Monday, October 23, 2006

Item of the Day: More of Abraham Bishop's Oration in Honor of the Election of President Jefferson, and the peaceable Acquisition of Louisiana (1804)

Full Title: Oration, In Honor of the Election of President Jefferson, and the Peaceable Acquisition of Louisiana, delivered at the National Festival, in Hartford, on the 11th of May, 1804. By Abraham Bishop. Printed for the General Committee of Republicans. From Sidney's Press, 1804.

We shall not do injustice to the occasion, which has convened us, if we improve the remainder of it in examining the peculiar attitude of this state in respect to this important acquisition and the other measures of the general government.

This state has furnished no part of the votes, by which President Jefferson was elected, no part of the wise counsels by which Louisiana was obtained, and the honorable and reverend federal republicans* who convened yesterday, do not rejoice in the event which we celebrate.

Formerly decency was outraged, if the character of the President and the measures of government were not treated with respect: now decency is outraged, if both be not treated with marked contempt. Formerly the friends of the general government held all the offices in this State, and afferted loudly the political infallibility of the majority of the Union: Now those offices are holden by the enemies of the government, and republicans have been treated with as much severity as if they had destroyed the first born of every family, for the mere crime of having applied principles, which federalists lately held sacred and inviolable. The exterior of this state has been democratic, and every thing promised attachment to such a system of measures as is now pursued: Yet religion has always been in danger and under pretence of this danger, measures, which the people would from their natural habits have abhorred, have been approved, and measures, which they would have approved, have been reprobated; yet in all these alarms not one federal priest, deacon, judge or lawyer considered his own religion in danger. All were alarmed about the religion of their neighbors, yet not one man could be found in the state, who had any apprehension for his own.

Every seeming enigma of this kind may be solved by a correct explanation of facts.

The charter of Charles 2d. gave to Connecticut power to raise armies, levy war and do many things, wholly inconsistent with our relation to the federal government, but provided well enough, for the day of it, the means by which the people of this, then thinly settled colony, might govern themselves.

At the declaration of independence this charter became of no effect, and it was proper that the people of this free state should, like the people of other free states, have been convened to form a constitution: But the legislature, which was not impowered for that purpose, and which may repeal at pleasure its own laws, usurped the power of enacting, that the form of government, contained in the charter of king Charles, should be the civil constitution of this state. Thus by the pleasure of his majesty all the legislative, executive and judicial powers of government tumbled into a common mass, together with the power of raising armies, whenever the stockholders of power should think best.

This precise condition of society, absurd and unsafe as it is in theory, has proved far more so in practice. At the present moment all these powers, together with a complete control of elections, is in the hands of seven lawyers**, who have gained a seat at the council board. -- These seven virtually make and repeal laws as they please, appoint all the judges, plead before those judges, and constitute themselves a supreme court of errors to decide in the last resort on the laws of their own making. To crown this absurdity, they have repealed a law which prohibited them to plead before the very court of which they are judges.

. . .

This shews under what influence the legislative and executive powers of our government are dispensed.

*Not long since the very term Republican, was reprobated by the federalists here, who now call themselves Federal Republicans.
**These seven lawyers are, Mess'rs Daggett, Smith, C. Goodrich, Brace, Allen, Edmonds, and E. Goodrich, holding the same undefined powers, which their predecessors have held, and which their successors will hold, till we shall have a constitution. The term, seven men, will be used (as was the term, directory, under the French government) signifying the depository of supreme power. Every obnoxious act in force will be justly considered their act, till they shall repeal it.

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