Chapter 5: To The Editor of The Federal Gazette
A Comparison of the Conduct of the Ancient Jews and of the
Anti-Federalists in the United States of America
A zealous Advocate for the propos'd Federal Constitution, in a certain public Assembly, said, that "the Repugnance of a great part of Mankind to good Government was such, that he believed, that, if an angel from Heaven was to bring down a Constitution form'd there for our Use, it would nevertheless meet with violent Opposition." He was reprov'd for the suppos'd Extravagance of the Sentiment; and he did not justify it. Probably it might not have immediately occur'd to him, that the Experiment had been try'd, and that the Event was recorded in the most faithful of all Histories, the Holy Bible; otherwise he might, as it seems to me, have supported his Opinion by that unexceptionable Authority.
The Supreme Being had been pleased to nourish up a single Family, by continued Acts of his attentive Providence, till it became a great People; and, having rescued them from Bondage by many Miracles, performed by his Servant Moses, he personally deliver'd to that chosen Servant, in the presence of the whole Nation, a Constitution and Code of Laws for their Observance; accompanied and sanction'd with Promises of great Rewards, and Threats of severe Punishments, as the Consequence of their Obedience or Disobedience. This Constitution, tho' the Deity himself was to be at its Head (and it is therefore call'd by Political Writers a Theocracy), could not be carried into Execution but by the Means of his Ministers; Aaron and his Sons were therefore commission'd to be, with Moses, the first establish'd Ministry of the new Government.
One would have thought, that this Appointment of Men, who had distinguish'd themselves in procuring the Liberty of their Nation, and had hazarded their Lives in openly opposing the Will of a powerful Monarch, who would have retain'd that Nation in Slavery, might have been an Appointment acceptable to a grateful People; and that a Constitution fram'd for them by the Deity himself might, on that Account, have been secure of a universal welcome Reception. Yet there were in every one of the thirteen Tribes some discontented, restless Spirits, who were continually exciting them to reject the propos'd new Government, and this from various Motives.
Many still retained an Affection for Egypt, the Land of their Nativity; and these, whenever they felt any Inconvenience or Hardship, tho' the natural and unavoidable Effect of their Change of Situation, exclaim'd against their Leaders as the Authors of their Trouble; and were not only for returning into Egypt, but for stoning their deliverers. 1 Those inclin'd to idolatry were displeas'd that their Golden Calf was destroy'd. Many of the Chiefs thought the new Constitution might be injurious to their particular Interests, that the profitable Places would be engrossed by the Families and Friends of Moses and Aaron, and others equally well-born excluded. 2 In Josephus and the Talmud, we learn some Particulars, not so fully narrated in the Scripture. We are there told, "That Corah was ambitious of the Priesthood, and offended that it was conferred on Aaron; and this, as he said, by the Authority of Moses only, without the Consent of the People. He accus'd Moses of having, by various Artifices, fraudulently obtain'd the Government, and depriv'd the People of their Liberties; and of conspiring with Aaron to perpetuate the Tyranny in their Family. Thus, tho' Corah's real Motive was the Supplanting of Aaron, he persuaded the People that he meant only the Public Good; and they, moved by his Insinuations, began to cry out, `Let us maintain the Common Liberty of our respective Tribes; we have freed ourselves from the Slavery impos'd on us by the Egyptians, and shall we now suffer ourselves to be made Slaves by Moses? If we must have a Master, it were better to return to Pharaoh, who at least fed us with Bread and Onions, than to serve this new Tyrant, who by his Operations has brought us into Danger of Famine.' Then they called in question the Reality of his Conference with God; and objected the Privacy of the Meetings, and the preventing any of the People from being present at the Colloquies, or even approaching the Place, as Grounds of great Suspicion. They accused Moses also of Peculation; as embezzling part of the Golden Spoons and the Silver Chargers, that the Princes had offer'd at the Dedication of the Altar, 3 and the Offerings of Gold by the common People, 4 as well as most of the Poll-Tax; 5 and Aaron they accus'd of pocketing much of the Gold of which he pretended to have made a molten Calf. Besides Peculation, they charg'd Moses with Ambition; to gratify which Passion he had, they said, deceiv'd the People, by promising to bring them to a land flowing with Milk and Honey; instead of doing which, he had brought them from such a Land; and that he thought light of all this mischief, provided he could make himself an absolute Prince. 6 That, to support the new Dignity with Splendor in his Family, the partial Poll-Tax already levied and given to Aaron 7 was to be follow'd by a general one, 8 which would probably be augmented from time to time, if he were suffered to go on promulgating new Laws, on pretence of new occasional Revelations of the divine Will, till their whole Fortunes were devour'd by that Aristocracy."
Moses deny'd the Charge of Peculation; and his Accusers were destitute of Proofs to support it; tho' Facts, if real, are in their Nature capable of Proof. "I have not," said he (with holy Confidence in the Presence of his God), "I have not taken from this People the value of an Ass, nor done them any other Injury." But his Enemies had made the Charge, and with some Success among the Populace; for no kind of Accusation is so readily made, or easily believ'd, by Knaves as the Accusation of Knavery.
In fine, no less than two hundred and fifty of the principal Men, "famous in the Congregation, Men of Renown," 9 heading and exciting the Mob, worked them up to such a pitch of Frenzy, that they called out, "Stone 'em, stone 'em, and thereby secure our Liberties; and let us chuse other Captains, that may lead us back into Egypt, in case we do not succeed in reducing the Canaanites!"
On the whole, it appears, that the Israelites were a People jealous of their newly-acquired Liberty, which Jealousy was in itself no Fault; but, when they suffer'd it to be work'd upon by artful Men, pretending Public Good, with nothing really in view but private Interest, they were led to oppose the Establishment of the New Constitution, whereby they brought upon themselves much Inconvenience and Misfortune. It appears further, from the same inestimable History, that, when after many Ages that Constitution was become old and much abus'd, and an Amendment of it was propos'd, the populace, as they had accus'd Moses of the Ambition of making himself a Prince, and cried out, "Stone him, stone him;" so, excited by their High Priests and SCRIBES, they exclaim'd against the Messiah, that he aim'd at becoming King of the Jews, and cry'd out, "Crucify him, Crucify him." From all which we may gather, that popular Opposition to a public Measure is no Proof of its Impropriety, even tho' the Opposition be excited and headed by Men of Distinction.
To conclude, I beg I may not be understood to infer, that our General Convention was divinely inspired, when it form'd the new federal Constitution, merely because that Constitution has been unreasonably and vehemently opposed; yet I must own I have so much Faith in the general Government of the world by Providence, that I can hardly conceive a Transaction of such momentous Importance to the Welfare of Millions now existing, and to exist in the Posterity of a great Nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenc'd, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior Spirits live, and move, and have their Being.
1. Numbers, ch. xiv.
2. Numbers, ch. xiv, verse 3. "And they gathered themselves together against Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, `Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them; wherefore, then, lift ye up yourselves above the congregation?'"
3. Numbers, ch. vii.
4. Exodus, ch. xxxv, verse 22.
5. Numbers, ch. iii, and Exodus, ch. xxx.
6. Numbers, ch. xvi, verse 13. "Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?"
7. Numbers, ch. iii
8. Exodus, ch. xxx.
9. Numbers, ch. xvi.