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deceived the people, by promising to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey; instead of doing which, he had brought them from such a land; and that he thought light of all this mischief, provided he could make himself an absolute prince.* That, to support the new dignity with splendor in his family, the partial poll-tax already levied and given to Aaron † was to be followed by a general one,f which would probably be augmented from time to time, if he were suffered to go on promulgating new laws, on pretence of new occasional revelations of the divine will, till their whole fortunes were devoured by that aristocracy.”
Moses denied the charge of peculation; and his accusers were destitute of proofs to support it; though facts, if real, are in their nature capable of proof. “I have not,” said he (with holy confidence in the presence of God), “I have not taken from this people the value of an ass, nor done them any other injury.” But his enemies had made the charge, and with some success among the populace; for no kind of accusation is so readily made, or easily believed, by knaves, as the accusation of knavery.
In fine, no less than two hundred and fifty of the principal men, “famous in the congregation, men of renown,” ş heading and exciting the mob, worked them up to such a pitch of phrensy, that they called out, “ Stone them, stone them, and thereby secure our liberties; and let us choose other captains, that may lead us back into Egypt, in case we do not succeed in reducing the Canaanites!”
* Numbers, ch. xvi. verse 13. “Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill. us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us ? "
Numbers, ch. iii. | Exodus, ch. xxx § Numbers, ch. xvi. VOL. V.
On the whole, it appears, that the Israelites were a people jealous of their newly-acquired liberty, which jealousy was in itself no fault; but, when they suffered it to be worked upon by artful men, pretending public good, with nothing really in view but private interest, they were led to oppose the establishment of the new constitution, whereby they brought upon themselves much inconvenience and misfortune. It further appears, from the same inestimable history, that, when after many ages that constitution was become old and much abused, and an amendment of it was proposed, the populace, as they had accused Moses of the ambition of making himself a prince, and cried out, “Stone him, stone him;” so, excited by their high priests and scribes, they exclaimed against the Messiah, that he aimed at becoming the King of the Jews, and cried, “ Crucify him, crucify him.” From all which we may gather, that popular opposition to a public measure is no proof of its impropriety, even though the opposition be excited and headed by men of distinction.
To conclude, I beg I may not be understood to infer, that our General Convention was divinely inspired, when it formed the new federal constitution, merely because that constitution has been unreasonably and vehemently opposed; yet I must own I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence, that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being.
QUERIES AND REMARKS
RESPECTING ALTERATIONS IN THE CONSTITUTION
The first Constitution of Pennsylvania was adopted in 1776. Dr. Franklin was a principal agent in forming it. The following QUERIES AND REmarks were written in reply to a paper, entitled “Hints for the Members of Convention,” which was published in the Federal Gazette, November 3d, 1789.- Editor.
I. OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH.
“ Your executive should consist of a single person.”
On this I would ask, Is he to have no council ? How is he to be informed of the state and circumstances of the different counties, their wants, their abilities, their dispositions, and the characters of the principal people, respecting their integrity, capacities, and qualifications for offices? Does not the present construction of our executive provide well for these particulars? And, during the number of years it has existed, have its errors or failures in answering the end of its appointment been more or greater than might have been expected from a single person?
“ But an individual is more easily watched and controlled than any greater number.”
On this I would ask, Who is to watch and control him ? and by what means is he to be controlled? Will
not those means, whatever they are, and in whatever body vested, be subject to the same inconveniences of expense, delay, obstruction of good intentions, &c., which are objected to the present executive ?
II. THE DURATION OF THE APPOINTMENT.
“ This should be governed by the following principles, the independence of the magistrate, and the stability of his administration ; neither of which can be secured but by putting both beyond the reach of every annual gust of folly and of faction.”
On this it may be asked, ought it not also to be put beyond the reach of every triennial, quinquennial, or septennial gust of folly and faction, and, in short, beyond the reach of folly and of faction at any period whatever? Does not this reasoning aim at establishing a monarchy at least for life, like that of Poland ? or to prevent the inconveniences such as that kingdom is subject to in a new election on every decease ? Are the freemen of Pennsylvania convinced, from a view of the history of such governments, that it will be for their advantage to submit themselves to a government of such construction ?
III. ON THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH. “A plural legislature is as necessary to good government as a single executive. It is not enough that your legislature should be numerous ; it should also be divided. Numbers alone are not a sufficient barrier against the impulses of passion, the combination of interest, the intrigues of faction, the haste of folly, or the spirit of encroachment. One division should watch over and control the other, supply its wants, correct its blunders, and cross its designs, should they be criminal or erroneous. Wisdom is the specific quality of the legislature, grows out of the number of the body, and is made up of the portions of sense and knowledge which each member brings to it.”
On this it may be asked, May not the wisdom brought to the legislature by each member be as effectual a barrier against the impulses of passion, & Co, when the members are united in one body, as when they are divided? If one part of the legislature may control the operations of the other, may not the impulses of passion, the combinations of interest, the intrigues of faction, the haste of folly, or the spirit of encroachment in one of those bodies obstruct the good proposed by the other, and frustrate its advantages to the public ? Have we not experienced in this State, when a province under the government of the proprietors, the mischiefs of a second branch existing in the proprietary family, countenanced and aided by an aristocratic council ? How many delays and what great expenses were occasioned in carrying on the public business; and what a train of mischiefs, even to the preventing of the defence of the province during several years, when distressed by an Indian war, by the iniquitous demand that the proprietary property should be exempt from taxation! The wisdom of a few members in one single legislative body, may it not frequently stifle bad motions in their infancy, and so prevent their being adopted? whereas, if those wise men, in case of a double legislature, should happen to be in that branch wherein the motion did not arise, may it not, after being adopted by the other, occasion long disputes and contentions between the two bodies, expensive to the public, obstructing the public business, and promoting factions among the people, many