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bring forth by their fiat a new government. The idea that they created institutions out of nothingness loses sight of the manner and the conditions of their work. Neither is it true that they copied European institutions, borrowing scraps here and there to patch up a system suited to their tastes. Some of them were students of law, familiar with Vattel, Locke, Montesquieu, and Blackstone. Some of them had read history to a purpose, and could cite the failures of past confederacies or draw illustrations from the experiences of European states. But there is no evidence of borrowing or of slavish copying; for, while they were students and readers of history and knew that their own little experience was not the sum of knowledge, they were practical political workers, had for years studied the problems of forming governments, and had been acquainted with the great process of making state constitutions. The men of the generation that declared independence and formed new states were steeped in political theory as their great-grandfathers had been in theology, and for years they were engaged in the difficult process of adapting old institutions to new ideas, framing governments and laws that suited the economic, social, and moral conditions which the New World had produced.
We might, therefore, expect to find from these experienced craftsmen, not a document hurriedly patched together, nor one taken in part from distant ages or strange climes, but an American document,
in its entirety new, but made up of parts that had found their places in the state organizations. If we look, then, for the origin of the Constitution, we find much of it in the failures of the Confederation, in the tribulations of eleven confused years when the nation was without a proper government and when distress and disorder and incompetence were showing the way to success; and much of it, too, in the state constitutions which had been drawn up by men familiar with colonial governments and administration. This old-fashioned colonial practice was not thrown aside when independence was declared, any more than a man throws aside his body or his brains when he emerges from boyhood to manhood. The work of constitution - making for the states was a work of adaptation, of enlargement, of emphasis, not of creation; it registered growth.
And thus it may be said that colonial history made the Constitution. Even in the division of authority between the states and the national government we see a readjustment of the old practical relationship between colonies and mother-country, a readjustment which was based in part on the imperfections of the old system but carried out the teachings of the Revolution. Even the essentially American notion, the notion that government is the agent of the people and must not transcend the law set by the people, was an outgrowth of the free society of a new world, had found its expression in the theory of the Revolution, and had arisen in a country in which from time immemorial there had been no government possessed of all political power. And this only means, of course, that the Constitution of the United States took its root in the history of England; it was not borrowed by conscious imitation from England, it was a product of the forces of English history; but it was shaped by American necessities, was framed by men who could learn lessons and use the material the tide of history washed to their feet.
THE CONSTITUTION BEFORE THE PEOPLE
THEN the Constitution was finished it was sub
mitted to Congress, then in session at New York. A letter signed by Washington as president of the convention was likewise sent to Congress. · He spoke of the difficulties that had confronted the delegates, of the necessity of a generous consideration for common interests, and of the Constitution as the result of a spirit of amity, mutual deference, and concession. The members of Congress did not give the new plan an enthusiastic welcome. Richard Henry Lee was ready for immediate attack, and he was supported by Dane, of Massachusetts, and Melancthon Smith, of New York. At first technical objections were raised, and then a demand was made for certain radical amendments before the transmission of the Constitution to the states. It soon appeared, however, that such a course would be inexpedient, and at length, without a word of favorable comment, eleven states being present, it was unanimously voted that the Constitution 1 Journals of Congress, September 28, 1787.
should "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.” 1
No one could tell what its fate would be. At first there were evidences of almost enthusiastic approval from the main body of the people. Nervous patriots like Patrick Henry or surly localists like Richard Henry Lee needed time to impress on the multitude the enormity of the convention's misdeeds. Randolph reported to Madison that Baltimore was resounding “with friendship for the new Constitution,” that in Alexandria the people were enthusiastic, and that every town in Virginia was resounding with applause. Madison found New York City favorable, and heard encouraging reports from the eastern states." New Jersey also appeared to be zealous. Gouverneur Morris wrote to Washington: “ Jersey is so near unanimity in her favorable opinion, that we may count with certainty on something more than votes, should the state of affairs hereafter require the application of pointed
Thus in the early days there was good reason for hope of a speedy victory.
In truth, the Constitution had many foes to meet. There was a little band of irreconcilables who could
* Journals of Congress, September 28, 1787; Madison, Papers (Gilpin's ed.), II., 643-646, 650. Ibid., 646-660.
Conway, Edmund Randolph, 95. * Elliot, Debates, V., 567; Madison, Letters (ed. of 1865), I., 355. 6 Elliot, Debates, I., 505.