The Adoption of the Constitution
IT was on the 17th of September, 1787, that the Federal Convention broke up. For most of the delegates there was a long and tedious journey home before they could meet their fellow-citizens and explain what had been done at Philadelphia during this anxious summer. Not so, however, with Benjamin Franklin and the Pennsylvania delegation. At eleven o’clock on the next morning, radiant with delight at seeing one of the most cherished purposes of his life so nearly accomplished, the venerable philosopher, attended by his seven colleagues, presented to the legislature of Pennsylvania a copy of the Federal Constitution, and in a brief but pithy speech, characterized by his usual homely wisdom, begged for it their most favorable consideration. His words fell upon willing ears, for nowhere was the disgust at the prevailing anarchy greater than in Philadelphia. But still it was not quite in order for the assembly to act upon the matter until word should come from the Continental Congress. Since its ignominious flight to Princeton, four years ago, that migratory body had not honored Philadelphia with its presence. It had once flitted as far south as Annapolis, but at length had chosen for its abiding-place the city of New York, where it was now in session. To Congress the new Constitution must be submitted before it was in order for the several States to take action upon it. On the 20th of September the draft of the Constitution was laid before Congress, accompanied by a letter from Washington. The forces of the opposition were promptly mustered. At their head was Richard Henry Lee, who eleven years ago had moved in Congress the Declaration of Independence. He was ably supported by Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, and the delegation from New York were unanimous in their determination to obstruct any movement toward a closer union with the States. Their tactics were vigorous, but the majority in Congress were against them, especially after the return of Madison from Philadelphia. Madison, aided by Edward Carrington and young Henry Lee, the famous leader of light horse, succeeded in every division in carrying the vote of Virginia in favor of the Constitution and against the obstructive measures of the elder Lee. The objection was first raised that the new Constitution would put an end to the Continental Congress, and that in recommending it to the States for consideration Congress would be virtually asking them to terminate its own existence. Was it right or proper for Congress thus to have a hand in signing its own deathwarrant ? But this flimsy argument was quickly overturned. Seven months before Congress had recognized the necessity for calling the Convention together ; whatever need for its work existed then, there was the same need now ; and byrefusing to take due cognizance of it Congress would simply stultify itself. The opposition then tried to clog the measure by proposing amendments, but they were outgeneraled, and after eight days’ discussion it was voted that the new Constitution, together with Washington’s letter, “ be transmitted to the several legislatures, in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates in each State by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the convention.”
The submission of the Constitution to the people of the States was the signal for the first formation of political parties on a truly national issue. During the war there had indeed been Whigs and Tories, but their strife had not been like the ordinary strife of political parties ; it was actual warfare. Irredeemably discredited from the outset, the Tories had been overridden and outlawed from one end of the Union to the other. They had never been able to hold up their heads as a party in opposition. Since the close of the war there had been local parties in the various States, divided on issues of hard and soft money, or the impost, or state rights, and these issues had coincided in many of the States. During the autumn of 1787 all these elements were segregated into two great political parties, whose character and views are sufficiently described by their names. Those who supported the new Constitution were henceforth known as Federalists ; those who were opposed to strengthening the bond between the States were called Antifederalists. It was fit that their name should have this merely negative significance, for their policy at this time was purely a policy of negation and obstruction. Care must be taken not to confound them with the Democratic - Republicans, or strict constructionists, who appear in opposition to the Federalists soon after the adoption of the Constitution. The earlier shortlived party furnished a great part of its material to the later one, but the attitude of the strict constructionists under the Constitution was very different from that of the Antifederalists. Madison, the second Republican president, was now the most energetic of Federalists ; and Jefferson, soon to become the founder of the Democratic-Republican party, wrote from Paris, saying, “ The Constitution is a good canvas, on which some strokes only want retouching.” He found the same fault with it that was found by many of the ablest and most patriotic men in the country, — that it failed to include a bill of rights; but at the same time he declared that while he was not of the party of Federalists, he was much further from that of the Antifederalists. The Federal Convention he characterized as “ an assembly of demi-gods.”
The first contest over the new Constitution came in Pennsylvania. The Federalists in that State were numerous, but their opponents had one point in their favor which they did not fail to make the most of. The constitution of Pennsylvania was peculiar. Its legislature consisted of a single house, and its president was chosen by that house. Therefore, said the Antifederalists, if we approve of a Federal Constitution which provides for a legislature of two houses and chooses a President by the device of an electoral college, we virtually condemn the state constitution under which we live. This cry was raised with no little effect. But some of the strongest immediate causes of opposition to the new Constitution were wanting in Pennsylvania. The friends of paper money were few there, and the objections to the control of the central government over commerce were weaker than in many of the other States. The Antifederalists were strongest in the mountain districts west of the Susquehanna, where the somewhat lawless population looked askance at any plan that savored of a stronger government and a more regular collection of revenue. In the eastern counties, and especially in Philadelphia, the Federalists could count upon a heavy majority.
The contest began in the legislature on the 28th of September, the very day on which Congress decided to submit the Constitution to the States, and before the news of its action had reached Philadelphia. The zeal of the Federalists was so intense that they could wait no longer, and they hurried the event with a high-handed vigor that was not altogether seemly. The assembly was on the eve of breaking up, and a new election was to be held on the first Tuesday of November. The Antifederalists hoped to make a stirring campaign, and secure such a majority in the new legislature as to prevent the Constitution from being laid before the people. But their game was frustrated by George Clymer, who had sat in the Federal Convention, and now most unexpectedly moved that a state convention be called to consider the proposed form of government. Great was the wrath of the Antifederalists. Mr. Clymer was quite out of order, they said. Congress had not yet sent them the Constitution; and besides, no such motion could be made without notice given beforehand, nor could it be voted on till it had passed three readings. Parliamentary usage was certainly on the side of the Antifederalists, but the majority were clamorous, and overwhelmed them with cries of “ Question, question ! ” The question was then put, and carried by 43 votes against 19, and the House adjourned till four o’clock. Before going to their dinners the 19 held an indignation meeting, at which it was decided that they would foil these outrageous proceedings by staying away. It took 47 to make a quorum, and without these malcontents the assembly numbered but 45. When the House was called to order after dinner, it was found there were but 45 members present. The sergeant-at-arms was sent to summon the delinquents, but they defied him, and so it became necessary to adjourn till next morning. It was now the turn of the Federalists to uncork the vials of wrath. The affair was discussed in the taverns till after midnight, the 19 were abused without stint, and soon after breakfast, next morning, two of them were visited by a crowd of men, who broke into their lodgings and dragged them off to the State House, where they were forcibly held down in their seats, growling and muttering curses. This made a quorum, and a state convention was immediately appointed for the 20th of November. Before these proceedings were concluded, an express-rider brought the news from New York that Congress had submitted the Constitution to the judgment of the States.
And now there ensued such a war of pamphlets, broadsides, caricatures, squibs, and stump-speeches as had never yet been seen in America. Cato and Aristides, Cincinnatus and Plain Truth, were out in full force. What was the matter with the old confederation ? asked the Antifederalists. Had it not conducted a glorious and triumphant war ? Had it not set us free from the oppression of England ? That there was some trouble now in the country could not be denied, but all would be right if people would only curb their extravagance, wear homespun clothes, and obey the laws. There was government enough in the country already. This Philadelphia convention ought to be distrusted. Some of its members, such as John Dickinson and Robert Morris, had opposed the Declaration of Independence. Pretty men these, to be offering us a new government! You might be sure there was a British cloven foot in it somewhere. Their convention had sat four months with closed doors, as if they were afraid to let people know what they were about. Nobody could tell what secret conspiracies against American liberty might not have been hatched in all that time. One thing was sure: the convention had squabbled. Some members had gone home in a huff; others had refused to sign a document fraught with untold evils to the country. And now came James Wilson, making speeches in behalf of this precious Constitution, and trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes and persuade them to adopt it. Who was James Wilson, any way ? A Scotchman, a countryman of Lord Bute, a born aristocrat, a snob, a patrician, Jimmy, James de Caledonia. Beware of any form of government defended by such a man. And as to the other members of the convention, there was Roger Sherman, who had signed the Articles of Confederation, and was now trying to undo his own work. What confidence could be placed in a man who did not know his own mind any better than that ? Then there were Hamilton and Madison, mere boys ; and Franklin, an old dotard, a man in his second childhood. And as to Washington, he was doubtless a good soldier, but what did he know about politics ? So said the more moderate of the malcontents, hesitating for the moment to speak disrespectfully of such a man ; but presently their zeal got the better of them, and in a paper signed “ Centinel ” it was boldly declared that Washington was a born fool!
From the style and temper of these arguments one clearly sees that the Antifederalists in Pennsylvania felt from the beginning that the day was going against them. Sixteen of the men who had seceded from the assembly, headed by Robert Whitehill, of Carlisle, issued a manifesto setting forth the ill treatment they had received, and sounding an alarm against the dangers of tyranny to which the new Constitution was already exposing them. They were assisted by Richard Henry Lee, who published a series of papers entitled Letters from the Federal Farmer, and scattered thousands of copies through the State of Pennsylvania. He did not deny that the government needed reforming, but in the proposed plan he saw the seeds of aristocracy and of centralization. The chief objections to the Constitution were that it created a national legislature in which the vote was to be by individuals, and not by States; that it granted to this body an unlimited power of taxation ; that it gave too much power to the federal judiciary ; that it provided for paying the salaries of members of Congress out of the federal treasury, and would thus make them independent of their own States; that it required an oath of allegiance to the federal government; and finally, that it did not include a bill of rights. These objections were very elaborately set forth by the leading Antifederalists in the state convention; but the logic and eloquence of James Wilson bore down all opposition. The Antifederalists resorted to filibustering. Five days, it is said, were used up in settling the meanings of the two words “ annihilation ” and “ consolidation.” In this way the convention was kept sitting for nearly three weeks, when news came from “ the Delaware State,” as it used then to be called in Pennsylvania. The concession of an equal representation in the Federal Senate had removed the only ground of opposition in Delaware, and the Federalists had everything their own way there. In a convention assembled at Dover, on the 6th of December, the Constitution was ratified without a single dissenting voice. Thus did this little State lead the way in the good work. The news was received with exultation by the Federalists at Philadelphia, and on the 12th Pennsylvania ratified the Constitution by a two-thirds vote of 46 to 23. The next day all business was quite at a standstill, while the town gave itself up to processions and merry-making. The convention of New Jersey had assembled at Trenton on the 11th, and one week later, on the 18th, it ratified the Constitution unanimously.
A most auspicious beginning had thus been made. Three States, one third of the whole number required, had ratified almost at the same moment. Two of these, moreover, were small States, which at the beginning of the Federal Convention had been obstinately opposed to any fundamental change in the government. It was just here that the Federalists were now strongest. The Connecticut compromise had wrought with telling effect, not only in the convention, but upon the people of the States. When the news from Trenton was received in Pennsylvania, there was great rejoicing in the eastern counties, while beyond the Susquehanna there were threats of armed rebellion. On the day after Christmas, as the Federalists of Carlisle were about to light a bonfire on the common and fire a salute, they were driven off the field by a mob armed with bludgeons, their rickety old cannon was spiked, and an almanac for the new year, containing a copy of the Constitution, was duly cursed, and then burned. Next day the Federalists, armed with muskets, came back, and went through with their ceremonies. Their opponents did not venture to molest them ; but after they had dispersed, an Antifederalist demonstration was made, and effigies of James Wilson and Thomas McKean, another prominent Federalist, were dragged to the common, and there burned at the stake.
The action of Delaware and New Jersey had shown that the Antifederalists could not build any hopes upon the antagonism between large and small States. It was thought, however, that the Southern States would unite in opposing the Constitution from their dread of becoming commercially subjected to New England. But the compromise on the slave-trade had broken through this opposition. On the 2d of January, 1788, the Constitution was ratified in Georgia without a word of dissent. One week later Connecticut ratified by a vote of 128 to 40, after a session of only five days. The hopes of the Antifederalists now rested upon Massachusetts, where the state convention assembled on the 9th of January, the same day on which that of Connecticut broke up. Should Massachusetts refuse to ratify, there would be no hope for the Constitution. Even should nine States adopt it without her, no one supposed a Federal Union feasible from which so great a State should be excluded. Her action, too, would have a marked effect upon other States. It could not be denied that the outlook in Massachusetts was far from encouraging. The embers of the Shays Rebellion still smouldered there, and in the mountain counties of Worcester and Berkshire were heard loud murmurs of discontent. Laws impairing the obligation of contracts were just what these hard-pressed farmers desired, and by the proposed Constitution all such laws were forever prohibited. The people of the district of Maine, which had formed part of Massachusetts for nearly a century, were anxious to set up an independent government for themselves ; and they feared that if they were to enter into the new and closer Federal Union as part of that State, they might hereafter find it impossible to detach themselves. For this reason half of the Maine delegates were opposed to the Constitution. In none of the thirteen States, moreover, was there a more intense devotion to state rights than in Massachusetts. Nowhere had local selfgovernment reached a higher degree of efficiency ; nowhere had the town meeting flourished with such vigor. It was especially characteristic of men trained in the town meeting to look with suspicion upon all delegated power, upon all authority that was to be exercised from a distance. They believed it to be all important that people should manage their own affairs, instead of having them managed by other people ; and so far had this principle been carried that the towns of Massachusetts were like little semi - independent republics, and the State was like a league of such republics, whose representatives, sitting in the state legislature, were like delegates strictly bound by instructions rather than untrammeled members of a deliberative body. To men trained in such a school, it would naturally seem that the new Constitution delegated altogether too much power to a governing body which must necessarily be remote from most of its constituents. It was feared that some sort of tyranny might grow out of this, and such fears were entertained by men who were not in the slightest degree infected with Shaysism, as the political disease of the inland counties was then called. Such fears were entertained by the greatest citizen that Massachusetts has ever produced, the man who has been well described as preëminently “ the man of the town meeting,” — Samuel Adams. The limitations of this great man, as well as his powers, were those which belonged to him as chief among the men of English race who have swayed society through the medium of the ancient folk mote. At this time he was believed by many to be hostile to the new Constitution, and his influence in Massachusetts was still greater than that of any other man. Besides this, it was thought that the governor, John Hancock, was half-hearted in his support of the Constitution, and it was in everybody’s mouth that Elbridge Gerry had refused to set his name to that document because he felt sure it would create a tyranny.
Such symptoms encouraged the Antifederalists in the hope that Massachusetts would reject the Constitution and ruin the plans of the “ visionary young men ” — as Richard Henry Lee called them — who had swayed the Federal Convention. But there were strong forces at work in the opposite direction. In Boston and all the large coast towns, even those of the Maine district, the dominant feeling was Federalist. All well-to-do people had been alarmed by the Shays insurrection, and merchants, shipwrights, and artisans of every sort were convinced that there was no prosperity in store for them until the federal government should have control over commerce, and be enabled to make its strength felt on the seas and in Europe. In these views Samuel Adams shared so thoroughly that his attitude toward the Constitution at this moment was really that of a waverer rather than an opponent. Amid balancing considerations he found it for some time hard to make up his mind.
In the convention which met on the 9th of January there sat Gorham, Strong, and King, who had taken part in the Federal Convention. There were also Samuel Adams and James Bowdoin; the revolutionary generals, Heath and Lincoln ; and the rising statesmen, Sedgwick, Parsons, and Fisher Ames, whose eloquence was soon to become so famous. There were twenty-four clergymen, of various denominations, — men of sound scholarship, and several of them eminent for worldly wisdom and liberality of temper. Governor Hancock presided, gorgeous in crimson velvet and finest laces, while about the room sat many browned and weatherbeaten farmers, among whom were at least eighteen who hardly a year ago had marched over the pine-clad mountain ridges of Petersham, under the banner of the rebel Shays. It was a wholesome no less than a generous policy that let these men come in and freely speak their minds. The air was thus the sooner cleared of discontent ; the disease was thus the more likely to heal itself. In all there were three hundred and fifty-five delegates present, — a much larger number than took part in any of the other state conventions. The people of all parts of Massachusetts were very thoroughly represented, as befitted the State which was preëminent in the active political life of its town meetings, and the work done here was in some respects decisive in its effect upon the adoption of the Constitution.
The convention began by overhauling that document from beginning to end, discussing it clause by clause with somewhat wearisome minuteness. Some of the objections seem odd to us at this time, with our larger experience. It was several days before the minds of the country members could be reconciled to the election of representatives for so long a period as two years. They had not been wont to delegate power to anybody for so long a time, not even to their selectmen, whom they had always under their eyes. How much more dangerous was it likely to prove if delegated authority were to be exercised for so long a period at some distant federal city, such as the Constitution contemplated ! There was a vague dread that in some indescribable way the new Congress might contrive to make its sittings perpetual, and thus become a tyrannical oligarchy, which might tax the people without their consent. And then as to this federal city, there were some who did not like the idea. A district ten miles square ! Was not that a great space to give up to the uncontrolled discretion of the federal government, wherein it could wreak its tyrannical will without let or hindrance ? One of the delegates thought he could be reconciled to the new Constitution if this district could only be narrowed down to one mile square. And then there was the powder granted to Congress to maintain a standing army, of which the President was to be ex officio commander-in-chief. Did not this open the door for a Cromwell ? It was to be a standing army for at least two years, since this was the shortest period between elections. Why, even the British Parliament, since 1688, did not keep up a standing army for more than one year at a time, but renewed its existence annually under what was termed the Mutiny Act. But what need of a standing army at all ? Would it not be sure to provoke needless disorders? Had they already forgotten the Boston Massacre, in spite of all the orations that had been delivered in the Old South MeetingHouse ? A militia, organized under the town-meeting system, was surely all-sufficient. Such a militia had won glorious triumphs at Lexington and Bennington ; and at King’s Mountain, had not an army of militia surrounded and captured an army of regulars led by one of England’s most skillful officers ? What more could you ask ? Clearly this plan for a standing army foreboded tyranny. Upon this point Mr. Nason, from the Maine district, had his say, in tones of inimitable bombast. “ Had I the voice of Jove,” said he, “ I would proclaim it throughout the world; and had I an arm like Jove, I would hurl from the globe those villains that would dare attempt to establish in our country a standing army! ”
Next came the complaint that the Constitution did not recognize the existence of God, and provided no religious tests for candidates for federal offices. But, strange to say, this objection did not come from the clergy. It was urged by some of the country members, but the ministers in the convention were nearly unanimous in opposing it. There had been a remarkable change of sentiment among the clergy of this State, which had begun its existence as a theocracy, in which none but church members could vote or hold office. The seeds of modern liberalism had been planted in their minds. When Amos Singletary, of Sutton, declared it to be scandalous that a Papist or an infidel should be as eligible to office as a Christian, — a remark which naively assumed that Roman Catholics were not Christians, — the Rev. Daniel Shute, of Hingham, replied that no conceivable advantage could result from a religious test. Yes, said the Rev. Philip Payson, of Chelsea, “ human tribunals for the consciences of men are impious encroachments upon the prerogatives of God. A religious test, as a qualification for office, would have been a great blemish.” “ In reason and in the Holy Scripture,” said the Rev. Isaac Backus, of Middleborough, “ religion is ever a matter between God and the individual; the imposing of religious tests hath been the greatest engine of tyranny in the world.” With this liberal stand firmly taken by the ministers, the religious objection was speedily overruled.
Then the clause which allows Congress to regulate the times, places, and manner of holding federal elections was severely criticised. It was feared that Congress would take advantage of this provision to destroy the freedom of elections. It was further objected that members of Congress, being paid their salaries from the federal treasury, would become too independent of their constituents. Federal collectors of revenue, moreover, would not be so likely to act with moderation and justice as collectors appointed by the State. Then it was very doubtful whether the people could support the expense of an elaborate federal government. They were already scarcely able to pay their town, county, and state taxes; was it to be supposed they could bear the additional burden with which federal taxation would load them ? Then the compromise on the slave-trade was fiercely attacked. They did not wish to have a hand in licensing this nefarious traffic for twenty years. But it was urged, on the other hand, that by prohibiting the foreign slave-trade after 1808 the Constitution was really dealing a death-blow to slavery ; and this opinion prevailed.
During the whole course of the discussion, observed the Rev. Samuel West, of New Bedford, it seemed to be taken for granted that the federal government was going to be put into the hands of crafty knaves. “ I wish,” said he, “ that the gentlemen who have started so many possible objections would try to show us that what they so much deprecate is probable. . . . Because power may be abused, shall we be reduced to anarchy ? What hinders our state legislatures from abusing their powers? . . . May we not rationally suppose that the persons we shall choose to administer the government will be, in general, good men ? ” General Thompson said he was surprised to hear such an argument from a clergyman, who was professionally bound to maintain that all men were totally depraved. For his part he believed they were so, and he could prove it from the Old Testament. “ I would not trust them,” echoed Abraham White, of Bristol, “ though every one of them should be a Moses.”
This feeling of distrust was strongest among the farmers from the mountain districts. As Rufus King said, they objected, not so much to the Constitution as to the men who made it and the men who sang its praises. They hated lawyers, and were jealous of wealthy merchants. “ These lawyers,” said Amos Singletary, “ and men of learning, and moneyed men that talk so finely and gloss over matters so smoothly, to make us poor illiterate people swallow the pill, expect to get into Congress themselves. They mean to be managers of the Constitution. They mean to get all the money into their hands, and then they will swallow up us little folk, like the great Leviathan, Mr. President; yes, just as the whale swallowed up Jonah.” Here a more liberal-minded farmer, Jonathan Smith, of Lanesborough, rose to reply with references to the Shays Rebellion, which presently called forth cries of “ Order! ” from some of the members. Samuel Adams said the gentleman was quite in order, — let him go on in his own way. “ I am a plain man,” said Mr. Smith, “ and am not used to speak in public, but I am going to show the effects of anarchy, that you may see why I wish for good government. Last winter people took up arms, and then, if you went to speak to them, you had the musket of death presented to your breast. They would rob you of your property, threaten to burn your houses, oblige you to be on your guard night and day. Alarms spread from town to town, families were broken up ; the tender mother would cry, “ Oh, my son is among them! What shall I do for my child ? ’ Some were taken captive ; children taken out of their schools and carried away. . . . How dreadful was this! Our distress was so great that we should have been glad to snatch at anything that looked like a government. . . . Now, Mr. President, when I saw this Constitution, I found that it was a cure for these disorders. I got a copy of it, and read it over and over. ... I did not go to any lawyer, to ask his opinion ; we have no lawyer in our town, and we do well enough without. My honorable old daddy there [pointing to Mr. Singletary] won’t think that I expect to be a Congressman, and swallow up the liberties of the people. I never had any post, nor do I want one. But I don’t think the worse of the Constitution because lawyers, and men of learning, and moneyed men are fond of it. I am not of such a jealous make. They that are honest men themselves are not apt to suspect other people. . . . Brother farmers, let us suppose a case, now. Suppose you had a farm of 50 acres, and your title was disputed, and there was a farm of 5000 acres joined to you that belonged to a man of learning, and his title was involved in the same difficulty : would you not be glad to have him for your friend, rather than to stand alone in the dispute ? Well, the case is the same. These lawyers, these moneyed men, these men of learning, are all embarked in the same cause with us, and we must all sink or swim together. Shall we throw the Constitution overboard because it does not please us all alike ? Suppose two or three of you had been at the pains to break up a piece of rough land and sow it with wheat: would you let it lie waste because you could not agree what sort of a fence to make ? Would it not be better to put up a fence that did not please every one’s fancy, rather than keep disputing about it until the wild beasts came in and devoured the crop ? Some gentlemen say, Don’t be in a hurry ; take time to consider. I say, There is a time to sow and a time to reap. We sowed our seed when we sent men to the Federal Convention, now is the time to reap the fruit of our labor; and if we do not do it now, I am afraid we shall never have another opportunity.”
It may be doubted whether all the eloquence of Fisher Ames could have stated the case more forcibly than it was put by this plain farmer from the Berkshire hills. Upon Ames, with King, Parsons, Bowdoin, and Strong, fell the principal work in defending the Constitution. For the first two weeks, Samuel Adams scarcely opened his mouth, but listened with anxious care to everything that was said on either side. The convention was so evenly divided that there could be no doubt that his single voice would decide the result. Every one eagerly awaited his opinion. In the debate on the two years’ term of members of Congress, he had asked Caleb Strong the reason why the Federal Convention had decided upon so long a term; and when it was explained as a necessary compromise between the usages of so many States, he replied, “ I am satisfied.” “ Will Mr. Adams kindly say that again ? ” asked one of the members. “ I am satisfied,” he repeated ; and not another word was said on the subject in all those weeks. So profound was the faith of this intelligent and skeptical and independent people in the sound judgment and unswerving integrity of the Father of the Revolution ! As the weeks went by, and the issue seemed still dubious, the workingmen of Boston, shipwrights and brass-founders and other mechanics, decided to express their opinion in a way that they knew Samuel Adams would heed. They held a meeting at the Green Dragon tavern, passed resolutions in favor of the Constitution, and appointed a committee, with Paul Revere at its head, to make known these resolutions to the great popular leader. When Adams had read the paper, he asked of Paul Revere, “ How many mechanics were at the Green Dragon when these resolutions passed ? ” “ More, sir, than the Green Dragon could hold.” “ And where were the rest, Mr. Revere ? ” “In the streets, sir.” “And how many were in the streets ? ” “ More, sir, than there are stars in the sky.”
Between Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson there were several points of resemblance, the chief of which was an intense faith in the sound common sense of the mass of the people. This faith was one of the strongest attributes of both these great men. It has usually been supposed that it was this incident of the meeting at the Green Dragon that determined Adams’s final attitude in the state convention. Unquestionably, such a demonstration must have had great weight with him. But at the same time the affair was taking such a turn as would have decided him, even without the aid of this famous mass-meeting. The long delay in the decision of the Massachusetts convention had carried the excitement to fever heat throughout the country. Not only were people from New Hampshire and New York and naughty Rhode Island waiting anxiously about Boston to catch every crumb of news they could get, but intrigues were going on, as far south as Virginia, to influence the result. On the 21st of January the Boston Gazette came out with a warning, headed by enormous capitals with three exclamation-points: “ Bribery and Corruption ! ! ! The most diabolical plan is on foot to corrupt the members of the convention who oppose the adoption of the new Constitution. Large sums of money have been brought from a neighboring State for that purpose, contributed by the wealthy. If so, is it not probable there may be collections for the same accursed purpose nearer home ? ” No adequate investigation ever determined whether this charge was true or not. We may hope that it was ill-founded ; but our general knowledge of human nature must compel us to admit that there was probably a grain of truth in it. But what was undeniable was that Richard Henry Lee wrote a letter to Gerry, urging that Massachusetts should not adopt the Constitution without insisting upon sundry amendments ; and in order to consider these amendments, it was suggested that there should be another Federal Convention. At this anxious crisis, Washington suddenly threw himself into the breach with that infallible judgment of his which always saw the way to victory. “ If another Federal Convention is attempted,” said Washington, “its members will be more discordant, and will agree upon no general plan. The Constitution is the best that can be obtained at this time. . . . The Constitution or disunion are before us to choose from. If the Constitution is our choice, a constitutional door is open for amendments, and they may be adopted in a peaceable manner, without tumult or disorder.” When this advice of Washington’s reached Boston, it set in motion a train of events which soon solved the difficulty, both for Massachusetts and for the other States which had not yet made up their mind. Chief among the objections to the Constitution had been the fact that it did not contain a bill of rights. It did not guarantee religious liberty, freedom of speech and of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances. It did not provide against the quartering of soldiers upon the people in time of peace. It did not provide against general search-warrants, nor did it securely prescribe the methods by which individuals should be held to answer for criminal offenses. It did not even provide that nobody should be burned at the stake or stretched on the rack, for holding peculiar opinions about the nature of God or the origin of evil. That such objections to the Constitution seem strange to us to-day is partly due to the determined attitude of the men who, amid all the troubles of the time, would not consent to any arrangement from which such safeguards to free thinking and free living should be omitted. The friends of the Constitution in Boston now proposed that the convention, while adopting it, should suggest sundry amendments containing the essential provisions of a bill of rights. It was not intended that the ratification should be conditional. Under the circumstances, a conditional ratification might prove as disastrous as rejection. It might lead to a second Federal Convention, in which the good work already accomplished might be undone. The ratification was to be absolute, and the amendments were offered in the hope that action would be taken upon them as soon as the new government should go into operation. There could be little doubt that the suggestion would be heeded, not only from the importance of Massachusetts in the Union, but also from the fact that Virginia and other States would be sure to follow her example in suggesting such amendments. This forecast proved quite correct, and it was in this way that the first ten amendments originated, which were acted on by Congress in 1790, and became part of the Constitution in 1791. As soon as this plan had been matured, Hancock proposed it to the convention ; the hearty support of Adams was immediately insured, and within a week from that time, on the 6th of February, the Constitution was ratified by the narrow majority of 187 votes against 168. On that same day Jefferson, in Paris, wrote to Madison : “ I wish with all my soul that the nine first conventions may accept the new Constitution, to secure to us the good it contains ; but I equally wish that the four latest, whichever they may be, may refuse to accede to it till a declaration of rights be annexed ; but no objection to the new form must produce a schism in our Union.” But as soon as he heard of the action of Massachusetts, he approved it as preferable to his own idea, and he wrote home urging Virginia to follow the example.
Massachusetts was thus the sixth State to ratify the Constitution. On that day the name of the Long Lane by the meeting-house where the convention had sat was changed to Federal Street. The Boston people, said Henry Knox, had quite lost their senses with joy. The two counties of Worcester and Berkshire had given but 14 yeas against 59 nays, but the farmers went home declaring that they should cheerfully abide by the decision of the majority. Not a murmur was heard from any one.
About the time that the Massachusetts convention broke up, that of New Hampshire assembled at Exeter; but after a brief discussion it was decided to adjourn until June, in order to see how the other States would act. On the 21st of April the Maryland convention assembled at Annapolis. All the winter Patrick Henry had been busily intriguing, with the hope of inducing the Southern States to establish a separate confederacy ; but he had made little headway anywhere, and none at all in Maryland, where his influence was completely counteracted by that of Washington. Above all things, said Washington, do not let the convention adjourn till the matter is decided, for the Antifederalists are taking no end of comfort from the postponement in New Hampshire. Their glee was short-lived, however. Some of Maryland’s strongest men, such as Luther Martin and Samuel Chase, were Antifederalists ; but their efforts were of no avail. After a session of five days the Constitution was ratified by a vote of 63 to 11. Whatever damage New Hampshire might have done was thus more than made good. The eyes of the whole country were now turned upon the eighth State, South Carolina. Her convention was to meet at Charleston on the 12th of May, the anniversary of the day on which General Lincoln had surrendered that city to Sir Henry Clinton ; but there had been a decisive preliminary struggle in the legislature in January. The most active of the Antifederalists was Rawlins Lowndes, who had opposed the Declaration of Independence. Lowndes was betrayed into silliness. “ We are now,” said he, “ under a most excellent constitution, — a blessing from Heaven, that has stood the test of time [!!], and given us liberty and independence ; yet we are impatient to pull down that fabric which we raised at the expense of our blood.” This was not very convincing to the assembly, most of the members knowing full well that the fabric had not stood the test of time, but had already tumbled in by reason of its vicious construction. A more effective plea was that which referred to the slave-trade. “ What cause is there,” said Lowndes, “ for jealousy of our importing negroes ? Why confine us to twenty years ? Why limit us at all ? This trade can be justified on the principles of religion and humanity. They do not like our having slaves because they have none themselves, and therefore want to exclude us from this great advantage.” Cotesworth Pinckney replied : “ By this settlement we have secured an unlimited importation of negroes for twenty years. The general government can never emancipate them, for no such authority is granted, and it is admitted on all hands that the general government has no powers but what are expressly granted by the Constitution. We have obtained a right to recover our slaves in whatever part of the country they may take refuge, which is a right we had not before. In short, considering all circumstances, we have made the best terms in our power for the security of this species of property. We would have made better if we could ; but, on the whole, I do not think them bad.” Perhaps Pinckney would not have assumed exactly this tone at Philadelphia, but at Charleston the argument was convincing. Lowndes then sounded the alarm that the New England States would monopolize the carrying-trade and charge ruinous freights, and he drew a harrowing picture of warehouses packed to bursting with rice, and indigo spoiling because the owners could not afford to pay the Yankee skippers’ prices for carrying their goods to market. But Pinckney rejoined that a Yankee shipmaster in quest of cargoes would not be likely to ruin his own chances for getting them, and he called attention to the great usefulness of the Eastern merchant marine as affording material for a navy, and thus contributing to the defense of the country. Finally Lowndes put in a plea for paper money, but with little success. The result of the debate set the matter so clearly before the people that a great majority of Federalists were elected to the convention. Among them were Gadsden, the Rutledges and the Pinckneys, Moultrie, and William Washington, who had become a citizen of the State from which he had helped to expel the British invader. The Antifederalists were largely represented by men from the upland counties, belonging to a population in which there was considerable likeness all along the Appalachian chain of mountains, from Pennsylvania to the southern extremity of the range. There were among them many “ moonshiners,” as they were called, — distillers of illicit whiskey, — and they did not relish the idea of a federal excise. At their head was Thomas Sumter, a convert to Patrick Henry’s scheme for a Southern confederacy. Their policy was one of delay and obstruction, but it availed them little, for on the 23d of May, after a session of eleven days, South Carolina ratified the Constitution by a vote of 149 against 73.
The sound policy of the Federal Convention in adopting the odious compromise over the slave-trade was now about to bear fruit. In Virginia there had grown up a party which favored the establishment of a separate Southern confederacy. By the action of South Carolina all such schemes were now nipped in the bud. Of the States south of Mason and Dixon’s line, three had now ratified the Constitution, so that any separate confederacy could now consist only of Virginia and North Carolina. The reason for this short-lived separatist feeling in Virginia was to be found in the complications which had grown out of the attempt of Spain to close the Mississippi River. It will be remembered that only two years before Jay had actually recommended to Congress that the right to navigate the Lower Mississippi be surrendered for twenty-five years, in exchange for a favorable commercial treaty with Spain. The New England States, caring nothing for the distant Mississippi, supported this measure in Congress ; and this narrow and selfish policy naturally created alarm in Virginia, which, in her district of Kentucky, touched upon the great river. Thus to the vague dread of the Southern States in general, in the event of New England’s controlling the commercial policy of the government, there was added, in Virginia’s case, a specific fear. If the New England people were thus ready to barter away the vital interests of a remote part of the country, what might they not do? Would they ever stop at anything so long as they could go on building up their commerce ? This feeling strongly influenced Patrick Henry in his desire for a separate confederacy ; and we have seen how Randolph and Mason, in the Federal Convention, were so disturbed at the power given to Congress to regulate commerce by a simple majority of votes that they refused to set their names to the Constitution. They alleged further reasons for their refusal, but this was the chief one. They wanted a two-thirds vote to be required, in order that the South might retain the means of protecting itself. Under these circumstances the opposition to the Constitution was very strong, and but for the action of South Carolina the party in favor of a separate confederacy might have been capable of doing much mischief. As it was, since that party had actively intrigued both in South Carolina and Maryland, the ratification of the Constitution by both these States was a direct rebuff. It quite demoralized the advocates of secession. The papermoney men, moreover, were handicapped by the fact that two of the most powerful Antifederalists, Mason and Lee, were determined opponents of a paper currency, so that this subject had to be dropped or very gingerly dealt with. The strength of the Antifederalists, though impaired by these causes, was still very great. The contest was waged with all the more intensity of feeling because, since eight States had now adopted the Constitution, the verdict of Virginia would be decisive. The convention met at Richmond on the 2d of June, and Edmund Pendleton was chosen president. Foremost among the Antifederalists was Patrick Henry, whose eloquence was now as zealously employed against the new government as it had been in bygone days against the usurpations of Great Britain. He was supported by Mason, Lee, and Grayson, as well as by Benjamin Harrison and John Tyler, the fathers of two future Presidents ; and he could count on the votes of most of the delegates from the midland counties, from the south bank of the James River, and from Kentucky. But the united talents of the opposition had no chance of success in a conflict with the genius and tact of Madison, who at one moment crushed, at another conciliated, his opponent, but always won the day. To Madison, more than any other man, the Federalist victory was due. But he was ably seconded by Governor Randolph, whom he began by winning over from the opposite party, and by the favorite general and eloquent speaker, “ Light-Horse Harry.” Conspicuous in the ranks of Federalists, and unsurpassed in debate, was a tall and gaunt young man, with beaming countenance, eyes of piercing brilliancy, and an indescribable kingliness of bearing, who was by and by to become Chief Justice of the United States, and by his profound and luminous decisions to win a place side by side with Madison and Hamilton among the founders of our national government. John Marshall, second to none among all the illustrious jurists of the English race, was then, at the age of thirty-three, the foremost lawyer in Virginia. He had already served for several terms in the state legislature, but his national career began in this convention, where his arguments with those of Madison, reinforcing each other, bore down all opposition. The details of the controversy were much the same as in the States already passed in review, save in so far as colored by the peculiar circumstances of Virginia. After more than three weeks of debate, on the 25th of June, the question was put to vote, and the Constitution was ratified by the narrow majority of 89 against 79. Amendments were offered, after the example of Massachusetts, which had already been followed by South Carolina and the minority in Maryland; and, as in Massachusetts, the defeated Antifederalists announced their intention to abide loyally by the result.
The discussion had lasted so long that Virginia lost the distinction of being the ninth State to ratify the Constitution. That honor had been reserved for New Hampshire, whose convention had met on the anniversary of Bunker Hill, and after a four days’ session, on the 21st of June, had given its consent to the new government by a vote of 57 against 46. The couriers from Virginia and those from New Hampshire, as they spurred their horses over long miles of dusty road, could shout to each other the joyous news in passing. Though the ratification of New Hampshire had secured the necessary ninth State, yet the action of Virginia was not the less significant and decisive. Virginia was at that time, and for a quarter of a century afterward, the most populous State in the Union, and one of the greatest in influence. Even with the needed nine States all in hand, it is clear that the new government could not have gone into successful operation with the leading State, the home of Washington himself, left out in the cold. The New Roof, as men were then fond of calling the Federal Constitution, must speedily have fallen in without this indispensable prop. When it was known that Virginia had ratified, it was felt that the victory was won, and the success of the new scheme assured. The 4th of July, 1788, witnessed such loud rejoicings as have perhaps never been seen before or since on American soil. In Philadelphia there was a procession miles in length, in which every trade was represented, and wagons laden with implements of industry or emblematic devices alternated with bands of music and gorgeous banners. There figured the New Roof, supported by thirteen columns, and there was to be seen the Ship of State, the good ship Constitution, made out of the barge which Paul Jones had taken from the shattered and blood-stained Serapis, after his terrible fight. As for the old scow Confederation, Imbecility master, it was proclaimed she had foundered at sea, and “ the sloop Anarchy, when last heard from, was ashore on Union Rocks.” All over the country there were processions and bonfires, and in some towns there were riots. In Providence the Federalists prepared a barbecue of oxen roasted whole, but a mob of farmers, led by three members of the state legislature, attempted to disperse them, and were with some difficulty pacified. In Albany the Antifederalists publicly burned the Constitution, whereupon a party of Federalists brought out another copy of it, and nailed it to the top of a pole, which they planted defiantly amid the ashes of the fire their opponents had made. Out of these proceedings there grew a riot, in which knives were drawn, stones were thrown, and blood was shed.
Such incidents might have served to remind one that the end had not yet come. The difficulties were not yet surmounted, and the rejoicing was in some respects premature. It was now settled that the new government was to go into operation, but how it was going to be able to get along without the adhesion of New York it was not easy to see. It is true that New York then ranked only as fifth among the States in population, but commercially and militarily she was the centre of the Union. She not only touched at once on the ocean and the lakes, but she separated New England from the rest of the country. It was rightly felt that the Union could never be cemented without this central State. So strongly were people impressed with this feeling that some went so far as to threaten violence. It was said that if New York did not come into the Union peacefully and of her own accord, she should be conquered and dragged in. That she would come in peacefully seemed at first very improbable. When the state convention assembled at Poughkeepsie, on the 17th of June, more than two thirds of its members were avowed Antifederalists. At their head was the governor, George Clinton, hard-headed and resolute, the bitterest hater of the Constitution that could be found anywhere in the thirteen States. Foremost among his supporters were Yates and Lansing, with Melanchthon Smith, a man familiar with political history, and one of the ablest debaters in the country. On the Federalist side were such eminent men as Livingston and Jay ; but the herculean task of vanquishing this great hostile majority, and converting it by sheer dint of argument into a majority on the right side, fell chiefly upon the shoulders of one man. But for Alexander Hamilton the decision of New York would unquestionably have been adverse to the Constitution. Nay, more, it is very improbable that, but for him, the good work would have made such progress as it had in the other States. To get the people to adopt the Constitution, it was above all things needful that its practical working should be expounded, in language such as every one could understand, by some writer endowed in the highest degree with political intelligence and foresight. Upon their return from the Federal Convention, Yates and Lansing had done all in their power to bring its proceedings into ill - repute. Pamphlets and broadsides were scattered right and left. The Constitution was called the “ triple-headed monster,” and declared to be “ as deep and wicked a conspiracy as ever was invented in the darkest ages against the liberties of a free people.” It soon occurred to Hamilton that it would be well worth while to explain the meaning of all parts of the Constitution in a series of short, incisive essays. He communicated his plan to Madison and Jay, who joined him in the work, and the result was the Federalist, perhaps the most famous of American books, and undoubtedly the most profound and suggestive treatise on government that has ever been written. Of the eighty-five numbers originally published in the Independent Gazetteer, under the common signature of “ Publius,” Jay wrote five, Madison twenty-nine, and Hamilton fiftyone. Jay’s papers related chiefly to diplomatic points, with which his experience abroad had fitted him to deal. The first number was written by Hamilton in the cabin of a sloop on the Hudson, in October, 1787 ; and they continued to appear, sometimes as often as three or four in a week, through the winter and spring. Madison would have contributed a larger share than he did had he not been called early in March to Virginia to fight the battle of the Constitution in that State. The essays were widely and eagerly read, and probably accomplished more toward insuring the adoption of the Constitution than anything else that was said or done in that eventful year. They were hastily written, — struck out at white heat by men full of their subject. Doubtless the authors did not realize the grandeur of the literary work they were doing, and among the men of the time there were few who foresaw the immortal fame which these essays were to earn. It is said of one of the Senators in the first Congress that he made the memorandum, “ Get the Federalist, if I can, without buying it. It is n’t worth it.” But for all posterity the Federalist must remain the most authoritative commentary upon the Constitution that can be found ; for it is the joint work of the principal author of that Constitution and of its most brilliant advocate.
In nothing could the flexibleness of Hamilton’s intellect, or the genuineness of his patriotism, have been more finely shown than in the hearty zeal and transcendent ability with which he now wrote in defense of a plan of government so different from what he would himself have proposed. He made Madison’s thoughts his own, until he set them forth with even greater force than Madison himself could command. Yet no arguments could possibly be less chargeable with partisanship than the arguments of the Federalist. The judgment is as dispassionate as could be shown in a philosophical treatise. The tone is one of grave and lofty eloquence, apt to move even to tears the reader who is fully alive to the stupendous issues that were involved in the discussion. Hamilton was supremely endowed with the faculty of imagining, with all the circumstantial minuteness of concrete reality, political situations different from those directly before him; and he put this rare power to noble use in tracing out the natural and legitimate working of such a Constitution as that which the Federal Convention had framed.
When it came to defending the Constitution before the hostile convention at Poughkeepsie, he had before him as arduous a task as ever fell to the lot of a parliamentary debater. It was a case where political management was out of the question. The opposition were too numerous to be silenced, or cajoled, or bargained with. They must be converted. With an eloquence scarcely equaled before or since in America until Webster’s voice was heard, Hamilton argued week after week, till at last Melanchthon Smith, the foremost debater of Clinton’s party, broke away, and came to the Federalist side. It was like crushing the centre of a hostile army. After this the Antifederalist forces were confused and easily routed. The decisive struggle was over the question whether New York could ratify the Constitution conditionally, reserving to herself the right to withdraw from the Union in case the amendments upon which she had set her heart should not be adopted. Upon this point Hamilton reinforced himself with the advice of Madison, who had just returned to New York. Could a State once adopt the Constitution, and then withdraw from the Union if not satisfied ? Madison’s reply was prompt and decisive. No, such a thing could never be done. A State which had once ratified was in the federal bond forever. The Constitution could not provide for nor contemplate its own overthrow. There could be no such thing as a constitutional right of secession. When Melanchthon Smith deserted the Antifederalists on this point, the victory was won, and on the 26th of July New York ratified the Constitution by the bare majority of 30 votes against 27. Rejoicings were now renewed throughout the country. In the city of New York there was an immense parade, and as the emblematic federal ship was drawn through the streets, with Hamilton’s name emblazoned on her side, it was doubtless the proudest moment of the young statesman’s life.
New York, however, clogged her acceptance by proposing, a few days afterward, that a second Federal Convention be called for considering the amendments suggested by the various States. The proposal was supported by the Virginia legislature, but Massachusetts and Pennsylvania opposed it, as having a dangerous tendency to reopen the whole discussion and unsettle everything. The proposal fell to the ground. People were weary of the long dispute, and turned their attention to electing representatives to the first Congress. With the adhesion of New York all serious anxiety came to an end. The new government could be put in operation without waiting for North Carolina and Rhode Island to make up their minds. The North Carolina convention met on the 21st of July, and adjourned on the 1st of August without coming to any decision. The same objections were raised as in Virginia; and besides, the paper - money party was here much stronger than in the neighboring State. In Rhode Island paper money was the chief difficulty; that State did not even take the trouble to call a convention. It was not until the 21st of November, 1789, after Washington’s government had been several months in operation, that North Carolina joined the Federal Union. Rhode Island did not join till the 29th of May, 1790. If she had waited but a few months longer, Vermont, the first State not of the original thirteen, would have come in before her.
The autumn of 1788 was a season of busy but peaceful electioneering. That remarkable body, the Continental Congress, in putting an end to its troubled existence, decreed that presidential electors should be chosen on the first Wednesday of January, 1789, that the electors should meet and cast their votes for President on the first Wednesday in February, and that the Senate and House of Representatives should assemble on the first Wednesday in March. This latter day fell, in 1789, on the 4th of the month, and accordingly, three years afterward, Congress took it for a precedent, and decreed that thereafter each new administration should begin on the 4th of March. It was further decided, after some warm debate, that until the site for the proposed federal city could be selected and built upon, the seat of the new government should be the city of New York.
In accordance with these decrees, presidential elections were held on the first Wednesday in January. The Antifederalists were still potent for mischief in New York, with the result that, just as that State had not joined in the Declaration of Independence until after it had been proclaimed to the world, and just as she refused to adopt the Federal Constitution until after more than the requisite number of States had ratified it, so now she failed to choose electors, and had nothing to do with the vote that made Washington our first President. The other ten States that had ratified the Constitution all chose electors. But things moved slowly and cumbrously at this first assembling of the new government. The House of Representatives did not succeed in getting a quorum together until the 1st of April. On the 6th, the Senate chose John Langdon for its president, and the two houses in concert counted the electoral votes. There were 69 in all, and every one of the 69 was found to be for George Washington, of Virginia. For the second name on the list there was nothing like such unanimity. It was to be expected that the other name would be that of a citizen of Massachusetts, as the other leading State in the Union. The two foremost citizens of Massachusetts bore the same name, and were cousins. There would have been most striking poetic justice in coupling with the name of Washington that of Samuel Adams, since these two men had been indisputably foremost in the work of achieving the independence of the United States. But for the hesitancy of Samuel Adams in indorsing the Federal Constitution, he would very likely have been our first Vice-President and our second President. But the wave of federalism had now begun to sweep strongly over Massachusetts, carrying everything before it, and none but the most ardent Federalists had a chance to meet in the electoral college. Voices were raised in behalf of Samuel Adams. While we honor the American Fabius, it was said, let us not forget the American Cato. It was urged by some, with much truth, that but for his wise and cautious action in the Massachusetts convention, the good ship Constitution would have been fatally wrecked upon the reefs of Shaysism. His course had not been that of an obstructionist, like that of his old friends Henry and Lee and Gerry ; but at the critical moment — one of the most critical in all that wonderful crisis — he had thrown his vast influence, with decisive effect, upon the right side. All this is plain enough to the historian of to-day. But in the political fervor of the election of 1789, the fact most clearly visible to men was that Samuel Adams had hesitated, and perhaps made things wait. These points came out most distinctly on the issue of his election to the Federal Congress, in which he was defeated by the youthful Fisher Ames, whose eloquence in the state convention had been so conspicuous and useful; but they serve to explain thoroughly why he was not put upon the presidential list along with Washington. His cousin, John Adams, had just returned from his mission to England, weary and disgusted with the scanty respect which he had been able to secure for a feeble league of States that could not make good its own promises. His services during the Revolution had been of the most splendid sort; and after Washington, he was the second choice of the electoral college, receiving 34 votes, while John Jay, of New York, his nearest competitor, received only 9. John Adams was accordingly declared Vice-President.
On the 14th of April Washington was informed of his election, and on the next day but one he bid adieu again to his beloved home at Mount Vernon, where he had hoped to pass the remainder of his days in that rural peace and quiet for which no one yearns like the man who is burdened with greatness and fame unsought for. The position to which he was summoned was one of unparalleled splendor, — how splendid we can now realize much better than he, and our grandchildren will realize it better than we, — the position of first ruler of what was soon to become at once the strongest and the most peaceloving people upon the face of the earth. As he journeyed toward New York, his thoughts must have been busy with the arduous problems of the time. Already, doubtless, he had marked out the two great men, Jefferson and Hamilton, for his chief advisers: the one to place us in a proper attitude before the mocking nations of Europe; the other to restore our shattered credit, and enlist the moneyed interests of all the States in the success of the new Federal Union. Washington’s temperament was a hopeful one, as befitted a man of his strength and dash. But in his most hopeful mood he could hardly have dared to count upon such a sudden and wonderful demonstration of national strength as was about to ensue upon the heroic financial measures of Hamilton. His meditations on this journey we may well believe to have been solemn and anxious enough. But if he could gather added courage from the often-declared trust of his fellow-countrymen, there was no lack of such comfort for him. At every town through which he passed, fresh evidences of it were gathered, but at one point on the route his strong nature was especially wrought upon. At Trenton, as he crossed the bridge over the Assunpink Creek, where twelve years ago, at the darkest moment of the Revolution, he had outwitted Cornwallis in the most skillful of stratagems, and turned threatening defeat into glorious victory, — at this spot, so fraught with thrilling associations, he was met by a party of maidens dressed in white, who strewed his path with sweet spring flowers, while triumphal arches in softest green bore inscriptions declaring that he who had watched over the safety of the mothers could well be trusted to protect the daughters. On the 23d he arrived in New York, and was entertained at dinner by Governor Clinton. One week later, on the 30th, came the inauguration. It was one of those magnificent days of clearest sunshine that sometimes make one feel in April as if summer had come. At noon of that day Washington went from his lodgings, attended by a military escort, to Federal Hall, at the corner of Wall and Nassau streets, where his statue has lately been erected. The city was ablaze with excitement. A sea of upturned eager faces surrounded the spot, and as the hero appeared thousands of cocked hats were waved, while ladies fluttered their white handkerchiefs. Washington came forth clad in a suit of dark brown cloth of American make, with white silk hose and shoes decorated with silver buckles, while at his side hung a dresssword. For a moment all were hushed in deepest silence, while the secretary of the Senate held forth the Bible upon a velvet cushion, and Chancellor Livingston administered the oath of office. Then, before Washington had as yet raised his head, Livingston shouted, — and from all the vast company came answering shouts, — “ Long live George Washington, President of the United States ! ”