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The Ratification Debates
Digital History ID 191

Author:   Henry Knox


In this letter to Washington, General Henry Knox discusses the nature of the Constitution's supporters and opponents.


The constitution has labored in Massachusetts exceedingly more than was expected. The opposition has not arisen from a consideration of the merits or demerits of the thing itself, as a political machine, but from a deadly principle levelled at the existence of all government whatever. The principle of insurgency expanded, deriving fresh strength and life from the impunity with which the rebellion of last year was suffered to escape. It is a singular circumstance, that in Massachusetts the property, the ability, and the virtue of the State, are almost solely in favor of the constitution. Opposed to it are the late insurgents, and all those who abetted their designs, constituting four fifths of the opposition. A few, very few indeed, well meaning people are joined to them. The friends of the constitution in that State, without overrating their own importance, conceived that the decision of Massachusetts would most probably settle the fate of the proposition. They therefore proceeded most cautiously and wisely, debated every objection with the most guarded good nature and candor, but took no questions on the several paragraphs, and thereby prevented the establishment of parties. This conduct has been attended with the most beneficial consequences. It is now no secret, that, on the opening of the convention, a majority were prejudiced against it.

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Henry Knox to George Washington

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