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erous fathers. Of the prominent revolu- member of the New York Convention, tionary patriots, JOHN ADAMS and THOM- and with his pen, as a writer in the AS JEFFERSON, the twin pillars of inde- Federalist, in recommending it to the pendence in the Continental Congress, people, brought him before the country were serving the country, at the time as one of the principal champions of when the constitution was formed, on the new form of government. It is, foreign embassies. HANCOCK, SAMUEL therefore, not without a feeling of surADAMS, PATRICK HENRY, were opposed prise and almost regret, that we find, to innovation, and were not elected to the from the complete record of the deConvention, or refused to attend. WASH- bates, now published, for the first time, INGTON, as the presiding officer, took do in the Madison papers, how very small part in the debates, though his name and was the part taken by Hamilton in influence were far more powerful than forming the constitution, which he afterany other single cause in determining wards defended with so much energy the result, and recommending its adop- and effect; and how entirely adverse tion to the people. FRANKLIN, who was the spirit of the new plan was to his just then terminating his long career, own ideas of political justice, expediby a close corresponding well with its ency, or truth. Of the four months, calm and varied glories, could now, during which the Convention sate, he under the disadvantages of extreme old was absent nearly two, and those the age, and feeble health, do little more busiest of the whole. During the than throw the shield of his world-re- time when he was in attendance, he nowned name over theacts of the Assem- appears, from the report, to have bly. SHERMAN, ELLSWORTH, and others hardly made any attempt to exercise who were active in proceedings, were influence, either in suggesting plans of no doubt already somewhat advanced his own or maturing those of others. in years, but the labor, the responsibili- His reason for this inactivity, so foreign ty, and, on the whole, the ultimate hon- to his natural character, as repeatedly or of forming the constitution devolved given by himself, was a total disapproupon a younger class,still comparatively bation of the leading principles of all the unknown to fame, the most prominent plans proposed. Thus, in a speech made of whom among the members of the on the 18ih of June, a month after the Convention, were such men as Madi- opening of the Convention,-in the disSON, HAMILTON, GOUVERNEUR Morris, cussion of the comparative merits of PINCKNEYS, RANDOLPH, WILSON, ELLS- the two projects of Randolph and Worth, and Rufus King. The Constitu- Patterson, which divided the opinions tional Convention was a body so limited of the meeting, he remarks, that he in number, and considered at the time “had hitherto been silent on the buof so much importance, that almost siness before the Convention, partly every member was a citizen of weight from respect to others, whose superior and influence within his sphere; but the abilities, age, and experience, renderpersons we have mentioned were ed him unwilling to bring forward those who generaily gave the impulse ideas dissimilar to theirs; and partly to the proceedings, and are mainly res- from his delicate situation with respect ponsible for their character.
to his own State, to whose sentiments, Of these persons the one who was as expressed by his colleague, he could considered at the time, perhaps by all, by no means accede. He was obliged, certainly by the large and respectable however, to declare himself unfriendly portion of the community which then to both plans.” On the 29th of June and since sympathized with him in his he left the Convention, and, though he peculiar opinions and feelings, as deci- is said by Mr. Madison to bave rededly the primus inter pares, the sumed his seat on the 13th of August, prominent one among the intellectual his name does not appear again in the and moral peers of the republic, was proceedings until the 6th of September, HAMILTON. Although it has been gen- about three weeks before the close. erally understood that this distin- In the discussion of that day, upon the guished patriot and statesman did not mode of electing the President, he fully concur, as a member of the Con- made some observations, which he vention, in some of the leading princi- prefaced by saying, “ that he had been ples of the constitution, the decision restrained from entering into the discusand activity with which after its adop- sion by his dislike of the scheme of govrion he labored by his eloquence as a ernment in general; but, as he meant to support the plan to be recommended good behavior; the Senate being, like as better than nothing, he wished in the House of Representatives, made this place to offer a few remarks.” In up of members elected from each State fact, no sooner was the plan adopted in numbers proportioned to their and sent out to the people, than he wealth and population. The governors became its most active and strenuous of the States were to be appointed by the supporter. In the New York Conven- general government, and to possess an tion he was the leading champion of the unqualified negative on the acts of the constitution, and simultaneously with State legislatures. It is hardly neceshis efforts in that body, wrote, as sary to say, that in this system the pois well known, above two-thirds of the litical efficiency of the States is entirely Federalist --by far the most effective, destroyed, and that the confederation if not the only formal defence of the is consolidated into a simple elective system that was furnished at the time monarchy. Even this plan, however, through the press :-a work, which, by did not probably indicate the full exits great intrinsic merit, taken in con- tent of Hamilton's theoretical views, nection with the interesting character which undoubtedly included a preferof the subject and of the crisis when ence for even the heredilary feature of it appeared, has been rescued from the the British constitution. He was aware class of ephemeral newspaper publica- that this preference was not shared by tions to which it belonged by its form, any considerable portion of the Ameand incorporated with the standard and rican people, and did not make it the classical literature of the country. basis of either of the two systems
It may appear, at first blush, as if which he drafted for the constitution; this sudden change of position was a but it is very distinctly expressed in proof, in Hamilton, either of a very many of his remarks, even as reported fickle mind, or of insincerity in one or by the candid and considerate pen of the other of the opposite courses which Madison. It stands out in still bolder he took before and after the adoption relief under the less delicate, though of the constitution. But a nearer view perhaps not less correct hand of Yates. of the circumstances under which he Thus, in his speech of the 18th of acted shows that neither conclusion is June, he is represented by Madison necessary. The constitution was op- as saying, that he adopts the sentiposed, in the Convention, by two dis- ments of Necker, that “ the British tinct classes of persons, on directly oppo- government is the only government in site grounds. One of these classes con- the world which unites public strength sidered both of the plans which chiefly with individual security.” He declares occupied the attention of the meeting, the British House of Lords to be a and particularly that of Governor Ran- “noble institution"—the British exedolph, which finally became, with cutive, the “ only good model” for this many alterations, the basis of the con- part of the government. “ The herestitution, as too strong. The other ditary interest of the king was so inclass regarded even this plan as much terwoven with that of the nation, and too weak. Hamilton, as we have his personal emolument so great, that seen, belonged to this latter class, and he was placed above the danger of made no secret of his opinions. In being corrupted from abroad, and, at the speech of the 18th of June, al- the same time, was both sufficiently luded to above, he explained at some independent, and sufficiently controlled, length the nature of the system which to answer the purpose of the institution he should himself have recommended, at home.” The same ideas are thus and, at the close of his remarks, read a expressed in the report of the same formal draft of a constitution founded speech in Yates: “I believe the British on his own views, which appears in government forms the best model the the present report. Towards the close world ever produced.” “ Nothing but of the proceedings he gave to Mr. Madi- a permanent body can check the imson another still more formal draft, of prudence of democracy." “ It is adwhich the latter took a copy, and mitted that you cannot have a good which is published in the appendix to executive upon a democratic plan. the work before us. It provides for an See the excellency of the British exeExecutive and Senate, who are to hold cutive. He is placed above temptation. their places, like the judges, during He can have no link net interest from
the public welfare. Nothing short of sions. Believing the plan, as he did,
After reading his plan, he concludes difficult exercise of his faculties to find his speech, according to the report of reasons which tended to show that it Yates, in the following terms:-“I was, at least, not too strong. In points confess that this plan, and that from of detail there was, no doubt, a proVirginia, are very remote from the bability that his position, as the leading ideas of the people. Perhaps the Jer. champion in the New York Convention, sey plan is nearest their expectation. would sometimes lead him to express But the people are gradually ripening views at variance with those which in their ideas of government. They he had supported before. This result begin to be tired of an excess of de- appears, in fact, to have occurred on mocracy: and what even is the Vir- one rather remarkable occasion, and to ginian plan, but pork still, with a little have produced a disagreeable scene, change of the sauce ?"
which occupied the meeting for two Hamilton's opposition to the consti- days. In the discussion of the relatution, while a member of the Conven- tions established by the constitution tion, proceeded, therefore, from his between the general and State governconviction that it was too weak to ac- ments, Hamilton remarked that, “ the complish the object of government. State governments were necessary to Had it been opposed in the New York secure the liberty of the people, and Convention, or before the people, on the treated as chimerical the idea that
difficult, without obvious inconsistency, government." In reply to these reto occupy the position which he took marks, Mr. Lansing, who bad also as its leading champion and advocate. been a member of the general ConBut this was not the case. The con- vention said, that he “ was firmly perstitution, after it had been adopted in suaded that a hostility between them the Convention and submitted to the would exist--that this was a received people, was publicly opposed in the opinion in the general Convention--that State Conventions, popular meetings, Hamilton himself then entertained the and newspaper publications, on no same view, and argued with much de other ground, than that it was alto- cision and great plausibility, that the gether too strong-that the liberties of State governments ought to be subthe people were in danger--that the verted, at least, so far as to leave them rights of the States would be lost in only corporate rights, and that even the overwhelming power of the general in that situation they would engovernment-that the form of admi- danger the existence of the general nistration established by it would be, government. The honorable gentlein short, nothing better than an elective man's reflections had probably induced monarchy, and the future President a him to correct that sentiment.” Mr. despot in disguise, who, as Patrick Hamilton, says the report of the de Henry afterwards said in the Virginia bate, “ here interrupted Mr. Lansing, Convention, would place one foot on the and contradicted in ihe most positive borders of Maine, and the other on the terms the charge of inconsistency infarthest extremity of Georgia, and thus cluded in the preceding observations. bestride the narrow world like a co- This produced a warm personal alterlossus, while the citizens, like the de- cation between these gentlemen, which generate Romans in the time of Cæsar, engrossed the remainder of that and would have no option left but to the greater part of the following day.”
The particulars of this altercation are « Walk under his huge legs, and creep not given in the report. It might not, about
perhaps, be easy to reconcile the asserTo find themselves dishonorable graves." tion here attributed to Hamilton, with
some of his remarks, as reported by With the views which Hamilton en Madison and Yates; and though no tertained of the character of the con- great importance can ever be attached stitution, it was easy for him, without to particular expressions in reports, even the appearance of inconsistency, not revised by the speaker himself, i! to defend the constitution against an cannot be questioned that the general opposition founded on such apprehen- view of Hamilton, as developed in his speeches and drafts, contemplated leav- preference for the particular form of ing to the States a much less consider- government now established, which, at able share of power than they, in fact, the opening of the Convention, was not possess under the present constitution. contemplated, even in some of its most
It may be proper to remark, that far important features, by any one. It apfrom regarding the opinions on goy. peared in the Convention too strong to ernment expressed by Hamilton in one-half of the members, and too weak the general Convention-including even to the other. One of its two most eshis avowed admiration of the British sential principles, and the one which constitution—as evidences either of is probably ever regarded by most pererroneous judgment, or of undue aspi- sons as the most beautiful and characrations after political distinction,--we teristic trait in the system--we mean consider them rather as showing the the equal vote of the States in the firmness and ability with which he Senate-was extorted from the Conreasoned from the premises then be- vention with the utmost difficulty, in fore the world, and the honorable the way of compromise, by the smaller frankness with which he declared his Siates, and was regarded by the proconclusions, without inquiring whether minent members, at the time, as fatal they were likely to be popular or not. to the success of the plan; for RanHe had too much sagacity not to know, dolph, the father of it, for this reason if he entertained any ambitious views, chiefly, renounced his offspring, and the surest way of defeating them would refused to sign the constitution as be to declare himself in favor of a adopted, though he afterwards became strong government.
reconciled to it, and defended it vigor
ously in the Virginia Convention. But “ Lowliness is young Ambition's ladder.” the force of circumstances is a safer,
as well as a more efficient guide for As to the correctness of his opinion, practical purposes than mere theory. although a preference for the British The friends of a stronger and more constitution over others might not be consolidated system yielded with a thought, at the present day, to argue, good grace to what they probably in a citizen of the United States, much thought the honest prejudices and soundness of judgment, it should be re- errors of less enlightened men, and even collected that the constitution of the stood forward as open champions of a United States did not then exist. The system which they valued only as State constitutions had been very re- "better than nothing." The result cently established, and, as their value was, a form of government which no cannot be realized without the co-ex- one anticipated, but which has far suristence of an effective general gove passed, in its practical operations, ernment, they had not yet, in practice, through the first, and, of course, the worked very well. The atteinpts at most dangerous half century of its expurely democratic institutions, which istence, the most sanguine calculations had been made in other countries in that had been formed by any one of ancient and modern times, had been the results of his own favorite views. all unsuccessful, and had thrown dis. This constitution, thus tried and apcredit on the very name of democracy, proved by the only sure test of expewhich was, accordingly, a bye-word of rience, has now become another reproach with all parties in the Con- “ model of good government” - the vention. The British constitution was, “ model republic"-as the British conin fact, as Hamilton and others des- stitution may still, perhaps, be called cribed it, “ the only model then existing the “model monarchy." Those among of good government.” It was natural, us, if any such there be, even with this therefore, and necessary, that men of splendid system in full operation powerful intellect and extensive infor- around them, who still feel the same mation should desire to see it copied in preference which Hamilton did for the this country, as closely as the popular British constitution, must do it on other feeling would permit. The opposition grounds, and from an abstract preference to such a course was the result of state for monarchical forms and principles pride and the instinctive jealousy of over republican ones, even when the power inherent everywhere in the latter are ascertained to be practicable, mass, rather than from an enlightened and are working out the best results,
with, perhaps, as little alloy of any mentioned, belonged to the portion of kind as is consistent with the imperfec- the Convention whose views in regard tion of all human institutions.
to the strength of the constitution went Most of the remarks which we have far beyond the plan finally adopted. made upon the part taken by Hamilton This plan, though much undefined in in the proceedings of the general Con the course of the debates, represented, vention, apply with equal force to as proposed, the feeling of Virginia. It GOUVERNEUR MORRIS and Rufus KING, is impossible, in reading the history of -whoapproached, if they did not fully the country at this period, not to be equal him in talent, shared his politic struck with the great predominance of cal opinions, and pursued practically Virginia in the affairs of the Union, and nearly the same course. Gouverneur her vast superiority in political efficienMorris was absent from the Conven- cy and intelligence over her sister tion for several weeks after the open- States. If any doubt were entertained ing, but resumed his seat in season to upon this subject after the perusal of oppose the report of the compromise the work before us, it would be settled committee in favor of the equal vote of by a comparison of the debates in the the States in the Senate, which formed State Conventions of the other States the principal crisis in the progress of with those in the State Convention of the debates. The leading features of Virginia. The debates in the Massathe constitution having been settled chusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania by the adoption of this report, though Conventions, were highly creditable to without his concurrence, and against those States, and, though imperfectly his opinion, he nevertheless appears, reported, comprehend fine specimens of like Hamilton, to have cheerfully ac- eloquence, as may well be supposed, quiesced in the result, and took a rather when it is recollected that they were more active part in the subsequent de honored by the presence of such men bates on matters of detail. The only as KING, ANES, JAY, WILSON, and HAMindependent proposition of much im- ILTON. But the Virginia volume, while portance which he submitted to the it includes the speeches of champions, Convention, was that of establishing a on both sides of the question, who Council of State to aid the President in would not have shrunk from comparithe discharge of his executive duties. son with any of those, such as MADIThis suggestion was afterwards re- SON, HENRY, and MARSHALL, is fuller, newed in a different form by Mr. Madi- richer, and, on the whole, far superior son. Mr. Morris was a member of the in general ability. The decided ascommittee of five, appointed on the 9th cendency of Virginia at this period is of September to arrange the articles naturally accounted for, as well by her that had been agreed upon, and revise precedence in years, population, and the style. The other members were extent of territory, as by the simultaDr. JOHNSON of Connecticut, HAMILTON, neous appearance among her citizens MADISON, and King. It has been stated, of several individuals,- WASHINGTON, --we do not recollect in what quar- JEFFERSON, MADISON, HENRY, MARter,--that in this committee MORRIS SHALL, -- who must have taken the lead held the pen. If so, he is, of course, in public affairs in whatever part of the entitled to the honor of having made the Union they might have flourished, and final draft of the constitution. But as who have left the decided impression every clause, and almost every word, of their personal qualities upon several had been the subject of long discussion, of the great departments of our social and finally settled by vote, there was, institutions. at this stage of the business, not much At the particular moment of the eso scope for revision. Morris does not tablishment of the constitution, the appear to have been a member of the influence of Madison in his native State State Convention of Pennsylvania, was, perhaps, more conspicuous than where he then resided. Mr. King, that of any other person. It seems to whose activity in the general Conven- have been his mission, -as honorable tion was rather less than that of Mor- an one as could well devolve upon any ris was a member of the Massachu- individual,- to be the immediate agent setts Convention, and took an efficient in recommending and carrying through part in the proceedings.
all its stages from the first to the last, The persons whom we have thus far the great reform then necessary in the