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SPEECH IN THE CONVENTION AT THE CON.
CLUSION OF ITS DELIBERATIONS.
MR. PRESIDENT, I confess that I do not entirely approve of this constitution at present : but, sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it; for having lived loug, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information, or fuller consideratio to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is, therefore, that the older I grow the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men, indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think them. selves in possession of all truth, and that whenever others differ from them it is so far error. Steel, a protestant, in a dedication, tells the pope, that « the oniy difference between our two churches, in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines, is, the Romish church is infallible, and the church of England never in the wrong." But, though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who, in a little dispute with her sister, said, “ I do not know how it happens, sister, but I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right. Il n'y a que moi qui a toujours raison.” In these sentiments, sir, I agree to this constitution, with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a ge. neral government necessary for us, and there is no
form of government but what may be a blessing if well administered; and I believe farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic govern. ment, being incapable of any other. I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better constitution : for when you assemble a number of men, to bave the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a. perfect production be expected ? It therefore asto. nishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded, like those of the builders of Babylon, and that our states are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting each other's throats.
Thus I consent, sir, to this constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that this is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us, in returning to our constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavour to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and
thereby lose all the salutary effects and great ad. vantages resulting naturally in our favour among foreign nations, as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength and efficiency of any government, in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion ; on the general opinion of the goodness of that government, as well as of the wis. dom and integrity of its governors.'
I hope, therefore, that for our own sakes, as part of the people, and for the sake of our posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recom. mending this constitution, wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to* the means of having it well admi. nistered.
Ou the whole, sir, I cannot help expressing a wish, that every member of the convention, who may still have objections, would, with me, ou this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.
[The motion was then made for adding the last forinula, viz.
Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent, &c. which was agreed to, and added accordingly.]
sented to a late minister, when he entered upon
of the interest and policy of that vast continent 114
Antifederalists in the United States of America 135