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Higginson, Stephen (1743-1828) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.03452 Author/Creator: Higginson, Stephen (1743-1828) Place Written: Boston, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 13 February 1787 Pagination: 4 p. ; 22.8 x 18.4 cm.

Summary of Content: Discusses the upcoming Convention in May to possibly create a new system of government and Constitution. Writes that the idea of such a convention "may not only be new, but may appear to interfere with that article in the Confederation, which provides that, 'no alteration therein shall be made without the consent of all the states.' But will not that consent be naturally obtained, by the recommendation of Congress to the States to adopt this mode, as they are all supposed to be, at all times, represented in that Body?" Provides evidence to support this argument, and discusses the usefulness of such a convention. Describes the success of General [Benjamin] Lincoln's expedition to stop Shays' Rebellion, but declares that the disaffection of the people is "deeply rooted." Discusses financial support for General [Henry] Jackson's regiment. Recipient inferred.

Full Transcript: [draft] [partial]

[2] ...when it originates from a recommendation of Congress, and is perfected by Conventions specially and fully empowered by the States in the manner proposed, the consent of the ...States, or some of them, may possibly be obtained in this way when they may not intend it, and perhaps without their knowing it at the time, but having in any way gained it, and the Constitution reported being ratified by Congress, a small minority may then clamour or complain in vain. If there be any indirect mode of drawing the States into the adoption of a more efficient form of Government, will it not be more eligible to attempt an alteration by such means, rather than to hazard a direct appeal to their reason and Judgments. We are apt in political, as in other views, to start at Objects, which at a distance, from their novelty alone, perhaps, may very much alarm us; but if we are imperceptibly brought to a more close and perfect vision of them, our fears and opposition subside, we become familiar with, and sometimes strongly attached to them.
[3] ... you will endeavour no doubt to draw strong arguments from the insurrection in this State, in favour of an efficient general Government for the Union. As all the States are at least equally exposed with this to such Commotions, and none of them are capable of the exertions we have made, they will have reason to fear the worst consequences to themselves, unless the Union shall have force enough to give the [inserted: illegible] effectual aid in a like case. - Those who now have the administration of Government in the several States, and [4] and for the Union, must seize every opportunity to increase its energy and stability; or Insurgents will soon rise up, and take the reins from them. this consideration, which I take to be founded in truth, and the nature of things, should guard those in office and power from an undue and ill timed modesty, as to the means to be used for increasing the powers of Government, and the manner of exercising them when acquired.
These are sentiments too free and bold to be, as yet, very freely and generally held forth; but the time is coming, and every man in his sphere should contribute to accelerate its arrival, when they will be very popular and generally practiced upon. But, as it is yet at some distance you will, I am persuaded, not too openly hand them out, even as those of another. I write you see in confidence, and I remain respectfully
Your huml Serv't
Stephen Higginson
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People: Higginson, Stephen, 1743-1828
Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Lincoln, Benjamin, 1733-1810
Jackson, Henry, 1747-1809

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: US ConstitutionArticles of ConfederationRevolutionary War GeneralGovernment and CivicsUS Constitutional ConventionLawContinental CongressCongressMilitary HistoryRebellionMobs and RiotsShays' RebellionFinance

Sub Era: Creating a New Government

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