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union of independent states; that in the legislature it estab lished the vote by individuals, not by states; that between two parties in the same community, each claiming independent sovereignty, it granted an unlimited right of internal taxation to the federal body, whose stronger will would thus be able to annihilate the power of its weaker rival; that it conceded a right to regulate and judge of elections; that it extended the judicial power as widely as the legislative; that it raised the members of congress above their states, for they were paid not by the states as subordinate delegates, but by the general government; and finally, that it required an oath of allegiance to the federal government, and thus made the allegiance to a separate sovereign state an absurdity.*
Meantime the zeal of the majority was quickened by news from "the Delaware state," whose people were for the most part of the same stock as the settlers of Pennsylvania, and had grown up under the same proprietary. On the proposal for the federal convention at Philadelphia, its general assembly declared that "they had long been fully convinced of the necessity of revising the federal constitution," "being willing and desirous of co-operating with the commonwealth of Virginia and the other states in the confederation." + Now that an equality of vote in the senate had been conceded, the one single element of opposition disappeared. The legislature of Delaware met on the twenty-fourth of October, and following "the sense and desire of great numbers of the people of the state, signified in petitions to their general assembly,' "adopted speedy measures to call together a convention."
The constituent body, which met at Dover in the first week of December, encountered no difficulty but how to find language strong enough to express their joy in what had been done. On the sixth "the deputies of the people of the Delaware state fully, freely, and entirely approved of, assented to, ratified, and confirmed the federal constitution," to which they all on the next day subscribed their names.#
* Independent Gazetteer, 6 December, 1787.
+ Laws of Delaware, page 892, in edition of 1797.
#Journals of Congress, iv. Appendix, 46.
When it became known that Delaware was leading the way at the head of the grand procession of the thirteen states, McKean, on Monday, the tenth of December, announced to the Pennsylvania convention that he should on the twelfth press the vote for ratification.
On the next day Wilson summed up his defence of the constitution, and repeated: "This system is not a compact; I cannot discern the least trace of a compact; the introduction to the work is not an unmeaning flourish; the system itself tells you what it is, an ordinance, an establishment of the people." The opposition followed the line of conduct marked out by the opposition in Virginia. On the twelfth, before the question for ratification was taken, Whitehill presented petitions from seven hundred and fifty inhabitants of Cumberland county against adopting the constitution without amendments, and particularly without a bill of rights to secure liberty in matters of religion, trial by jury, the freedom of the press, the sole power in the individual states to organize the militia; the repeal of the executive power of the senate, and consequent appointment of a constitutional council; a prohibition of repealing or modifying laws of the United States by treaties; restrictions on the federal judiciary power; a confirmation to the several states of their sovereignty, with every power, jurisdiction, and right not expressly delegated to the United States in congress assembled. In laboring for this end, he showed a concert with the measure which Mason and Randolph had proposed in the federal convention and Richard Henry Lee in congress, and which led the Virginia legislature on that very day to pass the act for communicating with sister states.†
The amendments which Whitehill proposed were not suffered to be entered in the journal. His motion was rejected by forty-six to twenty-three; and then the new constitution was ratified by the same majority.
On Thursday the convention marched in a procession to the court-house, where it proclaimed the ratification. Returning to the place of meeting, the forty-six subscribed their names to their act. The opposition were invited to add their names as a fair and honorable acquiescence in the principle that the * Elliot, ii., 497, 499. † Hening, xii., 463.
majority should govern. John Harris refused, yet held himself bound by the decision of the majority. Smilie answered: 'My hand shall never give the lie to my heart and tongue." Twenty-one of the minority signed an exceedingly long address to their constituents, complaining that the extent of the country did not admit of the proposed form of government without danger to liberty; and that the powers vested in congress would lead to an iron-handed despotism, with unlimited control of the purse and the sword.
The ratification gave unbounded satisfaction to all Pennsylvania east of the Susquehanna; beyond that river loud murmurs were mingled with threats of resistance in arms. On the fifteenth the convention dissolved itself, after offering a permanent and a temporary seat of government to the United States.
The population of New Jersey at that time was almost exclusively rural; in the west chiefly the descendants of Quakers, in the east of Dutch and Scottish Calvinists. This industrious, frugal, and pious people, little agitated by political disputes, received the federal constitution with joy, and the consciousness that its own sons had contributed essentially to its formation.*
On the twenty-sixth of October its legislature called a state convention by a unanimous vote. On the eleventh of December the convention of New Jersey, composed of accomplished civilians, able judges, experienced generals, and fair-minded, intelligent husbandmen, assembled in Trenton. The next day was spent in organizing the house, all the elected members being present save one. John Stevens was chosen president by ballot; Samuel Whitham Stockton, secretary. The morning began with prayer. Then with open doors the convention proceeded to read the federal constitution by sections, giving opportunity for debates and for votes if called for; and, after a week's deliberation, on Tuesday, the eighteenth, determined unanimously to ratify and confirm the federal constitution. A committee, on which appear the names of Brearley, a member of the federal convention, Witherspoon, Neilson, Beatty, former members of congress, was appointed to draw up the * Penn. Journal, 7 November 1787.
form of the ratification; and the people of the state of New Jersey, "by the unanimous consent of the members present, agreed to, ratified, and confirmed the proposed constitution and every part thereof.” *
On the next day, the resolve for ratification having been engrossed in duplicate on parchment, one copy for the congress of the United States and one for the archives of the state, every member of the convention present subscribed his name.
In the shortest possible time, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, the three central states, one by a majority of two thirds, the others unanimously, accepted the constitution.
The union of the central states was of the best omen. Before knowing their decision, Georgia at the extreme south had independently taken its part; its legislature chanced to be in session when the message from congress arrived. All its relations to the United States were favorable; it was in possession of a territory abounding in resources and large enough to constitute an empire; its people felt the need of protection against Spain, which ruled along their southern frontier from the Mississippi to the Atlantic, and against the savages who dwelt in their forests and hung on the borders of their settlements, A convention which was promptly called met on Christmasday, with power to adopt or reject any part or the whole of the proposed constitution. Assembled at Augusta, its members, finding themselves all of one mind, on the second day of the new year, unanimously, for themselves and for the people of Georgia, fully and entirely assented to, ratified, and adopted the proposed constitution. They hoped that their ready compliance would "tend to consolidate the union" and "promote the happiness of the common country." The completing of the ratification by the signing of the last name was announced by a salute of thirteen guns in token of faith that every state would accede to the new bonds of union.†
*Penn. Journal and Penn. Packet, 22 and 29 December.
THE CONSTITUTION IN CONNECTICUT AND MASSACHUSETTS.
FROM 26 SEPTEMBER 1787 TO 6 FEBRUARY 1788.
On the twenty-sixth of September Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, two of the delegates from Connecticut to the federal convention, transmitted to Samuel Huntington, then governor of the state, a printed copy of the constitution to be laid before the legislature. In an accompanying official letter they observed that the proportion of suffrage accorded to the state remained the same as before; and they gave the assurance that the "additional powers vested in congress extended only to matters respecting the common interests of the union, and were specially defined; so that the particular states retained their sovereignty in all other matters." The restraint on the legislatures of the several states respecting emitting bills of credit, making anything but money a tender in payment of debts, or impairing the obligation of contracts by ex post facto laws, was thought necessary as a security to commerce, in which the interest of foreigners as well as of the citizens of different states may be affected.†
The governor was a zealous friend of the new constitution. The legislature, on the sixteenth of October, unanimously ‡ called a convention of the state. To this were chosen the retired and the present highest officers of its government; the judges of its courts; "ministers of the Gospel;" and nearly sixty who had fought for independence. Connecticut had a special interest in ratifying the constitution; the compromise
* Compare the remark of Wilson, supra, 385, 386.