Energetic Government

CHAPTER 9 | Document 11

Luther Martin, Letter

4 Apr. 1788Essays 381--83

. . . there are also persons who pretend that your situation is at present so bad that it cannot be worse, and urge that as an argument why we should embrace any remedy proposed, however desperate it may appear. Thus do the poor erring children of mortality, suffering under the presence of real or imaginary evils, have recourse to a pistol or halter for relief, and rashly launch into the untried regions of eternity--nor wake from this delusion, until they wake in endless woe. Should the citizens of America, in a fit desperation, be induced to commit this fatal act of political suicide, to which by such arguments they are stimulated, the day will come when laboring under more than Egyptian bondage; compelled to finish their quota of brick, though destitute of straw and of mortar; galled with your chains, and worn down by oppression, you will, by sad experience, be convinced (when that conviction shall be too late), that there is a difference in evils, and that the buzzing of gnats is more supportable than the sting of a serpent. From the wisdom of antiquity we might obtain excellent instruction, if we were not too proud to profit by it. Aesop has furnished us with a history of a nation of frogs, between which and our own there is a striking resemblance--whether the catastrophe be the same, rests with ourselves. Jupiter out of pure good nature, wishing to do them as little injury as possible, on being asked for a king, had thrown down into their pond a log to rule over them;--under whose government, had they been wise enough to know their own interest and to pursue it, they might to this day, have remained happy and prosperous. Terrified with the noise, and affrighted by the violent undulations of the water, they for some time kept an awful distance, and regarded their monarch with reverence; but the first impression being in some measure worn off, and perceiving him to be of a tame and peaceable disposition, they approached him with familiarity, and soon entertained for him the utmost contempt. In a little time were seen the leaders of the frogs croaking to their respective circles on the weakness and feebleness of the government at home, and of its want of dignity and respect abroad, till the sentiment being caught by their auditors, the whole pond resounded with "Oh Jupiter, good Jupiter, hear our prayers! take away from us this vile log, and give us a ruler who shall know how to support the dignity and splendor of government! give us any government you please, only let it be energetic and efficient." The Thunderer, in his wrath, sent them a crane. With what delight did they gaze on their monarch, as he came majestically floating on the wings of the wind. They admired his uncommon shape--it was such as they had never before seen--his deformities were, in their eyes, the greatest of beauties, and they were heard like Aristides to declare that, were they on the verge of eternity, they would not wish a single alteration in his form. His monstrous beak, his long neck, and his enormous poke, even these, the future means of their destruction, were subjects of their warm approbation. He took possession of his new dominions, and instantly began to swallow down his subjects, and it is said that those who had been the warmest zealots for crane administration, fared no better than the rest. The poor wretches were now much more dissatisfied than before, and with all possible humility applied to Jupiter again for his aid, but in vain--he dismissed them with this reproof, "that the evil of which they complained they had foolishly brought upon themselves, and that they had no other remedy now, but to submit with patience." Thus forsaken by the god, and left to the mercy of the crane, they sought to escape his cruelty by flight; but pursuing them to every place of retreat, and thrusting his long neck through the water to the bottom, he drew them out with his beak from their most secret hiding-places, and served them up as a regale for his ravenous appetite. The present federal government is, my fellow citizens, the log of the fable--the crane is the system now offered to your acceptance--I wish you not to remain under the government of the one, nor to become subjected to the tyranny of the other. If either of these events take place, it must arise from your being greatly deficient to yourselves--from your being, like the nation of Frogs, "a discontented, variable race, weary of liberty and fond of change." At the same time I have no hesitation in declaring, that if the one or the other must be our fate, I think the harmless, inoffensive, though contemptible Log, infinitely to be preferred to the powerful, the efficient, but all-devouring Crane.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 9, Document 11
The University of Chicago Press

Ford, Paul Leicester, ed. Essays on the Constitution of the United States, Published during Its Discussion by the People, 1787--1788. Brooklyn: Historical Printing Club, 1892.

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