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tion, and transmitted it to the State legislatures, "in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the Convention made and provided in that case."1
In Massachusetts, the Constitution was well received, on its first publication, so far as its friends in the central portion of the Union could ascertain. Mr. Gerry was a good deal censured for refusing to sign it, and the public voice, in Boston and its neighborhood, appeared to be strongly in its favor. But in a very short time three parties were formed among the people of the State, in such proportions as to make the result quite uncertain. The commercial classes, the men of property, the clergy, the members of the legal profession, including the judges, the officers of the late army, and most of the people of the large towns, were decidedly in favor of the Constitution. This party amounted to three sevenths of the people of the State. The inhabitants of the district of Maine, who were then looking forward to the formation of a new State, would be likely to vote for the new Constitution, or to oppose it, as they believed it would facilitate or retard their wishes; and this party numbered two sevenths. The third party consisted of those who had been concerned in the late insurrection under Shays, and their abettors; the majority of them desiring the annihilation of debts, public and private, and believ ing that the proposed Constitution would strengthen
1 Passed September 28, 1787. Journals, XII. 149–166.
all the rights of property. Their numbers were estimated at two sevenths of the people. It was evident that a union of the first two parties would secure the ratification of the instrument, and a union of the last two would defeat it. Great caution, conciliation, and good temper were, therefore, required, on the part of its friends. The influence of Massachusetts on Virginia, on New York, and indeed on all the States that were likely to act after her, would be of the utmost importance. The State convention was ordered to assemble in January.
In New York, as elsewhere, the first impressions were in favor of the Constitution. In the city, and in the southern counties generally, it was from the first highly popular. But it was soon apparent that the whole official influence of the executive government of the State would be thrown against it. There had been a strong party in the State, ever since its refusal to bestow on the Congress the powers asked for in the revenue system of 1783, who had regarded the Union with jealousy, and steadily opposed the surrender to it of any further powers. Of this party, the Governor, George Clinton, was now the head; and the government of the State, which embraced a considerable amount of what is termed "patronage," was in their hands. Two of the delegates of the State to the national Convention, Yates and Lansing, had retired from that body before the Constitution was completed, and had announced their
1 This is the substance of a careful account given by General Knox
to General Washington. (Works of Washington, IX. 310, 311.)
opposition to it in a letter to the Governor, which, from its tone and the character of its objections, was likely to produce a strong impression on the public mind. It became evident that the Constitution could be carried in the State of New York in no other way than by a thorough discussion of its merits, -such a discussion as would cause it to be understood by the people, and would convince them that its adoption was demanded by their interests. For this purpose, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, under the common signature of Publius, commenced the publication of the series of essays which became known as The Federalist. The first number was issued in the latter part of October.
In January, the Governor presented the official communication of the instrument from the Congress to the legislature, with the cold remark, that, from the nature of his official position, it would be improper for him to have any other agency in the business than that of laying the papers before them for their information. Neither he nor his party, however, contented themselves with this abstinence. After a severe struggle, resolutions ordering a State convention to be elected were passed by the bare majorities of three in the Senate and two in the House, on the first day of February, 1788. The elections were held in April; and when the result became known, in the latter part of May, it appeared that the AntiFederalists had elected two thirds of the members of the Convention, and that probably four sevenths of the people of the State were unfriendly to the Con
stitution. Backed by this large majority, the leaders of the Anti-Federal party intended to meet in convention at the appointed time, in June, and then to adjourn until the spring or summer of 1789. Their argument for this course was, that, if the Constitution had been adopted in the course of a twelvemonth by nine other States, New York would have an opportunity to witness its operation and to act according to circumstances. They would thus avoid an immediate rejection, -a step which might lead the Federalists to seek a separation of the southern from the northern part of the State, for the purpose of forming a new State. On the other hand, the Federalists rested their hopes upon what they could do to enlighten the public at large, and upon the effect on their opponents of the action of other States, especially of Virginia, whose convention was to meet at nearly the same time. The Convention of New York assembled at Poughkeepsie,' on the 17th of June, 1788.
However strong the opposition in other States, it was to be in Virginia far more formidable, from the abilities and influence of its leaders, from the nature of their objections, and from the peculiar character of the State. Possessed of a large number of men justly entitled to be regarded then and always as statesmen, although many of them were prone to great refinements in matters of government; filled with the spirit of republican freedom, although its
1 A town on the Hudson River, seventy-five miles north of the city of New York.
polity and manners were marked by several aristocratic features; having, on the one hand, but few among its citizens interested in commerce, and still fewer, on the other hand, of those levelling and licentious classes which elsewhere sought to overturn or control the interests of property; ever ready to lead in what it regarded as patriotic and demanded by the interests of the Union, but jealous of its own dignity and of the rights of its sovereignty; - the State of Virginia would certainly subject the Constitution to as severe an ordeal as it could undergo anywhere, and would elicit in the discussion all the good or the evil that could be discovered in the examination of a system before it had been practically tried. The State was to feel, it is true, the almost overshadowing influence of Washington, in favor of the new system, exerted, not by personal participation in its proceedings, but in a manner which could leave no doubt respecting his opinion. But it was also to feel the strenuous opposition of Patrick Henry, that great natural orator of the Revolution, whose influence over popular assemblies was enormous, and who added acuteness, subtilty, and logic to the fierce sincerity of his unstudied harangues, although his knowledge was meagre and his range of thought circumscribed; and the not less strenuous or effective opposition of George Mason, who had little of the eloquence and passion of his renowned compatriot, but who was one of the most profound and able of all the American statesmen opposed to the Constitution, while he was inferior in