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ly considered the business referred to them, and having agreed to the following resolution they now submit the same to council viz.
Resolved that there does not appear to this council an absolute necessity to call a convention, to alter explain or amend the constitution.
On the question will the council adopt this resolution, the yeas and nays were as follow:
On the 24th of September 1784. The following draft of an address from the council to the freemen, of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was read the second time viz.
Having finished the period of our appointment, and having, as far as we are able, completed the new and important business assigned to us by the terms of the constitution, and the choice of the people, we are about to return to our private employments. Before we separate, we wish to address a few words to our constituents on this solemn and important occasion, when the guardianship of those sacred rights, which belong to us as freemen is again devolved on the community at large.
In the first place you perceive that we have determined not to hazard the calling of a convention, for the purpose of effecting any change in the frame of government, or bill of rights. To this determination the remonstrances of great numbers of freemen, against a plan of alteration, which had been proposed at our former sitting, not a little contributed. There is no human performance which might not be capable of amendment, and it would therefore be great presumption to say that our constitution is perfect; but it certainly contains those great principles of equal liberty, which in our opinion ought never to be endangered. We have found also, that among the number of people who have been clamorous for alterations, very few could agree together what alterations were proper to be made: Some have proposed one thing, some another, and what one sett of them approved, another sett rejected with abhorrence. But, what is of greater importance, we found that some persons of high standing in life, and of great influence, among whom were a considerable proportion of our own body, had entertained ideas of government which they were struggling to carry into effect, in our opinion highly pernicious, and utterly inconsistent with liberty. We did not think it by any means consistent with our duty, for the sake of removing some pretended inconveniences, which are either imaginary, or have flown from abuse, and not from the constitution itself, to put to risk, at a time when such active and restless attempts were made to introduce an arbitrary government, the great fundamentals of our constitution, which hath hitherto proved, and we trust will long remain the palladium of liberty, In this opinion we have the happiness to believe, that we are supported by the sense
o our constituents. We would add, that after all which has been said and written on the subject, we are firmly persuaded that the constitution of Pennsylvania needs only to be faithfully administered by men, who are honestly disposed to support it according to its true spirit and intention, to be the best system of government in the world.
Another great task enjoined upon us by the constitution, which indeed ought to have engaged our earliest attention, but which has been postponed to the last, was to enquire, "Whether the constitution has been preserved inviolate in every part, and whether the legislative and executive branches of government have performed their duty as guardians of the people, or have assumed to themselves or exercised other or greater powers than they are entitled to by the constitution." This ardous task we have undertaken and executed, we hope at least with impartiality. We know that our power is at an end; that we are returning to the rank of private citizens, without any more interest in the concerns of the public than what belongs to every individual in a free state; that for seven years to come, the censorial authority will be suspended; that during that period some of us in all probability will be numbered with the silent dead; and that few, perhaps none of us, will ever again sit in judgment upon the constitution of the state, and the administration of its servants. We known also, that the constitution has entrusted to us no power of enforcing our decisions. We can only give our opinion, we can only recommend. The good sense and virtue of the people are entrusted with the execution. We leave with you, therefore, our honest and well meant declarations, which for your own sakes we are confident you will seriously attend to. The last seven years which have elapsed since the formation of the constitution have been uncommonly tempestuous; we are sorry to say, but it is too obvious to be concealed, that although the storm has abated, yet the tossing of the waves has not subsided. The time we doubt not however is at hand, when our proceedings will be calmly considered, and fully attended to by the good people of Pennsylvania. They will then have that weight which the constitution requires them to have. They are not calculated for the passion of a day; but for permanent regulation. We have freely censured deviations from the constitution, by whomsoever committed; we have stated our sense of the true construction of different clauses of the constitution; we have borne our testimony against the incroachments of one branch of government upon another, and have endeavored to restore that balance between the different branches which the constitution had wisely provided, and which is so highly essential to constitutional liberty, but which it was feared was in danger of being lost.
We are assured by the greatest writers on political law, and we firmly believe, that if all the different branches of power were to be centred in the hands of one body of men, liberty would be at an end. It is unfortunately too true, that we have not been unanimous in our deliberations for the public good. It is well known that parties have for a long time run high on the question whether the constitution should be continued or altered; whether a convention should be called We apprehend that it is an unfortunate circumstance that this question, about which we were sure to differ, was first of all taken up, though it be the last proposed for our consideration in that section of the constitution which gives us our authoity and prescribes our duty. This unhappy question, which at different times has done so much mis
'chief, kindled high debates in our council, consumed much of the time of our first session, and at last produced a direct appeal to the people at large during the adjournment. No wonder this transaction excited some considerable degree of animosity, especially in those who have been disappointed in the decision of a question so important in itself, and so eagerly contended This unhappy question, we are convinced, has lain at the bottom of all our disputes. Indeed this object has never been out of sight; for whilst one part of us has laboured to purge from the constitution the abuses that have crept in, others have never ceased to hold up the pretended necessity of a convention, Our disputes have produced frequent appeals, in the form of reasons of assent and dissent, some of them too much in the stile of acrimony. Our fellow citizens we trust will be able to distinguish between the voice of reason and the language of disappointment. We should have been happy to have agreed with our brethren; we were obliged to differ with them in opinion, especially on the great point so often mentioned.
One or two objections have been stated by the minority, which deserve a moment's cool attention. It is made an objection, that`explanations of many parts of the constitution are introduced, which it is asserted is the exclusive business of the convention. The business of the convention, if a convention had been called, we apprehend would have been to establish and confirm such amendments, explanations and additions, as had been agreed upon by the council of censors, and promulgated at least six months before the election of the members of the convention. Our business was to examine "whether the constitution had been preserved inviolate in all its parts, and whether the legislative and executive branches of government had assumed to themselves other or greater powers than they were entitled to by the constitution." It was impossible to do this, without explaining what the constitution meant in the different passages which came under consideration upon these questions; as impossible as it would be to determine whether a man had walked in the right path, without examining what the right path is. This is very different from altering the constitution; as different as the duty of a judge is from that of a legislature. Judges in every part of the world explain and declare what the meaning of the law is; but they cannot alter the law. We must have deserted a great, and perhaps the most important part of our duty, that of examining into the deviations from the constitution, if we had not undertaken to explain and understand what the constitution meant. More need not be added on this head,
Another objection is taken to our construction of the 20th section of the constitution, in that part which directs that the supreme executive council are to prepare such business as may appear to them necessary to lay before the general assembly. We have supposed, and have no doubt that this section, which directs the council to prepare such business as may appear to them necessary, directs them to prepare, among other things, sketches, or draughts of bills, which are a part of the business of the house, if on any occasion they should think such business, that is to say such draughts of bills, necessary. We apprehend no other construction can be put on the words. Yet it is asserted' that this construction conveys a monstrous power to the coun
cil, is an incroachment on the authority of the legislature, and amounts to the power of originating all laws in the council. We trust that candid and unprejudiced people will think otherwise, If indeed no bills could be brought before the assembly, but those of which the council prepared the draughts, it would be attended with the dangerous consequences which have been urged against us: But, on the present construction, the legislature have the full power of bringing in and rejecting what bills they please; and as to any draughts which may be prepared by council, the house, if they choose, may even refuse to suffer them to lie on the table. The house have the whole controul, the whole power. Council can only assist the house to expedite such business as they choose to perform, and about which they are willing to receive the assistance of council. There is no danger of any incroachment on the authority of the legislature. They are supreme and sovereign in their own department, and wholly independent of the council. On the other hand council in many instances, particularly as to salaries and pay, are and ought to be dependent upon them. In preparing business to lay before the general assembly, the council will act in subordination to the pleasure of the house, without any authority to controul the legislature. As well might a servant, who is bound to aid and assist his master, be suspected to have it in his power to enslave him. Other objections, in the heat of debate, have been urged and entered on our minutes against our proceedings, Amongst the rest we are blamed for not approving of the power claimed by some persons for the general assembly, of being at once the accusers and judges. of such as may be charged with misconduct in office. We think this a power of an odious nature, which no assemblymen would wish to exercise; and that the only constitutional mode of trial for any supposed crime is either by jury, or on impeachment by the assembly before the council. We are confident that the people of Pennsylvania will never be averse to the fairest and fullest opportunity of defence that can be allowed to a supposed criminal, and will in ordinary cases prefer the mode of trial by jury; in extraodinary, that of impeachment. We think the constitution enjoins it.
But there would be no end to our address, if we were to go into all the disputes that have taken place among us. Good men will judge of our proceedings with candor: intelligent men will reflect and determine for themselves. The minutes of our proceedings are published for the inspection of the world; and we wish them to be impartially examined. We have met with obstructions which we did not expect; but we wish not to inflame; we wish the peace of Pennsylvania. It would crown our days with joy; it would afford the most solid consolation to our declining years (for the most of us have passed the meridian of life) should our endeavors contribute any thing towards re storing the peace and happiness of this distracted state. Should we be disappointed, we shall still console ourselves with the reflection, that we have used our best, our most honest endeavors. By you we were appointed; and into your hands we resign the sacred deposit of the public welfare.
Before we take our final leave, however, we must intreat to be endulged a few words more respecting the conduct which we conceive to be necessary for the preservation of public liberty, and without which the forms of all constitutions are vain. We have seen this state at no yery distant period, with her sister states, kindled into a flame of
patriotism, which enabled us to overlook mere personal considerations, and to consider the interests of the community as of more importance than our own. That glorious principle seems much obscured; but we hope is not extinguished. If we could be induced to lay aside our personal animosities and party prejudices, we are persuaded that public spirit would revive, and the state would be happy.
The immediate effect of this spirit would be, that honest and able men, men of known fidelity, would be employed in the service of the public, and we should all be found promoting the good of each other, instead of quarrelling among ourselves, and hunting down and destroying some of the most faithful friends of the American cause. en years to come, the constitution cannot be changed; it may be obstructed and opposed, abused and misapplied to bad purposes, as the best things often are, and always may be. Should this unhappily be the case, we shall continue to see days of tumult and confusion. But we hope for better things. It is certainly our interest and duty as a people to be at peace with each other, and not to be led away by persons who have private and selfish views, into scenes of discord and misery. If with heart and hand united, we will all combine to support the constitu tion, and apply its injunctions to the best use of society, we shall find it a sourse of the richest blessings. We would earnestly recommend this to you. Give it a fair and honest trial; and if, after all, at the end of another seven years, it shall be found necessary or proper to introduce any changes, they may then be brought in, and established upon a full conviction of their usefulness, with harmony and good temper, without noise, tumult or violence.
May the God of harmony and love deeply impress these senti. ments on all our minds-Farewell.
On the question will the council adopt the said address, the yeas and nays were as follow viz,
The council adjourned till the day preceding the next general election.