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cious acquiescence of promising states would be of little avail, and that they consequently made provision not only for directing the collection of taxes, but for compelling obedience to the laws and treaties of the United States: “If any State, or any body of men in any State shall oppose or prevent the carrying into execution such acts or treaties, the federal Executive shall be authorized to call forth the power of the Confederated States, or so much thereof as may be necessary to enforce and compel an Obedience to such Acts, or an observance of such Treaties."
These were cogent phrases. Would their adoption have transformed the old Articles from a “rope of sand" into bands of steel? Probably not; the device of coercion was clumsy at the best, and was put forth by men who, anxiously clinging to the notion of state sovereignty, or, at least, to the equality of the states, still saw clearly that force was a necessity. Possibly, one may argue theoretically, their adoption would really have transmuted the old Confederation into something stronger, something more like a state than a bundle of states; but in fact the provision for coercion of states was logically more consistent with the establishment of a confederation than of a government. Such arguments, however, go for little except to show how even those most solicitous for the states recognized the need of force; and we may be sure that if the new Constitution did not, when finished, provide for coercion of states, such an omission was not due to the notion that state pledges and local good - humor could be relied on, but because a more effective and sagacious plan was the outcome of the debates.
One other provision of the small-state plan challenges our attention, for it was an early phrasing of a momentous idea, the full drift of which probably no one in the convention yet fully comprehended. All acts of Congress that were made in pursuance of its powers, and all treaties made and ratified under the authority of the United States, were declared to “be the supreme law of the respective States so far forth as those Acts or Treaties shall relate to the said States or their Citizens"; and the courts of the several states were to be bound by such acts and treaties in their decisions, “any thing in the respective laws of the Individual States to the Contrary notwithstanding.” It does not appear that Paterson or any of the others was aware that in one essential particular they had discovered the most valuable single principle that had yet been presented, but we shall see that as the days went by this proposition of the small states was not forgotten.
The discussion of the Paterson plan began with great earnestness. The plan of Mr. Paterson, said Lansing, of New York, “sustains the sovereignty of the respective States, that of Mr. Randolph destroys it"; one plan he declared was federal, the other national. Paterson made the leading speech in
1 Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 171; Yates's minutes, in Elliot, Debates, I., 411.
favor of his propositions, contending that the powers of the convention were limited to a revision of the old Articles, that “an equal Sovereignty” was the basis of a confederation, and if the idea of state sovereignty was to be given up, the only logical plan was “that of throwing the States into Hotchpot."1 He here discussed the idea of erasing state boundaries, a scheme which he and his colleague, Brearley, seem actually to have had in serious contemplation. Evidently he could see no middle ground between state sovereignty and the total extinction of the states. Happily, wiser counsels prevailed even among the most enthusiastic nationalists.
Wilson answered Paterson in an able speech. He did not fear the antagonism of the people. “He could not persuade himself that the State Governments and Sovereignties were so much the idols of the people, nor a National Government so obnoxious to them, as some supposed. Why should a National Government be unpopular? Has it less dignity? will each Citizen enjoy under it less liberty or protection? Will a Citizen of Deleware be degraded by becoming a Citizen of the United States? Where do the people look at present for relief from the evils of which they complain? Is it from an internal reform of their Governments? no, Sir. It is from the National Councils that relief is expected."? The difficulty was well summed up by Charles C. Pinckney, who doubtless saw that it was not so much theoretical state sovereignty that influenced most of the small - state men as a modicum of tate pride mixed with a good alloy of old-time jealousy and a nameless dread of some unknown evil. “The whole comes to this,” said Pinckney. “Give New Jersey an equal vote, and she will dismiss her scruples, and concur in the National system.”1
1 Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 173-175; Madison, Papers (Gilpin's ed.), II., 869-871.
* Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III.. 136.
Randolph, never in his life appearing to better advantage, now spoke with rare wisdom and precision (June 17). He spurned the notion that the convention was to be mildly obedient to letters of instruction. He “was not scrupulous on the point of power. When the Salvation of the Republic was at stake, it would be treason to our trust, not to propose what we found necessary.
The true question is whether we shall adhere to the federal plan, or introduce the national plan. The insufficiency of the former has been fully displayed by the trial already made. There are but two modes, by which the end of a General Government can be attained: the first is by coercion as proposed by Mr. Paterson's plan; the second, by real legislation as proposed by the other plan.” He declared that coercion was “impracticable, expensive, cruel to individuals." “We must resort therefore to a National Legislation over individuals, for which Congress are unfit.” “A National Government
1 Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 179.
alone, properly constituted,” he asserted, “will answer the purpose"; and he begged his hearers to remember that the present was the last moment for establishing one. “After this select experiment, the people will yield to despair.
Up to that time Hamilton had been silent, though it was not his practice to spare words or be chary of opinions. Probably he was embarrassed by the fact that he was outvoted by his colleagues from New York. Perhaps he was for the time pessimistic and curious rather than deeply impressed. But he now broke silence, and with a long speech presented in outline his notion of government, of which little need be said. His propositions were extreme, for he freely declared “that the British Government was the best in the world: and that he doubted much whether any thing short of it would do in America.” In popular governments, however modified, Hamilton had little faith; they were “but pork still, with a little change of the sauce."? The House of Lords he declared was “a most noble institution, ' forming a "permanent barrier against every pernicious innovation," such a barrier as no mere elective senate could ever be. The New Jersey plan was utterly untenable, but he saw great difficulty in establishing a good national government on the Virginia plan.
Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 179-181. Ibid., 190; Yates's minutes, in Elliot, Debates, I., 423. • Elliot, Debates, I., 417.