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stitution of Congress as it was under the Confederation, and left also the old mode of discharging the national expenses, by means of requisitions on the States, changing only the rule of proportion from the basis of real property to that of free population. It contemplated an executive, to be elected by Congress, and a supreme judiciary to be appointed by the executive; leaving to the judiciaries of the States original cognizance of all cases arising under the laws of the Union, and confining the national judiciary to an appellate jurisdiction, except in the cases of impeachments of national officers. It proposed to secure obedience to the acts and regulations of Congress, by making them the supreme law of the States, and by authorizing the executive to employ the power of the confederated States against any State or body of men who might oppose or prevent their being carried into execution.
The mover of this system1 founded his opposition to the plan framed by the committee of the whole chiefly upon the want of power in the Convention to propose a change in the principle of the existing government. He argued, with much acuteness, that there was either a present confederacy of the States, or there was not; that if there was, it was one founded on the equal sovereignties of the States, and that it could be changed only by the consent of all; that as some of the States would not consent to 1; the change proposed, it was necessary to adhere to the system of representation by States; and that a I William Patterson of New Jersey.
system of representation of the people of the States was inconsistent with the preservation of the State sovereignties. The answer made to this objection was, that although the States, in appointing their delegates to the Convention, had given them no express authority to change the principle of the existing constitution, yet that the Convention had been assembled at a great crisis in the affairs of the Union, as an experiment, to remedy the evils under which the country had long suffered from the defects of its general government; that whatever was necessary to the safety of the republic must, under such circumstances, be considered as within the implied powers of the Convention, especially as it was proposed to do nothing more than to recommend the changes which might be found necessary; and that although all might not assent to the changes that would be proposed, the dissentient States could not require the others to remain under a system that had completely failed, when they could form a new confederacy upon wiser and better principles.1
It was at this point that Hamilton interposed, with the suggestion of views and opinions that have sometimes subjected him, unjustly, to the charge of anti-republican and monarchical tendencies and designs. These views and opinions should be carefully considered by the reader, not only in justice to this great statesman, but because they had much influence, in an indirect manner, in producing the
1 See the remarks of Wilson, Pinckney, and Randolph, as giv
en in Madison, Elliot, V. 195198.
form and tone which the Constitution finally received.
It should be recollected, in making this examination, that, so far as there was at this time a distinct issue before the Convention, it was presented by the New Jersey plan of a system that would leave the sovereignties of the States almost wholly undiminished, on the one hand, and on the other by the Virginia plan of a partial but as yet undefined surrender of powers to a general government. The construction of this proposed government, and the powers that it ought to possess, were the points which Hamilton now dealt with, in the first address which he made to the committee.
He has left it on record, that the views which he announced on this occasion were rested upon the three following positions: -1. That the political principles of the people of this country would endure nothing but a republican government. 2. That, in the actual situation of the country, it was of itself right and proper that the republican theory should have a full and fair trial. 3. That to such a trial it was essential that the government should be so constructed as to give it all the energy and stability reconcilable with the principles of that republican theory. The opinions advanced by Hamilton at the stage of the proceedings which we are now examining must always be considered with reference to the principles which guided him, in order
1 See his letter of September 16, ering; first published in Niles's 1803, addressed to Timothy Pick- Register, November 7, 1812.
that a right estimate may be formed of their influence on the final result of the issue then pending.
After disposing of the objection that the Convention had no power to propose a plan of government differing from the principle of the Confederation, he proceeded to say, that there were three lines of conduct before them: first, to make a league offensive and defensive between the States, treaties of commerce, and an apportionment of the public debt; secondly, to amend the present Confederation by adding such powers as the public mind seemed ready to grant; thirdly, to form a new government, which should pervade the whole, with decisive powers and a complete sovereignty. The practicability of the last course, and the mode in which the object should be accomplished, were the important and the only real questions before them. But the solution of those questions involved an inquiry into the principles of civil obedience, which are the great and essential supports of all government.
The first of these principles, he said, is an active and constant interest in the support of a government. This principle did not then exist in the States, in favor of the general government. They constantly pursued their own particular interests, which were adverse to those of the whole. The second principle is a conviction of the utility and necessity of a government. As the general government might be dissolved and yet the order of society would continue, so that many of the purposes of government would still be attainable, to a consider
able degree, within the States themselves, a conviction of the utility or the necessity of a general government could not at that time be considered as an active principle among the people of the States. The third principle is an habitual sense of obligation; and here the whole force of the tie was on the side of State government. Its sovereignty was immediately before the eyes of the people; its protection they immediately enjoyed; by its hand, private justice was administered. In the existing state of things, the central government was known only by its unwelcome demands of money or service.
The fourth principle on which government must rely is force; by which he meant both the coercion of laws and the coercion of arms. But as to the general government, the coercion of laws did not exist; and to employ the force of arms on the States would amount to a war between the parties to the confederacy. The fifth principle was influence; by which he did not mean corruption, but a dispensation of those regular honors and just emoluments which produce an attachment to government. Almost the whole weight of these was then on the side of the States, and must remain so in any mere confederacy, rendering it in its very nature feeble and precarious.
The lessons afforded by experience led to the evident conclusion that all federal governments were weak and distracted. They were so, because the strong principles which he had enumerated operated on the side of the constituent members of the