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350

OBSTACLES TO A STRONGER GOVERNMENT. [CHAP. IV.

Europe for the last ten centuries, and from which it had been the pride and boast of this country to be free.

But besides the inherent difficulty of making this adjustment of political forces in which human foresight comparatively does so little, and experience so much, there were other obstacles to success which grew out of peculiar and incidental circumstances.

In the temporary government by which they had resisted Great Britain, and the great defects of which had been supplied by a sense of common danger, every State had an equal vote, while some States had eight or ten times the numbers of others; so that a small minority of the people might prevail against a large majority. This was so unreasonable and so inconsistent with the first principles of a republican government, that it would not be submitted to by the strongest, who would be the injured party. On the other hand, the small States would be unwilling to surrender their equal share of power; and unless they did, there would probably be no confederate government.

The feelings of individuals were also enlisted against a form of government which would lessen the political weight and importance of those whose influence was merely local.

There was a further difference among the States on the interesting subject of their foreign commerce. Some States had excellent harbors, and imported foreign merchandize for their neighborhood as well as themselves; and if an impost was laid, as was usual, they would thus raise a revenue from their neighbors. While this consideration induced some States to wish for a government which would defend them from such injustice, those who profited by it were reluctant to surrender the advan

1787.]

CIRCUMSTANCES OF ENCOURAGEMENT.

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tages they possessed - at least without a compensating benefit.

There was, moreover, likely to be the wonted diversity of individual opinion on the theoretical principles of government; and on the distribution of its powers among the three great departments of the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary.

And lastly, should these several obstacles be overcome, and a constitution be agreed on, there was a chance that it might not meet with the sanction of the States, when submitted to the consideration of new deliberative bodies.

But, on the other hand, there were many circumstances to encourage their efforts to frame an efficient general government. The defects of the present Confederation had now become obvious to all. The country owed a heavy debt of money, as well as of gratitude, to its defenders; and it neither had revenue, nor the power to provide it. The requisitions on the States availed as little as Owen Glendower's calls of spirits. Their commerce, too, was monopolized by Great Britain through her restrictive regulations, which so many distinct Legislatures could not combine to retaliate. They were held in little respect abroad; and if they had, nominally, obtained a place among sovereign nations, it was but to subject them to open slights and repulses. The only commercial treaties they had succeeded in making, were with nations which had no commerce, Prussia and Morocco. Insurrection had already been experienced in one State, and had seemed but too probable in another. The local disputes between some of the States had more than once threatened a resort to arms.

It afforded no small encouragement to the conservative party, that the body of men selected by the States to

352 RANDOLPH'S AND PINCKNEY S PROPOSITIONS. [CHAP. IV.

devise a plan of government suitable to the emergency, were the ablest and wisest the country afforded. Whatever they should decide on would, therefore, be most strongly recommended to the American people.

Though the fourteenth of May was the day appointed for the meeting of the Convention, on that day seven States were unrepresented; but on the twenty-fifth of May, twenty-nine members, from nine States, had assembled, when they proceeded to business. Their first act was to choose a presiding officer. On the nomination of Robert Morris, of Pennsylvania, George Washington was unanimously chosen by ballot. This nomination was to have been made by Dr. Franklin, but indisposition prevented his attendance.' Major Jackson was appointed Secretary. A committee was appointed to prepare rules, which, on the report of the committee the next day, were adopted; the most important of which were, that seven members constituted a quorum, and that nothing spoken in the convention was to be published or communicated without leave.

The next day every State, except New Hampshire and Rhode Island, was present; and as Virginia had been most instrumental in bringing about the meeting of the convention, it was deemed proper that she should take the initiative in proposing a plan of government; and, accordingly, Mr. Edmund Randolph, from that State, brought forward a series of resolutions which had been prepared on consultation with his colleagues. These resolutions contained the alterations of the present Confederation deemed most material; and they were referred to the Committee of the Whole for discussion. He was immediately followed by Charles Pinckney, of South Carolina,

1II. Madison Papers, page 722.

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ONE VOTE TO EACH STATE.

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who also submitted the outline of his plan of a federal government, which was, in like manner, referred to the Committee of the Whole.

In those cases in which a division was made, if the provision was deemed of vital importance by the minority, it was again freely discussed, so as, by argument or concession on one side, or by both sides, to attain a more harmonious result, since the new Constitution could be binding on no State that should reject it. Several of its most important provisions were thus the natural result of compromise.

One of the first questions to be settled was the weight which the different States were to have in the convention; and though the members from some of the large States were disposed to insist on a proportional vote in the convention, it was, on a private consultation, deemed prudent to decline this in the first instance, and to leave the small States the merit of voluntarily conceding what the larger States would insist on in the new Constitution, and what the former could not decently refuse. Each State, therefore, had an equal vote in the convention, as it previously had in Congress.

The first principle in the new Constitution determined by the convention was, the new government was not to be purely federal, but to be also national, or, in other words, that its laws were to act on the people individually, rather than on the States as heretofore; when it was urged by some of the members that this exceeded the legitimate powers of the convention, and had not been contemplated by their constituents. The question was taken, when there were six ayes to one no Connecticut in the negative, and New York divided. On the proposition that the Legislature should consist of two branches, the vote was unanimous, except that of VOL. I.-23

354

ELECTION OF MEMBERS OF CONGRESS. [CHAP. IV.

Pennsylvania, which, conforming to the opinion of Franklin, was in favor of a single branch.

A part of the convention thought the members of the first branch ought to be elected by the State Legislatures, as the members of Congress had been under the articles of Confederation; partly because it was assumed that the people were less competent to make a fit choice, and partly from a fear of infusing into the government too much of that wild spirit of democracy which had exhibited itself in the recent insurrection in Massachusetts, in favoring in many States the introduction of papermoney, and in disregarding the rights of creditors. But Mr. Randolph's proposition of an election by the people was agreed to by five States against two, New Jersey and South Carolina; Connecticut and Delaware were divided.

Of all the parts of the new plan of government, there was no one which was found so difficult of adjustment as the comparative votes of the different States in the National Legislature.

The conflicting views of the members on this subject being apparent on one of Mr. Randolph's propositions, "that the right of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be proportioned either to the quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants," the further discussion of the subject was, by the consent of both parties, postponed for the time, until the functions of the two Houses, their mode of election, and qualifications, were considered. But on the ninth of June the subject was resumed, and discussed with much warmth, when, on the motion that the right of suffrage in the first branch of the National Legislature ought not to be according to the rule established in the articles of Confederation, but according to some equitable mode of representation, seven States voted in the affirmative,

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