[Volume 1, Page 198]

CHAPTER 6 | Document 13

William Findley, Pennsylvania House of Assembly

28 Sept. 1787Storing 3.1.1--3

I have, no doubt, but a Convention might be called, and will be called. That it ought to be called, and will be called, is seen so clearly, that I shall add nothing to enforce it--there-fore, I take it--that the propriety of calling a convention is not the question before us. After declaring my sentiments so far, I shall proceed--Sir, now to examine the ground on which we stand--I believe we stand on foederal ground; therefore, we are not in a state of nature. If we were in a state of nature, all the arguments produced, for hastening this business, would apply--but as we are not, I would observe, that the most deliberate manner of proceeding, is the best manner--But the manner in which this subject has been introduced, is an indeliberate manner, and seems to argue, that we are not on foederal ground. The design of carrying this through, I say, Sir, is a presumption, that we are in a state of nature: if that is the case, then it can only be proper to use this expedition. What I mean, Sir, by a state of nature, is with respect to the confederation, or union of the states, and not any wise alluding to our particular state government. Now my opinion is, Sir, that we are on foederal ground--that the foederal convention was a foederal convention--that it had the powers of a foederal convention, and that they were limited to act foederally--that they have acted agreeable to the limitation, and have acted foederally. I know by some of the arguments which have been used, that some gentlemen suppose otherwise. Well then, Sir, we will have recourse to the confederation itself, and then to the law which appointed delegates to the convention, and let them decide whether we are on foederal ground or not.

The sixth article of the confederation says, "No two or more states shall enter into any treaty, confederation, or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, specifying, accurately, the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue." It may be said this don't apply--Well let us examine what it says further in the thirteenth article--"The articles of confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every state." Now did we [Volume 1, Page 199] act in conformity with these articles by passing the law appointing delegates to the convention, or did we not? I say we did. I know the contrary has been said, but let us have recourse to our own act. I don't mean, as I said before, to reply particularly to any arguments, but to establish the point that we have all along acted upon foederal principles, and that we ought to continue foederal, and I have no doubt but we shall. But what says the preamble of the law--Hear our own words, Sir,--"Whereas the general assembly of this commonwealth, taking into their serious consideration the representations heretofore made to the legislatures of the several states in the union, by the United States in Congress assembled," &c. It has been mentioned that we took it up in consequence of Virginia's having engaged in the measure; and as the reasons are only mentioned in the preamble, they may not deserve much attention, but the second section of the law decides this point. The words are, after enumerating the persons, that they are hereby constituted and appointed deputies from this state, with powers to meet such deputies as may be appointed and authorized by the other states to assemble in the said convention at the city aforesaid, and to join with them in devising, deliberating on, and discussing all such alterations and further provisions as may be necessary to render the foederal constitution fully adequate to the exigencies of the Union; and in reporting such act or acts for that purpose, to the United States in Congress assembled, as when agreed to by them, and duly confirmed by the several states, will effectually provide for the same.

Now I consider it as a question of importance, whether we are to take up the new constitution, as being in a state of nature, or acting on federal ground, whether we stand unconnected or subordinate to the present confederation; if we are bound by that, it obliges us to continue on federal ground. I should conceive, that we are still bound by the confederation, and that the conduct of the House has hitherto been federal; that the convention was federal as appears by their appointment, and their report to Congress. Did they, Sir, address their report to this House? No, Sir, they did not. It is true, Sir, we were honored with a report from our own delegates. No, Sir, I retract the word--the delegates were honored; they did themselves the honour of communicating the result of their deliberations. But did the convention address this House? No, Sir, they did not. They addressed Congress, as they were ordered to do.--Hitherto the business has been in a federal channel, and this, Sir, is the first step that places us upon unfederal ground. The report is before Congress, and it is to be presumed Congress will agree to it--but has such a length of time elapsed, as to induce us to suspect they will not concur, or to justify our going into it without their recommendation? We may act, Sir, without due deliberation, and hurry on without consideration, but Congress will not. I know the propriety of waiting to hear from them must have weight with every Member, and I ask every gentleman in this House, will they take upon themselves to doubt of the acquiescence of Congress, in order to furnish an argument for dispatch? If any will, let him say so, and take the consequences upon his character. No doubt can be entertained, but Congress will recommend, as the acquisition of power is a desirable object with them. Their disposition must be to promote the present plan, but they must wish to preserve the appearance of decency on such a subject. I ask, can any gentleman suppose but what Congress will come readily into it? They who have been many years recommending and requiring, nay I may say, begging for such powers as are now proposed to be given them, cannot change their disposition, and decline receiving an increase. Well, what does all this tend to prove; have we not all along been a federal state, remarkably so? And shall we be the first to step out of our way wantonly, and without any reason? Certainly we will not.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 6, Document 13
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.