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Smith, Meriwether (1730-1790) to the Freeholders of the County of Westmoreland

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02450.18 Author/Creator: Smith, Meriwether (1730-1790) Place Written: Bathurst, Virginia Type: Manuscript document signed Date: 21 December 1788 Pagination: 1 p. : docket ; 38.5 x 31.5 cm.

Announces Meriwether Smith's desire to become a representative in Congress for the district containing Essex County, Virginia, through the upcoming election, the first under the recently ratified Constitution. Cites his public service during the Revolutionary War and his desire to improve the Constitution.

To the Freeholders of the County of Westmoreland
Friends & Fellow Citizens!
The Custom is already established that apologizes for my addressing you in this Manner; The exercise of a free and unbiased judgment on your part upon the Important Occasion will give an Example to your posterity, by which, in the day of Encroachment, they may [inserted: take] courage to assert and maintain their Essential Rights; and whilst they look back to precedents established in the Freedom and Firmness of their Forefathers,~ they will boldly Trample upon the neck of the Tyrant who may attempt to bind them contrary to the Rights of Nature and the just principles of Society.
The approaching Election of a member of Congress for the District of which your County is a part, gives me an opportunity of declaring my wish to serve you in that character and of assuring you that the Confidence which you may place in me by your suffrages, shall be equalled by my Zeal and Attention to your Political Interest and Happiness.
In the days of Difficulty, Distress, and Danger, I stood among the foremost in asserting and defending your Rights against the Oppression and Power of Great Britain. The approbation of my Country so repeatedly manifested, hath been considered by me as the highest Reward: But if Age and Experience in public affairs have weight with you in Applications of this Nature, I flatter myself that my pretensions to your favourable Regard are not ill founded.
The establishing a Constitution of Government as the Result of cool deliberation and discussion, is an Advantage which the Americans have experienced in an Eminent Degree. But the present Moment should be well Improved. To rest satisfied with the Adoption of the New Constitution proceeding from a supposed Necessity of~ changing the old form of Government, may be fatal to you. It should secure in its Operations your Rights & Interests against Ambition and Avarice the constant Enemies of both Civil and Religious Liberty. It should be critically examined and not suffered by precedents founded on the Construction of loose and inaccurate Expressions, to speak a Language and assume a principal neither understood nor foreseen by the people when they adopted it.
Although I am sensible of the necessity of Reformation in Government, I own I do not like the Constitution in its present Dress. I fear it is a Wolf in Sheep's clothing, that will seek a fit opportunity to devour us. But whatever may be my sentiments I hold it the duty of every good citizen to submit to the Determination of the Majority, as the only rule by which free Societies can be supported. Time may better inform the Judgment, and Experience correct the Errors that may be found in it.
I am with unfeigned Respect, my Fellow Citizens
Your mot. Obedt. Servt.
M. Smith
Bathurst, in Essex
December 21st. 1788
[docket:]
Meriwether Smith
to the Freeholders
of Westmoreland Coty
Decem:1788

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