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1786.]

MAINE AND MASSACHUSETTS.

345

ment of their own affairs. As the Mississippi furnished the only means of transportation for their bulky products, of which their teeming soil promised them a redundancy, the free navigation of the river was an object of the first importance to them, and one which they could not be induced to surrender even for a time. Their interests and wishes, then, on this point, augmented the importance of the negotiations with Spain. This negotiation was of such vital interest to those western settlers, that its possession was a matter determined on; and the only question was, whether they were to owe it to a treaty between the United States and Spain, to a conquest from the Spanish government, or as a voluntary bounty from Spain, in reward for their separation from the United States. The last would, of course, be desired by Spain, and Mr. Gardoqui was not without hopes, at one time, that by his intrigues it might be effected.

New England, too, presented difficulties of its own. The people of the province of Maine, separated as they were from Massachusetts by the intervening State of New Hampshire, already showed themselves desirous of separating from Massachusetts, and of becoming an inde pendent State.

To meet the requisitions of Congress, as well as to provide for their own creditors, the Legislature of Massachusetts had laid taxes which were expected to produce near a million of dollars-a very large amount in proportion to the population the State then had, and in the exhausted condition in which it had been left by the war. There was superadded a general state of private indebtedness, which filled the courts with law-suits. Galled by the united pressure of these taxes and debts, the people loudly complained; and from complaints they proceeded, according to their wont, to call meetings to consult on

346

SHAY'S INSURRECTION.

[CHAP. IV. modes of remedy or alleviation, and no efficient means presenting themselves, they, under the guidance of a few desperate men, had recourse to arms. They insisted on closing the courts; they clamored against the lawyers and the laws themselves; the salaries of public officers; and loudly demanded the issue of paper-money, by which, from its greater abundance, every one hoped to find it easier to pay his debts.

The like evils being felt in the adjoining States, their citizens naturally sympathized with the malcontents of Massachusetts, and the more reckless of them inclined to the same violent remedies. The people of New Hampshire were urgent for a suspension of taxes, and for the issue of paper-money. The Governor of Massachusetts, James Bowdoin, having promptly convened the Legislature, on the breaking out of these disturbances, they endeavored to allay the discontents by reducing the legal costs of suit, and by allowing certain taxes to be paid in agricultural products, at fixed prices; but the popular commotion still continuing, the militia was ordered out by the Governor. Congress, at the same time, voted thirteen thousand men to aid the government of the State.

The leader of the insurgents was Daniel Shays, a captain in the late army of the United States. At the head of one thousand men, he prevented the session of the Supreme Court at Worcester. The Governor called out four thousand men to serve for thirty days under General Lincoln, the expense of which force was defrayed by funds advanced by Boston merchants.1

The malcontents, now increased to about two thousand men, marched to Springfield, where was a national arsenal. On their demand of possession, and actually advancing 1 III. Hildreth, page 474.

1

1786.]

INSURRECTION QUELLED.

347

on it, General Shepherd, who there commanded, having discharged some of the field-pieces, the insurgents fled in disorder, leaving three men killed and one wounded. They still retreated on Lincoln's approach, and they offered to disperse on the promise of a general pardon. He having no authority to grant it, they retreated to Petersham; but by a rapid march, were overtaken next morning by Lincoln, who made one hundred and fifty prisoners. The rest dispersed. Most of the leaders took refuge in New Hampshire. Lincoln then proceeded to Berkshire County, where the insurgents were most

numerous.

The neighboring States were called upon to assist in arresting the insurgents. New Hampshire, Connecticut, and New York readily complied. Rhode Island and Vermont hesitated.

This insurrection, as ill sustained as it was ill conceived, was soon quelled. Of the prisoners, fourteen were found guilty of treason, and many were convicted of inferior offences. None, however, were executed; and the conditions of pardon were so light, that about eight hundred took the benefit of them. It was found necessary, or at least deemed prudent, thus to temporize, as it was supposed that the insurgents had the sympathy and favor of full one-third of the people. A consequence of this state of the popular sentiment was, that at the ensuing election of Governor, Bowdoin, whose promptness and decision in putting down this discreditable rising had done so much to redeem the character of Massachusetts, was not re-elected.

Independent of the instructive lessons taught by these events, a revision of the federal constitution, and an enlargement of its powers had been recommended not only by the most distinguished statesmen, but also by some

348

GENERAL CONVENTION CALLED.

[CHAP. IV. of the State Legislatures. New York had, as early as 1782, advised a convention for that purpose; but it had led to no result. Massachusetts had passed resolutions of a like character, but had afterwards repealed them. But Mr. Madison's efforts, which had been unremitted, were, as we have seen, finally crowned with success. The recommendation of the convention of Annapolis received the sanction of Congress; and all the States, except New Hampshire and Rhode Island, appointed Delegates to meet in convention at Philadelphia, in May, 1787

The object of the convention to be assembled was as weighty and important as ever devolved on a deliberative body; for upon their wisdom depended the destiny of the tens, nay, hundreds of millions of human beings for whom they were then legislating. It was to adjust the powers of sovereignty between the State governments on one side, and the federal government on the other; so that each might have the power requisite to fulfil its appropriate functions, but not enough to disturb the equipoise between them.

To frame a government so that it will continue to act efficiently against the various and often conflicting influences of human passions and interests, as also against the slow, unseen changes of time, must always demand the best efforts of human wisdom; but the difficulty was the greater, on the present occasion, from the complex character of the government about to be formed for the United States.

Here, where all subjects of municipal law which directly concern the property, the person, and the private relations of the citizen, such as matters of religion, morals, education, or contract, as are within the scope of the legislator, are left to the State governments; those objects for which they are less competent, as providing

1786.]

MOTIVES TO A NEW CONSTITUTION.

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the means of national defence, of intercourse with other nations, and the regulation of foreign commerce, are assigned to the general government. By this division of sovereign authority, it was intended to preserve and protect local usages, feelings, and habits; and, by means of the power and resources of the whole, to produce national results to which the means and capacities of single States were unequal.

To perfect this admirable system, it was equally important to guard against giving too much or too little power to the new government, as either would be destructive of its intended benefits, and of its own permanence. If it had so much power as to control the legitimate authority of the States, it would lose its federative character, and, becoming one great consolidated government, it would no longer be republican, no longer have that ready and delicate sympathy between the ruling and the governed parties which ought to exist, or that intimate knowledge of the wants and feelings of the citizen which belong to the legislators of his choice.

If, on the other hand, the power of the general government was too restricted, and that of the individual States made supreme, then all the mischiefs which the present convention meant to remedy would return, greatly aggravated by the party conflicts which had preceded. It requires little reflection to satisfy us that, in this condition of distinct and independent sovereignties, jealousies and enmities must soon arise, as they ever have arisen among neighboring communities; that standing armies, for conquest or defence; expensive fortifications; strong executive powers, requiring onerous taxes, and a liberal surrender of personal liberty, would be the consequences. America would thus become the theatre of the same course of war, misery, and poverty which had afflicted

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