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lives are passed in an established routine, it is natural for them to exaggerate and to adorn the past. But when the present has its own historical convulsion, it is then that men find new standards with which to judge the past, and a period in which rightly to estimate it,-destroying or dwarfing, it is true, much that before claimed their admiration or enchained their worship; but, on the other hand, ofttimes exalting what before had had an obscure and degraded place in popular estimation. It is in such periods that the native historian of his country finds the justest time for determining the correct value of the past, and distinguishing between what were its mere idols, and what should have been its true aspirations.

It is thus, from the stand-point of the recent great war in America, that one may justly contemplate the true value of its past history, measure correctly its great men of a former period, and master the delusions of an old political idolatry. The world knows how before this war the people of North America had, for nearly three-quarters of a century, worshipped, as its two political idols, the Federal constitution and the Union of States formed under it. Looking back at these from the present period in American history, which has freed us from the restraints of mere sentiment and tradition, he who thus makes the calm and intelligent retrospect is astonished to find what extravagance and delusion were in the minds of these worshippers, and what acts of devotion were made to what were ofttimes but gilded images of clay.

For two generations of men, the almost miraculous wisdom of the Federal constitution of America has been preached and exclaimed, until it was thought to be political blasphemy to impugn it. Its praises were hymned by poets. The public orator was listened to with impatience who had not some exaggerated tribute to pay to the sacred virtues of what Daniel Webster called the consti-tew-tion, and the almost angelic excellence of "the forefathers" who had framed it. It was seriously asserted, that in this instrument had been combined the political wisdom of all ages, and that it was the epitome of the human science of government. The insolent heights to which this extravagance arose were astounding. The world's last hopes of good government were said to be contained in these dozen pages of printed matter.

Unhappily for such hopes, or for such boasts, we are now at a period when we may estimate the right value of this wonderful constitution, and take the severe judgment of history upon it. We may now dare to state that judgment briefly: it is, that never did a political instrument contain, from the necessity of its circumstances, a nobler principle, or present the folly and ignorance of men in more glaring defects, than did the Federal constitution of the United States.

It is no longer required, by the political fashion of the times, for an American to say, that the men who formed this constitution were either intellectual giants or wonderful scholars. Beyond a few names-such as Randolph and Patrick Henry, "the forest-born Demosthenes," of Virginia, Pinckney and Luther Martin, of Maryland, Hamilton, of New York, and Franklin, of Pennsylvania-the Convention which formed this instrument may be described as a company of very plain men, but little instructed in political science, who, in their debates, showed sometimes the crudities and chimeras of ignorant reform, and exhibited more frequently a loose ransacking of history for precedents and lessons, such as rather might have been expected in a club of college sophomores than in a council of statesmen.

The two last names mentioned on the list of distinction in the Convention-Hamilton and Franklin-may be taken as examples of the American exaggeration of their public men, which, indeed, more peculiarly belonged to the people of the Northern States-that division of the American people which after-events have classified as Yankees. Hamilton, who had a school of his own in the Convention, was readily exalted as an idol by the party which he so early begot in the history of his country. The man who was honored by pageants and proces sions in the streets of New York, at the close of the Convention, must be declared, by the just and unimpassioned historian, to have been superficial as a statesman, and defective as a scholar. He had, indeed, neither the intuition of genius, nor the power of analysis. He was a man of little mind. But he had studied a peculiar style in writing, which Washington was weak enough to take for a model, and, it is said, sometimes appropriated. There was no point or sharp edges in the style either of Alexander Hamilton or George Washington. Both

wrote and spoke in those long sentences in which commonplaces are pompously dressed up, and in which the sense is so overlaid with qualifications that it is almost impossible to probe it. But Washington made no pretensions to literature and scholarship, while Hamilton had no titles to fame other than these. And in these it must be confessed that he had scarcely any other merit than that of a smooth constructer of words, a character which with the vulgar often passes for both orator and statesman.

Benjamin Franklin was thoroughly a representative Yankee, the first clear-cut type we recognize in history of that materialism, coarse selfishness, pelf, low cunning, and commercial smartness, which passes with the contemporary Yankee as the truest philosophy and highest aim of life. It is alike curious and amusing to examine the grounds of estimation in the minds of his countrymen, which conferred the high-sounding title of philosopher on an old gentleman in blue stockings, who, in France, was the butt of the Parisian wits, and who left a legacy of wisdom to posterity in the "Maxims of Poor Richard." How many modern Yankees have been educated in the school of the "Maxims" of Franklin it would be difficult to over-estimate. If a gross and materialistic value of things is to pass as "philosophy;" if the hard maxims of selfishness, and the parings of penuriousness, such as "Poor Richard" dins to American youth, do really contain the true lessons and meaning of life, then we may declare, in the phrases of Yankee admiration, that Benjamin Franklin was a philosopher and a sage, who eclipsed all other lights in the world, and "whipped the universe." But really, after all, may we not doubt the value of this cookery-book philosophy of smart things; think it doubtful whether the mighty problem of how pence make pounds, be the largest or best part of human wisdom; and conclude that Benjamin Franklin, though not the greatest celebrity America has ever produced, was neither worse nor better than a representative Yankee.

We are almost inclined to laugh at the part which this queer figure acted in the Convention which formed the constitution of the United States. No member had more clap-traps in the way of political inventions. His ignorance of political science and of popular motives was alike profound; and we find him

proposing to govern the country after a fashion scarcely less beautiful and less practicable than the Republic of Plato and the Arcadia of Sydney. He thought that magistrates might serve the public from patriarchal affection or for the honor of titles. He quoted in the Convention a maxim that sounds curiously enough to American ears: that "in all cases of public service, the less profit, the greater honor." He was in favor of the nonsense of a plural executive. He insisted in the Convention on the practicability of "finding three or four men in all the United States with public spirit enough to bear sitting in peaceful council, for perhaps an equal term, merely to preside over our civil concerns, and see that our laws were duly executed." Such was the political sagacity of this person, who, it must be confessed, made what reputation he had rather in the handbooks of Yankee economy than in monuments of statesmanship.

But we shall find a better key to the real value of the constitution in a summary review of its debates, than in a portraiture, however interesting, of the men who composed it. The Convention of delegates assembled from the different States at Philadelphia, on the second Monday in May, 1787, had met on a blind errand. They had been called by Congress, "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein, as shall, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the Federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union."

This singularly confused language, in the call of the Convention, naturally gave rise to differences of opinion. One party in the Convention-representing what was known as the New Jersey proposition-took the ground that its power was limited to a mere revision and amendment of the existing Articles of Confederation: that it was, therefore, necessary to take the present federal system as the basis of action, to proceed upon terms of the federal equality of the States; in short, to remedy the defects of the existing government, not to supplant it. Hamilton and his party were for a new and violent system of reform. They were said to favor the establisment of a monarchy. The extent to which this was true is, that they were in

favor of the annihilation of the State governments and the permanent tenure of public offices. A third party in the Convention avoided both extremes, insisted upon a change of the federal principle, and proposed a "national" government, in the sense of a supreme power with respect to certain objects common between the States, and committed to it, and which would have some kind of direct compulsory action upon individuals. The word "national" was used only in this limited sense. The great defect of the existing Confederation was, that it had no power to reach individuals, and thus enforce its decrees. The proposed Union, or "national" government, was to be a league of States, but with power to reach individuals; and yet these only in certain severely defined respects, and through powers expressly delegated by the States. In the nature of things, this power could not act upon the States collectively; that is, not in the usual and peaceful mode in which governments are conducted. All that was claimed for, it, and all that could be claimed for it, was to reach individuals in those specifications of authority that the States should make to it.

The plan of this party was no sooner developed in the Convention than it met the furious opposition of the smaller States. It was declared by Luther Martin, that those who advocated it "wished to establish such a system as could give their own States undue power and influence in the government over the other States." Both Mr. Randolph, of Virginia, and Mr. Pinckney, of Maryland, who had brought before the Convention drafts of the plan referred to, agreed that the members of the Senate should be elected by the House of Representatives; thus, in effect, giving to the larger States power to construct the Senate as they chose. Mr. Randolph had given additional offence to the smaller States. He proposed that, instead of an equal vote by States, "the right suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be proportioned to the quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants."


There was thus excited in the Convention a jealousy between the larger and smaller States; the former insisting upon a preponderating influence in both houses of the National Legislature, and the latter insisting on an equality of representation in each house. This jealous controversy is tracked

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