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in general, that, however fruitful of debate, or declamation, or serious and important doubt, might be the question whether such a government as had been framed by the national Convention should be substituted for the Confederation, the opposition were not confined to this question, as the means of persuading the people that the proposed system ought to be rejected. One of the most deeply interested of the men who were watching the currents of public opinion with extreme solicitude, observed “a strong belief in the people at large of the insufficiency of the Confederation to preserve the existence of the Union, and of the necessity of the Union to their safety and prosperity; of course, a strong desire of a change, and a predisposition to receive well the propositions of the Convention."1 But while the Constitution came before the people with this conviction and this predisposition in its favor, yet when its opponents, in addition to their positive objections to what it did contain, could point to what it did not embrace, and could say that it proposed to establish a government of great power, without providing for rights of primary importance, and without any declaration of the cardinal maxims of liberty which the people had from the first been accustomed to incorporate with their State constitutions; and while the local interests, the sectional feelings, and the separate policy, real or supposed, of different States, furnished such a variety of means for defeating its adoption by the necessary number of nine States; -we 1 Hamilton, Works, II. 419, 420.
may not wonder that its friends should have been doubtful of the issue. "It is almost arrogance," said the same anxious observer, "in so complicated a subject, depending so entirely upon the incalculable fluctuations of the human passions, to attempt even a conjecture about the result." 1
1 Hamilton, Works, II. 421.
RATIFICATIONS OF DELAWARE, PENNSYLVANIA, NEW JERSEY, GEORGIA, AND CONNECTICUT, WITHOUT OBJECTION. - CLOSE OF THE YEAR 1787. BEGINNING OF THE YEAR 1788. - RATIFICATION OF MASSACHUSETTS, THE SIXTH STATE, WITH PROPOSITIONS OF AMENDMENT. RATIFICATION OF MARYLAND, WITHOUT OBJECTION.-SOUTH CAROLINA, THE EIGHTH State, ADOPTS, AND PROPOSES AMENDMENTS.
THE first State that ratified the Constitution, although its convention was not the first to assemble, was Delaware. It was a small, compact community, with the northerly portion of its territory lying near the city of Philadelphia, with which its people had constant and extensive intercourse. Its public men were intelligent and patriotic. In the national Convention it had contended with great spirit for the interests of the smaller States, and its people now had the sagacity and good sense to perceive that they had gained every reasonable security for their peculiar rights. The public press of Philadelphia friendly to the Constitution furnished the means of understanding its merits, and the discussions in the convention of Pennsylvania, which assembled before that of Delaware, threw a flood of light over the whole subject, which the people of Delaware did not
fail to regard. Their delegates unanimously ratified and adopted the Constitution on the 7th of December.
The convention of Pennsylvania met, before that of any of the other States, at Philadelphia, on the 20th of November. It was the second State in the Union in population. Its chief city was perhaps the first in the Union in refinement and wealth, and had often been the scene of great political events of the utmost interest and importance to the whole country. There had sat, eleven years before, that illustrious Congress of deputies from the thirteen Colonies, who had declared the independence of America, had made Washington commander-in-chief of her armies, and had given her struggle for freedom a name throughout the world. There, the Revolutionary Congress had continued, with a short interruption, to direct the operations of the war. There, the alliance with France was ratified, in 1778. There, the Articles of Confederation were finally carried into full effect, in 1781. There, within six months afterwards, the Congress received intelligence of the surrender of Cornwallis, and walked in procession to one of the churches of the city, to return thanks to God for a victory which in effect terminated the war. There, the instructions for the treaty of peace were given, in 1782, and there the Constitution of the United States had been recently framed. For more than thirteen years, since the commencement of the Revolution, and with only occasional intervals, the people of Philadelphia had
been accustomed to the presence of the most eminent statesmen of the country, and had learned, through the influences which had gone forth from their city, to embrace in their contemplation the interests of the Union.
They placed in the State convention, that was to consider the proposed Constitution of the United States, one of the wisest and ablest of its framers, James Wilson. The modesty of his subsequent career,' and the comparatively little attention that has been bestowed by succeeding generations upon the personal exertions that were made in framing and establishing the Constitution, must be regarded as the causes that have made his reputation, at this day, less extensive and general than his abilities and usefulness might have led his contemporaries to expect that it would be. Yet the services which he rendered to the country, first in assisting in the preparation of the Constitution, and afterwards in securing its adoption by the State of Pennsylvania, should place his name high upon the list of its benefactors. He had not the political genius which gave Hamilton such a complete mastery over the most complex subjects of government, and which enabled him, when the Constitution had been adopted, to give it a development in practice that made it even more successful than its theory alone could have allowed any one to regard as probable; nor had he the talent of Madison for debate and for constitutional analysis; but in the comprehensiveness of his
1 See an account of him, ante, Vol. I. Book III. Chap. XIV.