Who Is John DeWitt?
“Upon the whole, my fellow countrymen, I am as much a federal man as any person: In a federal union lies our political salvation — To preserve that union, and make it respectable to foreign opticks, the National Government ought to be armed with all necessary powers; but the subject I conceive of infinite delicacy, and requires both ability and reflection. In discussing points of such moment, America has nothing to do with passions or hard words; every citizen has an undoubted right to examine for himself, neither ought he to be ill treated and abused, because he does not think at the same moment exactly as we do. It is true, that many of us have but our liberties to lose but they are dearly bought, and are not the least precious in estimation: — In the mean time, is it not of infinite consequence that we pursue inflexibly that path, which I feel persuaded we are now approaching, wherein we shall discourage all foreign importations; shall see the necessity of greater economy and industry; shall smile upon the husbandman, and reward the industrious mechanic; shall promote the growth of our own country, and wear the produce of our own farms; and, finally, shall support measures in proportion to their honesty and wisdom, without any respect to men. Nothing more is wanted to make us happy at home, and respectable abroad.” – John DeWitt #1, October 22, 1787
On October 22, 1787, the first of a short series of editorial letters to the People of Massachusetts were published in the local newspapers. They were signed “John DeWitt,” and they represented some of the strongest arguments against the ratification of the proposed Constitution.
While Federalist Papers 1-6 would soon answer the DeWitt letters, the call for dispassionate review and logic and their call to remember history set the DeWitt letters apart from the rest of the Anti-Federalist postings. DeWitt reminds the People that any person who signs off on the ratification of the Constitution without understanding it is in fact, a traitor to the ideals of American liberty.
While he will ultimately lose the overall argument, DeWitt will be a strong advocate for the Bill of Rights, and particularly the 2nd Amendment.
He serves as a reminder today that it is up to each of us to gain a full understanding of the Constitution. And if we do not, the rights we surrendered to preserve the others, will be used by the Government against us…