It being understood that a constitution by ten, or even twenty men, would be a thing of bad fame, the decemviri among the Romans having got a bad name, it was agreed to call a convention of delegates, the time, places, and manner of chusing which, was pointed out.
Tantae molis erat romanam condere gentem..
It was necessary that information of this should be communicated. But as a journal or gazette might not reach all; or if it did reach them, they might not be able to read; runners were dispatched, Tom, Dick, and Harry, to carry the intelligence. The Captains posse comitatis, Harum Scarum, OFin the Irishman, &c. having hand-bills struck off, were ordered on their travels through bush, brake and wood-land, to circulate advertisements.
Due notice having been now given, and, on the day, a chosen few having been selected from the primary meetings, which, by the bye, were not always very numerous; for, in some places, the father chose the son, and in other places the son the father; these, I say, being met, proceeded to debate on the principles of the great magna charta of a constitution. And as a-Runnymede, it was literally under an oak, or rather a grove of oaks, that they were convened, a matter of debate was, whether every thing that wore a head should have a vote in choosing legislators. It was restrained to the male kind; of course, females were excluded. But, should boys come in? that was the question. Not unless full grown boys. But at what age does the body come to its full growth? Not until the age of 28, says doctor Jameson, a physician of Cheltenham, in his treatise on the body, does it come to its full growth. It spreads until that time. But impatience to have the rights of men, prevailed with some delegates, and they were of opinion to dock off seven years, and to fix the age of virility at 21; for that was the age of the common law, in most of the other states.
But should the suffrage be universal, or with a qualification of property? not real property; that was out of the question: for every check ought to be put upon the engrossing the soil, as the population of the country depended upon restricting to a small share.
Camillus had but four acres, said the Latin schoolmaster, and well cultivated, that might suffice any one. At all events, it was not good policy to hold out any encouragement to engross land.
But it was agreed that every man should have a vote in proportion to his stock. For this was originally the meaning of the word chattels. We shall hear more of this anon; for it led to an opinion in the sequel, that beasts themselves should vote.
----Cujum pecus? an milliboei?
Said the Latin schoolmaster.
But except as to the qualifications of electors, it was determined there should be no constitution; but that, bound by no girdle, when the representatives convened, they should legislate at free scope, without restraint, from preconceived rules, and set forms shackling the understanding; but that it should be a pure democracy, a real republic. All hand aloft, was now the word, to man the state ship.
O navis qua tibi creditam----
Said the Latin schoolmaster.
The Captain was re-elected governor;
The blind lawyer appointed chief justice;
OFin the Irishman Sheriff; and
Tom the Tinker crier of the courts.
All things were going on smoothly, and there bade fair to be great harmony in the commonwealth.