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am,” he said, "if another Federal Convention is attempted, that the sentiments of the members will be more discordant. . . . I am fully persuaded that it [the Constitution) or disunion is before us to chuse from. If the first is our election, a constitutional door is opened for amendments, and may be adopted in a peaceable manner, without tumult or disorder." To those, then, who demanded a new convention or the adoption of amendments before ratification, the wiser plan was offered of adopting the Constitution and then asking for desired amendments.
After the convention had been in session about three weeks, Hancock took his place, and under the skilful coaching of the Federal leaders prepared to play his part. He offered a conciliatory proposition, proposing immediate ratification of the Constitution and the recommendation of amendments which would quiet the fear of the good people of Massachusetts. Adams looked with favor on this method of avoiding the difficulty, and moved the consideration? of Hancock's proposals. The victory of the Federalists was won. Even Nathaniel Barrell, who at the time of his election was "a flaming Antifederalite," announced his conversion.'
Green's Virginia Herald, Fredericksburg, Va.; Pennsylvania Packet, January 11, 1788; Massachusetts Centinel, January 23, 1788.
? Elliot, Debates, II., 123.
s Thatcher Papers, in Historical Magazine, 2d series, VI., 271; Elliot, Debates, II., 159.
Several days of debate ensued, but when the final vote was taken, one hundred and eighty-seven voted for ratification and one hundred and sixty - eight against it.
The amendments? which were asked for by the convention were intended to limit the powers of Congress and to assure the individual certain rights and privileges. The most important was the first, declaring that the Constitution should explicitly state that all powers not expressly delegated by the Constitution were reserved to the several states. The method of ratification had its influence in other states. Had the delegates been reduced to the alternative of rejecting the Constitution or accepting it without reasonable hope of amendment, their fears in some cases would have made rejection certain. But the conciliatory proposition met with favor. Of the seven states acting on the Constitution after Massachusetts, only one failed to accompany ratification with amendments recommended for subsequent adoption.
By February 7, six states had adopted the Constitution, but Federal success was not yet assured. Even Virginia and New York, two important states, might still refuse to ratify, and in others there was diligent opposition. In Maryland there was a sharp struggle. The Anti-Federalists, led by Martin and Samuel Chase, were vehement in their opposition, declaring the new Constitution, if adopted without amendments, deadly to liberty. But the Federalists, controlling the convention and refusing to be enticed into fruitless discussion, remained at length "inflexibly silent," I when their opponents demanded answers to their questions. The convention ratified the Constitution by a vote of sixty-three to eleven (April 26).
1 Elliot, Debates, II., 181.
When the Constitution came before the legislature of South Carolina in January, 1788, it was vigorously attacked and ably defended. Charles Pinckney took occasion to correct those who complained at the radical action of the makers of the Constitution who, being sent to add commercial and revenue powers to the authorities of the old Congress, had cast aside the Confederation and proposed a new system. Nothing can be more true, he said, than that the promoters of the Federal Convention had for their object the establishment of “a firm national government.” The legislature finally voted to call a convention, and when the delegates came together they adopted the Constitution after a short discussion by a vote of over two to one.
Eight states had now ratified the Constitution, and a determined effort was made to secure the ninth, so that it might at least be possible to organize the new government. New Hampshire gave both parties ground for hope. When the state
convention met in February, 1788, the Federalists found that if a vote were taken there would be a small majority for rejecting the Constitution, and it was therefore proposed to adjourn and meet again in June. The character of the convention was not the same when it reassembled. After four days of discussion the Constitution was ratified by a vote of fifty-seven to forty-seven. The ninth state was secured at last. Before the result in New Hampshire was known in the south, Virginia, as we shall see, had met and passed the crisis.?
· Elliot, Debates, IV., 573; Provincial and State Papers of New Hampshire, X., 15, 19.
* Curtis, Hist. of Const., II., 578, n.
FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE
N Virginia the contest was desperate. Only good
fortune and hard work could bring success to the Federalists, for their opponents were ably led and were aided by local conditions. The source of the determined opposition is hard to trace. Oliver Ellsworth declared that it “wholly originated in two principles; the madness of Mason, and the enemity of the Lee faction to General Washington. Had the General not attended the convention nor given his sentiments respecting the constitution, the Lee party would undoubtedly have supported it, and Col. Mason would have vented his rage to his own negroes and to the winds." 1 In truth, however, there were other causes than personal pique and meanminded jealousy: the spirit of local pride and the fear for personal liberty were easily aroused in Virginia; the western sections were already excited over the possibility of the surrender of American rights to Spain, while others were beginning to look
1 "A Landholder" (Ellsworth), in Ford, Essays on the com stitution, 177