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THE CONSTITUTION IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, MARYLAND, AND SOUTH
FROM FEBRUARY TO 23 MAY 1788.
LANGDON, the outgoing chief magistrate of New Hampshire, and Sullivan, his successful competitor, vied with each other in zeal for federal measures; but when, in February 1788, the convention of the state came together there appeared to be a small majority against any change. In a seven days' debate, Joshua Atherton of Amherst; William Hooper, the minister of Marbury; Matthias Stone, deacon of the church in Claremont; Aliel Parker, from Jaffrey, reproduced the objections that had been urged in the neighboring state; while John Sullivan, John Langdon, Samuel Livermore, Josiah Bartlett, and John Pickering explained and defended it with conciliatory moderation. When zealots complained of the want of a religious test, Woodbury Langdon, lately president of Harvard college, but now a minister of the gospel at Hampton Falls, demonstrated that religion is a question between God and man in which no civil authority may interfere. Dow, from Weare, spoke against the twenty years
' sufferance of the foreign slave-trade; and to the explanation of Langdon that under the confederation the power exists without limit, Atherton answered: “It is our full purpose to wash our hands clear of becoming its guarantees even for a term of years."
The friends of the constitution won converts enough to hold the balance; but these were fettered by instructions from their towns. To give them an opportunity to consult their constituents, the friends of the constitution proposed an ad
journment till June, saying, with other reasons, that it would be very prudent for a small state like New Hampshire to wait and see what the other states would do. This was the argument which had the greatest weight.* The place of meeting was changed from Exeter, a stronghold of federalism, to Concord; and the adjournment was then carried by a slender majority.t
The assembly of Maryland, in November 1787, summoned its delegates to the federal convention to give them information of its proceedings; and Martin rehearsed to them and published to the world his three days' arraignment of that body for having exceeded its authority. He was answered by McHenry, who, by a concise analysis of the constitution, drew to himself the sympathy of his hearers. The legislature unanimous!y ordered a convention of the people of the state; it copied the example set by Virginia of leaving the door open for amendments ; # and by a majority of one the day for the choice and the day for the meeting of its convention were postponed till the next April.
The long delay gave opportunity for the cabalings of the anti-federalists of Virginia.# Richard Henry Lee was as zealous as ever; and Patrick Henry disseminated propositions for a southern confederacy;but Washington, who felt himself at home on the Maryland side of the Potomac, toiled fearlessly and faithfully, with Madison at his side, for the immediate and unconditioned ratification of the constitution by the South.
In the three months' interval before the election, the fields and forests and towns of Maryland were alive with thought; the merits of the constitution were scanned and sifted in every public meeting and at every hearth ; and on the day in 1788 for choosing delegates, each voter, in designating the candidate of his preference, registered his own deliberate decision. In fifteen counties, and the cities of Baltimore and Annapolis, there was no diversity of sentiment. Two counties only re
* Report in the Mass. Spy, copied into Ind. Gazetteer of 9 April 1788. + Ind. Gazetteer, 17 March 1788. † Madison to Jefferson, 9 December 1787; Madison, i., 363, 364. # Letters to Washington, iv., 196. | This is repeatedly told of Henry by Carrington. See also Madison, i., 365
turned none but anti-federalists; Harford county elected three of that party and one trimmer.
The day before the convention was to assemble, Washington, guarding against the only danger that remained, addressed a well-considered letter to Thomas Johnson: “An adjournment of your convention will be tantamount to the rejection of the constitution. It cannot be too much deprecated and guarded against. Great use is made of the postponement in New Hampshire, although it has no reference to the convention of this state. An event similar to this in Maryland would have the worst tendency imaginable; for indecision there would certainly have considerable influence upon South Carolina, the only other state which is to precede Virginia ; and it submits the question almost wholly to the determination of the latter. The pride of the state is already touched, and will be raised much higher if there is fresh cause." *
The advice, which was confirmed by similar letters from Madison, was communicated to several of the members; so that the healing influence of Virginia proved greater than its power to wound. But the men of Maryland of themselves knew their duty, and Washington's advice was but an encouragement for them to proceed in the way which they had chosen.
On Monday, the twenty-first of April, a quorum of the convention assembled at Annapolis. The settlement of representation in the two branches of the federal legislature was pleasing to all the representatives of fifteen counties, and the cities of Baltimore and Annapolis agreed with each other perfectly that the main question had already been decided by the people in their respective counties; and that the ratification of the constitution, the single transaction for which they were convened, ought to be speedily completed. Two days were given to the organization of the house and establishing rules for its government; on the third the constitution was read a first time, and the motion for its ratification was formally made. The plan of a confederacy of slave-holding states found not
* Washington to Thomas Johnson, 20 April 1788; T. Johnson to Washing. ton, 10 October 1788. Compare Washington to James McHenry, 27 April 1788 to Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, 27 April 1788 ; to James Madison, 2 May 1788.
one supporter; not one suggested an adjournment for the purpose of consultation with Virginia. The malcontents could embarrass the convention only by proposing pernicious amendments.
On the morning of the twenty-fourth, Samuel Chase took his seat, and at the second reading of the constitution began from elaborate notes the fiercest opposition: The powers to be vested in the new government are deadly to the cause of liberty, and should be amended before adoption; five states can now force a concession of amendments which after the national government shall go into operation could be carried only by nine.* He spoke till he was exhausted, intending to resume his argument on the following day.
In the afternoon, William Paca of Harford county, a signer of the declaration of independence, appeared for the first time and sought to steer between the clashing opinions, saying: “I have a variety of objections; not as conditions, but to accompany the ratification as standing instructions to the representatives of Maryland in congress. To Johnson the request seemed candid; and on his motion the convention adjourned to the next morning.† The interval was ployed in preparing a set of amendments to the constitution, which were adapted to injure the cause of federalism in Virginia.
On Friday morning a member from each of eleven several counties and the two cities, one after the other, declared that he and his colleagues were under an obligation to vote for the government;” and almost all declared further that they had no authority to propose amendments which their constituents had never considered, and of course could never have directed.# When Paca began to read his amendments, he was called to order by George Gale of Somerset county, the question before the house being still “ on the ratification of the constitution.” Chase once more "made a display of all his eloquence;” John F. Mercer discharged his whole “ artillery of inflammable
* Notes of Chase on the constitution, MS.; and the historical address of Alex C. Hanson, MS.
+ Hanson's MS. narrative. # James McHenry to Washington, 18 May 1788. # Alex. C. Hanson. MS. Elliot, ii., 548.
matter;” and Martin rioted in boisterous“ vehemence;" “but no converts were made; no, not one." *
The friends to the federal government "remained inflexibly silent.” The malcontents having tired themselves out, between two and three o'clock on Saturday, the twenty-sixth, the constitution was ratified by sixty-three votes against eleven, Paca voting with the majority. Proud of its great majority of nearly six to one, the convention fixed Monday, at three o'clock, for the time when they would all set their names to the instrument of ratification.
Paca then brought forward his numerous amendments, saying that with them his constituents would receive the constitution, without them would oppose it even with arms. After a short but perplexed debate he was indulged in the appointment of a committee of thirteen, of which he himself was the chairman; but they had power only to recommend amendments to the consideration of the people of Maryland. The majority of the committee readily acceded to thirteen resolutions, explaining the constitution according to the construction of its friends, and restraining congress from exercising power not expressly delegated. The minority demanded more; the committee fell into a wrangle; the convention on Monday sent a summons for them; and Paca, taking the side of the minority, would make no report. Thereupon the convention dissolved itself by a great majority.
The accession of Maryland to the new union by a vote of nearly six to one brought to the constitution the majority of the thirteen United States, and a great majority of their free inhabitants. The state which was cradled in religious liberty gained the undisputed victory over the first velleity of the slave-holding states to form a separate confederacy. “It is a thorn in the sides of the leaders of opposition in this state!” wrote Washington to Madison. “Seven affirmative without a negative would almost convert the unerring sister. The fiat of your convention will most assuredly raise the edifice,” # were his words to Jenifer of Maryland.
* Washington to Madison, 2 May 1788.
| Hanson. MS. Washington to Madison, 2 May 1788. # Washington to Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, 27 April 1788.