Constitution Sunday: “An American Citizen” [Tench Coxe] I

“An American Citizen” [Tench Coxe] I

Independent Gazetteer (Philadelphia), September 26, 1787

Following is an excerpt:

“When the declaration of independence completed the separation between the two countries, new governments were necessarily established. Many circumstances led to the adoption of the republican form, among which was the predilection of the people.—In devising the frames of government it may have been difficult to avoid extreme opposites to the vices of that we had just rejected; nevertheless many of the State constitutions, we have chosen, are truly excellent. Our misfortunes have been, that in the first instance we adopted no national government at all, but were kept together by common danger only, and that in the confusions of a civil war we framed a Federal Constitution now universally admitted to be inadequate to the preservation of liberty, property, and the union.—The question is not then how far our State Constitutions are good or otherwise—the object of our wishes is to amend and supply the evident and allowed errors and effects of the Federal Government.—Let us consider awhile, that which is now proposed to us—let us compare it with the so much boasted British form of government, and see how much more it favors the people and how completely it secures their rights, remembering at the same time that we did not dissolve our connexion with that country so much on account of its constitution as the perversion and mal-administration of it.”

This article in the Independent Gazetteer captured a prominent sentiment leading up to the drafting of the Constitution: a better system is possible and Americans must strive for it. It was clear that independence occurred partly as a result of Americans uniting against Britain, but also because America needed to create a fresh system that would not be mal-administered or perverted.

Notably, the article admits that the system as it stood in 1787 was “inadequate to the preservation of liberty, property, and the union.” The first step to fixing the system was admitting it was deeply faulted.

Leave a Reply