Tench Coxe Quotes

Mr. Tench Coxe,
(May 22, 1755 – July 17, 1824).

The constitution of England as it stood on paper, was one of the freest, at that time, in the world, and the American colonies considered themselves as entitled to the fullest enjoyment of it. Thus, when the ill-judged discussions of late times in England brought into question the rights of this country, as it stood connected with the British crown, we were found more strongly impressed with their importance, and accurately acquainted with their extent, than the wisest and most learned of our brethren beyond the Atlantic. [Pg. 136] When the greatest names in parliament insisted on the power of that body over the commerce of the colonies, and even the right to bind us in all cases whatsoever, America, seeing that it was only another form of tyranny, insisted upon the immutable truth, that taxation and representation are inseparable; and, while a desire of harmony and other considerations induced her into an acquiescence in the commercial relations of Great Britain, it was done from the declared necessity of the case, and with a cautious, full, and absolute saving of our voluntarily-suspended rights. The parliament was persevering, and America continued firm, till hostilities and open war commenced, and finally the late revolution closed the contest forever.

 It is evident, from this short detail, and the reflections which arise from it, that the quarrel between the United States and the parliament of Great Britain did not arise so much from objections to the form of government, though undoubtedly a better one by far is now within our reach, as from a difference concerning certain important rights, resulting from the essential principles of libertywhich their constitution actually preserved to all the subjects residing within the realm. It was not asserted by America, that the people of the island of Great Britain were slaves, but that we, though possessed absolutely of the same rights, were not admitted to enjoy an equal degree of freedom.

 When the declaration of independence compleated the separation between the two countries, new governments were necessarily established. Many circumstances led to the adoption of the republican form, among which was the predilection of the people. In devising the frames of government, it may have been difficult to avoid extremes opposite to the vices of that we had just rejected; nevertheless, many of the state constitutions we have chosen are truly excellent. Our misfortunes have been, that in the first instance we adopted no national government at all; but were kept together by common danger only; and that in the confusions of a civil war, we framed a foederal constitution, now universally admitted to be inadequate to the preservation of liberty, property, and the [Pg. 137] union. The question is not, then, how far our state constitutions are good, or otherwise–the object of our wishes is, to amend and supply the evident and allowed errors and defects of the foederal government. Let us consider awhile, that which is now proposed to us–let us compare it with the so much boasted British form of government, and see how much more it favours the people, and how completely it secures their rights, remembering, at the same time, that we did not dissolve our connection with that country so much on account of its constitution, as the perversion and mal-administration of it.

–Tench Coxe, (Under the pseudonym “An American Citizen”)

–An Examination of the Constitution for the United States of America, Submitted to the People by the General Convention, At Philadelphia, the 17th Day of September, 1787, and since adopted and ratified by the Conventions of Eleven States, chosen for the purpose of considering it, being all that have yet decided on the subject. By an American Citizen. [Pg. 135-137] [Pamphlets On The Constitution Of The United States, Published During Its Discussion By The People 1787-1788. Edited With Notes And A Bibliography By Paul Leicester Ford. Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1888.]

    Mr. Coxe had went on to state further in other publications:

    If a time of public contention shall hereafter arrive, the firm and ardent friends to liberty may know the length to which they can push their noble opposition, on the foundation of the laws. Should their country’s cause impel them further, they will be acquainted with the hazard, and using those arms which Providence has put into their hands, will make a solemn appeal to “the power above.”

–Tench Coxe, An American Citizen IV, PHILA. INDEP. GAZETTEER, Oct. 21, 1787, reprinted in 13 DOCUMENTARY HISTORY, supra note 57, at 431, 433.

    The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American … the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.

–Tenche Coxe, Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, The Pennsylvania Gazette, on Feb. 20, 1788.

    There is no danger of our forgetting the use of arms, while are strangers to game laws. A youth of sixteen years of age, who has trained by necessity or choice, to amusement of hunting in our American woods, has a better foundation laid for his becoming an effective soldier, than a whole nation of farmers who have been educated (from the operation of game laws) in an of fire arms.

— POMPILIUS. Philadelphia, July 26, 1788. [Pg. 225]

    Address to the printers of throughout the United States: written by Tench Coxe, esq….

…You are to consider whether freedom of publication, extending to blasphemy, immorality, treason, sedition, malice, or scandal, does not destroy the inestimable benefits which result from the liberty of the press, This privilege is certainly essential to the existence of a free government; but it consists in avoiding to impose any previous restraints on publication, and not in refraining to censure or punish such things, as produce private or public injuries. Every freeman has a right to the use of the press: so he has to the use of his arms. But if his publications give an unmerited or deadly stroke to private reputation, or sap the foundations of just government, he abuses his privilege as unquestionably as if he were to plunge his sword into the bosom of a fellow citizen: and the good of society requires that each offence should be punished….


    As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.

–Tenche Cox, Remarks On The First Part Of The Amendments To The Federal Constitution, in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789.

    Do you wish to preserve your rights? Arm yourselves. Do you desire to secure your dwellings? Arm yourselves. Do you wish your wives and daughters protected? Arm yourselves. Do you wish to be defended against assassins or the Bully Rocks of faction? Arm yourselves. Do you desire to assemble in security to consult for your own good or the good of your country? Arm yourselvesTo arms, to armsand you may then sit down contentedeach man under his own vine and his own fig-tree and have no one to make him afraid….If you are desirous to counteract a design pregnant with misery and ruin, then arm yourselves; for in a firm, imposing and dignified attitude, will consist your own security and that of your families. To armsthen to arms.

–”Mentor” addressed “To the Republican Citizens of Pennsylvania.”, Philadelphia Aurora, May 21, 1799, at 2, (This edition also contained an article signed by Tenche Cox).

[Tench Coxe and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, 1787-1823 By Stephen P. Halbrook[a1] and David B. Kopel [aa1] 7 William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 347 (1999).]

    The sentiments expressed by Mr. Coxe had received the hearty approval of both Mr. James Madison and Mr. Alexander Hamilton:

 I have been favored with yours of the 28 Ult. and thank you for the paper which it inclosed. Your arguments appear to me to place the subject to which they relate in its true light*, and must be satisfactory to the writer himself whom they oppose, if he can suspend for a moment his preconceived opinions. But whether they should have any effect or not on him, they will unquestionably be of service in Virginia, and probably in the other Southern States. Col. Hamilton has read the paper with equal pleasure & approbation with myself….

–James Madison, Jan. 3, 1788 letter to Tench Coxe.

Tenche Coxe: In 1786 he was sent by Pennsylvania to the Annapolis Convention, and in 1788 was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress. A proponent of industrialization during the early years of the United States, Coxe co-authored the famous Report on Manufactures (1791) with Alexander Hamilton, providing much of the statistical data. He had been appointed Assistant Secretary of the Treasury on September 11, 1789 under Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Coxe also headed a group called the Manufacturing Society of Philadelphia. He was appointed Revenue Commissioner by President George Washington on June 30, 1792. Then President Thomas Jefferson appointed him as Purveyor of Public Supplies; serving from 1803 to 1812.