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the people, were not then thought of.” * “A reference to the authority of the people expressly delegated to conventions,” insisted King, “is most likely to draw forth the best men in the states to decide on the new constitution, and to obviate disputes and doubts concerning its legitimacy." +
Madison spoke with intense earnestness. “ The difference between a system founded on the legislatures only and one founded on the people is the difference between a treaty and a constitution. A law violating a treaty ratified by a preexisting law might be respected by the judges; a law violating a constitution established by the people themselves would be considered by the judges as null and void. A breach of any one article of a treaty by any one of the parties frees the other parties from their engagements; a union of the people, under one constitution, by its nature excludes such an interpretation.”
After a full debate, the convention, by nine states against Delaware, referred the ratification of the new constitution to an assembly in each state to be chosen specially for that purpose by the people.#
In the following three days the resolutions of the federal convention for the establishment of a national government, consisting of twenty-three in number, were finished and referred to a committee of detail, five in number, who were ordered to prepare and report them in the form of a constitution. With them were referred the propositions of Charles Pinckney and the plan of New Jersey.
The federal convention selected for its committee of detail . three members from the North and two from the South-Gor
ham, Ellsworth, Wilson, Randolph, and John Rutledge, of whom the last was the chairman. By ancestry Scotch-Irish, in early youth carefully but privately educated, afterward a student of law in the Temple at London, Rutledge became the foremost statesman of his time south of Virginia. At the age of twenty-six he began his national career in the stamp-act congress of 1765, and from that time was employed by his state wherever the aspect of affairs was the gravest. Patrick Henry
Gilpin, 1181; Elliot, 354. | Gilpin, 1183, 1184 ; Elliot, 355, 356.
pronounced him the most eloquent man in the congress of 1774; his sincerity gave force to his words. In the darkest hours he was intrepid, hopeful, inventive of resources, and resolute, so that timidity and wavering disappeared before him. To the day when disease impaired his powers he was, in war and in peace, the pride of South Carolina. That state could not have selected an abler representative of its policy on the payment of the members of the national legislature from the treasuries of the states, on the slave-trade, the taxation of exports, and the requisition of more than a bare majority of the legislature to counteract European restrictions on navigation.
Of his associates, Gorham was a merchant of Boston, who from his own experience understood the commercial relations of his country, and knew where the restrictive laws of England, of France, and of Spain injured American trade and shipping. Ellsworth, who had just established harmony between the small and the larger states by a wise and happy compromise, now found himself the umpire between the extreme South and the North.
Cotesworth Pinckney called to mind that if the committee should fail to insert some security to the southern states against an emancipation of slaves, and against taxes on exports, he should be bound by duty to his state to vote against their report.* After this the convention, on the twenty-sixth of July, unanimously adjourned till Monday, the sixth of August, that the committee of detail might have time to prepare and report the constitution.t
The committee in joint consultation gave their unremitting attention to every question that came before them. † Their best guides were the constitutions of the several states, which furnished most striking expressions, and regulations approved by long experience. There is neither record nor personal narrative of their proceedings, though they were invested with the largest constructive powers; but the conduct of its several members may be determined by light reflected from their own words and actions before and after. Meanwhile the interest and
* Gilpin, 1187; Elliot, 357.
+ Gilpin, 1220; Elliot, 374, 375. | Wilson in Gilpin, 1249 ; Elliot, 385, and Rutledge in Gilpin, 1284 ; Elliot, 403.
anxiety of the country were on the increase. In May Grayson had written to Monroe: “The weight of General Washington is very great in America, but I hardly think it is sufficient to induce the people to pay money or part with power.” * “If what the convention recommend should be rejected,” so wrote Monroe to Jefferson the day after the adjournment, “they will complete our ruin. But I trust that the presence of General Washington will overawe and keep under the demon of party, and that the signature of his name to the result of their deliberations will secure its passage through the union.”
Grayson to Monroe, 29 May 1787.
THE COLONIAL SYSTEM OF THE UNITED STATES.
FROM JANUARY 1786 TO JULY 1787.
BEFORE the federal convention had referred its resolutions to a committee of detail, an interlude in congress was shaping the character and destiny of the United States of America. Sublime and humane and eventful in the history of mankind as was the result, it will take not many words to tell how it was brought about. For a time wisdom and peace and justice dwelt among men, and the great ordinance, which could alone give continuance to the union, came in serenity and stillness. Every man that had a share in it seemed to be led by an invisible hand to do just what was wanted of him; all that was wrongfully undertaken fell to the ground to wither by the wayside; whatever was needed for the happy completion of the mighty work arrived opportunely, and just at the right moment moved into its place.
By the order of congress a treaty was to be held, in January 1786, with the Shawnees, at the mouth of the Great Miami. Monroe, who had been present as a spectator at the meeting of the United States commissioners with the representatives of the Six Nations at Fort Stanwix, in 1784, desired to attend this meeting with a remoter tribe. He reached Fort Pitt, and with some of the American party began the descent of the Ohio; but, from the low state of the water, he abandoned the expedition at Limestone, and made his way to Richmond through Kentucky and the wilderness. As the result of his inquiries on the journey, he took with him to congress the opinion that a great part of the western territory,
especially that near Lakes Michigan and Erie, was miserably poor; that the land on the Mississippi and the Illinois consisted of extensive plains which had not a single bush on them, and would not have for ages; that the western settlers, in many of the most important objects of a federal government, would be either opposed to the interests of the old states or but little connected with them. He would form the territory into no more than five states; but he adhered to the principle of Jefferson, that they ought as soon as possible to take part in governing themselves, and at an early day share “the sovereignty, freedom, and independence” of the other states.
In the course of the winter the subject of the division of the western territory into states was, on the motion of Monroe, referred to a grand committee. Its report, which was presented on the twenty-fourth of March, traced the division of the territory into ten states to the resolution of congress of September 1780, by which no one was to contain less territory than one hundred nor more than one hundred and fifty miles square. This resolution had controlled the ordinance of April 1784; and, as the first step toward a reform, every part of that ordinance which conflicted with the power of congress to divide the territory into states according to its own discretion was to be repealed.*
Virginia had imbodied the resolve of congress of September 1780 in its cession of its claims to the land north-west of the Ohio. A further report proposed that Virginia should be asked to revise its act of cession.
At this stage of the proceedings Dane made a successful motion to raise a committee for considering and reporting the form of a temporary government for the western states. Its chairman was Monroe, with Johnson and King of New Eng
* This first report of the grand committee is found in Reports of Committees, Papers of Old Congress, xxx., 75, in the State Department, and is indorsed as having been “read 24th of March 1780, to be considered Thursday, March 30th.”
+ This second report of the grand committee is found likewise in vol. xxx., 79, and following, of Papers of Old Congress; but it has no indorsement as to the time when it was entered, read, or considered.
The day on which this motion was made is not given, nor is the motion entered in the Journal. It was probably in April. We get the fact from page 85 of vol. xxx, of the Papers of the Old Congress.