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as the unappropriated western lands remain unsettled. They are equal in rights, nor is the extreme of poverty to be seen in any part of the Union."
From this situation he thought we could not draw any examples from the governments of Europe; and, there being so few men of fortune, they could not establish a nobility, and equality of others would not admit of the distinction; he therefore “laid it down as a settled principle, that equality of condition was a leading axiom in our government.” He thought “commerce could never interfere with our government, nor give complexion to its councils.” He thought we could not copy from Greece or Rome; “we differed from the whole. Our situation was unexampled; and it is in our power, on different grounds, to secure civil and religious liberty; and, when we secure these, we secure every thing that is necessary to establish happiness.” He thought “there might be three classes in this country: first, the professional men; second, the commercial men ; third, the landed interest; ” that the latter would be the governing power, and the other two would be dependent on them. He thought a national government would not suit them, and, consequently, there would be a mixed interest; and, in that view, there would “in fact be but one order.” “Ours must be suitable to the people, and we were the only people who had sense enough to appoint delegates to establish a
* Secret Proceedings, p. 161.
general government, and he thought the proposition from Virginia would satisfy the people. But a general government must not be dependent on State government.” These observations are quoted, not because they all apply to the case in controversy, but to show that in them there is a continual looking forward to an equality of condition, for which they were aiming, and on which the government was to be founded. Mr. Wilson observed, on the same section,
“The magnitude of the subject was embarrassing; the great system of Henry IV. of France, aided by the greatest of statesmen, is small when compared to the fabric we are now about to erect. In laying the stone amiss we may injure the superstructure; and what would be the consequence if the corner-stone should be loosely placed It is improper that the State legislature should have the power contemplated to be given them. A citizen of America should be considered in two points of view, - as a citizen of the general government, and as a citizen of the particular State in which he may reside. We ought to consider in what character he acts in forming a general government. I am both a citizen of Pennsylvania and of the United States. I must lay aside my State connections, and act for the general good of the whole. We must forget our local habits and attachments. The general government should not depend on State governments. That the powers of peace, war, treaties, coinage, and regulating commerce, ought to reside in that government. And, if we reason in this manner, we shall soon see the impropriety of admitting the interference of State government into the general government. Equality of representation cannot be established, if the second branch is elected by State legislatures. When we are laying the foundation of a building which is to last for ages, and in which millions are interested, it ought to be well laid. If the national government does not act on State prejudices, State distinctions will be lost. I therefore move, that the second branch of the legislature of the national government be elected by , electors chosen by the people of the United States.” "
Much division prevailed on this point, and, as it will be perceived, the convention finally settled down upon the conclusion that the people, by districts in their several States, should choose their own representatives; making the government, if any thing, not quite so national as the proposition made by Mr. Wilson would have it, but yet much more so than by letting the legislatures of the State choose them.
Mr. Hamilton, while speaking of the senate, observed, –
“This question has been considered in several points of view. We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism, or the extreme of democracy, but in moderate government.” And, again, “There can be no truer principle than this, – that every individual in the community at large has an equal right to the protection of government.””
Mr. Madison, in speaking of the manner in which the different States should vote in con
* Secret Proceedings, p. 165. * Secret Proceedings, p. 171. * Secret Proceedings, p. 186.
gress, said “he would exclude INconsistENT PRINciples, in framing a system of government; ”’ it was difficult to get defects amended; and cited the case of Virginia and the Dutch as examples, both of whom found defects in their system of government, and it was with difficulty they had them removed. He observed, “If there was any real danger, he would give the smaller States the defensive weapons. But there is none from that quarter. The great danger to our general government is the great southern and northern interest of the continent being opposed to each other. Look to the votes in congress, and most of them stand divided by the geography of the country, - not according to the size of the States.” As it was then, so it is now, and must continue to be, till slavery shall be done away. This great statesman, from the commencement, saw the danger, and spoke of it. State lines, in the great controversies of the country, have been obliterated, and the great interests of our land have been decided independently of them. The slave States, ever true to themselves, have kept constant watch over their supposed interests, and have wielded the power they have possessed with such despotic sway, that they have almost tempted the North “to come out from among them, and be separate.” Mr. Yates and Mr. Lansing, members from New York, left the convention before it rose.” “They had uniformly opposed the system, and, I believe, despairing of getting a proper one brought forward, or of rendering any real service, they returned no more.” " The number of those who signed the Constitution as proposed was thirty-nine. Ten delegates never attended, and sixteen did not sign that instrument, among whom were Elbridge Gerry and Caleb Strong, of Massachusetts. Rhode Island sent no delegates. General Washington, in his letter addressed to the president of congress, in submitting the constitution the convention had adopted, in his concluding remarks, says, “That it may promote the lasting welfare of the country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.”* Has that wish been realized Have the three million of slaves now in the country received any benefit arising from that instrument 2 None whatever; but daily, hourly, are we departing from the principles he here expressed; and our land, instead of becoming an abode of freedom and of happiness, is but the habitation of slavery and misery to a good portion of her population: thousands are groaning in their chains, and tens of thousands are bewailing their condition. They hear the exultation of freedom and of happiness;
* Secret Proceedings, p. 189.
* In their letter to Gov. Clinton, they give two reasons for returning: “1st. The limited and well-defined powers under which they acted, and which could not, on any possible construction, embrace an idea of such magnitude as to assent to a general constitution, in subversion to that of the State. 2d. A conviction of the impracti. cability of establishing a general government, pervading every part of the United States, and extending essential benefits to all.” * Secret Proceedings, p. 36. * Secret Proceedings, p. 267.