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To Adams County Constituents

Harrisburg, December 26, 1838

 

 

Fellow Citizens:

    The difficulties which have been thrown in our way in organizing the Legislature, and in transacting its ordinary business, you have already been made acquainted with. An armed mob, headed by men of desperate principles, and fortunes, drove the Senate and House of Representatives from the Capitol, and required them to organize the several branches of the Legislature in the mode which they dictated. That mode was contrary to the Constitution and the Laws; and this the first attempt in Republican America, to prescribe the course and enforce, either legitimate or illegitimate legislative action, hired assassins, and murderous weapons. Fifty two members of the House of Representatives and twenty one Senators solemnly resolved never to yield to it. The insurgents proceeded in their organization with a reckless audacity, which to withstand required the firm hearts of patriots fully conscious of the high responsibility which circumstances had cast upon them – a responsibility which looked to no local interest however dear – to no temporary right however important – but to the interests of the nation and of the civilized world, and to the rights of posterity. Certain members of the Senate became alarmed, and after having organized their body upon precisely the same principles that we did ours, hesitated for two weeks to acknowledge the legitimacy of the House of Representatives. During that time of treachery or fear deprived us of three of our members without changing our constitutional or legal position. The Senate then (after those members had been sworn into the Hopkins Association,) summoned the courage enough on the 20th December to pass the following resolution:
    “Resolved, That the body claiming to be the House of Representatives, as organized on the 4th inst. by the election of William Hopkins, Esq. as Speaker, was not constituted a House of Representatives, according to the Constitution and Laws of this Commonwealth.”

    The body of men thus declared illegal and unconstitutional, then enacted another scene of their drama of intimidation, and passed a resolution intimating their determination to assume the reins, and reorganize the government. Several Senators, faltering before, have deemed it their duty to yield, and exhibited the spectacle of the Senate of Pennsylvania, purchasing their peace by yielding to the demands of lawless violence; deserting those who were associated with them in defending what, in their resolute moments, they declared to be the vital interests of Constitutional Liberty; and thus reducing the House of Representatives to the humiliation of deserting eight of their members regularly acknowledged, and sworn in, and of entering and acting with a body forced upon them by a mob, and declared illegal; or, of withdrawing from the Legislature, and sacrificing the temporary, to the paramount interests of their Constituents.

    On the 25th of December, the Senate passed the following resolution by a majority of one vote, Messrs. Strohm, Case, Fullerton, Michler, Miller (of the city) and McConkey, voting with the opposition; Mr. Pearson and Mr. Ewing having previously voted against recognizing the legal House, on Mr. Cassatt’s amendment:

    WHEREAS, difficulties have arisen in the organization of the house of Representatives, and two branches have for some time been in existence, each claiming to be the regularly constituted House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, but neither having had a constitutional quorum of Members whose seats were undisputed, and neither has yet been fully recognized by the Senate;
    And, Whereas, the House organized by the election of Wm. Hopkins as Speaker, is now composed of a constitutional quorum of legally returned members, and being thus brought within the pale of the Constitution, the Senate ought no longer to refuse to recognize the said House, as the properly constituted House of Representatives:
    Therefore,
    “Resolved, that a Committee be appointed to inform said House that the Senate is now organized and ready to proceed to business, and that the resolution passed on the 4th inst. appointing a committee to wait on the House of Representatives, is hereby rescinded, and that the said Committee be and hereby is discharged.

    Unwilling to forego the advantages of local legislation, and despairing of obtaining justice for their constituents without their personal attendance, many, perhaps most of my associates have determined to submit to the mortifying necessity, and enter the illegal House. With their course I find no fault. But I believe you will prefer the permanent interest of our whole country to your own temporary local benefit. That interest – the liberty of yourselves and of your posterity – I believe can be preserved only by refusing to yield anything to lawless rebellion. I find no difficulty in choosing my own course – in selecting between an association with successful insurgents, or withdrawing from office. Such voluntary association would sanctify, or at least palliate, their treason. Preferring retirement to dishonor, I withdraw from the Legislature to mingle again with you, and wait your decision on my conduct. I shall take another occasion to give a more extended account of the alarming acts which have disgraced the last month, and wounded, I fear irrevocably, the very heart of FREEDOM.

                                                    Your obedient servant,                                Thaddeus Stevens.

    P.S. Several other gentleman had signed this paper, and my colleague is absent. I have thought it best in the publication to omit the signatures of those gentlemen, as perhaps they can act best by communicating their views to their immediate constituents: and as several of them have already left town. This explanation is due to those gentlemen for omitting their names.

 

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