CHAPTER 6 | Document 14

Hugh Brackenridge, Pennsylvania House of Assembly

28 Sept. 1787McMaster 58--59

All efforts to restore energy to the federal government have proved ineffectual, when exerted in the mode directed by the 13th article of the confederation, and it is in consequence of this that recourse is once more had to the authority of the people. The first step toward obtaining this was anti-federal; the acquiescence of Congress was anti-federal; the whole process has been anti-federal so far as it was not conducted in the manner prescribed by the articles of union. But the first and every step was federal, inasmuch as it was sanctioned by the PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES. The member from Westmoreland [William Findley] pleases his fancy with being on federal ground, pursuing federal measures, and being a very federal sort of person; he concludes we are not in a state of nature, because we are on federal ground. But, Sir, we are not on federal ground, but on the wild and extended field of nature, unrestrained by any former compact, bound by no peculiar tie; at least so far are we disengaged, as to be capable of forming a constitution which shall be the wonder of the universe. It is on the principle of self-conservation that we act. The former articles of confederation have received sentence of death, and though they may be on earth, yet are inactive, and have no efficacy. But the gentleman would still have us to be bound by them, and tells you your acts must correspond with their doctrine. This he proves, Sir, from the 13th article: but in this he is like some over-studious divines, who in commenting on their text, turn it to different shapes, and force it to prove what it never meant, or in the words of the poet,

As critics, learned critics view, In Homer, more than Homer knew.

He will not suffer the old to be dissolved until the new is adopted; he will not quit his old cabin, till the new house is furnished, not if it crumbles about his ears. But, Sir, we are not now forsaking our tenement, it has already been forsaken: and I conceive we have the power to proceed independent of Congress or Confederation.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 6, Document 14
The University of Chicago Press

McMaster, John Bach, and Stone, Frederick D., eds. Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787--1788. Lancaster: Published for the Subscribers by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1888.

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