CONCLUDING REMARKS: EVILS UNDER CONFEDERACY EXAGGERATED; CONSTITUTION MUST BE DRASTICALLY REVISED BEFORE ADOPTION
Melancthon Smith was one of the recognized and indefatigable leaders of the Antifederalists in the New York ratifying convention. The following essay, excerpted from Smith's pamphlet (written under the pseudonym "A PLEBEIAN") An Address to the People of the State of New York: Showing the Necessity of Making Amendments to the Constitution, proposed for the United States, previous to its Adoption ( 1788), reprinted in Ford, Pamphlets, pp. 99-111, neatly summarized the major objections to the Constitution. Largely through the influence of Alexander Hamilton, however, Smith was finally persuaded to vote for ratification. His defection was instrumental in New York's narrow decision (30 to 27) to adopt the Constitution unconditionally.
. . . . It is agreed, the plan is defective--that some of the powers granted, are dangerous--others not well defined--and amendments are necessary. Why then not amend it? Why not remove the cause of danger, and, if possible, even the apprehension of it? The instrument is yet in the hands of the people; it is not signed, sealed, and delivered, and they have power to give it any form they please.
But it is contended, adopt it first, and then amend it. I ask, why not amend, and then adopt it? Most certainly the latter mode of proceeding is more consistent with our ideas of prudence in the ordinary concerns of life. If men were about entering into a contract respecting their private concerns, it would be highly absurd in them to sign and seal an instrument containing stipulations which are contrary to their interests and wishes, under the expectation, that the parties, after its execution, would agree to make alterations agreeable to their desire. They would insist upon the exceptionable clauses being altered before they would ratify the contract. And is a compact for the government of ourselves and our posterity of less moment than contracts between individuals? Certainly not. But to this reasoning, which at first view would appear to admit of no reply, a variety of objections are made, and a number of reasons urged for adopting the system, and afterwards proposing amendments. Such as have come under my observation, I shall state, and remark upon.
It is insisted, that the present situation of our country is such, as not to admit of a delay in forming a new government, or of time sufficient to deliberate and agree upon the amendments which are proper, without involving ourselves in a state of anarchy and confusion.
On this head, all the powers of rhetoric, and arts of description, are employed to paint the condition of this country, in the most hideous and frightful colors. We are told, that agriculture is without encouragement; trade is languishing; private faith and credit are disregarded, and public credit is prostrate; that the laws and magistrates are contemned and set at