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censure can be too strong to be applied to them. They were regarded and spoken of everywhere, among the Federalists, with contempt and abhorrence. Even the opposition in other States, in all their arguments against the Constitution, never ventured to defend the people of Rhode Island. Ridicule and scorn were heaped upon them from all quarters of the country, and ardent zealots of the Federal press urged the adoption of the advice which they said the Grand Seignior had given to the king of Spain, with respect to the refractory States of Holland, namely, to send his men with shovels and pickaxes, and throw them all into the sea. Such an undertaking, we may suppose, might have proved as difficult on this, as it would have been on the other side of the Atlantic. But however this might have been, it is probable that the natural effect of their conduct on the minds of men in other States, and the treatment they received, reacted upon the people of Rhode Island, and made them still more tenacious and persistent in their wrongful course.

But we need not go out of the State itself, to find proof that a majority of its people were at this time violent, arbitrary, and unenlightened, both as to their true interests and as to the principles of public honesty. Determined to adhere to their paper-money system, they did not pause to consider and to discuss the great questions respecting the Constitution, — its bearing upon the welfare of the States, - its effect upon public liberty and social order, - the necessity for its amendment in certain particulars, which led,




in the conventions of the other States, to some of the most important debates that the subjects of government and free institutions have ever produced. Indeed, they resolved to stifle all such discussions at once; or, at any rate, to prevent them from being had in an assembly whose proceedings would be known to the world. When the General Assembly received the Constitution, at their session in October, 1787, they directed it to be published and circulated among the inhabitants of the State. In February, 1788, instead of calling a convention, they referred the adoption of the Constituion to the freemen in their several town meetings, for the purpose of having it rejected. There were at this time a little more than four thousand legal voters in the State. The Federalists, a small minority, indignant at the course of the legislature, generally withdrew from the meetings and refused to vote. The result was, that the people of the State appeared to be nearly unanimous in rejecting the Constitution.1

The freemen of the towns of Providence and Newport, thereupon presented petitions to the General Assembly, complaining of the inconvenience of acting upon the proposed Constitution in meetings in which the people of the seaport towns and the people of the country could not hear and answer each other's arguments, or agree upon the amendments that it might be desirable to propose, and praying for a State convention. Their application was re

I There were 2,708 votes thrown against it, and 232 in its favor. This occurred in March, 1788.

fused, and Rhode Island remained in this position, at the time when the question of organizing the new government came before the Congress of the Confederation, in July, 1788.

Better counsels prevailed with her people, at a later period, and the same redeeming virtue and good sense were at length triumphant, which, in still more recent trials, have enabled her to overcome error, and party passion, and the false notions of liberty that have sometimes prevailed within her borders. As the stranger now traverses her little territory, in the journey of a day, and beholds her ample enjoyment of all civil and religious blessings, -her busy towns, her fruitful fields, her fair seat of learning, crowning her thriving capital, her free, happy, and prosperous people, her noble waters where she sits enthroned upon her lovely isles,—and remembers her ancient and her recent history, he cannot fail, in his prayer for her welfare, to breathe the hope that an escape from great social perils may be found for her and for all of us, in the future, as it has been in the past.

But the attitudes taken by North Carolina and Rhode Island - although in truth quite different and taken from very different motives-placed the Union in a new crisis, involving the Constitution in great danger of being defeated, notwithstanding its adoption by more than nine States. Both of them were members of the existing confederacy; both had a right to vote on all questions coming before the Congress of that confederacy; and it was to this

body that the national Convention itself had looked for the initiatory measures necessary to organize the new government under the Constitution. The question whether that government should be organized at all, was necessarily involved with the question as to the place where it should be directed to assemble and to exercise its functions. This latter topic had often been a source of dissension between the States; and there was much danger lest the votes of North Carolina and Rhode Island, in the Congress of the Confederation, by being united with the votes of States opposed to the selection of the place that might be named as the seat of the new government, might prevent the Constitution from being established at all.

But now, the pen that has thus traced these great events, and has sought to describe them in their true relations to the social welfare of the American people, must seek repose. How the Constitution was inaugurated, — by whom and upon what principles it was put into operation,-how and why it was amended or altered, when and under what circumstances the two remaining States accepted its benefits, what development and what direction it received from the generation of statesmen who made and established it, belongs to the next epoch in our political history, the Administration of Washington.

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