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To the PUBLIC.
(Concluded from our last.)

AS to altering or setting aside the present constitution of civil government—is it not a plain case, that as the people erected the present form of civil government in an orderly peaceable manner; so the people at large, when they view their present constitution as inadequate to the ends of civil government, have an undoubted power according to the declaration of the bill of rights, to alter or set aside the same, when the period comes, which they, the people, have fixed for that purpose. What need then for rising in arms to effect a purpose which a majority may effect without it, when the object, is worthy the expense and trouble it must cost? but were such a purpose even necessary, the present seems to be a very unfit time for it, when the minds of people are in such a state of ferment; our present constitution was formed at a time when people's minds were cool and dispassionate, and was then three years in forming, and was a matter of great trouble and expense; and was it to be fairly demolished in such a time of public fears? as the present, is there any rational prospect that another would be settled any other way than by the longest sword, the horrors of which need not be again described? or if it could, is it probable that what would defray the expence of civil government for several years, would defray the cost of forming another constitution with any prospect of its finding a greater degree of acceptance than the present?----As to the setting aside of the court of common pleas, (which is a professed object of the present risings) 'tis evident that if, in the opinion of a major part of the citizens of the State, the Court of Common Pleas is a grievance, no popular rising is necessary to set them aside; if they are not so viewed by a majority of the people, no rising of a minority for that end can be warrantable. 'Tis granted that these courts are expensive, and 'tis the corruption of the people which makes them so; and if a less expensive, and more effectual method of administering justice can be introduced in their room, every well-wisher to the rights of mankind must rejoice in it. But surely if it is expedient to abolish these courts and introduce another method in their room, 'tis evidently a work of time, as all the laws of the commonwealth are connected with these courts, which have existed without any material alteration for time immemorial, consequently a revisal of the whole body of laws must take place, before the dropping of these courts, whereby they may be pointed to some other modes instituted in their room. But to me it appears that if the present popular object of abolishing these courts and introducing justice courts in their room, was attained, it would not be the least advantage to the body of the people. It would enlarge the powers of single magistrates beyond what it is at present, and to cause their judgment to be rested in generally, there is undoubtedly need of a greater degree of confidence, both in the abilities and integrity of magistrates, than there is at present. Business of the most trifling nature would frequently be carried to the Supreme Judicial Court, which would consequently so enlarge the business of that court, as to render the effecting of its impossible in the nature of things. And supposing each magistrate was to summon a Jury to his assistance, in a county where there is fifty or sixty Justices, there might be so many juries summoned once a fortnight or oftner, which would be a source of greater expence and trouble than the courts complained of, and as it is a natural right for a man to appear in his own case, either by himself or his counsel, as he chuses, this mode would in my opinion increase instead of lessening the number and influence of Attornies at law, which is at present complained of as a grievance. As to the establishing a paper medium, in my opinion the load of internal debt which we labour under, which is, in part at least, caused by the depreciations of paper emissions, together with the cries of the widow and orphan, and other defenceless members of the community, who have been reduced to wretchedness and want, by the numberless frauds practiced by paper emissions, may be a final answer. But I shall not trespass upon the patience of the public by repeating observations upon this head, which have been already made to better purposes than I am capable of doing; but whether the renewing of the experiment would not be the establishing mischief by a law, I think is not difficult to determine—As to lowering the expense of civil government, undoubtedly if there is unnecessary expense in civil government, it may be lessened in a constitutional way, and no tumults, or risings to arms are necessary for that purpose, doubtless there is a loud call to frugality and economy, both public and private. 'Tis true civil government is expensive and perhaps more so than could be wished, but has not the account of the expense of it been greatly exaggerated? does it not appear, from a very fair statement of public affairs, that but a small proportion of the monies which have been paid have been applied to defray the expenses of civil government? How inconsistent then with sound policy to incur a greater expense to save a lesser. It is not an undoubted truth, that many persons, yea many towns, have already expended more than tenfold their proportion of the annual expense of government in our late tumults? and what has it effected? why it has reduced the commonwealth to such a state of anarchy and confusion, the view of which cannot but be distressing to every feeling mine, it has irritated the minds of neighbours and even of brethren against one another, and threaten consequences still more serious. I have no part under the government neither do I ever expect to have any; but as a member of the community, who as an individual is interested in the general welfare. I would intreat my friends and fellow-citizens, who have promoted the present risings candidly to review the scenes which they have already caused and look forward to those which may probably ensue, and as they regard the welfare of themselves and posterity, our dearest liberties and privileges, and the peace of their own consciences, to drop courses which are both unwarrantable and dangerous to themselves and the public, and if they labour under grievances that is burthens either unnecessarily, or partially imposed by the ruling power, to seek redress only in the orderly constitutional way of petition and remonstrance, and there is not the least doubt but it may be obtained: thus we might expect to see union and harmony again restored to our bleeding land, and public burthen hopefully alleviated. One shrewd observation I find made in favour of the present risings, that is, that although the method was wrong in the first fitting out, yet, as it is begun it must be persisted in: But apply this to any thing else in life, and the falsehood of the observation will appear, if the beginning was wrong the progress must be undoubtedly worse, and the further we proceed in a wrong path, the more difficult will the retreat be, a retreat is more difficult now than it was at first, and probably will grow still more so, and expectation to get into a right path by persisting in a wrong one, is vain and fruitless. It will carry us still further and further from this designed haven, and what is unwarrantable in the first degree of it, must undoubtedly be more so in every greater degree, but by a retreat, and a return to an orderly, constitutional path, we may do an essential service to ourselves and posterity, and light may yet come out of darkness and order out of our present confusions: This is the most fervent wish of the public's, humble servant,
AMICUS
Hampshire County, Jan. 7, 1787.

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This editorial in the Hampshire Gazette advocates a peaceful, reasoned approach to resolving Regulator grievances against the Massachusetts government. Published three days after General Lincoln had routed the Regulator army under Daniel Shays at Petersham, its author insists, "I have no part under the government neither do I ever expect to have any." The contents of his open letter "To The Public" suggest, however, that the writer is a government supporter. "Amicus" calls on the Regulators to accomplish by petition and constitutional means the reforms they seek by force of arms. He claims that the present troubles could be "lessened in a constitutional way, and no tumults, or risings to arms are necessary for that purpose." "[F]rugality and economy, both public and private," will ease the crisis. As for amending or revising the present Massachusetts Constitution as some demanded, Amicus argues that it had been written and ratified while people were "cool and dispassionate." In contrast, the current upheavals would be a poor time to consider any radical alterations. Should Regulators seek redress "in the orderly constitutional way of petition and remonstrance," there could be "not the least doubt but it may be obtained." Only through such means might citizens "expect to see union and harmony again restored to our bleeding land." William Butler began publication of the Hampshire Gazette on September 6, 1786, in Northampton, Massachusetts. The mission of the newspaper was to inform the public about the ongoing conflicts between the government and the men who called themselves Regulators. Butler was decidedly on the government side of the issues.

 

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Editorial "To the Public" on the Constitution published in the Hampshire Gazette

publisher   Hampshire Gazette
author   Amicus
date   Feb 7, 1787
location   Northampton, Massachusetts
width   4.75"
height   10.5"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L04.082


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See Also...

Act by House of Representatives issued to Bernardston selectmen to hold town meeting to vote on the Constitution

Act by House of Representatives issued to Bernardston selectmen to hold town meeting to vote on the Constitution

Letter printed in the Hampshire Gazette regarding selecting convention delegate


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