Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE UNITED STATES

CHAPTER VII.

1787-1788.

THE LAW OF THE LAND.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

T

The Constitution submitted to the people – Opposition anticipated — Marshall's statements respecting the

Federalists — Franklin's speech - Washington's sentiments — The people divided into Federalists and
Anti-Federalists — The Constitution in Pennsylvania — Its adoption by other States — The Massachusetts
Convention — Ratification by New Hampshire — The Virginia Convention — Speeches by Patrick Henry
and others — The Virginia bill of rights — The New York Convention - Ratification of North Carolina -
The day for appointing electors.
HE report of the Convention, It was to be expected that the radi.

together with the draft of the cal changes adopted by the Conven

Constitution and Washing- tion would experience much oppositon's letter, was received by Congress tion when the Constitution was laid September 28, 1787. It was

It was Re

before the people; it could not be solved, unanimously, that the said

supposed that the same candid and report with the resolutions and letter

calm deliberation, the same spirit of accompanying the same be trans- concession and compromise, would mitted to the several legislatures, in prevail among the more numerous order to be submitted to a convention Legislatures as in the Federal Conof delegates, chosen in each State, by vention itself, for there was such a the people thereof, in conformity to great diversity of interest and so the resolves of the Convention, made much State pride and State feeling and provided in that case." *

that the ratification would neces

sarily be greatly influenced by these. See the Journals of Congress, September 28, Nor could it be hoped that the entire 1787; Rives, Life of ladison, vol. ii., pp. 477,

body of the people would readily har480; Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, vol. i., pp. 196–198. Adams says: “So cogent

monize either on the subject of the were these motives and so forcibly were they compressed within the compass of this preamble, and the Conventions of Delegates, to be chosen in each in the Letter from President Washington to the State by the People thereof, under the recommenPresident of Congress, that this body immediately dation of its Legislature, for their assent and ratiand unanimously adopted the resolution of the fication. This unanimity of Congress is perhaps Convention, recommending that the projected the strongest evidence ever manifested of the utter Constitution be transmitted to the Legislatures of contempt into which the Articles of Confederation the several States, to be by them submitted to had fallen.”- Lives of Madison and Monroe, p. 35.

>

2

SENTIMENT RESPECTING THE CONSTITUTION.

organization of the government or most dear to the human heart, to be staked on

the question pending before the public. From that with respect to the powers to be

oblivion which is the common destiny of fugitive granted those entrusted with its ad- pieces, treating on subjects which agitate only for ministration.* The adoption of the

the moment, was rescued by its peculiar merit, a

series of essays, which first appeared in the papers Constitution immediately became a of New York. To expose the real circumstances subject of popular discussion, on the

of America, and the dangers which hung over the

republic; to detect the numerous misrepresentaone side being hailed with joy and

tions of the Constitution; to refute the arguments satisfaction as the only remedy for

of its opponents; and to confirm and increase its

friends by a full and able development of its printhe prevailing distressed conditions, t ciples; three gentlemen, Colonel Hamilton, Mr. while on the other hand, it was Madison, and Mr. Jay, distinguished for their viewed with feelings of jealousy, dis

political experience, their talents, and their love

of union, gave to the public, a series of numbers, trust and open hostility.I Marshall which, collected in two volumes, under the title

of The Federalist, will be read and admired, when says:

the controversy in which that valuable treatise on “ The friends and enemies of that instrument government originated, shall be no longer remem. were stimulated to exertion by motives equally

bered." * powerful; and, during the interval between its publication and adoption, every faculty of the The majority of the States mind was strained to secure its reception or rejection. The press teemed with the productions of

promptly acted upon the recomtemperate reason, of genius, and of passion; and mendation of Congress, and during it was apparent that each party believed power,

1787 and 1788 conventions were sovereignty, liberty, peace and security, things

called to adopt or reject the Consti* See the chapter entitled “Objections to the

tution. Perhaps never in the history Constitution,” in Story, Commentaries on the Con.

of the country were opposing views stitution, vol. i., pp. 206-220. † On September 30 Edmund Randolph wrote

advocated with such great force and Madison as follows: “ Baltimore resounds with

eloquence, and in many of the confriendships for the new Constitution * Bladensburg the Constitution is approved. In

In

ventions the two parties in favor of Alexandria the inhabitants are enthusiastic, and and against the Constitution were so instructions to force my dissenting colleagues to assent to a convention are on the anvil.”—Con.

evenly balanced that its fate was unway, Edmund Randolph, p. 95. See also Madison's decided for several months. letter to Jefferson, Madison's Works (Congress

number of cases the adoption was seed.), vol. i., pp. 354–356, also pp. 364-366, 368, 369-371, 373–374, 375, 376.

cured by a very small margin, and in $ In a private memorandum drawn up by Ham

several instances amendments were ilton in which he summed up the probabilities for and against the adoption of the Constitution, and suggested in the form of bills of in which he spoke of the events likely to occur if it were rejected, he said: “A reunion with Great Britain, from universal disgust at a state * Marshall, Life of Washington, vol. ii., p. 127. of commotion, is not impossible, though not much On the authorship of the various articles see Ban. to be feared. The most plausible shape of such croft, vol. vi., pp. 452-454; Curtis, Constitutional a business would be the establishment of a son of History, vol. i., pp. 280–281, 631; Adams, Lives of the present monarch in the supreme government Madison and Monroe, p. 40 et seq.; Madison's of this country, with a family compact.”— Works, Works (Congress ed.), vol. iii., pp. 99, 100, 126; vol. ii., pp. 419, 421.

vol. iv., pp. 115, 116, 176.

In a

VIEWS OF HAMILTON AND FRANKLIN.

3

rights which showed how reluctant make. In a speech at the close of the the people were to adopt a form of Convention,* Franklin said: government which should be practi

“I confess there are several parts of this con. cally everlasting. Marshall says that stitution which I do not at present approve, but “ the interesting nature of the ques

I am not sure I shall never approve them: For

having lived long, I have experienced many intion, the equality of the parties, the stances of being obliged by better information or animation produced inevitably by

fuller consideration to change opinions even on

important subjects, which I once thought right, ardent debate, had a necessary tend- but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that ency to embitter the dispositions of the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my

own judgment, and to pay more respect to the the vanquished, and to fix more

judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as deeply, in many bosoms, their preju- most sects in Religion think themselves in possesdices against a plan of government,

sion of all truth and that wherever others differ

from them it is so far error. Steele, a Protestant, in opposition to which, all their pas- in a Dedication, tells the Pope that the only sions were enlisted."*

difference between our Churches in their opinions

of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church The views of the various statesmen

of Rome is infallible and the Church of England were widely divergent. No one was is never in the wrong. But though many private entirely satisfied with every part of

persons think almost as highly of their own in.

fallibility as of that of their sect, few express it the Constitution, but all seemed to be

so naturally as a certain French lady, who in a convinced that it was the best that dispute with her sister, said I don't know how could be devised under the circum

it happens, Sister, but I meet with nobody but

myself, that is always in the right stances and that it was well worth “In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Con. the concessions and compromises

stitution with all its faults, if there are such;

because I think a general Government necessary which they had been called upon to for us, and there is no form of Government but

what may be a blessing to the people if well

administered, and believe farther that this is *“It may be in me,” said Hamilton, in con- likely to be well administered for a course of cluding the last number of the Federalist,

years, and can only end in Despotism, as other fect of political fortitude, but I acknowledge that

forms have done before it, when the people shall I cannot entertain an equal tranquillity with

become so corrupted as to need despotic Govern. those who affect to treat the dangers of a longer

ment, being incapable of any other. I doubt, too, continuance in our present situation as imagi

whether any other Convention we can obtain may nary. A NATION, without a NATIONAL GOV.

be able to make a better Constitution. For when ERNMENT, is an awful spectacle. The establish

you assemble a number of men to have the adment of a Constitution, in time of profound peace, vantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably by the voluntary consent of a whole people, is a

assemble with those men, all their prejudices, prodigy, to the completion of which I look for

their passions, their errors of opinion, their local ward with trembling anxiety. In so arduous an

interests, and their selfish views. From such an enterprise, I can reconcile it to no rules of

assembly can a perfect production be expected ? prudence, to let go the hold we now have upon

It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this sys. seven out of the thirteen states; and after having

tem approaching so near to perfection as it does; passed over so considerable a part of the ground,

and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are to recommence the course. I dread the more the

waiting with confidence to hear that our councils consequences of new attempts, because I KNOW that POWERFUL INDIVIDUALS, in this, and in

are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; other states, are enemies to a general national government in

every possible shape."— The * Sparks. Life of Franklin, p. 518; Hunt, Federalist, p. 404.

Madison's Journal, vol. ii., pp. 389–391.

a de.

4

FRANKLIN'S SPEECH AND LETTERS.

never

and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Con. stituents were to report the objections he has had to it and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects & great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign nations as well as among ourselves. Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in providing and securing happiness to the peoples depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of its wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unani. mously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress & confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administered.

"On the whole, Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument." *

Writing to friends in France, he said:

“ It is very possible, as you suppose, that all the articles of the proposed new government will not remain unchanged after the first meeting of the Congress. I am of opinion with you, that the two chambers were not necessary, and I disliked some other articles that are in, and wished for some that are not in the proposed plan; I nevertheless hope it may be adopted.” “Our public affairs begin to wear a more quiet aspect. The disputes about the faults of the new Constitution are subsided. The first Congress will probably mend the principal ones, and future Congresses the rest. That which you mentioned did not pass unnoticed in the Convention. Many, if I remember right, were for making the president incapable of being chosen after the first four years; but the majority were for leaving the electors free to choose whom they pleased; and it was alleged that such incapacity might tend to make the president less attentive to the duties of his office, and to the interests of the people, than he would be, if a second choice depended on their good opinion of him. We are making experiments in politics; what knowledge we shall gain by them will be more certain, though perhaps we may hazard too much in that mode of acquiring it.”

If any

In a letter to Charles Carroll, he said:

form of government is capable of making a nation happy, ours, I think, bids fair now for producing that effect. But, after all, much depends upon the people who are to be governed. We have been guarding against an evil that old states are most liable to, excess of power in the rulers; but our present danger seems to be defect of obedience in the subjects. There is hope, however from the enlightened state of this age and country, we may guard effectually against that evil as well as the rest."

Washington's sentiments were well known and are further exhibited in his correspondence. Writing to Patrick Henry, he said:

“ Your own judgment will at once discern the good and the exceptional parts of it; and your experience of the difficulties which have ever

* In a letter to Adams, Jefferson wrote: “How do you like our new Constitution? I confess there are things in it which stagger all my dispositions to subscribe to what such an assembly has proposed. The House of Federal Representatives will not be adequate to the management of affairs, either foreign or federal. Their president seems a bad edition of a Polish king. He may be elected from four years to four years for life. Reason and experience prove to us, that a chief magistrate, so continuable, is an office for life,” etc. It may be worth noting, that Jefferson's views changed entirely as to this latter point, seeing that he himself did not object to serve a second term as President of the United States. See Tucker, Life of Jefferson, vol. i., pp. 252-256; Ford's ed. of Jefferson's Writings, vol. iv., p. 454; also his letters to Madison, ibid, vol. iv., pp. 475– 479; to Carrington, pp. 481-482; and for other views, vol. i., p. 109, vol. iv., p. 470, vol. V., pp.

5, 11, 19, 25, 76, 475, 484, vol. vi., pp. 104, 123, vol. vii., p. 327, vol. viii.,

p. 159.

« PreviousContinue »