Page images

a rejection of Mr. Henry's resolution by a majority of eight, and a ratification of the Constitution by a majority of ten votes. A long list of amendments, together with a Bill of Rights, was then adopted, to be presented to Congress for its consideration.1

The conduct of Mr. Henry, when he saw that the adoption of the Constitution was inevitable, was all that might have been expected from his patriotic and unselfish character. "If I shall be in the minority," he said, "I shall have those painful sensations which arise from a conviction of being overpowered in a good cause. Yet I will be a peaceable citizen. My head, my hand, and my heart shall be free to retrieve the loss of liberty, and remove the defects of this system in a constitutional way. I wish not to go to violence, but will wait with hopes that the spirit which predominated in the Revolution is not yet gone, nor the cause of those who are attached to the Revolution yet lost. I shall, therefore, patiently wait in expectation of seeing this government so changed as to be compatible with the safety, liberty, and happiness of the people." This

1 The form of ratification embraced the recitals given in the text respecting the powers of Congress. It was adopted by a vote of 89 to 79, on the 25th of June, 1788. I do not go into the particular consideration of the amendments proposed by several of the State conventions, because the present work is confined to the origin, the formation, and the adoption of the Constitution, and no State that

ratified the instrument proposed by the national Convention made amendments a condition. The examination of the amendments proposed, therefore, belongs to the history of the Constitution subsequent to its inauguration. They may all be found in the Appendix to the thirteenth volume of the Journals of the Old Congress.

2 Debates in Virginia Convention, Elliot, III. 652.

noble and disinterested patriot lived to find the Constitution all that he wished it to be, and to enroll himself, in the day of its first serious trial, among its most vigorous and earnest defenders.

But some of the members of the opposition were not so discreet. Immediately after the adjournment of the convention, they prepared an address to the people, intended to produce an effort to prevent the inauguration of the new government by a combined arrangement among the legislatures of the several States. But this paper, which never saw the light, was rejected by their own party, and the opposition in Virginia subsided into a general acquiescence in the action of the convention.1

The ratification of Virginia took place on the 25th of June; the news of this event was received and published in Philadelphia on the 2d of July. The The press of the city was at once filled with rejoicings over the action of Virginia. She was the tenth pillar of the temple of liberty. She was Virginia, eldest and foremost of the States,-land of statesmen whose Revolutionary services were as household words in all America, birthplace and home of Washington! We need not wonder, when she had come so tardily, so cautiously, into the support of the Constitution, that men should have hailed her accession with enthusiasm. The people of Philadelphia had been for some time preparing a public demonstration, in honor of the adoption of the Constitution by nine States. Now that Virginia was added to the num1 Madison's letters to Hamilton, Works of Hamilton, I. 462, 463.

[ocr errors]

ber, they determined that all possible magnificence and splendor should be given to this celebration, and they chose for it the anniversary day of the National Independence

A taste for allegory appears to have been quite prevalent among the people of the United States at this period. Accordingly, the Philadelphia procession of July 4, 1788, was filled with elaborate and emblematic representations. It was a long pageant of banners, of trades, and devices. A decorated car bore the Constitution framed as a banner and hung upon a staff. Then another decorated car carried the American flag and the flags of all friendly nations. Then followed the judges in their robes, and all the public bodies, preceding a grand federal edifice, which was carried on a carriage drawn by ten horses. On the floor of this edifice were seated, in chairs, ten gentlemen, representing the citizens of the United States at large, to whom the Federal Constitution had been committed before its ratification. When it arrived at "Union Green," they gave up their seats to ten others representing the ten States which had ratified the instrument. The federal ship, "The Union," came next, followed by all the trades, plying their various crafts upon elevated platforms, with their several emblems and mottoes, strongly expressing confidence in the protection that would be afforded under the Constitution to all the forms of American manufactures and mechanic arts. Ten vessels paraded on the Delaware, each with a broad white flag at its masthead, bearing the name

of one of the ten States in gold letters; and, as if to combine the ideas both of the absence and the presence of the ten States, ten carrier-pigeons were let off from the printers' platform, each with a small package bearing "the ode of the day" to one of the ten rejoicing and sympathizing States.

Thus did ingenuity and mechanical skill exert themselves in quaint devices and exhibitions, to portray, to personify, and to celebrate the vast social consequences of an event which had then no parallel in the history of any other country,— -the free and voluntary adoption by the people of a written constitution of government framed by the agents and representatives of the people themselves. The carrier birds are not known to have literally performed their tasks, but as rapidly as horse and man could carry it, the news from Virginia pressed on to the North, and reached Hamilton at Poughkeepsie on the 8th of July.

It found him still surrounded by the same difficulties that existed when he received the result of the convention of New Hampshire. The opposition had relaxed none of their efforts to prevent the adoption of the Constitution; they had only become somewhat divided respecting the method to be pursued for its defeat. Some of them were in favor of conditions precedent, or previous amendments; some, of conditions subsequent, or the proposal of amendments upon the condition that, if they should not be adopted within a certain time, the State should be at liberty to withdraw from the Union; and all of them

were determined, in case the Constitution should be ratified, to carry constructive declarations of its meaning and powers as far as possible. Hamilton was conscious that the chief danger to which the Constitution itself was now exposed, was that a general concurrence in injudicious recommendations might seriously wound its power of taxation, by causing a recurrence, in some shape, to the system of requisitions. The danger to which the State of New York was exposed, was that it might not become a member of the new Union, in any form.

The leading Federalists who were united with Hamilton in the effort to prevent such a disastrous issue of this convention were John Jay, the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, and James Duane. A few days after the intelligence from New Hampshire was received, these gentlemen held a consultation as to the most effectual method of encountering the objections made to the general power of taxation that would be conferred by the Constitution upon the general government. The legislative history of the State, from 1780 to 1782, embraced a series of official acts and documents, showing that the State had been compelled to sustain a very large share of the burden of the Revolutionary war; that requisitions had been unable to call forth the resources of the country; and that, in the judgment of the State, officially and solemnly declared in 1782, and concurred in by those who now resisted the establishment of the Constitution, it was necessary that the Union should possess other sources of revenue. The



[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »