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that our natural rights are acquired from ourselves?" 1
The brunt of the contest fell on the shoulders of Wilson. Despite a quaint pedantry and a certain didactic manner that must have annoyed his opponents and wearied his friends, he spoke convincingly and with remarkable appreciation of the vitals of his subject. He dwelt on the essential nature of American institutions, emphasizing the fact that governments were now established by the people, who were the source of political authority. Borrowing his words from Montesquieu, he described the new political system as a “federal republic,” a form of government which “consists in assembling distinct societies which are consolidated into a new body, capable of being increased by the addition of other members." ?
Wilson's notion of the nature of the new order was well brought out by the term “federal liberty." “This, Sir, consists," he said, “in the aggregate of the civil liberty which is surrendered by each state to the national government; and the same principles that operate in the establishment of a single society, with respect to the rights reserved or resigned by the individuals that compose it, will justly apply in the case of a confederation of distinct and independent States. “This system, Sir, will at least make us a nation, and put it in the power of the
1 McMaster and Stone, Pa. and Fed. Const., 295. ; Ibid., 221.
Union to act as such. We will be considered as such by every nation in the world. We will regain the confidence of our own citizens, and command the respect of others.” “I consider," he said again, “the people of the United States as forming one great community, and I consider the people of the different States as forming communities again on a lesser scale." He called attention to the fact that the work of the convention was new; there were, it is true, groups of states known to history, but not like the organization now proposed. “The United Netherlands," he said, “are, indeed, an assemblage of societies; but this assemblage constitutes no new one, and therefore it does not correspond with the full definition of a confederate republic."?
After three weeks of discussion the Anti-Federalists, hoping that delay might aid their cause, ofa fered a series of fifteen amendments and proposed adjournment that the people of the state might have time for consideration. The Federalists resisted all dilatory tactics and insisted on the immediate adoption of the Constitution as it came from the hands of its framers. The amendments were not unreasonable; the resemblance between them and the ten amendments afterward added to the Constitution is so striking that it has been suggested that Madison used the proposition of the Pennsylvania minority when he drew up the amendments in 1789 that were submitted to the states for adoption.'
1 McMaster and Stone, Pa. and Fed. Const., 227, 316, 415. * Elliot, Debates, II., 422.
The ratification of the Constitution by the Pennsylvania convention took place December 12 by a vote of forty-six to twenty-three. There was rejoicing in Philadelphia. On the morrow a procession of dignitaries marched to the court-house, where the ratification was read to a great gathering. In proper Philadelphia fashion a dinner was held at Mr. Epple's tavern, at the seasonable hour of three in the afternoon, and "the remainder of the day was spent in mutual congratulations upon the happy prospect of enjoying, once more, order, justice and good government in the United States." Toasts were drunk to “The People of the United States,"s to the “virtuous minority of Rhode Island," and to other bodies equally deserving approval.
Delaware's convention met at Dover after the assembling of the Pennsylvania convention, but it reached an earlier conclusion, ratifying the Constitution by a unanimous vote December 7. New Jersey did not long delay. Its convention spent but a week in discussion and then without dissent voted for ratification (December 18). Thus three of the central states accepted the Constitution before the beginning of the new year. January 2 the convention of Georgia passed unanimously a res
1 McMaster and Stone, Pa. and Fed. Const., 19, 421. · Elliot, Debates, I., 319. • McMaster and Stone, Pa. and Fed. Const., 429.
olution for ratification. Among the eastern states, Connecticut acted promptly, ratifying (January 9) by a vote of one hundred and twenty-eight to forty.'
In Massachusetts, as in many other states, the first prospects for the adoption of the new Constitution were bright. “The people of Boston," wrote Knox, “are in raptures with it as it is, but would have liked it still better had it been higher toned."'S The reason for this apparent unanimity was probably the fact that the friends of the strong government were on the alert and were ready with arguments in favor of adoption. Opposition, however, soon developed, and ere long it was apparent that a hard struggle was at hand. Pamphlets and newspaper articles denouncing the Constitution as dangerous to the liberties of the people were widely circulated. Such pamphlets as Lee's Letters of the Federal Farmer and even George Mason's letter giving his reasons for refusing to sign the Constitution were scattered abroad. In a letter to the general court, which he is said to have prepared with the critical aid of Lee, Gerry presented his objections to the Constitution: there was, he contended, no proper provision for representation; no suitable definition of the legislative powers of the new government; serious danger of an undue influence by the execu1 Journals of Congress (ed. of 1823), IV., App., 46, 48, 49.
Harding, Fed. Const. in Mass., 16. • Sparks, Corresp. of the Rev., IV., 178.
• Bancroft, Hist. of the Const., II., 230. For the letter, see Austin, Elbridge Gerry, II., 42-45.
tive and of oppression by the judiciary; no restraint on the powers of the president, with the advice of two-thirds of a quorum of the Senate, to make treaties. Like so many others, he found fault with the failure to append a bill of rights as a security for individual liberty. He strongly advised amendments before ratification. “The constitution proposed," he said, "has few, if any federal features, but is rather a system of national government."
Such were some of the more sober criticisms of the Constitution. Other writers objected to the annihilation of the Confederation, the surrender of annual elections, the power and structure of the Senate, the great and exclusive power of levying duties on imports and exports as well as collecting internal taxes, the power over the militia, the right of Congress to raise and support a standing army, the establishment of a supreme court superior to the courts of the states. “In short," said one of the least declamatory of the opponents, ...
you must determine that the Constitution of your Commonwealth, which is instructive, beautiful and consistent in practice, ... a Constitution which is especially calculated for your territory, and is made conformable to your genius, your habits, the mode of holding your estates, and your particular interests, shall be reduced in its powers to those of a City Corporation.” 1
* From Amer. Herald, October 29, 1787, quoted in Harding, Fed. Const. in Mass., 25.