AntiFederalistNotes

AntiFederalistNotes - Patrick Henry, Speech Before Virginia...

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Patrick Henry, “Speech Before Virginia Ratifying Convention” Is his rejection of the Constitution grounded in radical or conservative principles? Henry begins by stating, “I have lived long enough to become an old- fashioned fellow…” (1). How does Henry view the duties of the citizen? He notes, “But, sir, suspicion is a virtue as long as its object is the preservation of the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds: should it fall on me, I am contented: conscious rectitude is a powerful consolation. I trust there are many who think my professions for the public good to be real. Let your suspicion look to both sides. There are many on the other side, who possibly may have been persuaded to the necessity of these measures, which I conceive to be dangerous to your liberty. Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined,” (1). What does this require of us? He argues it is spurious to accuse the present government of lacking energy, as it has carried the nation through repeated crises and war (1). He gets to his central suspicions in noting, “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 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,” (1). Henry notes that it is artificial to place one’s faith in nothing but the ‘virtues’ of legislators, and argues, “we are told that we need not fear; because those in power, being our representatives, will not abuse the powers we put in their hands. I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers. I imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny,” (2). In sum, his position is best captured in his saying, “My great objection to this government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights, or of waging war against tyrants,” (2). Henry fears the danger represented by standing armies , and posits, “This acquisition will trample on our fallen liberty… Have we the means of resisting disciplined armies, when our only defence, the militia, is put into the hands of Congress?. .. hither is the spirit of America gone? Whither is the genius of America fled? It was but yesterday, when our enemies marched in triumph through our country. Yet the people of this country could not be appalled by their pompous armaments: they stopped their career, and victoriously captured them. Where is the peril, now, compared to that? Some minds are agitated by foreign
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This note was uploaded on 02/25/2012 for the course 790 376 taught by Professor Murphy during the Spring '09 term at Rutgers.

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AntiFederalistNotes - Patrick Henry, Speech Before Virginia...

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