[Thomas Tredwell] to [Edwin Croswell], [c7 February 1828]
The Editor of the Albany Gazette of _____ _____ after noticing that several amendments to the constitution are now before Congress respecting the Electoral law without telling us what they are but seems to suppose that the present federal Constitution, may possibly be considered, like the Jewish Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched by profane hands.
I fear we shall have deep reason to regret that the Confederation that sacred ark of our freedom was not more reverenced by the Framers of his Sanctum Sanctorum. That was consecrated by the best blood in our Country and by the most solemn vows ever made by men, the fundamental principles of which, to wit, the dependences of the State Sovereignties on the People, and of the general Government, on the State Sovereignties, ought never to have been touched or altered. Whatever alteration change ^of circumstances^ might render necessary in non essentials.
The grand security the People have against oppression from their own State Governments are Their frequent Elections, by which they have it in their power, whenever they suffer any greviance from their Governments to obtain redress in a peaceable and quiet way by removing the authors of them from office. And by the Articles of Confederation and perfect Union the state Sovereignties have the same powerful and strong guard against the encroachments or oppressions of the General Government. This is the advantage which People under a free government have over those who live under a Monarchy the latter however greviously oppressed have no remedy but force.
contemplate ^complete^ this beautiful and happy System, which was once ours, it will be absolutely necessary the Powers and authorities of Congress should be explicitly plainly and unequivocally defined and marked out, that those powers should be exclusive there should be no concurrent Jurisdiction that may interfere with each other and every party, to wit, the People, the States, and the Congress should each be contented within their own limits, and be very careful not to incroach on each others Jurisdiction. But the present Constitution has by giving to the people the choice of the members of Congress given a deep wound to the very vitals of our federal union and state Sovereignties. And the bringing forward the Electoral Law with so much hurry and zeal seems to shew a determination in some of our Monarchists and Aristocrats obstinately to persevere < unclear word> in the attempt to consolidate our whole Country into one solid Government by taking from the State governments and giving to the People the choice of the members of the general Government which will overset our whole system at once by changing it from a confederation of free Republics into one solid Government which would in fact be monarchy whatever false name it should be called ^by^. And it any Man, Party or body of men, should be able by any hollow or false pretentions of Friendship for them or their ideal rights prevail upon the People to become the Suicides of their own free governments by taking from them, into their own hands the whole management and controul of the general Government they would promote the views of the Legitimates in Europe in their confederacy for the destruction of all free and republican Governments, more effectually than all the many millions of treasures and of lives they have already sacrificed for that holy purpose. If our Government could be restored to the true original principles on which it was founded we should be happier at home and much more respected abroad than we should be, if the Monarchists should succeed in their scheme of Consolidation. In case of a consolidation will not the people ^think^ when they discover the error they have been led into by the leaders in whom they put a confidence, and see they have given to Congress by a short Sentence a power which ought not to be given to any Government on earth. That is power to provide for the general welfare of the People of the United States with this clause standing in force, it was quite neeedless for the President to warn Congress not to exceed their Powers, for that short sentense furnishes them with powers for every purpose under the sun, and the rest of that clause and all the other clauses in the constitution giving power to Congress might as well ^have been^ erased.
The People finding they had unintentionally armed the General Government with absolute and unlimited powers and that they had prostrated their own State Governments and reduced them to mere forms of Republics without substance or Power which could be more easily made to appear both to them and to foreigners, than their right by the constitution to choose the Electors for President, and sooner or later this will be discovered, what I ask will be the feelings of the People who have for nearly forty years been continually entertained with the highest and most boasting Encomiums on the federal constitution both at home and from abroad these Encomiums justly due to the administration of it, they have been led to ascribe to the instrument itself. This is a most dangerous error and has served to lull the People into a state of security for nearly forty years (about the
time ^length^ of time which the sage Dr Franklin presaged that the people might be tolerably happy under it if well administered). An absolute monarchy would be the best form of Government on earth if the People could be assure and forever secured of a perfectly wise and good Administration, but in the present depraved and corrupt State of human nature what People who have it in their Power to avoid it would consent to put themselves under an absolute Monarchy, for in order to secure a good A^d^ministration of it not only the monarch but all the subordinates officers must be equally wise and good. The bone and marrow of bringing forward the Electoral law the object of which is to make the President also independent of the State Sovereignties is so evident a proof of the obstinate determination of the monarchists of whom I hope we have but few in our Counsils, to bring about a dissolution of our federal union by consolidation is sufficient to alarm the friends of both the federal and state Governments for they must all stand or fall together, and to convince them, that it is high time to awake out of their deadly Slumber in to which they have been lulled by the most false and delusive appearances and to join heart and hand in procuring such Amendments to our federal Constitution as will effectually discourage our sacred ^secret^ monarchists from any further attempts of destroying ^to destroy^ our federal Union At this Ominous time when open war is declared against all free Republicks ^by the holy alliance who have already erased the name of republics^ from all the maps of the Eastern Hemisphere. And I fear will not suffer the noble Grecians to give any other name to their Chief Magistrate than King: and who there is every reason to expect will use every means in their power either by intrigue or otherwise to prevent our Southern Neighbours from settling down under free republican Governments like ours and from combining together for mutual defence by a federal Union. At this critical period in the politics of the world is not reasonable to suspect, or rather would it not be weakness, and blindness, and I would say almost madness in our Rulers and People not to suspect that our monarchists are urged on and assisted by the holy Alliance to hasten their scheme of destroying our free States and federal union by Consolidation.
This was evident by the design of the present Constitution of the United States as the preamble plainly shews, and most of the enacting clauses are expressed with great Ingenuity in such a manner, as to admit of constructions which would seat either a Consolidated or a federal one, if the first should not succeed in consequence of which, it is hard calculating how many years of the time of Congress since the General Constitution was framed, has been spent in debating about their powers.
This circumstance alone from mere motives of Oconomy ought to bring about a speedy and thorough revision of the Constitution, and that every word sentence or paragraph, that will admit of a doubt or doubtful meaning or construction should be expunged and the most explicit and unequivical ones inserted in their stead so that the limits of their authority may be as clearly ascertained and marked out as the bounds of their ten miles Square. But there are many other powerful reasons which shew not only the expediency but the absolute necessity of a speedy revision of the nited States Constitution. The flame raised in the Country about giving the People the choice of the Electors of the President evidently designed to render the general Government independent of the state Sovereignties, and making that Government Sovereign within the States which would overthrow the first and most essential principles of our federal union. The additional Number of States and the great increase of the Population and of the extent of the Territories of the united States make a speedy revission of the Constitution necessary and as a number of amendments are already ^and^ many more may be proposed I think that it would expedite the business of Congress to take up the constitution generally and appoint large committees of ^or agent of^ both houses
and ^to^ report what amendments are necessary to it. The present Constitution has and evident and direct tendency to reduce these united States to a monarchy and the Electoral law evidently aims at the same [. . .] these appear to be the two grand obstacles that stand in the way of bringing ba[ck] our Government to its true federal principles. To get rid of these two di[f]ficulties, I can think of no easier way than to treat the first with as little reverence, as the Framers of it did the Confederation, that <unclear word> is to throw it under the table, and to pick up the latter and add <unclear word> all the powers necessary for the general government and such fu[. . .] alterations as the greatly altered circumstances of our country req[uire] And as ^to^ the second Obstacle it may be easily removed by suppress[ing] that useless board of Electors and making the The assemblies of [. . .] several States which shall be chosen meet before the Presidential Ele[c]tion comes on the immediate Electors of President and vice President This will simplify our Government and give to the People in a cons[ti]tutional and much more rational and satisfactory way the choice of Electors which their pretended friends have asserted to be their right as confidently and as boldly as if they thought it to be true. This w[. . .] not weaken our State Sovereignties, which must maintained a[t] all events if we mean to preserve our liberties, we must have no Sovereignty within our territories but the State Governments they are each of them amply competent to managing the internal affairs and interests of the state over which they preside and the [peo]ple in their individual capacity ^must not^ meddle with or interfere in the choice or appointment of any branch or member of the general Government but through their representatives, lest they sad[dle] themselves with two Sovereigns which no country will bear.
The board of Electors must be dessolved or the People canno[t] have the choice of the Elec^t^ors. This Electoral College as some now call [it] is not only a useless but a dangerous and very expensive institute[ion] and (if I can Judge of other States by this) has cost the People of th[e] United States more ^at the last election for President^ than would support all their Colleges and Se[mi]naries of learning for a whole presidential term. Besides it opens [a] door for the most dangerous and corrupt Intrigues.
I have been for sixty years, i e from the time of the stamp act, [an] idle or superficial observer of the very interesting Politics of this [. . .] and during that space of time I think I have never seen ^quite^ so [. . .] a scene of corrupt intrigue and alarming profligacy of princip[les] as was exhibited in this state to procure the passage of the Electoral [law] If any should doubt the real design of the monarchists in the Fed[eral] convention I would refer them to the Electoral law as a full and cle[ar] demonstration of it. That law giving the choice of the Electors to [the] People, and the clause in the constitution giving to the People the choic[e] of the representatives in Congress both of them have so clear and a[r]dent ^a^ tendency towards consolidation; which is monarchy in a very thin disguise, that it is rational to conclude, and indeed it would be absurd and dangerous not to conclude, that the principal end and design of both was monarchy.
And their inclinations being so similar both tending to one point affords the strongest presumption, that both owe their origin to the same source
to the same source, the same concealed Caucus of Monarchists, secret Caucuses being the only ones tollerated by their party, they having at the last Election, denounced all public ones for the following obvious Reasons. The Federals because it is the only probable means that can be devised to enable the minority to rule over the majority. And the monarchists, because if no public nominations should be allowed of, they would always have it in their power by a secret caucus in the same manner, and by the same means by which they procured the passage of the electoral law, to govern all our elections and to procure the choice of such persons; as would not be agreeable to eith[er] the republicans, or federal parties. That the Electoral bill was not brought forward with a view of favouring any one of the candidates for the Presidency appears pretty plain for the following reasons first from the impossibility of making any calculations in whose favor it might operate and secondly from its being of little importance to the public, which of them should be the successful candidate, and lastly from the unabated zeal and anxiety of its supporters to hurry the bill forward after the Election was over by this it appears, that they held it up as merely a party question in order to blind the eyes of the People to their principal view consolidation and to gain the assistance of the Federal party to depress the republicans, who ever since the beginning of Jefferson’s administration have been the chief obstacle to the completion of their darling scheme. ^This^ path shewn us what secret caucuses can do that are well supplied with money.
Tis money makes the mare to go, the whip to go, the tongue to go, the pens to go, and nearly all the presses in the united States to go, and all the People to run—mad, and if they are not speedily stopped in their mad career the senate of congress must go next and the federal Government will go to nothing our federal Union go to pieces our state Governmen[t] to go to dust, These United States go into the insatiate
mad maw of a monarchy, which perhaps e’er long would be fit to go into the holy alliance And ^then^ we should have great reason to rejoice if we were all fitted for ^to go to^ heaven as freedom would be able to find no place of abode upon earth. If any will look into the old confederation they will see that the state Sovereignties are ^there^ so carefully guarded as to convince them it was meant that Congress should never become the Sovereign power in the United States, the authority given to congress to be exercised within the United States Being few and small relating only to such matters, as all or more than one of the states should be interested ^in^ and to preserve the peace and Integrity of the union, they having nothing to do with the internal concerns, interest or welfare of the People, this is the exclusive province of the State Governments
But to all the rest of the world the federal government have as complete a sovereignty as any of the monarchs on earth and if our Government can be restored to the true principles on which our federal union was formed (the only principles on which a free Government can be formed of sufficient extent for self preservation and on which I think one might be formed which would have more to fear from secret intrigue (which has already so nearly overset it) than from open force) the People will be contented and happy at home under their own free Governments and the General Government be respected abroad among all nations.
We might reasonably suppose that the high and important authorities, necessarily
convened ^invested^ in the General Government would afford a field of amply sufficient extent for the exercise and display of the most brilliant talents, and to gratify any but an insatiable ambition, which like avarice and ^the greed^ will never cry Enough. If Congress should give to the People the choice of President and vice President which I see is moved for in our Legislature it would be a deep, if not mortal wound to our Sovereignties, which must at all events be supported, and it is the duty as well as interest of Congress and of the People too, if they know their own interest to support them; for the State Sovereignt[ies] are the pillars on which the federal Government is founded and on which it must stand, if it is to stand and the b[. . .] of the Liberties of the People: they must and will all stand or fall together. This obstinate perseverance and haste in our monarchists to complete their scheme of consolidation shews I think clearly the expediency of the measure I proposed before that is, that Congress refer the whole constitution to a committee for a thorough revision (for never was there an Instrument that wanted it more) and ^to^ report such amendments and alterations as they should judge the principles of our federal union and the great alterations in the circumstances of our Country requires I need not repeat the amendment I proposed which I am pretty confident would satisfy the People in general as to the choice of Electors, and stop the mouths of the Monarchists and if it did not would at last ^discover^ who they are, which would be a considerable point gained.
If you should agree with me in the sentiments, which I have occasionally, and crudely penned down as they have occurred to me and which I think the best and much the greatest
may ^part of the People may be^ brought over too by much less pains and expense than has been taken to raise that violent and seditious flame in the people ^ them^ which made it dangerous for the real friends of the people to speak their sentiments for fear of being mobbed of burnt either in effigy or in person; but now I think the People are returning to their senses in spite of the newspapers most of which keep up the same tone ^yet,^ and that there will be no danger, but they will rejoice acquiesce and rejoice in it if Congress make ^should recommend^ a thorough revision of the constitution and give ^it^ the name of confederation again (a name so dreadful to the legitimates) and strike out every word sentence or clause that any way favours or tends to consolidation or monarchy which that Instrument was evident designed for, Now is the time the only opportunity that perhaps may ever occur of peaceably securing our free institutions, by convincing the monarchists that their intrigues are discovered and that they must remove to their eastern world if they cannot live Contented and quiet under a free Government.
Editorial Note: This letter was forwarded in Thomas Tredwell to MVB, 7 February 1828.