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He must have been received anywhere with the consideration due to his high reputation, his abilities, his public services, and his acknowledged patriotism. He must have been regarded, in any State that had accepted the new government, as a person whose assistance was indispensable to its success; and so he would have been looked upon by the main body of the people throughout the new confederacy. He had no ties of office to bind him to the State of New York. He held one of her seats in the Congress of the Confederation, but that was a body which must soon cease to exist. His political opponents had an undoubted majority in the State. The social ties which had bound him to her soil could have been severed. He could have left her, therefore, to the counsels of his adversaries, and could have sought and found for himself a career of ambition in the new sphere that was open to receive him. That career would have tempted men of an inferior mould, and would have seen them yield to the temptation perhaps the more readily, because the conflicts that would have been inevitable between rival confederacies would have presented fresh fields for exertion and personal energy, new excitements and new adventures. It is, too, a mournfully interesting reflection, that if Hamilton had then cut himself free from the entanglements of the local politics of New York by a change of residence, he probably could never have been drawn into that miserable quarrel with the wretch who in after years planned his destruction, and who gained by it the execrable distinction
of having taken the most important life that has ever fallen by the assassination of the duel, since its opportunities for murder have been known among
But with whatever melancholy interest we may pursue such a suggestion of what Hamilton might have done, it needs but to be made, in order to show how far he stood above the reach of such a temptation. From his first entrance, in boyhood, into public life, his patriotism had comprehended nothing less than the whole of the United States. Whatever may be thought of his policy, either before or after the Constitution was established, no just man will deny its comprehensive nationality. He now saw that no partial confederacy of the States could be of any permanent value. He had no favorite theories involved in the Constitution, no peculiar experiments that he wished to try. He embraced it, because he believed in its capacity to unite the whole of the States, to concentrate and harmonize their interests, and to accomplish national objects of the utmost importance to their welfare. It could, without doubt, be inaugurated and put into operation without the concurrence of New York. But to leave that, or any other State near the geographical centre of the Union, out of the confederacy, would be to leave its sovereignty and rights exposed to perpetual collision with the new government. No public or private purpose could have induced Hamilton to abandon any effort that might prevent such a result. He still labored, therefore, with those who were as
sociated with him, to procure an adoption of the Constitution by the State of New York; and we must bear in mind the vast importance of her action, and the difficulties with which he had to contend, that we may take a just view of the concessions to the opposition which he seems at one stage of the crisis to have been obliged to consider.
But we must now leave him in the midst of the embarrassments by which he was surrounded, to follow his messenger, whom he instantly despatched, on the 24th, with letters to Madison at Richmond, announcing the news of the ratification by New Hampshire. The courier passed through the city of New York on the 25th, and reached Philadelphia on the 26th. The newspapers of the latter city immediately cried out, "The reign of anarchy is over," and the popular enthusiasm rose to the highest point. The courier passed on to the South; but the convention of Virginia had, in fact, ratified the Constitution before he arrived in Philadelphia. Thus, while New Hampshire, in the actual order of events, was the ninth State to adopt the Constitution, yet Virginia herself, so far as the members of her convention were informed, appeared at the time of their voting to be the ninth adopting State. It is certain that they acted without any real knowledge of what had taken place in New Hampshire, although there may have been random assertions of what nobody at Richmond could then have known.1
1 It has been supposed that this was not so, but that Hamilton's
messenger arrived at Richmond before the final action of the Vir
The result was brought about in Virginia by the force of argument, and because the friends of the Constitution were at last able to reduce the issue to the single question of previous or subsequent, that is, of conditional or recommendatory, amendments. As the State appeared likely to be the ninth State to act, and they could insist that, if she rejected the Constitution, she must bear the responsibility of defeating the establishment of the new government, a consequence which they could reasonably predict, -they had a high vantage-ground from which to address the reason and patriotism of the assembly.
Henry and the other leaders of the opposition fought valiantly to the last. When the whole subject had been exhausted, the friends of the Constitution presented the propositions on which they were willing to rest the action of the State, and which declared, in substance, that the powers granted under the proposed Constitution are the gift of the people, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them, and at their will, consequently
ginia convention, and so that the decision of New Hampshire had an important influence. I think this is clearly a mistake. I have traced the progress of the messenger in the newspapers of that time, and find his arrival at New York and Philadelphia chronicled as it is given in the text. The dates are therefore decisive. It appears also from Mr. Madison's correspondence with Hamilton, that he did not receive the despatch about New
Hampshire until the 31st. (Hamilton's Works, I. 463.) The ratification passed the Virginia convention on the 25th, and that body was dissolved on the 27th. There is no trace in the Virginia debates of any authentic news from New Hampshire. On the contrary, it was assumed by one of the speakers, Mr. Innes, on the day of their ratification, that the Constitution then stood adopted by eight States. (Elliot, III. 636.)
that no right can be abridged, restrained, or modified by the general government or any of its departments, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes; and that, among other essential rights, liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of the United States; that the Constitution ought, therefore, to be ratified, but that whatsoever amendments might be deemed necessary ought to be recommended to the consideration of the first Congress that should assemble under the Constitution, to be acted upon according to the mode prescribed therein.
Mr. Henry, on the other hand, brought forward a counter project, by which he proposed to declare that, previous to the ratification of the Constitution, a Declaration of Rights, asserting and securing from encroachment the great principles of civil and religious liberty, and the inalienable rights of the people, together with amendments to the most exceptionable parts of the Constitution, ought to be referred by the convention of Virginia to the other States in the American confederacy for their consideration.
The issue was thus distinctly made between previous or conditional and subsequent or unconditional amendments, and made in a form most favorable to the friends of the Constitution; for it enabled them to present so vigorously and vividly the consequences of suspending the inauguration of the new government until the other States could consider the amendments desired by Virginia, that they procured