHAOS (you betcha!)
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To: whodathunkit
The Constitution is the point of tangency where form and function meet.

I like that. I might even use that in a tagline.

22 posted on 02/18/2010 8:30:14 PM PST by Publius
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To: Loud Mime
THAT pamphlet was written for the “common man” of that time.

Correct. It was written in the language of the taproom, not the drawing room.

Think about how far our public’s political intellect has fallen since those times.

This may sound strange, but I attribute it to television. TV has ruined everythig it has touched, from sports to politics.

23 posted on 02/18/2010 8:33:11 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
Television.....

It is strange that in Orwell's 1984, the TV monitored the people. Now it is indoctrinating them.

I have an old book (unread by me) that advocates the destruction of the television before your kids get addicted to the set. AND my son told me that data suggested that a TV in the master bedroom greatly increased the chances of divorce.

one more thing: A local college student told me that their political science course has consisted of several movies. That is combining our liberal indoctrination system with the vacuous nature of telebishin.

Give me a good book with a nice binding any day/night. My Kindle is hadly used.

24 posted on 02/18/2010 8:43:43 PM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Publius

People understand it but can’t see what there is to debate.

**********************

Please continue.


25 posted on 02/18/2010 9:07:48 PM PST by DonnerT (Those in power no longer fear the caliber of the ballot.)
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To: DonnerT

OK. Fair enough. Billthedrill and I had an e-mail exchange in which he suggested that people agree with the Anti-Federalist writer and don’t see a need to comment or contest his stance.


26 posted on 02/18/2010 9:10:05 PM PST by Publius
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To: DonnerT; Publius
People understand it but can’t see what there is to debate.

I agree. Our own 'what if' scenarios may be so biased that we consider the writers points of contention minor. We know what happens, they were staring into a great abyss.

Publius responds-

...that people agree with the Anti-Federalist writer and don’t see a need to comment or contest his stance.

Again, I agree for the same reason. I have always been interested in Colonial history and this effort is greatly appreciated in advancing my knowledge of our Founding Fathers and the beginnings of our United States.

I am somewhat surprised that the Anti-Federalists were labeled as such, they seem to be for some form of union, recognizing the necessity. I am looking forward to further installments to see how the debate develops. I find the essays and comments enlightening as well as providing a rich resource of information to further research.

27 posted on 02/19/2010 7:27:29 AM PST by whodathunkit (The fickle and ardent in any community are the proper tools for establishing despotic government.)
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To: Publius

I’ve read everything with interest.

I’ve only commented when I thought I had a slightly different take on what you and Bill have put together.

It’s been a very informative series so far and deeply appreciated.

What’s been missing from most discussions about the Constitution is historical context.

You and Bill are doing a great job supplying context in this series.


28 posted on 02/20/2010 1:13:11 PM PST by stylin_geek (Greed and envy is used by our political class to exploit the rich and poor.)
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To: Publius

At 71, he points out that the able administration of government is the key and that everything will not automatically turn rosy once the Constitution is ratified and the new government inaugurated. That he was right is incontrovertible, but why? How do form and function intersect here?

Government had to be implemented after the design was approved. Implementation rarely goes exactly as planned.


29 posted on 02/20/2010 1:35:41 PM PST by stylin_geek (Greed and envy is used by our political class to exploit the rich and poor.)
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To: stylin_geek
Implementation rarely goes exactly as planned.

Clausewitz once said that a battle plan rarely survives first contact with the enemy. Another wise man once said that the devil is in the details.

30 posted on 02/20/2010 1:40:19 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
We're still trying to figure out which it is and why this hasn't taken off...

But don't stop. I'm loving it. I never studied this stuff in public school or college, but had to take it upon myself over the years to learn it. And even then, never to this degree.

You are providing a free Master's course in early American history.

And yes, this will be on the final.

-PJ

31 posted on 02/20/2010 5:04:02 PM PST by Political Junkie Too ("Comprehensive" reform bills only end up as incomprehensible messes.)
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To: Publius
I love how people have singled out line 30 for various reasons. My first reaction to it has not been mentioned yet. Maybe I'm wrong in my assumption, but I immediately jumped to this being a personal attack in the guise of it being a defense of personal attacks.

30 The name of the man who but lisps a sentiment in objection to it is to be handed to the printer, by the printer to the public, and by the public he is to be led to execution.

This statement is saying that those who support this Constitution would rush to the press to smear anyone who offers a dissenting view of the Constitution, in order to hasten its passage. (Alas, some things never change.)

In the introduction, you suggest that John DeWitt is a Massachusetts lawyer. John Adams was also a Massachusetts lawyer. If DeWitt was a lawyer, he would certainly have crossed paths with Adams.

Adams was known to have a short temper and to not suffer criticism well. Adams was also the main author of the Massachusetts Constitution, and would certainly have strong opinions on its contents, and the applicability of it to a national Constitution.

Adams was still in Europe at this time and was not a part of the shaping or ratification debate of the Constitution, but those who knew him could certainly suppose his opinions on the matter, his temper, and how he treated his colleagues.

And Adams spoke with a lisp.

I say that line 30 was a back-handed slam at John Adams by someone who crossed paths with him.

-PJ

32 posted on 02/20/2010 5:17:09 PM PST by Political Junkie Too ("Comprehensive" reform bills only end up as incomprehensible messes.)
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To: Political Junkie Too
If DeWitt was a lawyer, he would certainly have crossed paths with Adams.

You could be right. A lot of people not only crossed paths with Adams, but crossed swords also.

Adams was known to have a short temper and to not suffer criticism well.

His contemporaries described his personality as "volcanic".

This is good detective work. You may have cracked the code here.

33 posted on 02/20/2010 10:28:11 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
Recalling how Jack Cashill was using plagiarism detection software (plus old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism) to analyze the writings of Obama and Ayers vis-a-vis Dreams of my Father (the initial threads which I contributed to, being one of the first to question the nautical references -- see here and here), I wonder if DeWitt's use of phrases such as " loaves or fishes " (line 67) and "blessed Canaan" (line 70) are also clues.

Are there writings of lawyers of the time who injected bible verse into their arguments (I'm sure there were plenty), who were also outspoken critics of politics of the time, from Massachusetts, and disliked John Adams?

-PJ

34 posted on 02/20/2010 11:07:26 PM PST by Political Junkie Too ("Comprehensive" reform bills only end up as incomprehensible messes.)
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To: Political Junkie Too

Tough question to answer. Every lawyer of that era injected the Bible into legal arguments, particularly in Calvinist New England. The fabric of American society at that time was soaked in the Bible.


35 posted on 02/21/2010 10:52:28 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius; Billthedrill; All
Glenn Beck wants people to get familiar with the writings of the Framers, and we think we see a way to get people to read them and not fall asleep. How successful we are remains to be seen.

You guys are OUTSTANDING!

FR's finest. America's finest.

Thanks.

Thanks to all posters.

36 posted on 02/22/2010 8:44:34 AM PST by PGalt
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To: Publius; All
A morning BTT. This was an incredibly fertile time in political history and the reverberations are still echoing around us. I can put it no more simply than this: France got Napoleon and we got Washington. The differences were the man, the plan, and the radical difference in the fabric of the two societies.

France had, and has, a long history of autocracy and political control centered about a single urban pole, Paris, to a greater degree even than that of London was for the British. That is one model fresh in the thoughts of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists - it is, to oversimplify a bit, the Roman model. Another is the more diffuse model of the more or less independent city-states of both Renaissance Italy and far earlier, Ancient Greece.

That was the intellectual playing field of the time for an educated person inclined toward political theory. Much of what we read from both parties depends on assumptions resident within those respective models. I'm playing with the idea that the Constitution set up not a static version of either, but a deliberate struggle between them. It would appear that the struggle is constant, ongoing, and over precisely the same issues as it was in 1787. Given the immense changes in everything else in the world since then, it argues the strength of permanent impermanence. Just throwing the thought out there.

Many thanks for the kind words, all.

37 posted on 02/22/2010 11:36:34 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: PGalt

You might want to suggest to Beck’s producer/head-writer that this effort is going on. He’s easier to reach than Beck himself.


38 posted on 02/22/2010 1:57:33 PM PST by Publius
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