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had so strenuously maintained, both facilitated and hastened the concession to the demands of the smaller States.
At present, Hamilton's object, in the discussions which we are now considering, was to show that, if the government was to be purely national, — as was the theory of the Virginia plan, and as he undoubtedly preferred, - it must be consistent with that theory and with the situation in which its adoption would leave the country. It must introduce through the Senate a real check upon the democratic power that would act through the House, by a different mode of election and a permanent tenure of office; and in order that the States might not be in a situation to resist the measures of a government designed to be national and supreme, that government must possess complete and universal legislative power.
Surely it can be no impeachment of the wisdom or the statesmanship of this great man, that, at a time when a large majority of the Convention were seeking to establish a purely national system, founded on a proportionate representation of the people of the States, he should have pointed out the inconsistencies of such a plan, and should have endeavored to bring it into a nearer conformity with the theory which so many of the members and so many of the States had determined to adopt. It seems rather to be a proof of the deep sagacity which had always marked his opinions and his conduct, that he should have foreseen the inevitable collisions between the powers of a national government thus constituted
and the powers of the States. The whole experience of the past had taught him to anticipate such conflicts, and the theory of a purely national government, when applied by the arrangement now proposed, rendered it certain that these conflicts must continue and increase. That theory could only be put in practice by transferring the whole legislative powers of the people of the States to the national government. This he would have preferred; and in this, looking from the point of view at which he then stood, and considering the actual position of the subject, he was undoubtedly right.1
For it is not to be forgotten, that after the votes which had been taken, and after the position assumed by the States opposed to anything but a federal plan, the choice seemed to lie between a purely national and a purely federal system; that the indications then were, that the Virginia plan would be adopted; and that we owe the present compound character of the Constitution, as a government partly national and partly federal, not to the mere theories proposed on either side, but to the fortunate results of a wise compromise, made necessary by the collision between the opposite purposes and desires of different classes of the States.
At the time when Hamilton laid his views before the Convention, there were two parties in that body, which were coming gradually to a struggle, not yet openly avowed, between the larger and the smaller
1 See the note at the end of this chapter.
States, on the fundamental principle of the government. The principal question at stake was whether there should be any national popular representation at all. While the Virginia plan carried a popular representation into both branches of the legislature, the New Jersey plan excluded it, and confined the system to a representation of States, in a single body. The larger and more populous States adhered to the former of these two systems, because it involved the only principle upon which they believed they could form a new Union, or enter into new relations with the smaller members of the confederacy; while, on the other hand, the smaller members felt that selfpreservation was for them involved in adhering to the old principle of the Confederation. Notwithstanding the defects and imperfections of the Virginia plan, it was deemed necessary by the majority of the Convention to insist upon it, until the principle of popular representation should be conceded by all, as proper to exist in some part of the government; for an admission that it was theoretically incorrect in its application to either branch of the proposed legislature would have applied equally to the other branch; and the admission that would have been involved in the acceptance of Hamilton's propositions, namely, that in a purely national system there must be a Senate permanently in office, and that the legislative powers of the States must be mainly surrendered, would have tended only to confirm the opposition and to swell the numbers of the minority. The contest went on, therefore, as it had
begun, between the opposite principles of popular and State representation, until it resulted in an absolute difference, requiring mutual concessions, or an abandonment of the effort to form a Constitution.
On the day following that on which Hamilton had addressed the committee, Mr. Madison entered into an elaborate examination of the plan proposed by the minority. The previous Congressional experience of this distinguished and sagacious man had well qualified him to detect the imperfections of a system calculated to perpetuate the evils under which the country had long suffered. His object now was to show that a Union founded on the principle of the Confederation, and containing no diminution of the existing powers of the States, could not accomplish even the principal objects of a general government. It would not, he observed, in the first place, prevent the States from violating, as they had all along violated, the obligations of treaties with foreign powers; for it left them as uncontrolled as they had always been. It would not restrain the States from encroaching on the federal authority, or prevent breaches of the federal articles. It would not secure that equality of privileges between the citizens of different States, and that impartial administration of justice, the want of which had threatened both the harmony and the peace of the Union. It would not secure the republican theory, which vested the right and the power of government in the majority; as the case of Massachusetts then demonstrated. It would not secure the Union against the influence
of foreign powers over its members. Whatever might have been the case with ours, all former confederacies had exhibited the effects of intrigues practised upon them by other nations; and as the New Jersey plan gave to the general councils no negative on the will of the particular States, it left us exposed to the same pernicious machinations.
He begged the smaller States, which had brought forward this plan, to consider in what position its adoption would leave them. They would be subject to the whole burden of maintaining their delegates in Congress. They and they alone would feel the power of coercion on which the efficacy of this plan depended, for the larger States would be too powerful for its exercise. On the other hand, if the obstinate adherence of the smaller States to an inadmissible system should prevent the adoption of any, the Union must be dissolved, and the States must remain individually independent and sovereign, or two or more new confederacies must be formed. In the first event, would the small States be more secure against the ambition and power of their larger neighbors, than they would be under a general government pervading with equal energy every part of the empire, and having an equal interest in protecting every part against every other part? In the second event, could the smaller States expect that their larger neighbors would unite with them on the principle of the present confederacy, or that they would exact less severe concessions than were proposed in the Virginia scheme?