TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.chic. hist. soc. mss.
New York, January 10, 1788.
My dear friend,
I have put off writing from day to day for some time past, in expectation of being able to give you the news from the packets, which has been looked for every hour. Both the French & English have overstayed their usual time ten or 15 days, and are neither of them yet arrived. We remain wholly in the dark with regard to the posture of things in Europe—
I received two days ago your favor of December twenty seventh, enclosing a copy of your letter to the Assembly. I have read it with attention, and I can add with pleasure, because the spirit of it does as much honor to your candor, as the general reasoning does to your abilities. Nor can I believe that in this quarter the opponents of the Constitution will find encouragement in it. You are already aware that your objections are not viewed in the same decisive light by me that they are by you. I must own that I differ still more from your opinion, that a prosecution of the experiment of a second Convention will be favorable, even in Virginia, to the object which I am sure you have at heart. It is to me apparent that, had your duty led you to throw your influence into the opposite scale, it would have given it a decided and unalterable preponderancy; and that Mr. Henry would either have suppressed his enmity, or been baffled in the policy which it has dictated. It appears also that the grounds taken by the opponents in different quarters forbid any hope of concord among them. Nothing can be further from your views than the principles of different setts of men who have carried on their opposition under the respectability of your name. In this State the party adverse to the Constitution notoriously meditate either a dissolution of the Union, or protracting it by patching up the Articles of Confederation. In Connecticut and Massachusetts, the opposition proceeds from that part of the people who have a repugnance in general to good government, or to any substantial abridgement of State powers, and a part of whom in Massachusetts are known to aim at confusion, and are suspected of wishing a reversal of the Revolution. The minority in Pennsylvania, as far as they are governed by any other views than an habitual opposition to their rivals, are manifestly averse to some essential ingredients in a National Government. You are better acquainted with Mr. Henry’s politics than I can be, but I have for some time considered him as driving at a Southern Confederacy and not further concurring in the plan of amendments than as he hopes to render it subservient to his real designs. Viewing the matter in this light, the inference with me is unavoidable that were a second trial to be made, the friends of a good constitution for the Union would not only find themselves not a little differing from each other as to the proper amendments; but perplexed and frustrated by men who had objects totally different. A second Convention would, of course, be formed under the influence, and composed in a great measure of the members of the opposition in the several States. But were the first difficulties overcome, and the Constitution re-edited with amendments, the event would still be infinitely precarious. Whatever respect may be due to the rights of private judgment, and no man feels more of it than I do, there can be no doubt that there are subjects to which the capacities of the bulk of mankind are unequal, and on which they must and will be governed by those with whom they happen to have acquaintance and confidence. The proposed Constitution is of this description. The great body of those who are both for and against it must follow the judgment of others, not their own. Had the Constitution been framed and recommended by an obscure individual, instead of a body possessing public respect and confidence, there cannot be a doubt, that although it would have stood in the identical words, it would have commanded little attention from most of those who now admire its wisdom. Had yourself, Colonel Mason, Colonel R. H. L., Mr. Henry, and a few others, seen the Constitution in the same light with those who subscribed it, I have no doubt that Virginia would have been as zealous and unanimous, as she is now divided, on the subject. I infer from these considerations, that, if a government be ever adopted in America, it must result from a fortunate coincidence of leading opinions, and a general confidence of the people in those who may recommend it. The very attempt at a second Convention strikes at the confidence in the first; and the existence of a second, by opposing influence to influence would in a manner destroy an effectual confidence in either, and give a loose rein to human opinions; which must be as various and irreconcileable concerning theories of government, as doctrines of religion; and give opportunities to designing men which it might be impossible to counteract.
The Connecticut Convention has probably come to a decision before this; but the event is not known here. It is understood that a great majority will adopt the Constitution. The accounts from Massachusetts vary extremely according to the channels through which they come. It is said that S. Adams, who has hitherto been reserved, begins to make open declaration of his hostile views. His influence is not great, but this step argues an opinion that he can calculate on a considerable party. It is said here, and I believe on good ground, that North Carolina has postponed her Convention till July, in order to have the previous example of Virginia. Should North Carolina fall into Mr. Henry’s politics, which does not appear to me improbable, it will endanger the Union more than any other circumstance that could happen. My apprehensions of this danger increase every day. The multiplied inducements at this moment to the local sacrifices necessary to keep the States together, can never be expected to coincide again, and they are counteracted by so many unpropitious circumstances, that their efficacy can with difficulty be confided in. I have no information from South Carolina or Georgia, on which any certain opinion can be formed of the temper of those States. The prevailing idea has been, that both of them would speedily and generally embrace the Constitution. It is impossible, however, that the example of Virginia and North Carolina should not have an influence on their politics. I consider every thing therefore problematical from Maryland southward.
I am surprised that Col. H. Lea who is a well-wisher of the Constitution should have furnished Wilkinson with the alarm concerning the Mississippi, but the political connections of the latter in Pennsylvania would account for his bias on the subject.
We have no Congress yet. The number of States on the spot does not exceed five. It is probable that a quorum will now be soon made. A delegate from New Hampshire is expected, which will make up a representation from that State. The termination of the Connecticut Convention will set her Delegates at liberty, and the meeting of the Assembly of this State, will fill the vacancy which has some time existed in her Delegation.
I wish you every happiness,
And am with the sincerest affection,
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
New York, Jany. 14, 1788.
The Daily Advertiser of this date contains several important articles of information, which need only to be referred to. I inclose it, with a few other late papers. Neither French nor English packet is yet arrived; and the present weather would prevent their getting in if they should be on the Coast. I have heard nothing of consequence from Massachusetts since my last. The accounts from New Hampshire continue to be as favorable as could be wished. From South Carolina we get no material information. A letter from Georgia of the 25 of Decr. says that the Convention was getting together at Augusta and that everything wore a federal complexion. N. Carolina, it seems, has been so complaisant to Virginia as to postpone her Convention till July. We are without a Congress.
With perfect esteem & attachment I remain, Dear Sir Your Obedt. humble Servt.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
N. York, Jany. 20, 1788.
The Count de Moustier arrived here a few days ago as successor to the Chevr de la Luzerne. His passage has been so tedious that I am not sure that the despatches from Mr. Jefferson make any considerable addition to former intelligence. I have not yet seen them, but am told that this is the case. In general, it appears that the affairs of Holland are put into a pacific train. The Prussian troops are to be withdrawn, and the event settled by negotiations. But it is still possible that the war between the Russians & Turks may spread a general flame throughout Europe.
The intelligence from Massachusetts begins to be very ominous to the Constitution. The antifederal party is reinforced by the insurgents, and by the province of Mayne, which apprehends greater obstacles to the scheme of a separate Government from the new system than may be otherwise experienced. And according to the prospect at the date of the last letters, there was very great reason to fear that the voice of that State would be in the negative. The operation of such an event on this State may easily be foreseen. Its Legislature is now sitting and is much divided. A majority of the Assembly are said to be friendly to the merits of the Constitution. A majority of the Senators actually convened are opposed to a submission of it to a Convention. The arrival of the absent members will render the voice of that branch uncertain on the point of a Convention. The decision of Massachusetts either way will involve the result in this State. The minority in Penna is very restless under their defeat. If they can get an Assembly to their wish they will endeavour to undermine what has been done there. If backed by Massts., they will probably be emboldened to make some more rash experiment. The information from Georgia continues to be favorable. The little we get from S. Carolina is of the same complexion.
If I am not misinformed as to the arrival of some members for Congress, a quorum is at length made up.
With the most perfect esteem & attachment I remain Dear Sir
Your Obedt. humble Servant.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.chic. hist. soc. mss.
N. York, Jany 20 1788.
My dear friend
I have received your favor of the 3 inst. By a letter from Mr Turberville of later date I have the mortification to find that our friend Mr. Jones has not succeeded in his wish to be translated from the Executive to the Judiciary Department. I had supposed that he stood on ground that could not fail him in a case of that sort, and am wholly at a loss to account for the disappointment.
The Count de Moustier arrived a few days ago as successor to the Chevr. de la Luzerne. He had so long a passage that I do not know whether the dispatches brought by him, contain much that is new. It seems that although the affairs of Holland are put into a pacific train, those of the Russians & Turks may yet produce a general broil in Europe. The Prussian Troops are to be withdrawn & the fate of the Dutch regulated by negociation.
The intelligence from Massachts begins to be rather ominous to the Constitution. The interest opposed to it is reinforced by all connected with the late insurrection, and by the province of Mayne which apprehends difficulties under the new system in obtaining a separate government greater than may be otherwise experienced. Judging from the present state of the intelligence as I have it, the probability is that the voice of that State will be in the negative. The Legislature of this State is much divided at present. The House of Assembly are said to be friendly to the merits of the Constitution. The Senate, at least a majority of those actually assembled, are opposed even to the calling a Convention. The decision of Massts. in either way, will decide the voice of this State. The minority of Penna are extremely restless under their defeat, will endeavor at all events if they can get an assembly to their wish to undermine what has been done there, and will it is presumed be emboldened by a negative from Massts to give a more direct & violent form to their attack. The accounts from Georgia are favorable to the Constitution. So they are also from S. Carolina, as far as they extend.
If I am not misinformed as to the arrival of some members of Congress in Town, a quorum is at length made up.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTONwash. mss.
N. York, Jany. 25, 1788.
I have been favored since my last with yours of the 10th inst, with a copy of the Governors letter to the Assembly. I do not know what impression the letter may make in Virginia. It is generally understood here that the arguments contained in it in favor of the Constitution are much stronger than the objections which prevented his assent. His arguments are forcible in all places, and with all persons. His objections are connected with his particular way of thinking on the subject, in which many of the adversaries to the Constitution do not concur.
The information from Boston by the mail on the evening before last, has not removed our suspense. The following is an extract of a letter from Mr. King, dated on the 16th inst.
“We may have 360 members in our Convention. Not more than 330 have yet taken their seats. Immediately after the settlement of Elections, the Convention resolved that they would consider and freely debate on each paragraph without taking a question on any of them individually, & that on the question whether they would ratify, each member should be at liberty to discuss the plan at large. This Resolution seems to preclude the idea of amendments; and hitherto the measure has not been suggested. I however do not from this circumstance conclude that it may not hereafter occur. The opponents of the Constitution moved that Mr. Gerry should be requested to take a seat in the Convention to answer such enquiries as the Convention should make concerning facts which happened in the passing of the Constitution. Although this seems to be a very irregular proposal, yet considering the jealousies which prevail with those who made it, (who are certainly not the most enlightened part of the Convention,) and the doubt of the issue had it been made a trial of strength, several friends of the Constitution united with the opponents and the resolution was agreed to and Mr. Gerry has taken his seat. Tomorrow we are told certain enquiries are to be moved for by the opposition, and that Mr. Gerry under the idea of stating facts is to state his reasons, &c.—this will be opposed and we shall on the division be able to form some idea of our relative strength. From the men who are in favour of the Constitution every reasonable explanation will be given, and arguments really new and in my judgment most excellent have been and will be produced in its support. But what will be its fate, I confess I am unable to discern. No question ever classed the people of this State in a more extraordinary manner, or with more apparent firmness.”
A Congress of seven States was made up on monday. Mr. C. Griffin has been placed in the chair. This is the only step yet taken.
I remain, with the highest respect & Attachmt.,
TO GEORGE WASHINGTONwash. mss.
New York, Jany. 28 1788.
The information which I have by the Eastern mail rather increases than removes the anxiety produced by the last. I give it to you as I have recd. it in the words of Mr. King:
“Boston, 20 Jany., 1788.
“Our Convention proceeds slowly. An apprehension that the liberties of the people are in danger, and a distrust of men of property or education have a more powerful effect upon the minds of our opponents than any specific objections against the Constitution. If the opposition was grounded on any precise points, I am persuaded that it might be weakened, if not entirely overcome. But any attempt to remove their fixed and violent jealousy seems hitherto to operate as a confirmation of that baneful passion. The opponents affirm to each other that they have an unalterable majority on their side. The friends doubt the strength of their adversaries but are not entirely confident of their own. An event has taken place relative to Mr. Gerry, which without great caution may throw us into confusion. I informed you by the last post on what terms Mr. Gerry took a seat in the Convention. Yesterday in the course of debate on the Construction of the Senate, Mr. G., unasked, informed the Convention that he had some information to give the Convention on the subject then under discussion. Mr. Dana and a number of the most respectable members, remarked upon the impropriety of Mr. G.’s conduct. Mr. G. rose with a view to justify himself. He was immediately prevented by a number of objectors. This brought on an irregular conversation whether Mr. G. should be heard. The Hour of adjournment arrived and the President adjourned the House. Mr. Gerry immediately charged Mr. Dana with a design of injuring his reputation by partial information, and preventing his having an opportunity to communicate important truths to the Convention. This charge drew a warm reply from Mr. Dana. The members collected about them, took sides as they were for or against the Constitution, and we were in danger of the utmost confusion. However the gentlemen separated and I suppose to-morrow morning will renew the discussion before the Convention. I shall be better able to conjecture the final issue by next post.”
There are other letters of the same date from other gentlemen on the spot which exhibit rather a more favorable prospect. Some of them I am told are even flattering. Accounts will always vary in such cases, because they must be founded on different opportunities of remarking the general complexion; where they take no tincture from the opinions or temper of the writer.
I remain Dear Sir with the most perfect esteem & attachment
Your Obedt. Servt.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
N. York, Feby. 1788.
The Eastern mail which arrived yesterday brought me a letter from Mr. King, of which a copy follows: “Our prospects are gloomy, but hope is not entirely extinguished. Gerry has not returned to the Convention, and I think will not again be invited. We are now thinking of amendments to be submitted not as a condition of our assent & ratification, but as the opinion of the Convention subjoined to their ratification. This scheme may gain a few members but the issue is doubtful.”
In this case as in the last Mr. King’s information is accompanied with letters from other persons on the spot, which dwell more on the favorable side of the prospect. His anxiety on the subject may give a greater activity to his fears than to his hopes; and he would naturally lean to the cautious side. These circumstances encourage me to put as favorable a construction on his letter as it will bear.
A vessel is arrived here from Charleston, which brings letters that speak with confidence of an adoption of the fed Government in that State; and make it very probable that Georgia had actually adopted it. Some letters from N. Carolina speak a very equivocal language as to the prospect there.
The French Packet arrived yesterday. As she has been out since early in November little news can be expected by her. I have not yet got my letters if there be any for me and I have heard the contents of no others.
I remain Dr. Sir, with the utmost respect & attachment, Yr. Affet. Servt.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
N. York, Feby 3d., 1788
Another mail has arrived from Boston without terminating the conflict between our hopes and fears. I have a letter from Mr. King, of the 27 which after dilating somewhat on the ideas in his former letters, concludes with the following paragraph : “We have avoided every question which would have shewn the division of the House. Of consequence we are not positive of the numbers on each side. By the last calculation we made on our side, we were doubtful whether we exceeded them or they us in numbers. They however say that they have a majority of eight or twelve against us. We by no means despair.” Another letter of the same date from another member gives the following picture : “Never was there an Assembly in this State in possession of greater ability & information than the present Convention. Yet I am in doubt whether they will approve the Constitution. There are unhappily three parties opposed to it—1. all men who are in favor of paper money & tender laws; those are more or less in every part of the State: 2. all the late insurgents & their abettors.—In the three great western Counties they are very numerous. We have in the Convention 18 or 20 who were actually in Shays’ army;—3. A great majority of the members from the province of Main. Many of them & their Constituents are only squatters on other people’s land, and they are afraid of being brought to account—they also think though erroneously that their favorite plan, of being a separate State will be defeated. Add to these the honest doubting people, and they make a powerful host. The leaders of this party are a Mr. Widgery Mr. Thomson, & Mr. Nason, from the province of Main. A Docr. Taylor, from the County of Worster & Mr. Bishop from the neighbourhood of R. Island. To manage the cause agst them are the present and late Govr, 3 Judges of the supreme Court. 15 members of the Senate; 20 from among the most respectable of the Clergy, 10 or 12 of the first characters at the bar, Judges of probate, High sheriffs of Counties & many other respectable people Merchants &c. Genls Heath, Lincoln, Brooks, & others of the late army. With all this ability in support of the cause, I am pretty well satisfied we shall lose the question, unless we can take off some of the Opposition by amendments. I do not mean such as are to be made conditions of the ratification, but recommendations only. Upon this plan I flatter myself we may possibly get a majority of 12 or 15, if not more.”
The Legislature of this State has voted a Convention on June 17.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
New York, Feby 8. 88.
The prospect in Massts. seems to brighten, if I view in the true light the following representation of it. “This day, (Jany. 30,) for the first our President, Mr. Handcock took his seat in Convention, and we shall probably terminate our business on Saturday or tuesday next. I cannot predict the issue, but our hopes are increasing. If Mr. Hancock does not disappoint our present expectations, our wishes will be gratified.” Several reflections are suggested by this paragraph which countenance a favorable inference from it. I hope from the rapid advance towards a conclusion of the business, that even the project of recommendatory alterations has been dispensed with.
The form of the ratification of Georgia is contained in one of the papers herewith inclosed. Every information from S. Carolina continues to be favorable. I have seen a letter from N. Carolina, of pretty late date which admits that a very formidable opposition exists, but leans towards a federal result in that State. As far as I can discover, the state of the question in N. Carolina, is pretty analogous to that in Virginia. The body of the people are better disposed than some of a superior order. The Resolutions of New York for calling a convention appear, by the paper to have passed by a majority of two only in the House of Assembly. I am told this proceeded in some degree from an injudicious form in which the business was conducted, and which threw some of the federalists into the opposition.
I am just informed by a gentleman who has seen another letter from Boston of the same date with mine, that the plan of recommendatory alterations has not been abandoned, but that they will be put into a harmless form, and will be the means of saving the Constitution from all risk in Massts
With the highest respect & attachment,
I remain Dear Sir, Your affe. & hble Servt.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
N. York, Feby. 11, 88.
The newspaper inclosed with the letter which follows, comprises the information brought me by the mail of yesterday
“Boston, Feby. 3d.
“I inclose a newspaper containing the propositions communicated by Mr. Hancock to the Convention on thursday last. Mr. Adams who contrary to his own sentiments has been hitherto silent in Convention, has given his Public and explicit approbation of Mr. Hancock’s propositions. We flatter ourselves that the weight of these two characters will ensure our success; but the event is not absolutely certain. Yesterday a committee was appointed on the motion of a doubtful character to consider the propositions submitted by Mr. Hancock and to report to-morrow afternoon. We have a majority of federalists on this Committee and flatter ourselves the result will be favorable. P. S. We shall probably decide on thursday or friday next, when our numbers will amount to about 363.”
With greatest esteem & attachment
I am Dear Sir, Yr. Obedt & affe. Servt.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTONmad. mss.
New York, Feby 15, 1788.
I have at length the pleasure to inclose you the favorable result of the Convention at Boston. The amendments are a blemish, but are in the least offensive form. The minority also is very disagreeably large, but the temper of it is some atonement. I am assured by Mr. King that the leaders of it as well as the members of it in general are in good humor; and will countenance no irregular opposition there or elsewhere. The Convention of New Hampshire is now sitting. There seems to be no question that the issue there will add a seventh pillar, as the phrase now is, to the federal Temple.
With the greatest respect & attachment,
I am, Dr Sir Yrs.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
New York, Feby. 19, 1788.
By the Count de Moustier I received your favour of the 8th. of October. I rec’d by his hands also the watch which you have been so good as to provide for me, and for which I beg you to accept my particular thanks. During the short trial I have made she goes with great exactness. Since the arrival of the Count de Moustier, I have rec’d also by the Packet Mr. Calonui’s publication for myself, and a number of the Mercuries for Mr. Banister. The bearer was a Mr. Stuart. I had a conveyance to Mr. Banister a few days after the Mercuries came to hand.
The Public here continues to be much agitated by the proposed federal Constitution and to be attentive to little else. At the date of my last, Delaware Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, had adopted it. It has been since adopted by Connecticut, Georgia, and Massachusetts. In the first the minority consisted of 40 against 127. In Georgia, the adoption was unanimous. In Massachusetts the conflict was tedious and the event extremely doubtful. On the final question the vote stood 187 against 168; a majority of 19 only being in favor of the Constitution.
The prevailing party comprized however all the men of abilities, of property, and of influence. In the opposite multitude there was not a single character capable of uniting their wills or directing their measures. It was made up partly of deputies from the province of Maine, who apprehended difficulties from the New Government to their scheme of separation, partly of men who had espoused the disaffection of Shay’s; and partly of ignorant and jealous men, who had been taught or had fancied, that the Convention at Philada. had entered into a conspiracy against the liberties of the people at large, in order to erect an aristocracy for the rich the well born, and the men of Education. They had no plan whatever. They looked no farther than to put a negative on the Constitution and return home. The amendments as recommended by the Convention, were as I am well informed not so much calculated for the minority in the Convention, on whom they had little effect, as for the people of the State. You will find the amendments in the Newspapers which are sent from the office of foreign affairs. It appears from a variety of circumstances that disappointment had produced no asperity in the minority, and that they will probably not only acquiesce in the event, but endeavour to reconcile their constituents to it. This was the public declaration of several who were called the leaders of the party. The minority of Connecticut behaved with equal moderation. That of Pennsylvania has been extremely intemperate and continues to use a very bold and menacing language. Had the decision in Massachusetts been averse to the Constitution, it is not improbable that some very violent measures would have followed in that State. The cause of the inflammation however is much more in their State factions, than in the system proposed by the Convention. New Hampshire is now deliberating on the Constitution. It is generally understood that an adoption is a matter of certainty. South Carolina & Maryland have fixed on April or May for their Conventions. The former it is currently said will be one of the ratifying States. Mr. Chace and a few others will raise a considerable opposition in the latter. But the weight of personal influence is on the side of the Constitution, and the present expectation is that the opposition will be outnumbered by a great majority. This State is much divided in its sentiment. Its Convention is to be held in June. The decision of Massts will give the turn in favor of the Constitution unless an idea should prevail or the fact should appear, that the voice of the State is opposed to the result of its Convention. North Carolina has put off her Convention till July. The State is much divided, it is said. The temper of Virginia, as far as I can learn, has undergone but little change of late. At first there was an enthusiasm for the Constitution. The tide next took a sudden and strong turn in the opposite direction. The influence and exertions of Mr. Henry and Col. Mason and some others will account for this. Subsequent information again represented the Constitution as regaining in some degree its lost ground. The people at large have been uniformly said to be more friendly to the Constitution than the Assembly. But it is probable that the dispersion of the latter will have a considerable influence on the opinions of the former. The previous adoption of nine States must have a very persuasive effect on the minds of the opposition, though I am told that a very bold language is held by Mr. H—y and some of his partizans. Great stress is laid on the self-sufficiency of that State, and the prospect of external props is alluded to.
Congress have done no business of consequence yet, nor is it probable that much more of any sort will precede the event of the great question before the public.
The Assembly of Virginia have passed the district Bill of which I formerly gave you an account. There are 18 districts, with 4 new Judges, Mr. Gabl Jones, Richd. Parker, St George Tucker and Jos Prentis. They have reduced much the taxes, and provided some indulgences for debtors. The question of British debts underwent great vicissitudes. It was, after long discussion resolvd by a majority of 30 agst the utmost exertions of Mr. Henry that they shd be paid as soon as the other States shd. have complied with the treaty. A few days afterwards he carried his point by a majority of 50 that G. B. should first comply.
Adieu. Yrs. affecty.
P. S. Mr. St. John has given me a very interesting description of a System of Nature, lately published at Paris. Will you add it for me. The Boxes which were to have come for myself G. W. & [illegible] have not yet arrived.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
New York, Feby. 20, 1788.
I am just favored with yours of the 7th inst; and will attend to your wishes as to the political essays in the press.
I have given notice to my friends in Orange that the County may command my services in the Convention if it pleases. I can say with great truth however that in this overture I sacrifice every private inclination to considerations not of a selfish nature. I foresee that the undertaking will involve me in very laborious and irksome discussions; that public opposition to several very respectable characters whose esteem and friendship I greatly prize may unintentionally endanger the subsisting connection; and that disagreeable misconstructions, of which samples have been already given, may be the fruit of those exertions which fidelity will impose. But I have made up my determination on the subject, and if I am informed that my presence at the election in the County be indispensable, shall submit to that condition also; though it is my particular wish to decline it, as well to avoid apparent solicitude on the occasion; as a journey of such length at a very unpleasant season.
I had seen the extract of your letter to Col. Carter, and had supposed from the place where it first made its appearance that its publication was the effect of the zeal of a correspondent. I cannot but think on the whole that it may have been of service, notwithstanding the scandalous misinterpretations of it which have been attempted. As it has evidently the air of a paragraph to a familiar friend, the omission of an argumentative support of the opinion given will appear to no candid reader unnatural or improper.
We have no late information from Europe except through the English papers, which represent the affairs of France as in the most ticklish state. The facts have every appearance of authenticity, and we wait with great impatience for the packet which is daily expected. It can be little doubted that the patriots have been abandoned; whether from impotency in France, misconduct in them, or from what other cause is not altogether clear. The French apologists are visibly embarrassed by the dilemma of submitting to the appearance of either weakness or the want of faith. They seem generally to allege that their engagements being with the Republic, the nation could not oppose the regular Authority of the Country by supporting a single province, or perhaps a party in it only. The validity of this excuse will depend much on the real connection between France and the patriots, and the assurances given as an encouragement to the latter. From the British King’s speech, it would seem that France had avowed her purpose of supporting her Dutch friends, though it is possible her menaces to England might be carried further than her real promises to the patriots. All these circumstances however must have galled the pride of France, and I have little doubt that a war will prove it as soon as her condition will admit of it; perhaps she may be the sooner forced into it on account of her being in a contrary situation.
I hear nothing yet from the Convention of N. Hampshire.
I remain, yours most respectfully & Affectly.,
TO EDMUND PENDLETON.mad. mss.
New York, Feby. 21, 88.
The receipt of your favor of the 29th Ult. which did not come to hand till a few days ago was rendered particularly agreeable to me by the prospect it gives of a thorough reestablishment of your health. I indulge the reflection and the hope that it denotes a remaining energy in the constitution, which will long defend it against the gradual waste of time.
Your representation of the politics of the State coincides with the information from every other quarter. Great fluctuations and divisions of opinion, naturally result in Virginia from the causes which you describe; but they are not the less ominous on that account. I have for some time been persuaded that the question on which the proposed Constitution must turn, is the simple one whether the Union shall or shall not be continued. There is in my opinion no middle ground to be taken. The opposition with some has disunion assuredly for its object; and with all for its real tendency. Events have demonstrated that no coalition can ever take place in favor of a new Plan among the adversaries to the proposed one. The grounds of objection among the non-signing members of the Convention are by no means the same. The disapproving members who were absent but who have since published their objections differ irreconcileably from each of them. The writers against the Constitution are as little agreed with one another; and the principles which have been disclosed by the several minorities where the Constitution has not been unanimously adopted, are as heterogeneous as can be imagined. That of Massachusetts, as far as I can learn was averse to any Government that deserved the name, and it is certain looked no farther than to reject the Constitution in toto and return home in triumph. Out of the vast number which composed it there was scarce a man of respectability, and not a single one capable of leading the formidable band. The men of abilities, of property, of character, with every judge, lawyer of eminence, and the clergy of all sects, were with scarce an exception deserving notice, as unanimous in that State as the same description of characters are divided and opposed to one another in Virginia. This contrast does not arise from circumstances of local interest, but from causes which will in my opinion produce much regret hereafter in the opponents in Virginia, if they should succeed in their opposition. N. Hampshire is now in Convention. It is expected that the result will be in favor of the Constitution. R. Island takes no notice of the matter. N. York is much divided. The weight of abilities and of property is on the side of the Constitution. She must go with the Eastern States let the direction be what it may. By a vessel just from Charleston we understand that opposition will be made there. Mr. Lowndes is the leader of it.
A British packet brings a picture of affairs in France which indicates some approaching events in that Kingdom which may almost amount to a Revolution in the form of its Government. The authority is in itself suspicious; but it coincides with a variety of proofs that the spirit of liberty has made a progress which must lead to some remarkable conclusion of the scene. The Dutch patriots seem to have been the victims partly of their own folly, and partly of something amiss in their friends. The present state of that Confederacy is or ought to be, a very emphatic lesson to the U. States. The want of Union and a capable Government is the source of all their calamities; and particularly of that dependence on foreign powers which is as dishonorable to their character as it is destructive of their tranquillity.
I remain Dr Sir Yours very Affely.
TO EDMUND PENDLETON.mad. mss.
New York, March 3, 1788.
The Convention of N. Hampshire have disappointed much the general expectation. Instead of adopting the Constitution they have adjourned, without any final decision until June, this expedient being found necessary to prevent a rejection. It seems that a majority of 3 or 4 members would have voted in the negative, but in this majority were a number who had been proselyted by the discussions, but were bound by positive instructions. These concurred with the federalists in the adjournment, and carried [it] by a majority of 57 agst 47. It is not much doubted that in the event N. Hampshire will be among the adopting States. But the influence of this check will be very considerable in this State, (N. York,) and in several others. I have enquired whether June was preferred for the 2d. meeting from any reference to Virga. or N. York, and am informed that it was merely an accommodation to the intermediate annual elections & Courts.
I am just setting out for Virga and shall not write again from this place. I wish you every happiness & am Dr. Sir
Yr. Affee. friend
TO GEORGE WASHINGTONwash. mss.
N. York, March 3d 1788.
The Convention of N. Hampshire has afforded a very disagreeable subject of communication. It has not rejected the Constitution, but it has failed to adopt it. Contrary to all calculations that had been made it appeared on a meeting of the members that a majority of 3 or four was adverse to the object before them, and that on a final question on the merits, the decision would be in the negative. In this critical state of things, the federalists thought it best to attempt an adjournment, and having proselyted some of the members who were positively instructed agst. the Constitution, the attempt succeeded by a majority of 57 agst. 47, if my information as to the numbers be correct. It seems to be fully expected that some of the instructed members will prevail on their towns to unfetter them and that in the event N. Hampshire will be among the adopting States. The mischief elsewhere will, in the mean time be of a serious nature. The second meeting is to be in June. This circumstance will probably be construed in Virga. as making cotemporary arrangements with her. It is explained to me however as having reference merely to the conveniency of the members whose attendance at their annual elections & courts would not consist with an earlier period. The opposition I understand is composed precisely of the same description of characters with that of Massts., and stands contrasted to all the wealth, abilities, and respectability of the State.
I am preparing to set out for Orange, and promise myself the pleasure of taking Mount Vernon in the way.
I remain, yours most respectfully & Affectly
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.chic. hist. soc. mss.
New York, March 3, 1788.
The Convention of New Hampshire have disappointed the general expectation. They have not rejected the Constitution, but they have adjourned without adopting it. It was found that, on a final question, there would be a majority of three or four in the negative; but in this number were included some who, with instructions from their towns against the Constitution, had been proselyted by the discussions. These concurring with the Federalists in the adjournment, carried it by fifty-seven against forty-seven, if I am rightly informed as to the numbers. The second meeting is not to be till the last week in June. I have inquired of the gentlemen from that quarter, what particularly recommended so late a day, supposing it might refer to the times fixed by New York and Virginia. They tell me it was governed by the intermediate annual elections and courts. If the Opposition in that State be such as they are described, it is not probable that they pursue any sort of plan, more than that of Massachusetts. This event, whatever cause may have produced it, or whatever consequences it may have in New Hampshire, is no small check to the progress of the business. The Opposition here, which is unquestionably hostile to every thing beyond the federal principle, will take new spirits. The event in Massachusetts had almost extinguished their hopes. That in Pennsylvania will probably be equally encouraged.
Col. Heth arrived a day or so ago with the proceedings of the Commissioners. They will be laid before Congress to-day. I have been detained from setting out for Virginia by this circumstance, having fixed on yesterday for the purpose. I shall probably get away to-morrow and possibly this afternoon.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTONwash. mss.
Orange April 10 1788.
Having seen a part only of the names returned for the Convention, and being unacquainted with the political characters of many of them, I am a very incompetent prophet of the fate of the Constitution. My hopes however are much encouraged by my present conjectures. Those who have more data for their calculations than I have, augur a flattering issue to the deliberations of June. I find that Col. Nicholas, who is among the best judges, thinks on the whole, that a majority in the Convention will be on the list of federalists; but very properly takes into view the turn that may be given to the event by the weight of Kentucky if thrown into the wrong scale, and by the proceedings of Maryland and South Carolina, if they should terminate in either a rejection or postponement of the question. The impression on Kentucky, like that on the rest of the State was at first answerable to our wishes; but, as elsewhere, the torch of discord has been thrown in and has found the materials but too inflammable. I have written several letters since my arrival to correspondents in that district, with a view to counteract anti-federal machinations. I have little expectation however that they will have much effect, unless the communications that may go from Mr. Brown in Congress, should happen to breathe the same spirit; and I am not without apprehensions that his mind may have taken an unlucky tincture from the difficulties thrown in the way of the separation of the district, as well as from some antecedent proceedings of Congress. I have taken the liberty of writing also to a friend in South Carolina on the critical importance of a right decision there to a favorable one here. The inclosed letter which I leave unsealed will shew you that I am doing the same with respect to Maryland. Will you be so good as to put a wafer in it and to send it to the post office for George Town, or to change the address to Annapolis, if you should have reason to conclude that Mr. Carrol will be there? I have written a similar letter to Docr McHenry. The difference between even a postponement and adoption in Maryland, may in the nice balance of parties here, possibly give a fatal advantage to that which opposes the Constitution.
I have done nothing yet in preparing answers to the queries. As facts are to be ascertained as well as opinions formed delay will be of course counted upon.
With every sentiment of respect and attachment
I remain Dear Sir,
Your Obedient & humble Servt
TO EDMUND RANDOLPHmad. mss.
Orange, April 10th, 1788.
My dear Friend,
Since I got home which was on the day preceding our election, I have received your favor of the 29th. of Feby, which did not reach New York before I had left it.
I view the amendments of Massachusetts pretty nearly in the same light that you do. They were meant for the people at large, not for the minority in the Convention. The latter were not affected by them; their objections being levelled against the very essence of the proposed Government. I do not see that the 2d. amendment, if I understand its scope, can be more exceptionable to the S. Sts than the others. I take it to mean that the number of Reps shall be limited to 200. who will be apportioned from time to time according to a census; not that the apportionment first made when the Reps. amount to that number shall be perpetual. The 9th. amendment I have understood was made a very serious point of by S. Adams.
I do not know of anything in the new Constitution that can change the obligations of the public with regard to the old money. The principle on which it is to be settled, seems to be equally in the power of that as of the existing one. The claim of the Indiana Company cannot I should suppose be any more validated by the new System, than that of all the creditors and others who have been aggrieved by unjust laws. You do not mention what part of the Constitution, could give colour to such a doctrine. The condemnation of retrospective laws, if that be the part, does not appear to me, to admit on any principle of such a retrospective construction. As to the religious test, I should conceive that it can imply at most nothing more than that without that exception, a power would have been given to impose an oath involving a religious test as a qualification for office. The constitution of necessary offices being given to the Congress, the proper qualifications seem to be evidently involved. I think too there are several other satisfactory points of view in which the exception might be placed.
I shall be extremely happy to see a coalition among all the real federalists. Recommendatory alterations are the only ground that occurs to me. A conditional ratification or a second convention appears to me utterly irreconcileable in the present state of things with the dictates of prudence and safety. I am confirmed, by a comparative view of the publications on the subject, and still more of the debates in the several conventions, that a second experiment would be either wholly abortive, or would end in something much more remote from your ideas and those of others who wish a salutary Government, than the plan now before the public. It is to be considered also that besides the local & personal pride that wd stand in the way, it could not be a very easy matter to bring about a reconsideration and rescision of what will certainly have been done in six and probably eight States, and in several of them by unanimous votes. Add to all this the extreme facility with which those who secretly aim at disunion (and there are probably some such in most if not all the States) will be able to carry on their schemes, under the mask of contending for alterations popular in some places and known to be inadmissible in others. Every danger of this sort might be justly dreaded from such men as this State & N. York only could furnish, playing for such a purpose into each others hands. The declaration of H—y, mentioned in your letter, is a proof to me that desperate measures will be his game. If report does not more than usually exaggerate Mason also is ripening fast for going every length. His licentiousness of animadversion it is said, no longer spares even the moderate opponents of the Constitution.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Virginia Orange, April 22, 1788.
Being just acquainted by letter from President Griffin that Mr. Paradise is in N. York and proposes to sail on the first packet for France I drop you a few lines which will go by that conveyance if they arrive at N. York in time; which however I do not much expect.
The proposed Constitution still engrosses the public attention. The elections for the Convention here are but just over and promulged. From the returns (excepting those from Kentucky which are not yet known,) it seems probable, though not absolutely certain that a majority of the members elect are friends to the Constitution. The superiority of abilities at least seems to lie on that side. The characters of most note which occur to me, are marshalled thus. For the Constitution, Pendleton, Wythe Blair, Innes, Marshal, Docr W. Jones, G. Nicholas, Wilson Nicholas, Gabl. Jones, Thos Lewis, F. Corbin, Ralph Wormley Jr., White of Frederick, Genl. Gates, Genl. A. Stephens, Archd. Stuart, Zachy. Johnson, Docr Stuart Parson Andrews, H. Lee Jr., Bushrod Washington, considered as a young gentleman of talents: Agst. the Constitution, Mr. Henry, Mason, Harrison, Grayson, Tyler, M. Smith, W. Ronald, Lawson, Bland, Wm. Cabell, Dawson.
The Governor is so temperate in his opposition and goes so far with the friends of the Constitution that he cannot properly be classed with its enemies. Monroe is considered by some as an enemy; but I believe him to be a friend though a cool one. There are other individuals of weight whose opinions are unknown to me. R. H. Lee is not elected. His brother, F. L. Lee is a warm friend to the Constitution, as I am told, but also is not elected. So are Jno & Man Page.
The adversaries take very different grounds of opposition. Some are opposed to the substance of the plan; others, to particular modifications only. Mr. H—y is supposed to aim at disunion. Col. M—n is growing every day more bitter, and outrageous in his efforts to carry his point; and will probably in the end be thrown by the violence of his passions into the politics of Mr. H—y. The preliminary question will be whether previous alterations shall be insisted on or not? Should this be carried in the affirmative, either a conditional ratification, or a proposal for a new Convention will ensue. In either event, I think the Constitution and the Union will be both endangered. It is not to be expected that the States which have ratified will reconsider their determinations, and submit to the alterations prescribed by Virga. And if a second Convention should be formed, it is as little to be expected that the same spirit of compromise will prevail in it as produced an amicable result to the first. It will be easy also for those who have latent views of disunion, to carry them on under the mask of contending for alterations popular in some but inadmissible in other parts of the U. States.
The real sense of the people of this State cannot be easily ascertained. They are certainly attached and with warmth to a continuance of the Union; and I believe a large majority of the most intelligent and independent, are equally so to the plan under consideration. On a geographical view of them, almost all the Counties in the N. Neck have elected federal Deputies. The Counties on the South side of James River have pretty generally elected adversaries to the Constitution. The intermediate district is much chequered in this respect. The Counties between the blue ridge & the Alleghany have chosen friends to the Constitution without a single exception. Those Westward of the latter have as I am informed, generally though not universally pursued the same rule. Kentucky it is supposed will be divided.
Having been in Virga. but a few weeks, I can give you little account of other matters, and none of your private affairs or connections, particularly of your two nephews. The Winter here as everywhere else in the U. S., was very severe, which, added to short crops of corn, threatened a great scarcity & a high price. It is found however that neither of these evils has taken place. Corn may be purchased for 2 dollars, and even 10s. per barrel. Tobacco is as low at Fredg. as 18s. Per Ct., and not higher at Richmond than 22 or 23s. There is at present a very promising spring especially in the article of fruit. The night before last was so cold as to produce an alarm for the vegetation of all sorts; but it does not appear that anything less vulnerable than young cucumbers had been injured.
I shall ask the favor of Mr. Griffin to send you by Mr. Paradise, or if he should be gone by some other hand, the Debates of the Conventions in Penna. & Massachusetts, and any other publications worth your reading.
I am Dear Sir your Affect friend & Servt.
SPEECHES IN THE VIRGINIA CONVENTION.
JUNE 5—NECESSITY FOR THE CONSTITUTION.
Mr. Madison then arose —(but he spoke so low that his exordium could not be heard distinctly). I shall not attempt to make impressions by any ardent professions of zeal for the public welfare; we know the principles of every man will, and ought to be judged, not by his professions and declarations, but by his conduct; by that criterion I mean in common with every other member to be judged; and should it prove unfavorable to my reputation; yet, it is a criterion, from which I will by no means depart. Comparisons have been made between the friends of this constitution, and those who oppose it: although I disapprove of such comparisons, I trust that, in points of truth, honor, candor, and rectitude of motives, the friends of this system, here, and in other states, are not inferior to its opponents. But, professions of attachment to the public good, and comparisons of parties, ought not to govern or influence us now. We ought, sir, to examine the constitution on its own merits solely: we are to enquire whether it will promote the public happiness: its aptitude to produce this desirable object, ought to be the exclusive subject of our present researches. In this pursuit, we ought not to address our arguments to the feelings and passions, but to those understandings and judgments which were selected by the people of this country, to decide this great question, by a calm and rational investigation. I hope that gentlemen, in displaying their abilities, on this occasion, instead of giving opinions, and making assertions, will condescend to prove and demonstrate, by a fair and regular discussion. It gives me pain to hear gentlemen continually distorting the natural construction of language; for it is sufficient if any human production can stand a fair discussion. Before I proceed to make some additions to the reasons which have been adduced by my honorable friend over the way, I must take the liberty to make some observations on what was said by another gentleman [Mr. Henry]. He told us, that this constitution ought to be rejected, because it endangered the public liberty, in his opinion, in many instances. Give me leave to make one answer to that observation: let the dangers which this system is supposed to be replete with, be clearly pointed out; if any dangerous and unnecessary powers be given to the general legislature, let them be plainly demonstrated, and let us not rest satisfied with general assertions of dangers, without examination. If powers be necessary, apparent danger is not a sufficient reason against conceding them. He has suggested that licentiousness, has seldom produced the loss of liberty; but that the tyranny of rulers has almost always effected it. Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people, by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations: but, on a candid examination of history, we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power, by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority have produced factions and commotions, which, in republics, have more frequently than any other cause, produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes. If we consider the peculiar situation of the United States, and what are the sources of that diversity of sentiment which pervades its inhabitants, we shall find great danger to fear, that the same causes may terminate here, in the same fatal effects, which they produced in those republics. This danger ought to be wisely guarded against. Perhaps, in the progress of this discussion, it will appear, that the only possible remedy for those evils and means of preserving and protecting the principles of republicanism, will be found in that very system which is now exclaimed against as the parent of oppression.
I must confess, I have not been able to find his usual consistency, in the gentleman’s argument on this occasion: he informs us that the people of the country are at perfect repose, that is, every man enjoys the fruits of his labor, peaceably and securely, and that every thing is in perfect tranquility and safety. I wish sincerely, sir, this were true. If this be their happy situation, why has every state acknowledged the contrary? Why were deputies from all the states sent to the general convention? Why have complaints of national and individual distresses been echoed and re-echoed throughout the continent? Why has our general government been so shamefully disgraced, and our constitution violated? Wherefore have laws been made to authorize a change, and wherefore are we now assembled here? A federal government is formed for the protection of its individual members. Ours has attacked itself with impunity. Its authority has been disobeyed and despised. I think I perceive a glaring inconsistency in another of his arguments. He complains of this constitution, because it requires the consent of at least three-fourths of the states to introduce amendments which shall be necessary for the happiness of the people. The assent of so many, he urges as too great an obstacle, to the admission of salutary amendments, which he strongly insists, ought to be at the will of a bare majority—we hear this argument, at the very moment we are called upon to assign reasons for proposing a constitution, which puts it in the power of nine states to abolish the present inadequate, unsafe, and pernicious confederation! In the first case, he asserts, that a majority ought to have the power of altering the government, when found to be inadequate to the security of public happiness.
In the last case, he affirms that even three-fourths of the community have not a right to alter a government, which experience has proved to be subversive of national felicity! Nay, that the most necessary and urgent alterations, cannot be made without the absolute unanimity of all the states. Does not the thirteenth article of the confederation expressly require, that no alteration shall be made without the unanimous consent of all the states? Could any thing in theory, be more perniciously improvident and injudicious, than this submission of the will of the majority to the most trifling minority? Have not experience and practice actually manifested this theoretical inconvenience to be extremely impolitic? Let me mention one fact, which I conceive must carry conviction to the mind of any one—the smallest state in the union has obstructed every attempt to reform the government—that like member has repeatedly disobeyed and counteracted the general authority; nay, has even supplied the enemies of its country with provisions. Twelve states had agreed to certain improvements which were proposed, being thought absolutely necessary to preserve the existence of the general government: but as these improvements, though really indispensable, could not by the confederation be introduced into it without the consent of every state, the refractory dissent of that little state prevented their adoption. The inconveniences resulting from this requisition, of unanimous concurrence in alterations in the confederation, must be known to every member in this convention, it is therefore needless to remind them of them. Is it not self-evident, that a trifling minority ought not to bind the majority? Would not foreign influence be exerted with facility over a small minority? Would the honorable gentleman agree to continue the most radical defects in the old system, because the petty state of Rhode Island would not agree to remove them?
He next objects to the exclusive legislation over the district where the seat of government may be fixed. Would he submit that the representatives of this state should carry on their deliberations under the control of any one member of the union? If any state had the power of legislation over the place where congress should fix the general government, this would impair the dignity, and hazard the safety of congress. If the safety of the union were under the control of any particular state, would not foreign corruption probably prevail in such a state, to induce it to exert its controlling influence over the members of the general government? Gentlemen cannot have forgotten the disgraceful insult which congress received some years ago. When we also reflect, that the previous session of particular states is necessary, before congress can legislate exclusively any where, we must, instead of being alarmed at this part, heartily approve of it.
But, the honorable member sees great danger in the provision concerning the militia: this, I conceive, to be an additional security to our liberty, without diminishing the power of the states, in any considerable degree; it appears to me so highly expedient, that I should imagine it would have found advocates even in the warmest friends of the present system: the authority of training the militia, and appointing the officers, is reserved to the states. Congress ought to have the power of establishing an uniform discipline throughout the states; and to provide for the execution of the laws, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; these are the only cases wherein they can interfere with the militia; and the obvious necessity of their having power over them in these cases, must convince any reflecting mind. Without uniformity of discipline, military bodies would be incapable of action: without a general controlling power to call forth the strength of the union, to repel invasions, the country might be over-run, and conquered by foreign enemies. Without such a power to suppress insurrections, our liberties might be destroyed by domestic faction, and domestic tyranny be established.
The honorable member then told us, that there was no instance of power once transferred, being voluntarily renounced. Not to produce European examples, which may probably be done before the rising of this convention, have we not seen already in seven states (and probably in an eighth state) legislatures surrendering some of the most important powers they possessed? But, Sir, by this government, powers are not given to any particular set of men, they are in the hands of the people; delegated to their representatives chosen for short terms, to representatives responsible to the people, and whose situation is perfectly similar to our own; as long as this is the case we have no danger to apprehend. When the gentleman called our recollection to the usual effects of the concession of powers, and imputed the loss of liberty generally to open tyranny I wish he had gone on farther. Upon his review of history he would have found, that the loss of liberty very often resulted from factions and divisions; from local considerations, which eternally lead to quarrels, he would have found internal dissentions to have more frequently demolished civil liberty, than a tenacious disposition in rulers, to retain any stipulated powers.
(Here Mr. Madison enumerated the various means whereby nations had lost their liberties.)
The power of raising and supporting armies is exclaimed against, as dangerous and unnecessary. I wish there were no necessity of vesting this power in the general government. But, suppose a foreign nation to declare war against the United States, must not the general legislature have the power of defending the United States? Ought it to be known to foreign nations, that the general government of the United States of America has no power to raise and support an army, even in the utmost danger, when attacked by external enemies? Would not their knowledge of such a circumstance stimulate them to fall upon us? If, sir, congress be not invested with this power, any powerful nation, prompted by ambition or avarice, will be invited, by our weakness, to attack us; and such an attack, by disciplined veterans, would certainly be attended with success, when only opposed by irregular, undisciplined militia. Whoever considers the peculiar situation of this country, the multiplicity of its excellent inlets and habours, and the uncommon facility of attacking it, however much he may regret the necessity of such a power, cannot hesitate a moment in granting it. One fact may elucidate this argument. In the course of the late war, when the weak parts of the union were exposed, and many states were in the most deplorable situation, by the enemy’s ravages, the assistance of foreign nations was thought so urgently necessary for our protection, that the relinquishment of territorial advantages, was not deemed too great a sacrifice for the acquisition of one ally. This expedient was admitted with great reluctance, even by those states who expected advantages from it. The crisis however at length arrived when it was judged necessary for the salvation of this country, to make certain cessions to Spain; whether wisely, or otherwise, is not for me to say; but the fact was, that instructions were sent to our representative at the court of Spain, to empower him to enter into negotiations for that purpose.—How it terminated is well known. This fact shews the extremities to which nations will go in cases of imminent danger, and demonstrates the necessity of making ourselves more respectable. The necessity of making dangerous cessions, and of applying to foreign aid, ought to be excluded.
The honorable member then told us, that there are heart-burnings in the adopting states, and that Virginia may, if she does not come into the measure, continue in amicable confederacy with the adopting states. I wish as seldom as possible to contradict the assertions of gentlemen, but I can venture to affirm, without danger of being in an error, that there is the most satisfactory evidence, that the satisfaction of those states is increasing every day, and that, in that state, where it was adopted only by a majority of nineteen, there is not one-fifth of the people dissatisfied. There are some reasons which induce us to conclude, that the grounds of proselytism extend every where; its principles begin to be better understood; and the inflammatory violence, wherewith it was opposed by designing, illiberal, and unthinking minds begins to subside. I will not enumerate the causes from which in my conception, the heart-burnings of a majority of its opposers have originated. Suffice it to say, that in all they were founded on a misconception of its nature and tendency. Had it been candidly examined and fairly discussed, I believe, sir, that but a very inconsiderable minority of the people of the United States would have opposed it. With respect to the Swiss, which the honorable gentleman has proposed for our example, as far as historical authority may be relied on, we shall find their government quite unworthy of our imitation. I am sure if the honorable gentleman had adverted to their history and government, he never would have quoted their example here; he would have found that instead of respecting the rights of mankind, their government (at least of several of their cantons) is one of the vilest aristocracies that ever was instituted: the peasants of some of their cantons are more oppressed and degraded than the subjects of any monarch in Europe: may, almost as much so, as those of any eastern despot. It is a novelty in politics, that from the worst of systems the happiest consequences should ensue. Their aristocratical rigor, and the peculiarity of their situation, have so long supported their union: without the closest alliance and amity, dismemberment might follow, their powerful and ambitious neighbors would immediately avail themselves of their least jarrings. As we are not circumstanced like them, no conclusive precedent can be drawn from their situation. I trust, the gentleman does not carry his idea so far as to recommend a separation from the adopting states. This government may secure our happiness; this is at least as probable, as that it shall be oppressive. If eight states have, from a persuasion of its policy and utility, adopted it, shall Virginia shrink from it, without a full conviction of its danger and inutility? I hope she will never shrink from any duty: I trust she will not determine without the most serious reflection and deliberation.
I confess to you, sir, were uniformity of religion to be introduced by this system, it would, in my opinion, be ineligible; but I have no reason to conclude, that uniformity of government will produce that of religion. This subject is, for the honor of America, perfectly free and unshackled. The government has no jurisdiction over it—the least reflection will convince us, there is no danger to be feared on this ground.
But we are flattered with the probability of obtaining previous amendments. This calls for the most serious attention of this house. If amendments are to be proposed by one state, other states have the same right, and will also propose alterations. These cannot but be dissimilar, and opposite in their nature. I beg leave to remark, that the governments of the different states, are in many respects dissimilar, in their structure; their legislative bodies are not similar—their executive, are more different. In several of the states the first magistrate is elected by the people at large—in others, by joint ballot of the members of both branches of the legislature—and in others, in other different manners. This dissimilarity has occasioned a diversity of opinion on the theory of government, which will, without many reciprocal concessions, render a concurrence impossible. Although the appointment of an executive magistrate, has not been thought destructive to the principles of democracy in many of the states, yet, in the course of the debate, we find objections made to the federal executive: it is urged that the president will degenerate into a tyrant. I intended, in compliance with the call of the honorable member, to explain the reasons of proposing this constitution, and develop its principles; but I shall postpone my remarks, till we hear the supplement which he has informed us, he intends to add to what he has already said.
Give me leave to say something of the nature of the government, and to show that it is safe and just to vest it with the power of taxation. There are a number of opinions; but the principal question is, whether it be a federal or consolidated government: in order to judge properly of the question before us, we must consider it minutely in its principal parts. I conceive myself that it is of a mixed nature; it is in a manner unprecedented; we cannot find one express example in the experience of the world. It stands by itself. In some respects it is a government of a federal nature; in others it is of a consolidated nature. Even if we attend to the manner in which the constitution is investigated, ratified and made the act of the people of America, I can say, notwithstanding what the honorable gentleman has alleged, that this government is not completely consolidated, nor is it entirely federal. Who are parties to it? The people—but not the people as composing one great body; but the people as composing thirteen sovereignties: were it as the gentleman asserts, a consolidated government, the assent of a majority of the people would be sufficient for its establishment, and as a majority, have adopted it already, the remaining states would be bound by the act of the majority, even if they unanimously reprobated it: were it such a government as it is suggested, it would be now binding on the people of this state, without having had the privilege of deliberating upon it; but, sir, no state is bound by it, as it is, without its own consent. Should all the states adopt it, it will be then a government established by the thirteen states of America, not through the intervention of the legislatures, but by the people at large. In this particular respect the distinction between the existing and proposed governments is very material. The existing system has been derived from the dependent derivative authority of the legislatures of the states, whereas this is derived from the superior power of the people. If we look at the manner in which alterations are to be made in it, the same idea is in some degree attended to. By the new system a majority of the states cannot introduce amendments; nor are all the states required for that purpose; three-fourths of them must concur in alterations: in this there is a departure from the federal idea. The members to the national house of representatives are to be chosen by the people at large, in proportion to the numbers in the respective districts. When we come to the senate, its members are elected by the states in their equal and political capacity; but had the government been completely consolidated, the senate would have been chosen by the people in their individual capacity, in the same manner as the members of the other house. Thus it is of a complicated nature, and this complication, I trust, will be found to exclude the evils of absolute consolidation, as well as of a mere confederacy. If Virginia was separated from all the states, her power and authority would extend to all cases: in like manner were all powers vested in the general government, it would be a consolidated government; but the powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.
But the honorable member has satirised with peculiar acrimony, the powers given to the general government by this constitution. I conceive that the first question on this subject is, whether these powers be necessary; if they be, we are reduced to the dilemma of either submitting to the inconvenience, or losing the union. Let us consider the most important of these reprobated powers; that of direct taxation is most generally obejcted to. With respect to the exigencies of government, there is no question but the most easy mode of providing for them will be adopted. When, therefore, direct taxes are not necessary, they will not be recurred to. It can be of little advantage to those in power, to raise money, in a manner oppressive to the people. To consult the conveniences of the people, will cost them nothing, and in many respects will be advantageous to them. Direct taxes will only be recurred to for great purposes. What has brought on other nations those immense debts, under the pressure of which many of them labor? Not the expenses of their governments, but war. If this country should be engaged in war, and I conceive we ought to provide for the possibility of such a case, how would it be carried on? By the usual means provided from year to year? As our imports will be necessary for the expenses of government and other common exigencies, how are we to carry on the means of defence? How is it possible a war could be supported without money or credit? And would it be possible for a government to have credit without having the power of raising money? No, it would be impossible for any government, in such a case, to defend itself. Then, I say, sir, that it is necessary to establish funds for extraordinary exigencies, and give this power to the general government—for the utter inutility of previous requisitions on the states is too well known. Would it be possible for those countries, whose finances and revenues are carried to the highest perfection, to carry on the operations of Government on great emergencies, such as the maintenance of a war, without an uncontrolled power of raising money? Has it not been necessary for Great Britain, notwithstanding the facility of the collection of her taxes, to have recourse very often to this and other extraordinary methods of procuring money? Would not her public credit have been ruined, if it was known that her power to raise money was limited? Has not France been obliged, on great occasions, to use unusual means to raise funds? It has been the case in many countries, and no government can exist, unless its powers extend to make provisions for every contingency. If we were actually attacked by a powerful nation, and our general government had not the power of raising money, but depended solely on requisitions, our condition would be truly deplorable—if the revenue of this commonwealth were to depend on twenty distinct authorities, it would be impossible for it to carry on its operations. This must be obvious to every member here; I think therefore, that it is necessary for the preservation of the union, that this power shall be given to the general government.
But it is urged, that its consolidated nature, joined to the power of direct taxation, will give it a tendency to destroy all subordinate authority; that its increasing influence will speedily enable it to absorb the state governments. I cannot think this will be the case. If the general government were wholly independent of the governments of the particular states, then indeed usurpation might be expected to the fullest extent: but, sir, on whom does this general government depend? It derives its authority from these governments, and from the same sources from which their authority is derived. The members of the federal government are taken from the same men from whom those of the state legislatures are taken. If we consider the mode in which the federal representatives will be chosen, we shall be convinced, that the general, will never destroy the individual, governments; and this convicion must be strengthened by an attention to the construction of the senate. The representatives will be chosen probably under the influence of the members of the state legislatures: but there is not the least probability that the election of the latter will be influenced by the former. One hundred and sixty members represent this commonwealth in one branch of the legislature, are drawn from the people at large, and must ever possess more influence than the few men who will be elected to the general legislature.
The reasons offered on this subject, by a gentleman on the same side [Mr. Nicholas] were unanswerable, and have been so full, that I shall add but little more on the subject. Those who wish to become federal representatives, must depend on their credit with that class of men who will be the most popular in their counties, who generally represent the people in the state governments: they can, therefore, never succeed in any measure contrary to the wishes of those on whom they depend. It is almost certain, therefore, that the deliberations of the members of the federal house of representatives, will be directed to the interest of the people of America. As to the other branch, the senators will be appointed by the legislatures, and though elected for six years, I do not conceive they will so soon forget the source from whence they derive their political existence. This election of one branch of the federal by the state legislatures, secures an absolute dependence of the former on the latter. The biennial exclusion of one third, will lessen the facility of a combination, and may put a stop to intrigues. I appeal to our past experience, whether they will attend to the interests of their constituent states. Have not those gentlemen who have been honored with seats in congress, often signalized themselves by their attachment to their seats? I wish this government may answer the expectation of its friends, and foil the apprehension of its enemies. I hope the patriotism of the people will continue, and be a sufficient guard to their liberties. I believe its tendency will be, that the state governments will counteract the general interest, and ultimately prevail. The number of the representatives is yet sufficient for our safety, and will gradually increase—and if we consider their different sources of information, the number will not appear too small.
JUNE 7—POWER TO LAY TAXES.
Mr. Madison.—Mr. Chairman, in considering this great subject I trust we shall find that part which gives the general government the power of laying and collecting taxes, indispensable and essential to the existence of any efficient, or well organized system of government: if we consult reason, and be ruled by its dictates, we shall find its justification there; if we review the experience we have had, or contemplate the history of nations, here we find ample reasons to prove its expediency. There is little reason to depend for necessary supplies on a body which is fully possessed of the power of withholding them. If a government depends on other governments for its revenues: if it must depend on the voluntary contributions of its members, its existence must be precarious. A government which relies on thirteen independent sovereignties, for the means of its existence, is a solecism in theory, and a mere nullity in practice. Is it consistent with reason, that such a government can promote the happiness of any people? It is subversive of every principle of sound policy, to trust the safety of a community with a government, totally destitute of the means of protecting itself or its members. Can congress, after the repeated unequivocal proofs it has experienced of the utter inutility and inefficacy of requisitions, reasonably expect, that they would be hereafter effectual or productive? Will not the same local interests, and other causes, militate against a compliance? Whoever hopes the contrary must ever be disappointed. The effect, sir, cannot be changed without a removal of the cause. Let each county in this commonwealth be supposed free and independent; let your revenues depend on requisitions of proportionate quotas from them: let application be made to them repeatedly: is it to be presumed that they would comply, or that an adequate collection could be made from partial compliances? It is now difficult to collect the taxes from them: how much would that difficulty be enhanced, were you to depend solely on their generosity? I appeal to reason or every gentleman here, whether he is not persuaded, that the present confederation is as feeble, as the government of Virginia would be in that case, to the same reason I appeal, whether it be incompatible with prudence to continue a government of such manifest and palpable debility.
If we recur to history, and review the annals of mankind, I undertake to say that no instance can be produced by the most learned man of any confederate government, that will justify a continuation of the present system; or that will not demonstrate the necessity of this change: and of substituting to the present pernicious and fatal plan, the system now under consideration, or one equally energetic. The uniform conclusion drawn from a review of ancient and modern confederacies, is, that instead of promoting the public happiness, or securing public tranquility, they have, in every instance, been productive of anarchy and confusion; ineffectual for the preservation of harmony, and a prey to their own dissentions and foreign invasions.
The Amphyctionic league resembled our confederation in its nominal powers; it was possessed of rather more power. The component states retained their sovereignty, and enjoyed an equality of suffrage in the federal council. But though its powers were more considerable in many respects than those of our present system; yet it had the same radical defect. Its powers were exercised over its individual members, in their political capacities. To this capital defect it owed its disorders, and final destruction. It was compelled to recur to the sanguinary coercion of war to enforce its decrees.—The struggles consequent on a refusal to obey a decree, and an attempt to enforce it, produced the necessity of applying to foreign assistance; by complying with such an application, together with his intrigues, Philip of Macedon acquired sufficient influence to become a member of the league. This artful and insidious prince, soon after became master of their liberties.
The Achean league, though better constructed than the Amphyctionic, in material respects, was continually agitated with domestic dissentions, and driven to the necessity of calling in foreign aid; this, also, eventuated in the demolition of their confederacy. Had they been more closely united, their people would have been happier; and their united wisdom and strength, would not only have rendered unnecessary all sovereign interpositions in their affairs, but would have enabled them to repel the attack of an enemy. If we descend to more modern examples, we shall find the same evils resulting from the same sources.
The Germanic system is neither adequate to the external defence, nor internal felicity of the people; the doctrine of quotas and requisitions flourishes here. Without energy—without stability—the empire is a nerveless body. The most furious conflicts, and the most implacable animosities between its members, strikingly distinguish its history. Concert and co-operation are incompatible with such an injudiciously constructed system.
The republic of the Swiss is sometimes instanced for its stability, but even there, dissentions and wars of a bloody nature have been frequently seen between the cantons. A peculiar coincidence of circumstances contributes to the continuance of their political connection. Their feeble association owes its existence to their singular situation. There is a schism this moment, in their confederacy, which, without the necessity of uniting for their external defence, would immediately produce its dissolution.
The confederate government of Holland, is a further confirmation of the characteristic imbecility of such governments. From the history of this government we might derive lessons of the most important utility.
(Here Mr. Madison quoted sundry passages from De Witt, respecting the people of Holland, and the war which they had so long supported against the Spanish monarch: shewing the impolitic and injudicious structure of their confederacy; that it was entirely destitute of energy, because their revenues depended chiefly on requisitions; that during that long war, the provinces of Guelderland, and Overyssel had not paid their respective quotas, but had evaded, altogether, their payments; in consequence of which, two sevenths of the resources of the community had never been brought into action, nor contributed in the least toward the prosecution of the war; that the fear of pressing danger stimulated Holland and the other provinces to pay all the charges of the war; that those two provinces had continued their delinquences; that the province of Holland alone, paid more than all the rest; still those provinces who paid up their proportional shares, claimed from the failing states the amounts of their arrearages; that the most fatal consequences had nearly resulted from the difficulty of adjusting those claims; and from the extreme aversion of the delinquent states to discharge even their most solemn engagements; that there are existing controversies between the provinces on this account at present; and to add to the evils consequent upon requisitions, that unanimity and the revision and sanction of their constituents, were necessary to give validity to the decisions of the states general.)
Mr. Madison then added—that these radical defects in their confederacy must have dissolved their association long ago, were it not for their peculiar position—circumscribed in a narrow territory; surrounded by the most powerful nations in the world; possessing peculiar advantages from their situation; an extensive navigation and a powerful navy—advantages which it was clearly the interest of those nations to diminish or deprive them of; and that their late unhappy dissentions were manifestly produced by the vices of their system. He then continued—We may derive much benefit from the experience of that unhappy country. Governments destitute of energy, will ever produce anarchy. These facts are worthy the most serious consideration of every gentleman here. Does not the history of these confederacies coincide with the lesson drawn from our own experience? I most earnestly pray that America may have sufficient wisdom to avail herself of the instructive information she may derive from a contemplation of the sources of their misfortunes, and that she may escape a similar fate by avoiding the causes from which their infelicity sprung. If the general government is to depend on the voluntary contribution of the states for its support, dismemberment of the United States may be the consequence. In cases of eminent danger, the states more immediately exposed to it, would only exert themselves—those remote from it, would be too supine to interest themselves warmly in the fate of those whose distresses they did not immediately perceive. The general government ought, therefore, to be empowered to defend the whole union.
Must we not suppose, that those parts of America which are most exposed, will first be the scenes of war? Those nations whose interest is incompatible with an extension of our power, and who are jealous of our resources to become powerful and wealthy, must naturally be inclined to exert every means to prevent our becoming formidable. Will they not be impelled to attack the most exposed parts of the union? Will not their knowledge of the weakness of our government stimulate them the more readily to such an attack? Those parts to which relief can be afforded with most difficulty, are the extremities of the country, and will be the first objects of our enemies. The general government having no resources beyond what are adequate to its existing necessities, will not be able to afford any effectual succor to those parts which may be invaded.
America, in such a case, would palpably perceive the danger and folly of withholding from the union, a power sufficient to protect the whole territory of the United States. Such an attack is far from improbable, and if it be actually made, it is difficult to conceive a possibility of escaping the catastrophe of a dismemberment. On this subject we may receive an estimable and instructive lesson from an American confederacy; from an example which has happened in our country and which applies to us with peculiar force, being most analogous to our situation. I mean that species of association or union which subsisted in New England. The colonies of Massachusetts, Bristol, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, were confederated together.
The object of that confederacy was primarily to defend themselves against the inroads and depredations of the Indians. They had a common council, consisting of deputies from each party, with an equality of suffrage in their deliberations. The general expenditures and charges were to be adequately defrayed. Its powers were very similar to those of the confederation. Its history proves clearly, that a government founded on such principles must ever disappoint the hopes of those who expect its operation to be conducive to the public happiness.
There are facts on record to prove, that instead of answering the end of its institution, or the expectation of its framers, it was violated with impunity, and only regarded when it coincided perfectly with the views and immediate interests of their respective parties.
The strongest member of the union availed itself of its circumstances to infringe their confederacy. Massachusetts refused to pay its quotas. In the war between England and Holland, it was found particularly necessary to make exertions for the protection of that country.
Massachusetts being then more powerful and less exposed than the other colonies, refused its contributions to the general defence. In consequence of this, the common council remonstrated against the council of Massachusetts. This altercation terminated in the dissolution of their union. From this brief account of a system, perfectly resembling our present one we may easily divine the inevitable consequences of a longer adherence to the latter.
(Mr. Madison then recapitulated many instances of the prevalent persuasion of the wisest patriots of the states, that the safety of all America depended on union; and that the government of the U. States must be possessed of an adequate degree of energy, or that otherwise their connection could not be justly denominated an union. He likewise enumerated the expedients that had been attempted by the people of America to form an intimate association, from the meeting at New York in the year 1754, downwards that their sentiments on this subject had been uniform, both in their colonial and independent conditions: and that a variety of courses had hitherto prevented the adoption of an adequate system.)
He then continued thus—If we take experience for our guide, we shall find still more instructive direction on this subject. The weakness of the existing articles of the union, shewed itself during the war. It has manifested itself since the peace, to such a degree, as admits of no doubt to a rational, intelligent, and unbiassed mind, of the necessity of alteration—nay, this necessity is obvious to all America—it has forced itself on the minds of the people. The committee has been informed, that the confederation was not completed till the year 1781, when a great portion of the war was ended, consequently no part of the merit of the antecedent operations of the war could justly be attributed to that system. Its debility was perceived almost as soon as it was put in operation. A recapitulation of the proofs which have been experienced of its inefficacy is necessary. It is most notorious, that feebleness universally marked its character. Shall we be safe in another war in the same situation? That instrument required the voluntary contributions of the states, and thereby sacrificed some of our best privileges. The most intolerable and unwarrantable oppressions were committed on the people during the late war. The gross enormity of those oppressions might have produced the most serious consequences, were it not for the spirit of liberty, which preponderated against every consideration.
A scene of injustice, partiality and oppression, may bring heavenly vengeance on any people. We are now by our suffering expiating the crimes of the otherwise glorious revolution. Is it not known to every member of this committee, that the great principles of a free government, were reversed through the whole progress of that scene? Was not every state harrassed? Was not every individual oppressed and subjected to repeated distresses? Was this right? Was it a proper form of government, that warranted, authorized, or overlooked, the most wanton deprivation of property? Had the government been vested with complete power to procure a regular and adequate supply of revenue, those oppressive measures would have been unnecessary. But, sir, can it be supposed that a repetition of such measures would ever be acquiesced in? Can a government that stands in need of such measures secure the liberty or promote the happiness or glory of any country? If we do not change this system, consequences must ensue that gentlemen do not now apprehend. If other testimony were necessary, I might appeal to that which I am sure is very weighty, but which I mention with reluctance. At the conclusion of the war, the man who had the most extensive acquaintance with the nature of the country, who well understood its interests, and who had given the most unequivocal and most brilliant proofs of his attachment to its welfare—when he laid down his arms, wherewith he had so nobly and successfully defended his country publicly testified his disapprobation of the present system; and suggested that some alteration was necessary to render it adequate to the security of our happiness. I did not introduce that great name to bias any gentleman here. Much as I admire and revere the man, I consider these members as not to be actuated by the influence of any man; but I introduced him as a respectable witness to prove that the articles of the confederation were inadequate, and that we must resort to something else. His modesty did not point out what ought to be done, but said, that some great change was necessary. But, sir, testimony if wished for, may be found in abundance, and numerous conclusive reasons urged for this change. Experience was daily producing such irresistible proofs of the defects of this system, this commonwealth was induced to exert her influence to meliorate it: she began that noble work, in which I hope she will persist: she proposed to revise it—her proposition met with that concurrence, which that of a respectable party will always meet. I am sure if demonstration were necessary on the part of this commonwealth, reasons have been abundantly heard in the course of this debate, manifold and cogent enough, not only to operate conviction; but to disgust an attentive hearer. Recollect the resolution of the year 1784. It was then found that the whole burthen of the union was sustained by a few states. This state was likely to be saddled with a very disproportionate share. That expedient was proposed (to obviate this inconvenience) which has been placed in its true light. It has been painted in sufficient horrors by the honorable gentleman who spoke last.
I agree with the honorable gentleman, Mr. Henry, that national splendour and glory are not our objects—but does he distinguish between what will render us secure and happy at home, and what will render us respectable abroad? If we be free and happy at home, we shall be respectable abroad.
The confederation is so notoriously feeble, that foreign nations are unwilling to form any treaties with us—they are apprised that our general government cannot perform any of its engagements; but, that they may be violated at pleasure by any of the states. Our violation of treaties already entered into, proves this truth unequivocally. No nation will, therefore, make any stipulations with congress, conceding any advantages of importance to us: they will be the more averse to entering into engagements with us, as the imbecility of our government enables them to derive many advantages from our trade, without granting us any return. But were this country united by proper bands, in addition to other great advantages, we could form very beneficial treaties with foreign states. But this can never happen without a change in our system. Were we not laughed at by the minister of that nation, from which we may be able yet to extort some of the most salutary measures for this country? Were we not told that it was necessary to temporize till our government acquired consistency? Will any nation relinquish national advantages to us? You will be greatly disappointed, if you expect any such good effects from this contemptible system. Let us recollect our conduct to that country from which we have received the most friendly aid. How have we dealt with that benevolent ally? Have we complied with our most sacred obligations to that nation? Have we paid the interest punctually from year to year? Is not the interest accumulating, while not a shilling is discharged of the principal? The magnanimity and forbearance of that ally are so great, that she has not called upon us for her claims, even in her own distress and necessity. This, sir, is an additional motive to increase our exertions. At this moment of time a very considerable amount is due from us to that country and others.
(Here Mr. Madison mentioned the amount of the debts due to different foreign nations.)
We have been obliged to borrow money, even to pay the interest of our debts. This is a ruinous and most disgraceful expedient. Is this a situation on which America can rely for security and happiness? How are we to extricate ourselves? The honorable member told us, we might rely on the punctuality and friendship of the states, and that they will discharge their quotas for the future. The contributions of the states have been found inadequate from the beginning, and are diminishing instead of increasing. From the month of June 1787, till June 1788, they have only paid 276,641 dollars into the federal treasury for the purposes of supporting the national government, and discharging the interest of the national debts: a sum so very insufficient, that it must greatly alarm the friends of their country. Suggestions and strong assertions dissipate before these facts. I shall no longer fatigue the committee at this time, but will resume the subject as early as I can.
JUNE 11—POWER TO LAY TAXES.
Mr. Chairman, it was my purpose to resume before now, what I had left unfinished, concerning the necessity of a radical change of our system. The intermission which has taken place discontinued the progress of the argument, and has given opportunity to others to advance arguments on different parts of the plan. I hope we shall steer our course in a different manner from what we have hitherto done. I presume that vague discourses and mere sports of fancy, not relative to the subject at all, are very improper on this interesting occasion. I hope these will be no longer attempted, but that we shall come to the point. I trust we shall not go out of order, but confine ourselves to the clause under consideration. I beg gentlemen would observe this rule. I shall endeavor not to depart from it myself.
The subject of direct taxation is perhaps one of the most important that can possibly engage our attention, or that can be involved in the discussion of this question. If it be, to be judged by the comments made upon it, by the opposers and favorers of the proposed system, it requires a most clear and critical investigation. The objections against the exercise of this power by the general government as far as I am able to comprehend them, are founded upon the supposition of its being unnecessary, impracticable, unsafe and accumulative of expense. I shall therefore consider, 1st, how far it may be necessary; 2d, how far it may be practicable; 3dly, how far it may be safe, as well with respect to the public liberty at large, as to the state legislatures; and 4thly, with respect to economy. First, then, is it necessary? I must acknowledge that I concur in opinion with those gentlemen who told you that this branch of revenue was essential to the salvation of the union. It appears to me necessary, in order to secure that punctuality which is necessary in revenue matters. Without punctuality individuals will give it no confidence, without which it cannot get resources. I beg gentlemen to consider the situation of this country, if unhappily the government were to be deprived of this power. Let us suppose for a moment that one of those powers which may be unfriendly to us, should take advantage of our weakness, which they will be more ready to do when they know the want of this resource in our government. Suppose it should attack us, what forces could we oppose to it? Could we find safety in such forces as we could call out? Could we call forth a sufficient number, either by draughts, or any other way, to repel a powerful enemy? The inability of the government to raise and support regular troops, would compel us to depend on militia.
It would be then necessary to give this power to the government, or run the risk of national annihilation. It is my firm belief, that if a hostile attack were made this moment on the United States, it would flash conviction on the minds of the citizens of the United States, of the necessity of vesting the government with this power, which alone can enable it to protect the community. I do not wish to frighten the members into a concession of this power, but to bring to their minds those considerations which demonstrate its necessity. If we were secured from the possibility, or probability of danger, it might be unnecessary. I shall not review that concourse of dangers which may probably arise at remote periods of futurity, nor all those which we have immediately to apprehend, for this would lead me beyond the bounds which I prescribed myself. But I will mention one single consideration, drawn from fact itself. I hope to have your attention.
By the treaty between the United States and his most Christian majesty, among other things it is stipulated, that the great principle on which the armed neutrality in Europe was founded, should prevail in case of future wars. The principle is this, that free ships shall make free goods, and that vessels and goods shall be both free from condemnation. Great Britain did not recognize it. While all Europe was against her, she held out without acting to it. It has been considered for sometime past, that the flames of war already kindled, would spread, and that France and England were likely to draw those swords which were so recently put up. This is judged probable. We should not be surprised in a short time, to consider ourselves as a neuteral nation—France on one side, and Great Britain on the other. What is the situation of America? She is remote from Europe, and ought not to engage in her politics or wars. The American vessels, if they can do it with advantage, may carry on the commerce of the contending nations. It is a source of wealth which we ought not to deny to our citizens. But, Sir, is there not infinite danger, that in despite of all our caution we shall be drawn into the war? If American vessels have French property on board, Great Britain will seize them. By this means we shall be obliged to relinquish the advantage of a neutral nation, or be engaged in a war.
A neutral nation ought to be respectable, or else it will be insulted and attacked. America in her present impotent situation would run the risk of being drawn in as a party in the war, and lose the advantage of being neutral. Should it happen that the British fleet should be superior, have we not reason to conclude, from the spirit displayed by that nation to us and to all the world, that we should be insulted in our own ports, and our vessels seized? But if we be in a respectable situation—if it be known that our government can command the whole resources of the union, we shall be suffered to enjoy the great advantages of carrying on the commerce of the nations at war: for none of them would be willing to add us to the number of their enemies. I shall say no more on this point, there being others which merit your consideration.
The expedient proposed by the gentlemen opposed to this clause, is, that requisitions shall be made, and if not complied with in a certain time, that then taxation shall be recurred to. I am clearly convinced, that whenever requisitions shall be made, they will disappoint those who put their trust in them One reason to prevent the concurrent exertions of all the states, will arise from the suspicion, in some states, of delinquency in others. States will be governed by the motives that actuate individuals.
When a tax is in operation in a particular state, every citizen, if he knows of the energy of the laws to enforce payment, and that every other citizen is performing his duty, will cheerfully discharge his duty; but were it known that the citizens of one district were not performing their duty, and that it was left to the policy of the government to make them come up with it, the other districts would be very supine and careless in making provisions for payment. Our own experience makes the illustration more natural. If requisitions be made on thirteen different states, when one deliberates on the subject, she will know that all the rest will deliberate upon it also. This, Sir, has been a principal cause of the inefficacy of requisitions heretofore, and will hereafter produce the same evil. If the legislatures are to deliberate on this subject, (and the honorable gentleman opposed to this clause, thinks their deliberation necessary) is it not presumable, that they will consider peculiar local circumstances? In the general council, on the contrary, the sense of all America would be drawn to a single point. The collective interest of the union at large, will be known and pursued. No local views will be permitted to operate against the general welfare. But when propositions would come before a particular state, there is every reason to believe, that qualifications of the requisitions would be proposed—compliance might be promised, and some instant remittances might be made. This will cause delays, which in the first instance will produce disappointment. This also will make failures every where else. This I hope will be considered with the attention it deserves. The public creditors will be disappointed, and more pressing. Requisitions will be made for purposes equally pervading all America; but the exertions to make compliances, will probably be not uniform in the states. If requisitions be made for future occasions, for putting the states in a state of military defence, or to repel an invasion, will the exertions be uniform and equal in all the states? Some parts of the United States are more exposed than others. Will the least exposed states exert themselves equally? We know that the most exposed will be more immediately interested, and will make less sacrifices in making exertions. I beg gentlemen to consider that this argument will apply with most effect to the states which are most defenceless and exposed. The southern states are most exposed, whether we consider their situation, or the smallness of their population. And there are other circumstances which render them still more vulnerable, which do not apply to the northern states. They are therefore more interested in giving the government a power to command the whole strength of the union in cases of emergency. Do not gentlemen conceive this mode of obtaining supplies from the states, will keep alive animosities between the general government and particular states? Where the chances of failures are so numerous as thirteen, by the thirteen states, disappointment in the first place, and consequent animosity must inevitably take place
Let us consider the alternatives proposed by gentlemen, instead of the power of laying direct taxes. After the states shall have refused to comply, weigh the consequences of the exercise of this power by congress. When it comes in the form of a punishment, great clamours will be raised among the people against the government; hatred will be excited against it. It will be considered as an ignominious stigma on the state. It will be considered at least in this light by the state where the failure is made, and these sentiments will no doubt be diffused through the other states. Now let us consider the effect, if collectors are sent where the state governments refuse to comply with requisitions. It is too much the disposition of mankind not to stop at one violation of duty. I conceive that every requisition that will be made on my part of America, will kindle a contention between the delinquent member, and the general government. Is there no reason to suppose divisions in the government (for seldom does any thing pass with unanimity) on the subject of requisitions? The parts least exposed will oppose those measures which may be adopted for the defence of the weakest parts. Is there no reason to presume, that the representatives from the delinquent state will be more likely to foster disobedience to the requisitions of the government, than study to recommend them to the public?
There is in my opinion, another point of view in which this alternative will produce great evil. I will suppose, what is very probable, that partial compliances will be made. A difficulty here arises which fully demonstrates its impolicy. If a part be paid, and the rest withheld, how is the general government to proceed? They are to impose a tax, but how shall it be done in this case? Are they to impose it by way of punishment, on those who have paid, as well as those who have not? All these considerations taken into view (for they are not visionary or fanciful speculations) will, perhaps, produce this consequence. The general government to avoid those disappointments which I first described, and to avoid the contentions and embarrassments which I last described, will in all probability, throw the public burdens on those branches of revenue which will be more in their power. They will be continually necessitated to augment the imposts. If we throw a disproportion of the burdens on that side, shall we not discourage commerce; and suffer many political evils? Shall we not increase that disproportion on the southern states, which for sometime will operate against us? The southern states, from having fewer manufactures, will import and consume more. They will therefore pay more of the imposts. The more commerce is burdened, the more the disproportion will operate against them. If direct taxation be mixed with other taxes, it will be in the power of the general government to lessen that inequality. But this inequality will be increased to the utmost extent, if the general government have not this power.
There is another point of view in which this subject affords us instruction. The imports will decrease in time of war. The honorable gentleman who spoke yesterday, said, that the imposts would be so productive, that there would be no occasion of laying taxes. I will submit two observations to him and the committee. First: in time of war the imposts will be less, and as I hope we are considering a government for a perpetual duration, we ought to provide for every future contingency. At present our importations bear a full proportion to the full amount of our sales, and to the number of our inhabitants; but when we have inhabitants enough, our imposts will decrease; and as the national demands will increase with our population, our resources will increase as our wants increase. The other consideration which I will submit on this part of the subject is this:—I believe that it will be found in practice, that those who fix the public burdens, will feel a greater degree of responsibility when they are to impose them on the citizens immediately, than if they were to say what sum should be paid by the states. If they exceed the limits of propriety, universal discontent and clamour will arise. Let us suppose they were to collect the taxes from the citizens of America—would they not consider their circumstances? Would they not attentively consider what could be done by the citizens at large? Were they to exceed in their demands, what were reasonable burdens, the people would impute it to the right source, and look on the imposers as odious.
When I consider the nature of the various objections brought against this clause, I should be led to think, that the difficulties were such, that gentlemen would not be able to get over them, and that the power, as defined in the plan of the convention, was impracticable. I shall trouble them with a few observations on that point:
It has been said that ten men deputed from this state, and others in proportion from other states, will not be able to adjust direct taxes, so as to accommodate the various citizens in thirteen states.
I confess I do not see the force of this observation. Could not ten intelligent men, chosen from ten districts from this state lay direct taxes on a few objects in the most judicious manner? It is to be conceived, that they would be acquainted with the situation of different citizens of this country. Can any one divide this state into ten districts so as not to contain men of sufficient information? Could not one man of knowledge be found in a district? When thus selected, will they not be able to carry their knowledge into the general council? I may say with great propriety, that the experience of our own legislature demonstrates the competency of congress to lay taxes wisely. Our assembly consists of considerably more than a hundred; yet from the nature of the business, it devolves on a much smaller number. It is through their sanction, approved of by all the others. It will be found that there are seldom more than ten men who rise to high information on this subject. Our federal representatives, as has been said by the gentleman [Mr. Marshall] who entered into the subject with a great deal of ability, will get information from the state governments. They will be perfectly well informed of the circumstances of the people of the different states, and the mode of taxation that would be most convenient for them, from the laws of the states. In laying taxes, they may even refer to the state system of taxation. Let it not be forgotten, that there is a probability, that that ignorance which is complained of in some parts of America, will be continually diminishing. Let us compare the degree of knowledge which the people had in time past to their present information. Does not our own experience teach us, that the people are better informed than they were a few years ago? The citizen of Georgia knows more now of the affairs of New Hampshire, than he did before the revolution, of those of South Carolina. When the representatives from the different states are collected together, to consider this subject, they will interchange their knowledge with one another, and will have the laws of each state on the table. Besides this, the intercourse of the states will be continually increasing. It is now much greater than before the revolution. My honorable friend, over the way [Mr. Monroe] yesterday, seemed to conceive, as an insuperable objection, that if land were made the particular object of taxation, it would be unjust, as it would exonerate the commercial part of the community—that if it were laid on trade, it would be unjust in discharging the landholders; and that any exclusive selection would be unequal and unfair. If the general government were tied down to one object, I confess the objection would have some force in it. But if this be not the case, it can have no weight. If it should have a general power of taxation, they could select the most proper objects, and distribute the taxes in such a manner, as that they should fall in a due degree on every member of the community. They will be limited to fix the proportion of each state, and they must raise it in the most convenient and satisfactory manner to the public.
The honorable member considered it as another insuperable objection, that uniform laws could not be made for thirteen states, and that dissonance would produce inconvenience and oppression. Perhaps it may not be found, on due enquiry, to be so impracticable as he supposes. But were it so, where is the evil of different states, to raise money for the general government? Where is the evil of such laws? There are instances in other countries, of different laws operating in different parts of the country, without producing any kind of opposition. The revenue laws are different in England and Scotland in several respects. Their laws relating to customs excises and trade, are similar; but those respecting direct taxation are dissimilar. There is a land tax in England, and a land tax in Scotland, but the laws concerning them are not the same. It is much heavier in proportion in the former than in the latter. The mode of collection is different—yet this is not productive of any national inconvenience. Were we to conclude from the objections against the proposed plan, this dissimilarity, in that point alone, would have involved those kingdoms in difficulties. In England itself, there is a variety of different laws operating differently in different places. I will make another observation on the objection of my honorable friend. He seemed to conclude, that concurrent collections under different authorities, were not reducible to practice. I agree that were they independent of the people, the argument would be good. But they must serve one common master. They must act in concert, or the defaulting party must bring on itself the resentment of the people. If the general government be so constructed, that it will not dare to impose such burdens, as will distress the people, where is the evil of its having a power of taxation concurrent with the states? The people would not support it, were it to impose oppressive burdens. Let me make one more comparison of the state governments, to this plan. Do not the states impose taxes for local purposes? Does the concurrent collection of taxes, imposed by the legislatures for general purposes, and of levies laid by the counties for parochial and county purposes, produce any inconvenience or oppression? The collection of these taxes is perfectly practicable, and consistent with the views of both parties. The people at large are the common superior of the state governments, and the general government. It is reasonable to conclude, that they will avoid interferences for two causes—to avoid public oppression, and to render the collections more productive. I conceive they will be more likely to produce disputes, in rendering it convenient for the people, than run into interfering regulations.
In the third place I shall consider, whether the power of taxation to be given the general government be safe: and first, whether it be safe as to the public liberty in general. It would be sufficient to remark, that they are, because I conceive, the point has been clearly established by more than one gentleman who has spoken on the same side of the question. In the decision of this question, it is of importance to examine, whether elections of representatives by great districts of freeholders be favorable to fidelity in representatives. The greatest degree of treachery in representatives, is to be apprehended where they are chosen by the least number of electors; because there is a greater facility of using undue influence, and because the electors must be less independent. This position is verified in the most unanswerable manner, in that country to which appeals are so often made, and sometimes instructively.
Who are the most corrupt members in parliament? Are they not the inhabitants of small towns and districts? The supporters of liberty are from the great counties. Have we not seen that the representatives of the city of London, who are chosen by such thousands of voters, have continually studied and supported the liberties of the people, and opposed the corruption of the crown? We have seen continually that most of the members in the ministerial majority are drawn from small circumscribed districts. We may therefore conclude, that our representatives being chosen by such extensive districts, will be upright and independent. In proportion as we have security against corruption in representatives we have security against corruption from every other quarter whatsoever.
I shall take a view of certain subjects which will lead to some reflections, to quiet the minds of those gentlemen who think that the individual governments will be swallowed up by the general government. In order to effect this, it is proper to compare the state governments to the general government, with respect to reciprocal dependence, and with respect to the means they have of supporting themselves, or of encroaching on one another. At the first comparison we must be struck with these remarkable facts. The general government has not the appointment of a single branch of the individual governments, or of any officers within the states, to execute their laws. Are not the states integral parts of the general government? Is not the president chosen under the influence of the state legislatures? May we not suppose that he will be complaisant to those from whom he has his appointment, and from whom he must have his re-appointment? The senators are appointed altogether by the legislatures.
My honorable friend apprehended a coalition between the president, senate, and house of representatives, against the states. This could be supposed only from a similarity of the component parts.
A coalition is not likely to take place, because its component parts are heterogeneous in their nature. The house of representatives is not chosen by the state governments, but under the influence of those who compose the state legislature. Let us suppose ten men appointed to carry the government into effect, there is every degree of certainty, that they would be indebted for their re-election to the members of the legislatures. If they derive their appointment from them, will they not execute their duty to them? Besides this, will not the people (whose predominant interest will ultimately prevail) feel great attachment to the state legislatures? They have the care of all local interests—those familiar domestic objects, for which men have the strongest predilection. The general government on the contrary, has the preservation of the aggregate interest of the union—objects, which being less familiar, and more remote from men’s notice have a less powerful influence on their minds. Do we not see great and natural attachments arising from local considerations? This will be the case in a much stronger degree in the state governments, than in the general government. The people will be attached to their state legislatures from a thousand causes; and into whatever scale the people at large will throw themselves, that scale will preponderate.
Did we not perceive, in the early stages of the war, when congress was the idol of America, and when in pursuit of the object most dear to America, that they were attached to their states? Afterwards the whole current of their affection was to the states, and would be still the case, were it not for the alarming situation of America.
At one period of the congressional history, they had the power to trample on the states. When they had that fund of paper money in their hands, and could carry on all their measures without any dependence on the states, was there any disposition to debase the state governments? All that municipal authority which was necessary to carry on the administration of the government, they still retained unimpaired. There was no attempt to diminish it.
I am led by what fell from my honorable friend yesterday to take this supposed combination in another view. Is it supposed, that the influence of the general government will facilitate a combination between the members? Is it supposed, that it will preponderate against that of the state governments? The means of influence consist in having the disposal of gifts and emoluments, and in the number of persons employed by, and dependent upon a government. Will any gentleman compare the number of persons, which will be employed in the general government, with the number of those which will be in the state governments? The number of dependants upon the state governments will be infinitely greater than those on the general government. I may say with truth, that there never was a more economical government in any age or country, nor which will require fewer hands, or give less influence.
Let us compare the members composing the legislative, executive and judicial powers in the general government, with these in the states, and let us take into view the vast number of persons employed in the states; from the chief officers to the lowest, we will find the scale preponderating so much in favor of the states, that while so many persons are attached to them, it will be impossible to turn the balance against them. There will be an irresistible bias towards the state governments.
Consider the number of militia officers, the number of justices of the peace, the number of the members of the legislatures, and all the various officers for districts, towns and corporations, all intermixing with, and residing among the people at large. While this part of the community retains their affection to the state governments, I conceive that the fact will be, that the state governments, and not the general government, will preponderate. It cannot be contradicted that they have more extensive means of influence. I have my fears as well as the honorable gentleman—but my fears are on the other side. Experience, I think, will prove (though there be no infallible proof of it here) that the powerful and prevailing influence of the states, will produce such attention to local considerations, as will be inconsistent with the advancement of the interest of the union. But I choose rather to indulge my hopes than fears, because I flatter myself, if inconveniences should result from it, that the clause which provides amendments, will remedy them. The combination of powers vested in those persons, would seem conclusive in favor of the states.
The powers of the general government relate to external objects, and are but few. But the powers in the states relate to those great objects which immediately concern the prosperity of the people. Let us observe also, that the powers in the general government are those which will be exercised mostly in time of war, while those of the state governments will be exercised in time of peace. But I hope the time of war will be little, compared to that of peace. I should not complete the view which ought to be taken of this subject, without making this additional remark, that the powers vested in the proposed government, are not so much an augmentation of powers in the general government, as a change rendered necessary, for the purpose of giving efficacy to those which were vested in it before. It cannot escape any gentleman, that this power in theory, exists in the confederation as fully as in this constitution. The only difference is this, that now they tax states, and by this plan they will tax individuals. There is no theoretic difference between the two. But in practice there will be an infinite difference between them. The one is an ineffectual power: the other is adequate to the purpose for which it is given. This change was necessary for the public safety.
Let us suppose, for a moment, that the acts of congress requiring money from the states, had been as effectual as the paper on the table—suppose all the laws of congress had complete compliance, will any gentleman say, that as far as we can judge from past experience, the state governments would have been debased, and all consolidated and incorporated in one system? My imagination cannot reach it. I conceive, that had those acts that effect which all laws ought to have, the states would have retained their sovereignty.
It seems to be supposed, that it will introduce new expenses and burdens on the people. I believe it is not necessary here to make a comparison between the expenses of the present and of the proposed government. All agree that the general government ought to have power for the regulation of commerce. I will venture to say, that very great improvements, and very economical regulations will be made. It will be a principal object to guard against smuggling, and such other attacks on the revenue as other nations are subject to. We are now obliged to defend against those lawless attempts, but from the interfering regulations of different states, with little success. There are regulations in different states which are unfavorable to the inhabitants of other states, and which militate against the revenue. New York levies money from New Jersey by her imposts. In New Jersey, instead of cooperating with New York, the legislature favors violations on her regulations. This will not be the case when uniform regulations will be made.
Requisitions, though ineffectual, are unfriendly to economy. When requisitions are submitted to the states, there are near 2,500 or 3,000 persons deliberating on the mode of payment. All these, during their deliberation, receive public pay. A great proportion of every session, in every state, is employed to consider whether they will pay at all, and in what mode. Let us suppose 1500 persons are deliberating on this subject. Let any one make a calculation—it will be found that a very few days of their deliberation will consume more of the public money, than one year of that general legislature. This is not all, Mr. Chairman. When general powers will be vested in the general government, there will be less of that mutability which is seen in the legislation of the states. The eonsequence will be a great saving of expense and time. There is another great advantage which I will but barely, mention. The greatest calamity to which the United States can be subject, is a vicissitude of laws, and continual shifting and changing from one object to another, which must expose the people to various inconveniences. This has a certain effect, of which sagacious men always have, and always will make an advantage. From whom is advantage made? From the industrious farmers and tradesmen who are ignorant of the means of making such advantages. The people will not be exposed to these inconveniences under an uniform and steady course of legislation. But they have been so heretofore. The history of taxation of this country is so fully and well known to every member of this committee, that I shall say no more of it.
We have hitherto discussed the subject very irregularly. I dare not dictate to any gentleman, but I hope we shall pursue that mode of going through the business, which the house resolved. With respect to a great variety of arguments made use of, I mean to take notice of them when we come to those parts of the constitution to which they apply. If we exchange this mode, for the regular way of proceeding, we can finish it better in one week than one month.
JUNE 12—POWER TO LAY TAXES.
Mr. Chairman, finding, Sir, that the clause more immediately under consideration still meets with the disapprobation of the honorable gentleman over the way [Mr. Grayson] and finding that the reasons of the opposition as farther developed, are not satisfactory to myself and others who are in favor of the clause, I wish that it may meet with the most thorough and complete investigation. I beg the attention of the committee, in order to obviate what fell from the honorable gentleman. He set forth, that by giving up the power of taxation, we should give up everything, and still insist on requisitions being made on the states, and then, if they be not complied with, congress shall lay direct taxes, by way of penalty. Let us consider the dilemma which arises from this doctrine. Either requisitions will be efficacious or they will not. If they will be efficacious, then I say, Sir, we gave up every thing as much as by direct taxation.
The same amount will be paid by the people as by direct taxes. If they be not efficacious, where is the advantage of this plan? In what respect will it relieve us from the inconveniences which we have experienced from requisitions? The power of laying direct taxes by the general government is supposed by the honorable gentleman to be chimerical and impracticable. What is the consequence of the alternative he proposes? We are to rely upon this power to be ultimately used as a penalty to compel the states to comply. If it be chimerical and impracticable, in the first instance, it will be equally so when it will be exercised as a penalty. A reference was made to concurrent executions as an instance of the possibility of interference between the two governments.
(Here Mr. Madison spoke so low that he could not be distinctly heard.)
This has been experienced under the state governments without involving any inconvenience. But it may be answered, that under the state governments, concurrent executions cannot produce the inconvenience here dreaded, because they are executed by the same officer. It is not in the power of the general government to employ the state officers. Is nothing to be left to future legislation, or must every thing be immutably fixed in the constitution? Where exclusive power is given to the union, there can be no interference. Where the general and state legislatures have concurrent power, such regulations will be made, as shall be found necessary to exclude interferences and other inconveniences. It will be their interest to make regulations.
It has been said, that there is no similarity between petty corporations and independent states. I admit that in many points of view there is a great dissimilarity, but in others, there is a striking similarity between them, which illustrates what is before us. Have we not seen in our own country (as has been already suggested in the course of the debates) concurrent collections of taxes going on at once, without producing any inconvenience? We have seen three distinct collections of taxes, for three distinct purposes. Has it not been possible for collections of taxes, for parochial, county and state purposes, to go on at the same time? Every gentleman must know, that this is now the case, and though there be a subordination in these cases which will not be in the general government, yet in practice it has been found, that these different collections have been concurrently carried on, with convenience to the people, without clashing with one another, and without deriving their harmony from the circumstance of being subordinate to one legislative body. The taxes will be laid for different purposes. The members of the one government as well as of the other, are the agents of, and subordinate to, the people. I conceive that the collections of the taxes of the one will not impede those of the other, and that there can be no interference. This concurrent collection appears to me neither chimerical nor impracticable.
He compares resistance of the people to collectors, to refusal of requisitions. This goes against all government. It is as much as to urge, that there should be no legislature. The gentlemen who favored us with their observations on this subject, seemed to have reasoned on a supposition, that the general government was confined by the paper on your table to lay general uniform taxes. Is it necessary that there should be a tax on any given article throughout the United States? It is represented to be oppressive, that the states who have slaves and make tobacco, should pay taxes on these for federal wants, when other states who have them not, would escape. But does the constitution on the table admit of this? On the contrary, there is a proportion to be laid on each state according to its population. The most proper articles will be selected in each state. If one article in any state should be deficient, it will be laid on another article. Our state is secured on this foundation. Its proportion will be commensurate to its population. This is a constitutional scale, which is an insuperable bar against disproportion, and ought to satisfy all reasonable minds. If the taxes be not uniform, and the representatives of some states contribute to lay a tax of which they bear no proportion, is not this principle reciprocal? Does not the same principle hold in our state government in some degree? It has been found inconvenient to fix on uniform objects of taxation in this state, as the back parts are not circumstanced like the lower parts of the country. In both cases the reciprocity of the principle will prevent a disposition in one part to oppress the other. My honorable friend seems to suppose that congress, by the possession of this ultimate power as a penalty, will have as much credit and will be as able to procure any sums, on any emergency, as if they were possessed of it in the first instance, and that the votes of congress will be as competent to procure loans, as the votes of the British commons. Would the votes of the British house of commons have that credit which they now have, if they were liable to be retarded on their operation, and perhaps, rendered ultimately nugatory, as those of congress must be by the proposed alternative? When their vote passes, it usually receives the concurrence of the other branch, and it is known that there is sufficient energy in the government, to carry it into effect.
But here the votes of congress are in the first place dependent on the compliance of thirteen different bodies, and after non-compliance, are liable to be opposed and defeated, by the jealousy of the states against the exercise of this power, and by the opposition of the people which may be expected, if this power be exercised by congress after partial compliances. These circumstances being known, congress could not command one shilling. My honorable friend seems to think that we ought to spare the present generation and throw our burdens upon posterity. I will not contest the equity of this reasoning, but I must say that good policy as well as views of economy, strongly urge us even to distress ourselves to comply with our most solemn engagements. We must make effectual provision for the payment of the interest of our public debts. In order to do justice to our creditors, and support our credit and reputation, we must lodge power some where or other for this purpose. As yet the United States have not been able by any energy contained in the old system, to accomplish this end.
Our creditors have a right to demand the principal, but would be satisfied with a punctual payment of the interest. If we have been unable to pay the interest, much less shall we be able to discharge the principal. It appears to me that the whole reasoning used on this occasion shews, that we ought to adopt this system to enable us to throw our burdens on posterity. The honorable member spoke of the decemviri at Rome as having some similitude to the ten representatives who are to be appointed by this state. I can see no point of similitude here, to enable us to draw any conclusion. For what purpose were the decemviri appointed? They were invested with a plenipotentiary commission to make a code of laws. By whom were they appointed? By the people at large? My memory is not infallible, but it tells me they were appointed by the senate, I believe in the name of the people. If they were appointed by the senate, and composed of the most influential characters among the nobles, can any thing be inferred from that against our federal representatives? Who made a discrimination between the nobles and the people? The senate.
Those men totally perverted the powers which were given them for the purpose above specified, to the subversion of the public liberty. Can we suppose that a similar usurpation might be made, by men appointed in a totally different manner? As their circumstances were totally dissimilar, I conceive that no arguments drawn from that source, can apply to this government. I do not thoroughly comprehend the reasoning of my honorable friend, when he tells us, that the federal government will predominate, and that the state interest will be lost, when at the same time he tells us, that it will be a faction of seven states. If seven states will prevail, as states, I conceive that state influence will prevail. If state influence under the present feeble government has prevailed, I think that a remedy ought to be introduced, by giving the general government power to suppress it.
He supposed that my argument with respect to a future war between Great Britain and France was fallacious. The other nations of Europe have acceded to that neutrality, while Great Britain opposed it. We need not expect in case of such a war, that we should be suffered to participate in the profitable emoluments of the carrying trade, unless we were in a respectable situation. Recollect the last war. Was there ever a war in which the British nation stood opposed to so many nations? All the belligerent nations in Europe, with nearly one half of the British empire, were united against it. Yet that nation, though defeated, and humbled beyond any previous example, stood out against this. From her firmness and spirit in such desperate circumstances, we may divine what her future conduct may be.
I did not contend that it was necessary for the United States to establish a navy for that sole purpose, but instanced it as one reason, out of several, for rendering ourselves respectable. I am no friend to naval or land armaments in time of peace, but if they be necessary, the calamity must be submitted to. Weakness will invite insults. A respectable government will not only entitle us to a participation of the advantages which are enjoyed by other nations but will be a security against attacks and insults. It is to avoid the calamity of being obliged to have large armaments that we should establish this government. The best way to avoid danger, is to be in a capacity to withstand it.
The impost, we are told, will not diminish, because the emigrations to the westward will prevent the increase of population. He has reasoned on this subject justly to a certain degree. I admit that the imposts will increase, till population becomes so great, as to compel us to recur to manufactures. The period cannot be very far distant, when the unsettled parts of America will be inhabited. At the expiration of twenty-five years hence, I conceive that in every part of the United States, there will be as great a population as there is now in the settled parts. We see already, that in the most populous parts of the union, and where there is but a medium, manufactures are beginning to be established. Where this is the case the amount of importation will begin to diminish. Although the impost may even increase during the term of twenty-five years, yet when we are preparing a government for perpetuity, we ought to found it on permanent principles and not on those of a temporary nature.
Holland is a favorite quotation with honorable members on the other side of the question. Had not their sentiments been discovered by other circumstances, I should have concluded from their reasonings on this occasion, that they were friends of the constitution. I should suppose that they had forgotten which side of the question they were on. Holland has been called a republic, and a government friendly to liberty. Though it may be greatly superior to some other governments in Europe, still it is not a republic, or a democracy. Their legislature consists in some degree of men who legislate for life. Their councils consist of men who hold their offices for life, who fill up offices and appoint their salaries themselves. The people have no agency mediate or immediate in the government. If we look at their history we shall find, that every mischief which has befallen them, has resulted from the existing confederacy. If the stadtholder has been productive of mischiefs—if we ought to guard against such a magistrate more than any evil, let me beseech the honorable gentleman to take notice of what produced that, and those troubles which have interrupted their tranquillity from time to time. The weakness of their confederacy produced both.
When the French arms were ready to overpower their republic, and were feeble in the means of defence, which was principally owing to the violence of parties, they then appointed a stadtholder, who sustained them. If we look at more recent events, we shall have a more pointed demonstration that their political infelicity arises from the imbecility of their government. In the late disorders the states were almost equally divided, three provinces on one side, three on the other, and the other divided. One party inclined to the Prussians, and the other to the French. The situation of France did not admit of their interposing immediately in their disputes by an army, that of the Prussians did. A powerful and large army marched into Holland and compelled the other party to surrender. We know the distressing consequences to the people. What produced those disputes and the necessity of foreign interference, but the debility of their confederacy? We may be warned by their example, and shun their fate, by removing the causes which produced their misfortunes. My honorable friend has referred to the transaction of the federal council, with respect to the navigation of the Mississippi. I wish it was consistent with delicacy and prudence to lay a complete view of the whole matter before this committee. The history of it is singular and curious, and perhaps its origin ought to be taken into consideration.
I will touch on some circumstances, and introduce nearly the substance of most of the facts relative to it, that I may not seem to shrink from explanation. It was soon perceived, sir, after the commencement of the war with Britain, that among the various objects that would affect the happiness of the people of America, the navigation of the Mississippi was one. Throughout the whole history of foreign negotiation, great stress was laid on its preservation. In the time of our greatest distresses, and particularly when the southern states were the scene of war, the southern states cast their eyes around to be relieved from their misfortunes. It was supposed that assistance might be obtained for the relinquishment of that navigation. It was thought that for so substantial a consideration, Spain might be induced to afford decisive succour. It was opposed by the northern and eastern states. They were sensible that it might be dangerous to surrender this important right, particularly to the inhabitants of the western country. But so it was, that the southern states were for it, and the eastern states opposed to it. Since obtaining that happy peace, which secures to us all our claims, this subject has been taken again into consideration, and deliberated upon in the federal government. A temporary relinquishment has been agitated. Several members from the different states, but particularly from the northern, were for a temporary surrender, because it would terminate disputes, and at the end of the short period for which it was to be given, the right would revert, of course, to those who had given it up. And for this temporary surrender some commercial advantages were offered. For my part, I consider this measure, though founded on considerations plausible and honorable, was yet not justifiable, but on grounds of inevitable necessity. I must declare in justice to many characters who were in congress, that they declared that they never would enter into the measure, unless the situation of the United States was such as could not prevent it.
I suppose that the adoption of this government will be favorable to the preservation of the right to that navigation. Emigration will be made from those parts of the United States which are settled, to those parts which are unsettled. If we afford protection to the western country, we will see it rapidly peopled. Emigrations from some of the northern states have been lately increased. We may conclude, as has been said, by a gentleman on the same side [Mr. Nicholas], that those who emigrate to that country, will leave behind them all their friends and connections as advocates for this right.
What was the cause of those states being the champions of this right when the southern states were disposed to surrender it? The preservation of this right will be for the general interest of the union. The western country will be settled from the north as well as the south, and its prosperity will add to the strength and security of the union. I am not able to recollect all those circumstances which would be necessary to give gentlemen a full view of the subject. I can only add, that I conceive that the establishment of the new government will be the best possible means of securing our rights as well in the western parts, as elsewhere. I will not sit down till I make one more observation on what fell from my honorable friend. He says, that the true difference between the states lies in this circumstance—that some are carrying states, and others productive, and that the operation of the new government will be, that there will be a plurality of the former to combine against the interest of the latter, and that consequently it will be dangerous to put it in their power to do so. I would join with him in sentiments, if this were the case. Were this within the bounds of probability, I should be equally alarmed, but I think that those states, which are contradistinguished as carrying states, from the non-importing states, will be but few. I suppose the southern states will be considered by all, as under the latter description. Some other states have been mentioned by an honorable member on the same side, which are not considered as carrying states. New Jersey and Connecticut can by no means be enumerated among the carrying states. They receive their supplies through New York. Here then is a plurality of non-importing states. I could add another, if necessary. Delaware, though situated upon the water, is upon the list of non-carrying states. I might say that a great part of New Hampshire is so. I believe a majority of the people of that state receive their supplies from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Might I not add all those states which will be admitted hereafter into the union? These will be non-carrying states, and will support Virginia in case the carrying states will attempt to combine against the rest. This objection must therefore fall to the ground. My honorable friend has made several other remarks, but I will defer saying any more till we come to those parts to which his objections refer.
JUNE 12—POWER TO LAY TAXES—JEFFERSON’S VIEWS—RELIGIOUS FREEDOM—TREATY-MAKING POWER.
Mr. Chairman, pardon me for making a few remarks on what fell from the honorable gentleman last up [Henry]. I am sorry to follow the example of gentlemen in deviating from the rule of the house.—But as they have taken the utmost latitude in their objections, it is necessary that those who favor the government should answer them. But I wish as soon as possible to take up the subject regularly. I will therefore take the liberty to answer some observations which have been irregularly made, though they might be more properly answered when we come to discuss those parts of the constitution to which they respectively refer. I will, however, postpone answering some others till then. If there be that terror in direct taxation, that the states would comply with requisitions to guard against the federal legislature; and if, as gentlemen say, this state will always have it in her power to make her collections speedily and fully, the people will be compelled to pay the same amount as quickly and punctually as if raised by the general government.
It has been amply proved, that the general government can lay taxes as conveniently to the people as the state governments, by imitating the state systems of taxation. If the general government have not the power of collecting its own revenues, in the first instance, it will be still dependent on the state governments in some measure: and the exercise of this power, after refusal, will be inevitably productive of injustice and confusion, if partial compliances be made before it is driven to assume it. Thus, Sir, without relieving the people in the smallest degree, the alternative proposed will impair the efficacy of the government, and will perpetually endanger the tranquillity of the union.
The honorable member’s objection with respect to requisitions of troops will be fully obviated at another time. Let it suffice now to say, that it is altogether unwarrantable, and founded upon a misconception of the paper before you. But the honorable member, in order to influence our decision, has mentioned the opinion of a citizen [Jefferson] who is an ornament to this state. When the name of this distinguished character was introduced, I was much surprised. Is it come to this, then, that we are not to follow our own reason? Is it proper to introduce the opinions of respectable men, not within these walls? If the opinion of an important character were to weigh on this occasion, could we not adduce a character equally great on our side? Are we, who (in the honorable gentleman’s opinion) are not to be governed by an erring world, now to submit to the opinion of a citizen beyond the Atlantic? I believe, that were that gentleman now on this floor, he would be for the adoption of this constitution. I wish his name had never been mentioned. I wish every thing spoken here, relative to his opinion, may be suppressed if our debates should be published. I know that the delicacy of his feelings will be wounded, when he will see in print what has and may be said, concerning him on this occasion. I am, in some measure, acquainted with his sentiments on this subject. It is not right for me to unfold what he has informed me. But I will venture to assert, that the clause now discussed, is not objected to by Mr. Jefferson. He approves of it, because it enables the government to carry on its operations.—He admires several parts of it, which have been reprobated with vehemence in this house. He is captivated with the equality of suffrage in the senate, which the honorable gentleman [Mr. Henry] calls the rotten part of this constitution. But, whatever be the opinion of that illustrious citizen, considerations of personal delicacy should dissuade us from introducing it here.
The honorable member has introduced the subject of religion. Religion is not guarded—there is no bill of rights declaring that religion should be secure. Is a bill of rights a security for religion? Would the bill of rights, in this state, exempt the people from paying for the support of one particular sect, if such sect were exclusively established by law? If there were a majority of one sect, a bill of rights would be a poor protection for liberty. Happily for the states, they enjoy the utmost freedom of religion. This freedom arises from that multiplicity of sects, which pervades America, and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest. Fortunately for this commonwealth, a majority of the people are decidedly against any exclusive establishment—I believe it to be so in the other states. There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it, would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom. It is better that this security should be depended upon from the general legislature, than from one particular state. A particular state might concur in one religious project. But the United States abound in such a variety of sects, that it is a strong security against religious persecution, and it is sufficient to authorise a conclusion, that no one sect will ever be able to outnumber or depress the rest.
I will not travel over that extensive tract, which the honorable member has traversed. I shall not now take notice of all his desultory objections. As occasions arise, I shall answer them.
It is worthy of observation, on this occasion, that the honorable gentleman himself, seldom fails to counteract the arguments of gentlemen on that side of the question. For example, he strongly complains that the federal government, from the number of its members, will make an addition to the public expense, too formidable to be borne, and yet he and other gentlemen on the same side, object that the number of representatives is too small, though ten men are more than we are entitled to under the existing system! How can these contradictions be reconciled? If we are to adopt any efficient government at all, how can we discover or establish such a system, if it be thus attacked? Will it be possible to form a rational conclusion upon contradictory principles? If arguments of a contradictory nature were to be brought against the wisest and most admirable system to the formation of which human intelligence is competent it never could stand them.
He has acrimoniously inveighed against the government, because such transactions as congress think require secrecy, may be concealed; and particularly those which relate to treaties. He admits that when a treaty is forming, secrecy is proper; but urges that when actually made, the public ought to be made acquainted with every circumstance relative to it. The policy of not divulging the most important transactions, and negociations of nations, such as those which relate to warlike arrangements and treaties, is universally admitted. The congressional proceedings are to be occasionally published, including all receipts and expenditures of public money, of which no part can be used but in consequence of appropriations made by law. This is a security which we do not enjoy under the existing system. That part which authorises the government to withhold from the public knowledge what in their judgement may require secrecy, is imitated from the confederation; that very system which the gentleman advocates.
No treaty has been formed, and I will undertake to say, that none will be formed under the old system, which will secure to us the actual enjoyment of the navigation of the Mississippi. Our weakness precludes us from it. We are entitled to it. But it is not under an inefficient government that we shall be able to avail ourselves fully of that right. I most conscientiously believe, that it will be far better secured under the new government, than the old, as we will be more able to enforce our right. The people of Kentucky will have an additional safeguard from the change of system. The strength and respectability of the union will secure them in the enjoyment of that right, till that country becomes sufficiently populous. When this happens, they will be able to retain it in spite of every opposition.
I can never admit that seven states are disposed to surrender that navigation. Indeed it never was the case. Some of their most distinguished characters are decidedly opposed to its relinquishment. When its cession was proposed by the southern states, the northern states opposed it. They still oppose it. New Jersey directed her delegates to oppose it, and is strenuously against it. The same sentiments pervade Pennsylvania: at least I am warranted to say so from the best information which I have. Those states, added to the southern states, would be a majority against it.
The honorable gentleman, to obviate the force of my observations with respect to concurrent collection of taxes under different authorities, said, that there was no interference between the concurrent collections of parochial, county, and state taxes, because they all irradiated from the same centre, but that this was not the case with the general government. To make use of the gentleman’s own terms, the concurrent collections under the authorities of the general government and state governments, all irradiate from the people at large. The people is their common superior. The sense of the people at large, is to be the predominating spring of their actions. This is a sufficient security against interference.
Our attention was called to our commercial interest, and at the same time the landed interest was said to be in danger. If those ten men who were to be chosen, be elected by landed men, and have land themselves, can the electors have any thing to apprehend? If the commercial interests be in danger, why are we alarmed about the carrying trade? Why is it said, that the carrying states will preponderate, if commerce be in danger? With respect to speculation, I will remark that stock-jobbing has prevailed, more or less, in all countries, and ever will, in some degree, notwithstanding any exertions to prevent it. If you judge from what has happened under the existing system, any change would render a melioration probable.
JUNE 13—MISSISSIPPI NEGOTIATIONS.
Mr. Chariman, it is extremely disagreeable to me to enter into this discussion, as it is foreign to the object of our deliberations here, and may in the opinion of some, lead to sully the reputation of our public councils. As far as my memory will enable me, I will develope the subject. We will not differ with one another with respect to facts: perhaps we may differ with respect to principles. I will take the liberty to observe, that I was led before to make some observations, which had no relation to the subject under consideration, as relative to the western country, to obviate suggestions of gentlemen, which seemed to me to be groundless. I stated that there was a period when the southern states were advocates for the alienation or suspension of the right to the Mississippi (I will not say which), and the eastern states were against both. I mention this to shew, that there was no disposition in that part, to surrender that right or dispose of that country. I do suppose that the fishery had its influence on those states. No doubt it was the case.
For that, and other reasons, they still continue against the alienation. For it might lessen the security of retaining the fishery. From the best information, it never was the sense of the people at large, or the prevailing characters of the eastern states, to approve of the measure. If interest, Sir, should continue to operate on them, I humbly conceive, that they will derive more advantage from holding the Mississippi, than even the southern states. For if the carrying business be their natural province, how can it be so much extended and advanced, as by giving the encouragement to agriculture in the western country, and having the emolument of carrying their produce to market? The carrying trade must depend on agriculture for its support in a great measure. In what place is agriculture so capable of improvement and great extension, as in the western country? But whatever considerations may prevail in that quarter or any other, respecting their interest, I think we may fairly suppose that the consideration which the honorable member mentioned, and which has been repeated, I mean the emigrations which are going on to the westward, must produce the same effect as to them which it may produce with respect to us. Emigrations are now going on from that quarter as well as from this state.
I readily confess that neither the old confederation, nor the new constitution, involves a right to give the navigation of the Mississippi. It is repugnant to the law of nations. I have always thought and said so. Although the right be denied, there may be emergencies which will make it necessary to make a sacrifice. But there is a material difference between emergencies of safety in time of war, and those which may relate in mere commercial regulations. You might on solid grounds deny in peace, what you give up in war. I do not conceive, however, that there is that extreme aversion in the minds of the people of the eastern states, to emigrate to the westward, which was insinuated by my honorable friend. Particular citizens, it cannot be doubted, may be averse to it. But it is the sense of the people at large, which will direct the public measures. We find, from late arrangements made between Massachusetts and New York, that a very considerable country to the westward of New York, was disposed of to Massachusetts, and by Massachusetts, to some individuals, to conduct emigrants to that country.
There were seven states who thought it right to give up the navigation of the Mississippi for twenty-five years, for several reasons which have been mentioned. As far as I can recollect, it was nearly as my honorable friend said. But they had no idea of absolutely alienating it. I think one material consideration which governed them was, that there were grounds of serious negotiation between Great Britain and Spain, which might bring on a coalition between those nations, which might enable them to bind us on different sides, permanently withhold that navigation from us, and injure us in other respects materially. The temporary cession, it was supposed, would fix the permanent right in our favor, and prevent that dangerous coalition. It is but justice to myself to say, that however plausible the reasons urged for its temporary cession may have been, they never convinced me of its utility. I have uniformly disapproved of it, and do now.
With respect to the secretary of foreign affairs [Jay], I am intimately connected with him. I shall say nothing of his abilities and attachment to his country. His character is established in both respects. He has given a train of reasoning which governed him in his project. If he was mistaken, his integrity and probity, more than compensate for the error. I am led to think there is no settled disposition in seven states to give up that object, because New Jersey, on a further consideration of the subject, actually gave instructions to her delegates to oppose it. And what was the ground of this? I do not know the extent and particular reasons of her instructions. But I recollect, that a material consideration was, that the cession of that river, would diminish the value of the western country, which was a common fund for the United States, and would consequently, tend to impoverish their public treasury. These, Sir, were rational grounds.
Give me leave, Sir, as I am upon this subject, and as the honorable gentleman has raised a question, whether it be not more secure under the old than the new constitution—to differ from him. I shall enter into the reasoning which, in my mind, renders it more secure under the new system. Two thirds of the senators present, (which) will be nine states, (if all attend to their duty) and the president must concur in every treaty which can be made. Here are two distinct and independent branches, which must agree to every treaty; under the existing system, two thirds of the states must concur to form a treaty. But it is but one body. Gentlemen may reason and conclude differently on this subject. I own that as far as I have any rights, which are but trivial, I would rather trust them to the new, than the old government. Besides, let me observe, that the house of representatives will have a material influence on the government, and will be additional security in this respect: but there is one thing which he mentioned, which merits attention. If commercial policy be a source of great danger, it will have less influence in the new system, than in the old. For, in the house of representatives, it will have little or no influence. They are drawn from the landed interest; taken from the states at large, and many of them from the western country. Whereas the present members of congress have been taken from the Atlantic side of the continent. When we calculate the dangers that may arise in any case, we judge from the rules of proportion and chances of numbers. The people at large choose those who elect the president. The weight of population will be to the southward, if we include the western country. There will then be a majority of the people in favor of this right. As the president must be influenced by the sense and interest of his electors, as far as it depends on him (and his agency in making treaties is equal to that of the senate) he will oppose the cession of that navigation. As far as the influence of the representative goes, it will also operate in favor of this right.—The power of treaties is not lodged in the senators of particular states. Every state has an equal weight. If ten senators can make a treaty, ten senators can prevent one from being made. It is from a supposition, that all the southern delegates will be absent, that ten senators or two thirds of a majority, can give up this river. The possibility of absence operates equally as much against the northern states. If one fifth of the members present think the measure erroneous the votes of the states are to be taken upon it, and entered on the journals. Every gentlemen here ought to recollect, that this is some security, as the people will thereby know those who advocate iniquitous measures. If we consider the number of changes in the members of the government, we will find it another security. But after all, Sir, what will this policy signify, which tends to surrender the navigation of the Mississippi? Resolutions of congress to retain it, may be repeated, and re-echoed from every part of United States. It is not resolutions of this sort, which the people of this country wish for. They want an actual possession of the right, and protection in its enjoyment. Similar resolutions have been taken under the existing system, on many occasions. But they have been, heretofore, and will be hereafter, in my opinion, nugatory and fruitless unless a change takes place, which will give energy to the acts of the government.
I will take the liberty to touch once more on the several considerations which produced the question, because perhaps the committee may not yet thoroughly comprehend it. In justice to those gentlemen who concluded in favor of the temporary cession, I mention their reasons, although I think the measure wrong. The reasons for so doing under the old system, will be done away by the new system. We could not, without national dishonor, assert our right to the Mississippi, and suffer any other nation to deprive us of it. This consideration, with others before mentioned, influenced them. I admit it was wrong. But it is sufficient to prove that they acted on principles of integrity. Will they not be bound by honor and conscience, when we are able to enjoy and retain our right, not to give it up, or suffer it to be interrupted? A weak system produced this project. A strong system will remove the inducement. For may we not suppose it will be reversed by a change of system? I was called up to say, what was its present situation. There are some circumstances within my knowledge, which I am not at liberty to communicate to this house. I will not go farther than to answer the objections of gentlemen. I wish to conceal no circumstance, which I can relate consistently with my duty. As to matters of fact, I have advanced nothing which I presume will be contradicted. On matters of opinion, we may differ. Were I at liberty, I could develope some circumstances, which would convince this house, that this project will never be revived in congress, and that therefore no danger is to be apprehended.
JUNE 14—ELECTION OF SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES.
Mr. Chairman, the reason of the exception was, that if congress could fix the place of choosing the senators, it might compel the state legislatures to elect them in a different place from that of their usual sessions, which would produce some inconvenience, and was not necessary for the object of regulating the elections. But it was necessary to give the general government a control over the time and manner of choosing the senators, to prevent its own dissolution.
With respect to the other point, it was thought that the regulation of time, place, and manner, of electing the representatives, should be uniform throughout the continent. Some states might regulate the elections on the principles of equality, and others might regulate them otherwise. This diversity would be obviously unjust. Elections are regulated now unequally in some states, particularly South Carolina, with respect to Charleston, which is represented by thirty members. Should the people of any state, by any means be deprived of the right of suffrage, it was judged proper that it should be remedied by the general government. It was found impossible to fix the time, place, and manner, of the election of representatives in the constitution. It was found necessary to leave the regulation of these, in the first place, to the state governments, as being best acquainted with the situation of the people, subject to the control of the general government, in order to enable it to produce uniformity, and prevent its own dissolution. And considering the state governments and general governments as distinct bodies, acting in different and independent capacities for the people, it was thought the particular regulations should be submitted to the former, and the general regulations to the latter. Were they exclusively under the control of the state governments, the general government might easily be dissolved. But if they be regulated properly by the state legislatures, the congressional control will very probably never be exercised. The power appears to me satisfactory, and as unlikely to be abused as any part of the constitution.
[Mr. Monroe wished to hear an explanation of the clause which prohibits either house, during the session of congress, from adjourning for more than three days without the consent of the other.]
Mr. Madison wondered that this clause should meet with a shadow of objection. It was possible, he observed, that the two branches might not agree concerning the time of adjournment, and that this possibility suggested the power given the president of adjourning both houses to such time as he should think proper, in case of their disagreement. That it would be very exceptionable to allow the senators, or even the representatives, to adjourn without the consent of the other house, at any season whatsoever, without any regard to the situation of public exigencies. That it was possible, in the nature of things, that some inconvenience might result from it; but that it was as well secured as possible.
JUNE 14—COMPENSATION OF CONGRESS.
Mr. Chairman, I most sincerely wish to give a proper explanation on this subject, in such a manner as may be to the satisfaction of every one. I shall suggest such considerations as led the convention to approve of this clause. With respect to the right of ascertaining their own pay, I will acknowledge, that their compensations, if practicable, should be fixed in the constitution itself, so as not to be dependent on congress itself, or on the state legislatures. The various vicissitudes, or rather the gradual diminution of the value of all coins and circulating medium, is one reason against ascertaining them immutably, as what may be now an adequate compensation, might by the progressive reduction of the value of our circulating medium, be extremely inadequate at a period not far distant.
It was thought improper to leave it to the state legislatures, because it is improper that one government should be dependent on another: and the great inconveniences experienced under the old confederation, show the states would be operated upon by local considerations, as contradistinguished from general and national interests.
Experience shows us that they have been governed by such heretofore, and reason instructs us that they would be influenced by them again. This theoretic inconvenience of leaving to Congress the fixing their compensations is more than counterbalanced by this in the Confederation—that the state legislatures had a right to determine the pay of the members of Congress, which enabled the states to destroy the general government. There is no instance where this power has been abused. In America, legislative bodies have reduced their own wages lower, rather than augmented them. This is a power which cannot be abused without rousing universal attention and indignation. What would be the consequence of the Virginia legislature raising their pay to four or five pounds each per day? The universal indignation of the people. Should the general Congress annex wages disproportionate to their services, or repugnant to the sense of the community, they would be universally execrated. The certainty of incurring the general detestation of the people will prevent abuse.
It was conceived that the great danger was in creating new offices, which would increase the burdens of the people; and not in a uniform admission of all meritorious characters to serve their country in the old offices. There is no instance of any state constitution which goes as far as this. It was thought to be a mean between two extremes. It guards against abuse by taking away the inducement to create new offices, or increase the emolument of old offices; and it gives them an opportunity of enjoying, in common with other citizens, any of the existing offices which they may be capable of executing; to have precluded them from this, would have been to exclude them from a common privilege to which every citizen is entitled, and to prevent those who had served their country with the greatest fidelity and ability from being on a par with their fellow-citizens. I think it as well guarded as reason requires; more so than the constitution of any other nation.
JUNE 14—COMPENSATION OF CONGRESS.
Mr Chairman, let me ask those who oppose this part of the system, whether any alteration would not make it equally, or more liable to objections? Would it be better to fix their compensations? Would not this produce inconveniences? What authorises us to conclude, that the value of coins will continue always the same? Would it be prudent to make them dependent on the state governments for their salaries—on those who watch them with jealous eyes, and who consider them as encroaching, not on the people, but on themselves? But the worthy member supposes, that congress will fix their wages so low, that only the rich can fill the offices of senators and representatives. Who are to appoint them? The rich? No, sir, the people are to choose them. If the members of the general government were to reduce their compensations to a trifle, before the evil suggested could happen, the people could elect other members in their stead, who would alter that regulation. The people do not choose them for their wealth. If the state legislatures choose such men as senators, it does not influence the people at large in their election of representatives.—They can choose those who have the most merit and least wealth. If Congress reduce their wages to a trifle, what shall prevent the states from giving a man of merit, so much as will be an adequate compensation? I think the evil very remote, and if it were now to happen, the remedy is in our own hands, and may, by ourselves, be applied.
Another gentleman seems to apprehend infinite mischief from a possibility that any member of congress may be appointed to an office, although he ceases to be a member the moment he accepts it. What will be the consequence of precluding them from being so appointed? If you have in your country, one man whom you could in time of danger trust above all others, with an office of high importance, he cannot undertake it till two years expire if he be a representative; or till the six years elapse, if a senator. Suppose America was engaged in war, and the man of the greatest military talents and approved fidelity, was a member of either house—would it be right that this man, who could lead us to conquer, and who could save his country from destruction, could not be made general till the term of his election expired? Before that time, we might be conquered by our enemies. This will apply to civil as well as military officers. It is impolitic to exclude from the service of his country, in any office, the man who may be most capable of discharging its duties, when they are most wanting.
The honorable gentleman said, that those who go to Congress, will look forward to offices as a compensation for their services, rather than salaries. Does he recollect that they shall not fill offices created by themselves? When they go to congress, the old offices will be filled.—They cannot make any probable calculation that the men in office will die, or forfeit their offices. As they cannot get any new offices, one of those contingencies must happen, before they can get any office at all. The chance of getting an office is, therefore, so remote, and so very distant, that it cannot be considered as a sufficient reason to operate on their minds, to deviate from their duty.
Let any man calculate in his own mind, the improbability of a member of the general government getting into an office, when he cannot fill any office newly created, and when he finds all the old offices filled at the time he enters into congress. Let him view the danger and impolicy of precluding a member of congress from holding existing offices, and the danger of making one government dependent on another, and he will find that both clauses deserve applause.
The observations made by several honorable members, illustrate my opinion, that it is impossible to devise any system agreeable to all.—When objections so contradictory are brought against it, how shall we decide? Some gentlemen object to it, because they may make their wages too high—others object to it, because they may make them too low. If it is to be perpetually attacked by principles so repugnant, we may cease to discuss. For what is the object of our discussion? Truth, sir. To draw a true and just conclusion. Can this be done without rational premises, and syllogistic reasoning?
As to the British parliament, it is nearly as he says. But how does it apply to this case? Suppose their compensations had been appointed by the state governments, or fixed in the constitution—would it be a safe government for the union, if its members depended on receiving their salaries from other political bodies at a distance, and fully competent to withhold them? Its existence would, at best, be but precarious. If they were fixed in the constitution, they might become extremely inadequate, and produce the very evil which gentlemen seem to fear.—For then a man of the highest merit could not act unless he were wealthy. This is the most delicate part in the organization of a republican government. It is the most difficult to establish on unexceptionable grounds. It appears to me most eligible as it is. The constitution has taken a medium between the two extremes, and perhaps with more wisdom than either the British or the state governments, with respect to their eligibility to offices. They can fill no new offices created by themselves, nor old ones of which they increased the salaries. If they were excluded altogether, it is possible that other disadvantages might accrue from it, besides the impolicy and injustice of depriving them of a common privilege. They will not relinquish their legislative, in order to accept other offices. They will more probably confer them on their friends and connections. If this be an inconvenience, it is incident to all governments. After having heard a variety of principles developed, I thought that on which it is established the least exceptionable, and it appears to me sufficiently well guarded.
JUNE 14—ORIGINATING OF MONEY BILLS.
Mr. Chairman, the criticism made by the honorable member, is, that there is an ambiguity in the words, and that it is not clearly ascertained where the origination of money bills may take place. I suppose the first part of the clause is sufficiently expressed to exclude all doubts. The gentlemen who composed the convention divided in opinion, concerning the utility of confining this to any particular branch. Whatever it be in Great Britain, there is a sufficient difference between us and them to render it inapplicable to this country. It has always appeared to me, to be a matter of no great consequence, whether the senate had a right of originating, or proposing amendments to money bills or not. To withhold it from them would create disagreeable disputes. Some American constitutions make no difference. Virginia and South Carolina, are, I think, the only states, where this power is restrained. In Massachusetts, and other states, the power of proposing amendments is vested, unquestionably, in their senates. No inconvenience has resulted from it. On the contrary, with respect to South Carolina, this clause is continually a source of disputes. When a bill comes from the other house, the senate entirely rejects it, and this causes contentions. When you send a bill to the senate, without the power of making any alteration, you force them to reject the bill altogether, when it would be necessary and advantageous that it should pass.
The power of proposing alterations, removes this inconvenience, and does not appear to me at all objectionable. I should have no objection to their having a right of originating such bills. People would see what was done, and it would add the intelligence of one house to that of the other. It would be still in the power of the other house to obstruct any injudicious measure proposed by them. There is no land mark or constitutional provision in Great Britain, which prohibits the house of lords from intermeddling with money bills; but the house of commons have established this rule. Yet the lords insist on their having a right to originate them, as they possess great property, as well as the commons, and are taxed like them. The house of commons object to their claim, lest they should too lavishly make grants to the crown, and increase the taxes. The honorable member says, that there is no difference between the right of originating bills, and proposing amendments. There is some difference, though not considerable. If any grievances should happen in consequence of unwise regulations in revenue matters, the odium would be divided, which will now be thrown on the house of representatives. But you may safely lodge this power of amending with the senate. When a bill is sent with proposed amendments to the house of representatives, if they find the alterations defective, they are not conclusive. The house of representatives are the judges of their propriety, and the recommendation of the senate is nothing. The experience of this state justifies this clause. The house of delegates has employed weeks in forming a money bill; and because the senate had no power of proposing amendments, the bill was lost altogether; and a new bill obliged to be again introduced, when the insertion of one line by the senate would have done. Those gentlemen who oppose this clause will not object to it, when they recollect that the senators are appointed by the states, as the present members of congress are appointed. For, as they will guard the political interests of the states in other respects, they will attend to them very probably in their amendments to money bills. I think this power, for these considerations, is useful and necessary.
JUNE 14—POWER OVER THE MILITIA.
Mr Chairman, I most cordially agree with the honorable member last up [Mason], that a standing army is one of the greatest mischiefs that can possibly happen. It is a great recommendation for this system, that it provides against this evil more than any other system known to us, and particularly more than the old system of confederation. The most effectual way to guard against a standing army, is to render it unnecessary. The most effectual way to render it unnecessary, is to give the general government full power to call forth the militia, and exert the whole natural strength of the union when necessary. Thus you will furnish the people with sure and certain protection, without recurring to this evil; and the certainty of this protection from the whole, will be a strong inducement to individual exertion. Does the organization of the government warrant a belief, that this power will be abused? Can we believe that a government of a federal nature, consisting of many coequal sovereignties, and particularly having one branch chosen from the people, would drag the militia unnecessarily to an immense distance? This, Sir, would be unworthy the most arbitrary despot. They have no temptation whatever to abuse this power; such abuse could only answer the purpose of exciting the universal indignation of the people, and drawing on themselves the general hatred and detestation of their country.
I cannot help thinking that the honorable gentleman has not considered in all its consequences, the amendment he has proposed. Would this be an equal protection, Sir? Or would it not be a most partial provision? Some states have three or four states in contact. Were this state invaded, as it is bounded by several states, the militia of three or four states would, by this proposition, be obliged to come to our aid; and those from some of the states would come a far greater distance than those of others. There are other states, which if invaded, could be assisted by the militia of one state only, there being several states which border but on one state. Georgia and New-Hampshire would be infinitely less safe than those of the other states. Were we to adopt this amendment, we should set up those states as butts for invasions, invite foreign enemies to attack them, and expose them to peculiar hardships and dangers. Were the militia confined to any limited distance from their respective places of abode, it would produce equal, nay, more, inconveniences. The principles of equality, and reciprocal aid, would be destroyed in either case.
I cannot conceive that this constitution, by giving the general government the power of arming the militia, takes it away from the state governments. The power is concurrent, and not exclusive. Have we not found from experience, that while the power of arming and governing of the militia has been solely vested in the state legislatures, they were neglected and rendered unfit for immediate service? Every state neglected too much this most essential object. But the general government can do it more effectually. Have we not also found, that the militia of one state were almost always insufficient to succour its harrassed neighbor? Did all the states furnish their quotas of militia with sufficient promptitude? The assistance of one state will be of little avail to repel invasion. But the general head of the whole union can do it with effect, if it be vested with power to use the aggregate strength of the union. If the regulation of the militia were to be committed to the executive authority alone, there might be reason for providing restrictions. But, Sir, it is the legislative authority that has this power. They must make a law for the purpose.
The honorable member is under another mistake. He wishes martial law to be exercised only in time of war, under an idea that congress can establish it in time of peace. The states are to have the authority of training the militia according to the congressional discipline; and of governing them at all times, when not in the service of the union.—Congress is to govern such part of them as may be employed in the actual service of the United States; and such part only can be subject to martial law. The gentlemen in opposition have drawn a most tremendous picture of the constitution in this respect. Without considering that the power was absolutely indispensible, they have alarmed us with the possible abuse of it, but have shewn no inducement or motive to tempt them to such abuse. Would the legislature of the state drag the militia of the eastern shore to the western frontiers, or those of the western frontiers to the eastern shore, if the local militia were sufficient to effect the intended purpose? There is something so preposterous, and so full of mischief in the idea of dragging the militia unnecessarily from one end of the continent to the other, that I think there can be no ground of apprehension. If you limit their power over the militia you give them a pretext for substituting a standing army. If you put it in the power of the state governments to refuse the militia, by requiring their consent, you destroy the general government, and sacrifice particular states. The same principles and motives which produce disobedience to requisitions, will produce refusal in this case.
The restrictions which the honorable gentleman mentioned to be in the British constitution, are all provisions against the power of the executive magistrate. But the house of commons may, if they be so disposed, sacrifice the interest of their constituents in all those cases. They may prolong the duration of mutiny bills, and grant supplies to the king to carry on an impolitic war. But they have no motives to do so. For they have strong motives to do their duty. We have more ample security than the people of Great Britain. The powers of the government are more limited and guarded, and our representatives are more responsible than the members of the British house of commons.
JUNE 14—POWER OVER PURSE AND SWORD.
Mr Chairman, the honorable gentleman has laid much stress on the maxim, that the purse and sword ought not to be put in the same hands, with a view of pointing out the impropriety of vesting this power in the general government. But it is totally inapplicable to this question. What is the meaning of this maxim? Does it mean that the sword and purse ought not to be trusted in the hands of the same government? This cannot be the meaning. For there never was, and I can say there never will be an efficient government, in which both are not vested. The only rational meaning, is, that the sword and purse are not to be given to the same member. Apply it to the British government, which has been mentioned. The sword is in the hands of the British king. The purse in the hands of the parliament. It is so in America, as far as any analogy can exist. Would the honorable member say, that the sword ought to be put in the hands of the representatives of the people, or in other hands independent of the government altogether? If he says so, it will violate the meaning of that maxim. This would be a novelty hitherto unprecedented. The purse is in the hands of the representatives of the people. They have the appropriation of all monies. They have the direction and regulation of land and naval forces. They are to provide for calling for the militia—and the president is to have the command; and, in conjunction with the senate, to appoint the officers. The means ought to be commensurate to the end. The end is general protection. This cannot be effected without a general power to use the strength of the union.
We are told that both sides are distinguished by these great traits, confidence and distrust. Perhaps there may be a less or greater tincture of suspicion on one side, than the other. But give me leave to say, that where power can be safely lodged, if it be necessary, reason commands its cession. In such case it is imprudent and unsafe to withhold it. It is universally admitted that it must be lodged in some hands or other. The question then is, in what part of the government it ought to be placed; and not whether any other political body independent of the government should have it or not. I profess myself to have had an uniform zeal for a republican government. If the honorable member, or any other person, conceives that my attachment to this system arises from a different source, he is greatly mistaken. From the first moment that my mind was capable of contemplating political subjects, I never, till this moment, ceased wishing success to a well regulated republican government. The establishment of such in America was my most ardent desire. I have considered attentively (and my consideration has been aided by experience) the tendency of a relaxation of laws, and a licentiousness of manners.
If we review the history of all republics, we are justified by the supposition, that if the bands of the government be relaxed, confusion will ensue. Anarchy ever has, and I fear ever will, produce despotism. What was the state of things that preceded the wars and revolutions in Germany? Faction and confusion. What produced the disorders and commotions of Holland? The like causes. In this commonwealth, and every state in the union, the relaxed operation of the government has been sufficient to alarm the friends of their country. The rapid increase of population in every state is an additional reason to check dissipation and licentiousness. Does it not strongly call for the friends of republican government to endeavor to establish a republican organization? A change is absolutely necessary. I can see no danger in submitting to practice an experiment which seems to be founded on the best theoretic principles.
But the honorable member tells us, there is not an equal responsibility delineated on that paper, to that which is in the English government. Calculations have been made here, that when you strike off those entirely elected by the influence of the crown, the other part does not bear a greater proportion to the number of their people, than the number fixed in that paper, bears to the number of inhabitants in the United States. If it were otherwise, there is still more responsibility in this government. Our representatives are chosen for two years. In Great Britain they are chosen for seven years. Any citizen may be elected here. In Great Britain no one can be elected to represent a county, without having an estate of the value of £600, sterling a year, nor to represent a corporation without an annual estate of £300. Yet we are told, there is no sympathy or fellow-feeling between the people here, and their representatives; but that in England they have both:—A just comparison will show, that if confidence be due to the government there, it is due ten fold here.
(Mr Madison made many other observations, but spoke so very low that he could not be distinctly heard.)
JUNE 14—POWER OVER ELECTIONS.
Mr Chairman, I cannot think that the explanation of the gentleman last up, is founded in reason. It does not say that the militia shall be called out in all cases, but in certain cases. There are cases in which the execution of the laws may require the operation of militia, which cannot be said to be an invasion or insurrection. There may be a resistance to the laws which cannot be termed an insurrection.
My honorable friend over the way has opened a new source of argument. He has introduced the assertions of gentlemen out of doors. If we thus depart from regularity, we will never be able to come to a decision.
If there be any gentleman who is a friend to the government, and says, that the elections may, or ought to be held in one place, he is an enemy to it on that ground. With respect to the time, place, and manner of elections, I cannot think, notwithstanding the apprehensions of the honorable gentleman, that there is any danger, or if abuse should take place, that there is not sufficient security. If all the people, of the United States should be directed to go to elect in one place, the members of the government would be execrated for the infamous regulation. Many would go to trample them under foot for their conduct—and they would be succeeded by men who would remove it. They would not dare to meet the universal hatred and detestation of the people, and run the risk of the certain dreadful consequences. We must keep within the compass of human probability. If a possibility be the cause of objection, we must object to every government in America. But the honorable gentleman may say, that better guards may be provided. Let us consider the objection. The power of regulating the time, place, and manner of elections, must be vested some where. It could not be fixed in the constitution without involving great inconveniences. They could then have no authority to adjust the regulation to the changes of circumstances. The question then is, whether it ought to be fixed unalterably in the state governments, or subject to the control of the general government. Is it not obvious, that the general government would be destroyed without this control? It has already been demonstrated that it will produce many conveniences. Have we not sufficient security against abuse? Consider fully the principles of the government. The sum of the powers given up by the people of Virginia is divided into two classes: One to the federal and the other to the state government. Each is subdivided into three branches. These may be kept independent of each other in the one as well as the other. In this system they are as distinct as is consistent with good policy. This, in my opinion, instead of diminishing, increases the security of liberty more than any government that ever was. For the powers of government which in every other country are given to one body, are here given to two; and are favorable to public liberty. With respect to secrecy, if every thing in which it is necessary, could be enumerated, I would have no objection to mention them. All the state legislatures can keep secret what they think ought to be concealed. The British house of commons can do it. They are in this respect under much less restraint than congress. There never was any legislative assembly without a discretionary power of concealing important transactions, the publication of which might be detrimental to the community. There can be no real danger as long as the government is constructed on such principles.
He objects also to the clause respecting adjournment that neither house shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days. It was before remarked, that if a difference should take place between the houses about the time of adjournment, the president could still determine it: from which no danger could arise, as he is chosen in a secondary degree by the people, and would consequently fix no time which would be repugnant to the sense of the representatives of the people. Another, and more satisfactory answer is this: suppose the senate wished to chain down the house of representatives, what is to hinder them from going home? How bring them back again? It would be contrary to the spirit of the constitution to impede the operations of the government, perhaps at a critical period. I cannot conceive that such difference will often happen. Were the senate to attempt to prevent an adjournment, it would but serve to irritate the representatives, without having the intended effect, as the president could adjourn them. There will not be occasion for the continual residence of the senators at the seat of government. What business have they more than the house of representatives? The appointment of officers and treaties. With respect to the appointment of officers, a law may be made to grant it to the President alone. It must be supposed there will be but few and subordinate officers to be appointed, as the principal offices will be filled. It is observed that the President, when vacancies happen during the recess of the senate, may fill them till it meets. With respect to treaties, the occasions of forming them will not be many, and will mean but a small proportion of the time of session.
JUNE 16—POWER OVER THE MILITIA.
Mr Chairman, I will endeavor to follow the rule of the house; but must pay due attention to the observations which fell from the gentleman. I should conclude, from abstracted reasoning, that they were ill founded. I should think, that if there were any object, which the general government ought to command, it would be the direction of the national forces. And as the force which lies in militia is most safe, the direction of that part ought to be submitted to, in order to render another force unnecessary. The power objected to is necessary, because it is to be employed for national purposes. It is necessary to be given to every government. This is not opinion, but fact. The highest authority may be given that the want of such authority in the government, protracted the late war, and prolonged its calamities.
He says, that one ground of complaint at the beginning of the revolution, was, that a standing army was quartered upon us. This was not the whole complaint. We complained because it was done without the local authority of this country—without the consent of the people of America. As to the exclusion of standing armies in the bill of rights of the states, we shall find that though in one or two of them, there is something like a prohibition, yet in most of them it is only provided, that no armies shall be kept without the legislative authority; that is, without the consent of the community itself. Where is the impropriety of saying that we shall have an army, if necessary? Does not the notoriety of this constitute security? If inimical nations were to fall upon us when defenceless, what would be the consequence? Would it be wise to say, that we should have no defence? Give me leave to say that the only possible way to provide for standing armies, is to make them unnecessary.
The way to do this, is to organize and discipline our militia, so as to render them capable of defending the country against external invasions, and internal insurrections. But it is urged that abuses may happen. How is it possible to answer objections against possibility of abuses? It must strike every logical reasoner, that these cannot be entirely provided against. I really thought that the objection in the militia was at an end. Was there ever a constitution, in which, if authority was vested, it must not have been executed by force, if resisted? Was it not in the contemplation of this state, when contemptuous proceedings were expected, to recur to something of this kind? How is it possible to have a more proper resource than this? That the laws of every country ought to be executed, cannot be denied. That force must be used if necessary, cannot be denied. Can any government be established, that will answer any purpose whatever, unless force be provided for executing its laws? The constitution does not say that a standing army shall be called out to execute the laws. Is not this a more proper way? The militia ought to be called forth to suppress smugglers. Will this be denied? The case actually happened at Alexandria. There were a number of smugglers, who were too formidable for the civil power to overcome. The military quelled the sailors, who, otherwise would have perpetrated their intentions. Should a number of smugglers have a number of ships, the militia ought to be called forth to quell them. We do not know but what there may be combinations of smugglers in Virginia hereafter. We all know the use made of the Isle of Man. It was a general depository of contraband goods. The parliament found the evil so great, as to render it necessary to wrest it out of the hands of its possessor.
The honorable gentleman says that it is a government of force. If he means military force, the clause under consideration proves the contrary. There never was a government without force. What is the meaning of government? An institution to make people do their duty. A government leaving it to a man to do his duty, or not as he pleases, would be a new species of government, or rather no government at all. The ingenuity of the gentleman is remarkable, in introducing the riot act of Great Britain. That act has no connection, or analogy, to any regulation of the militia; nor is there any thing in the constitution to warrant the general government to make such an act. It never was a complaint in Great Britain, that the militia could be called forth. If riots should happen, the militia are proper to quell it, to prevent a resort to another mode. As to the infliction of ignominious punishments, we have no ground of alarm, if we consider the circumstances of the people at large. There will be no punishments so ignominious as have been inflicted already. The militia law of every state to the north of Maryland, is less rigorous than the particular law of this state. If a change be necessary to be made by the general government, it will be in our favor. I think that the people of those states would not agree to be subjected to a more harsh punishment than their own militia laws inflict. An observation fell from a gentleman on the same side with myself, which deserves to be attended to. If we be dissatisfied with the national government, if we should choose to renounce it, this is an additional safeguard to our defence. I conceive that we are peculiarly interested in giving the general government as extensive means as possible to protect us. If there be a particular discrimination between places in America, the southern states are, from their situation and circumstances, most interested in giving the national government the power of protecting its members.
(Here Mr Madison made some other observations; but spoke so very low, that his meaning could not be comprehended.)
An act passed a few years ago in this state, to enable the government to call forth the militia to enforce the laws when a powerful combination should take place to oppose them. This is the same power which the constitution is to have. There is a great deal of difference between calling forth the militia, when a combination is formed to prevent the execution of the laws, and the sheriff or constable carrying with him a body of militia to execute them in the first instance; which is a construction not warranted by the clause. There is an act also in this state, empowering the officers of the customs to summon any persons to assist them when they meet with obstruction in executing their duty. This shews the necessity of giving the government power to call forth the militia when the laws are resisted. It is a power vested in every legislature in the union, and which is necessary to every government. He then moved, that the clerk should read those acts—which were accordingly read.
JUNE 16—POWER OVER THE MILITIA.
Mr Chairman, let me ask this committee, and the honorable member last up [Henry], what we are to understand from this reasoning? The power must be vested in congress, or in the state governments. Or there must be a division or concurrence. He is against division—It is a political monster. He will not give it to congress, for fear of oppression. Is it to be vested in the state governments? If so, where is the provision for general defence? If ever America should be attacked, the states would fall successively. It will prevent them from giving aid to their sister states. For as each state will expect to be attacked, and wish to guard against it, each will retain its own militia for its own defence. Where is this power to be deposited then, unless in the general government, if it be dangerous to the public safety to give it exclusively to the states. If it must be divided, let him shew a better manner of doing it than that which is in the constitution. I cannot agree with the other honorable gentleman, that there is no check. There is a powerful check in that paper. The state governments are to govern the militia, when not called forth for general national purposes; and congress is to govern such part only as may be in the actual service of the union. Nothing can be more certain and positive than this. It expressly empowers congress to govern them when in the service of the United States. It is then clear, that the states govern them when they are not. With respect to suppressing insurrections, I say that those clauses which were mentioned by the honorable gentleman, are compatible with a concurrence of the power. By the first, congress is to call them forth to suppress insurrections and repel invasions of foreign powers. A concurrence in the former case, is necessary, because a whole state may be in insurrection against the union. What has passed, may perhaps justify this apprehension. The safety of the union and particular states, requires that the general government should have power to repel foreign invasions. The fourth section of the fourth article, is perfectly consistent with the exercise of the power by the states. The words are, “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union, a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.” The word invasion here, after power had been given in the former clause to repel invasions may be thought tautologous, but it has a different meaning from the other. This clause speaks of a particular state. It means that it shall be protected from invasion by other states. A republican government is to be guaranteed to each state, and they are to be protected from invasion from other states, as well as from foreign powers: And on application by the legislature or executive as the case may be, the militia of the other states are to be called to suppress domestic insurrections. Does this bar the states from calling forth their own militia? No; but it gives them a supplementary security to suppress insurrection and domestic violence.
The other clause runs in these words, “No state shall, without the consent of congress, lay any duty on tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.” They are restrained from making war, unless invaded, or in imminent danger. When in such danger, they are not restrained. I can perceive no competition in these clauses. They cannot be said to be repugnant to a concurrence of the power. If we object to the constitution in this manner, and consume our time in verbal criticism, we shall never put an end to the business.
JUNE 16—POWER OVER SEAT OF GOVERNMENT.
Mr Chairman, I did conceive, sir, that the clause under consideration, was one of those parts which would speak its own praise. It is hardly necessary to say any thing concerning it. Strike it out of the system, and let me ask, whether there would not be much larger scope for those dangers? I cannot comprehend that the power of legislating over a small district, which cannot exceed ten miles square, and may not be more than one mile, will involve the dangers which he apprehends. If there be any knowledge in my mind, of the nature of man, I should think it would be the last thing that would enter into the mind of any man, to grant exclusive advantages in a very circumscribed district to the prejudice of the community at large. We make suppositions, and afterwards deduce conclusions from them, as if they were established axioms. But after all, bring home this question to ourselves. Is it probable that the members from Georgia, New Hampshire, &c., will concur to sacrifice the privileges of their friends? I believe, that whatever state may become the seat of the general government, it will become the object of jealousy, and of the envy of the other states. Let me remark, if not already remarked, that there must be a cession by particular states, of the district to congress, and that the states may settle the terms of the cession. The states may make what stipulation they please in it, and if they apprehend any danger, they may refuse it altogether. How could the general government be guarded from the undue influence of particular states, or from insults, without such exclusive power? If it were at the pleasure of a particular state to control the cession and deliberations of congress, would they be secure from insults, or the influence of such state? If this commonwealth depended for the freedom of deliberation, or the laws of any state where it might be necessary to sit, would it not be liable to attacks of that nature (and with more indignity) which have been already offered to congress? With respect to the government of Holland, I believe the states general have no jurisdiction over the Hague. But I have heard that mentioned as a circumstance which gave undue influence to Holland over the rest. We must limit our apprehensions to certain degrees of probability. The evils which they urge must result from this clause, are extremely improbable: nay, almost impossible.
JUNE 16—POWER OVER SEAT OF GOVERNMENT.
Mr Chairman, I am astonished that the honorable member should launch out into such strong descriptions without any occasion. Was there ever a legislature in existence that held their sessions at a place where they had not jurisdiction? I do not mean such a legislature as they have in Holland; for it deserves not the name.—Their powers are such as congress have now; which we find not reducible to practice. If you be satisfied with the shadow and form instead of the substance, you will render them dependent on the local authority. Suppose the legislature of this country should sit in Richmond, while the exclusive jurisdiction of the place was in some particular country, would this country think it safe that the general good should be subject to the paramount authority of a part of the community?
The honorable member asks, why ask for this power, and if the subsequent clause be not fully competent for the same purpose? If so what new terrors can arise from this particular clause? It is only a superfluity. If that latitude of construction which he contends for, were to take place with respect to the sweeping clause, there would be room for those horrors. But it gives no supplementary power: It only enables them to execute the delegated powers. If the delegation of their powers be safe, no possible inconvenience can arise from this clause. It is at most but explanatory. For when any power is given, its delegation necessarily involves authority to make laws to execute it. Were it possible to delineate on paper, all those particular cases and circumstances in which legislation by the general legislature would be necessary and leave to the states all the other powers, I imagine no gentleman would object to it. But this is not within the limits of human capacity. The particular powers which are found necessary to be given, are therefore delegated generally, and particular and minute specification is left to the legislature.
(Here Mr Madison spoke of the distinction between regulation of police and legislation; but so low he could not be heard.)
When the honorable member objects to giving the general government jurisdiction over the place of their session, does he mean that it should be under the control of any particular state, that might at a critical moment seize it? I should have thought that this clause would have met with the most cordial approbation. As the consent of the state in which it may be, must be obtained, and as it may stipulate the terms of the grant, should they violate the particular stipulations, it would be an usurpation: So that if the members of congress were to be guided by the laws of their country, none of those dangers could arise.
(Mr Madison made several other remarks, which could not be heard.)
JUNE 17—IMPORTATION OF SLAVES.
Mr Chairman, I should conceive this clause [permitting importation of slaves] to be impolitic, if it were one of those things which could be excluded without encountering greater evils. The southern states would not have entered into the union of America, without the temporary permission of that trade. And if they were excluded from the union, the consequences might be dreadful to them and to us. We are not in a worse situation than before. That traffic is prohibited by our laws, and we may continue the prohibition. The union in general is not in a worse situation. Under the articles of confederation, it might be continued forever: but by this clause an end may be put to it after twenty years. There is, therefore, an amelioration of our circumstances. A tax may be laid in the meantime, but it is limited, otherwise congress might lay such a tax as would amount to a prohibition. From the mode of representation and taxation, congress cannot lay such a tax on slaves as will amount to manumission. Another clause secures us that property which we now possess. At present, if any slave elopes to any of those states where slaves are free, he becomes emancipated by their laws. For the laws of the states are uncharitable to one another in this respect. But in this constitution, “no person held to service, or labor, in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” This clause was expressly inserted to enable owners of slaves to reclaim them.
This is a better security than any that now exists. No power is given to the general government to interpose with respect to the property in slaves now held by the states. The taxation of this state being equal only to its representation, such a tax cannot be laid as he supposes. They cannot prevent the importation of slaves for twenty years; but after that period they can. The gentlemen from South Carolina and Georgia argued in this manner: “We have now liberty to import this species of property, and much of the property now possessed, had been purchased, or otherwise acquired, in contemplation of improving it by the assistance of imported slaves. What would be the consequence of hindering us from it? The slaves of Virginia would rise in value, and we would be obliged to go to your markets. I need not expatiate on this subject. Great as the evil is, a dismemberment of the union, would be worse. If those states should disunite from the other states, for not indulging them in the temporary continuance of this traffic, they might solicit and obtain aid from foreign powers.
JUNE 17—IMPORTATION OF SLAVES.
Mr. Madison replied, that even the southern states, who were most affected, were perfectly satisfied with this provision, and dreaded no danger to the property they now hold. It appeared to him, that the general government would not intermeddle with that property for twenty years, but to lay a tax on every slave imported, not exceeding ten dollars; and that after the expiration of that period, they might prohibit the traffic altogether. The census in the constitution was intended to introduce equality in the burdens to be laid on the community. No gentleman objected to laying duties, imposts, and excises, uniformly. But uniformity of taxes would be subversive to the principles of equality: for that it was not possible to select any article which would be easy for one state, but what would be heavy for another. That the proportion of each state being ascertained, it would be raised by the general government in the most convenient manner for the people, and not by the selection of any one particular object. That there must be some degree of confidence put in agents, or else we must reject a state of civil society altogether. Another great security to this property, which he mentioned, was, that five states were greatly interested in that species of property; and there were other states which had some slaves, and had made no attempt, or taken any step to take them from the people. There were a few slaves in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut: these states would, probably, oppose any attempts to annihilate this species of property. He concluded, by observing, that he would be glad to leave the decision of this to the committee.
JUNE 17—THE VICE PRESIDENCY.
Mr Chairman, I think there are some peculiar advantages incident to this office [the Vice Presidency], which recommend it to us. There is in the first place a great probability this officer will be taken from one of the largest states, and if so, the circumstance of his having an eventual vote will be so far favorable. The consideration which recommends it to me, is, that he will be the choice of the people at large.—There are to be ninety-one electors, each of whom has two votes: if he have one fourth of the whole number of votes, he is elected vice-president. There is much more propriety in giving this office to a person chosen by the people at large, than to one of the senate who is only the choice of the legislature of one state.—His eventual vote is an advantage too obvious to comment upon. I differ from the honorable member in the case which enables congress to make a temporary appointment. When the president and vice-president die, the election of another president will immediately take place, and suppose it would not, all that congress could do, would be to make an appointment, between the expiration of the four years and the last election, and to continue only to such expiration. This can rarely happen. This power continues the government in motion, and is well guarded.
JUNE 18—ELECTION OF PRESIDENT.
Mr Chairman, I will take the liberty of making a few observations, which may place this in such a light as may obviate objections. It is observed, that none of the honorable members objecting to this, have pointed out the right mode of election. It was found difficult in the convention, and will be found so by any gentleman who will take the liberty of delineating a mode of electing the president, that would exclude those inconveniences which they apprehend. I would not contend against some of the principles laid down by some gentlemen if the interests of some states only were to be consulted. But there is a great diversity of interests. The choice of the people ought to be attended to. I have found no better way of selecting the man in whom they place the highest confidence, than that delineated in the plan of the convention—nor has the gentleman told us. Perhaps it will be found impracticable to elect him by the immediate suffrages of the people. Difficulties would arise from the extent and population of the states. Instead of this, the people chose the electors.
This can be done with ease and convenience, and will render the choice more judicious. As to the eventual voting by states, it has my approbation. The lesser states, and some large states, will be generally pleased by that mode. The deputies from the small states argued, (and there is some force in their reasoning) that when the people voted, the large states evidently had the advantage over the rest, and without varying the mode, the interest of the little states might be neglected or sacrificed. Here is a compromise.—For in the eventual election, the small states will have the advantage. In so extensive a country, it is probable that many persons will be voted for, and the lowest of the five highest on the list may not be so inconsiderable as he supposes. With respect to the possibility, that a small number of votes may decide his election, I do not know how, nor do I think that a bare calculation of possibility ought to govern us.—One honorable gentleman has said, that the eastern states may, in the eventual election, choose him. But in the extravagant calculation he has made, he has been obliged to associate North Carolina and Georgia, with the five smallest northern States. There can be no union of interest or sentiments between states so differently situated.
The honorable member last up has committed a mistake in saying there must be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed. A majority of votes, equal to a majority of the electors appointed, will be sufficient. Forty-six is a majority of ninety one, and will suffice to elect the president.
JUNE 18—TREATY-MAKING POWER.
Mr. Chairman, I am persuaded that when this power comes to be thoroughly and candidly viewed, it will be found right and proper. As to its extent, perhaps it will be satisfactory to the committee, that the power is precisely in the new constitution, as it is in the confederation. In the existing confederacy, congress are authorized indefinitely to make treaties. Many of the states have recognised the treaties of congress to be the supreme law of the land. Acts have passed within a year, declaring this to be the case. I have seen many of them. Does it follow, because this power is given to congress, that it is absolute and unlimited? I do not conceive that power is given to the president and senate to dismember the empire, or to alienate any great essential right. I do not think the whole legislative authority have this power. The exercise of the power must be consistent with the object of the delegation.
One objection against the amendment proposed, is this; that by implication, it would give power to the legislative authority to dismember the empire—a power that ought not to be given, but by the necessity that would force assent from every man. I think it rests on the safest foundation as it is. The object of treaties is the regulation of intercourse with foreign nations, and is external. I do not think it possible to enumerate all the cases in which such external regulations would be necessary. Would it be right to define all the cases in which congress could exercise this authority? The definition might, and probably would be defective. They might be restrained by such a definition, from exercising the authority where it would be essential to the interest and safety of the community. It is most safe, therefore, to leave it to be exercised as contingencies may arise.
It is to be presumed, that in transactions with foreign countries, those who regulate them, will feel the whole force of national attachment to their country. The contrast being between their own nation and a foreign nation, is it not presumable they will, as far as possible, advance the interest of their own country? Would it not be considered as a dangerous principle in the British government, were the king to have the same power in internal regulations, as he has in the external business of treaties? Yet, as among other reasons, it is natural to suppose he will prefer the interest of his own, to that of another country, it is thought proper to give him this external power of making treaties. This distinction is well worthy the consideration of gentlemen. I think the argument of the gentleman who restrained the supremacy of these to the laws of particular states, and not to congress, is rational. Here the supremacy of a treaty is contrasted with the supremacy of the laws of the states. It cannot be otherwise supreme. If it does not supersede their existing laws, as far as they contravene its operation, it cannot be of any effect. To counteract it by the supremacy of the state laws would bring on the union the just charge of national perfidy, and involve us in war.
Suppose the king of Great Britain should make a treaty with France, where he had a constitutional right; if the treaty should require an internal regulation, and the parliament should make a law to that effect, that law would be binding on the one, though not on the other nation. Suppose there should be a violation of right by the exercise of this power by the president and senate; if there was apparent merit in it, it would be binding on the people: for where there is a power for any particular purpose, it must supersede what may oppose it, or else it can be no power. For instance, where there is a power of declaring war, that power as to declaring war supersedes every thing. This would be an unfortunate case, should it happen; but should it happen, there is a remedy; and there being a remedy, they will be restrained against abuses.
But let us compare the responsibility in this government to that of the British government. If there be an abuse of this royal prerogative, the minister who advises him, is liable to impeachment. This is the only restraint on the sovereign. Now, Sir, is not the minister of the United States under restraint? Who is the minister?—The president himself, who is liable to impeachment. He is responsible in person. But for the abuse of the power of the king, the responsibility is in his advisers. Suppose the constitution had said, that this minister alone could make treaties, and when he violated the interest of the nation, he would be impeached by the senate; then the comparison would hold good between the two governments. But is there not an additional security by adding to him the representatives and guardians of the political interest of the states? If he should seduce a part of the senate to a participation in his crimes, those who were not seduced would pronounce sentence against him; and there is this supplementary security, that he may be convicted and punished afterwards, when other members come in the senate, one-third being excluded every second year. So that there is a two-fold security. The security of impeachment and conviction by those senators that they may be innocent, should no more than one-third be engaged with the president in the plot; and should there be more of them engaged in it, he may be tried and convicted by the succeeding senators, and the upright senators who were in the senate before.
As to the case of the Russian ambassador, I shall say nothing. It is as inapplicable as many other quotations made by the gentleman. I conceive that as far as the bills of rights in the states, do not express any thing foreign to the nature of such things, and express fundamental principles essential to liberty, and those privileges which are declared necessary to all free people, these rights are not encroached on by this government.
(Mr. Madison added other remarks which could not be heard.)
JUNE 20—POWER OF JUDICIARY.
Mr Chairman, permit me to make a few observations which may place this part in a more favorable light than the gentleman placed it in yesterday. It may be proper to remark, that the organization of the general government for the United States was in all its parts, very difficult. There was a peculiar difficulty in that of the Executive. Every thing incident to it must have participated of that difficulty. That mode which was judged most expedient was adopted, till experience should point out one more eligible. This part was also attended with difficulties. It claims the indulgence of a fair and liberal interpretation. I will not deny that according to my view of the subject, a more accurate attention might place it in terms which would exclude some of the objections now made to it. But if we take liberal construction, I think we shall find nothing dangerous or inadmissible in it. In compositions of this kind, it is difficult to avoid technical terms which have the same meaning. An intention to this may satisfy gentlemen, that precision was not so easily obtained as may be imagined. I will illustrate this by one thing in the constitution. There is a general power to provide courts to try felonies and piracies committed on the high seas. Piracy is a word which may be considered as a term of the law of nations. Felony is a word unknown to the law of nations, and is to be found in the British laws, and from thence adopted in the law of these states. It was thought dishonorable to have recourse to that standard. A technical term of the law of nations is therefore used that we should find ourselves authorised to introduce it into the laws of the United States. The first question which I shall consider, is whether the subjects of its cognizance be proper subjects of a federal jurisdiction. The second will be, whether the provisions respecting it be consistent with safety and impropriety, will answer the purposes intended, and suit local circumstances.
The first class of cases to which its jurisdiction extends, are those which may arise under the constitution; and this is to extend to equity as well as law. It may be a misfortune, that in organizing any government, the explication of its authority should be left to any of its co-ordinate branches. There is no example in any country where it is otherwise. There is a new policy in submitting it to the judiciary of the United States. That causes of a federal nature will arise, will be obvious to every gentleman, who will recollect that the states are laid under restrictions; and that the rights of the union are secured by these restrictions. They may involve equitable as well as legal controversies. With respect to the laws of the union, it is so necessary and expedient that the judicial power should correspond with the legislative, that it has not been objected to. With respect to treaties, there is a peculiar propriety in the judiciary expounding them.
These may involve us in controversies with foreign nations. It is necessary therefore, that they should be determined in the courts of the general government. There are strong reasons why there should be a supreme court to decide such disputes. If in any case uniformity be necessary, it must be in the exposition of treaties. The establishment of one revisionary superintending power, can alone secure such uniformity. The same principles hold with respect to cases affecting ambassadors, and foreign ministers. To the same principles may also be referred their cognizance in admiralty and maritime cases. As our intercourse with foreign nations will be affected by decisions of this kind, they ought to be uniform. This can only be done by giving the federal judiciary exclusive jurisdiction. Controversies affecting the interest of the United States ought to be determined by their own judiciary, and not be left to partial local tribunals.
The next case, where two or more states are the parties, is not objected to. Provision is made for this by the existing articles of confederation, and there can be no impropriety in referring such disputes to this tribunal.
Its jurisdiction in controversies between a state and citizens of another state, is much objected to, and perhaps without reason. It is not in the power of individuals to call any state into court. The only operation it can have, is that if a state should wish to bring suit against a citizen, it must be brought before the federal court. This will give satisfaction to individuals, as it will prevent citizens on whom a state may have a claim, being dissatisfied with the state courts. It is a case which cannot often happen, and if it should be found improper, it will be altered. But it may be attended with good effects. This may be illustrated by other cases. It is provided, that cases of citizens of different states may be carried to the federal courts.
But this will not go beyond the cases where they may be parties. A femme covert may be a citizen of another state, but cannot be a party in this court. A subject of a foreign power having a dispute with a citizen of this state, may carry it to the federal court; but an alien enemy cannot bring suit at all. It appears to me, that this can have no operation but this—to give a citizen a right to be heard in the federal courts; and if a state should condescend to be a party, this court may take cognizance of it.
As to its cognizance of disputes between citizens of different states, I will not say it is a matter of such importance. Perhaps it might be left to the state courts. But I sincerely believe this provision will be rather salutary, than otherwise. It may happen that a strong prejudice may arise in some states, against the citizens of others, who may have claims against them. We know what tardy, and even defective administration of justice, has happened in some states. A citizen of another state might not chance to get justice in a state court, and at all events he might think himself injured.
To the next clause there is no objection.
The next case provides for disputes between a foreign state, and one of our states, should such a case ever arise; and between a citizen and a foreign citizen or subject. I do not conceive that any controversy can ever be decided in these courts, between an American state and a foreign state, without the consent of the parties. If they consent, provision is here made. The disputes ought to be tried by the national tribunal. This is consonant to the law of nations. Could there be a more favorable or eligible provision to avoid controversies with foreign powers? Ought it to be put in the power of a member of the union to drag the whole community into war? As the national tribunal is to decide, justice will be done. It appears to me from this review, that, though on some of the subjects of this jurisdiction, it may seldom or never operate, and though others be of inferior consideration, yet they are mostly of great importance, and indispensably necessary.
The second question which I proposed to consider, was, whether such organization be made as would be safe and convenient for the states and the people at large. Let us suppose that the subjects of its jurisdiction had only been enumerated, and power given to the general legislature to establish such courts as might be judged necessary and expedient, do not think that in that case any rational objection could be made to it, any more than would be made to a general power of legislation in certain enumerated cases. If that would be safe, this appears to me better and more restrictive, so far as it may be abused by extension of power. The most material part is the discrimination of superior and inferior jurisdiction, and the arrangement of its powers; as, where it shall have original, and where appellate cognizance. Where it speaks of appellate jurisdiction, it expressly provides, that such regulations will be made as will accommodate every citizen; so far as practicable in any government. The principal criticism which has been made, was against the appellate cognizance, as well of fact as law. I am happy that the honorable member who presides, and who is familiarly acquainted with the subject, does not think it involves any thing unnecessarily dangerous. I think that the distinction of fact as well as law, may be satisfied by the discrimination of the civil and common law. But if gentlemen should contend, that appeals, as to fact, can be extended to jury cases, I contend, that by the word regulations, it is in the power of congress to prevent it, or prescribe such a mode as will secure the privilege of jury trial. They may make a regulation to prevent such appeals entirely: or they may remand the fact, or send it to an inferior contiguous court, to be tried; or otherwise preserve that ancient and important trial.
Let me observe, that so far as the judicial power may extend to controversies between citizens of different states, and so far as it gives them power to correct by another trial, a verdict obtained by local prejudices, it is favorable to those states who carry on commerce. There are a number of commercial states, who carry on trade, for other states.—Should the states in debt to them make unjust regulations, the justice that would be obtained by the creditors, might be merely imaginary and nominal. It might be either entirely denied, or partially granted. This is no imaginary evil. Before the war, New York was to a great amount a creditor of Connecticut: while it depended on the laws and regulations of Connecticut, she might withhold payment. If I be not misinformed, there were reasons to complain. These illiberal regulations and causes of complaint, obstruct commerce. So far as this power may be exercised, Virginia will be benefitted by it. It appears to me from the most correct view, that by the word regulations, authority is given them to provide against the inconveniences, and so far as it is exceptionable, they can remedy it. This they will do if they be worthy of the trust we put in them. I think them worthy of that confidence which that paper puts in them. Were I to select a power which might be given with confidence, it would be judicial power. This power cannot be abused, without raising the indignation of all the people of the states. I cannot conceive that they would encounter this odium. Leaving behind them their character and friends, and carrying with them local prejudices, I cannot think they would run such a risk. That men should be brought from all parts of the union to the seat of government, on trivial occasions, cannot reasonably be supposed. It is a species of possibility; but there is every degree of probability against it. I would as soon believe, that by virtue of the power of collecting taxes or customs, they would compel every man to go and pay the money for his taxes with his own hands to the federal treasurer, as I would believe this. If they would not do the one, they would not the other.
I am of opinion, and my reasoning and conclusions are drawn from facts, that as far as the power of congress can extend, the judicial power will be accommodated to every part of America. Under this conviction, I conclude, that the legislation, instead of making the supreme federal court absolutely stationary, will fix it in different parts of the continent, to render it more convenient. I think this idea perfectly warrantable. There is an example, within our knowledge which illustrates it. By the confederation, congress have an exclusive right of establishing rules for deciding in all cases, what captures should be legal, and establishing courts for determining such cases finally. A court was established for that purpose, which was at first stationary.—Experience, and the desire of accommodating the decision of this court to the convenience of the citizens of the different parts of America, had this effect—it soon became a regulation, that this court should be held in different parts of America, and was held accordingly. If such a regulation was made, when only the interest of the small number of people who are concerned with captures was affected, will not the public convenience be consulted, when that of a very considerable proportion of the people of America will be concerned? It will be also in the power of congress to vest this power in the state courts, both inferior and superior. This they will do, when they find the tribunals of the states established on a good footing.
Another example will illustrate this subject further. By the confederation, congress are authorized to establish courts for trying piracies and felonies committed on the high seas. Did they multiply courts unnecessarily in this case? No, sir, they invested the admiralty courts of each state with this jurisdiction. Now, sir, if there will be as much sympathy between congress and the people, as now, we may fairly conclude, that the federal cognizance will be vested in the local tribunals.
I have observed, that gentlemen suppose, that the general legislature will do every mischief they possibly can, and that they will omit to do every thing good which they are authorized to do. If this were a reasonable supposition, their objections would be good. I consider it reasonable to conclude, that they will as readily do their duty, as deviate from it: nor do I go on the grounds mentioned by gentlemen on the other side—that we are to place unlimited confidence in them, and expect nothing but the most exalted integrity and sublime virtue. But I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.
Having taken this general view on the subject, I will now advert to what has fallen from the honorable gentleman who presides. His criticism is, that the judiciary has not been guarded from an increase of the salary of the judges. I wished myself, to insert a restraint on the augmentation, as well as diminution, of their compensation: and supported it in the convention. But I was overruled. I must state the reasons which were urged. They had great weight. The business must increase. If there was no power to increase their pay, according to the increase of business, during the life of the judges, it might happen that there would be such an accumulation of business as would reduce the pay to a most trivial consideration. This reason does not hold as to the president, for in the short period which he presides, this cannot happen. His salary ought not, therefore, to be increased. It was objected yesterday, that there was no provision for a jury from the vicinage. If it could have been done with safety, it would not have been opposed. It might so happen, that a trial would be impracticable in the country. Suppose a rebellion in a whole district, would it not be impossible to get a jury? The trial by jury is held as sacred in England as in America.—There are deviations of it in England; yet greater deviations have happened here since we established our independence, than have taken place there for a long time, though it be left to the legislative discretion. It is a misfortune in any case that this trial should be departed from, yet in some cases it is necessary. It must be, therefore, left to the discretion of the legislature to modify it according to circumstances. This is a complete and satisfactory answer.
It was objected, that this jurisdiction would extend to all cases, and annihilate the state courts. At this moment of time it might happen, that there are many disputes between citizens of different states. But in the ordinary state of things, I believe that any gentlemen will think that the far greater number of causes—ninety-nine out of an hundred, will remain with the state judiciaries. All controversies directly between citizen and citizen, will still remain with the local courts. The number of cases within the jurisdiction of these courts are very small when compared to those in which the local tribunals will have cognizance. No accurate calculation can be made but I think that any gentleman who will contemplate the subject at all, must be struck with this truth. [Here Mr Madison spoke too low to be understood.)
As to vexatious appeals, they can be remedied by congress. It would seldom happen that mere wantonness would produce such an appeal, or induce a man to sue unjustly. If the courts were on a good footing in the states, what can induce them to take so much trouble? I have frequently, in the discussion of this subject, been struck with one remark. It has been urged, that this would be oppressive to those who by imprudence, or otherwise are under the denomination of debtors. I know not how this can be conceived. I will venture one observation. If this system should have the effect of establishing universal justice, and accelerating it throughout America, it will be one of the most fortunate circumstances that could happen for those men. With respect to that class of citizens, compassion is their due. To those, however, who are involved in such incumbrances, relief cannot be granted. Industry and economy are the only resources.—It is vain to wait for money, or temporise. The great desiderata are public and private confidence. No country in the world can do without them. Let the influx of money be ever so great, if there be no confidence, property will sink in value, and there will be no inducements or emulation to industry. The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money. Compare the situations of nations in Europe, where the justice is administered with celerity, to that of those where it is refused, or administered tardily. Confidence produces the best effects in the former. The establishment of confidence will raise the value of property, and relieve those who are so unhappy as to be involved in debts. If this be maturely considered, I think it will be found that as far as it will establish uniformity of justice, it will be of real advantage to such persons. I will not enter into those considerations which the honorable gentleman added. I hope some other gentleman will undertake to answer.
JUNE 24—NECESSITY FOR RATIFICATION.
Mr. Chairman, nothing has excited more admiration in the world, than the manner in which free governments have been established in America. For it was the first instance from the creation of the world to the American revolution, that free inhabitants have been seen deliberating on a form of government, and selecting such of their citizens as possessed their confidence, to determine upon, and give effect to it. But why has this excited so much wonder and applause? Because it is of so much magnitude, and because it is liable to be frustrated by so many accidents. If it has excited so much wonder, that the United States have in the middle of war and confusion, formed free systems of government, how much more astonishment and admiration will be excited, should they be able, peaceably, freely and satisfactorily, to establish one general government, when there is such a diversity of opinions, and interests, when not cemented or stimulated by any common danger? How vast must be the difficulty of concentrating in one government, the interests, and conciliating the opinions of so many different heterogeneous bodies?
How have the confederacies of ancient and modern times been formed? As far as ancient history describes the former to us, they were brought about by the wisdom of some eminent sage. How was the imperfect union of the Swiss Cantons formed? By danger. How was the confederacy of the United Netherlands formed? By the same. They are surrounded by dangers. By these and one influential character, they were stimulated to unite. How was the Germanic system formed? By danger in some degree, but principally by the overruling influence of individuals.
When we consider this government, we ought to make great allowances. We must calculate the impossibility that every state should be gratified in its wishes, and much less that every individual should receive this gratification. It has never been denied by the friends of the paper on the table, that it has effects. But they do not think that it contains any real danger. They conceive that they will in all probability be removed, when experience will shew it to be necessary. I beg that gentlemen in deliberating on this subject, would consider the alternative. Either nine states shall have ratified it or they will not. If nine states will adopt it, can it be reasonably presumed or required, that nine states having freely and fully considered the subject, and come to an affirmative decision, will, upon the demand of a single state, agree that they acted wrong, and could not see its defect—tread back the steps which they have taken and come forward and reduce it to uncertainty, whether a general system shall be adopted or not? Virginia has always heretofore spoken the language of respect to the other states, and she has always been attended to. Will it be that language, to call on a great majority of the states to acknowledge that they have done wrong? Is it the language of confidence to say, that we do not believe that amendments for the preservation of the common liberty and general interests of the state, will be consented to by them? This is neither the language of confidence nor respect. Virginia when she speaks respectfully, will be as much attended to, as she has hitherto been when speaking this language.
It is a most awful thing that depends on our decision—no less than whether the thirteen states shall unite freely, peaceably, and unanimously, for security of their common happiness and liberty, or whether every thing is to be put in confusion and disorder. Are we to embark in this dangerous enterprise, uniting various opinions to contrary interests, with the vain hope of coming to an amicable concurrence?
It is worthy of our consideration, that those who prepared the paper on the table, found difficulties not to be described, in its formation—mutual deference and concession were absolutely necessary. Had they been inflexibly tenacious of their individual opinions they would never have concurred. Under what circumstances was it formed? When no party was formed, or particular proposition made, and men’s minds were calm and dispassionate. Yet under these circumstances, it was difficult, extremely difficult, to agree to any general system.
Suppose eight states only should ratify, and Virginia should propose certain alterations, as the previous condition of her accession. If they should be disposed to accede to her proposition, which is the most favorable conclusion, the difficulty attending it will be immense. Every state, which has decided it, must take up the subject again. They must not only have the mortification of acknowledging that they had done wrong, but the difficulty of having a reconsideration of it among the people, and appointing new conventions to deliberate upon it. They must attend to all the amendments, which may be dictated by as great a diversity of political opinions, as there are local attachments. When brought together in one assembly, they must go through, and accede to every one of the amendments. The gentlemen who, within this house, have thought proper to propose previous amendments, have brought no less than forty amendments—a bill of rights which contains twenty amendments, and twenty other alterations, some of which are improper and inadmissible. Will not every state think herself equally entitled to propose as many amendments? And suppose them to be contradictory, I leave it to this convention, whether it be probable that they can agree, or agree to any thing, but the plan on the table; or whether greater difficulties will not be encountered, than were experienced in the progress of the formation of the constitution.
I have said that there was a great contrariety of opinions among the gentlemen in the opposition. It has been heard in every stage of their opposition. I can see from their amendments, that very great sacrifices have been made by some of them. Some gentlemen think that it contains too much state influence: others, that it is a complete consolidation, and a variety of other things. Some of them think that the equality in the senate, is not a defect; others, that it is the bane of all good governments. I might, if there were time, show a variety of other cases, where their opinions are contradictory. If there be this contrariety of opinions in this house, what contrariety may not be expected, when we take into view, thirteen conventions equally or more numerous? Besides, it is notorious from the debates which have been published, that there is no sort of uniformity in the grounds of the opposition.
The state of New York has been adduced. Many in that state are opposed to it from local views. The two who opposed it in the general convention from that state, are in the state convention. Every step of this system was opposed by those two gentlemen. They were unwilling to part with the old confederation. Can it be presumed then, sir, that gentlemen in this state, who admit the necessity of changing, should ever be able to unite in sentiments with those who are totally averse to any change.
I have revolved this question in my mind, with as much serious attention, and called to my aid as much information as I could, yet I can see no reason for the apprehensions of gentlemen, but I think that if Virginia will agree to ratify this system, I shall look upon it as one of the most fortunate events that ever happened for human nature. I cannot, therefore, without the most excruciating apprehensions, see a possibility of losing its blessings. It gives me infinite pain to reflect, that all the earnest endeavors of the warmest friends of their country, to introduce a system promotive of our happiness, may be blasted by a rejection, for which I think with my honorable friend, that previous amendments are but another name. The gentlemen in opposition seem to insist on those amendments, as if they were all necessary for the liberty and happiness of the people. Were I to hazard an opinion on the subject, I would declare it infinitely more safe in its present form, than it would be after introducing into it that long train of alterations, which they call amendments.
With respect to the proposition of the honorable gentleman to my left [Mr. Wythe] gentlemen apprehend, that by enumerating three rights, it implied there were no more. The observations made by a gentleman lately up, on that subject, correspond precisely with my opinion. That resolution declares, that the powers granted by the proposed constitution, are the gift of the people, and may be resumed by them when perverted to their oppression, and every power not granted thereby, remains with the people, and at their will. It adds likewise, that no right of any denomination, can be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified, by the general government, or any of its officers, except in those instances in which power is given by the constitution for these purposes. There cannot be a more positive and unequivocal declaration of the principles of the adoption, that every thing not granted, is reserved. This is obviously and self-evidently the case, without the declaration.—Can the general government exercise any power not delegated? If an enumeration be made of our rights, will it not be implied, that every thing omitted, is given to the general government? Has not the honorable gentleman himself, admitted, that an imperfect enumeration is dangerous? Does the constitution say that they shall not alter the law of descents, or do those things which would subvert the whole system of the state laws? If he did, what was not excepted, would be granted. Does it follow from the omission of such restrictions, that they can exercise powers not delegated? The reverse of the proposition holds. The delegation alone warrants the exercise of any power.
With respect to the amendments, proposed by the honorable gentleman, it ought to be considered how far they are good. As far as they are palpably and insuperably objectionable, they ought to be opposed. One amendment he proposes is, that any army which shall be necessary, shall be raised by the consent of two-thirds of the states. I most devoutly wish, that there may never be an occasion for having a single regiment. There can be no harm in declaring, that standing armies in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and ought to be avoided, as far as it may be consistent with the protection, of the community. But when we come to say, that the national security shall depend not on a majority of the people of America, but that it may be frustrated by less than one-third of the people of America, I ask if this be a safe or proper mode? What part of the United States are most likely to stand in need of this protection? The weak parts, which are the southern states. Will it be safe to leave the United States at the mercy of one-third of the states, a number, which may comprise a very small proportion of the American people? They may all be in that part of America which is least exposed to danger. As far as a remote situation from danger, would render exertions for public defence less active, so far the southern states would be endangered.
The regulation of commerce, he further proposed, should depend on two-thirds of both houses. I wish I could recollect the history of this matter; but I cannot call it to mind with sufficient exactness. But I recollect the reasoning of some gentlemen on that subject. It was said, and I believe with truth, that every part of America, does not stand in equal need of security. It was observed, that the northern states were most competent to their own safety. Was it reasonable, asked they, that they should bind themselves to the defence of the southern states, and still be left at the mercy of the minority for commercial advantages? Should it be in the power of the minority to deprive them of this and other advantages, when they were bound to defend the whole union, it might be a disadvantage for them to confederate.
These were his arguments. This policy of guarding against political inconveniences, by enabling a small part of the community to oppose the government, and subjecting the majority to a small minority is fallacious. In some cases it may be good; in others it may be fatal. In all cases it puts it in the power of the minority to decide a question which concerns the majority.
I was struck with surprise when I head him express himself alarmed with respect to the emancipation of slaves. Let me ask, if they should even attempt it, if it will not be an usurpation of power? There is no power to warrant it, in that paper. If there be, I know it not. But why should it be done? Says the honorable gentleman, for the general welfare—it will infuse strength into our system. Can any member of this committee suppose, that it will increase our strength? Can any one believe, that the American councils will come into a measure which will strip them of their property, discourage, and alienate the affections of five-thirteenths of the union. Why was nothing of this sort aimed at before? I believe such an idea never entered into any American breast, nor do I believe it ever will enter into the heads of those gentlemen who substitute unsupported suspicions for reasons.
I am persuaded that the gentlemen who contend for previous amendments are not aware of the dangers which must result. Virginia, after having made opposition, will be obliged to recede from it. Might not the nine states say with a great deal of propriety—“It is not proper, decent, or right in you, to demand that we should reverse what we have done. Do as we have done—place confidence in us, as we have done in one another—and then we shall freely, fairly and dispassionately consider and investigate your propositions, and endeavour to gratify your wishes; but if you do not do this, it is more reasonable that you should yield to us, than we to you. You cannot exist without us—you must be a member of the union.”
The case of Maryland, instanced by the gentleman, does not hold. She would not agree to confederate, because the other states would not assent to her claims of the western lands. Was she gratified? No—she put herself like the rest. Nor has she since been gratified. The lands are in the common stock of the union.
As far as his amendments are not objectionable, or unsafe, so far they may be subsequently recommended. Not because they are necessary, but because they can produce no possible danger, and may gratify some gentlemen’s wishes. But I never can consent to his previous amendments, because they are pregnant with dreadful dangers.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
Richmd, June 27, 1788.
The Convention came to a final adjournment today. The inclosed is a copy of their Act of ratification with the yeas & nays. A variety of amendments have been since recommended; several of them highly objectionable, but which could not be parried. The Minority are to sign an address this evening which is announced to be of a peace-making complexion. Having not seen it I can give no opinion of my own. I wish it may not have a further object. Mr. H—y declared previous to the final question that altho’ he should submit as a quiet citizen, he should seize the first moment that offered for shaking off the yoke in a Constitutional way. I suspect the plan will be to engage ⅔ of the Legislatures in the task of undoing the work; or to get a Congress appointed in the first instance that will commit suicide on their own Authority.
Yrs, most affecty & respectfy.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.chic. hist. soc. mss.
N. York July 2d, 1788.
My dear friend
Some of the letters herewith enclosed have been here for some time without my knowing it. The others came to hand yesterday. I have also in hand for you the Marquis Condorcet’s essai on the probability of decisions resulting from plurality of voices, which I understand from Mazzei is a gift from the author. I shall forward it by the first conveyance.
There are public letters just arrived from Jefferson. The contents are not yet known. His private letters to me & others refer to his public political views. I find that he is becoming more and more a friend to the new Constitution, his objections being gradually dispelled by his own further reflections on the subject. He particularly renounces his opinion concerning the expediency of a ratification by 9 & a refusal by 4 States, considering the mode pursued by Massts. as the only rational one, but disapproving some of the alterations recommended by that State. He will see still more room for disapprobation in the reconsideration of other States. The defects of the Constitution which he continues to criticize are the omission of a bill of right, and of the principle of rotation at least in the Ex. Departmt.
Congress have been some days on the question where the first meeting of the new Congs. shall be placed. Philada. failed by a single voice from Delaware which ultimately aimed at that place, but wished to bring Wilmington into view. In that vote N. Hampshire & Connecticut both concurred. N. York is now in nomination and if those States accede which I think probable, and Rhode Island which has as yet refused to sit in the Question can be prevailed on to vote which I also think probable, the point will be carried. In this event a great handle I fear will be given to those who have opposed the new Govt. on account of the Eastern preponderancy in the federal system.
I enclose a copy of the ratification as proposed of N. York. What think you of some of the expository articles?
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.chic. hist. soc. mss.
New York, July 16, 1788.
The enclosed papers will give you the latest intelligence from Poughkeepsie. It seems by no means certain what the result there will be. Some of the most sanguine calculate on a ratification. The best informed apprehend some clog that will amount to a condition. The question is made peculiarly interesting in this place, by its connexion with the question relative to the place to be recommended for the meeting of the first Congress under the new Government.
Thirteen States are at present represented. A plan for setting this new machine in motion has been reported some days, but will not be hurried to a conclusion. Having been but a little time here, I am not yet fully in the politics of Congress.
I had on the road several returns of a bilious lax which made my journey more tedious and less agreeable than it would otherwise have been—at present I am pretty well again. Hoping this will find you and yours more completely so,
I remain &c.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
N. York, July 21, 1788.
I have deferred writing since my arrival here in the hourly hope of being enabled to communicate the final news from Poughkepsie. By a letter from Hamilton dated the day before yesterday I find that it is equally uncertain when the business will be closed, and what will be its definitive form. The inclosed gazette states the form which the depending proposition bears. It is not a little strange that the antifederal party should be reduced to such an expedient, and yet be able to keep their numbers together in the opposition. Nor is it less strange that the other party, as appears to be the case, should hesitate in deciding that the expedient as effectually keeps the State for ye present, out of the New Union as the most unqualified rejection could do. The intelligent citizens see clearly that this would be its operation and are agitated by the double motives of federalism and a zeal to give this City a fair chance for the first meeting of the new Government.
Congress have deliberated in part on the arrangements for putting the new Machine into operation, but have concluded on nothing but the times for choosing electors &c. Those who wish to make N. York the place of meeting studiously promote delay, others who are not swayed by this consideration do not urge dispatch. They think it would be well to let as many States as possible have an opportunity of deciding on the Constitution; and what is of more consequence, they wish to give opportunities where they can take place for as many elections of State Legislatures as can precede a reasonable time for making the appointments and arrangements referred to them. If there be too great an interval between the acts of Congress on this Subject and the next election or next meeting of a State Legislature, it may afford a pretext for an intermediate summoning of the existing members, who are every where less federal than their successors hereafter to be elected will probably be. This is particularly the case in Maryland, where the antifederal temper of the Executive would render an intermediate and extraordinary meeting of the Assembly of that State the more likely to be called. On my way thro’ Maryland I found such an event to be much feared by the friends and wished by the adversaries of the Constitution. We have no late news from Europe, nor anything from N. Carolina.
With every sentiment of esteem & attachment,
I remain Dr Sir, Your obedt & affect. Servt.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.chic. hist. soc. mss.
New York, July 22, 1788.
The enclosed papers will give you a view of the business in the Convention at Poughkeepsie. It is not as yet certain that the ratification will take any final shape that can make New York immediately a member of the new Union. The opponents cannot come to that point without yielding a complete victory to the Federalists, which must be a severe sacrifice of their pride. It is supposed too, that some of them would not be displeased at seeing a bar to the pretensions of this city to the first meeting of the new Government. On the other side, the zeal for an unconditional ratification is not a little increased by contrary wishes.
There have been no late arrivals from Europe nor any news from any Quarter. Don’t omit sending me the papers containing the series of articles announced in a late one.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
New York, 24 July, 1788.
Your two last unacknowledged favors were of Decr 20 and Feby 6. They were received in Virginia, and no opportunity till the present precarious one by the way of Holland, has enabled me to thank you for them.
I returned here about ten days ago from Richmond which I left a day or two after the dissolution of the Convention. The final question on the new Government was put on the 25th of June. It was twofold 1. whether previous amendments should be made a condition of ratification. 2. directly on the Constitution in the form it bore. On the first the decision was in the negative, 88 being no, 80 only ay. On the second & definitive question, the ratification was affirmed by 89 ays agst 79 noes. A number of alterations were then recommended to be considered in the mode pointed out in the Constitution itself. The meeting was remarkably full; Two members only being absent and those known to be on the opposite sides of the question. The debates also were conducted on the whole with a very laudable moderation and decorum, and continued until both sides declared themselves ready for the question. And it may be safely concluded that no irregular opposition to the System will follow in that State, at least with the countenance of the leaders on that side. What local eruptions may be occasioned by ill-timed or rigorous executions of the Treaty of peace against British debtors, I will not pretend to say. But altho. the leaders, particularly H—y & M—s—n, will give no countenance to popular violences it is not to be inferred that they are reconciled to the event, or will give it a positive support. On the contrary both of them declared they could not go that length, and an attempt was made under their auspices to induce the minority to sign an address to the people which, if it had not been defeated by the general moderation of the party would probably have done mischief.
Among a variety of expedients employed by the opponents to gain proselytes, Mr.Henry first, and after him Colo. Mason, introduced the opinions expressed in a letter from a correspondent (Master Donald or Skipwith, I believe) and endeavored to turn the influence of your name even against parts of which I knew you approved. In this situation I thought it due to truth, as well as that it would be most agreeable to yourself, and accordingly took the liberty to state some of your opinions on the favorable side. I am informed that copies or extracts of a letter from you were handed about at the Maryld. Convention, with a like view of impeding the ratification.
N. Hampshire ratified the Constitution on the 20th Ult; and made the ninth State. The votes stood 57 for and 46 agst the measure. S. Carolina had previously ratified by a very great majority. The Convention of N. Carolina is now sitting. At one moment the sense of that State was considered as strongly opposed to the system. It is now said that the time has been for some time turning, which with the example of other States and particularly of Virginia prognosticates a ratification there also. The Convention of New York has been in Session ever since the 17th Ult:, without having yet arrived at any final vote. Two thirds of the members assembled with a determination to reject the Constitution, and are still opposed to it in their hearts. The local situation of N. York, the number of ratifying States and the hope of retaining the federal Government in this City afford however powerful arguments to such men as Jay, Hamilton, the Chancellor, Duane and several others; and it is not improbable that some form of ratification will yet be devised, by which the dislike of the opposition may be gratified, and the State, notwithstanding, made a member of the new Union.
At Fredericksburg on my way hither I found the box with Cork Acorns Sulla & peas addressed to me. I immediately had it forwarded to Orange from whence the contents will be disposed of according to your order. I fear the advanced season will defeat the experiments. The few seeds taken out here by the President at my request & sown in his garden have not come up. I left directions in Virginia for obtaining acorns of the Willow Oak this fall, which shall be sent you as soon as possible. Col. Carrington tells me your request as to the Philosophical Transactions was complied with in part only, the 1st. volume being not to be had. I have enquired of a Delegate here from Rhode Island for further information concerning W. S. Brown, but can learn nothing precise. I shall continue my enquiries, and let you know hereafter the result.
July 26.—We just hear that the Convention of this State have determined by a small majority to exclude from the ratification anything involving a condition & to content themselves with recommending the alterations wished for.
As this will go by way of Holland I consider its reaching you as extremely uncertain. I forbear therefore to enter further into our public affairs at this time. If the packets should not be discontinued, which is surmised by some, I shall soon have an opportunity of writing again. In the mean time I remain with the sincerest affection
Your friend & Servt
P. S. Crops in Virginia of all sorts were very promising when I left the State. This was the case also generally throught the States I passed thro’, with local exceptions produced in the wheat fields by a destructive insect which goes under the name of the Hessian fly. It made its first appearance several years ago on Long Island, from which it has spread over half this State and a great part of New Jersey, and seems to be making an annual progress in every direction.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
New York, Augst 10, 1788.
Mr. Warville Brissot has just arrived here, and I seize an opportunity suddenly brought to my knowledge to thank you for your several favors, and particularly for the pedometer. Answers to the letters must be put off for the next opportunity.
My last went off just as a vote was taken in the Convention of this State which foretold the ratification of the new Government. The latter act soon followed and is inclosed. The form of it is remarkable. I inclose also a circular address to the other States on the subject of amendments, from which mischiefs are apprehended. The great danger in the present crisis is that if another Convention should be soon assembled it would terminate in discord, or in alterations of the federal system which would throw back essential powers into the State Legislatures. The delay of a few years will assuage the jealousies which have been artificially created by designing men and will at the same time point out the faults which really call for amendment. At present the public mind is neither sufficiently cool nor sufficiently informed for so delicate an operation.
The Convention of North Carolina met on the 21st Ult: Not a word has yet been heard from its deliberations. Rhode Island has not resumed the subject since it was referred to & rejected by the people in their several Towns.
Congress have been employed for several weeks on the arrangement of times & place for bringing the new Government into agency. The first has been agreed on though not definitively, & make it pretty certain that the first meeting will be held in the third week in March. The place has been a subject of much discussion and continues to be uncertain. Philada as least eccentric of any place capable of affording due accommodations and a respectable outset to the Government was the first proposed. The affirmative votes were N. Hampshire, Connecticut, Pena., Maryd, Virga, and N. Carolina. Delaware was present & in favor of that place, but one of its Delegates wishing to have a question on Wilmington previous to a final determination divided that State and negatived the motion. N. York came next in view, to which was opposed first Lancaster which failed and then Baltimore, which to the surprise of every body was carried by seven States. S. Carolina which had preferred N. York to the two other more Southern positions unexpectedly concurring in this. The vote however was soon rescinded, the State of S. Carolina receding the Eastern States remonstrating against, and few seriously urging, the eligibility of Baltimore. At present the question lies as it was originally supposed to do, between N. York & Philada, and nothing can be more uncertain than the event of it. Rhode Island which alone was disposed to give the casting vote to N. York, has refused to give any final vote for arranging & carrying into effect a system to which that State is opposed, and both the delegates have returned home.
Col. Carrington tells me [he] has sent you the first volume of the federalist, and adds the 2d. by this conveyance. I believe I never have yet mentionedto you that publication. It was undertaken last fall by Jay, Hamilton, and myself. The proposal came from the two former. The execution was thrown, by the sickness of Jay, mostly on the two others. Though carried on in concert, the writers are not mutually answerable for all the ideas of each other, there being seldom time for even a perusal of the pieces by any but the writer before they were wanted at the press, and sometimes hardly by the writer himself.
I have not a moment for a line to Mazzei. Tell him I have recd his books & shall attempt to get them disposed of. I fear his calculations will not be fulfilled by the demand for them here in the French language. His affair with Dorhman stands as it did. Of his affair with Foster Webb I can say nothing. I suspect it will turn out badly.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.chic. hist. soc. mss.
New York, August 11, 1788.
The length of the interval since my last has proceeded from a daily expectation of being able to communicate the arrangements for introducing the new Government. The times necessary to be fixed by Congress have been many days agreed on. The place of meeting has undergone many vicissitudes and is still as uncertain as ever. Philadelphia was first named by a member from Connecticut, and was negatived by the voice of one from Delaware, who wished to make an experiment for Wilmington. New York came next into view. Lancaster was opposed to it and failed. Baltimore was next tried and to the surprize of every one had seven votes, South Carolina joining the Southern States and Pennsylvania in the question. It was not difficult to foresee that such a vote could not stand. Accordingly the next day, New York carried it on a second trial, and at present fills the blank. Its success however was owing to Rhode Island whose Delegates have refused to vote on the final question and have actually gone home. There are not at present seven States for any place, and the result must depend (unless Rhode Island should return with instructions as is given out) on the comparative flexibility of the Northern and Southern delegations. In ordinary cases this would not augur well to the latter. In the existing one something may be hoped from the palpable unreasonableness of the pretensions of N. York, which has 17 Reps & 8 Senators on one side agst. 42 Reps. & 16 Senators on the other; which is not more than three hundred miles from the Eastern Extreme Metropolis; and not less than 4 times that distance from the Southern, and which has no reference at all to the accommodation of the Western Country. I am persuaded also that if the first position be taken here the second will not be taken on the Potowmac & that this consideration is among the motives of those who advocate N. York. Indeed I know the latter to be one of the motives.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
New York Augst 15 1788.
I have been duly favored with yours of the 3d. instant. The length of the interval since my last has proceeded from a daily expectation of being able to communicate the final arrangement for introducing the new Government. The place of meeting has undergone much discussion as you conjectured and still remains to be fixed. Philada was first named, & negatived by a voice from Delaware. N. York came forward next. Lancaster was opposed to it & failed. Baltimore was next tried and to the surprise of every one had seven votes. It was easy to see that that ground had it been free from objection was not maintainable, accordingly the next day N. York was inserted in the place of it with the aid of the vote of Rhode Island. Rhode Island has refused to give a final vote in the business and has actually retired from Congress. The question will now be resumed between N. York & Philada. It was much to be wished that a fit place for a respectable outset to the Govt. could be found more central than either. The former is inadmissible if any regard is to be had to the Southern or Western Country. It is so with me for another reason, that it tends to stop the final & permanent seat short of the Potowmac certainly, and probably in the State of N. Jersey. I know this to be one of the views of the Advocates for N. York. The only chance the Potowmac has is to get things in such a train that a coalition may take place between the Southern & Eastern States on the subject and still more than the final seat may be undecided for two or three years, within which period the Western & S Western population will enter more into the estimate. Wherever Congress may be, the choice if speedily made will not be sufficiently by that consideration. In this point of view I am of opinion Baltimore would have been unfriendly to the true object. It would have retained Congress but a moment, so many states being North of it, and dissatisfied with it, and would have produced a coalition among those States & a precipitate election of the permanent seat & an intermediate removal to a more northern position.
You will have seen the circular letter from the Convention of this State. It has a most pestilent tendency. If an early General Convention cannot be parried, it is seriously to be feared that the system which has resisted so many direct attacks may be at last successfully undermined by its enemies. It is now perhaps to be wished that Rho. Island may not accede till this new crisis of danger be over. Some think it would have been better if even N. York had held out till the operation of the Government could have dissipated the fears which artifice had created and the attempts resulting from those fears & artifices. We hear nothing yet from N. Carolina more than comes by way of Petersburg.
With highest respect & attachment
I remain Dr Sir your affecte Servt
TO JAMES MADISON.mad. mss.
N. York Aug 18, 88.
I have recd. your favor of the 9th inclosing a paper from Mr. Triplet. The case is stated so imperfectly that it is impossible for me to take any steps for bringing it before Congress if that should be proper. Mr R Morris I am told will be here soon, and I shall endeavor then to supply the omitted circumstances. In the mean time Mr Triplet may either make out a fuller statement & forward it or wait till he hears from me on the subject.
I have had no opportunity of doing any thing as to Anthony, since my last. John continues to decline. I think he is in a consumption, and will not stand it very long.
No late news of consequence has come from Europe. The war appears to be going on between the two imperial Courts & the Turks. And the affairs of France portend a serious struggle between the royal authority & the spirit of liberty.
We just learn the fate of the Constitution in N. Carolina. Rho Island is however her only associate in the opposition and it will be hard indeed if those two States should endanger a system which has been ratified by the eleven others. Congress have not yet finally settled the arrangements for putting the new Government in operation. The place for its first meeting excites the difficulty. The Eastern States with N. York contend for this City [illegible] of the other States unite on a more central position.
Tell my brother Ambrose if you please that he must draw on Mr Shepherd for the price of the Negro boy for the French Marchioness. On a second & more accurate examination of my papers I have found your loan office certificates. With affecte regards to the family I remain
TO EDMUND PENDLETON.chic. hist. soc. mss.
New York Aug. 22 88.
My dear friend
I have your favor of the 13th. The effect of Clinton’s circular letter in Virga. does not surprise me. It is a signal of concord and hope to the enemies of the Constitution every where, and will I fear prove extremely dangerous. Notwithstanding your remarks on the subject I cannot but think that an early convention will be an unavoided measure. It will evidently be the offspring of party & passion, and will probably for that reason alone be the parent of error and public injury. It is pretty clear that a majority of the people of the Union are in favor of the Constitution as it stands, or at least are not dissatisfied with it in pt. form; or if this be not the case it is at least clear that a greater proportion unite in that system than are likely to unite in any other theory. Should radical alterations take place therefore they will not result from the deliberate sense of the people, but will be obtained by management, or extorted by menaces, and will be a real sacrifice of the public will as well as of the public good, to the views of individuals & perhaps the ambition of the State Legislature.
Congress have come to no final decision as to the place for Convening the new Governt. It is unfortunate because a question now between N. & South, and notwithstanding the palpable unreasonableness of the thing, an adherence to N. York in preference to any more central position seems to grow stronger & stronger, and upon grounds which tend to keep Congress here till a permanent seat be established. In this point of view I own the business has a serious aspect, considering the injustice & oppression to the S. Western and Western parts of the Union.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
New York, Augst 23, 1788.
My last went via England, in the hands of a Swiss gentleman who had married an American lady, and was returning with her to his own Country. He proposed to take Paris in his way. By that opportunity I inclosed copies of the proceedings of this State on the subject of the Constitution.
North Carolina was then in Convention, and it was generally expected would in some form or other have fallen into the general stream. The event has disappointed us. It appears that a large majority has decided against the Constitution as it stands, and according to the information here received has made the alterations proposed by Virginia the conditions on which alone that State will unite with the others. Whether this be the precise state of the case I cannot say. It seems at least certain that she has either rejected the Constitution, or annexed conditions precedent to her ratification. It cannot be doubted that this bold step is to be ascribed in part to the influence of the minority in Virginia which lies mostly in the Southern part of the State, and to the management of its leader. It is in part ascribed also by some to assurances transmitted from leading individuals here, that New York would set the example of rejection. The event, whatever may have been its cause, with the tendency of the circular letter from the Convention of N. York, has somewhat changed the aspect of things and has given fresh hopes and exertions to those who opposed the Constitution. The object with them now will be to effect an early Convention composed of men who will essentially mutilate the system, particularly in the article of taxation, without which in my opinion the System cannot answer the purposes for which it was intended. An early Convention is in every view to be dreaded in the present temper of America. A very Short period of delay would produce the double advantage of diminishing the heat and increasing the light of all parties. A trial for one year will probably suggest more real amendments than all the antecedent speculations of our most sagacious politicians.
Congress have not yet decided on the arrangements for inaugurating the new Government. The place of its first meeting continues to divide the Northern and Southern members, though with a few exceptions to these general descriptions of the parties. The departure of Rho. Island and the refusal of N. Carolina in consequence of the late event there to vote in the question, threatens a disagreeable issue to the business, there being now an apparent impossibility of obtaining seven States for any one place. The three Eastern States & N. York, reinforced by S. Carolina, and as yet by N. Jersey, give a plurality of votes in favor of this City. The advocates for a more central position however though less numerous, seemed very determined not to yield to what they call a shameful partiality to one extremity of the Continent. It will be certainly of far more importance under the proposed than the present system that regard should be had to centrality whether we consider the number of members belonging to the Government, the diffusive manner in which they will be appointed, or the increased resort of individuals having business with the Legislative, Executive, & Judiciary departments.
If the Western Country be taken into view, as it certainly ought the reasoning is still further corroborated. There is good ground to believe that a very jealouseye will be kept in that quarter on inattention to it, and particularly when involving a seeming advantage to the eastern States, which have been rendered extremely suspicious and obnoxious by the Mississippi project. There is even good ground to believe that Spain is taking advantage of this disgust in kentucky, and is actually endeavoring to seduce them from the union, holding out a darling object which will never be obtained by them as part of the union. This is a fact as certain as it is important but which I hint in strict confidence, and with a request that no suspicion may be excited of its being known, particularly thro the channel of me. I have this moment notice that I must send off my letter instantly, or lose the conveyance. I must consequently defer further communications till another opportunity.
Along with this you will receive a copy of the report you desired from Mr. Thomson, and a copy of the Federalist, a publication mentioned in my last.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
New York, Augst 24, 1788.
I was yesterday favored with yours of the 17th, 18th, under the same cover with the papers from Mr. Pleasants. The circular letter from this State is certainly a matter of as much regret as the unanimity with which it passed is matter of surprize. I find it is every where, and particularly in Virginia laid hold of as the signal for united exertions in pursuit of early amendments. In Pennsylva, the antifederal leaders are I understand soon to have a meeting at Harrisburg, in order to concert proper arrangements on the part of that State. I begin now to accede to the opinion, which has been avowed for some time by many, that the circumstances involved in the ratification of New York will prove more injurious than a rejection would have done. The latter wd have rather alarmed the well meaning antifederalists elsewhere, would have had no ill effect on the other party, would have excited the indignation of the neighbouring States, and would have been necessarily followed by a speedy reconsideration of the subject. I am not able to account for the concurrence of the federal part of the Convention in the circular address, on any other principle than the determination to purchase an immediate ratification in any form or at any price, rather than disappoint this City of a chance for the new Congress. This solution is sufficiently justified by the eagerness displayed on this point, and the evident disposition to risk and sacrifice everything to it. Unfortunately the disagreeable question continues to be undecided, and is now in a state more perplexing than ever. By the last vote taken, the whole arrangement was thrown out, and the departure of Rho. Island & the refusal of N. Carolina to participate further in the business, has left eleven States only to take it up anew. In this number there are not seven States for any place, and the disposition to relax as usually happens, decreases with the progress of the contest. What and when the issue is to be is really more than I can foresee. It is truly mortifying that the outset of the new Government should be immediately preceded by such a display of locality, as portends the continuance of the evil which has dishonored the old and gives countenance to some of the most popular arguments which have been inculcated by the southern antifederalists.
New York has appeared to me extremely objectionable on the following grounds. It violates too palpably the simple and obvious principle that the seat of public business should be made as equally convenient to every part of the public, as the requisite accommodations for executing the business will permit. This consideration has the more weight, as well on account of the catholic spirit professed by the Constitution, as of the increased resort which it will require from every quarter of the continent. It seems to be particularly essential that an eye should be had in all our public arrangements to the accommodation of the Western Country, which, perhaps cannot be sufficiently gratified at any rate, but which might be furnished with new fuel to its jealousy by being summoned to the sea shore & almost at one end of the Continent. There are reasons, but of too confidential a nature for any other than verbal communication, which make it of critical importance that neither cause nor pretext should be given for distrusts in that quarter of the policy towards it in this. I have apprehended also that a preference so favorable to the Eastern States would be represented in the Southern as a decisive proof of the preponderance of that scale, and a justification of all the antifederal arguments drawn from that danger. Adding to all this, the recollection that the first year or two will produce all the great arrangements under the new system, and which may fix its tone for a long time to come, it seems of real importance that the temporary residence of the new Congress, apart from its relation to the final residence, should not be thrown too much towards one extremity of the Union. It may perhaps be the more necessary to guard agst suspicions of partiality in this case, as the early measures of the new Government, including a navigation Act will of course be most favorable to this extremity.
But I own that I am much influenced by a view to the final residence, which I conceive to be more likely to be properly chosen in Philada than in New York. The extreme excentricity of the latter will certainly in my opinion bring on a premature, and consequently an improper choice. This policy is avowed by some of the sticklers for this place, and is known to prevail with the bulk of them. People from the interior parts of Georgia, S. C., N. C., & Va & Kentucky will never patiently repeat their trips to this remote situation, especially as the Legislative Sessions will be held in the Winter Season. Should no other consequence take place than a frequent or early agitation of this contentious subject, it would form a strong objection agst N. York.
Were there reason to fear a repugnance to the establishment of a final seat, or a choice of a commercial City for the purpose, I should be strongly tempted to shun Philad at all events. But my only fear on the first head is of a precipitancy in carrying that part of the federal Constitution into effect, and on the second the public sentiment as well as other considerations is so fixedly opposed as to banish the danger from my apprehensions. Judging from my own experience on this subject. I conclude that from motives of one sort or another ten States at least, (that is, 5 from each end of the Union,) to say nothing of the Western States will at any proper time be ready to remove from Philada. The only difficulty that can arise will be that of agreeing on the place to be finally removed to and it is from that difficulty alone, and the delay incident to it, that I derive my hope in favor of the banks of the Potowmac. There are some other combinations on the subject into which the discussion of it has led me, but I have already troubled you with more I fear than may deserve your attention.
The Newspapers herewith inclosed contain the European intelligence brought by the last packets from England.
With every sentiment of esteem & attachment I remain Dear Sir, your Obedt & Affecte servt.
TO JAMES MADISON.mad. mss.
N. York Sepr. 6, 1788.
I forward this by the mail expecting it will be at Fredg. in time for Mr A Shepherd who left this a day or two ago. Nothing much of consequence has occurred since my last. The current intelligence you will find in the inclosed gazettes. The Antifederalists are everywhere exerting themselves for an early Convention. The circular letter from this State, and the rejection of N. Carolina, give them great spirits. Virginia, I suppose from the temper of the present Legislature will co-operate in the plan.
Congress have not yet settled the place for the meeting of the new Govt. It is most probable that the advocates for N. York who form at present the greater number, will prevail. In that case, altho. I think it a very unreasonable thing for the Southn & Western parts of the Union, the best face must be put on it.
I have not yet been able to determine whether Anthony is still in Philada. I am inclined to believe he is not. Indeed some circumstances wd. almost tempt me to think he never has been there. On this supposition John must have practiced a gross deception on us. He could have no motive for this unless it were a spite to Billey, which I fancy he entertained. But the deception could hardly promise a gratification that would prompt it. He is still very sick, and his recovery not very probable.
I find on enquiry that the loan office Certificates which I told you I had only mislaid, not lost, must go to N. Carolina for settlement. If an oppy offers I shall accordingly send them thither unless otherwise directed by you.—I have not yet seen Mr Morris & have therefore not been able to do any thing in the affair of Mr Triplets. Remember me affecty to my mother & the family and believe me yr dutiful son.
TO EDMUND PENDLETON.chic. hist. soc. mss.
New York, Sept. 14, 1788.
My dear Friend:
Your favor of the 3rd instant would have been acknowledged two days ago but for the approaching completion of the arrangement for the new Govt. which I wished to give you the earliest notice of. This subject has long employed Congs and has in its progress assumed a variety of shapes, some of them not a little perplexing. The times as finally settled are, Jany., for the choice of Electors, Feby. for the choice of a President, and March for the meeting of the Congress, the place, the present seat of the fedl. govt. The last point was carried by the yielding of the smaller to the inflexibility of the greater number. I have myself been ready for bringing it to this issue for some time, perceiving that further delay, could only discredit Congs and injure the object in view. Those who had opposed N. York along with me could not overcome their repugnance so soon. Maryland went away before the question was decided in a temper which I believe would never have yielded. Delaware was equally inflexible, previous to our final assent a motion was made which tendered a blank for any place the majority would choose between the North River and the Potowmac. This being rejected the alternative remaining was to agree to N. York or to strangle the Govt. in its birth. The former as the lesser evil was of course preferred and must now be made the best of. I acknowledge at the same time that I anticipate serious inconveniences from it. It will I fear be regarded as at once a proof of a preponderancy in the Eastern Scale, and of a disposition to profit of that advantage. It is but just however to remark that the event is in great degree to be charged on the Southn States which went into that scale. It will certainly entail the discussion on the new Governt. which ought if possible to be exempt from such an additional cause of ferment in its councils. N. York will never be patiently suffered to remain even the temporary seat of Govt by those who will be obliged to resort to it from the Western & Southn. parts of the Union. This temporary period must continue for several years, perhaps seven or eight, and within that period all the great business of the Union will be settled. I take it for granted that the first session will not pass without a renewal of the question, and that it will be attended with all the unpleasing circumstances which have just been experienced. In the last place, I consider the decision in favor of N. York as in a manner fatal to the just pretensions of the Potowmac to the permanent seat of the Govt. This is unquestionably the light in which many of the advocates for N. York view the matter. The Legislature of N. Jersey which lately met approved of the part taken by her delegates on the principle that the first meeting of the Govt. at N. York would give the best possible chance for an early choice of the permanent seat, as this would do for a preference of Trenton. As the case now stands, the Susquehanna is probably the most that can be hoped for with no small danger of being stopped on the Delaware. Had any place South of the Delaware been obtained the Susquehannah at least would have been secured with a favorable chance for the Potowmac.
The result of the meeting at Harrisburg is I am told in the press & will of course be soon before the public. I am not acquainted with the particulars, or indeed with the general complexion of it. It has been said here that the meeting was so thin as to disappoint much the patrons of the scheme.
I am glad to hear that Mazzei’s book is likely to be vendible. The copies allotted for this and several other markets will not I fear be so fortunate.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
New York, Septr 21, 1788.
Being informed of a circuitous opportunity to France I make use of it to forward the inclosures. By one of them you will find that Congress have been at length brought into the true policy which is demanded by the situation of the Western Country. An additional resolution on the secretjournal puts an end to all negociation with Spain, referring the subject of a treaty, after this assertion of right to the Mississippi, to the new government. The communication in my last will have shewn you the crisis of things in that quarter, a crisis however not particularly known to Congress, and will be a key to some of the Kentucky toasts in the Virga Gazette.
The Circular letter from the New York Convention has rekindled an ardor among the opponents of the federal Constitution for an immediate revision of it by another General Convention. You will find in one of the papers inclosed the result of the consultations in Pennsylvania on that subject. Mr. Henry and his friends in Virginia enter with great zeal into the scheme. Governor Randolph also espouses it; but with a wish to prevent if possible danger to the article which extends the power of the Government to internal as well as external taxation. It is observable that the views of the Pennsylva meeting do not rhyme very well with those of the Southern advocates for a Convention; the objects most eagerly pursued by the latter being unnoticed in the Harrisburg proceedings. The effect of the circular letter on other States is less known. I conclude that it will be the same everywhere among those who opposed the Constitution, or contended for a conditional ratification of it. Whether an early Convention will be the result of this united effort, is more than can at this moment be foretold. The measure will certainly be industriously opposed in some parts of the Union, not only by those who wish for no alterations, but by others who would prefer the other mode provided in the Constitution, as most expedient at present, for introducing those supplemental safeguards to liberty agst which no objections can be raised; and who would moreover approve of a Convention for amending the frame of the Government itself, as soon as time shall have somewhat corrected the feverish state of the public mind, and trial have pointed its attention to the true defects of the system.
You will find also by one of the papers inclosed that the arrangements have been compleated for bringing the new Government into action. The dispute concerning the place of its meeting was the principal cause of delay, the Eastern States with N. Jersey & S. Carolina being attached to N. York, and the others strenuous for a more central position. Philadelphia, Wilmington, Lancaster & Baltimore were successively tendered without effect by the latter, before they finally yielded to the superiority of members in favor of this City. I am afraid the decision will give a great handle to the Southern Antifederalists who have inculcated a jealousy of this end of the Continent. It is to be regretted also as entailing this pernicious question on the New Congs, who will have enough to do in adjusting the other delicate matters submitted to them. Another consideration of great weight with me is that the temporary residence here will probably end in a permanent one at Trenton, or at the farthest on the Susquehannah. A removal in the first instance beyond the Delaware would have removed the alternative to the Susquehannah and the Potowmac. The best chance of the latter depends on a delay of the permanent establishment for a few years, untill the Western and South Western population comes more into view. This delay cannot take place if so excentric a place as N. York is to be the intermediate seat of business.
To the other papers is added a little pamphlet on the Mohegan language. The observations deserve the more attention as they are made by a man of known learning and character, and may aid researches into the primitive structure of language, as well as those on foot for comparing the American tribes with those on the Eastern frontier of the other continent.
In consequence of your letter to Mr. Jay on the subject of “outfit” &c., I had a conference with him, and he agreed to suggest the matter to Congress. This was done and his letter referred back to be reported on. The idea between us was that the reference should be toa Committee his letter coming in at a moment when I happened to be out it was as in course referred to his department. His answer suggested that as he might be thought eventually concerned in the question, it was most proper for the consideration of a committee. I had discovered that he was not struck with the peculiarities of your case even when insinuated to him. How far the committee will be so is more than I can yet say. In general I have no doubt that both it and Congress are well disposed. But it is probable that the idea of a precedent will beget much caution and what is worse there is little probability of again having a quorum of States for the business.
I learn from Virginia that our crops both of corn & Tobacco (except in the lower Country where a storm has been hurtful) are likely to be very good. The latter has suffered in some degree from superflous rains, but the former has been proportionally benefited. Accept my most fervent wishes for your happiness.
TO PHILIP MAZZEI
New York Octr. 8th. 1788.
I have been favored with several letters from you since the date of my last; but some of them having been recd in Virginia I am not able now to acknowledge all of them by their respective dates. The date of the last was in May.
You ask me why I agreed to the constitution proposed by the Convention of Philada. I answer because I thought it safe to the liberties of the people, and the best that could be obtained from the jarring interests of States, and the miscellaneous opinions of Politicians; and because experience has proved that the real danger to America & to liberty lies in the defect of energy & stability in the present establishments of the United States.—Had you been a member of that assembly and been impressed with the truths which our situation discloses, you would have concurred in the necessity which was felt by the other members. In your closet at Paris and with the evils resulting from too much Government all over Europe fully in your view it is natural for you to run into criticisms dictated by an extreme on that side. Perhaps in your situation I should think and feel as you do. In mine I am sure you would think and feel as I do.
To the paragraph in your letter of the 9th. of May on the subject of a mission to Holland or Italy, I can say nothing more than that it is a business which belongs now to the new Govt. or if I were to say more my friendship would guard you agst. any reliance on such an event. In the first place nothing can be more uncertain than the nature of the system which will be adopted with regard to foreign affairs. And in the next place activity is a sort of merit which prejudice rates too high to be outweighed by any other sort of merit. The Americans are an enlightened and liberal people, compared with other nations, but they are not all philosophers. I have recd the copies of your book and have taken the measures proper for disposing of them. The number allowed to Virginia are selling there I am told very well. I am afraid the other portions will not be equally successful. The French language is the greater obstacle as many who can read it expect the work will be translated into a language they can read still better.
Derliman tells he means to remit you forthwith via London about £300 Sterling. If he does, and I flatter myself he will not fail, it will pass thro’ the hands of Mr. Jefferson. His affairs here do not produce ready means but I hope you will be ultimately secured agst. loss.
Are we ever to see you again in America? Here or elsewhere God bless you.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
New York, Ocr 17, 1788.
I have written a number of letters to you since my return here, and shall add this by another casual opportunity just notified to me by Mr. St. John. Your favor of July 31 came to hand the day before yesterday. The pamphlets of the Marquis Condorcet & Mr. Dupont referred to in it have also been received. Your other letters inclosed to the Delegation have been and will be disposed of as you wish; particularly those to Mr Eppes & Col. Lewis.
Nothing has been done on the subject of the outfit, there not having been a Congress of nine States for some time, nor even of seven for the last week. It is pretty certain that there will not again be a quorum of either number within the present year, and by no means certain that there will be one at all under the old Confederation. The Committee finding that nothing could be done have neglected to make a report as yet. I have spoken with a member of it in order to get one made, that the case may fall of course and in a favorable shape within the attention of the New Government. The fear of a precedent will probably lead to an allowance for a limited time of the salary,as enjoyed originally by foreign ministers, in preference to a separate allowance for outfit. One of the members of the treasury board, who ought, if certain facts have not escaped his memory, to witness the reasonableness of your calculations, takes occasion I find to impress a contrary idea. Fortunately his influence will not be a very formidable obstacle to right.
The States which have adopted the New Constitution are all proceeding to the arrangements for putting it into action in March next. Pennsylva. alone has as yet actually appointed deputies & that only for the Senate. My last mention that these were Mr. R. Morris & a Mr. McClay. How the other elections there & elsewhere will run is matter of uncertainty. The Presidency alone unites the conjectures of the public. The vice president is not at all marked out by the general voice. As the President will be from a Southern State, it falls almost of course for the other part of the Continent to supply the next in rank. South Carolina may however think of Mr. Rutledge unless it should be previously discovered that votes will be wasted on him. The only candidates in the Northern States brought forward with their known consent are Handcockand Adams, and between these it seems probable the question will lie. Both of them are objectionable & would I think be postponed by the general suffrage to several others if they would accept the place. Handcock is weak ambitious a courtier of popularity, given to low intrigue, and lately reunited by a factious friendship with S. Adams. J. Adams has made himself obnoxious to many, particularly in the Southern States by the political principles avowed in his book. Others recollecting his cabal during the war against general Washington, knowing his extravagant self-importance, and considering his preference of an unprofitable dignity to some place of emolument better adapted to private fortune as a proof of his having an eye to the presidency, conclude that he would not be a very cordial second to the General, and that an impatient ambition might even intrigue for a premature advancement. The danger would be the greater if particular factious characters, as may be the case, should get into the public councils. Adams it appears, is not unaware of some of the obstacles to his wish, and thro a letterto Smith has thrown out popular sentiments as to the proposed president.
The little pamphlet herewith inclosed will give you a collective view of the alterations which have been proposed for the new Constitution. Various and numerous as they appear they certainly omit many of the true grounds of opposition. The articles relating to Treaties, to paper money, and to contracts, created more enemies than all the errors in the System positive & negative put together. It is true nevertheless that not a few, particularly in Virginia have contended for the proposed alterations from the most honorable & patriotic motives; and that among the advocates for the Constitution there are some who wish for further guards to public liberty & individual rights. As far as these may consist of a constitutional declaration of the most essential rights, it is probable they will be added; though there are many who think such addition unnecessary, and not a few who think it misplaced in such a Constitution. There is scarce any point on which the party in opposition is so much divided as to its importance and its propriety. My own opinion has always been in favor of a bill of rights; provided it be so framed as not to imply powers not meant to be included in the enumeration. At the same time I have never thought the omission a material defect, nor been anxious to supply it even by subsequent amendment, for any other reason than that it is anxiously desired by others. I have favored it because I supposed it might be of use, and if properly executed could not be of disservice. I have not viewed it in an important light—1. because I conceive that in a certain degree, though not in the extent argued by Mr. Wilson, the rights in question are reserved by the manner in which the federal powers are granted. 2 because there is great reason to fear that a positive declaration of some of the most essential rights could not be obtained in the requisite latitude. I am sure that the rights of conscience in particular, if submitted to public definition would be narrowed much more than they are likely ever to be by an assumed power. One of the objections in New England was that the Constitution by prohibiting religious tests, opened a door for Jews Turks & infidels. 3. because the limited powers of the federal Government and the jealousy of the subordinate Governments, afford a security which has not existed in the case of the State Governments, and exists in no other. 4. because experience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights on those occasions when its controul is most needed. Repeated violations of these parchment barriers have been committed by overbearing majorities in every State. In Virginia I have seen the bill of rights violated in every instance where it has been opposed to a popular current. Notwithstanding the explicit provision contained in that instrument for the rights of Conscience, it is well known that a religious establishment wd have taken place in that State, if the Legislative majority had found as they expected, a majority of the people in favor of the measure; and I am persuaded that if a majority of the people were now of one sect, the measure would still take place and on narrower ground than was then proposed, notwithstanding the additional obstacle which the law has since created. Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents. This is a truth of great importance, but not yet sufficiently attended to; and is probably more strongly impressed on my mind by facts, and reflections suggested by them, than on yours which has contemplated abuses of power issuing from a very different quarter. Whereever there is an interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done, and not less readily by a powerful & interested party than by a powerful and interested prince. The difference so far as it relates to the superiority of republics over monarchies, lies in the less degree of probability that interest may prompt more abuses of power in the former than in the latter; and in the security in the former agst an oppression of more than the smaller part of the Society, whereas in the former [latter] it may be extended in a manner to the whole. The difference so far as it relates to the point in question—the efficacy of a bill of rights in controuling abuses of power—lies in this: that in a monarchy the latent force of the nation is superior to that of the Sovereign, and a solemn charter of popular rights must have a great effect, as a standard for trying the validity of public acts, and a signal for rousing & uniting the superior force of the community; whereas in a popular Government, the political and physical power may be considered as vested in the same hands, that is in a majority of the people, and, consequently the tyrannical will of the Sovereign is not [to] be controuled by the dread of an appeal to any other force within the community. What use then it may be asked can a bill of rights serve in popular Governments? I answer the two following which, though less essential than in other Governments, sufficiently recommend the precaution: 1. The political truths declared in that solemn manner acquire by degrees the character of fundamental maxims of free Government, and as they become incorporated with the national sentiment, counteract the impulses of interest and passion. 2. Altho. it be generally true as above stated that the danger of oppression lies in the interested majorities of the people rather than in usurped acts of the Government, yet there may be occasions on which the evil may spring from the latter source; and on such, a bill of rights will be a good ground for an appeal to the sense of the community. Perhaps too there may be a certain degree of danger, that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers may by gradual & well timed advances, finally erect an independent Government on the subversion of liberty. Should this danger exist at all, it is prudent to guard agst it, especially when the precaution can do no injury. At the same time I must own that I see no tendency in our Governments to danger on that side. It has been remarked that there is a tendency in all Governments to an augmentation of power at the expence of liberty. But the remark as usually understood does not appear to me well founded. Power when it has attained a certain degree of energy and independence goes on generally to further degrees. But when below that degree, the direct tendency is to further degrees of relaxation, until the abuses of liberty beget a sudden transition to an undue degree of power. With this explanation the remark may be true; and in the latter sense only is it, in my opinion applicable to the Governments in America. It is a melancholy reflection that liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the Government have too much or too little power, and that the line which divides these extremes should be so inaccurately defined by experience.
Supposing a bill of rights to be proper the articles which ought to compose it, admit of much discussion. I am inclined to think that absolute restrictions in cases that are doubtful, or where emergencies may overrule them, ought to be avoided. The restrictions however strongly marked on paper will never be regarded when opposed to the decided sense of the public, and after repeated violations in extraordinary cases they will lose even their ordinary efficacy. Should a Rebellion or insurrection alarm the people as well as the Government, and a suspension of the Hab. Corp. be dictated by the alarm, no written prohibitions on earth would prevent the measure. Should an army in time of peace be gradually established in our neighborhood by Britn. or Spain, declarations on paper would have as little effect in preventing a standing force for the public safety. The best security agst these evils is to remove the pretext for them. With regard to Monopolies, they are justly classed among the greatest nuisances in Government. But is it clear that as encouragements to literary works and ingenious discoveries, they are not too valuable to be wholly renounced? Would it not suffice to reserve in all cases a right to the public to abolish the privilege at a price to be specified in the grant of it? Is there not also infinitely less danger of this abuse in our Governments than in most others? Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few. Where the power is in the few it is natural for them to sacrifice the many to their own partialities and corruptions. Where the power as with us is in the many not in the few the danger cannot be very great that the few will be thus favored. It is much more to be dreaded that the few will be unnecessarily sacrificed to the many.
I inclose a paper containing the late proceedings in Kentucky. I wish the ensuing Convention may take no step injurious to the character of the district, and favorable to the views of those who wish ill to the U. States. One of my late letters communicated some circumstances which will not fail to occur on perusing the objects of the proposed Convention in next month. Perhaps however there may be less connection between the two cases than at first one is ready to conjecture.
I am, Dr sir with the sincerest esteem & affectn,
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.chic. hist. soc. mss.
New York, October 17, 1788.
I have a letter from Mazzei & one from Mr. Jefferson which you will be good enough to dispose of. I have one from the former in which he begs me to add my importunities to you and Mr. Blair for speedy succour if possible. I have one from the latter but it contains nothing of much consequence. His public letters to which it refers have not yet been communicated from the office of Foreign Affairs. Through other authentic channels I learn that the States General will pretty certainly be convened in May next. The efficacy of that cure for the public maladies will depend materially on the mode in which the deputies may be selected, which appears to be not yet settled. There is good reason also to presume, that, as the spirit which at present agitates the nation has been in a great measure caught from the American Revolution, so the result of the struggle there will be not a little affected by the character which liberty may receive from the experiment now on foot here. The tranquil and successful establishment of a great reform by the reason of the community, must give as much force to the doctrines urged on one side as a contrary event would do to the policy maintained on the other.
As Col. Carrington will be with you before this gets to hand, I leave it with him to detail all matters of a date previous to his departure. Of a subsequent date I recollect nothing worth adding. I requested him also to confer with you in full confidence on the appointments to the Senate and House of Representatives, so far as my friends may consider me in relation to either. He is fully possessed of my real sentiments, and will explain them more conveniently than can be done on paper. I mean not to decline an agency in launching the new Government if such should be assigned me in one of the Houses, and I prefer the House of Representatives, chiefly because, if I can render any service there, it can only be to the public, and, not even in imputation, to myself. At the same time my preference, I own, is somewhat founded on the supposition that the arrangements for the popular elections may secure me against any competition which would require on my part any step that would speak a solicitude which I do not feel, or have the appearance of a spirit of electioneering which I despise.
I am led not only by a want of matter but by a cut I have just given my thumb and which makes writing tedious and disagreeable to conclude, with assurances of affection I am &c.
TO EDMUND PENDLETON.mad. mss.
New York, Octr 20th, 1788.
I acknowledge with much pleasure your favor of the 6th instant. The “balmy” nature of the resolutions concerning the Mississippi will I hope have the effect you suggest; though the wounds given to some & the pretexts given to others by the proceedings which rendered them necessary, will not I fear be radically removed. The light in which the temporary seat of the new Government is viewed & represented by those who were governed by antecedent jealousies of this end of the Union, is a natural one, and the apprehension of it was among the most persuasive reasons with me for contending with some earnestness for a less eccentric position. A certain degree of impartiality or the appearance of it, is necessary in the most despotic Governments. In republics this may be considered as the vital principle of the Administration. And in a federal Republic founded on local distinctions involving local jealousies, it ought to be attended to with a still more scrupulous exactness.
I am glad to find you concurring in the requisite expedients for preventing anti federal elections, and a premature Convention. The circular letter from this State has united and animated the efforts on the adverse side with respect to both these points. An early Convention threatens discord and mischief. It will be composed of the most heterogeneous characters—will be actuated by the party spirit reigning among their constituents—will comprehend men having insidious designs agst the Union—and can scarcely therefore terminate in harmony or the public good. Let the enemies to the System wait until some experience shall have taken place, and the business will be conducted with more light as well as with less heat. In the mean time the other mode of amendments may safely be employed to quiet the fears of many by supplying those further guards for private rights which can do no harm to the system in the judgment even of its most partial friends, and will even be approved by others who have steadily supported it.
It appears from late foreign intelligence that war is likely to spread its flames still farther among the unfortunate inhabitants of the old world. France is certainly enough occupied already with her internal fermentations. At present the struggle is merely between the Aristocracy and the Monarchy. The only chance in favor of the people lies in the mutual attempts of the Competitors to make their side of the question the popular one. The late measures of the Court have that tendency. The nobility and Clergy who wish to accelerate the States General wish at the same time to have it formed on the antient model established on the feudal idea, which excluded the people almost altogether. The Court has at length agreed to convene this assembly in May, but is endeavouring to counteract the aristocratic policy, by admitting the people to a greater share of representation. In both the parties there are some real friends to liberty who will probably take advantage of circumstances to promote their object. Of this description on the anti court side is our friend the Marquis. It is not true I believe that he is in the Bastile but true that he is in disgrace, as the phrase there is.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
N. York, Ocr 21, 1788.
I send you the enclosed paper chiefly for the sake of the Edict which fixes on May for the meeting of the States general in France. Letters from Mr. Jefferson authenticate the document. They mention also the disgrace as it is called of the Marquis. The struggle at present in that Kingdom seems to be entirely between the Monarchy & aristocracy, and the hopes of the people merely in the competition of their enemies for their favor. It is probable however that both the parties contain real friends to liberty who will make events subservient to their object.
The Count Moustier and the Marchioness Brehan are to set out this day for Mount Vernon. I take it for granted you are not only apprised of the intended visit, but of the time at which the guests may be expected.
The State of Connecticut has made choice of Docr. Johnson and Mr. Elsworth for its Senators, and has referred that of its representatives to the people at large, every individual citizen to vote for every Representative.
I have not heretofore acknowledged your last favor, nothing material having turned up for some time, and the purpose of Col. Carrington to see you on his way to Virginia superseding all the ordinary communications through the epistolary channel. It gives me much pleasure to find that both the opposition at first and finally the accession to the vote fixing N. York for the first meeting of the New Congress has your approbation. My fears that the measure would be made a handle of by the opposition are confirmed in some degree by my late information from Virga. Mr. Pendleton the Chancellor tells me he has already met taunts from that quarter on this specimen of Eastern equity & impartiality. Whether much noise will be made will depend on the policy which Mr. Henry may find it convenient to adopt. As N. York is at the head of his party, he may be induced by that circumstance not to make irritating reflections; though the fact is that the party in this [State] which is with him is supposed to be indifferent & even secretly averse to the residence of Congress here. This however may not be known to him.
I am Dear Sir Yours most respectfully & Affectely.
QUESTIONS FROM AND ANSWERS TO THE COUNT DE MOUSTIER, MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY OF FRANCE, OCTOBER 30, 1788.mad. mss.
1. Quelle est l’opinion des habitans les plus instruits de la Virginie, sur le contrat de la ferme avec Mons. Rob. Morris et quel est le système qu’ils voudroient y substituer?1. It is not easy to give a precise answer to this question, many of the best informed not having been led to communicate their opinions, and others having been directly or indirectly interested on one side or the other. It seems to have been rather the prevailing opinion that the Contract was more hurtful to the price of Tobacco, than a supply of the Farmer Genl by purchases made in the English or other Foreign Markets. This opinion must be founded on a supposition that the mercantile sellers in Europe could more easily combine and counteract the monopoly than the Planters of America. It does not appear that those who dislike ye contract have particularly turned yr thoughts to a system proper to be substituted. The general idea seems to have been that some arrangement in France disarming the monopoly there of its influence direct or indirect on the market here could alone effectually answer the purpose.
2. Ne pourrions nous pas fournir à très bon marché le gros lainage pour l’habillement des nègres?2. The manufacture of this article being extremely simple & easily accommodated to the use the event of a competition must depend on the comparative price of the material. The cloathing of Negroes is made of the coarsest materials. It is at present supplied in part by family manufacture, especially where a few negroes only belong to the same master, and this resource is daily increasing. Principal part however comes from G. Britain and if no foreign competition interferes this must be the case for a considerable time.
3. Quels sont en général les objects de commerce, dont il pourroit être interessant d’encourager l’importation soit en France, soit aux Antilles?3. Virginia produces Tobacco Wheat, Indian Corn, Lumber, salt provisions, coal, Iron, Hemp, tar, pitch turpentine, flax-seed. Ship-building can be carried on also advantageously. It is the interest of Virginia to find encouragement for all these articles; and of France to give encouragement so far at least as she does not herself produce them. Tobacco naval stores, ready-built Vessels, flax-seed, and occasionally wheat and flour also, are wanted in France. Flour Bread, Indian Corn, salt provisions, lumber and ready-built vessels of inferior size, are adapted to the wants of the Islands.
4. Quelles sont d’un autre côté les marchandizes du Royaume ou des Isles dont les Virginiens paroissent avoir le plus grand besoin?4. As Virginia does not manufacture, and consumes less or more of a very great variety of articles, she may be considered as wanting most of the French Manufactures recommended by their quality and price. At present, the coarser woolens of France are inferior to those of Britain, and her coarser linens to those of Germany. In the articles of hardware & leather, the English have also greatly the advantage. Wines, brandies, oil, Fruits,—silks, cambricks, Lawns, printed goods, Glass, Kid gloves, ribbons, superfine broadcloaths &c are articles which may be best obtained from France. The goods imported as valued at the ports of delivery, between Sepr 1, ’86, & July 20, ’87, amounted to 949.444.00-7, excluding Salt, distilled spirits, wine, malt liquors, Cheese, Tea, Sugar, Coffee. These paid a duty ad quantitatem, & therefore the value does not appear. It need not be remarked that in all cases the entries subject to duty fall short of ye truth. The productions of the Islands most wanted in Virginia are Sugar & Coffee. Between Sepr 1, ’86, & July 20, ’87, were entered 2,126,673lbs Sugar, & 147,591 of Coffee. Molasses also is wanted; and Taffia perhaps, in a small degree. Cotton is raised in Virginia as far as it is needed for domestic manufacture.
5. Est-il vraisemblable que les eaux de vie de France fassent tomber entièrement le Rum des Isles? A quoi peut se monter la consommation annuelle des vins de France en Virginie?5. It would be very difficult for brandy entirely to supplant Rum. A moderate preference however would soon make it a formidable rival. The small encouragement hitherto given to brandy has had a very sensible effect in promoting the use of it, and as antecedent habits become weakened the use will spread of itself. The brandies (doubtless from France with very trifling exceptions) entered on the Custom House books between Sept. 1, 86, & July 20, 87, amounted to 10,630 Gallons; and it is conjectured that the direct importations not entered with the considerable quantity introduced by the way of Maryland where the duty has been lower, may amount to half as much. The rum entered within that period amounted to 499,083 Gallons the Gin to 9102½ Gals; & the cordials & other spirits to 4,169½ Gals.
The Wines entered within the above periods amounted to 109,948 Gals, on which quantity abt 40,000 Gals were French.6. Se sert-on beaucoup du sel de France pour les salaisons et que faut-il faire pour en rendre l’usage plus commun?
6. French Salt is little if at all used in Virginia. The eye is displeased at its colour, and the supposition is favored by that circumstance that it is dirty and inferior to the British & other white Salt. The objection suggests the means of rendering the use more common.7. La Virge commence-t-elle à exporter elle même ses denrées et quelle est la proportion de sa navigation avec celle des autres nations pour le transport des Tabacs et autres articles?
7. of the Vessels entered between the above dates—The American amounted to 26,705 tons The British & those of other nations not in alliance, 26,903 The French & those of other nations in alliance 2,664. The law having required no other discriminations, the Custom House books do not furnish a more particular answer.
8. The answer to this important question ought to be the result of much information as well as consideration. At present Mr. M. is not prepared with such an one. Whenever he shall have formed an opinion on the subject which he thinks worth the attention of Ct. M. it shall be communicated.8. Comme les Americains desirent beaucoup d’obtenir de nouvelles faveurs dans nos Antilles, que pourroient-ils proposer pour faciliter un arrangement de cette nature sans trop préjudicier aux avantages que la France ne cesse de tirer de ses Colonies?
OBSERVATIONS ON THE “DRAUGHT OF A CONSTITUTION FOR VIRGINIA.”mad. mss.
Senate.The term of two years is too short. Six years are not more than sufficient. A Senate is to withstand the occasional impetuosities of the more numerous branch. The members ought therefore to derive a firmness from the tenure of their places. It ought to supply the defect of knowledge and experience incident to the other branch, there ought to be time given therefore for attaining the qualifications necessary for that purpose. It ought finally to maintain that system and steadiness in public affairs without which no Government can prosper or be respectable. This cannot be done by a body undergoing a frequent change of its members. A Senate for six years will not be dangerous to liberty, on the contrary it will be one of its best guardians. By correcting the infirmities of popular Government, it will prevent that disgust agst that form which may otherwise produce a sudden transition to some very different one. It is no secret to any attentive & dispassionate observer of ye pol: situation of ye U. S., that the real danger to republican liberty has lurked in that cause.
The appointment of Senators by districts seems to be objectionable. A spirit of locality is inseparable from that mode. The evil is fully displayed in the County representations, the members of which are everywhere observed to lose sight of the aggregate interests of the Community, and even to sacrifice them to the interests or prejudices of their respective constituents. In general these local interests are miscalculated. But it is not impossible for a measure to be accommodated to the particular interests of every County or district, when considered by itself, and not so, when considered in relation to each other and to the whole State; in the same manner as the interests of individuals may be very different in a state of nature and in a Political union. The most effectual remedy for the local bias is to impress on the minds of the Senators an attention to the interest of the whole Society, by making them the choice of the whole Society, each citizen voting for every Senator. The objection here is that the fittest characters would not be sufficiently known to the people at large. But in free governments, merit and notoriety of character are rarely separated, and such a regulation would connect them more and more together. Should this mode of election be on the whole not approved, that established in Maryland presents a valuable alternative. The latter affords perhaps a greater security for the selection of merit. The inconveniences chargeable on it are two: first that the Council of electors favors cabal. Against this the shortness of its existence is a good antidote, secondly that in a large State the meeting of the Electors must be expensive if they be paid, or badly attended if the service is onerous. To this it may be answered that in a case of such vast importance, the expence, which could not be great, ought to be disregarded. Whichever of these modes may be preferred, it cannot be amiss so far to admit the plan of districts as to restrain the choice to persons residing in different parts of the State. Such a regulation will produce a diffusive confidence in the Body, which is not less necessary than the other means of rendering it useful. In a State having large towns which can easily unite their votes the precaution would be essential to an immediate choice by the people at large. In Maryland no regard is paid to residence. And what is remarkable vacancies are filled by the Senate itself. This last is an obnoxious expedient and cannot in any point of view have much effect. It was probably meant to obviate the trouble of occasional meetings of the Electors. But the purpose might have been otherwise answered by allowing the unsuccessful candidates to supply vacancies according to the order of their standing on the list of votes, or by requiring provisional appointments to be made along with the positive ones. If an election by districts be unavoidable and the ideas here suggested be sound, the evil will be diminished in proportion to the extent given to the districts, taking two or more Senators from each district.
Electors.The first question arising here is how far property ought to be made a qualification. There is a middle way to be taken which corresponds at once with the Theory of free Government and the lessons of experience. A freehold or equivalent of a certain value may be annexed to ye right of voting for Senators, & ye right left more at large in ye election of the other House. Examples of this distinction may be found in the Constitutions of several States particularly if I mistake not, of North Carolina & N. York. This middle mode reconciles and secures the two cardinal objects of Government; the rights of persons, and the rights of property. The former will be sufficiently guarded by one branch, the latter more particularly by the other. Give all power to property, and ye indigent will be oppressed. Give it to the latter and the effect may be transposed. Give a defensive share to each and each will be secure. The necessity of thus guarding the rights of property was for obvious reasons unattended to in the commencement of the Revolution. In all the Governments which were considered as beacons to republican Patriots & lawgivers the rights of persons were subjected to those of property. The poor were sacrificed to the rich. In the existing state of American population & American property the two classes of rights were so little discriminated that a provision for the rights of persons was supposed to include of itself those of property, and it was natural to infer from the tendency of republican laws, that these different interests would be more and more identified. Experience and investigation have however produced more correct ideas on this subject. It is now observed that in all populous countries, the smaller part only can be interested in preserving the rights of property. It must be foreseen that America, and Kentucky itself will by degrees arrive at this stage of Society that in some parts of y Union a very great advance is already made towards it. It is well understood that interest leads to injustice as well where the opportunity is presented to bodies of men as to individuals; to an interested majority in a Republic, as to the interested minority in any other form of Government. The time to guard agst this danger is at the first forming of the Constitution, and in the present state of population when the bulk of the people have a sufficient interest in possession or in prospect to be attached to the rights of property, without being insufficiently attached to the rights of persons. Liberty not less than justice pleads for the policy here recommended. If all power be suffered to slide into hands not interested in the rights of property which must be the case whenever a majority fall under that description, one of two things cannot fail to happen; either they will unite against the other description and become the dupes & instruments of ambition, or their poverty & dependence will render them the mercenary instruments of wealth. In either case liberty will be subverted: in the first by a despotism growing out of anarchy, in the second, by an oligarchy founded on corruption.
The second question under this head is whether the ballot be not a better mode than that of voting viva voce. The comparative experience of the States pursuing the different modes is in favor of the first. It is found less difficult to guard against fraud in that than against bribery in the other.
Exclusions.Does not The exclusion of Ministers of the Gospel as such violate a fundamental principle of liberty by punishing a religious profession with the privation of a civil right? does it [not] violate another article of the plan itself which exempts religion from the cognizance of Civil power? does it not violate justice by at once taking away a right and prohibiting a compensation for it? does it not in fine violate impartiality by shutting the door agst the Ministers of one Religion and leaving it open for those of every other.
The re-eligibility of members after accepting offices of profit is so much opposed to the present way of thinking in America that any discussion of the subject would probably be a waste of time.
Limits of power.It is at least questionable whether death ought to be confined to “Treason and murder.” It would not therefore be prudent to tie the hands of Government in the manner here proposed. The prohibition of pardon, however specious in theory would have practical consequences which render it inadmissible. A single instance is a sufficient proof. The crime of treason is generally shared by a number, and often a very great number. It would be politically if not morally wrong to take away the lives of all even if every individual were equally guilty. What name would be given to a severity which made no distinction between the legal & the moral offence—between the deluded multitude and their wicked leaders. A second trial would not avoid the difficulty; because the oaths of the jury would not permit them to hearken to any voice but the inexorable voice of the law.
The power of the Legislature to appoint any other than their own officers departs too far from the Theory which requires a separation of the great Depts of Government. One of the best securities against the creation of unnecessary offices or tyrannical powers is an exclusion of the authors from all share in filling the one, or influence in the execution of the other. The proper mode of appointing to offices will fall under another head.
Executive Governour.An election by the Legislature is liable to insuperable objections. It not only tends to faction intrigue and corruption, but leaves the Executive under the influence of an improper obligation to that department. An election by the people at large, as in this & several other States—or by Electors as in the appointment of the Senate in Maryland, or, indeed, by the people through any other channel than their legislative representatives, seems to be far preferable. The ineligibility a second time, though not perhaps without advantages, is also liable to a variety of strong objections. It takes away one powerful motive to a faithful & useful administration, the desire of acquiring that title to a reappointment. By rendering a periodical change of men necessary, it discourages beneficial undertakings which require perseverance and system, or, as frequently happened in the Roman Consulate, either precipitates or prevents the execution of them. It may inspire desperate enterprises for the attainment of what is not attainable by legitimate means. It fetters the judgment and inclination of the Community; and in critical moments would either produce a violation of the Constitution or exclude a choice [which] might be essential to the public safety. Add to the whole, that by putting the Executive Magistrate in the situation of the tenant of an unrenewable lease, it would tempt him to neglect the constitutional rights of his department, and to connive at usurpations by the Legislative department, with which he may connect his future ambition or interest.
The clause restraining the first magistrate from the immediate command of the military force would be made better by excepting cases in which he should receive the sanction of the two branches of the Legislature.
Council of State.The following variations are suggested. 1. The election to be made by the people immediately, or thro’ some other medium than the Legislature. 2. A distributive choice should perhaps be secured as in the case of the Senate. 3. Instead of an ineligibility a second time, a rotation in the federal Senate, with an abridgmt of the term, to be substituted.
The appointment to offices is, of all the functions of Republican & perhaps every other form of Government, the most difficult to guard against abuse. Give it to a numerous body, and you at once destroy all responsibility, and create a perpetual source of faction and corruption. Give it to the Executive wholly, and it may be made an engine of improper influence and favoritism. Suppose the power were divided thus: let the Executive alone make all the subordinate appointments, and the Govr and Senate, as in the Fedl Constn, those of the superior order. It seems particularly fit that the Judges, who are to form a distinct department should owe their offices partly to each of the other departments, rather than wholly to either.
Judiciary.Much detail ought to be avoided in the Constitutional regulation of this Department, that there may be room for changes which may be demanded by the progressive changes in the state of our population. It is at least doubtful whether the number of Courts, the number of Judges, or even ye boundaries of Jurisdiction ought to be made unalterable but by a revisal of the Constitution. The precaution seems no otherwise necessary than as it may prevent sudden modifications of the establishment, or addition of obsequious Judges, for ye purpose of evading the checks of the Constn & givg effect to some sinister policy of the Legisre. But might not the same object be otherwise attained? by prohibiting, for example, any innovations in those particulars without the consent of that department: or without the annual sanction of two or three successive Assemblies, over & above the other pre-requisites to the passage of a law.
The model here proposed for a Court of Appeals is not recommended by experience. It is found as might well be presumed that the members are always warped in their appellate decisions by an attachment to the principles and jurisdiction of their respective Courts, & still more so by the previous decision on ye case removed by appeal. The only efficient cure for the evil is to form a Court of Appeals, of distinct and select Judges. The expence ought not to be admitted as an objection 1. because the proper administration of Justice is of too essential a nature to be sacrificed to that consideration. 2. The number of inferior judges might in that case be lessened. 3. The whole department may be made to support itself by a judicious tax on law proceedings.
The excuse for non-attendance would be a more proper subject of enquiry somewhere else than in the Court to which the party belonged. Delicacy, mutual convenience &c, would soon reduce the regulation to mere form; or if not, it might become a disagreeable source of little irritations among ye members. A certificate from the local Court or some other local authority where the party might reside or happen to be detained from his duty, expressing the cause of absence as well as that it was judged to be satisfactory, might be safely substituted. Few Judges would improperly claim their wages, if such a formality stood in the way. These observations are applicable to the Council of State.
A Court of Impeachments is among the most puzzling articles of a Republican Constitution; and it is far more easy to point out defects in any plan than to supply a cure for them. The diversified expedients adopted in the Constitutions of the several States prove how much the compilers were embarrassed on this subject. The plan here proposed varies from all of them, and is perhaps not less than any a proof of the difficulties which pressed the ingenuity of its author. The remarks arising on it are 1. That it seems not to square with reason that the right to impeach should be united to that of trying the impeachment, & consequently in a proportional degree, to that of sharing in the appointment of, or influence on the Tribunal to which the trial may belong. 2. As the Executive & Judiciary would form a majority of the Court, and either have a right to impeach, too much might depend on a combination of these departments. This objection would be still stronger if the members of the Assembly were capable as proposed of holding offices, and were amenable in that capacity to the Court. 3. The H. of Delegates and either of those departments could appt a majority of ye Court. Here is another danger of combination, and the more to be apprehended as that branch of ye Legisl wd also have the right to impeach, a right in their hands of itself sufficiently weighty; and as the power of the Court wd extend to the head of the Ex, by whose independence the constitl rights of that department are to be secured agst Legislative usurpations. 4. The dangers in the two last cases would be still more formidable, as the power extends not only to deprivation, but to future incapacity of office. In the case of all officers of sufficient importance to be objects of factious persecution, the latter branch of power is in every view of a delicate nature. In that of the Chief Magistrate it seems inadmissible, if he be chosen by the Legislature; and much more so, if immediately by the people themselves. A temporary incapacitation is ye most that cd be properly authorised.
The 2 great desiderata in a Court of Impeachts are 1. impartiality. 2. respectability—the first in order to a right, the second in order to a satisfactory decision. These characteristics are aimed at in the following modification. Let the Senate be denied the right to impeach. Let ⅓ of the members be struck out, by alternate nominations of the prosecutors & party impeached; the remaining ⅔ to be the stamen of the Court. When the H. of Del: impeach let the Judges, or a certain proportion of them—and the Council of State be associated in the trial, when the Govr or Council impeaches, let the Judges only be associated; when the Judges impeach let the Council only be associated. But if the party impeached by the H. of Dels be a member of the Ex. or Judicy, let that of which he is a member not be associated. If the party impeached belong to one & be impeached by the other of these branches, let neither of them be associated the decision being in this case left with the Senate alone; or if that be thought exceptionable, a few members might be added by ye H. of Ds. ⅔ of the Court should in all cases be necessary to a conviction, & the Chief Magistrate at least should be exempt from a sentence of perpetual if not of temporary incapacity. It is extremely probable that a critical discussion of this outline may discover objections which do not occur. Some do occur; but appear not to be greater than are incident to any different modification of the Tribunal.
The establishment of trials by Jury & viva voce testimony in all cases and in all Courts, is, to say the least, a delicate experiment; and would most probably be either violated, or be found inconvenient.
Council of Revision.A revisionary power is meant as a check to precipitate, to unjust, and to unconstitutional laws. These important ends would it is conceded be more effectually secured, without disarming the Legislature of its requisite authority, by requiring bills to be separately communicated to the Exec: & Judicy depts. If either of these object, let ⅔, if both ¾ of each House be necessary to overrule the objection; and if either or both protest agst a bill as violating the Constitution, let it moreover be suspended notwithstanding the overruling proportion of the Assembly, until there shall have been a subsequent election of the H. of Ds and a re-passage of the bill by ⅔ or ¾ of both Houses, as the case may be. It sd not be allowed the Judges or ye. Executive to pronounce a law thus enacted unconstitul & invalid.
In the State Constitutions & indeed in the Fedl one also, no provision is made for the case of a disagreement in expounding them; and as the Courts are generally the last in making ye decision, it results to them by refusing or not refusing to execute a law, to stamp it with its final character. This makes the Judiciary Dept paramount in fact to the Legislature, which was never intended and can never be proper.
The extension of the Habs Corps to the cases in which it has been usually suspended, merits consideration at least. If there be emergencies which call for such a suspension, it can have no effect to prohibit it, because the prohibition will assuredly give way to the impulse of the moment; or rather it will have the bad effect of facilitating other violations that may be less necessary. The Exemption of the press from liability in every case for true facts is also an innovation and as such ought to be well considered. This essential branch of liberty is perhaps in more danger of being interrupted by local tumults, or the silent awe of a predominant party, than by any direct attacks of Power.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.chic. hist. soc. mss.
N. York Novr 2, 1788.
My dear friend,
I rec’d yesterday your favor of the 23d. ult. The first countenance of the assembly corresponds with the picture which my imagination had formed of it. The views of the greater part of the opposition to the federal government, and particularly of its principal leader, have ever since the Convention, been regarded by me as permanently hostile, and likely to produce every effort that might endanger or embarrass it. The defects which drew forth objections from many quarters, were evidently of little consequence in the eye of Mr H—ry. His own arguments proved it. His enmity was levelled, as he did not scruple to insinuate agst the whole system; and the destruction of the whole system I take to be still the secret wish of his heart, and the real object of his pursuit. If temperate and rational alterations only were his plan, is it conceivable that his coalition and patronage would be extended to men whose particular ideas on the subject must differ more from his own than of others who share most liberally in his hatred?
My last letter with Col. Carrington’s communications to which it referred will have sufficiently explained my sentiments with regard to the Legislative Service under the new Constitution. My first wish is to see the Government put into quiet and successful operation; and to afford any service, that may be acceptable from me, for that purpose. My second wish if that were to be consulted, would prefer, for reasons formerly hinted, an opportunity of contributing that service in the House of Reps. rather than in the Senate; provided the opportunity be attainable from the spontaneous suffrage of the Constituents. Should the real friends to the Constitution think this preference inconsistent with any primary object, as Col. Carrington tells me is the case with some who are entitled to peculiar respect, and view my renouncing it as of any material consequence, I shall not hesitate to comply.—You will not infer from the freedom with which these observations are made, that I am in the least unaware of the probability that whatever my inclinations or those of my friends may be, they are likely to be of little avail in the present case. I take it for certain that a clear majority of the assembly are enimies to the Govt. and I have no reason to suppose that I can be less obnoxious than others on the opposite side. An election into the Senate therefore can hardly come into question. I know also that a good deal will depend on the arrangements for the election of the other branch; and that much may depend moreover on the steps to be taken by the candidates which will not be taken by me. Here again therefore there must be great uncertainty, if not improbability of my election. With these circumstances in view it is impossible that I can be the dupe of false calculations even if I were in other cases disposed to indulge them. I trust it is equally impossible for the result whatever it may be, to rob me of any reflections which enter into the internal fund of comfort and happiness. Popular favor or disfavor, is no criterion of the character maintained with those whose esteem an honorable ambition must court. Much less can it be a criterion of that maintained with oneself. And when the spirit of party directs the public voice, it must be a little mind indeed that can suffer in its own estimation, or apprehend danger of suffering in that of others.
The Sepr. British Packet arrived yesterday, but I do not find that she makes any addition to the stock of European intelligence. The change in the French Minister is the only event of late date of much consequence; and that had arrived through several other channels. I do not know that it is even yet authenticited; but it seems to be doubted by no one, particularly among those who can best decide on its credibility.
With the utmost affection I am my dear sir
COPY IN SUBSTANCE OF A LETTER TO G. L. TURBERVILLE, ESQ.mad. mss.
N. York, Novr. 2, 1788.
Your favor of the 20th Ult. not having got into my hands in time to be acknowledged by the last mail, I have now the additional pleasure of acknowledging along with it your favor of the 24, which I recd yesterday.
You wish to know my sentiments on the project of another general Convention as suggested by New York. I shall give them to you with great frankness, though I am aware they may not coincide with those in fashion at Richmond or even with your own. I am not of the number if there be any such, who think the Constitution lately adopted a faultless work. On the contrary there are amendments wch I wished it to have received before it issued from the place in which it was formed. These amendments I still think ought to be made, according to the apparent sense of America and some of them at least, I presume will be made. There are others concerning which doubts are entertained by many, and which have both advocates and opponents on each side of the main question. These I think ought to receive the light of actual experiment, before it would be prudent to admit them into the Constitution. With respect to the first class, the only question is which of the two modes provided be most eligible for the discussion and adoption of them. The objections agst. a Convention which give a preference to the other mode in my judgment are the following 1. It will add to the difference among the States on the merits, another and an unnecessary difference concerning the mode. There are amendments which in themselves will probably be agreed to by all the States, and pretty certainly by the requisite proportion of them. If they be contended for in the mode of a Convention, there are unquestionably a number of States who will be so averse and apprehensive as to the mode, that they will reject the merits rather than agree to the mode. A Convention therefore does not appear to be the most convenient or probable Channel for getting to the object. 2. A Convention cannot be called without the unanimous consent of the parties who are to be bound by it, if first principles are to be recurred to; or without the previous application of ⅔ of the State legislatures, if the forms of the Constitution are to be pursued. The difficulties in either of these cases must evidently be much greater than will attend the origination of amendments in Congress, which may be done at the instance of a single State Legislature, or even without a single instruction on the subject. 3. If a General Convention were to take place for the avowed and sole purpose of revising the Constitution, it would naturally consider itself as having a greater latitude than the Congress appointed to administer and support as well as to amend the system; it would consequently give greater agitation to the public mind; an election into it would be courted by the most violent partizans on both sides; it wd probably consist of the most heterogeneous characters; would be the very focus of that flame which has already too much heated men of all parties; would no doubt contain individuals of insidious views, who under the mask of seeking alterations popular in some parts but inadmissible in other parts of the Union might have a dangerous opportunity of sapping the very foundations of the fabric. Under all these circumstances it seems scarcely to be presumable that the deliberations of the body could be conducted in harmony, or terminate in the general good. Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention, which assembled under every propitious circumstance, I should tremble for the result of a Second, meeting in the present temper of America and under all the disadvantages I have mentioned. 4. It is not unworthy of consideration that the prospect of a second Convention would be viewed by all Europe as a dark and threatening Cloud hanging over the Constitution just established, and, perhaps over the Union itself; and wd therefore suspend at least the advantages this great event has promised us on that side. It is a well-known fact that this event has filled that quarter of the Globe with equal wonder and veneration, that its influence is already secretly but powerfully working in favor of liberty in France, and it is fairly to be inferred that the final event there may be materially affected by the prospect of things here. We are not sufficiently sensible of the importance of the example which this Country may give to the world, nor sufficiently attentive to the advantages we may reap from the late reform, if we avoid bringing it into danger. The last loan in Holland and that alone, saved the U. S. from Bankruptcy in Europe; and that loan was obtained from a belief that the Constitution then depending wd be certainly speedily, quietly, and finally established, & by that means put America into a permanent capacity to discharge with honor & punctuality all her engagements.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
N. York, Novr 5th, 1788.
The inclosed memorandum was put into my hands by Mr. St. John, the French Consul. He is a very worthy man & entitled, by his philanthropy and zealous patronage of whatever he deems useful, to much esteem and regard. You will therefore oblige me by putting it in my power to afford him the little gratification he asks. I have another request to trouble you with, which concerns myself. Col. H. Lee tells me that he has purchased the tract of land thro’ which the Canal at the great falls is to run, and on which the basin will be, for £4000. The tract contains 500 Acres only and is under the incumbrance of a Rent of £150 Sterlg per annum; but, on the other hand derives from its situation, as he supposes, a certain prospect of becoming immensely valuable. He paints it in short as the seat of an early Town, the lots of which will be immediately productive, and possessing other peculiar advantages which make the bargain inestimable. In addition to many instances of his friendship he tenders me a part in it, and urges my acceptance on grounds of advantage to myself alone. I am thoroughly persuaded that I am indebted for the proposal to the most disinterested and affectionate motives; but knowing that the fervor with which he pursues his objects sometimes affects the estimate he forms of them, and being in no condition to make hazardous experiments, it is advisable for me to have the sanction of other judgments to his opinions. You are well acquainted with the situation and can at once decide whether it presents the material and certain advantages on which Col. Lee calculates. A general intimation therefore of the light in which the matter strikes you, will lay me under a very particular obligation. I am by no means sure that in any result it will be in my power to profit by Col. Lee’s friendship, but it may be of some consequence whether the opportunity be worth attending to or not.
My information from Richmond is very unpropitious to federal policy. Yours is no doubt more full and more recent. A decided and malignant majority may do many things of a disagreeable nature; but I trust the Constitution is too firmly established to be now materially vulnerable. The elections for the Legislature of Penna. N. Jersey, & Maryland, ensure measures of a contrary complexion in those States. Indeed Virginia is the only instance among the ratifying States in which the Politics of the Legislature are at variance with the sense of the people, expressed by their Representatives in Convention. We hear nothing from Massachuts or N. Hampshire since the meeting of their General Courts. It is understood that both the appointments & arrangements for the Government will be calculated to support and as far as possible to dignify it. The public conversation seems to be not yet settled on the Vice President. Mr. Hancock & Mr. Adams have been most talked of. The former it is said rejects the idea of any secondary station; and the latter does not unite the suffrages of his own State, and is unpopular in many other places. As other candidates however are not likely to present themselves, and New England will be considered as having strong pretensions, it seems not improbable that the question will lie between the Gentlemen above named. Mr. Jay & Genl Knox have been mentioned; but it is supposed that neither of them will exchange his present situation for an unprofitable dignity.
I shall leave this in a day or two, and am not yet finally determined how far my journey may be continued Southward. A few lines on the subject above mentioned will either find me in Philada, or be there taken care of for me. Should anything occur here or elsewhere worth your attention, it shall be duly communicated by, Dear Sir your very respectful and Affectionate Servant.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.mad. mss.
Philada, Novr 23, 1788.
My Dear Friend,
Your two favors of the 5th & 10th instant have been duly recd. The appointments for the Senate communicated in the latter, answer to the calculations I had formed, notwithstanding the contrary appearances on which the former was founded. My only surprise is that in the present temper and disproportionate number of the anti federal part of the Assembly, my name should have been honored with so great a vote as it received. When this circumstance is combined with that of the characters which I have reason to believe concurred in it, I should be justly chargeable with a very mistaken ambition, if I did not consider the event in the light which you anticipated. I shall not be surprised if the attempt should be equally successful to shut the door of the other House agst me, which was the real object of my preference as well for the reason formerly suggested to you, as for the additional one that it will less require a stile of life with which my circumstances do not square, & for which an inadequate provision only will probably be made by the public. Being not yet acquainted with the allottment of Orange in the districts, I can form no estimate of the reception that will be given to an offer of my services. The district in which I am told it is likely to be thrown, for the choice of an Elector, is a very monitory sample of what may & probably will be done in that way.
My present situation embarrasses me somewhat. When I left N. York, I not only expected that the Choice for the Senate would be as it is, but was apprehensive yt the spirit of party might chuse to add the supposed mortification of dropping my name from the deputation to Congress for the fraction of a year remaining. I accordingly left that place under arrangements which did not require my return. At the same time, I had it in view, if left entirely to my option, to pass the Winter or part of it there, being desirous of employing some of the time in matters which need access to the papers of Congress, & supposing moreover that I should be there master more of my time yn in Virginia. The opportunity of executing my plan is given me I find by one of the votes of the Assembly. On the other hand I am now pressed by some of my friends to repair to Virginia, as a requisite expedient for counteracting the machinations agst my election into the H. of Reps. To this again I am extremely disinclined for reasons additional to the one above mentioned. It will have an electioneering appearance which I always despised and wish to shun. And as I should shew myself in Orange only, where there will probably be little difficulty, my presence could have no very favorable effect; whilst it is very possible that such a mark of solicitude strengthened by my not declining a reappointment to Congress, and now declining to serve in it, might by a dexterous misinterpretation, be made to operate on the other side. These considerations are strong inducements to join my colleagues at N. York, and leave things to their own course in Virginia. If Orange should fall into a federal district it is probable I shall not be opposed; if otherwise a successful opposition seems unavoidable. My decision however is not finally taken.
Mr Dawson arrived here this morning. He took Anapolis in his way, where he tells me the disputed election of Baltimore engages the whole attention at present.
Will you be good eno’ to enable me to answer the inclosed paper. I do not chuse to trust my recollection of the law on the subject. The enquiry comes from the French Consul at N. York.
You may continue to address yr. letters to N. York till I give you other notice as they will not be lost whatever direction I may take, and will be highly grateful if I should go thither.
Yrs most Affecty.
TO HENRY LEE.mad. mss.
Philadelphia Nov. 30th 1788.
My Dear Sir
Your favor of the 29th ult: was received in N. York—the pleasing one of the 19th Inst. found me in this city, whither I had come with a view either to return to N. York or proceed to Virginia as circumstances might determine—I have not sooner acknowledged your first favor, because it intimated that the subject of it admitted of delay, and I did not wish to precipitate a determination on it—although I did not foresee any addition of lights to guide me—The truth is I am fully satisfied that your calculations of advantage in the purchase are in substance at least well founded—I cannot be less so, that the proposition to me is the genuine offspring of a friendship, which demands the warmest returns and acknowledgements—an opportunity of bettering my private circumstances cannot be prudently disregarded by me—and I need not add that one more acceptable could not be found, than that in which every instance of profit to myself would be a pleasing proof of concurrent profit to you. To these considerations nothing is opposed but an inability to make the contributions which would be due & necessary on my part—and a fixt aversion to becoming a burden in the contract, and to stand in the way perhaps of other friends, who have an equal title to gratification, with the requisite means of giving effect to the plan—I do not know that within 12 months I could command more than one or two hundred pounds, unless I could dispose of property, which is not at present practicable.
You will see from the above explanation that notwithstanding my inclination, I dare not avail myself of your friendship on this occasion—any further than arrangements can be engrafted in the Bargain which will make the bargain contribute itself the means of fulfilling its obligations, and its objects. So far I shall be happy in partaking its benefits in such proportion as you may think fit—not exceeding the reparation in your own behalf—How far the means can be extracted out of the bargain you alone can determine. I apprehend that one at least of the gentlemen on whom you have cast an eye, is in no condition at present to enter into such a speculation. Wadsworth is probablyable—but I cannot even guess his dispositions on the subject—of the other I know nothing—The measures pursued at Richmond are as impolitic as they are otherwise exceptionable—if alterations of a reasonable sort are really in view, they are much more attainable from Congress than from attempts to bring about another convention. It is already decided that the latter mode is a hopeless pursuit—N. H—Mass—Con. N. J. Pena. & Delaware having appointed Senators known to be Bona fide friends to the constitution—From the 1st State will be Langdon & Bartlett—from the 2d Bowdoin & Strong—from N. Jersey, Patterson & Elmer—the others you know—Maryland, S. Carolina & Georgia will make appointments of the like complexions. The elections of Reps for Pena is over, but the result is not yet known from all the counties, little doubt is entertained on one side, that it will prove favorable, though the other side do not renounce its hopes. In the city the majority was nearly as five to one—In Lancaster county still greater I am told, and in one or two others, the proportion not less—The antifederal counties however are farthest off, and have not yet been heard from—In Berks where unanimity almost prevailed on that side, the badness of the day and the height of the waters reduced the number of voters to about 400—although the county must contain several more—In general a small proportion of the people seemed to have voted—How far this is to be charged on the weather or an indifference to the occasion I am not able to say.
I am not yet entirely recovered from the complaint which was reproduced by the journey from N. York hither—Nor am I yet absolutely decided whether I shall go back in consequence of the reappointment to Cong.—or proceed forthwith to Virga—I mean to be a member of the H. of Reps if elected to that service—and to take the proper steps for offering my services. Those of a contrary character I shall certainly decline. Even the electioneering appearance of a trip to Virga. at this crisis is not a little grating to me. Present me in the best manner to Mrs Lee. I am yrs affy
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Philadelphia, Decr. 8, 1788.
This will be handed to you by Mr. Gouverneur Morris who will embark in a few days for Havre, from whence he will proceed immediately to Paris. He is already well known to you by character; and as far as there may be a defect of personal acquaintance I beg leave to supply it by this introduction.
My two last were of Ocr. 8 & 17th. They furnished a state of our affairs as they then stood. I shall here add the particulars of most consequence, which have since taken place; remembering however that many details will be most conveniently gathered from the conversation of Mr. Morris who is thoroughly possessed of American transactions.
Notwithstanding the formidable opposition made to the New federal Government, first in order to prevent its adoption, and since in order to place its administration in the hands of disaffected men, there is now both a certainty of its peaceable commencement in March next, and a flattering prospect that it will be administered by men who will give it a fair trial. General Washington will certainly be called to the Executive department. Mr. Adams, who is pledged to support him, will probably be the vice president. The enemies to the Government, at the head & the most inveterate, of whom, is Mr. Henry are laying a train for the election of Governor Clinton, but it cannot succeed unless the federal votes be more dispersed than can well happen. Of the seven States which have appointed their Senators, Virginia alone will have anti-federal members in that branch. Those of N. Hampshire are President Langdon & Judge Bartlett—of Massachusetts Mr. Strong and Mr. Dalton—of Connecticut Docr Johnson and Mr. Elseworth—of N. Jersey Mr. Patterson and Mr. Elmer—of Penna Mr. R. Morris and Mr. McClay—of Delaware Mr. Geo. Reed and Mr. Bassett—of Virgina Mr. R. H. Lee and Col. Grayson. Here is already a majority of the ratifying States on the side of the Constitution. And it is not doubted that it will be reinforced by the appointments of Maryland, S. Carolina and Georgia. As one branch of the Legislature of N. York is attached to the Constitution, it is not improbable that one of the Senators from that State also will be added to the majority. In the House of Representatives the proportion of anti federal members will of course be greater, but cannot if present appearances are to be trusted, amount to a majority, or even a very formidable minority. The election for this branch has taken place as yet no where except in Penna., and here the returns are not yet come in from all the Counties. It is certain however that seven out of the eight, and probable that the whole eight representatives will bear the federal stamp. Even in Virginia where the enemies to the Government form ⅔ of the legislature it is computed that more than half the number of Representatives, who will be elected by the people, formed into districts for the purpose, will be of the same stamp. By some, it is computed that 7 out of the 10 allotted to that State will be opposed to the politics of the present Legislature.
The questions which divide the public at present relate 1. to the extent of the amendments that ought to be made to the Constitution. 2. to the mode in which they ought to be made. The friends of the Constitution, some from an approbation of particular amendments, others from a spirit of conciliation, are generally agreed that the System should be revised. But they wish the revisal to be carried no farther than to supply additional guards for liberty, without abridging the sum of power transferred from the States to the general Government or altering previous to trial, the particular structure of the latter and are fixed in opposition to the risk of another Convention whilst the purpose can be as well answered, by the other mode provided for introducing amendments. Those who have opposed the Constitution, are on the other hand, zealous for a second Convention, and for a revisal which may either not be restrained at all, or extend at least as far as alterations have been proposed by any State. Some of this class, are no doubt, friends to an effective Government, and even to the substance of the particular Government in question. It is equally certain that there are others who urge a second Convention with the insidious hope, of throwing all things into Confusion, and of subverting the fabric just established, if not the Union itself. If the first Congress embrace the policy which circumstances mark out, they will not fail to propose of themselves, every desirable safeguard for popular rights; and by thus separating the well meaning from the designing opponents fix on the latter their true character, and give to the Government its due popularity and stability.
Moustierproves a most unlucky appointment. He is unsocial proud and niggardly and betrays a sort of fastidiousness towards this country. . . . At Boston he imprudently suffered etiquette to prevent even an interview with governor Handcock. The inhabitants, taking part with the governor, neither visited nor invited the count. They were then less apprehensive of a misinterpretation of the neglect as the most cordial intercourse had just preceeded between the town and the French squadron. Both the count and the Marchioness are particularly unpopular among their countrymen here. Such of them as are not under restraint make very free remarks and are anxious for a new diplomatic arrangement. It is but right to add to these particulars, that there is reason to believe that unlucky impressions were made on the count at his first probably by de la Forest the consul a cunning disciple I take it of marbois’ politics and by something in his communication with Jay which he considered as the effect of coldness and sourness toward France.
I am a stranger to the errand on which G. morris goes to Europe. It relates I presume to the affairs of R. Morris, which are still much deranged.
I have received and paid the draught in favor of Docr. Ramsay. I had before paid the order in favor of Mr. Thompson, immediately on the receipt of your letter. About 220 dollars of the balance due on the last state of our account were left in Virginia for the use of your Nephews. There are a few lesser sums which stand on my side of the account which I shall take credit for, when you can find leisure to forward another statement of your friendly advances for me.
I shall leave this place in a day or two for Virga, where my friends who wish me to co-operate in putting our political machine into activity as a member of the House of Representatives, press me to attend. They made me a candidate for the Senate, for which I had not allotted my pretensions. The attempt was defeated by Mr. Henry, who is omnipotent in the present Legislature and who added to the expedients common on such occasions a public philippic agst my federal principles. He has taken equal pains in forming the Counties into districts for the election of Reps. to associate with Orange such as are most devoted to his politics, and most likely to be swayed by the prejudices excited agst. me. From the best information I have of the prevailing temper of the District, I conclude that my going to Virga. will answer no other purpose than to satisfy the Opinions and entreaties of my friends. The trip is in itself very disagreeable both on account of its electioneering appearance, and the sacrifice of the winter for which I had assigned a task which the intermission of Congressional business would have made convenient at New York.
With the sincerest affection & the highest esteem I am Dear Sir,
The letter herewith inclosed for Mr Gordon is from Mr Cyrus Griffin. The other from Mr. Mccarty an American Citizen settled in France, but at present here on business. He appears to be a very worthy man & I have promised to recommend his letter to your care, as a certain channel of conveyance
TO PHILIP MAZZEI.
Philadelphia, 10 December, 1788.
Your book, as I prophesied, sells nowhere but in Virginia. A very few copies only have been called for either in New York or in this city. The language in which it is written will account for it. In order to attract notice, I translated the panegyric in the French Mercure, and had it made part of the advertisement. I did not translate the comment on the Federal Constitution, as you wished, because I could not spare the time, as well as because I did not approve the tendency of it. Some of your remarks prove that Horace’s “Cœlum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt” does not hold without exception. In Europe, the abuses of power continually before your eyes have given a bias to your political reflections which you did not feel in equal degree when you left America, and which you would feel less of if you had remained in America. Philosophers on the old continent, in their zeal against tyranny, would rush into anarchy; as the horrors of superstition drive them into Atheism. Here, perhaps, the inconveniences of relaxed government have reconciled too many to the opposite extreme. If your plan of a single Legislature, as in Pennsylvania, &c., were adopted, I sincerely believe that it would prove the most deadly blow ever given to Republicanism. Were I an enemy to that form, I would preach the very doctrines which are preached by the enemies to the government proposed for the United States. Many of our best citizens are disgusted with the injustice, instability, and folly, which characterize the American Administrations. The number has for some time been rapidly increasing. Were the evils to be much longer protracted, the disgust would seize citizens of every description.
It is of infinite importance to the cause of liberty to ascertain the degree of it which will consist with the purposes of society. An error on one side may be as fatal as on the other. Hitherto, the error in the United States has lain in the excess.
All the States except North Carolina and Rhode Island have ratified the proposed Constitution. Seven of them have appointed their Senators, of whom those of Virginia, R. H. Lee and Col. Grayson, alone are among the opponents of the system. The appointments of Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia will pretty certainly be of the same stamp with the majority. The House of Representatives is yet to be chosen everywhere except in Pennsylvania. From the partial returns received, the election will wear a federal aspect, unless the event in one or two particular counties should contradict every calculation. If the eight members from this State be on the side of the Constitution, it will in a manner secure the majority in that branch of the Congress also. The object of the Anti-Federalists is to bring about another general Convention, which would either agree on nothing, as would be agreeable to some, and throw everything into confusion, or expunge from the Constitution parts which are held by its friends to be essential to it. The latter party are willing to gratify their opponents with every supplemental provision for general rights, but insist that this can be better done in the mode provided for amendments.
I remain, with great sincerity, your friend and servant.
TO JAMES MADISON.mad. mss.
Alexandria Decr. 18th. 1788.
I arrived here this morning on my way home. I did not write you my intentions sooner because they are rather of recent date, and I wished to be able at the same time to let you know the day on which I should get to Fredg. This I have not till now been able to fix. I now find that I shall get there on Friday week, and shall accordingly then stand in need of your assistance for the completion of my Journey. It will be necessary for me to have the use of the chair, as well on account of my baggage which consists of a Portmanteau Trunk and a Portmanteau, as on acct of some remains of the piles which for some weeks past have been very troublesome. Whoever brings the chair must bring a saddle proper for the portmanteau. No horse need be brought for a servant, John having been left in N. York given over as incurable, and another having been engaged. I wish the chair to be in Town certainly on that day, and shall request the favor of Mr. Ramsy to send this by a hired messenger, if no other conveyance can be secured.—I shall remain in this neighbourhood till thursday next when I shall fall into the stage at Colchester & proceed on Friday from Dumfries for Fredg.—I could reach Fredg. on no day so well as on that above mentioned. An earlier day would be too soon for the carriage to meet me; and a later one would leave me on the road on Sunday, or oblige me to postpone my resuming my journey till the tuesday following.
I have nothing to add on the subject of news, but what may be better communicated verbally on my arrival. In the mean time with my affectn. regards to all the family I conclude your dutiful son.
“From such a discordance in opinion, I believe if the friends to the govt. in the State Convention should manage wisely, & if nine States should have ratified it before Virga. assembles that we may count on the dominion as an accepting State. Your county is divided like many others in their sentiments—Barber & Burnley are warmly opposed & may consider it their duty to prevent your election. . . . If you think you may fail in Orange several countys in Kentucky would on application by let. elect you.”
Archibald Stuart wrote from Richmond, January 14.
“The anti-constitutional Fever which raged here some time ago begins to abate & I am not without hopes that many patients will be restored to their senses—Mr. Page of Rosewell has become a convert. Gen. Nelson begins to view the Govt with a more favorable eye & I am told St. G: Tucker has confessed his sins.
“Publius is in general estimation, his greatness is acknowledged universally—Colo Carrington has sent me his numbers as low down as ye. 24th. inclusive which Dixon has been printing for some time past & should he leave New York I must rely upon yourself & Mr. Brown to transmit the remainder of them as they shall appear—They may be directed to me or in my absence to Mr. John Dixon—. . . .
“Pray let nothing divert you from coming to ye. Convention—”
Edward Carrington wrote from Richmond, January 18.
“The leaders of the opposition appear generally to be preparing for a decent submission—the language amongst them is, that amendments must be tried if there should, at the sitting of the convention, be a prospect of carrying them down in a respectable number of States, but that should this appear improbable, the constitution must be adopted—I have seen but few of these Gentlemen but have good information as to most of their dispositions upon the subject. The Governour’s letter to the Public, which you doubtless have before this seen, marks out this conduct, and I think that publication will be of great service. Mr. Henry, it is said, is determined to amend & leave the fate of the measure to depend on all the other States conforming to the Will of Virginia. His language is, that the other States cannot do without us, and therefore we can dictate to them what terms we please—should they be weak enough to stand out, we may alone enter into foreign alliances—the value of our staple is such that any nation will be ready to treat with us separately—I have not heard of any who have shewn a disposition to go this length with him, except Mr. Bullet whom I saw at Dumfries, and I think at the day of trial but few will be found so mad.
“Mr. B. Randolph whose apprehensions from the Gigantic features in the constitution, appear to be as high as any whatever, is of opinion with the Governor—He thinks that should nine states have adopted when the Convention of Virginia meets, every idea of amendment ought to be abandoned, but that should there be a less number the attempt must be made, but with such caution as not to hazard entirely the fate of the measure. I am persuaded that this will become the prevailing sentiment amongst the malcontents, and in that case there will be tolerable safety, because I see no prospect of more than Rhode Isld. N. York & North Carolina holding out—the latter, it is said, & I believe with truth, have, out of respect for Virginia, defered her convention until after the time appointed for ours to sit.”—Mad. MSS.
“The Baptists are now generally opposed to it, as it is said, Col. Barbour has been down on Pamunky amongst them, & on his return, I hear, publickly declared himself a candidate, I suppose, on the encouragement he met with from the Antifederalists. I do not know at present any other Candidates but yourself & Mr. Gordon, who is a warm friend to the Constitution, & I believe no others that are for it will offer. I think you had better come in as early in March as you can; many of your friends wish it; there are some who suspend their opinion till they see you, & wish for an explanation, others wish you not to come, & will endeavor to shut you out of the Convention, the better to carry their point.”—Mad. MSS.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON
Richmond, June 4, 1788
Your favor of the 2d Ulto was not recd till my arrival here on monday evening. I found contrary to my expectation that not only a very full house had been made on the first day, but that it had proceeded to the appointment of the President & other officers. Mr. Pendleton was put into the chair without opposition. Yesterday little more was done than settling some forms and Resolving that no question general or particular should be propounded till the whole plan should be considered & debated, clause by clause. This was moved by Col. Mason, and contrary to his expectations, concurred in by the other side. Today the discussions commenced in Committee of the whole. The Governor has declared the day of previous amendments passed, and thrown himself fully into the federal scale. Henry & Mason made a lame figure & appeared to take different and awkward ground. The federalists are a good deal elated by the existing prospect. I dare not however speak with certainty as to the decision. Kentucky has been extremely tainted, is supposed to be generally adverse, and every piece of address is going on privately to work on the local interests & prejudices of that & other quarters. In haste I am
Dr Sir yrs affecty.—Wash MSS.
The proceedings of the Convention were reported by Robertson and published at Petersburg, Va., 1788, under the title: “Debates and other Proceedings of the Convention of Virginia, convened at Richmond on Monday the 2d day of June, 1788, for the purpose of deliberating on the Constitution recommended by the Grand Federal Convention.” Elliot’s Debates (1836), vol. iii., inaccurately reprints this volume. Hugh Blair Grigsby’s “Virginia Convention of 1788,” Virginia Historical Collections IX., is a skilful and valuable narrative account of the principal characters in the convention and the debates. The MS. “Journal of the Convention of Virginia” is in the Virginia State Library, but it contains none of the debates. Madison’s speeches, as given by Robertson and reproduced in the text of this volume, were, he declared in after life, reported with reasonable accuracy.
The convention first met, Monday, June 1, in the State House at Richmond, but the hall was too small to accommodate the 170 delegates and the numerous spectators, and an adjournment was taken to the “New Academy on Shockoe Hill,” a building erected by Chevalier Quesnay for a French-American University. See Hunt’s Life of Madison, 148 et seq.
- I. necessary
- 3—as less mutable—& less exposed to speculators &c.
Appearances at present are less favorable than at the date of my last. Our progress is slow and every advantage is taken of the delay, to work on the local prejudices of particular sets of members. British debts, the Indiana claim, and the Miippi are the principal topics of private discussion & intrigue, as well as of public declamation. The members who have served in Congress have been dragged into communications on the first, which could not be justifiable on any other occasion if on the present. There is reason to believe that the event may depend on the Kentucky members; who seem to lean more agst than in favor of the Constitution. The business is in the most ticklish state that can be imagined. The majority will certainly be very small on whatever side it may finally lie; and I dare not encourage much expectation that it will be on the favorable side.
Oswald of Philada, has been here with letters for the anti federal leaders from N. York and probably Philada. He staid a very short time here during which he was occasionally closeted with H—y M-s-n &c. I learn from N. York that the elections have proved adverse to the Constitution.
Yours affecty.—Wash. MSS.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON
Richmond, June 18, 1788.
No question direct or indirect has yet been taken by which the state of parties could be determined, of course each is left to enjoy the hopes resulting from its own partial calculations. It is probable the majority on either side will not exceed 3, 4, 5 or 6. I indulge a belief that at this time the friends of the Constitution have the advantage in point of number. Great moderation as yet marks our proceedings. Whether it be the effect of temper, or of the equality of forces and the uncertainty of victory, will be seen by the event. We are at present on the Executive Department. Mr. H—y has not made any opposition to it, though it was looked for. He may however still mean to make one; or he may lay by for an exertion against the Judiciary. I find myself not yet restored and extremely feeble.
With my affecte regards I remain, Yrs.—Mad. MSS.
TO JAMES MADISON.
Richmd June 20, 1788.
No question has yet been taken by which the strength of parties can be determined. The calculations on different sides do not accord; each making them under the bias of their particular wishes. I think however the friends of the Constitution are most confident of superiority, and am inclined myself to think they have at this time the advantage of 3 or 4 or possibly more in point of number. The final question will probably decide the contest in a few days more. We are now on the Judiciary Department, against which the last efforts of the adversaries seem to be made. How far they will be able to make an impression, I cannot say. It is not probable that many proselytes will be made on either side. As this will be handed to you at Court you can make its contents known to Majr Moore and other friends to whom I have not time separately to write. With my regards to my mother & the family I remain yr affec. Son.—Mad. MSS.
TO AMBROSE MADISON.
Richmd June 24, 
Yesterday carried us through the discussion of the constitution by paragraphs. Today will probably carry forward some proposition and debates relative to the final step to be taken. The opposing party will contend for previous amendments. On the other side a conciliatory declaration of certain fundamental principles in favor of liberty, in a form not affecting the validity and plenitude of the ratification, will be proposed. The final question is likely to be decided by a small majority. I do not know that either party despairs absolutely. The friends of the Convention seem to be in the best spirits; and I hope have the best reason to be so. At the same time it is not impossible they may miscalculate their number, and that accidents may reduce it below the requisite amount, two members on that side, who went away with a purpose of returning are still absent, it is said; and a third is so ill as to render his vote somewhat precarious. It may be questioned whether on any estimate this loss if it shd. continue may not endanger the results.
Yours affy. —N. Y. Pub. Lib. MSS.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.
Richmond, June, 25 1788.
On the question to-day for previous amendments, the votes stood 80 ays—88 noes. On the final question the ratification passed 89 ayes—79 noes. Subsequent amendments will attend the act; but are yet to be settled. The temper of the minority will be better known to-morrow. The proceedings have been without flaw or pretext of it; and there is no doubt that acquiescence if not cordiality will be manifested by the unsuccessful party. Two of the leaders however betray the effect of the disappointment, so far as it is marked in their countenances.
In haste, Yrs.
“In Congress, Sepr 16
“On report of the Committee, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, Mr. Williamson, Mr. Dane, and Mr. Edwards, to whom was referred the Report of the Secy for For. Affairs on a motion of the Delegates of North Carolina, stating the uneasiness produced by a Report ‘that Congress are disposed to treat with Spain for the surrender of their claim to the navigation of the River Mississippi,’ and proposing a Resolution intended to remove such apprehensions.
“Resolvd, that the said Report not being founded in fact, the Delegates be at liberty to communicate all such circumstances as may be necessary to contradict the same and to remove misconceptions.
“Resolvd, that the free navigation of the River Mississippi is a clear and essential right of the United States, and that the same ought to be considered and supported as such.
“In addition to these resolutions which are not of a secret nature, another has passed arresting all negotiations with Spain, and handing over the subject thus freed from bias from any former proceedings, to the Ensuing Government. This last Resolution is entered on the Secret journal, but a tacit permission is given to the Members to make a confidential use of it.”—Wash. MSS.