Using Deliberative Techniques to Teach United States History

By Eleanora Von Dehsen; Nancy Claxton | Go to book overview

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Anti-Federalists

PATRICK HENRY, IN DEBATE IN THE SEVERAL STATE CONVENTIONS

The Confederation, this same despised government, merits, in my opinion,
the highest encomium. It carried us through a long and dangerous war, it
rendered us victorious in that bloody conflict with a powerful nation; it has
secured us a territory greater than any European monarch possesses; and shall
a government which has been thus strong and vigorous, be accused of imbe-
cility and want of energy? Consider what you are about to do before you part
with the government … Similar examples are to be found in ancient Greece
and ancient Rome—instances of the people losing their liberty by their own
carelessness, and the ambition of a few. We are cautioned by the honorable
gentleman who presides, against faction and turbulence. I acknowledge that
licentiousness [excess] is dangerous, and that it ought to be provided against;
I acknowledge also, the new form of government may effectually prevent it;
yet there is another thing it will as effectually do—it will oppress and ruin the
people.

… Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism.
There will be no checks, no real balances.… But, sir, we are not feared by for-
eigners; we do not make nations tremble. Would this constitute happiness or
secure liberty?

… Go to the poor man and ask him what he does. He will inform you that he
enjoys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig tree, with his wife and children
around him, in peace and security.… Why then, tell us of dangers, to terrify us
into an adoption of this new form of government?

-44-

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