Most people know Samuel Adams and associate his name with either beer or the American Revolution. Fewer people, however, recognize Richard Henry Lee. Lee, from Virginia, offered the resolution for independence thus leading to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Both men, however, opposed the Constitution.
Samuel Adams corresponded with Lee concerning the Constitution. The following selections come from a letter dated December 3, 1787.
August Glen-James, editor
So great is the Wickedness of some Men, & the stupid Servility of others, that one would be almost inclined to conclude that Communities cannot be free.
(A) I confess, as I enter the Building I stumble at the Threshold. I meet with a National Government, instead of a Federal Union of Sovereign States. I am not able to conceive why the Wisdom of the Convention led them to give the Preference to the former before the latter. If the several States in the Union are to become one entire Nation, under one Legislature, the Powers of which shall extend to every Subject of Legislation, and its Laws be supreme & control the whole, the Idea of Sovereignty in these States must be lost.
(B) Can this National Legislature be competent to make Laws for the free internal Government of one People, living in Climates so remote and whose “Habits & particular Interests” are and probably always will be so different. Is it to be expected that General Laws can be adapted to the Feelings of the more Eastern and the more Southern Parts of so extensive a Nation? But should we continue distinct sovereign States, confederated for the Purposes of mutual safety and Happiness, each contributing to the federal Head such a Part of its Sovereignty as would render the Government fully adequate to those Purposes and no more, the People would govern themselves more easily, the Laws of each State being well adapted to its own Genius & Circumstances, and the Liberties of the United States would be more secure than they can be, as I humbly conceive, under the proposed new Constitution.
(C) You are sensible, Sir [i.e., Richard Henry Lee], that the Seeds of Aristocracy began to spring even before the Conclusion of our Struggle for the natural Rights of Men [i.e., the Revolutionary War], Seeds which like a Canker Worm lie at the Root of free Governments. So great is the Wickedness of some Men, & the stupid Servility of others, that one would be almost inclined to conclude that Communities cannot be free. The few haughty Families, think They must govern. The Body of the People tamely consent & submit to be their Slaves. This unravels the Mystery of Millions being enslaved by the few!