« 上一頁繼續 »
247. The Convention adopts the new Constitution, and it is submitted to the States. — When the great work was completed and the last delegates were signing the Constitution, the white-haired Franklin rose. Looking at a figure of a half sun painted on the back of the President's chair, he said : “I have often and often in the course of the session looked at that sun without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length, I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.” 558
But the sun had not risen without a cloud. The country was divided between the Federalists, who advocated the Constitution on the ground that the Republic needed a strong government, and the Anti-Federalists, who opposed it because they feared that such a government would be fatal to the individual liberty and welfare of the States and of the people. The Constitution was finally reluctantly accepted by a small majority; 659 but most of the States which then voted to come under the “ New Roof” demanded that it should speedily receive important amendments. Virginia expressly qualified her acceptance of the Constitution by asserting the right of the people to resume the powers they had delegated to the general Government. New York did the same.560
North Carolina and Rhode Island, fearing that their issues of paper money might be curtailed by the proposed Constitution, rejected it. The Articles of Confederation were still in force. They could not be altered or set aside except by the action of the “ Legislatures of every State" ($ 238). But notwithstanding this provision, when eleven States had ratified the new Constitution the Congress of the Confederation declared it in force (September 13, 1788). Thus by a peaceful revolution a majority of the States quietly overturned the old form of government. They withdrew from the first Union in which North Carolina and Rhode Island still remained), and established a new and “more perfect Union.” 561 The two above-named States stood out by themselves until the recently adopted Constitution went into operation, when at length they decided (1789, 1790) to join the majority, and so the last two pillars in the new “temple of liberty" were triumphantly set up.
Meanwhile the first presidential election had taken place. When the electoral votes were opened and counted (February, 1789) in the presence of Congress it was found that George Washington had been unanimously elected President of the United States, and that John Adams had been chosen VicePresident.
248. Summary. - The American colonists began the war of the Revolution (1775), not for the purpose of separating from the English Crown, but simply to obtain their constitutional rights as loyal subjects of that Crown. The contest soon developed (1776) into a war for independence.
Washington conducted the war to a successful termination, and by the treaty of peace (1783) Great Britain fully recognized the independence of the United States of America.
During the first part of the Revolution the Government of the United States was in the hands of the Continental Congress. Later (1781), a “ league of perpetual friendship” was formed between the States under the name of the “ Articles of Confederation," and the Congress of the Confederation took the management of the affairs of the national Government.
Owing mainly to its lack of needful executive and coercive power this "league” failed to give satisfaction. To remedy this defect, and to form “a more perfect Union,” a new Constitution was framed and put in operation by eleven of the thirteen States (1789); shortly afterward the two remaining States decided to ratify it, and thereby entered the new Union. V.
For Authorities for this Chapter, see Appendir, page xxiv. The small figures in the
text refer to Authorities cited on page xxx of the Appendix.
GEORGE WASHINGTON (FEDERALIST), TWO TERMS, 1789-1797.
249. The inauguration ; tasks of the new Government; state of the nation. - Congress assembled in March, 1789, in Federal Hall, New York. Washington's inauguration ($ 247) took place on the balcony of the hall. At its close the bells of the city rang out a joyous peal, the cannon on the Battery fired a salute, and the crowd in the streets shouted: “Long live George Washington, President of the United States." 582
The President and Congress had formidable tasks before them. It was their duty to set up and start the machinery of the new Government. The outlook was doubtful if not threatening
A majority of the States virtually demanded the prompt amendment of the Constitution as the price of their allegiance to the Union ($ 247). The nation was deeply in debt, and had neither revenue nor credit.
It was necessary that we should be able to defend our rights against foreign attack, and to maintain domestic order, but the army had been disbanded, and we did not possess a single war-ship. At the North, Great Britain refused to give up Oswego, Niagara, Detroit, Mackinaw, and other fortified posts, on the ground that we had not fully carried out our treaty pledges. At the South, Spain denied our right to the free navigation of the lower Mississippi ($ 243). West of the Alleghanies the Indians were restless, and in the Ohio country they were preparing to attack the whites.
On the sea the Barbary pirates shut the Mediterranean against our commerce; every American vessel which approached the Straits of Gibraltar did so at the risk of losing both crew and cargo.
This condition of affairs at home and abroad gave rise to many perplexing questions; but before Washington retired from office (1797) they had all been settled in a manner which secured peace, at a time when peace was, of all things, most essential to the welfare of the nation.
250. Executive Department; the Cabinet; the Supreme Court; the tariff; tonnage and excise. — The first work accomplished by Congress was the establishment of the departments of State, the Treasury, and War.
Washington chose his cabinet officers from opposite political ranks. He appointed Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury ; Knox, Secretary of War; Jefferson, Secretary of State; and Randolph, Attorney-General. The first two were Federalists, the last two Anti-Federalists ($ 247).
Congress next organized the Supreme Court of the United States and the inferior federal courts.
Washington appointed John Jay, Chief Justice. The court over which he presided was entrusted with the highest powers granted to any tribunal in the Republic: that of determining, on appeal, the constitutionality of the acts of Congress, and of the laws of the States (Appendix, p. xiii). Speaking of the services of the Supreme Court, Webster said that without it the Constitution“ would be no Constitution, the Government no Government.
Meanwhile Congress was discussing that most urgent of all questions: How to raise a revenue? Should it be obtained by direct tax, or by imposing a duty on imported goods ? The decision was in favor of the latter method, and an act
was passed (1789) establishing the first tariff. The preamble declared that the tariff was "for the support of the Government, for the discharge of the debts of the United States, and the encouragement and protection of manufactures." SA The average duty imposed was very low, — less than nine per cent. In the course of the next eight years (1790-1797) this rate was gradually increased until it reached about fourteen per cent.365 Congress next passed (1789) a tonnage act which levied a tax of six cents per ton on vessels built and owned in the United States and engaged in foreign trade, thirty cents on vessels built in America, but owned abroad, and fifty cents per ton on all other merchant vessels entering our ports. Finding that the payment of the entire public debt would require a larger revenue, Congress enacted (1791) a law which imposed a tax of from twenty to forty cents a gallon on imported liquors, and an excise duty of from nine to thirty cents a gallon on those distilled in the States.
From all sources the Government obtained a total annual revenue of $4,600,000 — a sum then regarded as ample for meeting the expenses of the nation. Since that date the revenue has increased nearly a hundredfold, and the demands on it have multiplied in like ratio. 56
251. Amendments to the Constitution. - A majority of the States had called for certain amendments to the Constitution ($ 247).
Congress adopted twelve, ten of which were ratified (1791) by the States. They practically formed a "Bill of Rights” “ for the more efficient protection of the people" (Appendix, p. xvi).
The first of these amendments (Appendix, p. xvi) is especially noteworthy. It secures freedom of speech and of the press ($ 272), the right of petition, and the free exercise of religion. Finally, it expressly forbids the establishment of a national church. The leading powers of Europe had always considered such a church indispensable to their existence; the founders