SIGNERS OF THE DECLARATION
DECLARATION HISTORICALLY CONSIDERED;
AND A SKETCH OF THE LEADING EVENTS CONNECTED WITH
THE ADOPTION OF
THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION,
THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.
BY B. J. LOSSING,
AUTHOR OF "SEVENTEEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SIX," "LIVES OF THE
ILLUSTRATED BY FIFTY PORTRAITS
AND OTHER ENGRAVINGS.
G. G. EVANS, PUBLISHER,
No. 439 CHESTNUT STREET.
The text of this and other superb works are available on-line from:
The Willison Politics and Philosophy Resource Center
Reprint and digital file April 6, 2002.
This extract from Lossing's Biographies of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence features his Preface, in itself quite interesting, the events leading to ratification of the Constitution, a narrative of the events following the installation of Washington as the First President, and a particularly important quote by John Q. Adams, as to how the new Republic may flourish, or disintegrate.
It should be further noted, that the population in general was familiar with a Biblical world view, as the most popular grade school reading text book was the New England Primer, first introduced in 1690, and well utilized as the standard text into the Revolutionary period. This book featured Biblical themes as a vehicle for learning the alphabet, poems, rhymes, and both the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and John Cotton's Catechism! To see this book on-line, just key the search words "new england primer", there are several sites with download pages of the originals.
It must also be considered, that the majority of citizens attended church, with the Presbyterian and Congregational pastors in particular, regularly teaching the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Catechism to their people. One's duty to their fellow man, their duties to rulers, and the duties of rulers to their subjects is well defined therein. In Massachusetts, the Adams' , needless to say, would have been well affected by the doctrines, as the family worshipped at Braintree's First Congregational Church.
The Following begins the original text, page numbers in the original are shown in brackets as: [ 4 ]
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
G. G. EVANS,
in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court for the, Eastern District of
There are lessons of deep, abiding interest, and of inestimable value, to be learned in studying the lives of the men who perilled their all to secure the blessed inheritance of the institutions which we now enjoy. We do not learn merely the dignity and sacredness of pure patriotism, by following them in their career amid the storms of the Revolution, but all the virtues which adorn humanity are presented in such bold relief, in the private and Public actions of that venerated company, that when we rise from a perusal of a narrative of their lives, we feel as if all the noble qualities of our common manhood had been passing before us in review, and challenging our profound reverence.
The biography of a great man, is an history of his own times; and when we have perused the record of the actions of the men of our Revolution, we have imbibed a general knowledge of the great events of that struggle for Freedom. If this proposition is true, then we feel that this volume has a claim to the public regard, for we have endeavored to comprise within as small a compass as a perspicuous view of the subject would allow; the chief events in the lives of the men who stood sponsors at the baptism in blood of our Infant Republic.
The memoirs are illustrated by copious notes explanatory of events alluded to in the course of the biographical narrative, and these, we believe, will be found a highly useful feature of the work.
We have made free use of materials long since laid before the public by abler pens than our own. We did not expect to add much that is new to the biographical facts already published; our aim was to condense those facts into the space of a volume so small, that the price of it would make it accessible to our whole population. It is the mission of true patriotism to scatter the seeds of knowledge broad-cast amid those in the humbler walks of society, because adventitious circumstances deny them access to the full granary of information, where the wealthy are filled; for these humbler ones are equal inheritors of the throne of the people’s sovereignty, and are no less powerful than others at the ballot-box where the nation decides who its rulers shall be.
The final adoption of the Federal Constitution, and the organization of the present government of the United States under it, formed the climax—the crowning act of the drama of which the Declaration of Independence was the opening scene. We therefore thought it proper to append to the biographies, a brief sketch of the legislative events which led to the formation and adoption of the Constitution. The Declaration is pregnant with grave charges against the King of Great Britain—charges which his apologists have essayed to deny. We have taken them up in consecutive order as they stand in the document, and adduced proofs from historical facts, of the truth of those charges. These proofs might have been multiplied, but our space would not permit amplification.
With these brief remarks, we send our volume forth with the pleasing hope that it may prove useful to the young and humble of our beloved land, unto whom we affectionately dedicate it.
NEW YORK, April, 1848.
The following begins the extract concerning the ratification of the Constitution of 1787, Washington's Inauguration, and John Q. Adam's pointed observations, Willison Ed.
[ 366 ] CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
As soon as the Constitution was presented to Congress, that body adopted a resolution, by which it was recommended to. the several states, to call conventions within their respective jurisdictions to consider it, and adopt or reject it. It was agreed that when nine of the thirteen states should ratify it, it should become the fundamental law of the land.
In every state in the Union, there was a strong party opposed to the constitution, and frequently the leaders in the opposition were men whose patriotism was beyond reproach. Among these was Patrick Henry, of Virginia, who opposed its ratification by the Assembly of his state, with all his gigantic powers. The annulling, to a great
[ 367 ] CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
extent, of State Rights, and basing the sovereignty too absolutely upon the popular will, were the chief objections to the instrument; for the experience of all former ages had shown, that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating, and short-lived. Despotism, arising from a centralization of power in the general government, on one hand, and anarchy incident to the instability of democracy, on The other, were the Scylla and Charybdis, between which the republic would, in the opinion of these opponents, be placed, with almost a certainty of destruction. Long and stormy sessions were therefore had in the several state conventions, and in most of them, the majorities in favor of the constitution were small.* It was not until the twenty first of June, 1788, that New Hampshire, the ninth state, ratified it, and it became the law of the land. Rhode Island did not give its sanction until the twenty ninth of May, 1790.
The friends of the new Constitution greatly rejoiced when its ratification was secured by a majority of the states; and it was gratifying to see many of the patriotic leaders of the opposition, submit cheerfully to the will of the majority, and lend their aid in carrying its provisions into operation. Steps were immediately taken to organize the government under it, the most important of which was, the election of a Chief Magistrate. The friends of the new constitution turned their eyes upon Washington;
—indeed his name seemed first to occur to the mind
*A periodical, devoted to the advocacy of the principles and doctrines of the constitution, was started, under the auspices of Hamilton. Madison and others. It was called "The Federalist." and was filled with essays, arguing in favor of the proposed change in the government. Those opposed to the constitution styled themselves "Anti-Federalists," and this was the origin of those party names, one of which is familiar to the ear even in our day. Washington belonged to the Federal party, and, although he saw many defects in the constitution, yet it was so much better than all that preceded it, that he gave it his hearty support It was during his administration, that the "Republican" party came into being, with Mr. Jefferson at its head.
[ 368 ] CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
of the whole nation. The first Presidential Electors were chosen in February, 1789, and on the first Wednesday of March, the Electoral College met to vote for Chief Magistrate. Washington received the unanimous vote of the electors, and John Adams was chosen Vice President.
But one act more remained to complete the glorious work begun in 1776, by declaring the colonies "free and independent states." That act was the inauguration of the first President of the Republic, now placed upon a stable basis. It took place in the city of New York, on the thirtieth day of April, 1789. As soon as Washington was apprized of his election, he proceeded to the seat of the general government, at New York. His journey was one triumphant procession, grander far, because of its noble moral aspect, than any that ever attended the return to the capital of the proudest of Rome’s many victors. No sorrowing captives; no spoils of palaces and temples; no gorgeous display of banners and spears, and all the dreadful pomp of barbarous War, attended the Hero’s march; but through busy towns and smiling fields his pathway to highest exaltation was laid out, and the shouts of a grateful people, mingled with the songs of children and the sweet hosannas of women, greeted him at every step.
At nine o’clock on the morning of his inauguration, Washington attended divine service,[ Bold Italics added, Willison Ed.] a fit preparation for the solemn scene in which he was about to engage. He then proceeded to the old Federal Hall, and upon the balcony, in the presence of assembled thousands, Chancellor Livingston administered to him the oath of office, and proclaimed him the President of the United States. The Revolution was complete, the divine truth of Man’s Equality was vindicated, and our Republic—the pride and glory of the earth, started upon its wondrous career.
[ 369 ] CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
In the language of that lamented statesman and sage John Quincy Adams, we say to our countrymen---
"And now the future is all before us, and Providence our guide.
"When the children of Israel, after forty years of wanderings in the wilderness, were about to enter upon the promised land, their leader, Moses, who was not permitted to cross the Jordan with them, just before his removal from among them, commanded that when the Lord their God should have brought them into the land, they should put the curse upon Mount Ebal, and the blessing upon Mount Gerizim. This injunction was faithfully fulfilled by his successor Joshua. Immediately after they had taken possession of the land, Joshua built an altar to the Lord, of whole stones, upon Mount Ebal. And there he wrote upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written in the presence of the children of Israel: and all Israel, and their elders and officers, and their judges, stood on the two sides of the ark of the covenant, borne by the priests and Levites, six tribes over against Mount Gerizim, and six over against Mount Ebal. And he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that was written in the book of the law.
[ Note: This quote from John Q. Adams refers to Joshua 8: 30 ff., Where Joshua re-affirms to the people Moses' instructions in Deuteronomy ch. 28 through 34. Moses clearly set before the people two paths they have option to follow, they being blessings or cursings, to choose life, or death. Subsequent Israelite history proves a clear cause and effect relationship, as their society prospered when they were following Divine instruction, (blessing, life) or societal breakdown, and expulsion by the Babylonians ( ca. 585 B.C. ) when they acted in defiance to the Divine Counsel, ( cursings, death). The fact that Adams brings this concept to bear in application to the operation of the new American Government, and ultimately to every citizen is clear, convincing, and undeniable proof that the Founders regarded the continued benevolent existence of our society as only maintained by a citizenry knowing and applying a Biblical world view. Atheism and Deism were antithesis to the founding of our Government. By further application, the individual State constitutions after 1776 required candidates for public office to in some way affirm their acceptance of the teachings of the Biblical Christian faith, thereby ensuring that elected officials understood their Biblical duties to be performed as depicted in Exodus 1:9-18 Willison Ed. ]
"Fellow-citizens, the ark of your covenant is the Declaration of Independence. Your Mount Ebal, is the confederacy of separate state sovereignties, and your Mount Gerizim is the Constitution of the United States. In that scene of tremendous and awful solemnity, narrated in the Holy Scriptures, there is not a curse pronounced against the people, upon Mount Ebal, not a blessing promised them upon Mount Gerizim, which your posterity may not suffer or enjoy, from your and their adherence to, or departure from, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, practically interwoven in
[ 370 ] CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
the Constitution of the United States. Lay up these principles, then, in your hearts, and in your souls—bind them for signs upon your hands, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes—teach them to your children, speaking of them when sitting in your houses, when walking by the way, when lying down and when rising up—write them upon the doorplates of your houses, and upon your gates—cling to them as to the issues of life—adhere to them as to the coils of your eternal salvation."
[ Note: Adams blatantly charges all the people the same charge Moses gave to the Israelites in Deut. 6, vv. 6-10, that they may continually remember the oppression from which they were delivered, and by Whom it was done, Willison Ed.]