“But still the people themselves must be the chief support of liberty. While the great body of the freeholders are acquainted with the duties which they owe to their God, to themselves, and to men, they will remain free. But if ignorance and depravity should prevail, they will inevitably lead to slavery and ruin.”
— Oliver Ellsworth (at the Connecticut ratifying convention, 1788)
Few Americans today know of Oliver Ellsworth. This is one product of the “ignorance” against which he warned us.
Ellsworth was one of our greatest Founders. He was Connecticut’s most respected lawyer and judge. He was a key delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and served on the committee that produced the critical first draft. (He may have been the delegate most directly responsible for the Constitution’s scheme of enumerated powers.)
After the convention, Ellsworth helped secure his own state’s ratification. He was influential nationally in the ratification debate as the author of the widely-republished “Landholder” essays.Details