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general powers and resources to not more than two or three of those who framed or advocated it. Richard Henry Lee, William Grayson, Benjamin Harrison, John Tyler, and others of less note, were united with Henry and Mason in opposing the Constitution. Its leading advocates were to be Madison, Marshall, the future Chief Justice of the United States, George Nicholas, and the Chancellor Pendleton. The Governor, Edmund Randolph, occupied for a time a middle position between its friends and its opponents, but finally gave to it his support, from motives which I have elsewhere described as eminently honorable and patriotic.
One of the most distinguished of the public men of Virginia had been absent in the diplomatic service of the country for three years. His eminent abilities and public services, his national reputation, and the influence of his name, naturally made both parties anxious to claim the authority of Jefferson, and he was at once furnished with a copy of the Constitution as soon as it appeared. In the heats of subsequent political conflicts he has been often charged by his opponents with a general hostility to the Constitution. The truth is, that Mr. Jefferson's opinions on the subject of government, and of what was desirable and expedient to be done in this country, united with the effect of his long absence from home,' did lead him, at first, to think and to say that the Constitution had defects which, if not corrected, would destroy the liberties of America.
1 He went abroad in the summer of 1784.
He was by far the most democratic, in the tendency of his opinions, of all the principal American statesmen of that age. He was, according to his own avowal, no friend to an energetic government anywhere. He carried abroad the opinion that the Confederation could be adapted, with a few changes, to all the wants of the Union; and this opinion he continued to retain, because the events which had taken place here during his absence did not produce upon his mind the effect which they produced upon the great majority of public men who remained in the midst of them. He freely declared to more than one of his correspondents in Virginia, at this time, that such disorders as had been witnessed in Massachusetts were necessary to public liberty, and that the national Convention had been too much influenced by them, in preparing the Constitution., He held that the natural progress of things is for liberty to lose and for government to gain ground; and that no government should be organized without those express and positive restraints which will jealously guard the liberties of the people, even if those liberties should periodically break into licentiousness. One of his favorite maxims of government was "rotation in office"; and he thought the government of the Union should have cognizance only of matters involved in the relations of the people of each State to foreign countries, or to the people of the other States, and that each State should retain the exclusive control of all its internal and domestic concerns, and especially the power of direct taxation.
Hence it is not surprising that, when Mr. Jefferson received at Paris, early in November, a copy of the Constitution, and when he found in it no express declarations insuring the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of the person under the uninterrupted protection of the habeas corpus, and no trial by jury in civil cases, and found also that the President would be re-eligible, and that the government would have the power of direct taxation, his anxiety should have been excited. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that he counselled a direct rejection of the instrument by the people of Virginia. His first suggestion was, that the nine States which should first act upon it should adopt it, unconditionally, and that the four remaining States should accept it only on the previous condition that certain amendments should be made. This plan of his became known in Virginia in the course of the winter of 1787-88, and it gave the Anti-Federalists what they considered a warrant for using his authority on their side. But before the following spring, when he had had an opportunity to see the course pursued by Massachusetts, he changed his opinion, and authorized his friends to say that he regarded an unconditional acceptance by each State, and subsequent amendments, in the mode provided by the Constitution, as the only rational plan.' He also abandoned the opinion that the general government ought not
1 Compare Mr. Jefferson's autobiography, and his correspondence, in the first, second, and third vol
umes of his collected works (edition of 1853), and the letters of Mr. Madison.
to have the power of direct taxation; but he never receded from his objections founded on the want of a bill of rights, and of trial by jury, and on the re-eligibility of the President.
Immediately after his return to Mount Vernon from the national Convention, Washington sent copies of the Constitution to Patrick Henry, Mason, Harrison, and other leading persons whose opposition he anticipated, with a temperate but firm expression of his own opinion. The replies of these gentlemen furnished him with the grounds of their objections, and at the same time relieved him, as to all of them but Henry, from the apprehension that they might resist the calling of a State convention. Mason and Henry were both members of the legislature. The former was expressly instructed by his constituents of Alexandria county1 to vote for a submission of the Constitution to the people of the State in convention; a vote which he would probably have given without instruction, as he declared to General Washington that he should use all his influence for this purpose. Mr. Henry was not in
1 In the newspapers of the time there is to be found a story that Mr. Mason was very roughly received on his arrival at the city of Alexandria, after the adjournment of the national Convention, on account of his refusal to sign the Constitution. The occurrence is not alluded to in Washington's correspondence, although he closely observed Mr. Mason's movements, and regarded them with ev
ident anxiety. The story is told
structed, and the friends of the Constitution expected his resistance. The legislature assembled in October, and on the first day of the session, in a very full House, Henry declared, to the surprise of everybody, that the proposed Constitution must go to a popular convention. The elections for such a body were ordered to be held in March and April of the following spring. When they came on, the news that the convention of New Hampshire had postponed their action was employed by the Anti-Federalists, who insisted that this step had been taken in deference to Virginia; although it was in fact taken merely in order that the delegates of New Hampshire might get their previous instructions against the Constitution removed by their constituents. The pride of Virginia was touched by this electioneering expedient, and the result was that the parties in the State convention were nearly balanced, the Federalists however having, as they supposed, a majority. The convention was to assemble on the 2d of June, 1788.
In the legislature of South Carolina the Constitution was debated, with great earnestness, for three days, before it was decided to send it to a popular convention. This was owing to the great persistency of Rawlins Lowndes, who carried on the discussion in opposition to the Constitution, almost singlehanded and with great ability, against the two Pinckneys, Pierce Butler, John and Edward Rutledge, John Julius Pringle, Robert Barnwell, Dr. David
1 Washington's Works, IX. 266, 267, 273, 340–342, 345, 346.