페이지 이미지

the time suggested in the report, " for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several State legislatures such alterations and provisions therein, as shall, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union.”

$ 14. Public opinion was on the rapid march. Many events bad transpired, even after the appointment of commissioners to meet at Annapolis, and before that Convention assembled, which matured the popular judgment in favor of the proposition for a general Convention for the purposes set forth in the report.

$ 15. Still other events took place immediately after the Hamilton report was published, which still further demonstrated the necessity of such a Convention as was proposed therein. All were now satisfied that the Union was in extreme danger. No calm, dispassionate observer could ignore it.

§ 16. " Among the ripening incidents," says a prominent statesman of that day, was the insurrection of Shays in Massachusetts against her government, which was with difficulty suppressed, notwithstanding the influence on the insurgents of an apprehended interposition of the Federal troops."

§ 17. The insurrection above alluded to was led by one Daniel Shays, who was followed by about two thousand insurgents, having for their object the open defiance and resistance of the laws under which the taxes were to be collected and private obligations and contracts to be enforced. It spread over several of the counties of that State; and so formidable was it, that United-States troops were called for to suppress it. But, by vigorous measures on the part of the State, it was overcome.

Several of the leaders were condemned to death; but, on account of the popular sentiment in their favor, it was deemed unwise to execute them.

§ 18. The public debt, most of which had been contracted in the sacred cause of liberty in the struggle for independence, remained un puid. Congress had made repeated calls on the States for payment: but these calls were either partially or wholly unheeded; one State expressly and openly refusing to take any step tending to its

liquidation. The public mind was everywhere filled with gloom and despondency.

$ 19. In reference to the embarrassments of commerce, Mr. Madison says, “ The same want of a general power over commerce led to an exercise of the power separately by the States, which not only proved abortive, but engendered rival, conflicting and angry regulations."

$ 20. “Besides the vain attempt to supply their respective treasuries by imposts, which turned their commerce into the neighboring ports, and to coerce a relaxation of the British monopoly of the WestIndia navigation, which was attempted by Virginia, the States having ports for foreign coinmerce taxed and irritated the adjoining States, trading through them, as New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina. Some of the States, as Connecticut, taxed imports from other States, as Massachusetts ; which complained in a letter to the Executive of Virginia, and doubtless to those of other States.”

$ 21. “In sundry instances, as of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, the navigation interests treated the citizens of other States as aliens.” § 22.

As a natural consequence of this distracted and disheartening condition of the Union, the Federal authority had ceased to be respected abroad ; and dispositions were shown there, particularly in Great Britain, to take advantage of its imbecility, and to speculate on its approaching downfall. At home it had lost all confidence and credit: the unstable and unjust career of the States had also forfeited the respect and confidence essential to order and good government, involving a general decay of confidence between man and man.

§ 23. Under these distracting and depressing influences, the States had become favorable to the call from Annapolis to send delegates to the proposed Philadelphia Convention, which convened at the time appointed. There was by no means a full representation of the States, however ; there being present but twenty-nine delegates at the opening. They did not organize, therefore, until

May 25, when George Washington was unanimously chosen president of the Convention.

$ 24. There being so few delegates present, the Convention did not proceed immediately to business, but adjourned from day to day until Monday the 28th. The Convention sat with closed doors ; and remained in session until the seventeenth day of September following, when they reported the draft of the present Constitution of the United States.

§ 25. By a resolution of the Convention, it was laid before the United States in Congress assembled, with the recommendation that it should be submitted to a Convention of delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, under the direction of its legislature, for their assent and ratification ; and that each Convention assenting to and ratifying the same should give notice thereof to the United States in Congress assembled.

$ 26. The original intention and object of the Convention were, it will be remembered, simply to revise and amend the Articles of Confederation. But the Convention early came to the conclusion that it was necessary to form an entirely new Constitution.

§ 27. With the report to Congress, the Convention addressed a letter to that body, giving the reasons for their proceedings. The Convention also passed two resolutions, copies of which were sent to Congress; the substance of one of which has been already given, and both of which, with the letter, will be found appended to the Constitution in this work.

$ 28. Sept. 28, 1787, Congress having received the report of the Convention, unanimously

Resolved, That the said report, with the resolutions and letter accompanying the same, be transmitted to the several legislatures, in order to be submitted to a Convention of delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the Convention made and provided in that case.

§ 29. By the terms of the new Constitution, the ratification of the Conventions of nine States was declared sufficient for its establishment between the States so ratifying the same.




§ 1. The new Constitution was now fairly before the people of the United States. It met from the outset with very strong opposi

and the attacks were as various as the points of the compass $ 2. One class of objectors held that it gave too much power into the hands of the Federal Government; and another, that it did not give enough.

One maintained that the Senate should be elected for life ; another, that six years was quite too long. One, that it should be elected by the people ; another, that it should be elected by the House of Representatives.

Some held that the terms of office generally were quite too long ; others, that they were too short.

§ 3. One class thought the President should be elected for life ; one, for ten years; one, for six ; and another, that he should be elected annually. One class held that he ought to be elected by Congress; another, that he should be elected by direct vote of the people ; and still another, that we could get along very well without any President at all.

One class thought the Constitution invested the President with too much

power; and another, with too little. § 4. Similar objections were urged against the Ilouse of Representatives. Some were for having the members elected by electors for that purpose appointed ; others, for having them elected by the State legislatures. Some thought the term of two years too short; others, too long. The objections against the judiciary were quite as various and opposite.

$ 5. The storm raged with terrible political and personal violence and asperity. Probably at no time in the history of this country bas party spirit run so high as at that time. Every feature of the new plan of government was debated by the ablest minds of the day. Profound statesmen were found in the ranks of opposition to the Constitution, - men whose patriotism, and purity of motive, could



§ 1. Although the Colonies were not at any time united in any sense as a nation, they sometimes found it of advantage to unite temporarily for the common defense against the Indian tribes, as well as the Dutch; and also in 1754, for the purpose of defending themselves in case of war with France, which at that time seemed imminent.

$ 2. These experiences had taught them that there was safety as well as strength in union. Therefore, when England gave evidence of a determination to oppress the Colonies, they did not hesitate to unite in vindication of their common interests.

§ 3. A Congress, at the call of Massachusetts, assembled in Philadelphia Sept. 5, 1774, consisting of delegates from all the Colonies. This is known in bistory as the First Continental Congress.” It was the first in which all the Colonies were represented.

§ 4. This Congress published to the world a long and emphatic bill of rights, which may be regarded as the first decided step towards independence. It was clear to every reflecting mind, that, if that declaration of rights were accepted by the people, either England must take a speedy backward step, or the declaration of separation and independence was just at hand.

$ 5. The Second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia May 10, 1775. This Congress continued in session until the close of the Revolutionary War, and until a definite form of government was adopted. It passed the Declaration of Independence, in which, for the first time, the Colonies received the name of United States of America, a title which has been continued ever since.



§ 1. On the eleventh day of June, 1776, it became evident that the Declaration of Independence was only a question of a few days'

« 이전계속 »