Thomas Jefferson Papers

Benjamin Romaine to Thomas Jefferson, 11 January 1822

From Benjamin Romaine

New York 11th January 1822—

Dear Sir.

I take the freedom to send to you (by mail) two Pamphlets containing an exhibition of reasons opposed to the adoption of the New Constitution of the State of New York. The humble production has been hastily written by the Subscriber, who had the honor, some years since, to transmit to you, a production on like grounds of the above pamphlet—Viz. A most sacred reguard to the union of the States. To me it does appear that, the late Convention of our State have made most dangerous inroads on the powers only held and to [be]1 exercised by the General Government. If such course is not checked the great and estimable powers of the Union will be lost thro’ the contracted Medium of “State Sovereignties”. This Subject, if it shall be viewed in the light it presents itself to my mind, ought “indignantly to be frowned2 at,” by a full expression throughout the Union, thro’ the public prints—   Accept, Venerable Sir, my most sincere

reguard and highest esteem—

Bjn Romaine

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 17 Jan. 1822 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with FC of TJ to James Madison, 16 May 1824, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Late President of the United States Virginia”; franked; postmarked New York, 11 Jan.

Romaine’s pamphlet, published under the pseudonym of “An Old Citizen,” was A Comparative View and Exhibition of Reasons, Opposed to the Adoption of the New Constitution, of the State of New-York (New York, 1822). In nine essays addressed to his fellow citizens, he argued that the new state constitution would give too much power to the governor in nominating and removing public officials; that it attempted to usurp federal authority in matters of military defense; that it downplayed the importance that the union of states had demonstrated during the American Revolution; and that despite its extension of suffrage, it left many positions, particularly in the judiciary, solely under the influence of the governor. Romaine concluded that “It must be of primary importance so to balance our several state Constitutions, as to form a complete harmony with the general government,” rather than to view states as “Independent Sovereignties” (p. 20).

indignantly to be frowned at: in his 19 Sept. 1796 Farewell Address as president, George Washington emphasized the importance of preserving the Union “and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our Country from the rest” (Washington, Papers, Pres. Ser., 20:705–6; phrase quoted in Romaine’s Comparative View, 14).

On this day Romaine also sent his pamphlet to John Quincy Adams and James Madison (DNA: RG 59, MLR; Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 2:460–1).

1Omitted word editorially supplied.

2Manuscript: “frowed.”

Index Entries

  • A Comparative View and Exhibition of Reasons, Opposed to the Adoption of the New Constitution, of the State of New-York (B. Romaine) search
  • Adams, John Quincy; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); works sent to search
  • New York (state); constitutional convention of1821 search
  • New York (state); constitution of search
  • Romaine, Benjamin; A Comparative View and Exhibition of Reasons, Opposed to the Adoption of the New Constitution, of the State of New-York search
  • Romaine, Benjamin; letters from search
  • Romaine, Benjamin; on N.Y. constitution search
  • United States; state versus federal authority search
  • Washington, George; Farewell Address search