Oliver Ellsworth: Landholder XI

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Landholder XI

Oliver Ellsworth

Monday, March 10, 1788

To the Citizens of New Hampshire.

Those who wish to enjoy the blessings of society must be willing to suffer some restraint of personal liberty, and devote some part of their property to the public that the remainder may be secured and protected. The cheapest form of government is not always best, for parsimony, though it spends little, generally gains nothing. Neither is that the best government which imposes the least restraint on its subjects; for the benefit of having others restrained may be greater than the disadvantage of being restrained ourselves. That is the best form of government which returns the greatest number of advantages in proportion to the disadvantages with which it is attended.

Measured by this rule, the state of New Hampshire cannot expect a Constitution preferable to that now proposed for the union. In point of defence it gives you the whole force of the empire, so arranged as to' act speedily and in concert, which is an article of greatest importance to the frontier states. With the present generation of men, national interest is the measure by which war or peace are determined; and when we see the British nation, by a late treaty, paying an enormous annual subsidy to the little principality of Hesse-Cassel for the purpose of retaining her in military alliance, it should teach us the necessity of those parts in the Constitution which enable the efficient force of the whole to be opposed to an invasion of any part.

A national revenue and the manner of collecting it is another very interesting matter, and here the citizens of New Hampshire have better terms offered them, than their local situation can ever enable them to demand or enforce. Impost and duties on trade, which must be collected in the great importing towns, are the means by which an American revenue will be principally, and perhaps wholly raised. But a point of your state comes near the sea, and that point so situated that it never can collect commerce, and become an emporium for the whole state. Nineteen parts in twenty of New Hampshire are greatly inland, so that local situation necessitates you to be an agricultural people; and this is not a hard necessity, if you now form such a political connection with other states, as will entitle you to a just share in that revenue they raise on commerce. New York, the trading towns on Connecticut River, and Boston, are the sources from which a great part of your foreign supplies will be obtained, and where your produce will be exposed for market.

In all these places an impost is collected, of which, as consumers, you pay a share without deriving any public benefit. You cannot expect any alteration in the private systems of these states, unless effected by the proposed governments, neither to remedy the evil can you command trade from the natural channels, but must sit down contented under the burden, if the present hour of deliverance be not accepted. This argument alone, if there were no other, ought to decide you in favour of adoption.

It has been said that you object to the number of inhabitants being a ratio to determine your proportion of the national expence- that your lands are poor, but the climate favourable to population, which will draw a share of expence beyond your ability to pay. I do not think this objection well founded. Long experience hath taught that the number of industrious inhabitants in any climate is not only the strength, but the wealth of a state, and very justly measures their ability of defraying public expences, without encroaching on the necessary support of life. If a great proportion of your lands are barren, you ought likewise to remember another rule of nature; that the population and fertility in many tracts of country will be proportioned to each other. Accidental causes for a short time may interrupt the rule, but they cannot be of dangerous continuance. Force may controul a despotic government, and commerce may interrupt it in an advantageous situation for trade; but from the first of these causes you have no reason to fear, and the last, should it happen, will increase wealth with numbers.

The fishery is a source of wealth and an object of immense consequence to all the eastern coasts. The jealousy of European nations ought to teach us its value. So far as you become a navigating people, the fishery should be an object of your first attention. It cannot flourish until patronized and protected by the general government. All the interests of navigation and commerce must be protected by the union or come to ruin, and in our present system where is the power to do it? When Americans are debarred the fishery, as will soon be the case unless a remedy is provided, all the eastern shores will become miserably poor.

Your forests embosom an immense quantity of timber for ship building and the lumber trade, but of how little value at present you cannot be ignorant, and the value cannot increase until American navigation and commerce are placed on a respectable footing, which no single state can do for itself. The embarrassments of trade lower the price of your produce, which with the distance of transportation almost absorbs the value; and when by a long journey we have arrived at the place of market, even the finest of your grain will not command cash, at that season of the year most convenient for you to transport. Hence arises that scarcity of specie of which you complain. Your interest is intimately connected with that of the most commercial states, and you cannot separate it. When trade is embarrassed the merchant is the first to complain, but the farmer in event bears more than his share of the loss.

Let the citizens of New Hampshire candidly consider these facts, and they must be convinced that no other state is so much interested in adopting that system of government now under consideration.

A Landholder.

THE LANDHOLDER presents his most respectful compliments to the Honorable W. WILLIAMS and begs leave to remind him that many dispensations in this world, which have the appearance of judgment, are designed in goodness. Such was the short address to you, and though at first it might excite an exquisite sensibility of injury, will in its consequences prove to your advantage by giving you an honorable opportunity to come out and declare your sentiments to the people. It had been represented in several parts of the state, to the great surprise of your friends, that you wished some religious test as an introduction to office, but as you have explained the matter, it is only a religious preamble which you wish. Against preambles, we have no animosity. Every man hath a sovereign right to use words in his own sense, and, when he hath explained himself, it ought to be believed that he uses them conscientiously. The Landholder, for the sake of his honorable friend, regrets that he denies his having used his [Williams'] name publicly as a writer; for, though the honorable gentleman doubtless asserts the truth, there are a great number of those odd people who really think they were present on that occasion, and have such a strong habit of believing their senses, that they will not be convinced even by evidence which is superior to all sense. But it must be so in this imperfect world.

P.S. The Landholder begs his honorable friend not to be surprised at his former address, as he can assure him most seriously that he does not even conjecture by whom it was written.

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