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Title: The Critical Period of American History
Author: Fiske, John, 1842-1901
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note

The punctuation and spelling from the original text have been faithfully
preserved. Only obvious typographical errors have been corrected.






  "I am uneasy and apprehensive, more so than during the war."
  JAY TO WASHINGTON, _June_ 27, 1786.


  The Riverside Press, Cambridge

  Copyright, 1888,


  _All rights reserved._

  _The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A._ Electrotyped and Printed
  by H.O. Houghton & Co.








This book contains the substance of the course of lectures given in the
Old South Meeting-House in Boston in December, 1884, at the Washington
University in St. Louis in May, 1885, and in the theatre of the
University Club in New York in March, 1886. In its present shape it may
serve as a sketch of the political history of the United States from the
end of the Revolutionary War to the adoption of the Federal
Constitution. It makes no pretensions to completeness, either as a
summary of the events of that period or as a discussion of the political
questions involved in them. I have aimed especially at grouping facts in
such a way as to bring out and emphasize their causal sequence, and it
is accordingly hoped that the book may prove useful to the student of
American history.

My title was suggested by the fact of Thomas Paine's stopping the
publication of the "Crisis," on hearing the news of the treaty of 1783,
with the remark, "The times that tried men's souls are over." Commenting
upon this, on page 55 of the present work, I observed that so far from
the crisis being over in 1783, the next five years were to be the most
critical time of all. I had not then seen Mr. Trescot's "Diplomatic
History of the Administrations of Washington and Adams," on page 9 of
which he uses almost the same words: "It must not be supposed that the
treaty of peace secured the national life. Indeed, it would be more
correct to say that the most critical period of the country's history
embraced the time between 1783 and the adoption of the Constitution in

That period was preëminently the turning-point in the development of
political society in the western hemisphere. Though small in their mere
dimensions, the events here summarized were in a remarkable degree
germinal events, fraught with more tremendous alternatives of future
welfare or misery for mankind than it is easy for the imagination to
grasp. As we now stand upon the threshold of that mighty future, in the
light of which all events of the past are clearly destined to seem
dwindled in dimensions and significant only in the ratio of their
potency as causes; as we discern how large a part of that future must be
the outcome of the creative work, for good or ill, of men of English
speech; we are put into the proper mood for estimating the significance
of the causes which determined a century ago that the continent of North
America should be dominated by a single powerful and pacific federal
nation instead of being parcelled out among forty or fifty small
communities, wasting their strength and lowering their moral tone by
perpetual warfare, like the states of ancient Greece, or by perpetual
preparation for warfare, like the nations of modern Europe. In my book
entitled "American Political Ideas, viewed from the Standpoint of
Universal History," I have tried to indicate the pacific influence
likely to be exerted upon the world by the creation and maintenance of
such a political structure as our Federal Union. The present narrative
may serve as a commentary upon what I had in mind on page 133 of that
book, in speaking of the work of our Federal Convention as "the finest
specimen of constructive statesmanship that the world has ever seen." On
such a point it is pleasant to find one's self in accord with a
statesman so wise and noble as Mr. Gladstone, whose opinion is here
quoted on page 223.

To some persons it may seem as if the years 1861-65 were of more
cardinal importance than the years 1783-89. Our civil war was indeed an
event of prodigious magnitude, as measured by any standard that history
affords; and there can be little doubt as to its decisiveness. The
measure of that decisiveness is to be found in the completeness of the
reconciliation that has already, despite the feeble wails of
unscrupulous place-hunters and unteachable bigots, cemented the Federal
Union so powerfully that all likelihood of its disruption may be said to
have disappeared forever. When we consider this wonderful harmony which
so soon has followed the deadly struggle, we may well believe it to be
the index of such a stride toward the ultimate pacification of mankind
as was never made before. But it was the work done in the years 1783-89
that created a federal nation capable of enduring the storm and stress
of the years 1861-65. It was in the earlier crisis that the pliant twig
was bent; and as it was bent, so has it grown; until it has become
indeed a goodly and a sturdy tree.

CAMBRIDGE, October 10, 1888.



 RESULTS OF YORKTOWN.                                                  PAGE

 Fall of Lord North's ministry                                            1

 Sympathy between British Whigs and the revolutionary
 party in America                                                         2

 It weakened the Whig party in England                                    3

 Character of Lord Shelburne                                              4

 Political instability of the Rockingham ministry                      5, 6

 Obstacles in the way of a treaty of peace                             7, 8

 Oswald talks with Franklin                                            9-11

 Grenville has an interview with Vergennes                               12

 Effects of Rodney's victory                                             13

 Misunderstanding between Fox and Shelburne                              14

 Fall of the Rockingham ministry                                         15

 Shelburne becomes prime minister                                        16

 Defeat of the Spaniards and French at Gibraltar                         17

 French policy opposed to American interests                             18

 The valley of the Mississippi; Aranda's prophecy                        19

 The Newfoundland fisheries                                              20

 Jay detects the schemes of Vergennes                                    21

 And sends Dr Vaughan to visit Shelburne                                 22

 John Adams arrives in Paris and joins with Jay in insisting
 upon a separate negotiation with England                            23, 24

 The separate American treaty, as agreed upon:

   1.   Boundaries                                                       25

   2.   Fisheries; commercial intercourse                                26

   3.   Private debts                                                    27

   4.   Compensation of loyalists                                     28-32

 Secret article relating to the Yazoo boundary                           33

 Vergennes does not like the way in which it has been done               33

 On the part of the Americans it was a great diplomatic
   victory      34

 Which the commissioners won by disregarding the instructions
 of Congress and acting on their own responsibility                      35

 The Spanish treaty                                                      36

 The French treaty                                                       37

 Coalition of Fox with North                                          38-42

 They attack the American treaty in Parliament                           43

 And compel Shelburne to resign                                          44

 Which leaves England without a government, while for
   several weeks the king is too angry to appoint ministers              44

 Until at length he succumbs to the coalition, which presently
   adopts and ratifies the American treaty                               45

 The coalition ministry is wrecked upon Fox's India Bill                 46

 Constitutional crisis ends in the overwhelming victory of
 Pitt in the elections of May, 1784                                      47

 And this, although apparently a triumph for the king, was
 really a death-blow to his system of personal government            48, 49



 Cessation of hostilities in America                                     50

 Departure of the British troops                                         51

 Washington resigns his command                                          52

 And goes home to Mount Vernon                                           53

 His "legacy" to the American people                                     54

 The next five years were the most critical years in American
 history                                                                 55

 Absence of a sentiment of union, and consequent danger of
 anarchy                                                             56, 57

 European statesmen, whether hostile or friendly, had little
 faith in the stability of the Union                                     58

 False historic analogies                                                59

 Influence of railroad and telegraph upon the perpetuity of
 the Union                                                               60

 Difficulty of travelling a hundred years ago                            61

 Local jealousies and antipathies, an inheritance from primeval
 savagery                                                            62, 63

 Conservative character of the American Revolution                       64

 State governments remodelled; assemblies continued from
 colonial times                                                          65

 Origin of the senates in the governor's council of assistants           66

 Governors viewed with suspicion                                         67

 Analogies with British institutions                                     68

 The judiciary                                                           69

 Restrictions upon suffrage                                              70

 Abolition of primogeniture, entails, and manorial privileges            71

 Steps toward the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade            72-75

 Progress toward religious freedom                                   76, 77

 Church and state in Virginia                                        78, 79

 Persecution of dissenters                                               80

 Madison and the Religions Freedom Act                                   81

 Temporary overthrow of the church                                       82

 Difficulties in regard to ordination; the case of Mason Weems           83

 Ordination of Samuel Seabury by non-jurors at Aberdeen                  84

 Francis Asbury and the Methodists                                       85

 Presbyterians and Congregationalists                                    86

 Roman Catholics                                                         87

 Except in the instance of slavery, all the changes described
   in this chapter were favourable to the union of the states            88

 But while the state governments, in all these changes, are
   seen working smoothly, we have next to observe, by
   contrast, the clumsiness and inefficiency of the federal government   89



 The several states have never enjoyed complete sovereignty              90

 But in the very act of severing their connection with Great
   Britain, they entered into some sort of union                         91

 Anomalous character of the Continental Congress                         92

 The articles of confederation; they sought to establish a
   "league of friendship" between the states                          93-97

 But failed to create a federal government endowed with real
   sovereignty                                                       98-100

 Military weakness of the government                                101-103

 Extreme difficulty of obtaining a revenue                         104, 105

 Congress, being unable to pay the army, was afraid of it               106

 Supposed scheme for making Washington king                             107

 Greene's experience in South Carolina                                  108

 Gates's staff officers and the Newburgh address                        109

 The danger averted by Washington                                  110, 111

 Congress driven from Philadelphia by mutinous soldiers                 112

 The Commutation Act denounced in New England                           113

 Order of the Cincinnati                                            114-117

 Reasons for the dread which it inspired                                118

 Congress finds itself unable to carry out the provisions of
   the treaty with Great Britain                                        119

 Persecution of the loyalists                                      120, 121

 It was especially severe in New York                                   122

 Trespass Act of 1784 directed against the loyalists                    123

 Character and early career of Alexander Hamilton                   124-126

 The case of Rutgers _v._ Waddington                               127, 128

 Wholesale emigration of Tories                                    129, 130

 Congress unable to enforce payment of debts to British creditors       131

 England retaliates by refusing to surrender the fortresses
   on the northwestern frontier                                    132, 133



 The barbarous superstitions of the Middle Ages concerning
   trade were still rife in the eighteenth century                      134

 The old theory of the uses of a colony                                 135

 Pitt's unsuccessful attempt to secure free trade between
   Great Britain and the United States                                  136

 Ship-building in New England                                           137

 British navigation acts and orders in council directed against
   American commerce                                                    138

 John Adams tried in vain to negotiate a commercial treaty
   with Great Britain                                              139, 140

 And could see no escape from the difficulties except in systematic
   reprisal                                                             141

 But any such reprisal was impracticable, for the several
   states imposed conflicting duties                                    142

 Attempts to give Congress the power of regulating commerce
   were unsuccessful                                               143, 144

 And the several states began to make commercial war upon one another   145

 Attempts of New York to oppress New Jersey and Connecticut             146

 Retaliatory measures of the two latter states                          147

 The quarrel between Connecticut and Pennsylvania over the
   possession of the valley of Wyoming                              148-150

 The quarrel between New York and New Hampshire over
   the possession of the Green Mountains                            151-153

 Failure of American diplomacy because European states
   could not tell whether they were dealing with one nation
   or with thirteen                                                154, 155

 Failure of American credit; John Adams begging in Holland         156, 157

 The Barbary pirates                                                    158

 American citizens kidnapped and sold into slavery                      159

 Lord Sheffield's outrageous pamphlet                                   160

 Tripoli's demand for blackmail                                         161

 Congress unable to protect American citizens                           162

 Financial distress after the Revolutionary War                    163, 164

 State of the coinage                                                   165

 Cost of the war in money                                               166

 Robert Morris and his immense services                                 167

 The craze for paper money                                              168

 Agitation in the southern and middle states                        169-171

 Distress in New England                                                172

 Imprisonment for debt                                                  173

 Rag-money victorious in Rhode Island; the "Know Ye" measures       174-176

 Rag-money defeated in Massachusetts; the Shays insurrection        177-181

 The insurrection suppressed by state troops                            182

 Conduct of the neighbouring states                                     183

 The rebels pardoned                                                    184

 Timidity of Congress                                              185, 186



 Creation of a national domain beyond the Alleghanies              187, 188

 Conflicting claims to the western territory                            189

 Claims of Massachusetts and Connecticut                           189, 190

 Claims of New York                                                     190

 Virginia's claims                                                      191

 Maryland's novel and beneficent suggestion                             192

 The several states yield their claims in favour of the United
   States                                                          193, 194

 Magnanimity of Virginia                                                195

 Jefferson proposes a scheme of government for the northwestern
   territory                                                            196

 Names of the proposed ten states                                       197

 Jefferson wishes to prohibit slavery in the national domain            198

 North Carolina's cession of western lands                              199

 John Sevier and the state of Franklin                             200, 201

 The northwestern territory                                             202

 Origin of the Ohio company                                             203

 The Ordinance of 1787                                              204-206

 Theory of folkland upon which the ordinance was based                  207

 Spain, hearing of the secret article in the treaty of 1783,
   loses her temper and threatens to shut up the Mississippi
   River                                                           208, 209

 Gardoqui and Jay                                                       210

 Threats of secession in Kentucky and New England                       211

 Washington's views on the political importance of canals
   between east and west                                                212

 His far-sighted genius and self-devotion                               213

 Maryland confers with Virginia regarding the navigation of
   the Potomac                                                          214

 The Madison-Tyler motion in the Virginia legislature                   215

 Convention at Annapolis, Sept 11, 1786                                 216

 Hamilton's address calling for a convention at Philadelphia            217

 The impost amendment defeated by the action of New
   York; last ounce upon the camel's back                           218-220

 Sudden changes in popular sentiment                                    221

 The Federal Convention meets at Philadelphia, May, 1787                222

 Mr. Gladstone's opinion of the work of the convention                  223

 The men who were assembled there                                  224, 225

 Character of James Madison                                        226, 227

 The other leading members                                              228

 Washington chosen president of the convention                          229



 Why the proceedings of the convention were kept secret for
   so many years                                                        230

 Difficulty of the problem to be solved                                 231

 Symptoms of cowardice repressed by Washington's impassioned
   speech                                                               232

 The root of all the difficulties; the edicts of the federal
   government had operated only upon states, not upon
   individuals, and therefore could not be enforced without
   danger of war                                                    233-233

 The Virginia plan, of which Madison was the chief author,
   offered a radical cure                                               236

 And was felt to be revolutionary in its character                  237-239

 Fundamental features of the Virginia plan                         240, 241

 How it was at first received                                           242

 The House of Representatives must be directly elected by
   the people                                                           243

 Question as to the representation of states brings out the
   antagonism between large and small states                            244

 William Paterson presents the New Jersey plan; not a
   radical cure, but a feeble palliative                                245

 Straggle between the Virginia and New Jersey plans                 246-249

 The Connecticut compromise, according to which the national
   principle is to prevail in the House of Representatives,
   and the federal principle in the Senate,
   meets at first with fierce opposition                           250, 251

 But is at length adopted                                               252

 And proves a decisive victory for Madison and his methods              253

 A few irreconcilable members go home in dudgeon                        254

 But the small states, having been propitiated, are suddenly
   converted to Federalism, and make the victory complete               255

 Vague dread of the future west                                         255

 The struggle between pro-slavery and anti-slavery parties
   began in the convention, and was quieted by two compromises          256

 Should representation be proportioned to wealth or to population?      257

 Were slaves to be reckoned as persons or as chattels?                  258

 Attitude of the Virginia statesmen                                     259

 It was absolutely necessary to satisfy South Carolina                  260

 The three fifths compromise, suggested by Madison, was a
   genuine English solution, if ever there was one                      261

 There was neither rhyme nor reason in it, but for all that,
   it was the best solution attainable at the time                      262

 The next compromise was between New England and South
   Carolina as to the foreign slave-trade and the power of
   the federal government over commerce                                 263

 George Mason calls the slave-trade an "infernal traffic"               264

 And the compromise offends and alarms Virginia                         265

 Belief in the moribund condition of slavery                            266

 The foundations of the Constitution were laid in compromise            267

 Powers granted to the federal government                               268

 Use of federal troops in suppressing insurrections                     269

 Various federal powers                                                 270

 Provision for a federal city under federal jurisdiction                271

 The Federal Congress might compel the attendance of members            272

 Powers denied to the several states                                    272

 Should the federal government he allowed to make its
   promissory notes a legal tender in payment of debts?
   powerful speech of Gouverneur Morris                                 273

 Emphatic and unmistakable condemnation of paper money
   by all the leading delegates                                         274

 The convention refused to grant to the federal government
   the power of issuing inconvertible paper, but did not
   think an express prohibition necessary                               275

 If they could have foreseen some recent judgments of the
   supreme court, they would doubtless have made the
   prohibition explicit and absolute                                    276

 Debates as to the federal executive                                    277

 Sherman's suggestion as to the true relation of the executive
   to the legislature                                                   278

 There was to be a single chief magistrate, but how should
   he be chosen?                                                        279

 Objections to an election by Congress                                  280

 Ellsworth and King suggest the device of an electoral college,
   which is at first rejected                                           281

 But afterwards adopted                                                 282

 Provisions for an election by Congress in the case of a failure
   of choice by the electoral college                                   283

 Provisions for counting the electoral votes                            284

 It was not intended to leave anything to be decided by the
   president of the Senate                                              285

 The convention foresaw imaginary dangers, but not the real
   ones                                                                 286

 Hamilton's opinion of the electoral scheme                             287

 How it has actually worked                                             288

 In this part of its work the convention tried to copy from
   the British Constitution                                             289

 In which they supposed the legislative and executive departments
   to be distinct and separate                                          290

 Here they were misled by Montesquieu and Blackstone                    291

 What our government would be if it were really like that
   of Great Britain                                                 292-294

 In the British government the executive department is not
   separated from the legislative                                       295

 Circumstances which obscured the true aspect of the case a
   century ago                                                      296-298

 The American cabinet is analogous, not to the British cabinet,
   but to the privy council                                             299

 The federal judiciary, and its remarkable character                300-301

 Provisions for amending the Constitution                               302

 The document is signed by all but three of the delegates               303

 And the convention breaks up                                           304

 With a pleasant remark from Franklin                                   305



 Franklin lays the Constitution before the legislature of
   Pennsylvania                                                         306

 It is submitted to Congress, which refers it to the legislatures
   of the thirteen states, to be ratified or rejected by
   the people in conventions                                            307

 First American parties, Federalists and Antifederalists           308, 309

 The contest in Pennsylvania                                            310

 How to make a quorum                                                   311

 A war of pamphlets and newspaper squibs                           312, 313

 Ending in the ratification of the Constitution by Delaware,
   Pennsylvania, and New Jersey                                         314

 Rejoicings and mutterings                                              315

 Georgia and Connecticut ratify                                         316

 The outlook in Massachusetts                                      317, 318

 The Massachusetts convention meets                                     319

 And overhauls the Constitution clause by clause                        320

 On the subject of an army Mr. Nason waxes eloquent                     321

 The clergymen oppose a religious test                                  322

 And Rev. Samuel West argues on the assumption that all
   men are not totally depraved                                         323

 Feeling of distrust in the mountain districts                          324

 Timely speech of a Berkshire farmer                               325, 326

 Attitude of Samuel Adams                                          326, 327

 Meeting of mechanics at the Green Dragon                               327

 Charges of bribery                                                     328

 Washington's fruitful suggestion                                       329

 Massachusetts ratifies, but proposes amendments                        330

 The Long Lane has a turning and becomes Federal Street                 331

 New Hampshire hesitates, but Maryland ratifies, and all
   eyes are turned upon South Carolina                                  332

 Objections of Rawlins Lowndes answered by Cotesworth
   Pinckney                                                             333

 South Carolina ratifies the Constitution                               334

 Important effect upon Virginia, where thoughts of a southern
   confederacy had been entertained                                335, 336

 Madison and Marshall prevail in the Virginia convention,
   and it ratifies the Constitution                                     337

 New Hampshire had ratified four days before                            338

 Rejoicings at Philadelphia; riots at Providence and Albany             339

 The struggle in New York                                               340

 Origin of the "Federalist"                                         341-343

 Hamilton wins the victory, and New York ratifies                       344

 All serious anxiety is now at an end; the laggard states,
   North Carolina and Rhode Island                                      345

 First presidential election, January 7, 1789; Washington is
   unanimously chosen                                                   346

 Why Samuel Adams was not selected for vice-president                   347

 Selection of John Adams                                                348

 Washington's journey to New York, April 16-23                          349

 His inauguration                                                       350




[Sidenote: Sympathy between British Whigs and the revolutionary party in

The 20th of March, 1782, the day which witnessed the fall of Lord
North's ministry, was a day of good omen for men of English race on both
sides of the Atlantic. Within two years from this time, the treaty which
established the independence of the United States was successfully
negotiated at Paris; and at the same time, as part of the series of
events which resulted in the treaty, there went on in England a rapid
dissolution and reorganization of parties, which ended in the
overwhelming defeat of the king's attempt to make the forms of the
constitution subservient to his selfish purposes, and established the
liberty of the people upon a broader and sounder basis than it had ever
occupied before. Great indignation was expressed at the time, and has
sometimes been echoed by British historians, over the conduct of those
Whigs who never lost an opportunity of expressing their approval of the
American revolt. The Duke of Richmond, at the beginning of the contest,
expressed a hope that the Americans might succeed, because they were in
the right. Charles Fox spoke of General Howe's first victory as "the
terrible news from Long Island." Wraxall says that the celebrated buff
and blue colours of the Whig party were adopted by Fox in imitation of
the Continental uniform; but his unsupported statement is open to
question. It is certain, however, that in the House of Commons the Whigs
habitually alluded to Washington's army as "our army," and to the
American cause as "the cause of liberty;" and Burke, with characteristic
vehemence, declared that he would rather be a prisoner in the Tower with
Mr. Laurens than enjoy the blessings of freedom in company with the men
who were seeking to enslave America. Still more, the Whigs did all in
their power to discourage enlistments, and in various ways so thwarted
and vexed the government that the success of the Americans was by many
people ascribed to their assistance. A few days before Lord North's
resignation, George Onslow, in an able defence of the prime minister,
exclaimed, "Why have we failed so miserably in this war against America,
if not from the support and countenance given to rebellion in this very

[Sidenote: It weakened the Whigs in England.]

[Sidenote: Character of Lord Shelburne.]

Now the violence of party leaders like Burke and Fox owed much of its
strength, no doubt, to mere rancorousness of party spirit. But, after
making due allowance for this, we must admit that it was essentially
based upon the intensity of their conviction that the cause of English
liberty was inseparably bound up with the defeat of the king's attempt
upon the liberties of America. Looking beyond the quarrels of the
moment, they preferred to have freedom guaranteed, even at the cost of
temporary defeat and partial loss of empire. Time has shown that they
were right in this, but the majority of the people could hardly be
expected to comprehend their attitude. It seemed to many that the great
Whig leaders were forgetting their true character as English statesmen,
and there is no doubt that for many years this was the chief source of
the weakness of the Whig party. Sir Gilbert Elliot said, with truth,
that if the Whigs had not thus to a considerable extent arrayed the
national feeling against themselves, Lord North's ministry would have
fallen some years sooner than it did. The king thoroughly understood the
advantage which accrued to him from this state of things; and with that
short-sighted shrewdness of the mere political wire-puller, in which few
modern politicians have excelled him, he had from the outset preferred
to fight his battle on constitutional questions in America rather than
in England, in order that the national feeling of Englishmen might be
arrayed on his side. He was at length thoroughly beaten on his own
ground, and as the fatal day approached he raved and stormed as he had
not stormed since the spring of 1778, when he had been asked to entrust
the government to Lord Chatham. Like the child who refuses to play when
he sees the game going against him, George threatened to abdicate the
throne and go over to Hanover, leaving his son to get along with the
Whig statesmen. But presently he took heart again, and began to resort
to the same kind of political management which had served him so well in
the earlier years of his reign. Among the Whig statesmen, the Marquis of
Buckingham had the largest political following. He represented the old
Whig aristocracy, his section of the party had been first to urge the
recognition of American independence, and his principal followers were
Fox and Burke. For all these reasons he was especially obnoxious to the
king. On the other hand, the Earl of Shelburne was, in a certain sense,
the political heir of Lord Chatham, and represented principles far more
liberal than those of the Old Whigs. Shelburne was one of the most
enlightened statesmen of his time. He was an earnest advocate of
parliamentary reform and of free trade. He had paid especial attention
to political economy, and looked with disgust upon the whole barbaric
system of discriminative duties and commercial monopolies which had been
so largely instrumental in bringing about the American Revolution. But
being in these respects in advance of his age, Lord Shelburne had but
few followers. Moreover, although a man of undoubted integrity, quite
exempt from sordid or selfish ambition, there was a cynical harshness
about him which made him generally disliked and distrusted. He was so
suspicious of other men that other men were suspicious of him; so that,
in spite of many admirable qualities, he was extremely ill adapted for
the work of a party manager.

It was doubtless for these reasons that the king, when it became clear
that a new government must be formed, made up his mind that Lord
Shelburne would be the safest man to conduct it. In his hands the Whig
power would not be likely to grow too strong, and dissensions would be
sure to arise, from which the king might hope to profit. The first place
in the treasury was accordingly offered to Shelburne; and when he
refused it, and the king found himself forced to appeal to Lord
Rockingham, the manner in which the bitter pill was taken was quite
characteristic of George III. He refused to meet Rockingham in person,
but sent all his communications to him through Shelburne, who, thus
conspicuously singled out as the object of royal preference, was certain
to incur the distrust of his fellow ministers.

[Sidenote: Political instability of the Rockingham ministry.]

The structure of the new cabinet was unstable enough, however, to have
satisfied even such an enemy as the king. Beside Rockingham himself,
Lord John Cavendish, Charles Fox, Lord Keppel, and the Duke of Richmond
were all Old Whigs. To offset these five there were five New Whigs, the
Duke of Grafton, Lords Shelburne, Camden, and Ashburton, and General
Conway; while the eleventh member was none other than the Tory
chancellor, Lord Thurlow, who was kept over from Lord North's ministry.
Burke was made paymaster of the forces, but had no seat in the cabinet.
In this curiously constructed cabinet, the prime minister, Lord
Rockingham, counted for little. Though a good party leader, he was below
mediocrity as a statesman, and his health was failing, so that he could
not attend to business. The master spirits were the two secretaries of
state, Fox and Shelburne, and they wrangled perpetually, while Thurlow
carried the news of all their quarrels to the king, and in cabinet
meetings usually voted with Shelburne. The ministry had not lasted five
weeks when Fox began to predict its downfall. On the great question of
parliamentary reform, which was brought up in May by the young William
Pitt, the government was hopelessly divided. Shelburne's party was in
favour of reform, and this time Fox was found upon the same side, as
well as the Duke of Richmond, who went so far as to advocate universal
suffrage. On the other hand, the Whig aristocracy, led by Rockingham,
were as bitterly opposed as the king himself to any change in the method
of electing parliaments; and, incredible as it may seem, even such a man
as Burke maintained that the old system, rotten boroughs and all, was a
sacred part of the British Constitution, which none could handle rudely
without endangering the country! But in this moment of reaction against
the evil influences which had brought about the loss of the American
colonies, there was a strong feeling in favour of reform, and Pitt's
motion was only lost by a minority of twenty in a total vote of three
hundred. Half a century was to elapse before the reformers were again to
come so near to victory.

But Lord Rockingham's weak and short-lived ministry was nevertheless
remarkable for the amount of good work it did in spite of the king's
dogged opposition. It contained great administrative talent, which made
itself felt in the most adverse circumstances. To add to the
difficulty, the ministry came into office at the critical moment of a
great agitation in Ireland. In less than three months, not only was the
trouble successfully removed, but the important bills for disfranchising
revenue officers and excluding contractors from the House of Commons
were carried, and a tremendous blow was thus struck at the corrupt
influence of the crown upon elections. Burke's great scheme of
economical reform was also put into operation, cutting down the pension
list and diminishing the secret service fund, and thus destroying many
sources of corruption. At no time, perhaps, since the expulsion of the
Stuarts, had so much been done toward purifying English political life
as during the spring of 1782. But during the progress of these important
measures, the jealousies and bickerings in the cabinet became more and
more painfully apparent, and as the question of peace with America came
into the foreground, these difficulties hastened to a crisis.

[Sidenote: Obstacles in the way of a treaty of peace.]

From the policy which George III. pursued with regard to Lord Shelburne
at this time, one would suppose that in his secret heart the king
wished, by foul means since all others had failed, to defeat the
negotiations for peace and to prolong the war. Seldom has there been a
more oddly complicated situation. Peace was to be made with America,
France, Spain, and Holland. Of these powers, America and France were
leagued together by one treaty of alliance, and France and Spain by
another, and these treaties in some respects conflicted with one another
in the duties which they entailed upon the combatants. Spain, though at
war with England for purposes of her own, was bitterly hostile to the
United States; and France, thus leagued with two allies which pulled in
opposite directions, felt bound to satisfy both, while pursuing her own
ends against England. To deal with such a chaotic state of things, an
orderly and harmonious government in England should have seemed
indispensably necessary. Yet on the part of England the negotiation of a
treaty of peace was to be the work of two secretaries of state who were
both politically and personally hostile to each other. Fox, as secretary
of state for foreign affairs, had to superintend the negotiations with
France, Spain, and Holland. Shelburne was secretary of state for home
and colonial affairs; and as the United States were still officially
regarded as colonies, the American negotiations belonged to his
department. With such a complication of conflicting interests, George
III. might well hope that no treaty could be made.

[Sidenote: Oswald talks with Franklin.]

The views of Fox and Shelburne as to the best method of conceding
American independence were very different. Fox understood that France
was really in need of peace, and he believed that she would not make
further demands upon England if American independence should once be
recognized. Accordingly, Fox would have made this concession at once as
a preliminary to the negotiation. On the other hand, Shelburne felt sure
that France would insist upon further concessions, and he thought it
best to hold in reserve the recognition of independence as a
consideration to be bargained for. Informal negotiations began between
Shelburne and Franklin, who for many years had been warm friends. In
view of the impending change of government, Franklin had in March sent a
letter to Shelburne, expressing a hope that peace might soon be
restored. When the letter reached London the new ministry had already
been formed, and Shelburne, with the consent of the cabinet, answered it
by sending over to Paris an agent, to talk with Franklin informally, and
ascertain the terms upon which the Americans would make peace. The
person chosen for this purpose was Richard Oswald, a Scotch merchant,
who owned large estates in America,--a man of very frank disposition and
liberal views, and a friend of Adam Smith. In April, Oswald had several
conversations with Franklin. In one of these conversations Franklin
suggested that, in order to make a durable peace, it was desirable to
remove all occasion for future quarrel; that the line of frontier
between New York and Canada was inhabited by a lawless set of men, who
in time of peace would be likely to breed trouble between their
respective governments; and that therefore it would be well for England
to cede Canada to the United States. A similar reasoning would apply to
Nova Scotia. By ceding these countries to the United States it would be
possible, from the sale of unappropriated lands, to indemnify the
Americans for all losses of private property during the war, and also to
make reparation to the Tories, whose estates had been confiscated. By
pursuing such a policy, England, which had made war on America
unjustly, and had wantonly done it great injuries, would achieve not
merely peace, but reconciliation, with America; and reconciliation, said
Franklin, is "a sweet word." No doubt this was a bold tone for Franklin
to take, and perhaps it was rather cool in him to ask for Canada and
Nova Scotia; but he knew that almost every member of the Whig ministry
had publicly expressed the opinion that the war against America was an
unjust and wanton war; and being, moreover, a shrewd hand at a bargain,
he began by setting his terms high. Oswald doubtless looked at the
matter very much from Franklin's point of view, for on the suggestion of
the cession of Canada he expressed neither surprise nor reluctance.
Franklin had written on a sheet of paper the main points of his
conversation, and, at Oswald's request, he allowed him to take the paper
to London to show to Lord Shelburne, first writing upon it a note
expressly declaring its informal character. Franklin also sent a letter
to Shelburne, describing Oswald as a gentleman with whom he found it
very pleasant to deal. On Oswald's arrival in London, Shelburne did not
show the notes of the conversation to any of his colleagues, except Lord
Ashburton. He kept the paper over one night, and then returned it to
Franklin without any formal answer. But the letter he showed to the
cabinet, and on the 23d of April it was decided to send Oswald back to
Paris, to represent to Franklin that, on being restored to the same
situation in which she was left by the treaty of 1763, Great Britain
would be willing to recognize the independence of the United States.
Fox was authorized to make a similar representation to the French
government, and the person whom he sent to Paris for this purpose was
Thomas Grenville, son of the author of the Stamp Act.

As all British subjects were prohibited from entering into negotiations
with the revolted colonies, it was impossible for Oswald to take any
decisive step until an enabling act should be carried through
Parliament. But while waiting for this he might still talk informally
with Franklin. Fox thought that Oswald's presence in Paris indicated a
desire on Shelburne's part to interfere with the negotiations with the
French government; and indeed, the king, out of his hatred of Fox and
his inborn love of intrigue, suggested to Shelburne that Oswald "might
be a useful check on that part of the negotiation which was in other
hands." But Shelburne paid no heed to this crooked advice, and there is
nothing to show that he had the least desire to intrigue against Fox. If
he had, he would certainly have selected some other agent than Oswald,
who was the most straightforward of men, and scarcely close-mouthed
enough for a diplomatist. He told Oswald to impress it upon Franklin
that if America was to be independent at all she must be independent of
the whole world, and must not enter into any secret arrangement with
France which might limit her entire freedom of action in the future. To
the private memorandum which desired the cession of Canada for three
reasons, his answers were as follows: "1. _By way of
reparation._--Answer. No reparation can be heard of. 2. _To prevent
future wars._--Answer. It is to be hoped that some more friendly method
will be found. 3. _As a fund of indemnification to loyalists._--Answer.
No independence to be acknowledged without their being taken care of."
Besides, added Shelburne, the Americans would be expected to make some
compensation for the surrender of Charleston, Savannah, and the city of
New York, still held by British troops. From this it appears that
Shelburne, as well as Franklin, knew how to begin by asking more than he
was likely to get.

[Sidenote: Grenville has an interview with Vergennes.]

While Oswald submitted these answers to Franklin, Grenville had his
interview with Vergennes, and told him that, if England recognized the
independence of the United States, she should expect France to restore
the islands of the West Indies which she had taken from England. Why
not, since the independence of the United States was the sole avowed
object for which France had gone to war? Now this was on the 8th of May,
and the news of the destruction of the French fleet in the West Indies,
nearly four weeks ago, had not yet reached Europe. Flushed with the
victories of Grasse, and exulting in the prowess of the most formidable
naval force that France had ever sent out, Vergennes not only expected
to keep the islands which he had got, but was waiting eagerly for the
news that he had acquired Jamaica into the bargain. In this mood he
returned a haughty answer to Grenville. He reminded him that nations
often went to war for a specified object, and yet seized twice as much
if favoured by fortune; and, recurring to the instance which rankled
most deeply in the memories of Frenchmen, he cited the events of the
last war. In 1756 England went to war with France over the disputed
right to some lands on the Ohio River and the Maine frontier. After
seven years of fighting she not only kept these lands, but all of
Canada, Louisiana, and Florida, and ousted the French from India into
the bargain. No, said Vergennes, he would not rest content with the
independence of America. He would not even regard such an offer as a
concession to France in any way, or as a price in return for which
France was to make a treaty favourable to England. As regards the
recognition of independence, England must treat directly with America.

[Sidenote: Effects of Rodney's victory.]

[Sidenote: Fall of the Rockingham ministry, July 1, 1782.]

Grenville was disappointed and chagrined by this answer, and the
ministry made up their minds that there would be no use in trying to get
an honourable peace with France for the present. Accordingly, it seemed
better to take Vergennes at his word, though not in the sense in which
he meant it, and, by granting all that the Americans could reasonably
desire, to detach them from the French alliance as soon as possible. On
the 18th of May there came the news of the stupendous victory of Rodney
over Grasse, and all England rang with jubilee. Again it had been shown
that "Britannia rules the wave;" and it seemed that, if America could be
separately pacified, the House of Bourbon might be successfully defied.
Accordingly, on the 23d, five days after the news of victory, the
ministry decided "to propose the independence of America in the first
instance, instead of making it the condition of a general treaty." Upon
this Fox rather hastily maintained that the United States were put at
once into the position of an independent and foreign power, so that the
business of negotiating with them passed from Shelburne's department
into his own. Shelburne, on the other hand, argued that, as the
recognition of independence could not take effect until a treaty of
peace should be concluded, the negotiation with America still belonged
to him, as secretary for the colonies. Following Fox's instructions,
Grenville now claimed the right of negotiating with Franklin as well as
with Vergennes; but as his written credentials only authorized him to
treat with France, the French minister suspected foul play, and turned a
cold shoulder to Grenville. For the same reason, Grenville found
Franklin very reserved and indisposed to talk on the subject of the
treaty. While Grenville was thus rebuffed and irritated he had a talk
with Oswald, in the course of which he got from that simple and
high-minded gentleman the story of the private paper relating to the
cession of Canada, which Franklin had permitted Lord Shelburne to see.
Grenville immediately took offence; he made up his mind that something
underhanded was going on, and that this was the reason for the coldness
of Franklin and Vergennes; and he wrote an indignant letter about it to
Fox. From the wording of this letter, Fox got the impression that
Franklin's proposal was much more serious than it really was. It
naturally puzzled him and made him angry, for the attitude of America
implied in the request for a cession of Canada was far different from
the attitude presumed by the theory that the mere offer of independence
would be enough to detach her from her alliance with France. The plan of
the ministry seemed imperilled. Fox showed Grenville's letter to
Rockingham, Richmond, and Cavendish; and they all inferred that
Shelburne was playing a secret part, for purposes of his own. This was
doubtless unjust to Shelburne. Perhaps his keeping the matter to himself
was simply one more illustration of his want of confidence in Fox; or,
perhaps he did not think it worth while to stir up the cabinet over a
question which seemed too preposterous ever to come to anything. Fox,
however, cried out against Shelburne's alleged duplicity, and made up
his mind at all events to get the American negotiations transferred to
his own department. To this end he moved in the cabinet, on the last day
of June, that the independence of the United States should be
unconditionally acknowledged, so that England might treat as with a
foreign power. The motion was lost, and Fox announced that he should
resign his office. His resignation would probably of itself have broken
up the ministry, but, by a curious coincidence, on the next day Lord
Rockingham died; and so the first British government begotten of
Washington's victory at Yorktown came prematurely to an end.

[Sidenote: Shelburne prime minister.]

The Old Whigs now found some difficulty in choosing a leader. Burke was
the greatest statesman in the party, but he had not the qualities of a
party leader, and his connections were not sufficiently aristocratic.
Fox was distrusted by many people for his gross vices, and because of
his waywardness in politics. In the dissipated gambler, who cast in his
lot first with one party and then with the other, and who had shamefully
used his matchless eloquence in defending some of the worst abuses of
the time, there seemed as yet but little promise of the great reformer
of later years, the Charles Fox who came to be loved and idolized by all
enlightened Englishmen. Next to Fox, the ablest leader in the party was
the Duke of Richmond, but his advanced views on parliamentary reform put
him out of sympathy with the majority of the party. In this
embarrassment, the choice fell upon the Duke of Portland, a man of great
wealth and small talent, concerning whom Horace Walpole observed, "It is
very entertaining that two or three great families should persuade
themselves that they have a hereditary and exclusive right of giving us
a head without a tongue!" The choice was a weak one, and played directly
into the hands of the king. When urged to make the Duke of Portland his
prime minister, the king replied that he had already offered that
position to Lord Shelburne. Hereupon Fox and Cavendish resigned, but
Richmond remained in office, thus virtually breaking his connection with
the Old Whigs. Lord Keppel also remained. Many members of the party
followed Richmond and went over to Shelburne. William Pitt, now
twenty-three years old, succeeded Cavendish as chancellor of the
exchequer; Thomas Townshend became secretary of state for home and
colonies, and Lord Grantham became foreign secretary. The closing days
of Parliament were marked by altercations which showed how wide the
breach had grown between the two sections of the Whig party. Fox and
Burke believed that Shelburne was not only playing a false part, but was
really as subservient to the king as Lord North had been. In a speech
ridiculous for its furious invective, Burke compared the new prime
minister with Borgia and Catiline. And so Parliament was adjourned on
the 11th of July, and did not meet again until December.

[Sidenote: French policy opposed to American interests.]

The task of making a treaty of peace was simplified both by this change
of ministry and by the total defeat of the Spaniards and French at
Gibraltar in September. Six months before, England had seemed worsted in
every quarter. Now England, though defeated in America, was victorious
as regarded France and Spain. The avowed object for which France had
entered into alliance with the Americans was to secure the independence
of the United States, and this point was now substantially gained. The
chief object for which Spain had entered into alliance with France was
to drive the English from Gibraltar, and this point was now decidedly
lost. France had bound herself not to desist from the war until Spain
should recover Gibraltar; but now there was little hope of accomplishing
this, except by some fortunate bargain in the treaty, and Vergennes
tried to persuade England to cede the great stronghold in exchange for
West Florida, which Spain had lately conquered, or for Oran or
Guadaloupe. Failing in this, he adopted a plan for satisfying Spain at
the expense of the United States; and he did this the more willingly as
he had no love for the Americans, and did not wish to see them become
too powerful. France had strictly kept her pledges; she had given us
valuable and timely aid in gaining our independence; and the sympathies
of the French people were entirely with the American cause. But the
object of the French government had been simply to humiliate England,
and this end was sufficiently accomplished by depriving her of her
thirteen colonies.

[Sidenote: The valley of the Mississippi; Aranda's prophecy.]

The immense territory extending from the Alleghany Mountains to the
Mississippi River, and from the border of "West Florida to the Great
Lakes, had passed from the hands of France into those of England at the
peace of 1763; and by the Quebec Act of 1774 England had declared the
southern boundary of Canada to be the Ohio River. At present the whole
territory, from Lake Superior down to the southern boundary of what is
now Kentucky, belonged to the state of Virginia, whose backwoodsmen had
conquered it from England in 1779. In December, 1780, Virginia had
provisionally ceded the portion north of the Ohio to the United States,
but the cession was not yet completed. The region which is now Tennessee
belonged to North Carolina, which had begun to make settlements there as
long ago as 1758. The trackless forests included between Tennessee and
West Florida were still in the hands of wild tribes of Cherokees and
Choctaws, Chickasaws and Creeks. Several thousand pioneers from North
Carolina and Virginia had already settled beyond the mountains, and the
white population was rapidly increasing. This territory the French
government was very unwilling to leave in American hands. The
possibility of enormous expansion which it would afford to the new
nation was distinctly foreseen by sagacious men. Count Aranda, the
representative of Spain in these negotiations, wrote a letter to his
king just after the treaty was concluded, in which he uttered this
notable prophecy: "This federal republic is born a pygmy. A day will
come when it will be a giant, even a colossus, formidable in these
countries. Liberty of conscience, the facility for establishing a new
population on immense lands, as well as the advantages of the new
government, will draw thither farmers and artisans from all the nations.
In a few years we shall watch with grief the tyrannical existence of
this same colossus." The letter went on to predict that the Americans
would presently get possession of Florida and attack Mexico. Similar
arguments were doubtless used by Aranda in his interviews with
Vergennes, and France, as well as Spain, sought to prevent the growth of
the dreaded colossus. To this end Vergennes maintained that the
Americans ought to recognize the Quebec Act, and give up to England all
the territory north of the Ohio River. The region south of this limit
should, he thought, be made an Indian territory, and placed under the
protection of Spain and the United States. A line was to be drawn from
the mouth of the Cumberland River, following that stream about as far
as the site of Nashville, thence running southward to the Tennessee,
thence curving eastward nearly to the Alleghanies, and descending
through what is now eastern Alabama to the Florida line. The territory
to the east of this irregular line was to be under the protection of the
United States; the territory to the west of it was to be under the
protection of Spain. In this division, the settlers beyond the mountains
would retain their connection with the United States, which would not
touch the Mississippi River at any point. Vergennes held that this was
all the Americans could reasonably demand, and he agreed with Aranda
that they had as yet gained no foothold upon the eastern bank of the
great river, unmindful of the fact that at that very moment the
fortresses at Cahokia and Kaskaskia were occupied by American garrisons.

[Illustration: MAP OF NORTH AMERICA,

Showing the Boundaries of the UNITED STATES, CANADA, and the SPANISH
POSSESSIONS, according to the proposals of the Court of France in

[Sidenote: The Newfoundland fisheries.]

Upon another important point the views of the French government were
directly opposed to American interests. The right to catch fish on the
banks of Newfoundland had been shared by treaty between France and
England; and the New England fishermen, as subjects of the king of Great
Britain, had participated in this privilege. The matter was of very
great importance, not only to New England, but to the United States in
general. Not only were the fisheries a source of lucrative trade to the
New England people, but they were the training-school of a splendid race
of seamen, the nursery of naval heroes whose exploits were by and by to
astonish the world. To deprive the Americans of their share in these
fisheries was to strike a serious blow at the strength and resources of
the new nation. The British government was not inclined to grant the
privilege, and on this point Vergennes took sides with England, in order
to establish a claim upon her for concessions advantageous to France in
some other quarter. With these views, Vergennes secretly aimed at
delaying the negotiations; for as long as hostilities were kept up, he
might hope to extort from his American allies a recognition of the
Spanish claims and a renouncement of the fisheries, simply by
threatening to send them no further assistance in men or money. In order
to retard the proceedings, he refused to take any steps whatever until
the independence of the United States should first be irrevocably
acknowledged by Great Britain, without reference to the final settlement
of the rest of the treaty. In this Vergennes was supported by Franklin,
as well as by Jay, who had lately arrived in Paris to take part in the
negotiations. But the reasons of the American commissioners were very
different from those of Vergennes. They feared that, if they began to
treat before independence was acknowledged, they would be unfairly dealt
with by France and Spain, and unable to gain from England the
concessions upon which they were determined.

[Sidenote: Jay detects the schemes of Vergennes.]

Jay soon began to suspect the designs of the French minister. He found
that he was sending M. de Rayneval as a secret emissary to Lord
Shelburne under an assumed name; he ascertained that the right of the
United States to the Mississippi valley was to be denied; and he got
hold of a dispatch from Marbois, the French secretary of legation at
Philadelphia, to Vergennes, opposing the American claim to the
Newfoundland fisheries. As soon as Jay learned these facts, he sent his
friend Dr. Benjamin Vaughan to Lord Shelburne to put him on his guard,
and while reminding him that it was greatly for the interest of England
to dissolve the alliance between America and France, he declared himself
ready to begin the negotiations without waiting for the recognition of
independence, provided that Oswald's commission should speak of the
thirteen United States of America, instead of calling them colonies and
naming them separately. This decisive step was taken by Jay on his own
responsibility, and without the knowledge of Franklin, who had been
averse to anything like a separate negotiation with England. It served
to set the ball rolling at once. After meeting the messengers from Jay
and Vergennes, Lord Shelburne at once perceived the antagonism that had
arisen between the allies, and promptly took advantage of it. A new
commission was made out for Oswald, in which the British government
first described our country as the United States; and early in October
negotiations were begun and proceeded rapidly. On the part of England,
the affair was conducted by Oswald, assisted by Strachey and
Fitzherbert, who had succeeded Grenville. In the course of the month
John Adams arrived in Paris, and a few weeks later Henry Laurens, who
had been exchanged for Lord Cornwallis and released from the Tower, was
added to the company. Adams had a holy horror of Frenchmen in general,
and of Count Vergennes in particular. He shared that common but mistaken
view of Frenchmen which regards them as shallow, frivolous, and
insincere; and he was indignant at the position taken by Vergennes on
the question of the fisheries. In this, John Adams felt as all New
Englanders felt, and he realized the importance of the question from a
national point of view, as became the man who in later years was to earn
lasting renown as one of the chief founders of the American navy. His
behaviour on reaching Paris was characteristic. It is said that he left
Count Vergennes to learn of his arrival through the newspapers. It was
certainly some time before he called upon him, and he took occasion,
besides, to express his opinions about republics and monarchies in terms
which courtly Frenchmen thought very rude.

[Sidenote: Franklin overruled by Jay and Adams.]

The arrival of Adams fully decided the matter as to a separate
negotiation with England. He agreed with Jay that Vergennes should be
kept as far as possible in the dark until everything was cut and dried,
and Franklin was reluctantly obliged to yield. The treaty of alliance
between France and the United States had expressly stipulated that
neither power should ever make peace without the consent of the other,
and in view of this Franklin was loth to do anything which might seem
like abandoning the ally whose timely interposition had alone enabled
Washington to achieve the crowning triumph of Yorktown. In justice to
Vergennes, it should be borne in mind that he had kept strict faith
with us in regard to every point that had been expressly stipulated; and
Franklin, who felt that he understood Frenchmen better than his
colleagues, was naturally unwilling to seem behindhand in this respect.
At the same time, in regard to matters not expressly stipulated,
Vergennes was clearly playing a sharp game against us; and it is
undeniable that, without departing technically from the obligations of
the alliance, Jay and Adams--two men as honourable as ever lived--played
a very sharp defensive game against him. The traditional French subtlety
was no match for Yankee shrewdness. The treaty with England was not
concluded until the consent of France had been obtained, and thus the
express stipulation was respected; but a thorough and detailed agreement
was reached as to what the purport of the treaty should be, while our
not too friendly ally was kept in the dark. The annals of modern
diplomacy have afforded few stranger spectacles. With the indispensable
aid of France we had just got the better of England in fight, and now we
proceeded amicably to divide territory and commercial privileges with
the enemy, and to make arrangements in which the ally was virtually
ignored. It ceases to be a paradox, however, when we remember that with
the change of government in England some essential conditions of the
case were changed. The England against which we had fought was the
hostile England of Lord North; the England with which we were now
dealing was the friendly England of Shelburne and Pitt. For the moment,
the English race, on both sides of the Atlantic, was united in its main
purpose and divided only by questions of detail, while the rival
colonizing power, which sought to work in a direction contrary to the
general interests of English-speaking people, was in great measure

[Sidenote: The separate American treaty, as agreed upon: 1. Boundaries;]

As soon as the problem was thus virtually reduced to a negotiation
between the American commissioners and Lord Shelburne's ministry, the
air was cleared in a moment. The principal questions had already been
discussed between Franklin and Oswald. Independence being first
acknowledged, the question of boundaries came up for settlement. England
had little interest in regaining the territory between the Alleghanies
and the Mississippi, the forts in which were already held by American
soldiers, and she relinquished all claim upon it. The Mississippi River
thus became the dividing line between the United States and the Spanish
possessions, and its navigation was made free alike to British and
American ships. Franklin's suggestion of a cession of Canada and Nova
Scotia was abandoned without discussion. It was agreed that the boundary
line should start at the mouth of the river St. Croix, and, running to a
point near Lake Madawaska in the highlands separating the Atlantic
watershed from that of the St. Lawrence, should follow these highlands
to the head of the Connecticut River, and then descend the middle of the
river to the forty-fifth parallel, thence running westward and through
the centre of the water communications of the Great Lakes to the Lake of
the Woods, thence to the source of the Mississippi, which was supposed
to be west of this lake. This line was marked in red ink by Oswald on
one of Mitchell's maps of North America, to serve as a memorandum
establishing the precise meaning of the words used in the description.
It ought to have been accurately fixed in its details by surveys made
upon the spot; but no commissioners were appointed for this purpose. The
language relating to the northeastern portion of the boundary contained
some inaccuracies which were revealed by later surveys, and the map used
by Oswald was lost. Hence a further question arose between Great Britain
and the United States, which was finally settled by the Ashburton treaty
in 1842.

[Sidenote: 2. Fisheries; commercial intercourse;]

The Americans retained the right of catching fish on the banks of
Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but lost the right of
drying their fish on the Newfoundland coast. On the other hand, no
permission was given to British subjects to fish on the coasts of the
United States. As regarded commercial intercourse, Jay sought to
establish complete reciprocal freedom between the two countries, and a
clause was proposed to the effect that "all British merchants and
merchant ships, on the one hand, shall enjoy in the United States, and
in all places belonging to them, the same protection and commercial
privileges, and be liable only to the same charges and duties as their
own merchants and merchant ships; and, on the other hand, the merchants
and merchant ships of the United States shall enjoy in all places
belonging to his Britannic Majesty the same protection and commercial
privileges, and be liable only to the same charges and duties as British
merchants and merchant ships, saving always to the chartered trading
companies of Great Britain such exclusive use and trade, and the
respective ports and establishments, as neither the other subjects of
Great Britain nor any the most favoured nation participate in."
Unfortunately for both countries, this liberal provision was rejected on
the ground that the ministry had no authority to interfere with the
Navigation Act.

[Sidenote: 3. Private debts;]

Only two questions were now left to be disposed of,--the question of
paying private debts, and that of compensating the American loyalists
for the loss of property and general rough treatment which they had
suffered. There were many old debts outstanding from American to British
merchants. These had been for the most part incurred before 1775, and
while many honest debtors, impoverished during the war, felt unable to
pay, there were doubtless many others who were ready to take advantage
of circumstances and refuse the payment which they were perfectly able
to make. It was scarcely creditable to us that any such question should
have arisen. Franklin, indeed, argued that these debts were more than
fully offset by damages done to private property by British soldiers:
as, for example, in the wanton raids on the coasts of Connecticut and
Virginia in 1779, or in Prevost's buccaneering march against Charleston.
To cite these atrocities, however, as a reason for the non-payment of
debts legitimately owed to innocent merchants in London and Glasgow was
to argue as if two wrongs could make a right. The strong sense of John
Adams struck at once to the root of the matter. He declared "he had no
notion of cheating anybody. The questions of paying debts and
compensating Tories were two." This terse statement carried the day, and
it was finally decided that all private debts on either side, whether
incurred before or after 1775, remained still binding, and must be
discharged at their full value in sterling money.

[Sidenote: 4. Compensation of loyalists.]

The last question of all was the one most difficult to settle. There
were many loyalists in the United States who had sacrificed everything
in the support of the British cause, and it was unquestionably the duty
of the British government to make every possible effort to insure them
against further injury, and, if practicable, to make good their losses
already incurred. From Virginia and the New England states, where they
were few in number, they had mostly fled, and their estates had been
confiscated. In New York and South Carolina, where they remained in
great numbers, they were still waging a desultory war with the patriots,
which far exceeded in cruelty and bitterness the struggle between the
regular armies. In many cases they had, at the solicitation of the
British government, joined the invading army, and been organized into
companies and regiments. The regular troops defeated at King's Mountain,
and those whom Arnold took with him to Virginia, were nearly all
American loyalists. Lord Shelburne felt that it would be wrong to
abandon these unfortunate men to the vengeance of their fellow
countrymen, and he insisted that the treaty should contain an amnesty
clause providing for the restoration of the Tories to their civil
rights, with compensation for their confiscated property. However
disagreeable such a course might seem to the victorious Americans, there
were many precedents for it in European history. It had indeed come to
be customary at the close of civil wars, and the effect of such a policy
had invariably been good. Cromwell, in his hour of triumph, inflicted no
disabilities upon his political enemies; and when Charles II. was
restored to the throne the healing effect of the amnesty act then passed
was so great that historians sometimes ask what in the world had become
of that Puritan party which a moment before had seemed supreme in the
land. At the close of the war of the Spanish Succession, the rebellious
people of Catalonia were indemnified for their losses, at the request of
England, and with a similar good effect. In view of such European
precedents, Vergennes agreed with Shelburne as to the propriety of
securing compensation and further immunity for the Tories in America.
John Adams insinuated that the French minister took this course because
he foresaw that the presence of the Tories in the United States would
keep the people perpetually divided into a French party and an English
party; but such a suspicion was quite uncalled for. There is no reason
to suppose that in this instance Vergennes had anything at heart but the
interests of humanity and justice.

On the other hand, the Americans brought forward very strong reasons why
the Tories should not be indemnified by Congress. First, as Franklin
urged, many of them had, by their misrepresentations to the British
government, helped to stir up the disputes which led to the war; and as
they had made their bed, so they must lie in it. Secondly, such of them
as had been concerned in burning and plundering defenceless villages,
and wielding the tomahawk in concert with bloodthirsty Indians, deserved
no compassion. It was rather for them to make compensation for the
misery they had wrought. Thirdly, the confiscated Tory property had
passed into the hands of purchasers who had bought it in good faith and
could not now be dispossessed, and in many cases it had been distributed
here and there and lost sight of. An estimate of the gross amount might
be made, and a corresponding sum appropriated for indemnification. But,
fourthly, the country was so impoverished by the war that its own
soldiers, the brave men whose heroic exertions had won the independence
of the United States, were at this moment in sore distress for the want
of the pay which Congress could not give them, but to which its honour
was sacredly pledged. The American government was clearly bound to pay
its just debts to the friends who had suffered so much in its behalf
before it should proceed to entertain a chimerical scheme for satisfying
its enemies. For, fifthly, any such scheme was in the present instance
clearly chimerical. The acts under which Tory property had been
confiscated were acts of state legislatures, and Congress had no
jurisdiction over such a matter. If restitution was to be made, it must
be made by the separate states. The question could not for a moment be
entertained by the general government or its agents.

Upon these points the American commissioners were united and inexorable.
Various suggestions were offered in vain by the British. Their troops
still held the city of New York, and it was doubtful whether the
Americans could hope to capture it in another campaign. It was urged
that England might fairly claim in exchange for New York a round sum of
money wherewith the Tories might be indemnified. It was further urged
that certain unappropriated lands in the Mississippi valley might be
sold for the same purpose. But the Americans would not hear of buying
one of their own cities, whose independence was already acknowledged by
the first article of the treaty which recognized the independence of the
United States and as for the western lands, they were wanted as a means
of paying our own war debts and providing for our veteran soldiers.
Several times Shelburne sent word to Paris that he would break off the
negotiation unless the loyalist claims were in some way recognized. But
the Americans were obdurate. They had one advantage, and knew it.
Parliament was soon to meet, and it was doubtful whether Lord Shelburne
could command a sufficient majority to remain long in office. He was,
accordingly, very anxious to complete the treaty of peace, or at least
to detach America from the French alliance, as soon as possible. The
American commissioners were also eager to conclude the treaty. They had
secured very favourable terms, and were loth to run any risk of
spoiling what had been done. Accordingly, they made a proposal in the
form of a compromise, which nevertheless settled the point in their
favour. The matter, they said, was beyond the jurisdiction of Congress,
but they agreed that Congress should _recommend_ to the several states
to desist from further proceedings against the Tories, and to reconsider
their laws on this subject; it should further recommend that persons
with claims upon confiscated lands might be authorized to use legal
means of recovering them, and to this end might be allowed to pass to
and fro without personal risk for the term of one year. The British
commissioners accepted this compromise, unsatisfactory as it was,
because it was really impossible to obtain anything better without
throwing the whole negotiation overboard. The constitutional difficulty
was a real one indeed. As Adams told Oswald, if the point were further
insisted upon, Congress would be obliged to refer it to the several
states, and no one could tell how long it might be before any decisive
result could be reached in this way. Meanwhile, the state of war would
continue, and it would be cheaper for England to indemnify the loyalists
herself than to pay the war bills for a single month. Franklin added
that, if the loyalists were to be indemnified, it would be necessary
also to reckon up the damage they had done in burning houses and
kidnapping slaves, and then strike a balance between the two accounts;
and he gravely suggested that a special commission might be appointed
for this purpose. At the prospect of endless discussion which this
suggestion involved, the British commissioners gave way and accepted the
American terms, although they were frankly told that too much must not
be expected from the recommendation of Congress. The articles were
signed on the 30th of November, six days before the meeting of
Parliament. Hostilities in America were to cease at once, and upon the
completion of the treaty the British fleets and armies were to be
immediately withdrawn from every place which they held within the limits
of the United States. A supplementary and secret article provided that
if England, on making peace with Spain, should recover Wept Florida, the
northern boundary of that province should be a line running due east
from the mouth of the Yazoo River to the Chattahoochee.

[Sidenote: Vergennes does not like the way in which it has been done.]

Thus by skilful diplomacy the Americans had gained all that could
reasonably be asked, while the work of making a general peace was
greatly simplified. It was declared in the preamble that the articles
here signed were provisional, and that the treaty was not to take effect
until terms of peace should be agreed on between England and France.
Without delay, Franklin laid the whole matter, except the secret
article, before Vergennes, who forthwith accused the Americans of
ingratitude and bad faith. Franklin's reply, that at the worst they
could only be charged with want of diplomatic courtesy, has sometimes
been condemned as insincere, but on inadequate grounds. He had consented
with reluctance to the separate negotiation, because he did not wish to
give France any possible ground for complaint, whether real or
ostensible. There does not seem, however, to have been sufficient
justification for so grave a charge as was made by Vergennes. If the
French negotiations had failed until after the overthrow of the
Shelburne ministry; if Fox, on coming into power, had taken advantage of
the American treaty to continue the war against France; and if under
such circumstances the Americans had abandoned their ally, then
undoubtedly they would have become guilty of ingratitude and treachery.
There is no reason for supposing that they would ever have done so, had
the circumstances arisen. Their preamble made it impossible for them
honourably to abandon France until a full peace should be made, and more
than this France could not reasonably demand. The Americans had kept to
the strict letter of their contract, as Vergennes had kept to the strict
letter of his, and beyond this they meted out exactly the same measure
of frankness which they received. To say that our debt of gratitude to
France was such as to require us to acquiesce in her scheme for
enriching our enemy Spain at our expense is simply childish. Franklin
was undoubtedly right. The commissioners may have been guilty of a
breach of diplomatic courtesy, but nothing more. Vergennes might be
sarcastic about it for the moment, but the cordial relations between
France and America remained undisturbed.

[Sidenote: A great diplomatic victory.]

On the part of the Americans the treaty of Paris was one of the most
brilliant triumphs in the whole history of modern diplomacy. Had the
affair been managed by men of ordinary ability, some of the greatest
results of the Revolutionary War would probably have been lost; the new
republic would have been cooped up between the Atlantic Ocean and the
Alleghany Mountains; our westward expansion would have been impossible
without further warfare in which European powers would have been
involved; and the formation of our Federal Union would doubtless have
been effectively hindered, if not, indeed, altogether prevented. To the
grand triumph the varied talents of Franklin, Adams, and Jay alike
contributed. To the latter is due the credit of detecting and baffling
the sinister designs of France; but without the tact of Franklin this
probably could not have been accomplished without offending France in
such wise as to spoil everything. It is, however, to the rare
discernment and boldness of Jay, admirably seconded by the sturdy Adams,
that the chief praise is due. The turning-point of the whole affair was
the visit of Dr. Vaughan to Lord Shelburne. The foundation of success
was the separate negotiation with England, and here there had stood in
the way a more formidable obstacle than the mere reluctance of Franklin.
The chevalier Luzerne and his secretary Marbois had been busy with
Congress, and that body had sent well-meant but silly and pusillanimous
instructions to its commissioners at Paris to be guided in all things by
the wishes of the French court. To disregard such instructions required
all the lofty courage for which Jay and Adams were noted, and for the
moment it brought upon them something like a rebuke from Congress,
conveyed in a letter from Robert Livingston. As Adams said, in his
vehement way, "Congress surrendered their own sovereignty into the hands
of a French minister. Blush! blush! ye guilty records! blush and perish!
It is glory to have broken such infamous orders." True enough; the
commissioners knew that in diplomacy, as in warfare, to the agent at a
distance from his principal some discretionary power must be allowed.
They assumed great responsibility, and won a victory of incalculable

[Sidenote: The Spanish treaty.]

The course of the Americans produced no effect upon the terms obtained
by France, but it seriously modified the case with Spain. Unable to
obtain Gibraltar by arms, that power hoped to get it by diplomacy; and
with the support of France she seemed disposed to make the cession of
the great fortress an ultimatum, without which the war must go on.
Shelburne, on his part, was willing to exchange Gibraltar for an island
in the West Indies; but it was difficult to get the cabinet to agree on
the matter, and the scheme was violently opposed by the people, for the
heroic defence of the stronghold had invested it with a halo of romance
and endeared it to every one. Nevertheless, so persistent was Spain, and
so great the desire for peace on the part of the ministry, that they had
resolved to exchange Gibraltar for Guadaloupe, when the news arrived of
the treaty with America. The ministers now took a bold stand, and
refused to hear another word about giving up Gibraltar. Spain scolded,
and threatened a renewal of hostilities, but France was unwilling to
give further assistance, and the matter was settled by England's
surrendering East Florida, and allowing the Spaniards to keep West
Florida and Minorca, which were already in their hands.

[Sidenote: The French treaty.]

By the treaty with France, the West India islands of Grenada, St.
Vincent, St. Christopher, Dominica, Nevis, and Montserrat were restored
to England, which in turn restored St. Lucia and ceded Tobago to France.
The French were allowed to fortify Dunkirk, and received some slight
concessions in India and Africa; they retained their share in the
Newfoundland fisheries, and recovered the little neighbouring islands of
St. Pierre and Miquelon. For the fourteen hundred million francs which
France had expended in the war, she had the satisfaction of detaching
the American colonies from England, thus inflicting a blow which it was
confidently hoped would prove fatal to the maritime power of her ancient
rival; but beyond this short-lived satisfaction, the fallaciousness of
which events were soon to show, she obtained very little. On the 20th of
January, 1783, the preliminaries of peace were signed between England,
on the one hand, and France and Spain, on the other. A truce was at the
same time concluded with Holland, which was soon followed by a peace, in
which most of the conquests on either side were restored.

[Sidenote: Coalition of Fox with North.]

A second English ministry was now about to be wrecked on the rock of
this group of treaties. Lord Shelburne's government had at no time been
a strong one. He had made many enemies by his liberal and reforming
measures, and he had alienated most of his colleagues by his reserved
demeanour and seeming want of confidence in them. In December several
of the ministers resigned. The strength of parties in the House of
Commons was thus quaintly reckoned by Gibbon: "Minister 140; Reynard 90;
Boreas 120; the rest unknown or uncertain." But "Reynard" and "Boreas"
were now about to join forces in one of the strangest coalitions ever
known in the history of politics. No statesman ever attacked another
more ferociously than Fox had attacked North during the past ten years.
He had showered abuse upon him; accused him of "treachery and
falsehood," of "public perfidy," and "breach of a solemn specific
promise;" and had even gone so far as to declare to his face a hope that
he would be called upon to expiate his abominable crimes upon the
scaffold. Within a twelvemonth he had thus spoken of Lord North and his
colleagues: "From the moment when I shall make any terms with one of
them, I will rest satisfied to be called the most infamous of mankind. I
would not for an instant think of a coalition with men who, in every
public and private transaction as ministers, have shown themselves void
of every principle of honour and honesty. In the hands of such men I
would not trust my honour even for a moment." Still more recently, when
at a loss for words strong enough to express his belief in the
wickedness of Shelburne, he declared that he had no better opinion of
that man than to deem him capable of forming an alliance with North. We
may judge, then, of the general amazement when, in the middle of
February, it turned out that Fox had himself done this very thing. An
"ill-omened marriage," William Pitt called it in the House of Commons.
"If this ill-omened marriage is not already solemnized, I know a just
and lawful impediment, and in the name of the public safety I here
forbid the banns." Throughout the country the indignation was great.
Many people had blamed Fox for not following up his charges by actually
bringing articles of impeachment against Lord North. That the two
enemies should thus suddenly become leagued in friendship seemed utterly
monstrous. It injured Fox extremely in the opinion of the country, and
it injured North still more, for it seemed like a betrayal of the king
on his part, and his forgiveness of so many insults looked
mean-spirited. It does not appear, however, that there was really any
strong personal animosity between North and Fox. They were both men of
very amiable character, and almost incapable of cherishing resentment.
The language of parliamentary orators was habitually violent, and the
huge quantities of wine which gentlemen in those days used to drink may
have helped to make it extravagant. The excessive vehemence of political
invective often deprived it of half its effect. One day, after Fox had
exhausted his vocabulary of abuse upon Lord George Germaine, Lord North
said to him, "You were in very high feather to-day, Charles, and I am
glad you did not fall upon me." On another occasion, it is said that
while Fox was thundering against North's unexampled turpitude, the
object of his furious tirade cosily dropped off to sleep. Gibbon, who
was the friend of both statesmen, expressly declares that they bore
each other no ill will. But while thus alike indisposed to harbour
bitter thoughts, there was one man for whom both Fox and North felt an
abiding distrust and dislike; and that man was Lord Shelburne, the prime

As a political pupil of Burke, Fox shared that statesman's distrust of
the whole school of Lord Chatham, to which Shelburne belonged. In many
respects these statesmen were far more advanced than Burke, but they did
not sufficiently realize the importance of checking the crown by means
of a united and powerful ministry. Fox thoroughly understood that much
of the mischief of the past twenty years, including the loss of America,
had come from the system of weak and divided ministries, which gave the
king such great opportunity for wreaking his evil will. He had himself
been a member of such a ministry, which had fallen seven months ago.
When the king singled out Shelburne for his confidence, Fox naturally
concluded that Shelburne was to be made to play the royal game, as North
had been made to play it for so many years. This was very unjust to
Shelburne, but there is no doubt that Fox was perfectly honest in his
belief. It seemed to him that the present state of things must be
brought to an end, at whatever cost. A ministry strong enough to curb
the king could be formed only by a coalescence of two out of the three
existing parties. A coalescence of Old and New Whigs had been tried last
spring, and failed. It only remained now to try the effect of a
coalescence of Old Whigs and Tories.

Such was doubtless the chief motive of Fox in this extraordinary move.
The conduct of North seems harder to explain, but it was probably due to
a reaction of feeling on his part. He had done violence to his own
convictions out of weak compassion for George III., and had carried on
the American war for four years after he had been thoroughly convinced
that peace ought to be made. Remorse for this is said to have haunted
him to the end of his life. When in his old age he became blind, he bore
this misfortune with his customary lightness of heart; and one day,
meeting the veteran Barré, who had also lost his eyesight, he exclaimed,
with his unfailing wit, "Well, colonel, in spite of all our differences,
I suppose there are no two men in England who would be gladder to _see_
each other than you and I." But while Lord North could jest about his
blindness, the memory of his ill-judged subservience to the king was
something that he could not laugh away, and among his nearest friends he
was sometimes heard to reproach himself bitterly. When, therefore, in
1783, he told Fox that he fully agreed with him in thinking that the
royal power ought to be curbed, he was doubtless speaking the truth. No
man had a better right to such an opinion than he had gained through
sore experience. In his own ministry, as he said to Fox, he took the
system as he found it, and had not vigour and resolution enough to put
an end to it; but he was now quite convinced that in such a country as
England, while the king should be treated with all outward show of
respect, he ought on no account to be allowed to exercise any real

Now this was in 1783 the paramount political question in England, just
as much as the question of secession was paramount in the United States
in 1861. Other questions could be postponed; the question of curbing the
king could not. Upon this all-important point North had come to agree
with Fox; and as the principal motive of their coalition may be thus
explained, the historian is not called upon to lay too much stress upon
the lower motives assigned in profusion by their political enemies. This
explanation, however, does not quite cover the case. The mass of the
Tories would never follow North in an avowed attempt to curb the king,
but they agreed with the followers of Fox, though not with Fox himself,
in holy horror of parliamentary reform, and were alarmed by a recent
declaration of Shelburne that the suffrage must be extended so as to
admit a hundred new county members. Thus while the two leaders were
urged to coalescence by one motive, their followers were largely swayed
by another, and this added much to the mystery and general
unintelligibleness of the movement. In taking this step Fox made the
mistake which was characteristic of the Old Whig party. He gave too
little heed to the great public outside the walls of the House of
Commons. The coalition, once made, was very strong in Parliament, but it
mystified and scandalized the people, and this popular disapproval by
and by made it easy for the king to overthrow it.

[Sidenote: Fall of Shelburne's ministry.]

It was agreed to choose the treaty as the occasion for the combined
attack upon the Shelburne ministry. North, as the minister who had
conducted the unsuccessful war, was bound to oppose the treaty, in any
case. It would not do for him to admit that better terms could not have
been made. The treaty was also very unpopular with Fox's party, and with
the nation at large. It was thought that too much territory had been
conceded to the Americans, and fault was found with the article on the
fisheries. But the point which excited most indignation was the virtual
abandonment of the loyalists, for here the honour of England was felt to
be at stake. On this ground the treaty was emphatically condemned by
Burke, Sheridan, and Wilberforce, no less than by North. It was ably
defended in the Commons by Pitt, and in the Lords by Shelburne himself,
who argued that he had but the alternative of accepting the terms as
they stood, or continuing the war; and since it had come to this, he
said, without spilling a drop of blood, or incurring one fifth of the
expense of a year's campaign, the comfort and happiness of the American
loyalists could be easily secured. By this he meant that, should America
fail to make good their losses, it was far better for England to
indemnify them herself than to prolong indefinitely a bloody and ruinous
struggle. As we shall hereafter see, this liberal and enlightened policy
was the one which England really pursued, so far as practicable, and her
honour was completely saved. That Shelburne and Pitt were quite right
there can now be little doubt. But argument was of no avail against the
resistless power of the coalition. On the 17th of February Lord John
Cavendish moved an amendment to the ministerial address on the treaty,
refusing to approve it. On the 21st he moved a further amendment
condemning the treaty. Both motions were carried, and on the 24th Lord
Shelburne resigned. He did not dissolve Parliament and appeal to the
country, partly because he was aware of his personal unpopularity, and
partly because, in spite of the general disgust at the coalition, there
was little doubt that on the particular question of the treaty the
public opinion agreed with the majority in Parliament, and not with the
ministry. For this reason, Pitt, though personally popular, saw that it
was no time for him to take the first place in the government, and when
the king proceeded to offer it to him he declined.

[Sidenote: The king's wrath.]

[Sidenote: The treaty is adopted, after all, by the coalition ministry,
which presently falls.]

For more than five weeks, while the treasury was nearly empty, and the
question of peace or war still hung in the balance, England was without
a regular government, while the angry king went hunting for some one who
would consent to be his prime minister. He was determined not to submit
to the coalition. He was naturally enraged at Lord North for turning
against him. Meeting one day North's father, Lord Guilford, he went up
to him, tragically wringing his hands, and exclaimed in accents of woe,
"Did I ever think, my Lord Guilford, that your son would thus have
betrayed me into the hands of Mr. Fox?" He appealed in vain to Lord
Gower, and then to Lord Temple, to form a ministry. Lord Gower suggested
that perhaps Thomas Pitt, cousin of William, might be willing to serve.
"I desired him," said the king, "to apply to Mr. Thomas Pitt, or Mr.
Thomas anybody." It was of no use. By the 2d of April Parliament had
become furious at the delay, and George was obliged to yield. The Duke
of Portland was brought in as nominal prime minister, with Fox as
foreign secretary, North as secretary for home and colonies, Cavendish
as chancellor of the exchequer, and Keppel as first lord of the
admiralty. The only Tory in the cabinet, excepting North, was Lord
Stormont, who became president of the council. The commissioners,
Fitzherbert and Oswald, were recalled from Paris, and the Duke of
Manchester and David Hartley, son of the great philosopher, were
appointed in their stead. Negotiations continued through the spring and
summer. Attempts were made to change some of the articles, especially
the obnoxious article concerning the loyalists, but all to no purpose.
Hartley's attempt to negotiate a mutually advantageous commercial treaty
with America also came to nothing. The definitive treaty which was
finally signed on the 3d of September, 1783, was an exact transcript of
the treaty which Shelburne had made, and for making which the present
ministers had succeeded in turning him out of office. No more emphatic
justification of Shelburne's conduct of this business could possibly
have been obtained.

The coalition ministry did not long survive the final signing of the
treaty. The events of the next few months are curiously instructive as
showing the quiet and stealthy way in which a political revolution may
be consummated in a thoroughly conservative and constitutional country.
Early in the winter session of Parliament Fox brought in his famous bill
for organizing the government of the great empire which Clive and
Hastings had built up in India. Popular indignation at the ministry had
been strengthened by its adopting the same treaty of peace for the
making of which it had assaulted Shelburne; and now, on the passage of
the India Bill by the House of Commons, there was a great outcry. Many
provisions of the bill were exceedingly unpopular, and its chief object
was alleged to be the concentration of the immense patronage of India
into the hands of the old Whig families. With the popular feeling thus
warmly enlisted against the ministry, George III. was now emboldened to
make war on it by violent means; and, accordingly, when the bill came up
in the House of Lords, he caused it to be announced, by Lord Temple,
that any peer who should vote in its favour would be regarded as an
enemy by the king. Four days later the House of Commons, by a vote of
153 to 80, resolved that "to report any opinion, or pretended opinion,
of his majesty upon any bill or other proceeding depending in either
house of Parliament, with a view to influence the votes of the members,
is a high crime and misdemeanour, derogatory to the honour of the crown,
a breach of the fundamental privileges of Parliament, and subversive of
the constitution of this country." A more explicit or emphatic defiance
to the king would have been hard to frame. Two days afterward the Lords
rejected the India Bill, and on the next day, the 18th of December,
George turned the ministers out of office.

[Sidenote: Constitutional crisis, ending in the overwhelming victory of
Pitt, May, 1784.]

In this grave constitutional crisis the king invited William Pitt to
form a government, and this young statesman, who had consistently
opposed the coalition, now saw that his hour was come. He was more than
any one else the favourite of the people. Fox's political reputation was
eclipsed, and North's was destroyed, by their unseemly alliance. People
were sick of the whole state of things which had accompanied the
American war. Pitt, who had only come into Parliament in 1780, was free
from these unpleasant associations. The unblemished purity of his life,
his incorruptible integrity, his rare disinterestedness, and his
transcendent ability in debate were known to every one. As the worthy
son of Lord Chatham, whose name was associated with the most glorious
moment of English history, he was peculiarly dear to the people. His
position, however, on taking supreme office at the instance of a king
who had just committed an outrageous breach of the constitution, was
extremely critical, and only the most consummate skill could have won
from the chaos such a victory as he was about to win. When he became
first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer, in December,
1783, he had barely completed his twenty-fifth year. All his colleagues
in the new cabinet were peers, so that he had to fight single-handed in
the Commons against the united talents of Burke and Sheridan, Fox and
North; and there was a heavy majority against him, besides. In view of
this adverse majority, it was Pitt's constitutional duty to dissolve
Parliament and appeal to the country. But Fox, unwilling to imperil his
great majority by a new election, now made the fatal mistake of opposing
a dissolution; thus showing his distrust of the people and his dread of
their verdict. With consummate tact, Pitt allowed the debates to go on
till March, and then, when the popular feeling in his favour had grown
into wild enthusiasm, he dissolved Parliament. In the general election
which followed, 160 members of the coalition lost their seats, and Pitt
obtained the greatest majority that has ever been given to an English

[Sidenote: Overthrow of George III.'s system of personal government.]

Thus was completed the political revolution in England which was set on
foot by the American victory at Yorktown. Its full significance was only
gradually realized. For the moment it might seem that it was the king
who had triumphed. He had shattered the alliance which had been formed
for the purpose of curbing him, and the result of the election had
virtually condoned his breach of the constitution. This apparent
victory, however, had been won only by a direct appeal to the people,
and all its advantages accrued to the people, and not to George III. His
ingenious system of weak and divided ministries, with himself for
balance-wheel, was destroyed. For the next seventeen years the real
ruler of England was not George III., but William Pitt, who, with his
great popular following, wielded such a power as no English sovereign
had possessed since the days of Elizabeth. The political atmosphere was
cleared of intrigue; and Fox, in the legitimate attitude of leader of
the new opposition, entered upon the glorious part of his career. There
was now set in motion that great work of reform which, hindered for a
while by the reaction against the French revolutionists, won its
decisive victory in 1832. Down to the very moment at which American and
British history begin to flow in distinct and separate channels, it is
interesting to observe how closely they are implicated with each other.
The victory of the Americans not only set on foot the British revolution
here described, but it figured most prominently in each of the political
changes that we have witnessed, down to the very eve of the overthrow of
the coalition. The system which George III. had sought to fasten upon
America, in order that he might fasten it upon England, was shaken off
and shattered by the good people of both countries at almost the same
moment of time.



[Sidenote: Departure of the British troops, Nov. 25, 1783.]

[Sidenote: Washington resigns his command, Dec. 23.]

"The times that tried men's souls are over," said Thomas Paine in the
last number of the "Crisis," which he published after hearing that the
negotiations for a treaty of peace had been concluded. The preliminary
articles had been signed at Paris on the 20th of January, 1783. The news
arrived in America on the 23d of March, in a letter to the president of
Congress from Lafayette, who had returned to France soon after the
victory at Yorktown. A few days later Sir Guy Carleton received his
orders from the ministry to proclaim a cessation of hostilities by land
and sea. A similar proclamation made by Congress was formally
communicated to the army by Washington on the 19th of April, the eighth
anniversary of the first bloodshed on Lexington green. Since Wayne had
driven the British from Georgia, early in the preceding year, there had
been no military operations between the regular armies. Guerrilla
warfare between Whig and Tory had been kept up in parts of South
Carolina and on the frontier of New York, where Thayendanegea was still
alert and defiant; while beyond the mountains the tomahawk and
scalping-knife had been busy, and Washington's old friend and comrade,
Colonel Crawford, had been scorched to death by the firebrands of the
red demons; but the armies had sat still, awaiting the peace which every
one felt sure must speedily come. After Cornwallis's surrender,
Washington marched his army back to the Hudson, and established his
headquarters at Newburgh. Rochambeau followed somewhat later, and in
September joined the Americans on the Hudson; but in December the French
army marched to Boston, and there embarked for France. After the formal
cessation of hostilities on the 19th of April, 1783, Washington granted
furloughs to most of his soldiers; and these weather-beaten veterans
trudged homeward in all directions, in little groups of four or five,
depending largely for their subsistence on the hospitality of the
farm-houses along the road. Arrived at home, their muskets were hung
over the chimney-piece as trophies for grandchildren to be proud of, the
stories of their exploits and their sufferings became household legends,
and they turned the furrows and drove the cattle to pasture just as in
the "old colony times." Their furloughs were equivalent to a full
discharge, for on the 3d of September the definitive treaty was signed,
and the country was at peace. On the 3d of November the army was
formally disbanded, and on the 25th of that month Sir Guy Carleton's
army embarked from New York. Small British garrisons still remained in
the frontier posts of Ogdensburg, Oswego, Niagara, Erie, Sandusky,
Detroit, and Mackinaw, but by the terms of the treaty these places were
to be promptly surrendered to the United States. On the 4th of December
a barge waited at the South Ferry in New York to carry General
Washington across the river to Paulus Hook. He was going to Annapolis,
where Congress was in session, in order to resign his command. At
Fraunces's Tavern, near the ferry, he took leave of the officers who so
long had shared his labours. One after another they embraced their
beloved commander, while there were few dry eyes in the company. They
followed him to the ferry, and watched the departing boat with hearts
too full for words, and then in solemn silence returned up the street.
At Philadelphia he handed to the comptroller of the treasury a neatly
written manuscript, containing an accurate statement of his expenses in
the public service since the day when he took command of the army. The
sums which Washington had thus spent out of his private fortune amounted
to $64,315. For his personal services he declined to take any pay. At
noon of the 23d, in the presence of Congress and of a throng of ladies
and gentlemen at Annapolis, the great general gave up his command, and
requested as an "indulgence" to be allowed to retire into private life.
General Mifflin, who during the winter of Valley Forge had conspired
with Gates to undermine the confidence of the people in Washington, was
now president of Congress, and it was for him to make the reply. "You
retire," said Mifflin, "from the theatre of action with the blessings of
your fellow-citizens, but the glory of your virtues will not terminate
with your military command; it will continue to animate remotest ages."
The next morning Washington hurried away to spend Christmas at his
pleasant home at Mount Vernon, which, save for a few hours in the autumn
of 1781, he had not set eyes on for more than eight years. His estate
had suffered from his long absence, and his highest ambition was to
devote himself to its simple interests. To his friends he offered
unpretentious hospitality. "My manner of living is plain," he said, "and
I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton
are always ready, and such as will be content to partake of them are
always welcome. Those who expect more will be disappointed." To
Lafayette he wrote that he was now about to solace himself with those
tranquil enjoyments of which the anxious soldier and the weary statesman
know but little. "I have not only retired from all public employments,
but I am retiring within myself, and shall be able to view the solitary
walk and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction.
Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this, my
dear friend, being the order of my march, I will move gently down the
stream of life until I sleep with my fathers."

[Sidenote: His "legacy" to the American people, June 8, 1783.]

In these hopes Washington was to be disappointed. "All the world is
touched by his republican virtues," wrote Luzerne to Vergennes, "but it
will be useless for him to try to hide himself and live the life of a
private man: he will always be the first citizen of the United States."
It indeed required no prophet to foretell that the American people could
not long dispense with the services of this greatest of citizens.
Washington had already put himself most explicitly on record as the
leader of the men who were urging the people of the United States toward
the formation of a more perfect union. The great lesson of the war had
not been lost on him. Bitter experience of the evils attendant upon the
weak government of the Continental Congress had impressed upon his mind
the urgent necessity of an immediate and thorough reform. On the 8th of
June, in view of the approaching disbandment of the army, he had
addressed to the governors and presidents of the several states a
circular letter, which he wished to have regarded as his legacy to the
American people. In this letter he insisted upon four things as
essential to the very existence of the United States as an independent
power. First, there must be an indissoluble union of all the states
under a single federal government, which must possess the power of
enforcing its decrees; for without such authority it would be a
government only in name. Secondly, the debts incurred by Congress for
the purpose of carrying on the war and securing independence must be
paid to the uttermost farthing. Thirdly, the militia system must be
organized throughout the thirteen states on uniform principles.
Fourthly, the people must be willing to sacrifice, if need be, some of
their local interests to the common weal; they must discard their local
prejudices, and regard one another as fellow-citizens of a common
country, with interests in the deepest and truest sense identical.

[Sidenote: Absence of a sentiment of union, and consequent danger of

The unparalleled grandeur of Washington's character, his heroic
services, and his utter disinterestedness had given him such a hold upon
the people as scarcely any other statesman known to history, save
perhaps William the Silent, has ever possessed. The noble and sensible
words of his circular letter were treasured up in the minds of all the
best people in the country, and when the time for reforming the weak and
disorderly government had come it was again to Washington that men
looked as their leader and guide. But that time had not yet come. Only
through the discipline of perplexity and tribulation could the people be
brought to realize the indispensable necessity of that indissoluble
union of which Washington had spoken. Thomas Paine was sadly mistaken
when, in the moment of exultation over the peace, he declared that the
trying time was ended. The most trying time of all was just beginning.
It is not too much to say that the period of five years following the
peace of 1783 was the most critical moment in all the history of the
American people. The dangers from which we were saved in 1788 were even
greater than the dangers from which we were saved in 1865. In the War of
Secession the love of union had come to be so strong that thousands of
men gave up their lives for it as cheerfully and triumphantly as the
martyrs of older times, who sang their hymns of praise even while their
flesh was withering in the relentless flames. In 1783 the love of union,
as a sentiment for which men would fight, had scarcely come into
existence among the people of these states. The souls of the men of
that day had not been thrilled by the immortal eloquence of Webster, nor
had they gained the historic experience which gave to Webster's words
their meaning and their charm. They had not gained control of all the
fairest part of the continent, with domains stretching more than three
thousand miles from ocean to ocean, and so situated in geographical
configuration and commercial relations as to make the very idea of
disunion absurd, save for men in whose minds fanaticism for the moment
usurped the place of sound judgment. The men of 1783 dwelt in a long,
straggling series of republics, fringing the Atlantic coast, bordered on
the north and south and west by two European powers whose hostility they
had some reason to dread. But nine years had elapsed since, in the first
Continental Congress, they had begun to act consistently and
independently in common, under the severe pressure of a common fear and
an immediate necessity of action. Even under such circumstances the war
had languished and come nigh to failure simply through the difficulty of
insuring concerted action. Had there been such a government that the
whole power of the thirteen states could have been swiftly and
vigorously wielded as a unit, the British, fighting at such disadvantage
as they did, might have been driven to their ships in less than a year.
The length of the war and its worst hardships had been chiefly due to
want of organization. Congress had steadily declined in power and in
respectability; it was much weaker at the end of the war than at the
beginning; and there was reason to fear that as soon as the common
pressure was removed the need for concerted action would quite cease to
be felt, and the scarcely formed Union would break into pieces. There
was the greater reason for such a fear in that, while no strong
sentiment had as yet grown up in favour of union, there was an intensely
powerful sentiment in favour of local self-government. This feeling was
scarcely less strong as between states like Connecticut and Rhode
Island, or Maryland and Virginia, than it was between Athens and Megara,
Argos and Sparta, in the great days of Grecian history. A most wholesome
feeling it was, and one which needed not so much to be curbed as to be
guided in the right direction. It was a feeling which was shared by some
of the foremost Revolutionary leaders, such as Samuel Adams and Richard
Henry Lee. But unless the most profound and delicate statesmanship
should be forthcoming, to take this sentiment under its guidance, there
was much reason to fear that the release from the common adhesion to
Great Britain would end in setting up thirteen little republics, ripe
for endless squabbling, like the republics of ancient Greece and
mediæval Italy, and ready to become the prey of England and Spain, even
as Greece became the prey of Macedonia.

[Sidenote: False historic analogies.]

As such a lamentable result was dreaded by Washington, so by statesmen
in Europe it was generally expected, and by our enemies it was eagerly
hoped for. Josiah Tucker, Dean of Gloucester, was a far-sighted man in
many things; but he said, "As to the future grandeur of America, and
its being a rising empire under one head, whether republican or
monarchical, it is one of the idlest and most visionary notions that
ever was conceived even by writers of romance. The mutual antipathies
and clashing interests of the Americans, their difference of
governments, habitudes, and manners, indicate that they will have no
centre of union and no common interest. They never can be united into
one compact empire under any species of government whatever; a disunited
people till the end of time, suspicious and distrustful of each other,
they will be divided and subdivided into little commonwealths or
principalities, according to natural boundaries, by great bays of the
sea, and by vast rivers, lakes, and ridges of mountains." Such were the
views of a liberal-minded philosopher who bore us no ill-will. George
III. said officially that he hoped the Americans would not suffer from
the evils which in history had always followed the throwing off of
monarchical government: which meant, of course, that he hoped they
_would_ suffer from such evils. He believed we should get into such a
snarl that the several states, one after another, would repent and beg
on their knees to be taken back into the British empire. Frederick of
Prussia, though friendly to the Americans, argued that the mere extent
of country from Maine to Georgia would suffice either to break up the
Union, or to make a monarchy necessary. No republic, he said, had ever
long existed on so great a scale. The Roman republic had been
transformed into a despotism mainly by the excessive enlargement of its
area. It was only little states, like Venice, Switzerland, and Holland,
that could maintain a republican government. Such arguments were common
enough a century ago, but they overlooked three essential differences
between the Roman republic and the United States. The Roman republic in
Cæsar's time comprised peoples differing widely in blood, in speech, and
in degree of civilization; it was perpetually threatened on all its
frontiers by powerful enemies; and representative assemblies were
unknown to it. The only free government of which the Roman knew anything
was that of the primary assembly or town meeting. On the other hand, the
people of the United States were all English in speech, and mainly
English in blood. The differences in degree of civilization between such
states as Massachusetts and North Carolina were considerable, but in
comparison with such differences as those between Attika and Lusitania
they might well be called slight. The attacks of savages on the frontier
were cruel and annoying, but never since the time of King Philip had
they seemed to threaten the existence of the white man. A very small
military establishment was quite enough to deal with the Indians. And to
crown all, the American people were thoroughly familiar with the
principle of representation, having practised it on a grand scale for
four centuries in England, and for more than a century in America. The
governments of the thirteen states were all similar, and the political
ideas of one were perfectly intelligible to all the others. It was
essentially fallacious, therefore, to liken the case of the United
States to that of ancient Rome.

[Sidenote: Influence of railroad and telegraph upon perpetuity of the
American Union.]

But there was another feature of the case which was quite hidden from
the men of 1783. Just before the assembling of the first Continental
Congress James Watt had completed his steam-engine; in the summer of
1787, while the Federal Convention was sitting at Philadelphia, John
Fitch launched his first steamboat on the Delaware River; and
Stephenson's invention of the locomotive was to follow in less than half
a century. Even with all other conditions favourable, it is doubtful if
the American Union could have been preserved to the present time without
the railroad. But for the military aid of railroads our government would
hardly have succeeded in putting down the rebellion of the southern
states. In the debates on the Oregon Bill in the United States Senate in
1843, the idea that we could ever have an interest in so remote a
country as Oregon was loudly ridiculed by some of the members. It would
take ten months--said George McDuffie, the very able senator from South
Carolina--for representatives to get from that territory to the District
of Columbia and back again. Yet since the building of railroads to the
Pacific coast, we can go from Boston to the capital of Oregon in much
less time than it took John Hancock to make the journey from Boston to
Philadelphia. Railroads and telegraphs have made our vast country, both
for political and for social purposes, more snug and compact than little
Switzerland was in the Middle Ages or New England a century ago.

[Sidenote: Difficulty of travelling a hundred years ago.]

At the time of our Revolution the difficulties of travelling formed an
important social obstacle to the union of the states. In our time the
persons who pass in a single day between New York and Boston by six or
seven distinct lines of railroad and steamboat are numbered by
thousands. In 1783 two stage-coaches were enough for all the travellers,
and nearly all the freight besides, that went between these two cities,
except such large freight as went by sea around Cape Cod. The journey
began at three o'clock in the morning. Horses were changed every twenty
miles, and if the roads were in good condition some forty miles would be
made by ten o'clock in the evening. In bad weather, when the passengers
had to get down and lift the clumsy wheels out of deep ruts, the
progress was much slower. The loss of life from accidents, in proportion
to the number of travellers, was much greater than it has ever been on
the railway. Broad rivers like the Connecticut and Housatonic had no
bridges. To drive across them in winter, when they were solidly frozen
over, was easy; and in pleasant summer weather to cross in a row-boat
was not a dangerous undertaking. But squalls at some seasons and
floating ice at others were things to be feared. More than one instance
is recorded where boats were crushed and passengers drowned, or saved
only by scrambling upon ice-floes. After a week or ten days of
discomfort and danger the jolted and jaded traveller reached New York.
Such was a journey in the most highly civilized part of the United
States. The case was still worse in the South, and it was not so very
much better in England and France. In one respect the traveller in the
United States fared better than the traveller in Europe: the danger from
highwaymen was but slight.

[Sidenote: Local jealousies and antipathies, an inheritance from
primeval savagery.]

Such being the difficulty of travelling, people never made long journeys
save for very important reasons. Except in the case of the soldiers,
most people lived and died without ever having seen any state but their
own. And as the mails were irregular and uncertain, and the rates of
postage very high, people heard from one another but seldom. Commercial
dealings between the different states were inconsiderable. The
occupation of the people was chiefly agriculture. Cities were few and
small, and each little district for the most part supported itself.
Under such circumstances the different parts of the country knew very
little about each other, and local prejudices were intense. It was not
simply free Massachusetts and slave-holding South Carolina, or English
Connecticut and Dutch New York, that misunderstood and ridiculed each
the other; but even between such neighbouring states as Connecticut and
Massachusetts, both of them thoroughly English and Puritan, and in all
their social conditions almost exactly alike, it used often to be said
that there was no love lost. These unspeakably stupid and contemptible
local antipathies are inherited by civilized men from that far-off time
when the clan system prevailed over the face of the earth, and the hand
of every clan was raised against its neighbours. They are pale and
evanescent survivals from the universal primitive warfare, and the
sooner they die out from human society the better for every one. They
should be stigmatized and frowned down upon every fit occasion, just as
we frown upon swearing as a symbol of anger and contention. But the only
thing which can finally destroy them is the widespread and unrestrained
intercourse of different groups of people in peaceful social and
commercial relations. The rapidity with which this process is now going
on is the most encouraging of all the symptoms of our modern
civilization. But a century ago the progress made in this direction had
been relatively small, and it was a very critical moment for the
American people.

[Sidenote: Conservative character of the Revolution.]

The thirteen states, as already observed, had worked in concert for only
nine years, during which their coöperation had been feeble and halting.
But the several state governments had been in operation since the first
settlement of the country, and were regarded with intense loyalty by the
people of the states. Under the royal governors the local political life
of each state had been vigorous and often stormy, as befitted
communities of the sturdy descendants of English freemen. The
legislative assembly of each state had stoutly defended its liberties
against the encroachments of the governor. In the eyes of the people it
was the only power on earth competent to lay taxes upon them, it was as
supreme in its own sphere as the British Parliament itself, and in
behalf of this rooted conviction the people had gone to war and won
their independence from England. During the war the people of all the
states, except Connecticut and Rhode Island, had carefully remodelled
their governments, and in the performance of this work had withdrawn
many of their ablest statesmen from the Continental Congress; but except
for the expulsion of the royal and proprietary governors, the work had
in no instance been revolutionary in its character. It was not so much
that the American people gained an increase of freedom by their
separation from England, as that they kept the freedom they had always
enjoyed, that freedom which was the inalienable birthright of
Englishmen, but which George III. had foolishly sought to impair. The
American Revolution was therefore in no respect destructive. It was the
most conservative revolution known to history, thoroughly English in
conception from beginning to end. It had no likeness whatever to the
terrible popular convulsion which soon after took place in France. The
mischievous doctrines of Rousseau had found few readers and fewer
admirers among the Americans. The principles upon which their revolution
was conducted were those of Sidney, Harrington, and Locke. In
remodelling the state governments, as in planning the union of the
states, the precedents followed and the principles applied were almost
purely English. We must now pass in review the principal changes wrought
in the several states, and we shall then be ready to consider the
general structure of the Confederation, and to describe the remarkable
series of events which led to the adoption of our Federal Constitution.

[Sidenote: State governments remodelled; assemblies continued from
colonial times.]

It will be remembered that at the time of the Declaration of
Independence there were three kinds of government in the colonies.
Connecticut and Rhode Island had always been true republics, with
governors and legislative assemblies elected by the people.
Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland presented the appearance of limited
hereditary monarchies. Their assemblies were chosen by the people, but
the lords proprietary appointed their governors, or in some instances
acted as governors themselves. In Maryland the office of lord
proprietary was hereditary in the Calvert family; in Delaware and
Pennsylvania, which, though distinct commonwealths with separate
legislatures, had the same executive head, it was hereditary in the Penn
family. The other eight colonies were viceroyalties, with governors
appointed by the king, while in all alike the people elected the
legislatures. Accordingly in Connecticut and Rhode Island no change was
made necessary by the Revolution, beyond the mere omission of the king's
name from legal documents; and their charters, which dated from the
middle of the seventeenth century, continued to do duty as state
constitutions till far into the nineteenth. During the Revolutionary War
all the other states framed new constitutions, but in most essential
respects they took the old colonial charters for their model. The
popular legislative body remained unchanged even in its name. In North
Carolina its supreme dignity was vindicated in its title of the House of
Commons; in Virginia it was called the House of Burgesses; in most of
the states the House of Representatives. The members were chosen each
year, except in South Carolina, where they served for two years. In the
New England states they represented the townships, in other states the
counties. In all the states except Pennsylvania a property qualification
was required of them.

[Sidenote: Origin of the senates.]

In addition to this House of Representatives all the legislatures except
those of Pennsylvania and Georgia contained a second or upper house
known as the Senate. The origin of the senate is to be found in the
governor's council of colonial times, just as the House of Lords is
descended from the Witenagemot or council of great barons summoned by
the Old-English kings. The Americans had been used to having the acts of
their popular assemblies reviewed by a council, and so they retained
this revisory body as an upper house. A higher property qualification
was required than for membership of the lower house, and, except in New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, the term of service was
longer. In Maryland senators sat for five years, in Virginia and New
York for four years, elsewhere for two years. In some states they were
chosen by the people, in others by the lower house. In Maryland they
were chosen by a college of electors, thus affording a precedent for the
method of electing the chief magistrate of the union under the Federal

[Sidenote: Governors viewed with suspicion.]

Governors were unpopular in those days. There was too much flavour of
royalty and high prerogative about them. Except in the two republics of
Rhode Island and Connecticut, American political history during the
eighteenth century was chiefly the record of interminable squabbles
between governors and legislatures, down to the moment when the detested
agents of royalty were clapped into jail, or took refuge behind the
bulwarks of a British seventy-four. Accordingly the new constitutions
were very chary of the powers to be exercised by the governor. In
Pennsylvania and Delaware, in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the
governor was at first replaced by an executive council, and the
president of this council was first magistrate and titular ruler of the
state. His dignity was imposing enough, but his authority was merely
that of a chairman. The other states had governors chosen by the
legislatures, except in New York where the governor was elected by the
people. No one was eligible to the office of governor who did not
possess a specified amount of property. In most of the states the
governor could not be reëlected, he had no veto upon the acts of the
legislature, nor any power of appointing officers. In 1780, in a new
constitution drawn up by James Bowdoin and the two Adamses,
Massachusetts led the way in the construction of a more efficient
executive department. The president was replaced by a governor elected
annually by the people, and endowed with the power of appointment and a
suspensory veto. The first governor elected under this constitution was
John Hancock. In 1783 New Hampshire adopted a similar constitution. In
1790 Pennsylvania added an upper house to its legislature, and vested
the executive power in a governor elected by the people for a term of
three years, and twice reëligible. He was intrusted with the power of
appointment to offices, with a suspensory veto, and with the royal
prerogative of reprieving or pardoning criminals. In 1792 similar
changes were made in Delaware. In 1789 Georgia added the upper house to
its legislature, and about the same time in several states the
governor's powers were enlarged.

Thus the various state governments were repetitions on a small scale of
what was then supposed to be the triplex government of England, with its
King, Lords, and Commons. The governor answered to the king with his
dignity curtailed by election for a short period, and by narrowly
limited prerogatives. The senate answered to the House of Lords, except
in being a representative and not a hereditary body. It was supposed to
represent more especially that part of the community which was possessed
of most wealth and consideration; and in several states the senators
were apportioned with some reference to the amount of taxes paid by
different parts of the state. The senate of New York, in direct
imitation of the House of Lords, was made a supreme court of errors. On
the other hand, the assembly answered to the House of Commons, save that
its power was really limited by the senate as the power of the House of
Commons is not really limited by the House of Lords. But this
peculiarity of the British Constitution was not well understood a
century ago; and the misunderstanding, as we shall hereafter see,
exerted a very serious influence upon the form of our federal
government, as well as upon the constitutions of the several states.

[Sidenote: The judiciary.]

In all the thirteen states the common law of England remained in force,
as it does to this day save where modified by statute. British and
colonial statutes made prior to the Revolution continued also in force
unless expressly repealed. The system of civil and criminal courts, the
remedies in common law and equity, the forms of writs, the functions of
justices of the peace, the courts of probate, all remained substantially
unchanged. In Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, the judges held
office for a term of seven years; in all the other states they held
office for life or during good behaviour. In all the states save Georgia
they were appointed either by the governor or by the legislature. It was
Georgia that in 1812 first set the pernicious example of electing judges
for short terms by the people,[1]--a practice which is responsible for
much of the degradation that the courts have suffered in many of our
states, and which will have to be abandoned before a proper
administration of justice can ever be secured.

[Sidenote: The limited suffrage.]

In bestowing the suffrage, the new constitutions were as conservative as
in all other respects. The general state of opinion in America at that
time, with regard to universal suffrage, was far more advanced than the
general state of opinion in England, but it was less advanced than the
opinions of such statesmen as Pitt and Shelburne and the Duke of
Richmond. There was a truly English irregularity in the provisions which
were made on this subject. In New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
and South Carolina, all resident freemen who paid taxes could vote. In
North Carolina all such persons could vote for members of the lower
house, but in order to vote for senators a freehold of fifty acres was
required. In Virginia none could vote save those who possessed such a
freehold of fifty acres. To vote for governor or for senators in New
York, one must possess a freehold of $250, clear of mortgage, and to
vote for assemblymen one must either have a freehold of $50, or pay a
yearly rent of $10. The pettiness of these sums was in keeping with the
time when two daily coaches sufficed for the traffic between our two
greatest commercial cities. In Rhode Island an unincumbered freehold
worth $134 was required; but in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania the eldest
sons of qualified freemen could vote without payment of taxes. In all
the other states the possession of a small amount of property, either
real or personal, varying from $33 to $200, was the necessary
qualification for voting. Thus slowly and irregularly did the states
drift toward universal suffrage; but although the impediments in the way
of voting were more serious than they seem to us in these days when the
community is more prosperous and money less scarce, they were still not
very great, and in the opinion of conservative people they barely
sufficed to exclude from the suffrage such shiftless persons as had no
visible interest in keeping down the taxes.

[Sidenote: Abolition of primogeniture, entails, and manorial

At the time of the Revolution the succession to property was regulated
in New York and the southern states by the English rule of
primogeniture. The eldest son took all. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, and the four New England states, the eldest son took a double
share. It was Georgia that led the way in decreeing the equal
distribution of intestate property, both real and personal; and between
1784 and 1796 the example was followed by all the other states. At the
same time entails were either definitely abolished, or the obstacles to
cutting them off were removed. In New York the manorial privileges of
the great patroons were swept away. In Maryland the old manorial system
had long been dying a natural death through the encroachments of the
patriarchal system of slavery. The ownership of all ungranted lands
within the limits of the thirteen states passed from the crown not to
the Confederacy, but to the several state governments. In Pennsylvania
and Maryland such ungranted lands had belonged to the lords proprietary.
They were now forfeited to the state. The Penn family was indemnified by
Pennsylvania to the amount of half a million dollars; but Maryland made
no compensation to the Calverts, inasmuch as their claim was presented
by an illegitimate descendant of the last Lord Baltimore.

[Sidenote: Steps toward the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade.]

The success of the American Revolution made it possible for the
different states to take measures for the gradual abolition of slavery
and the immediate abolition of the foreign slave-trade. On this great
question the state of public opinion in America was more advanced than
in England. So great a thinker as Edmund Burke, who devoted much
thought to the subject, came to the conclusion that slavery was an
incurable evil, and that there was not the slightest hope that the trade
in slaves could be stopped. The most that he thought could be done by
judicious legislation was to mitigate the horrors which the poor negroes
endured on board ship, or to prevent wives from being sold away from
their husbands or children from their parents. Such was the outlook to
one of the greatest political philosophers of modern times just
eighty-two years before the immortal proclamation of President Lincoln!
But how vast was the distance between Burke and Bossuet, who had
declared about eighty years earlier that "to condemn slavery was to
condemn the Holy Ghost!" It was equally vast between Burke and his
contemporary Thurlow, who in 1799 poured out the vials of his wrath upon
"the altogether miserable and contemptible" proposal to abolish the
slave-trade. George III. agreed with his chancellor, and resisted the
movement for abolition with all the obstinacy of which his hard and
narrow nature was capable. In 1769 the Virginia legislature had enacted
that the further importation of negroes, to be sold into slavery, should
be prohibited. But George III. commanded the governor to veto this act,
and it was vetoed. In Jefferson's first-draft of the Declaration of
Independence, this action of the king was made the occasion of a fierce
denunciation of slavery, but in deference to the prejudices of South
Carolina and Georgia the clause was struck out by Congress. When George
III. and his vetoes had been eliminated from the case, it became
possible for the states to legislate freely on the subject. In 1776
negro slaves were held in all the thirteen states, but in all except
South Carolina and Georgia there was a strong sentiment in favour of
emancipation. In North Carolina, which contained a large Quaker
population, and in which estates were small and were often cultivated by
free labour, the pro-slavery feeling was never so strong as in the
southernmost states. In Virginia all the foremost statesmen--Washington,
Jefferson, Lee, Randolph, Henry, Madison, and Mason--were opposed to the
continuance of slavery; and their opinions were shared by many of the
largest planters. For tobacco-culture slavery did not seem so
indispensable as for the raising of rice and indigo; and in Virginia the
negroes, half-civilized by kindly treatment, were not regarded with
horror by their masters, like the ill-treated and ferocious blacks of
South Carolina and Georgia. After 1808 the policy and the sentiments of
Virginia underwent a marked change. The invention of the cotton-gin,
taken in connection with the sudden and prodigious development of
manufactures in England, greatly stimulated the growth of cotton in the
ever-enlarging area of the Gulf states, and created an immense demand
for slave-labour, just at the time when the importation of negroes from
Africa came to an end. The breeding of slaves, to be sold to the
planters of the Gulf states, then became such a profitable occupation in
Virginia as entirely to change the popular feeling about slavery. But
until 1808 Virginia sympathized with the anti-slavery sentiment which
was growing up in the northern states; and the same was true of
Maryland. Emancipation was, however, much more easy to accomplish in the
north, because the number of slaves was small, and economic
circumstances distinctly favoured free labour. In the work of gradual
emancipation the little state of Delaware led the way. In its new
constitution of 1776 the further introduction of slaves was prohibited,
all restraints upon emancipation having already been removed. In the
assembly of Virginia in 1778 a bill prohibiting the further introduction
of slaves was moved and carried by Thomas Jefferson, and the same
measure was passed in Maryland in 1783, while both these states removed
all restraints upon emancipation. North Carolina was not ready to go
quite so far, but in 1786 she sought to discourage the slave-trade by
putting a duty of £5 per head on all negroes thereafter imported. New
Jersey followed the example of Maryland and Virginia. Pennsylvania went
farther. In 1780 its assembly enacted that no more slaves should be
brought in, and that all children of slaves born after that date should
be free. The same provisions were made by New Hampshire in its new
constitution of 1783, and by the assemblies of Connecticut and Rhode
Island in 1784. New York went farther still, and in 1785 enacted that
all children of slaves thereafter born should not only be free, but
should be admitted to vote on the same conditions as other freemen. In
1788 Virginia, which contained many free negroes, enacted that any
person convicted of kidnapping or selling into slavery any free person
should suffer death on the gallows. Summing up all these facts, we see
that within two years after the independence of the United States had
been acknowledged by England, while the two southernmost states had done
nothing to check the growth of slavery, North Carolina had discouraged
the importation of slaves; Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey
had stopped such importation and removed all restraint upon
emancipation; and all the remaining states, except Massachusetts, had
made gradual emancipation compulsory. Massachusetts had gone still
farther. Before the Revolution the anti-slavery feeling had been
stronger there than in any other state, and cases brought into court for
the purpose of testing the legality of slavery had been decided in
favour of those who were opposed to the continuance of that barbarous
institution. In 1777 an American cruiser brought into the port of Salem
a captured British ship with slaves on board, and these slaves were
advertised for sale, but on complaint being made before the legislature
they were set free. The new constitution of 1780 contained a declaration
of rights which asserted that all men are born free and have an equal
and inalienable right to defend their lives and liberties, to acquire
property, and to seek and obtain safety and happiness. The supreme court
presently decided that this clause worked the abolition of slavery, and
accordingly Massachusetts was the first of American states, within the
limits of the Union, to become in the full sense of the words a free
commonwealth. Of the negro inhabitants, not more than six thousand in
number, a large proportion had already for a long time enjoyed freedom;
and all were now admitted to the suffrage on the same terms as other

[Sidenote: Progress toward freedom in religion.]

By the revolutionary legislation of the states some progress was also
effected in the direction of a more complete religious freedom.
Pennsylvania and Delaware were the only states in which all Christian
sects stood socially and politically on an equal footing. In Rhode
Island all Protestants enjoyed equal privileges, but Catholics were
debarred from voting. In Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut,
the old Puritan Congregationalism was the established religion. The
Congregational church was supported by taxes, and the minister, once
chosen, kept his place for life or during good behaviour. He could not
be got rid of unless formally investigated and dismissed by an
ecclesiastical council. Laws against blasphemy, which were virtually
laws against heresy, were in force in these three states. In
Massachusetts, Catholic priests were liable to imprisonment for life.
Any one who should dare to speculate too freely about the nature of
Christ, or the philosophy of the plan of salvation, or to express a
doubt as to the plenary inspiration of every word between the two covers
of the Bible, was subject to fine and imprisonment. The tithing-man
still arrested Sabbath-breakers and shut them up in the town-cage in the
market-place; he stopped all unnecessary riding or driving on Sunday,
and haled people off to the meeting-house whether they would or not.
Such restraints upon liberty were still endured by people who had dared
and suffered so much for liberty's sake. The men of Boston strove hard
to secure the repeal of these barbarous laws and the disestablishment of
the Congregational church; but they were outvoted by the delegates from
the rural towns. The most that could be accomplished was the provision
that dissenters might escape the church-rate by supporting a church of
their own. The nineteenth century was to arrive before church and state
were finally separated in Massachusetts. The new constitution of New
Hampshire was similarly illiberal, and in Connecticut no change was
made. Rhode Island nobly distinguished herself by contrast when in 1784
she extended the franchise to Catholics.

In the six states just mentioned the British government had been
hindered by charter, and by the overwhelming opposition of the people,
from seriously trying to establish the Episcopal church. The sure fate
of any such mad experiment had been well illustrated in the time of
Andros. In the other seven states there were no such insuperable
obstacles. The Church of England was maintained with languid
acquiescence in New York. By the Quakers and Presbyterians of New Jersey
and North Carolina, as well as in half-Catholic, half-Puritan Maryland,
its supremacy was unwillingly endured; in the turbulent frontier
commonwealth of Georgia it was accepted with easy contempt. Only in
South Carolina and Virginia had the Church of England ever possessed any
real hold upon the people. The Episcopal clergy of South Carolina, men
of learning and high character, elected by their own congregations
instead of being appointed to their livings by a patron, were thoroughly
independent, and in the late war their powerful influence had been
mainly exerted in behalf of the patriot cause. Hence, while they
retained their influence after the close of the war, there was no
difficulty in disestablishing the church. It felt itself able to stand
without government support. As soon as the political separation from
England was effected, the Episcopal church was accordingly separated
from the state, not only in South Carolina, but in all the states in
which it had hitherto been upheld by the authority of the British
government; and in the constitutions of New Jersey, Georgia, and the two
Carolinas, no less than in those of Delaware and Pennsylvania, it was
explicitly provided that no man should be obliged to pay any church rate
or attend any religious service save according to his own free and
unhampered will.

[Sidenote: Church and state in Virginia.]

The case of Virginia was peculiar. At first the Church of England had
taken deep root there because of the considerable immigration of members
of the Cavalier party after the downfall of Charles I. Most of the great
statesmen of Virginia in the Revolution--such as Washington, Madison,
Mason, Jefferson, Pendleton, Henry, the Lees, and the Randolphs--were
descendants of Cavaliers and members of the Church of England. But for a
long time the Episcopal clergy had been falling into discredit. Many of
them were appointed by the British government and ordained by the
Bishop of London, and they were affected by the irreligious
listlessness and low moral tone of the English church in the eighteenth
century. The Virginia legislature thought it necessary to pass special
laws prohibiting these clergymen from drunkenness and riotous living. It
was said that they spent more time in hunting foxes and betting on
race-horses than in conducting religious services or visiting the sick;
and according to Bishop Meade, many dissolute parsons, discarded from
the church in England as unworthy, were yet thought fit to be presented
with livings in Virginia. To this general character of the clergy there
were many exceptions. There were many excellent clergymen, especially
among the native Virginians, whose appointment depended to some extent
upon the repute in which they were held by their neighbours. But on the
whole the system was such as to illustrate all the worst vices of a
church supported by the temporal power. The Revolution achieved the
discomfiture of a clergy already thus deservedly discredited. The
parsons mostly embraced the cause of the crown, but failed to carry
their congregations with them, and thus they found themselves arrayed in
hopeless antagonism to popular sentiment in a state which contained
perhaps fewer Tories in proportion to its population than any other of
the thirteen.

[Sidenote: Madison and the Religious Freedom Act, 1785.]

At the same time the Episcopal church itself had gradually come to be a
minority in the commonwealth. For more than half a century Scotch and
Welsh Presbyterians, German Lutherans, English Quakers, and Baptists,
had been working their way southward from Pennsylvania and New Jersey,
and had settled in the fertile country west of the Blue Ridge. Daniel
Morgan, who had won the most brilliant battle of the Revolution, was one
of these men, and sturdiness was a chief characteristic of most of them.
So long as these frontier settlers served as a much-needed bulwark
against the Indians, the church saw fit to ignore them and let them
build meeting-houses and carry on religious services as they pleased.
But when the peril of Indian attack had been thrust westward into the
Ohio valley, and these dissenting communities had waxed strong and
prosperous, the ecclesiastical party in the state undertook to lay taxes
on them for the support of the Church of England, and to compel them to
receive Episcopal clergymen to preach for them, to bless them in
marriage, and to bury their dead. The immediate consequence was a revolt
which not only overthrew the established church in Virginia, but nearly
effected its ruin. The troubles began in 1768, when the Baptists had
made their way into the centre of the state, and three of their
preachers were arrested by the sheriff of Spottsylvania. As the
indictment was read against these men for "preaching the gospel contrary
to law," a deep and solemn voice interrupted the proceedings. Patrick
Henry had come on horseback many a mile over roughest roads to listen to
the trial, and this phrase, which savoured of the religious despotisms
of old, was quite too much for him. "May it please your worships," he
exclaimed, "what did I hear read? Did I hear an expression that these
men, whom your worships are about to try for misdemeanour, are charged
with preaching the gospel of the Son of God!" The shamefast silence and
confusion which ensued was of ill omen for the success of an undertaking
so unwelcome to the growing liberalism of the time. The zeal of the
persecuted Baptists was presently reinforced by the learning and the
dialectic skill of the Presbyterian ministers. Unlike the Puritans of
New England, the Presbyterians were in favour of the total separation of
church from state. It was one of their cardinal principles that the
civil magistrate had no right to interfere in any way with matters of
religion. By taking this broad ground they secured the powerful aid of
Thomas Jefferson, and afterwards of Madison and Mason. The controversy
went on through all the years of the Revolutionary War, while all
Virginia, from the sea to the mountains, rang with fulminations and
arguments. In 1776 Jefferson and Mason succeeded in carrying a bill
which released all dissenters from parish rates and legalized all forms
of worship. At last in 1785 Madison won the crowning victory in the
Religious Freedom Act, by which the Church of England was disestablished
and all parish rates abolished, and still more, all religious tests were
done away with. In this last respect Virginia came to the front among
all the American states, as Massachusetts had come to the front in the
abolition of negro slavery. Nearly all the states still imposed
religious tests upon civil office-holders, from simply declaring a
general belief in the infallibleness of the Bible to accepting the
doctrine of the Trinity. The Virginia statute, which declared that
"opinion in matters of religion shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or
affect civil capacities," was translated into French and Italian, and
was widely read and commented on in Europe.

It is the historian's unpleasant duty to add that the victory thus
happily won was ungenerously followed up. Theological and political
odium combined to overwhelm the Episcopal church in Virginia. The
persecuted became persecutors. It was contended that the property of the
church, having been largely created by unjustifiable taxation, ought to
be forfeited. In 1802 its parsonages and glebe lands were sold, its
parishes wiped out, and its clergy left without a calling. "A reckless
sensualist," said Dr. Hawks, "administered the morning dram to his
guests from the silver cup" used in the communion service. But in all
this there is a manifest historic lesson. That it should have been
possible thus to deal with the Episcopal church in Virginia shows
forcibly the moribund condition into which it had been brought through
dependence upon the extraneous aid of a political sovereignty from which
the people of Virginia were severing their allegiance. The lesson is
most vividly enhanced by the contrast with the church of South Carolina
which, rooted in its own soil, was quite able to stand alone when
government aid was withdrawn. In Virginia the church in which George
Washington was reared had so nearly vanished by the year 1830 that Chief
Justice Marshall said it was folly to dream of reviving so dead a
thing. Nevertheless, under the noble ministration of its great bishop,
William Meade, the Episcopal church in Virginia, no longer relying upon
state aid, but trusting in the divine persuasive power of spiritual
truth, was even then entering upon a new life and beginning to exercise
a most wholesome influence.

[Sidenote: Mason Weems and Samuel Seabury.]

[Sidenote: November 14, 1784.]

The separation of the English church in America from the English crown
was the occasion of a curious difficulty with regard to the ordination
of bishops. Until after the Revolution there were no bishops of that
church in America, and between 1783 and 1785 it was not clear how
candidates for holy orders could receive the necessary consecration. In
1784 a young divinity student from Maryland, named Mason Weems, who had
been studying for some time in England, applied to the Bishop of London
for admission to holy orders, but was rudely refused. Weems then had
recourse to Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, author of the famous reply to
Gibbon. Watson treated him kindly and advised him to get a letter of
recommendation from the governor of Maryland, but after this had been
obtained he referred him to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said that
nothing could be done without the consent of Parliament. As the law
stood, no one could be admitted into the ranks of the English clergy
without taking the oath of allegiance and acknowledging the king of
England as the head of the church. Weems then wrote to John Adams at the
Hague, and to Franklin at Paris, to see if there were any Protestant
bishops on the Continent from whom he could obtain consecration. A
rather amusing diplomatic correspondence ensued, and finally the king of
Denmark, after taking theological advice, kindly offered the services of
a Danish bishop, who was to perform the ceremony in Latin. Weems does
not seem to have availed himself of this permission, probably because
the question soon reached a more satisfactory solution.[2] About the
same time the Episcopal church in Connecticut sent one of its ministers,
Samuel Seabury of New London, to England, to be ordained as bishop. The
oaths of allegiance and supremacy stood as much in the way of the
learned and famous minister as in that of the young and obscure student.
Seabury accordingly appealed to the non-juring Jacobite bishops of the
Episcopal church of Scotland, and at length was duly ordained at
Aberdeen as bishop of the diocese of Connecticut. While Seabury was in
England, the churches in the various states chose delegates to a
general convention, which framed a constitution for the "Protestant
Episcopal Church of the United States of America." Advowsons were
abolished, some parts of the liturgy were dropped, and the tenure of
ministers, even of bishops, was to be during good behaviour. At the same
time a friendly letter was sent to the bishops of England, urging them
to secure, if possible, an act of Parliament whereby American clergymen
might be ordained without taking the oaths of allegiance and supremacy.
Such an act was obtained without much difficulty, and three American
bishops were accordingly consecrated in due form. The peculiar
ordination of Seabury was also recognized as valid by the general
convention, and thus the Episcopal church in America was fairly started
on its independent career.

[Sidenote: Francis Asbury and the Methodists.]

This foundation of a separate episcopacy west of the Atlantic was
accompanied by the further separation of the Methodists as a distinct
religious society. Although John Wesley regarded the notion of an
apostolical succession as superstitious, he had made no attempt to
separate his followers from the national church. He translated the
titles of "bishop" and "priest" from Greek into Latin and English,
calling them "superintendent" and "elder," but he did not deny the
king's headship. Meanwhile during the long period of his preaching there
had begun to grow up a Methodist church in America. George Whitefield
had come over and preached in Georgia in 1737, and in Massachusetts in
1744, where he encountered much opposition on the part of the Puritan
clergy. But the first Methodist church in America was founded in the
city of New York in 1766. In 1772 Wesley sent over Francis Asbury, a man
of shrewd sense and deep religious feeling, to act as his assistant and
representative in this country. At that time there were not more than a
thousand Methodists, with six preachers, and all these were in the
middle and southern colonies; but within five years, largely owing to
the zeal and eloquence of Asbury, these numbers had increased sevenfold.
At the end of the war, seeing the American Methodists cut loose from the
English establishment, Wesley in his own house at Bristol, with the aid
of two presbyters, proceeded to ordain ministers enough to make a
presbytery, and thereupon set apart Thomas Coke to be "superintendent"
or bishop for America. On the same day of November, 1784, on which
Seabury was consecrated by the non-jurors at Aberdeen, Coke began
preaching and baptizing in Maryland, in rude chapels built of logs or
under the shade of forest trees. On Christmas Eve a conference assembled
at Baltimore, at which Asbury was chosen bishop by some sixty ministers
present, and ordained by Coke, and the constitution of the Methodist
church in America was organized. Among the poor white people of the
southern states, and among the negroes, the new church rapidly obtained
great sway; and at a somewhat later date it began to assume considerable
proportions in the north.

[Sidenote: Presbyterians; Roman Catholics.]

Four years after this the Presbyterians, who were most numerous in the
middle states, organized their government in a general assembly, which
was also attended by Congregationalist delegates from New England in the
capacity of simple advisers. The theological difference between these
two sects was so slight that an alliance grew up between them, and in
Connecticut some fifty years later their names were often inaccurately
used as if synonymous. Such a difference seemed to vanish when
confronted with the newer differences that began to spring up soon after
the close of the Revolution. The revolt against the doctrine of eternal
punishment was already beginning in New England, and among the learned
and thoughtful clergy of Massachusetts the seeds of Unitarianism were
germinating. The gloomy intolerance of an older time was beginning to
yield to more enlightened views. In 1789 the first Roman Catholic church
in New England was dedicated in Boston. So great had been the prejudice
against this sect that in 1784 there were only 600 Catholics in all New
England. In the four southernmost states, on the other hand, there were
2,500; in New York and New Jersey there were 1,700; in Delaware and
Pennsylvania there were 7,700; in Maryland there were 20,000; while
among the French settlements along the eastern bank of the Mississippi
there were supposed to be nearly 12,000. In 1786 John Carroll, a cousin
of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, was selected by the Pope as his
apostolic vicar, and was afterward successively made bishop of Baltimore
and archbishop of the United States. By 1789 all obstacles to the
Catholic worship had been done away with in all the states.

[Sidenote: Except in the instance of slavery, all these changes were
favourable to union.]

In this brief survey of the principal changes wrought in the several
states by the separation from England, one cannot fail to be struck with
their conservative character. Things proceeded just as they had done
from time immemorial with the English race. Forms of government were
modified just far enough to adapt them to the new situation and no
farther. The abolition of entails, of primogeniture, and of such few
manorial privileges as existed, were useful reforms of far less sweeping
character than similar changes would have been in England; and they were
accordingly effected with ease. Even the abolition of slavery in the
northern states, where negroes were few in number and chiefly employed
in domestic service, wrought nothing in the remotest degree resembling a
social revolution. But nowhere was this constitutionally cautious and
precedent-loving mode of proceeding more thoroughly exemplified than in
the measures just related, whereby the Episcopal and Methodist churches
were separated from the English establishment and placed upon an
independent footing in the new world. From another point of view it may
be observed that all these changes, except in the instance of slavery,
tended to assimilate the states to one another in their political and
social condition. So far as they went, these changes were favourable to
union, and this was perhaps especially true in the case of the
ecclesiastical bodies, which brought citizens of different states into
coöperation in pursuit of specific ends in common.

At the same time this survey most forcibly reminds us how completely
the legislation which immediately affected the daily domestic life of
the citizen was the legislation of the single state in which he lived.
In the various reforms just passed in review the United States
government took no part, and could not from the nature of the case. Even
to-day our national government has no power over such matters, and it is
to be hoped it never will have. But at the present day our national
government performs many important functions of common concern, which a
century ago were scarcely performed at all. The organization of the
single state was old in principle and well understood by everybody. It
therefore worked easily, and such changes as those above described were
brought about with little friction. On the other hand, the principles
upon which the various relations of the states to each other were to be
adjusted were not well understood. There was wide disagreement upon the
subject, and the attempt to compromise between opposing views was not at
first successful. Hence, in the management of affairs which concerned
the United States as a nation, we shall not find the central machinery
working smoothly or quietly. We are about to traverse a period of
uncertainty and confusion, in which it required all the political
sagacity and all the good temper of the people to save the half-built
ship of state from going to pieces on the rocks of civil contention.



[Sidenote: The several states have never enjoyed complete sovereignty.]

That some kind of union existed between the states was doubted by no
one. Ever since the assembling of the first Continental Congress in 1774
the thirteen commonwealths had acted in concert, and sometimes most
generously, as when Maryland and South Carolina had joined in the
Declaration of Independence without any crying grievances of their own,
from a feeling that the cause of one should be the cause of all. It has
sometimes been said that the Union was in its origin a league of
sovereign states, each of which surrendered a specific portion of its
sovereignty to the federal government for the sake of the common
welfare. Grave political arguments have been based upon this alleged
fact, but such an account of the matter is not historically true. There
never was a time when Massachusetts or Virginia was an absolutely
sovereign state like Holland or France. Sovereign over their own
internal affairs they are to-day as they were at the time of the
Revolution, but there was never a time when they presented themselves
before other nations as sovereign, or were recognized as such. Under the
government of England before the Revolution the thirteen commonwealths
were independent of one another, and were held together, juxtaposed
rather than united, only through their allegiance to the British crown.
Had that allegiance been maintained there is no telling how long they
might have gone on thus disunited; and this, it seems, should be one of
our chief reasons for rejoicing that the political connection with
England was dissolved when it was. A permanent redress of grievances,
and even virtual independence such as Canada now enjoys, we might
perhaps have gained had we listened to Lord North's proposals after the
surrender of Burgoyne; but the formation of the Federal Union would
certainly have been long postponed, and when we realize the grandeur of
the work which we are now doing in the world through the simple fact of
such a union, we cannot fail to see that such an issue would have been
extremely unfortunate. However this may be, it is clear that until the
connection with England was severed the thirteen commonwealths were not
united, nor were they sovereign. It is also clear that in the very act
of severing their connection with England these commonwealths entered
into some sort of union which was incompatible with their absolute
sovereignty taken severally. It was not the people of New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, and so on through the list, that declared their
independence of Great Britain, but it was the representatives of the
United States in Congress assembled, and speaking as a single body in
the name of the whole. Three weeks before this declaration was adopted,
Congress appointed a committee to draw up the "articles of
confederation and perpetual union," by which the sovereignty of the
several states was expressly limited and curtailed in many important
particulars. This committee had finished its work by the 12th of July,
but the articles were not adopted by Congress until the autumn of 1777,
and they were not finally put into operation until the spring of 1781.
During this inchoate period of union the action of the United States was
that of a confederation in which some portion of the several
sovereignties was understood to be surrendered to the whole. It was the
business of the articles to define the precise nature and extent of this
surrendered sovereignty which no state by itself ever exercised. In the
mean time this sovereignty, undefined in nature and extent, was
exercised, as well as circumstances permitted, by the Continental

[Sidenote: The Continental Congress; its extraordinary character.]

A most remarkable body was this Continental Congress. For the
vicissitudes through which it passed, there is perhaps no other
revolutionary body, save the Long Parliament, which can be compared with
it. For its origin we must look back to the committees of correspondence
devised by Jonathan Mayhew, Samuel Adams, and Dabney Carr. First
assembled in 1774 to meet an emergency which was generally believed to
be only temporary, it continued to sit for nearly seven years before its
powers were ever clearly defined; and during those seven years it
exercised some of the highest functions of sovereignty which are
possible to any governing body. It declared the independence of the
United States; it contracted an offensive and defensive alliance with
France; it raised and organized a Continental army; it borrowed large
sums of money, and pledged what the lenders understood to be the
national credit for their repayment; it issued an inconvertible paper
currency, granted letters of marque, and built a navy. All this it did
in the exercise of what in later times would have been called "implied
war powers," and its authority rested upon the general acquiescence in
the purposes for which it acted and in the measures which it adopted.
Under such circumstances its functions were very inefficiently
performed. But the articles of confederation, which in 1781 defined its
powers, served at the same time to limit them; so that for the remaining
eight years of its existence the Continental Congress grew weaker and
weaker, until it was swept away to make room for a more efficient

[Sidenote: The articles of confederation.]

John Dickinson is supposed to have been the principal author of the
articles of confederation; but as the work of the committee was done in
secret and has never been reported, the point cannot be determined. In
November, 1777, Congress sent the articles to the several state
legislatures, with a circular letter recommending them as containing the
only plan of union at all likely to be adopted. In the course of the
next fifteen months the articles were ratified by all the states except
Maryland, which refused to sign until the states laying claim to the
northwestern lands, and especially Virginia, should surrender their
claims to the confederation. We shall by and by see, when we come to
explain this point in detail, that from this action of Maryland there
flowed beneficent consequences that were little dreamed of. It was first
in the great chain of events which led directly to the formation of the
Federal Union. Having carried her point, Maryland ratified the articles
on the first day of March, 1781; and thus in the last and most brilliant
period of the war, while Greene was leading Cornwallis on his fatal
chase across North Carolina, the confederation proposed at the time of
the Declaration of Independence was finally consummated.

According to the language of the articles, the states entered into a
firm league of friendship with each other; and in order to secure and
perpetuate such friendship, the freemen of each state were entitled to
all the privileges and immunities of freemen in all the other states.
Mutual extradition of criminals was established, and in each state full
faith and credit was to be given to the records, acts, and judicial
proceedings of every other state. This universal intercitizenship was
what gave reality to the nascent and feeble Union. In all the common
business relations of life, the man of New Hampshire could deal with the
man of Georgia on an equal footing before the law. But this was almost
the only effectively cohesive provision in the whole instrument.
Throughout the remainder of the articles its language was largely
devoted to reconciling the theory that the states were severally
sovereign with the visible fact that they were already merged to some
extent in a larger political body. The sovereignty of this larger body
was vested in the Congress of delegates appointed yearly by the states.
No state was to be represented by less than two or more than seven
members; no one could be a delegate for more than three years out of
every six; and no delegate could hold any salaried office under the
United States. As in colonial times the states had, to preserve their
self-government, insisted upon paying their governors and judges,
instead of allowing them to be paid out of the royal treasury, so now
the delegates in Congress were paid by their own states. In determining
questions in Congress, each state had one vote, without regard to
population; but a bare majority was not enough to carry any important
measure. Not only for such extraordinary matters as wars and treaties,
but even for the regular and ordinary business of raising money to carry
on the government, not a single step could be taken without the consent
of at least nine of the thirteen states; and this provision well-nigh
sufficed of itself to block the wheels of federal legislation. The
Congress assembled each year on the first Monday of November, and could
not adjourn for a longer period than six months. During its recess the
continuity of government was preserved by an executive committee,
consisting of one delegate from each state, and known as the "committee
of the states." Saving such matters of warfare or treaty as the public
interest might require to be kept secret, all the proceedings of
Congress were entered in a journal, to be published monthly; and the
yeas and nays must be entered should any delegate request it. The
executive departments of war, finance, and so forth were intrusted at
first to committees, until experience soon showed the necessity of
single heads. There was a president of Congress, who, as representing
the dignity of the United States, was, in a certain sense, the foremost
person in the country, but he had no more power than any other delegate.
Of the fourteen presidents between 1774 and 1789, perhaps only Randolph,
Hancock, and Laurens are popularly remembered in that capacity; Jay, St.
Clair, Mifflin, and Lee are remembered for other things; Hanson,
Griffin, and Boudinot are scarcely remembered at all, save by the
student of American history.

Between the Congress thus constituted and the several state governments
the attributes of sovereignty were shared in such a way as to produce a
minimum of result with a maximum of effort. The states were prohibited
from keeping up any naval or military force, except militia, or from
entering into any treaty or alliance, either with a foreign power or
between themselves, without the consent of Congress. No state could
engage in war except by way of defence against a sudden Indian attack.
Congress had the sole right of determining on peace and war, of sending
and receiving ambassadors, of making treaties, of adjudicating all
disputes between the states, of managing Indian affairs, and of
regulating the value of coin and fixing the standard of weights and
measures. Congress took control of the post-office on condition that no
more revenue should be raised from postage than should suffice to
discharge the expenses of the service. Congress controlled the army,
but was provided with no means of raising soldiers save through
requisitions upon the states, and it could only appoint officers above
the rank of colonel; the organization of regiments was left entirely in
the hands of the states. The traditional and wholesome dread of a
standing army was great, but there was no such deep-seated jealousy of a
navy, and Congress was accordingly allowed not only to appoint all naval
officers, but also to establish courts of admiralty.

[Sidenote: The articles failed to create a federal government endowed
with real sovereignty.]

Several essential attributes of sovereignty were thus withheld from the
states; and by assuming all debts contracted by Congress prior to the
adoption of the articles, and solemnly pledging the public faith for
their payment, it was implicitly declared that the sovereignty here
accorded to Congress was substantially the same as that which it had
asserted and exercised ever since the severing of the connection with
England. The articles simply defined the relations of the states to the
Confederation as they had already shaped themselves. Indeed, the
articles, though not finally ratified till 1781, had been known to
Congress and to the people ever since 1776 as their expected
constitution, and political action had been shaped in general accordance
with the theory on which they had been drawn up. They show that
political action was at no time based on the view of the states as
absolutely sovereign, but they also show that the share of sovereignty
accorded to Congress was very inadequate even to the purposes of an
effective confederation. The position in which they left Congress was
hardly more than that of the deliberative head of a league. For the
most fundamental of all the attributes of sovereignty--the power of
taxation--was not given to Congress. It could neither raise taxes
through an excise nor through custom-house duties; it could only make
requisitions upon the thirteen members of the confederacy in proportion
to the assessed value of their real estate, and it was not provided with
any means of enforcing these requisitions. On this point the articles
contained nothing beyond the vague promise of the states to obey. The
power of levying taxes was thus retained entirely by the states. They
not only imposed direct taxes, as they do to-day, but they laid duties
on exports and imports, each according to its own narrow view of its
local interests. The only restriction upon this was that such
state-imposed duties must not interfere with the stipulations of any
foreign treaties such as Congress might make in pursuance of treaties
already proposed to the courts of France and Spain. Besides all this,
the states shared with Congress the powers of coining money, of emitting
bills of credit, and of making their promissory notes a legal tender for

Such was the constitution under which the United States had begun to
drift toward anarchy even before the close of the Revolutionary War, but
which could only be amended by the unanimous consent of all the thirteen
states. The historian cannot but regard this difficulty of amendment as
a fortunate circumstance; for in the troubles which presently arose it
led the distressed people to seek some other method of relief, and thus
prepared the way for the Convention of 1787, which destroyed the whole
vicious scheme, and gave us a form of government under which we have
just completed a century unparalleled for peace and prosperity. Besides
this extreme difficulty of amendment, the fatal defects of the
Confederation were three in number. The first defect was the two thirds
vote necessary for any important legislation in Congress; under this
rule any five of the states--as, for example, the four southernmost
states with Maryland, or the four New England states with New
Jersey--could defeat the most sorely needed measures. The second defect
was the impossibility of presenting a united front to foreign countries
in respect to commerce. The third and greatest defect was the lack of
any means, on the part of Congress, of enforcing obedience. Not only was
there no federal executive or judiciary worthy of the name, but the
central government operated only upon states, and not upon individuals.
Congress could call for troops and for money in strict conformity with
the articles; but should any state prove delinquent in furnishing its
quota, there were no constitutional means of compelling it to obey the
call. This defect was seen and deplored at the outset by such men as
Washington and Madison, but the only remedy which at first occurred to
them was one more likely to kill than to cure. Only six weeks after the
ratification of the articles, Madison proposed an amendment "to give to
the United States full authority to employ their force, as well by sea
as by land, to compel any delinquent state to fulfil its federal
engagements." Washington approved of this measure, hoping, as he said,
that "a knowledge that this power was lodged in Congress might be the
means to prevent its ever being exercised, and the more readily induce
obedience. Indeed," added Washington, "if Congress were unquestionably
possessed of the power, nothing should induce the display of it but
obstinate disobedience and the urgency of the general welfare." Madison
argued that in the very nature of the Confederation such a right of
coercion was necessarily implied, though not expressed in the articles,
and much might have been said in behalf of this opinion. The
Confederation explicitly declared itself to be perpetual, yet how could
it perpetuate itself for a dozen years without the right to coerce its
refractory members? Practically, however, the remedy was one which could
never have been applied without breaking the Confederation into
fragments. To use the army or navy in coercing a state meant nothing
less than civil war. The local yeomanry would have turned out against
the Continental army with as high a spirit as that with which they
swarmed about the British enemy at Lexington or King's Mountain. A
government which could not collect the taxes for its yearly budget
without firing upon citizens or blockading two or three harbours would
have been the absurdest political anomaly imaginable. No such idea could
have entered the mind of a statesman save from the hope that if one
state should prove refractory, all the others would immediately frown
upon it and uphold Congress in overawing it. In such case the knowledge
that Congress had the power would doubtless have been enough to make its
exercise unnecessary. But in fact this hope was disappointed, for the
delinquency of each state simply set an example of disobedience for all
the others to follow; and the amendment, had it been carried, would
merely have armed Congress with a threat which everybody would have
laughed at. So manifestly hopeless was the case to Pelatiah Webster that
as early as May, 1781, he published an able pamphlet, urging the
necessity for a federal convention for overhauling the whole scheme of
government from beginning to end.

[Sidenote: Military weakness of the government.]

The military weakness due to this imperfect governmental organization
may be illustrated by comparing the number of regular troops which
Congress was able to keep in the field during the Revolutionary War with
the number maintained by the United States government during the War of
Secession. A rough estimate, obtained from averages, will suffice to
show the broad contrast. In 1863, the middle year of the War of
Secession, the total population of the loyal states was about
23,491,600, of whom about one fifth, or 4,698,320, were adult males of
military age. Supposing one adult male out of every five to have been
under arms at one time, the number would have been 939,664. Now the
total number of troops enlisted in the northern army during the four
years of the war, reduced to a uniform standard, was 2,320,272, or an
average of 580,068 under arms in any single year. In point of fact,
this average was reached before the middle of the war, and the numbers
went on increasing, until at the end there were more than a million men
under arms,--at least one out of every five adult males in the northern
states. On the other hand, in 1779, the middle year of the Revolutionary
War, the white population of the United States was about 2,175,000, of
whom 435,000 were adult males of military age. Supposing one out of
every five of these to have been under arms at once, the number would
have been 87,000. Now in the spring of 1777, when the Continental
Congress was at the highest point of authority which it ever reached,
when France was willing to lend it money freely, when its paper currency
was not yet discredited and it could make liberal offers of bounties, a
demand was made upon the states for 80,000 men, or nearly one fifth of
the adult male population, to serve for three years or during the war.
Only 34,820 were obtained. The total number of men in the field in that
most critical year, including the swarms of militia who came to the
rescue at Ridgefield and Bennington and Oriskany, and the Pennsylvania
militia who turned out while their state was invaded, was 68,720. In
1781, when the credit of Congress was greatly impaired, although
military activity again rose to a maximum and it was necessary for the
people to strain every nerve, the total number of men in the field,
militia and all, was only 29,340, of whom only 13,292 were Continentals;
and it was left for the genius of Washington and Greene, working with
desperate energy and most pitiful resources, to save the country. A
more impressive contrast to the readiness with which the demands of the
government were met in the War of Secession can hardly be imagined. Had
the country put forth its strength in 1781 as it did in 1864, an army of
90,000 men might have overwhelmed Clinton at the north and Cornwallis at
the south, without asking any favours of the French fleet. Had it put
forth its full strength in 1777, four years of active warfare might have
been spared. Mr. Lecky explains this difference by his favourite
hypothesis that the American Revolution was the work of a few
ultra-radical leaders, with whom the people were not generally in
sympathy; and he thinks we could not expect to see great heroism or
self-sacrifice manifested by a people who went to war over what he calls
a "money dispute."[3] But there is no reason for supposing that the
loyalists represented the general sentiment of the country in the
Revolutionary War any more than the peace party represented the general
sentiment of the northern states in the War of Secession. There is no
reason for supposing that the people were less at heart in 1781 in
fighting for the priceless treasure of self-government than they were in
1864 when they fought for the maintenance of the pacific principles
underlying our Federal Union. The differences in the organization of the
government, and in its power of operating directly upon the people, are
quite enough to explain the difference between the languid conduct of
the earlier war and the energetic conduct of the later.

[Sidenote: Extreme difficulty of obtaining a revenue.]

Impossible as Congress found it to fill the quotas of the army, the task
of raising a revenue by requisitions upon the states was even more
discouraging. Every state had its own war-debt, and several were
applicants for foreign loans not easy to obtain, so that none could
without the greatest difficulty raise a surplus to hand over to
Congress. The Continental rag-money had ceased to circulate by the end
of 1780, and our foreign credit was nearly ruined. The French government
began to complain of the heavy demands which the Americans made upon its
exchequer, and Vergennes, in sending over a new loan in the fall of
1782, warned Franklin that no more must be expected. To save American
credit from destruction, it was at least necessary that the interest on
the public debt should be paid. For this purpose Congress in 1781 asked
permission to levy a five per cent. duty on imports. The modest request
was the signal for a year of angry discussion. Again and again it was
asked, If taxes could thus be levied by any power outside the state, why
had we ever opposed the Stamp Act or the tea duties? The question was
indeed a serious one, and as an instance of reasoning from analogy
seemed plausible enough. After more than a year Massachusetts consented,
by a bare majority of two in the House and one in the Senate, reserving
to herself the right of appointing the collectors. The bill was then
vetoed by Governor Hancock, though one day too late, and so it was
saved. But Rhode Island flatly refused her consent, and so did Virginia,
though Madison earnestly pleaded the cause of the public credit. For
the current expenses of the government in that same year $9,000,000 were
needed. It was calculated that $4,000,000 might be raised by a loan, and
the other $5,000,000 were demanded of the states. At the end of the year
$422,000 had been collected, not a cent of which came from Georgia, the
Carolinas, or Delaware. Rhode Island, which paid $38,000, did the best
of all according to its resources. Of the Continental taxes assessed in
1783, only one-fifth part had been paid by the middle of 1785. And the
worst of it was that no one could point to a remedy for this state of
things, or assign any probable end to it.

[Sidenote: Dread of the army.]

[Sidenote: Supposed scheme for making Washington king.]

Under such circumstances the public credit sank at home as well as
abroad. Foreign creditors--even France, who had been nothing if not
generous with her loans--might be made to wait; but there were creditors
at home who, should they prove ugly, could not be so easily put off. The
disbandment of the army in the summer of 1783, before the British troops
had evacuated New York, was hastened by the impossibility of paying the
soldiers and the dread of what they might do under such provocation.
Though peace had been officially announced, Hamilton and Livingston
urged that, for the sake of appearances if for no other reason, the army
should be kept together so long as the British remained in New York, if
not until they should have surrendered the western frontier posts. But
Congress could not pay the army, and was afraid of it,--and not without
some reason. Discouraged at the length of time which had passed since
they had received any money, the soldiers had begun to fear lest, now
that their services were no longer needed, their honest claims would be
set aside. Among the officers, too, there was grave discontent. In the
spring of 1778, after the dreadful winter at Valley Forge, several
officers had thrown up their commissions, and others threatened to do
likewise. To avert the danger, Washington had urged Congress to promise
half-pay for life to such officers as should serve to the end of the
war. It was only with great difficulty that he succeeded in obtaining a
promise of half-pay for seven years, and even this raised an outcry
throughout the country, which seemed to dread its natural defenders only
less than its enemies. In the fall of 1780, however, in the general
depression which followed upon the disasters at Charleston and Camden,
the collapse of the paper money, and the discovery of Arnold's treason,
there was serious danger that the army would fall to pieces. At this
critical moment Washington had earnestly appealed to Congress, and
against the strenuous opposition of Samuel Adams had at length extorted
the promise of half-pay for life. In the spring of 1782, seeing the
utter inability of Congress to discharge its pecuniary obligations, many
officers began to doubt whether the promise would ever be kept. It had
been made before the articles of confederation, which required the
assent of nine states to any such measure, had been finally ratified. It
was well known that nine states had never been found to favour the
measure, and it was now feared that it might be repealed or repudiated,
so loud was the popular clamour against it. All this comes of
republican government, said some of the officers; too many cooks spoil
the broth; a dozen heads are as bad as no head; you do not know whose
promises to trust; a monarchy, with a good king whom all men can trust,
would extricate us from these difficulties. In this mood, Colonel Louis
Nicola, of the Pennsylvania line, a foreigner by birth, addressed a long
and well-argued letter to Washington, setting forth the troubles of the
time, and urging him to come forward as a saviour of society, and accept
the crown at the hands of his faithful soldiers. Nicola was an aged man,
of excellent character, and in making this suggestion he seemed to be
acting as spokesman of a certain clique or party among the
officers,--how numerous is not known. Washington instantly replied that
Nicola could not have found a person to whom such a scheme could be more
odious, and he was at a loss to conceive what he had ever done to have
it supposed that he could for one moment listen to a suggestion so
fraught with mischief to his country. Lest the affair, becoming known,
should enhance the popular distrust of the army, Washington said nothing
about it. But as the year went by, and the outcry against half-pay
continued, and Congress showed symptoms of a willingness to compromise
the matter, the discontent of the army increased. Officers and soldiers
brooded alike over their wrongs. "The army," said General Macdougall,
"is verging to that state which, we are told, will make a wise man mad."
The peril of the situation was increased by the well-meant but
injudicious whisperings of other public creditors, who believed that if
the army would only take a firm stand and insist upon a grant of
permanent funds to Congress for liquidating all public debts, the states
could probably be prevailed upon to make such a grant. Robert Morris,
the able secretary of finance, held this opinion, and did not believe
that the states could be brought to terms in any other way. His namesake
and assistant, Gouverneur Morris, held similar views, and gave
expression to them in February, 1783, in a letter to General Greene, who
was still commanding in South Carolina. When Greene received the letter,
he urged upon the legislature of that state, in most guarded and
moderate language, the paramount need of granting a revenue to Congress,
and hinted that the army would not be satisfied with anything less. The
assembly straightway flew into a rage. "No dictation by a Cromwell!"
shouted the members. South Carolina had consented to the five per cent.
impost, but now she revoked it, to show her independence, and Greene's
eyes were opened at once to the danger of the slightest appearance of
military intervention in civil affairs.

[Sidenote: The dangerous Newburgh address, March 11, 1783.]

At the same time a violent outbreak in the army at Newburgh was barely
prevented by the unfailing tact of Washington. A rumour went about the
camp that it was generally expected the army would not disband until the
question of pay should be settled, and that the public creditors looked
to them to make some such demonstration as would overawe the delinquent
states. General Gates had lately emerged from the retirement in which
he had been fain to hide himself after Camden, and had rejoined the army
where there was now such a field for intrigue. An odious aroma of
impotent malice clings about his memory on this last occasion on which
the historian needs to notice him. He plotted in secret with officers of
the staff and others. One of his staff, Major Armstrong, wrote an
anonymous appeal to the troops, and another, Colonel Barber, caused it
to be circulated about the camp. It named the next day for a meeting to
consider grievances. Its language was inflammatory. "My friends!" it
said, "after seven long years your suffering courage has conducted the
United States of America through a doubtful and bloody war; and peace
returns to bless--whom? A country willing to redress your wrongs,
cherish your worth, and reward your services? Or is it rather a country
that tramples upon your rights, disdains your cries, and insults your
distresses? ... If such be your treatment while the swords you wear are
necessary for the defence of America, what have you to expect when those
very swords, the instruments and companions of your glory, shall be
taken from your sides, and no mark of military distinction left but your
wants, infirmities, and scars? If you have sense enough to discover and
spirit to oppose tyranny, whatever garb it may assume, awake to your
situation. If the present moment be lost, your threats hereafter will be
as empty as your entreaties now. Appeal from the justice to the fears of
government, and suspect the man who would advise to longer

Better English has seldom been wasted in a worse cause. Washington, the
man who was aimed at in the last sentence, got hold of the paper next
day, just in time, as he said, "to arrest the feet that stood wavering
on a precipice." The memory of the revolt of the Pennsylvania line,
which had so alarmed the people in 1781, was still fresh in men's minds;
and here was an invitation to more wholesale mutiny, which could hardly
fail to end in bloodshed, and might precipitate the perplexed and
embarrassed country into civil war. Washington issued a general order,
recognizing the existence of the manifesto, but overruling it so far as
to appoint the meeting for a later day, with the senior major-general,
who happened to be Gates, to preside. This order, which neither
discipline nor courtesy could disregard, in a measure tied Gates's
hands, while it gave Washington time to ascertain the extent of the
disaffection. On the appointed day he suddenly came into the meeting,
and amid profoundest silence broke forth in a most eloquent and touching
speech. Sympathizing keenly with the sufferings of his hearers, and
fully admitting their claims, he appealed to their better feelings, and
reminded them of the terrible difficulties under which Congress
laboured, and of the folly of putting themselves in the wrong. He still
counselled forbearance as the greatest of victories, and with consummate
skill he characterized the anonymous appeal as undoubtedly the work of
some crafty emissary of the British, eager to disgrace the army which
they had not been able to vanquish. All were hushed by that majestic
presence and those solemn tones. The knowledge that he had refused all
pay, while enduring more than any other man in the room, gave added
weight to every word. In proof of the good faith of Congress he began
reading a letter from one of the members, when, finding his sight dim,
he paused and took from his pocket the new pair of spectacles which the
astronomer David Rittenhouse had just sent him. He had never worn
spectacles in public, and as he put them on he said, in his simple
manner and with his pleasant smile, "I have grown gray in your service,
and now find myself growing blind." While all hearts were softened he
went on reading the letter, and then withdrew, leaving the meeting to
its deliberations. There was a sudden and mighty revulsion of feeling. A
motion was reported declaring "unshaken confidence in the justice of
Congress;" and it was added that "the officers of the American army view
with abhorrence and reject with disdain the infamous proposals contained
in a late anonymous address to them." The crestfallen Gates, as
chairman, had nothing to do but put the question and report it carried
unanimously; for if any still remained obdurate they no longer dared to
show it. Washington immediately set forth the urgency of the case in an
earnest letter to Congress, and one week later the matter was settled by
an act commuting half-pay for life into a gross sum equal to five years'
full pay, to be discharged at once by certificates bearing interest at
six per cent. Such poor paper was all that Congress had to pay with,
but it was all ultimately redeemed; and while the commutation was
advantageous to the government, it was at the same time greatly for the
interest of the officers, while they were looking out for new means of
livelihood, to have their claims adjusted at once, and to receive
something which could do duty as a respectable sum of money.

[Sidenote: Congress driven from Philadelphia by mutinous soldiers, June
21, 1783.]

Nothing, however, could prevent the story of the Newburgh affair from
being published all over the country, and it greatly added to the
distrust with which the army was regarded on general principles. What
might have happened was forcibly suggested by a miserable occurrence in
June, about two months after the disbanding of the army had begun. Some
eighty soldiers of the Pennsylvania line, mutinous from discomfort and
want of pay, broke from their camp at Lancaster and marched down to
Philadelphia, led by a sergeant or two. They drew up in line before the
state house, where Congress was assembled, and after passing the grog
began throwing stones and pointing their muskets at the windows. They
demanded pay, and threatened, if it were not forthcoming, to seize the
members of Congress and hold them as hostages, or else to break into the
bank where the federal deposits were kept. The executive council of
Pennsylvania sat in the same building, and so the federal government
appealed to the state government for protection. The appeal was
fruitless. President Dickinson had a few state militia at his disposal,
but did not dare to summon them, for fear they should side with the
rioters. The city government was equally listless, and the townsfolk
went their ways as if it were none of their business; and so Congress
fled across the river and on to Princeton, where the college afforded it
shelter. Thus in a city of thirty-two thousand inhabitants, the largest
city in the country, the government of the United States, the body which
had just completed a treaty browbeating England and France, was
ignominiously turned out-of-doors by a handful of drunken mutineers. The
affair was laughed at by many, but sensible men keenly felt the
disgrace, and asked what would be thought in Europe of a government
which could not even command the services of the police. The army became
more unpopular than ever, and during the summer and fall many
town-meetings were held in New England, condemning the Commutation Act.
Are we not poor enough already, cried the farmers, that we must be taxed
to support in idle luxury a riotous rabble of soldiery, or create an
aristocracy of men with gold lace and epaulets, who will presently plot
against our liberties? The Massachusetts legislature protested; the
people of Connecticut meditated resistance. A convention was held at
Middletown in December, at which two thirds of the towns in the state
were represented, and the best method of overruling Congress was
discussed. Much high-flown eloquence was wasted, but the convention
broke up without deciding upon any course of action. The matter had
become so serious that wise men changed their minds, and disapproved of
proceedings calculated to throw Congress into contempt. Samuel Adams,
who had almost violently opposed the grant of half-pay and had been
dissatisfied with the Commutation Act, now came completely over to the
other side. Whatever might be thought of the policy of the measures, he
said, Congress had an undoubted right to adopt them. The army had been
necessary for the defence of our liberties, and the public faith had
been pledged to the payment of the soldiers. States were as much bound
as individuals to fulfil their engagements, and did not the sacred
Scriptures say of an honest man that, though he sweareth to his own
hurt, he changeth not? Such plain truths prevailed in the Boston
town-meeting, which voted that "the commutation is wisely blended with
the national debt." The agitation in New England presently came to an
end, and in this matter the course of Congress was upheld.

[Sidenote: Order of the Cincinnati.]

In order fully to understand this extravagant distrust of the army, we
have to take into account another incident of the summer of 1783, which
gave rise to a discussion that sent its reverberation all over the
civilized world. Men of the present generation who in childhood rummaged
in their grandmothers' cosy garrets cannot fail to have come across
scores of musty and worm-eaten pamphlets, their yellow pages crowded
with italics and exclamation points, inveighing in passionate language
against the wicked and dangerous society of the Cincinnati. Just before
the army was disbanded, the officers, at the suggestion of General Knox,
formed themselves into a secret society, for the purpose of keeping up
their friendly intercourse and cherishing the heroic memories of the
struggle in which they had taken part. With the fondness for classical
analogies which characterized that time, they likened themselves to
Cincinnatus, who was taken from the plough to lead an army, and returned
to his quiet farm so soon as his warlike duties were over. They were
modern Cincinnati. A constitution and by-laws were established for the
order, and Washington was unanimously chosen to be its president. Its
branches in the several states were to hold meetings each Fourth of
July, and there was to be a general meeting of the whole society every
year in the month of May. French officers who had taken part in the war
were admitted to membership, and the order was to be perpetuated by
descent through the eldest male representatives of the families of the
members. It was further provided that a limited membership should from
time to time be granted, as a distinguished honour, to able and worthy
citizens, without regard to the memories of the war. A golden American
eagle attached to a blue ribbon edged with white was the sacred badge of
the order; and to this emblem especial favour was shown at the French
court, where the insignia of foreign states were generally, it is said,
regarded with jealousy. No political purpose was to be subserved by this
order of the Cincinnati, save in so far as the members pledged to one
another their determination to promote and cherish the union between the
states. In its main intent the society was to be a kind of masonic
brotherhood, charged with the duty of aiding the widows and the orphan
children of its members in time of need. Innocent as all this was,
however, the news of the establishment of such a society was greeted
with a howl of indignation all over the country. It was thought that its
founders were inspired by a deep-laid political scheme for centralizing
the government and setting up a hereditary aristocracy. The press teemed
with invective and ridicule, and the feeling thus expressed by the
penny-a-liners was shared by able men accustomed to weigh their words.
Franklin dealt with it in a spirit of banter, and John Adams in a spirit
of abhorrence; while Samuel Adams pointed out the dangers inherent in
the principle of hereditary transmission of honours, and in the
admission of foreigners into a secret association possessed of political
influence in America. What! cried the men of Massachusetts. Have we
thrown overboard the effete institutions of Europe, only to have them
straightway introduced among us again, after this plausible and
surreptitious fashion? At Cambridge it was thought that the general
sentiment of the university was in favour of suppressing the order by
act of legislature. One of the members, who was a candidate for senator
in the spring of 1784, found it necessary to resign in order to save his
chances for election. Rhode Island proposed to disfranchise such of her
citizens as belonged to the order, albeit her most eminent citizen,
Nathanael Greene, was one of them. Ædanus Burke, a judge of the Supreme
Court of South Carolina, wrote a violent pamphlet against the society of
the Cincinnati under the pseudonym of Cassius, the slayer of tyrants;
and this diatribe, translated and amplified by Mirabeau, awakened dull
echoes among readers of Rousseau and haters of privilege in all parts of
Europe. A swarm of brochures in rejoinder and rebutter issued from the
press, and the nineteenth century had come in before the controversy was
quite forgotten.

It is easy for us now to smile at this outcry against the Cincinnati as
much ado about nothing, seeing as we do that in the absence of
territorial jurisdiction or especial political privileges an order of
nobility cannot be created by the mere inheritance of empty titles or
badges. For example, since the great revolution which swept away the
landlordship and fiscal exemptions of the French nobility, a marquisate
or a dukedom in France is of scarcely more political importance than a
doctorate of laws in a New England university. Men were nevertheless not
to be blamed in 1783 for their hostility toward that ghost of the
hereditary principle which the Cincinnati sought to introduce. In a free
industrial society like that of America it had no proper place or
meaning; and the attempt to set up such a form might well have been
cited in illustration of the partial reversion toward militancy which
eight years of warfare had effected. The absurdity of the situation was
quickly realized by Washington, and he prevailed upon the society, in
its first annual meeting of May, 1784, to abandon the principle of
hereditary membership. The agitation was thus allayed, and in the
presence of graver questions the much-dreaded brotherhood gradually
ceased to occupy popular attention.

The opposition to the Cincinnati is not fully explained unless we
consider it in connection with Nicola's letter, the Newburgh address,
and the flight of Congress to Princeton. The members of the Cincinnati
were pledged to do whatever they could to promote the union between the
states; the object of the Newburgh address was to enlist the army in
behalf of the public creditors, and in some vaguely-imagined fashion to
force a stronger government upon the country; the letter of Nicola shows
that at least some of the officers had harboured the notion of a
monarchy; and the weakness of Congress had been revealed in the most
startling manner by its flight before a squad of mutineers. It is one of
the lessons of history that, in the virtual absence of a central
government for which a need is felt, the want is apt to be supplied by
the strongest organization in the country, whatever that may happen to
be. It was in this way that the French army, a few years later, got
control of the government of France and made its general emperor. In
1783, if the impotence of Congress were to be as explicitly acknowledged
as it was implicitly felt, the only national organization left in the
country was the army, and when this was disbanded it seemed nevertheless
to prolong its life under a new and dangerous form in the secret
brotherhood of the Cincinnati. The cession of western lands to the
confederacy was, moreover, completed at about this time, and one of the
uses to which the new territory was to be put was the payment of claims
due to the soldiers. It was distinctly feared, as is shown in a letter
from Samuel Adams to Elbridge Gerry, that the members of the Cincinnati
would acquire large tracts of western land under this arrangement, and,
importing peasants from Germany, would grant farms to them on terms of
military service and fealty, thus introducing into America the feudal
system. In order to forestall any such movement, it was provided by
Congress that in any new states formed out of the western territory no
person holding a hereditary title should be admitted to citizenship.

[Sidenote: Congress finds itself unable to carry out the provisions of
the treaty.]

[Sidenote: Persecution of Tories.]

From the weakness of Congress as illustrated in its inability to raise
money to pay the public debt and meet the current expenses of
government, and from the popular dread of military usurpation which went
along with the uneasy consciousness of that weakness, we have now to
turn to another group of affairs in which the same point is still
further illustrated and emphasized. We have seen how the commissioners
of the United States in Paris had succeeded in making a treaty of peace
with Great Britain on extremely favourable terms. So unpopular was the
treaty in England, on account of the great concessions made to the
Americans, that, as we have seen, the fall of Lord Shelburne's ministry
was occasioned thereby. As an offset to these liberal concessions, of
which the most considerable was the acknowledgment of the American claim
to the northwestern territory, our confederate government was pledged to
do all in its power to effect certain concessions which were demanded by
England. That the American loyalists, whose property had been
confiscated by various state governments, should be indemnified for
their losses was a claim which, whatever Americans might think of it,
England felt bound in honour to urge. That private debts, due from
American to British creditors, should be faithfully discharged was the
plainest dictate of common honesty. Congress, as we have seen, was bound
by the treaty to recommend to the several states to desist from the
persecution of Tories, and to give them an opportunity of recovering
their estates; and it had been further agreed that all private debts
should be discharged at their full value in sterling money. It now
turned out that Congress was powerless to carry out the provisions of
the treaty upon either of these points. The recommendations concerning
the Tories were greeted with a storm of popular indignation. Since the
beginning of the war these unfortunate persons had been treated with
severity both by the legislatures and by the people. Many had been
banished; others had fled the country, and against these refugees
various harsh laws had been enacted. Their estates had been confiscated,
and their return prohibited under penalty of imprisonment or death. Many
others, who had remained in the country, were objects of suspicion and
dislike in states where they had not, as in New York and the Carolinas,
openly aided the enemy or taken part in Indian atrocities. Now, on the
conclusion of peace, in utter disregard of Congress, fresh measures of
vengeance were taken against these "fawning spaniels," as they were
called, these "tools and minions of Britain." An article in the
"Massachusetts Chronicle" expressed the common feeling: "As Hannibal
swore never to be at peace with the Romans, so let every Whig swear, by
his abhorrence of slavery, by liberty and religion, by the shades of
departed friends who have fallen in battle, by the ghosts of those of
our brethren who have been destroyed on board of prison-ships and in
loathsome dungeons, never to be at peace with those fiends the refugees,
whose thefts, murders, and treasons have filled the cup of woe." Tons of
pamphlets, issued under the customary Latin pseudonyms, were filled with
this truculent bombast; and like sentiments were thundered from the
pulpit by men who had quite forgotten for the moment their duty of
preaching reconciliation and forgiveness of injuries. Why should not
these wretches, it was sarcastically asked, be driven at once from the
country? Of course they could not desire to live under a free government
which they had been at such pains to destroy. Let them go forthwith to
his majesty's dominions, and live under the government they preferred.
It would never do to let them stay here, to plot treason at their
leisure; in a few years they would get control of all the states, and
either hand them over to Great Britain again, or set up a Tory despotism
on American soil. Such was the rubbish that passed current as argument
with the majority of the people. A small party of moderate Whigs saw its
absurdity, and urged that the Tories had much better remain at home,
where they had lost all political influence, than go and found
unfriendly colonies to the northward. The moderate Whigs were in favour
of heeding the recommendation of Congress, and acting in accordance
with the spirit of the treaty; and these humane and sensible views were
shared by Gadsden and Marion in South Carolina, by Theodore Sedgwick in
Massachusetts, and by Greene, Hamilton, and Jay. But any man who held
such opinions, no matter how conspicuous his services had been, ran the
risk of being accused of Tory sympathies. "Time-serving Whigs" and
"trimmers" were the strangely inappropriate epithets hurled at men who,
had they been in the slightest degree time-servers, would have shrunk
from the thankless task of upholding good sense and humanity in the
teeth of popular prejudice.

[Sidenote: The Trespass Act of New York, 1784.]

In none of the states did the loyalists receive severer treatment than
in New York, and for obvious reasons. Throughout the war the frontier
had been the scene of atrocities such as no other state, save perhaps
South Carolina, had witnessed. Cherry Valley and Minisink were names of
horror not easily forgotten, and the fate of Lieutenant Boyd and
countless other victims called loudly for vengeance. The sins of the
Butlers and their bloodthirsty followers were visited in robbery and
insult upon unoffending men, who were like them in nothing but in being
labelled with the epithet "Tory." During the seven years that the city
of New York had been occupied by the British army, many of these
loyalists had found shelter there. The Whig citizens, on the other hand,
had been driven off the island, to shift as best they might in New
Jersey, while their comfortable homes were seized and assigned by
military orders to these very Tories. For seven years the refugee Whigs
from across the Hudson had looked upon New York with feelings like those
with which the mediæval exile from Florence or Pisa was wont to regard
his native city. They saw in it the home of enemies who had robbed them,
the prison-house of gallant friends penned up to die of wanton ill-usage
in foul ships' holds in the harbour. When at last the king's troops left
the city, it was felt that a great day of reckoning had arrived. In
September, 1783, two months before the evacuation, more than twelve
thousand men, women, and children embarked for the Bahamas or for Nova
Scotia, rather than stay and face the troubles that were coming. Many of
these were refined and cultivated persons, and not all had been actively
hostile to the American cause; many had simply accepted British
protection. Against those who remained in the city the returning Whigs
now proceeded with great severity. The violent party was dominant in the
legislature, and George Clinton, the governor, put himself conspicuously
at its head. A bill was passed disfranchising all such persons as had
voluntarily stayed in neighbourhoods occupied by the British troops;
their offence was called misprision of treason. But the council vetoed
this bill as too wholesale in its operation, for it would have left some
districts without voters enough to hold an election. An "iron-clad oath"
was adopted instead, and no one was allowed to vote unless he could
swear that he had never in anywise abetted the enemy. It was voted that
no Tory who had left the state should be permitted to return; and a bill
was passed known as the Trespass Act, whereby all persons who had quit
their homes by reason of the enemy's presence might recover damages in
an action of trespass against such persons as had since taken possession
of the premises. Defendants in such cases were expressly barred from
pleading a military order in justification of their possession. As there
was scarcely a building on the island of New York that had not thus
changed hands during the British occupation, it was easy to foresee what
confusion must ensue. Everybody whose house had once been, for ever so
few days, in the hands of a Tory now rushed into court with his action
of trespass. Damages were rated at most exorbitant figures, and it
became clear that the misdeeds of the enemy were about to be made the
excuse for a carnival of spoliation, when all at once the test case of
Rutgers _v._ Waddington brought upon the scene a sturdy defender of
order, an advocate who was soon to become one of the foremost personages
in American history.

[Sidenote: Alexander Hamilton.]

Of all the young men of that day, save perhaps William Pitt, the most
precocious was Alexander Hamilton. He had already given promise of a
great career before the breaking out of the war. He was born on the
island of Nevis, in the West Indies, in 1757. His father belonged to
that famous Scottish clan from which have come one of the most learned
metaphysicians and one of the most original mathematicians of modern
times. His mother was a French lady, of Huguenot descent, and
biographers have been fond of tracing in his character the various
qualities of his parents. To the shrewdness and persistence, the
administrative ability, and the taste for abstract reasoning which we
are wont to find associated in the highest type of Scottish mind he
joined a truly French vivacity and grace. His earnestness, sincerity,
and moral courage were characteristic alike of Puritan and of Huguenot.
In the course of his short life he exhibited a remarkable
many-sidedness. So great was his genius for organization that in many
essential respects the American government is moving to-day along the
lines which he was the first to mark out. As an economist he shared to
some extent in the shortcomings of the age which preceded Adam Smith,
but in the special department of finance he has been equalled by no
other American statesman save Albert Gallatin. He was a splendid orator
and brilliant writer, an excellent lawyer, and a clear-headed and
industrious student of political history. He was also eminent as a
political leader, although he lacked faith in democratic government, and
a generous impatience of temperament sometimes led him to prefer short
and arbitrary by-paths toward desirable ends, which can never be
securely reached save along the broad but steep and arduous road of
popular conviction. But with all Hamilton's splendid qualities, nothing
about him is so remarkable as the early age at which these were
developed. At the age of fifteen a brilliant newspaper article brought
him into such repute in the little island of Nevis that he was sent to
New York to avail himself of the best advantages afforded by the King's
College, now known as Columbia. He had at first no definite intention
of becoming an American citizen, but the thrilling events of the time
appealed strongly to the earnest heart and powerful intelligence of this
wonderful boy. At a gathering of the people of New York in July, 1774,
his generous blood warmed, till a resistless impulse brought him on his
feet to speak to the assembled multitude. It was no company of
half-drunken idlers that thronged about him, but an assemblage of grave
and responsible citizens, who looked with some astonishment upon this
boy of seventeen years, short and slight in stature, yet erect and
Cæsar-like in bearing, with firm set mouth and great, dark, earnest
eyes. His eloquent speech, full of sense and without a syllable of
bombast, held his hearers entranced, and from that day Alexander
Hamilton was a marked man. He began publishing anonymous pamphlets,
which at first were attributed by some to Jay, and by others to
Livingston. When their authorship was discovered, the loyalist party
tried in vain to buy off the formidable youth. He kept up the
pamphlet-war, in the course of which he wofully defeated Dr. Cooper, the
Tory president of the college; but shortly afterward he defended the
doctor's house against an angry mob, until that unpopular gentleman had
succeeded in making his escape to a British ship. Hamilton served in the
army throughout the war, for the most part as aid and secretary to
Washington; but in 1781 he was a colonel in the line, and stormed a
redoubt at Yorktown with distinguished skill and bravery. He married a
daughter of Philip Schuyler, began the practice of law, and in 1782, at
the age of twenty-five, was chosen a delegate to Congress.

[Sidenote: The case of Rutgers _v._ Waddington.]

In 1784, when the Trespass Act threw New York into confusion, Hamilton
had come to be regarded as one of the most powerful advocates in the
country. In the test case which now came before the courts he played a
part of consummate boldness and heroism. Elizabeth Rutgers was a widow,
who had fled from New York after its capture by General Howe. Her
confiscated estate had passed into the hands of Joshua Waddington, a
rich Tory merchant, and she now brought suit under the Trespass Act for
its recovery. It was a case in which popular sympathy was naturally and
strongly enlisted in behalf of the poor widow. That she should have been
turned out of house and home was one of the many gross instances of
wickedness wrought by the war. On the other hand, the disturbance
wrought by the enforcement of the Trespass Act was already creating
fresh wrongs much faster than it was righting old ones; and it is for
such reasons as this that both in the common law and in the law of
nations the principle has been firmly established that "the fruits of
immovables belong to the captor as long as he remains in actual
possession of them." The Trespass Act contravened this principle, and it
also contravened the treaty. It moreover placed the state of New York in
an attitude of defiance toward Congress, which had made the treaty and
expressly urged upon the states to suspend the legislation against the
Tories. On large grounds of public policy, therefore, the Trespass Act
deserved to be set aside by the courts, and when Hamilton was asked to
serve as counsel for the defendant he accepted the odious task without
hesitation. There can be no better proof of his forensic ability than
his winning a verdict, in such a case as this, from a hostile court that
was largely influenced by the popular excitement. The decision nullified
the Trespass Act, and forthwith mass meetings of the people and an extra
session of the legislature condemned this action of the court. Hamilton
was roundly abused, and his conduct was attributed to unworthy motives.
But he faced the people as boldly as he had faced the court, and
published a letter, under the signature of Phocion, setting forth in the
clearest light the injustice and impolicy of extreme measures against
the Tories. The popular wrath and disgust at Hamilton's course found
expression in a letter from one Isaac Ledyard, a hot-headed pot-house
politician, who signed himself Mentor. A war of pamphlets ensued between
Mentor and Phocion. It was genius pitted against dulness, reason against
passion; and reason wielded by genius won the day. The more intelligent
and respectable citizens reluctantly admitted that Hamilton's arguments
were unanswerable. A club of boon companions, to which Ledyard belonged,
made the same admission by the peculiar manner in which it proposed to
silence him. It was gravely proposed that the members of the club should
pledge themselves one after another to challenge Hamilton to mortal
combat, until some one of them should have the good fortune to kill him!
The scheme met with general favour, but was defeated by the exertions
of Ledyard himself, whose zeal was not ardent enough to condone
treachery and murder. The incident well illustrates the intense
bitterness of political passion at the time, as Hamilton's conduct shows
him in the light of a most courageous and powerful defender of the
central government. For nothing was more significant in the verdict
which he had obtained than its implicit assertion of the rights of the
United States as against the legislature of a single state.

[Sidenote: Emigration of Tories.]

In spite of the efforts of such men as Hamilton, life was made very
uncomfortable for the Tories. In some states they were subjected to mob
violence. Instances of tarring and feathering were not uncommon. The
legislature of South Carolina was honourably distinguished for the good
faith with which it endeavoured to enforce the recommendation of
Congress; but the people, unable to forget the smoking ruins of
plundered homes, were less lenient. Notices were posted ordering
prominent loyalists to leave the country; the newspapers teemed with
savage warnings; and finally, of those who tarried beyond a certain
time, many were shot or hanged to trees. This extremity of bitterness,
however, did not long continue. The instances of physical violence were
mostly confined to the first two or three years after the close of the
war. In most of the states the confiscating acts were after a while
repealed, and many of the loyalists were restored to their estates. But
the emigration which took place between 1783 and 1785 was very large. It
has been estimated that 100,000 persons, or nearly three per cent. of
the total white population, quit the country. Those from the southern
states went mostly to the Bahamas and Florida; while those from the
north laid the foundation of new British states in New Brunswick and
Upper Canada. Many of these refugees appealed to the British government
for indemnification for their losses, and their claims received prompt
attention. A parliamentary commission was appointed to inquire into the
matter, and by the year 1790 some $16,000,000 had been distributed among
about 4,000 sufferers, while many others received grants of crown-lands,
or half-pay as military officers, or special annuities, or appointments
in the civil service. On the whole, the compensation which the refugees
received from Parliament seems to have been much more ample than that
which the ragged soldiers of our Revolutionary army ever received from

[Sidenote: Congress is unable to enforce payment of debts to British
creditors. England retaliates by refusing to surrender the western

While the political passions resulting in this forced emigration of
loyalists were such as naturally arise in the course of a civil war, the
historian cannot but regret that the United States should have been
deprived of the services of so many excellent citizens. In nearly all
such cases of wholesale popular vengeance, it is the wrong individuals
who suffer. We could well afford to dispense with the border-ruffians
who abetted the Indians in their carnival of burning and scalping, but
the refugees of 1784 were for the most part peaceful and unoffending
families, above the average in education and refinement. The vicarious
suffering inflicted upon them set nothing right, but simply increased
the mass of wrong, while to the general interests of the country the
loss of such people was in every way damaging. The immediate political
detriment wrought at the time, though it is that which here most nearly
concerns us, was perhaps the least important. Since Congress was
manifestly unable to carry out the treaty, an excuse was furnished to
England for declining to fulfil some of its provisions. In regard to the
loyalists, indeed, the treaty had recognized that Congress possessed but
an advisory power; but in the other provision concerning the payment of
private debts, which in the popular mind was very much mixed up with the
question of justice to the loyalists, the faith of the United States was
distinctly pledged. On this point also Congress was powerless to enforce
the treaty. Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia,
and South Carolina had all enacted laws obstructing the collection of
British debts; and in flat defiance of the treaty these statutes
remained in force until after the downfall of the Confederation. The
states were aware that such conduct needed an excuse, and one was soon
forthcoming. Many negroes had left the country with the British fleet:
some doubtless had sought their freedom; others, perhaps, had been
kidnapped as booty, and sold to planters in the West Indies. The number
of these black men carried away by the fleet had been magnified tenfold
by popular rumour. Complaints had been made to Sir Guy Carleton, but he
had replied that any negro who came within his lines was presumably a
freeman, and he could not lend his aid in remanding such persons to
slavery. Jay, as one of the treaty commissioners, gave it as his opinion
that Carleton was quite right in this, but he thought that where a loss
of slaves could be proved, Great Britain was bound to make pecuniary
compensation to the owners. The matter was wrangled over for several
years, in the state legislatures, in town and county meetings, at
dinner-tables, and in bar-rooms, with the general result that, until
such compensation should be made, the statutes hindering the collection
of debts would not be repealed. In retaliation for this, Great Britain
refused to withdraw her garrisons from the western fortresses, which the
treaty had surrendered to the United States. This measure was very
keenly felt by the people. As an assertion of superior strength, it was
peculiarly galling to our weak and divided confederacy, and it also
wrought us direct practical injury. It encouraged the Indian tribes in
their depredations on the frontier, and it deprived American merchants
of an immensely lucrative trade in furs. In the spring of 1787 there
were advertised for sale in London more than 360,000 skins, worth
$1,200,000 at the lowest estimate; and had the posts been surrendered
according to the treaty, all this would have passed through the hands of
American merchants. The London fur-traders were naturally loth to lose
their control over this business, and in the language of modern politics
they brought "pressure" to bear on the government to retain the
fortresses as long as possible. The American refusal to pay British
creditors furnished an excellent excuse, while the weakness of Congress
made any kind of reprisal impossible; and it was not until Washington's
second term as president, after our national credit had been restored
and the strength of our new government made manifest, that England
surrendered this chain of strongholds, commanding the woods and waters
of our northwestern frontier.



[Sidenote: Barbarous superstitions about trade.]

At the close of the eighteenth century the barbarous superstitions of
the Middle Ages concerning trade between nations still flourished with
scarcely diminished vitality. The epoch-making work of Adam Smith had
been published in the same year in which the United States declared
their independence. The one was the great scientific event, as the other
was the great political event of the age; but of neither the one nor the
other were the scope and purport fathomed at the time. Among the
foremost statesmen, those who, like Shelburne and Gallatin, understood
the principles of the "Wealth of Nations" were few indeed. The simple
principle that when two parties trade both must be gainers, or one would
soon stop trading, was generally lost sight of; and most commercial
legislation proceeded upon the theory that in trade, as in gambling or
betting, what the one party gains the other must lose. Hence towns,
districts, and nations surrounded themselves with walls of legislative
restrictions intended to keep out the monster Trade, or to admit him
only on strictest proof that he could do no harm. On this barbarous
theory, the use of a colony consisted in its being a customer which you
could compel to trade with yourself, while you could prevent it from
trading with anybody else; and having secured this point, you could
cunningly arrange things by legislation so as to throw all the loss upon
this enforced customer, and keep all the gain to yourself. In the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries all the commercial legislation of
the great colonizing states was based upon this theory of the use of a
colony. For effectiveness, it shared to some extent the characteristic
features of legislation for making water run up hill. It retarded
commercial development all over the world, fostered monopolies, made the
rich richer and the poor poorer, hindered the interchange of ideas and
the refinement of manners, and sacrificed millions of human lives in
misdirected warfare; but what it was intended to do it did not do. The
sturdy race of smugglers--those despised pioneers of a higher
civilization--thrived in defiance of kings and parliaments; and as it
was impossible to carry out such legislation thoroughly without stopping
trade altogether, colonies and mother countries contrived to increase
their wealth in spite of it. The colonies, however, understood the
animus of the theory in so far as it was directed against them, and the
revolutionary sentiment in America had gained much of its strength from
the protest against this one-sided justice. In one of its most important
aspects, the Revolution was a deadly blow aimed at the old system of
trade restrictions. It was to a certain extent a step in realization of
the noble doctrines of Adam Smith. But where the scientific thinker
grasped the whole principle involved in the matter, the practical
statesmen saw only the special application which seemed to concern them
for the moment. They all understood that the Revolution had set them
free to trade with other countries than England, but very few of them
understood that, whatever countries trade together, the one cannot hope
to benefit by impoverishing the other.

This point is much better understood in England to-day than in the
United States; but a century ago there was little to choose between the
two countries in ignorance of political economy. England had gained
great wealth and power through trade with her rapidly growing American
colonies. One of her chief fears, in the event of American independence,
had been the possible loss of that trade. English merchants feared that
American commerce, when no longer confined to its old paths by
legislation, would somehow find its way to France and Holland and Spain
and other countries, until nothing would be left for England. The
Revolution worked no such change, however. The principal trade of the
United States was with England, as before, because England could best
supply the goods that Americans wanted; and it is such considerations,
and not acts of Parliament, that determine trade in its natural and
proper channels. In 1783 Pitt introduced into Parliament a bill which
would have secured mutual unconditional free trade between the two
countries; and this was what such men as Franklin, Jefferson, and
Madison desired. Could this bill have passed, the hard feelings
occasioned by the war would soon have died out, the commercial progress
of both countries would have been promoted, and the stupid measures
which led to a second war within thirty years might have been prevented.
But the wisdom of Pitt found less favour in Parliament than the dense
stupidity of Lord Sheffield, who thought that to admit Americans to the
carrying trade would undermine the naval power of Great Britain. Pitt's
measure was defeated, and the regulation of commerce with America was
left to the king in council. Orders were forthwith passed as if upon the
theory that America poor would be a better customer than America rich.

[Sidenote: Ship-building in New England.]

[Sidenote: British navigation acts and orders in council directed
against American commerce.]

The carrying trade to the West Indies had been one of the most important
branches of American industry. The men of New England were famous for
seamanship, and better and cheaper ships could be built in the seaports
of Massachusetts than anywhere in Great Britain. An oak vessel could be
built at Gloucester or Salem for twenty-four dollars per ton; a ship of
live-oak or American cedar cost not more than thirty-eight dollars per
ton. On the other hand, fir vessels built on the Baltic cost thirty-five
dollars per ton, and nowhere in England, France, or Holland could a ship
be made of oak for less than fifty dollars per ton. Often the cost was
as high as sixty dollars. It was not strange, therefore, that before the
war more than one third of the tonnage afloat under the British flag was
launched from American dock-yards. The war had violently deprived
England of this enormous advantage, and now she sought to make the
privation perpetual, in the delusive hope of confining British trade to
British keels, and in the belief that it was the height of wisdom to
impoverish the nation which she regarded as her best customer. In July,
1783, an order in council proclaimed that henceforth all trade between
the United States and the British West Indies must be carried on in
British-built ships, owned and navigated by British subjects. A serious
blow was thus dealt not only at American shipping, but also at the
interchange of commodities between the states and the islands, which was
greatly hampered by this restriction. During the whole of the eighteenth
century the West India sugar trade with the North American colonies and
with Great Britain had been of immense value to all parties, and all had
been seriously damaged by the curtailment of it due to the war. Now that
the artificial state of things created by the war was to be perpetuated
by legislation, the prospect of repairing the loss seemed indefinitely
postponed. Moreover, even in trading directly with Great Britain,
American ships were only allowed to bring in articles produced in the
particular states of which their owners were citizens,--an enactment
which seemed to add insult to injury, inasmuch as it directed especial
attention to the want of union among the thirteen states. Great
indignation was aroused in America, and reprisals were talked of, but
efforts were first made to obtain a commercial treaty.

[Sidenote: John Adams tries in vain to negotiate a commercial treaty.]

In 1785 Franklin returned from France, and Jefferson was sent as
minister in his stead, while John Adams became the first representative
of the United States at the British court. Adams was at first very
courteously received by George III., and presently set to work to
convince Lord Carmarthen, the foreign secretary, of the desirableness of
unrestricted intercourse between the two countries. But popular opinion
in England was obstinately set against him. But for the Navigation Act
and the orders in council, it was said, all ships would by and by come
to be built in America, and every time a frigate was wanted for the navy
the Lords of Admiralty would have to send over to Boston or Philadelphia
and order one. Rather than do such a thing as this, it was thought that
the British navy should content itself with vessels of inferior
workmanship and higher cost, built in British dock-yards. Thirty years
after, England gathered an unexpected fruit of this narrow policy, when,
to her intense bewilderment, she saw frigate after frigate outsailed and
defeated in single combat with American antagonists. Owing to her
exclusive measures, the rapid improvement in American shipbuilding had
gone on quite beyond her ken, until she was thus rudely awakened to it.
With similar short-sighted jealousy, it was argued that the American
share in the whale-fishery and in the Newfoundland fishery should be
curtailed as much as possible. Spermaceti oil was much needed in
England: complaints were rife of robbery and murder in the dimly lighted
streets of London and other great cities. But it was thought that if
American ships could carry oil to England and salt fish to Jamaica, the
supply of seamen for the British navy would be diminished; and
accordingly such privileges must not be granted the Americans unless
valuable privileges could be granted in return. But the government of
the United States could grant no privileges because it could impose no
restrictions. British manufactured goods were needed in America, and
Congress, which could levy no duties, had no power to keep them out.
British merchants and manufacturers, it was argued, already enjoyed all
needful privileges in American ports, and accordingly they asked no
favours and granted none.

Such were the arguments to which Adams was obliged to listen. The
popular feeling was so strong that Pitt could not have stemmed it if he
would. It was in vain that Adams threatened reprisals, and urged that
the British measures would defeat their own purpose. "The end of the
Navigation Act," said he, "as expressed in its own preamble, is to
confine the commerce of the colonies to the mother country; but now we
are become independent states, instead of confining our trade to Great
Britain, it will drive it to other countries:" and he suggested that the
Americans might make a navigation act in their turn, admitting to
American ports none but American-built ships, owned and commanded by
Americans. But under the articles of confederation such a threat was
idle, and the British government knew it to be so. Thirteen separate
state governments could never be made to adopt any such measure in
concert. The weakness of Congress had been fatally revealed in its
inability to protect the loyalists or to enforce the payment of debts,
and in its failure to raise a revenue for meeting its current expenses.
A government thus slighted at home was naturally despised abroad.
England neglected to send a minister to Philadelphia, and while Adams
was treated politely, his arguments were unheeded. Whether in this
behaviour Pitt's government was influenced or not by political as well
as economical reasons, it was certain that a political purpose was
entertained by the king and approved by many people. There was an
intention of humiliating the Americans, and it was commonly said that
under a sufficient weight of commercial distress the states would break
up their feeble union, and come straggling back, one after another, to
their old allegiance. The fiery spirit of Adams could ill brook this
contemptuous treatment of the nation which he represented. Though he
favoured very liberal commercial relations with the whole world, he
could see no escape from the present difficulties save in systematic
retaliation. "I should be sorry," he said, "to adopt a monopoly, but,
driven to the necessity of it, I would not do things by halves.... If
monopolies and exclusions are the only arms of defence against
monopolies and exclusions, I would venture upon them without fear of
offending Dean Tucker or the ghost of Dr. Quesnay." That is to say,
certain commercial privileges must be withheld from Great Britain, in
order to be offered to her in return for reciprocal privileges. It was a
miserable policy to be forced to adopt, for such restrictions upon trade
inevitably cut both ways. Like the non-importation agreement of 1768
and the embargo of 1808, such a policy was open to the objections
familiarly urged against biting off one's own nose. It was injuring
one's self in the hope of injuring somebody else. It was perpetuating in
time of peace the obstacles to commerce generated by a state of war. In
a certain sense, it was keeping up warfare by commercial instead of
military methods, and there was danger that it might lead to a renewal
of armed conflict. Nevertheless, the conduct of the British government
seemed to Adams to leave no other course open. But such "means of
preserving ourselves," he said, "can never be secured until Congress
shall be made supreme in foreign commerce."

[Sidenote: Reprisal impossible; the states impose conflicting duties.]

It was obvious enough that the separate action of the states upon such a
question was only adding to the general uncertainty and confusion. In
1785 New York laid a double duty on all goods whatever imported in
British ships. In the same year Pennsylvania passed the first of the
long series of American tariff acts, designed to tax the whole community
for the alleged benefit of a few greedy manufacturers. Massachusetts
sought to establish committees of correspondence for the purpose of
entering into a new non-importation agreement, and its legislature
resolved that "the present powers of the Congress of the United States,
as contained in the articles of confederation, are not fully adequate to
the great purposes they were originally designed to effect." The
Massachusetts delegates in Congress--Gerry, Holton, and King--were
instructed to recommend a general convention of the states for the
purpose of revising and amending the articles of confederation; but the
delegates refused to comply with their instructions, and set forth their
reasons in a paper which was approved by Samuel Adams, and caused the
legislature to reconsider its action. It was feared that a call for a
convention might seem too much like an open expression of a want of
confidence in Congress, and might thereby weaken it still further
without accomplishing any good result. For the present, as a temporary
expedient, Massachusetts took counsel with New Hampshire, and the two
states passed navigation acts, prohibiting British ships from carrying
goods out of their harbours, and imposing a fourfold duty upon all such
goods as they should bring in. A discriminating tonnage duty was also
laid upon all foreign vessels. Rhode Island soon after adopted similar
measures. In Congress a scheme for a uniform navigation act, to be
concurred in and passed by all the thirteen states, was suggested by one
of the Maryland delegates; but it was opposed by Richard Henry Lee and
most of the delegates from the far south. The southern states, having no
ships or seamen of their own, feared that the exclusion of British
competition might enable northern ship-owners to charge exorbitant rates
for carrying their rice and tobacco, thus subjecting them to a ruinous
monopoly; but the gallant Moultrie, then governor of South Carolina,
taking a broader view of the case, wrote to Bowdoin, governor of
Massachusetts, asserting the paramount need of harmonious and united
action. In the Virginia assembly, a hot-headed member, named Thurston,
declared himself in doubt "whether it would not be better to encourage
the British rather than the eastern marine;" but the remark was greeted
with hisses and groans, and the speaker was speedily put down. Amid such
mutual jealousies and misgivings, during the year 1785 acts were passed
by ten states granting to Congress the power of regulating commerce for
the ensuing thirteen years. The three states which refrained from acting
were Georgia, South Carolina, and Delaware. The acts of the other ten
were, as might have been expected, a jumble of incongruities. North
Carolina granted all the power that was asked, but stipulated that when
all the states should have done likewise their acts should be summed up
in a new article of confederation. Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and
Maryland had fixed the date at which the grant was to take effect, while
Rhode Island provided that it should not expire until after the lapse of
twenty-five years. The grant by New Hampshire allowed the power to be
used only in one specified way,--by restricting the duties imposable by
the several states. The grants of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey,
and Virginia were not to take effect until all the others should go into
operation. The only thing which Congress could do with these acts was to
refer them back to the several legislatures, with a polite request to
try to reduce them to something like uniformity.

[Sidenote: Commercial war between different states.]

Meanwhile, the different states, with their different tariff and tonnage
acts, began to make commercial war upon one another. No sooner had the
other three New England states virtually closed their ports to British
shipping than Connecticut threw hers wide open, an act which she
followed up by laying duties upon imports from Massachusetts.
Pennsylvania discriminated against Delaware, and New Jersey, pillaged at
once by both her greater neighbours, was compared to a cask tapped at
both ends. The conduct of New York became especially selfish and
blameworthy. That rapid growth which was so soon to carry the city and
the state to a position of primacy in the Union had already begun. After
the departure of the British the revival of business went on with leaps
and bounds. The feeling of local patriotism waxed strong, and in no one
was it more completely manifested than in George Clinton, the
Revolutionary general, whom the people elected governor for nine
successive terms. From a humble origin, by dint of shrewdness and
untiring push, Clinton had come to be for the moment the most powerful
man in the state of New York. He had come to look upon the state almost
as if it were his own private manor, and his life was devoted to
furthering its interests as he understood them. It was his first article
of faith that New York must be the greatest state in the Union. But his
conceptions of statesmanship were extremely narrow. In his mind, the
welfare of New York meant the pulling down and thrusting aside of all
her neighbours and rivals. He was the vigorous and steadfast advocate of
every illiberal and exclusive measure, and the most uncompromising
enemy to a closer union of the states. His great popular strength and
the commercial importance of the community in which he held sway made
him at this time the most dangerous man in America. The political
victories presently to be won by Hamilton, Schuyler, and Livingston,
without which our grand and pacific federal union could not have been
brought into being, were victories won by most desperate fighting
against the dogged opposition of Clinton. Under his guidance, the
history of New York, during the five years following the peace of 1783,
was a shameful story of greedy monopoly and sectional hate. Of all the
thirteen states, none behaved worse except Rhode Island.

A single instance, which occurred early in 1787, may serve as an
illustration. The city of New York, with its population of 30,000 souls,
had long been supplied with firewood from Connecticut, and with butter
and cheese, chickens and garden vegetables, from the thrifty farms of
New Jersey. This trade, it was observed, carried thousands of dollars
out of the city and into the pockets of detested Yankees and despised
Jerseymen. It was ruinous to domestic industry, said the men of New
York. It must be stopped by those effective remedies of the Sangrado
school of economic doctors, a navigation act and a protective tariff.
Acts were accordingly passed, obliging every Yankee sloop which came
down through Hell Gate, and every Jersey market boat which was rowed
across from Paulus Hook to Cortlandt Street, to pay entrance fees and
obtain clearances at the custom-house, just as was done by ships from
London or Hamburg; and not a cart-load of Connecticut firewood could be
delivered at the back-door of a country-house in Beekman Street until it
should have paid a heavy duty. Great and just was the wrath of the
farmers and lumbermen. The New Jersey legislature made up its mind to
retaliate. The city of New York had lately bought a small patch of
ground on Sandy Hook, and had built a light-house there. This
light-house was the one weak spot in the heel of Achilles where a
hostile arrow could strike, and New Jersey gave vent to her indignation
by laying a tax of $1,800 a year on it. Connecticut was equally prompt.
At a great meeting of business men, held at New London, it was
unanimously agreed to suspend all commercial intercourse with New York.
Every merchant signed an agreement, under penalty of $250 for the first
offence, not to send any goods whatever into the hated state for a
period of twelve months. By such retaliatory measures, it was hoped that
New York might be compelled to rescind her odious enactment. But such
meetings and such resolves bore an ominous likeness to the meetings and
resolves which in the years before 1775 had heralded a state of war; and
but for the good work done by the federal convention another five years
would scarcely have elapsed before shots would have been fired and seeds
of perennial hatred sown on the shores that look toward Manhattan

[Sidenote: Disputes about territory; disasters in the valley of Wyoming,

To these commercial disputes there were added disputes about territory.
The chronic quarrel between Connecticut and Pennsylvania over the valley
of Wyoming was decided in the autumn of 1782 by a special federal
court, appointed in accordance with the articles of confederation. The
prize was adjudged to Pennsylvania, and the government of Connecticut
submitted as gracefully as possible. But new troubles were in store for
the inhabitants of that beautiful region. The traces of the massacre of
1778 had disappeared, the houses had been rebuilt, new settlers had come
in, and the pretty villages had taken on their old look of contentment
and thrift, when in the spring of 1784 there came an accumulation of
disasters. During a very cold winter great quantities of snow had
fallen, and lay piled in huge masses on the mountain sides, until in
March a sudden thaw set in. The Susquehanna rose, and overflowed the
valley, and great blocks of ice drifted here and there, carrying death
and destruction with them. Houses, barns, and fences were swept away,
the cattle were drowned, the fruit trees broken down, the stores of food
destroyed, and over the whole valley there lay a stratum of gravel and
pebbles. The people were starving with cold and hunger, and President
Dickinson urged the legislature to send prompt relief to the sufferers.
But the hearts of the members were as flint, and their talk was
incredibly wicked. Not a penny would they give to help the accursed
Yankees. It served them right. If they had stayed in Connecticut, where
they belonged, they would have kept out of harm's way. And with a
blasphemy thinly veiled in phrases of pious unction, the desolation of
the valley was said to have been contrived by the Deity with the
express object of punishing these trespassers. But the cruelty of the
Pennsylvania legislature was not confined to words. A scheme was devised
for driving out the settlers and partitioning their lands among a
company of speculators. A force of militia was sent to Wyoming,
commanded by a truculent creature named Patterson. The ostensible
purpose was to assist in restoring order in the valley, but the
behaviour of the soldiers was such as would have disgraced a horde of
barbarians. They stole what they could find, dealt out blows to the men
and insults to the women, until their violence was met with violence in
return. Then Patterson sent a letter to President Dickinson, accusing
the farmers of sedition, and hinting that extreme measures were
necessary. Having thus, as he thought, prepared the way, he attacked the
settlement, turned some five hundred people out-of-doors, and burned
their houses to the ground. The wretched victims, many of them tender
women, or infirm old men, or little children, were driven into the
wilderness at the point of the bayonet, and told to find their way to
Connecticut without further delay. Heartrending scenes ensued. Many died
of exhaustion, or furnished food for wolves. But this was more than the
Pennsylvania legislature had intended. Patterson's zeal had carried him
too far. He was recalled, and the sheriff of Northumberland County was
sent, with a posse of men, to protect the settlers. Patterson disobeyed,
however, and withdrawing his men to a fortified lair in the mountains,
kept up a guerilla warfare. All the Connecticut men in the neighbouring
country flew to arms. Men were killed on both sides, and presently
Patterson was besieged. A regiment of soldiers was then sent from
Philadelphia, under Colonel Armstrong, who had formerly been on Gates's
staff, the author of the incendiary Newburgh address. On arriving in the
valley, Armstrong held a parley with the Connecticut men, and persuaded
them to lay down their arms; assuring them on his honour that they
should meet with no ill treatment, and that their enemy, Patterson,
should be disarmed also. Having thus fallen into this soldier's
clutches, they were forthwith treated as prisoners. Seventy-six of them
were handcuffed and sent under guard, some to Easton and some to
Northumberland, where they were thrown into jail.

Great was the indignation in New England when these deeds were heard of.
The matter had become very serious. A war between Connecticut and
Pennsylvania might easily grow out of it. But the danger was averted
through a very singular feature in the Pennsylvania constitution. In
order to hold its legislature in check, Pennsylvania had a council of
censors, which was assembled once in seven years in order to inquire
whether the state had been properly governed during the interval. Soon
after the troubles in Wyoming the regular meeting of the censors was
held, and the conduct of Armstrong and Patterson was unreservedly
condemned. A hot controversy ensued between the legislature and the
censors, and as the people set great store by the latter peculiar
institution, public sympathy was gradually awakened for the sufferers.
The wickedness of the affair began to dawn upon people's minds, and
they were ashamed of what had been done. Patterson and Armstrong were
frowned down, the legislature disavowed their acts, and it was ordered
that full reparation should be made to the persecuted settlers of

[Sidenote: Troubles in the Green Mountains, 1777-84.]

In the Green Mountains and on the upper waters of the Connecticut there
had been trouble for many years. In the course of the Revolutionary War,
the fierce dispute between New York and New Hampshire for the possession
of the Green Mountains came in from time to time to influence most
curiously the course of events. It was closely connected with the
intrigues against General Schuyler, and thus more remotely with the
Conway cabal and the treason of Arnold. About the time of Burgoyne's
invasion the association of Green Mountain Boys endeavoured to cut the
Gordian knot by declaring Vermont an independent state, and applying to
the Continental Congress for admission into the Union. The New York
delegates in Congress succeeded in defeating this scheme, but the
Vermont people went on and framed their constitution. Thomas Chittenden,
a man of rough manners but very considerable ability, a farmer and
innkeeper, like Israel Putnam, was chosen governor, and held that
position for many years. New Hampshire thus far had not actively opposed
these measures, but fresh grounds of quarrel were soon at hand. Several
towns on the east bank of the Connecticut River wished to escape from
the jurisdiction of New Hampshire. They preferred to belong to Vermont,
because it was not within the Union, and accordingly not liable to
requisitions of taxes from the Continental Congress. It was conveniently
remembered that by the original grant, in the reign of Charles II., New
Hampshire extended only sixty miles from the coast. Vermont was at first
inclined to assent, but finding the scheme unpopular in Congress, and
not wishing to offend that body, she changed her mind. The towns on both
banks of the river then tried to organize themselves into a middle
state,--a sort of Lotharingia on the banks of this New World Rhine,--to
be called New Connecticut. By this time New Hampshire was aroused, and
she called attention to the fact that she still believed herself
entitled to dominion over the whole of Vermont. Massachusetts now began
to suspect that the upshot of the matter would be the partition of the
whole disputed territory between New Hampshire and New York, and,
ransacking her ancient grants and charters, she decided to set up a
claim on her own part to the southernmost towns in Vermont. Thus goaded
on all sides, Vermont adopted an aggressive policy. She not only annexed
the towns east of the Connecticut River, but also asserted sovereignty
over the towns in New York as far as the Hudson. New York sent troops to
the threatened frontier, New Hampshire prepared to do likewise, and for
a moment war seemed inevitable. But here, as in so many other instances,
Washington appeared as peace-maker, and prevailed upon Governor
Chittenden to use his influence in getting the dangerous claims
withdrawn. After the spring of 1784 the outlook was less stormy in the
Green Mountains. The conflicting claims were allowed to lie dormant, but
the possibilities of mischief remained, and the Vermont question was not
finally settled until after the adoption of the Federal Constitution.
Meanwhile, on the debatable frontier between Vermont and New York the
embers of hatred smouldered. Barns and houses were set on fire, and
belated wayfarers were found mysteriously murdered in the depths of the

[Sidenote: One nation or thirteen?]

Incidents like these of Wyoming and Vermont seem trivial, perhaps, when
contrasted with the lurid tales of border warfare in older times between
half-civilized peoples of mediæval Europe, as we read them in the pages
of Froissart and Sir Walter Scott. But their historic lesson is none the
less clear. Though they lift the curtain but a little way, they show us
a glimpse of the untold dangers and horrors from which the adoption of
our Federal Constitution has so thoroughly freed us that we can only
with some effort realize how narrowly we have escaped them. It is fit
that they should be borne in mind, that we may duly appreciate the
significance of the reign of law and order which has been established on
this continent during the greater part of a century. When reported in
Europe, such incidents were held to confirm the opinion that the
American confederacy was going to pieces. With quarrels about trade and
quarrels about boundaries, we seemed to be treading the old-fashioned
paths of anarchy, even as they had been trodden in other ages and other
parts of the world. It was natural that people in Europe should think
so, because there was no historic precedent to help them in forming a
different opinion. No one could possibly foresee that within five years
a number of gentlemen at Philadelphia, containing among themselves a
greater amount of political sagacity than had ever before been brought
together within the walls of a single room, would amicably discuss the
situation and agree upon a new system of government whereby the dangers
might be once for all averted. Still less could any one foresee that
these gentlemen would not only agree upon a scheme among themselves, but
would actually succeed, without serious civil dissension, in making the
people of thirteen states adopt, defend, and cherish it. History
afforded no example of such a gigantic act of constructive
statesmanship. It was, moreover, a strange and apparently fortuitous
combination of circumstances that were now preparing the way for it and
making its accomplishment possible. No one could forecast the future.
When our ministers and agents in Europe raised the question as to making
commercial treaties, they were disdainfully asked whether European
powers were expected to deal with thirteen governments or with one. If
it was answered that the United States constituted a single government
so far as their relations with foreign powers were concerned, then we
were forthwith twitted with our failure to keep our engagements with
England with regard to the loyalists and the collection of private
debts. Yes, we see, said the European diplomats; the United States are
one nation to-day and thirteen to-morrow, according as may seem to
subserve their selfish interests. Jefferson, at Paris, was told again
and again that it was useless for the French government to enter into
any agreement with the United States, as there was no certainty that it
would be fulfilled on our part; and the same things were said all over
Europe. Toward the close of the war most of the European nations had
seemed ready to enter into commercial arrangements with the United
States, but all save Holland speedily lost interest in the subject. John
Adams had succeeded in making a treaty with Holland in 1782. Frederick
the Great treated us more civilly than other sovereigns. One of the last
acts of his life was to conclude a treaty for ten years with the United
States; asserting the principle that free ships make free goods, taking
arms and military stores out of the class of contraband, agreeing to
refrain from privateering even in case of war between the two countries,
and in other respects showing a liberal and enlightened spirit.

[Sidenote: Failure of American credit; John Adams begging in Holland,

This treaty was concluded in 1786. It scarcely touched the subject of
international trade in time of peace, but it was valuable as regarded
the matters it covered, and in the midst of the general failure of
American diplomacy in Europe it fell pleasantly upon our ears. Our
diplomacy had failed because our weakness had been proclaimed to the
world. We were bullied by England, insulted by France and Spain, and
looked askance at in Holland. The humiliating position in which our
ministers were placed by the beggarly poverty of Congress was something
almost beyond credence. It was by no means unusual for the
superintendent of finance, when hard pushed for money, to draw upon our
foreign ministers, and then sell the drafts for cash. This was not only
not unusual; it was an established custom. It was done again and again,
when there was not the smallest ground for supposing that the minister
upon whom the draft was made would have any funds wherewith to meet it.
He must go and beg the money. That was part of his duty as envoy,--to
solicit loans without security for a government that could not raise
enough money by taxation to defray its current expenses. It was
sickening work. Just before John Adams had been appointed minister to
England, and while he was visiting in London, he suddenly learned that
drafts upon him had been presented to his bankers in Amsterdam to the
amount of more than a million florins. Less than half a million florins
were on hand to meet these demands, and unless something were done at
once the greater part of this paper would go back to America protested.
Adams lost not a moment in starting for Holland. In these modern days of
precision in travel, when we can translate space into time, the distance
between London and Amsterdam is eleven hours. It was accomplished by
Adams, after innumerable delays and vexations and no little danger, in
fifty-four days. The bankers had contrived, by ingenious excuses, to
keep the drafts from going to protest until the minister's arrival, but
the gazettes were full of the troubles of Congress and the bickerings
of the states, and everybody was suspicious. Adams applied in vain to
the regency of Amsterdam. The promise of the American government was not
regarded as valid security for a sum equivalent to about three hundred
thousand dollars. The members of the regency were polite, but
inexorable. They could not make a loan on such terms; it was
unbusinesslike and contrary to precedent. Finding them immovable, Adams
was forced to apply to professional usurers and Jew brokers, from whom,
after three weeks of perplexity and humiliation, he obtained a loan at
exorbitant interest, and succeeded in meeting the drafts. It was only
too plain, as he mournfully confessed, that American credit was dead.
Such were the trials of our American ministers in Europe in the dark
days of the League of Friendship. It was not a solitary, but a typical,
instance. John Jay's experience at the unfriendly court of Spain was
perhaps even more trying.

[Sidenote: The Barbary pirates.]

European governments might treat us with cold disdain, and European
bankers might pronounce our securities worthless, but there was one
quarter of the world from which even worse measure was meted out to us.
Of all the barbarous communities with which the civilized world has had
to deal in modern times, perhaps none have made so much trouble as the
Mussulman states on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. After the
breaking up of the great Moorish kingdoms of the Middle Ages, this
region had fallen under the nominal control of the Turkish sultans as
lords paramount of the orthodox Mohammedan world. Its miserable
populations became the prey of banditti. Swarms of half-savage
chieftains settled down upon the land like locusts, and out of such a
pandemonium of robbery and murder as has scarcely been equalled in
historic times the pirate states of Morocco and Algiers, Tunis and
Tripoli, gradually emerged. Of these communities history has not one
good word to say. In these fair lands, once illustrious for the genius
and virtues of a Hannibal and the profound philosophy of St. Augustine,
there grew up some of the most terrible despotisms ever known to the
world. The things done daily by the robber sovereigns were such as to
make a civilized imagination recoil with horror. One of these cheerful
creatures, who reigned in the middle of the eighteenth century, and was
called Muley Abdallah, especially prided himself on his peculiar skill
in mounting a horse. Resting his left hand upon the horse's neck, as he
sprang into the saddle he simultaneously swung the sharp scimiter in his
right hand so deftly as to cut off the head of the groom who held the
bridle. From his behaviour in these sportive moods one may judge what he
was capable of on serious occasions. He was a fair sample of the Barbary
monarchs. The foreign policy of these wretches was summed up in piracy
and blackmail. Their corsairs swept the Mediterranean and ventured far
out upon the ocean, capturing merchant vessels, and murdering or
enslaving their crews. Of the rich booty, a fixed proportion was paid
over to the robber sovereign, and the rest was divided among the gang.
So lucrative was this business that it attracted hardy ruffians from
all parts of Europe, and the misery they inflicted upon mankind during
four centuries was beyond calculation. One of their favourite practices
was the kidnapping of eminent or wealthy persons, in the hope of
extorting ransom. Cervantes and Vincent de Paul were among the
celebrated men who thus tasted the horrors of Moorish slavery; but it
was a calamity that might fall to the lot of any man, or woman, and it
was but rarely that the victims ever regained their freedom.

[Sidenote: American citizens kidnapped.]

Against these pirates the governments of Europe contended in vain. Swift
cruisers frequently captured their ships, and from the days of Joan of
Arc down to the days of Napoleon their skeletons swung from long rows of
gibbets on all the coasts of Europe, as a terror and a warning. But
their losses were easily repaired, and sometimes they cruised in fleets
of seventy or eighty sail, defying the navies of England and France. It
was not until after England, in Nelson's time, had acquired supremacy in
the Mediterranean that this dreadful scourge was destroyed. Americans,
however, have just ground for pride in recollecting that their
government was foremost in chastising these pirates in their own
harbours. The exploits of our little navy in the Mediterranean at the
beginning of the present century form an interesting episode in American
history, but in the weak days of the Confederation our commerce was
plundered with impunity, and American citizens were seized and sold into
slavery in the markets of Algiers and Tripoli. One reason for the long
survival of this villainy was the low state of humanity among European
nations. An Englishman's sympathy was but feebly aroused by the plunder
of Frenchmen, and the bigoted Spaniard looked on with approval so long
as it was Protestants that were kidnapped and bastinadoed. In 1783 Lord
Sheffield published a pamphlet on the commerce of the United States, in
which he shamelessly declared that the Barbary pirates were really
useful to the great maritime powers, because they tended to keep the
weaker nations out of their share in the carrying trade. This, he
thought, was a valuable offset to the Empress Catherine's device of the
armed neutrality, whereby small nations were protected; and on this
wicked theory, as Franklin tells us, London merchants had been heard to
say that "if there were no Algiers, it would be worth England's while to
build one." It was largely because of such feelings that the great
states of Europe so long persisted in the craven policy of paying
blackmail to the robbers, instead of joining in a crusade and destroying

[Sidenote: Tripoli demands blackmail, Feb. 1786.]

In 1786 Congress felt it necessary to take measures for protecting the
lives and liberties of American citizens. The person who called himself
"Emperor" of Morocco at that time was different from most of his kind.
He had a taste for reading, and had thus caught a glimmering of the
enlightened liberalism which French philosophers were preaching. He
wished to be thought a benevolent despot, and with Morocco, accordingly,
Congress succeeded in making a treaty. But nothing could be done with
the other pirate states without paying blackmail. Few scenes in our
history are more amusing, or more irritating, than the interview of John
Adams with an envoy from Tripoli in London. The oily-tongued barbarian,
with his soft voice and his bland smile, asseverating that his only
interest in life was to do good and make other people happy, stands out
in fine contrast with the blunt, straightforward, and truthful New
Englander; and their conversation reminds one of the old story of
Coeur-de-Lion with his curtal-axe and Saladin with the blade that cut
the silken cushion. Adams felt sure that the fellow was either saint or
devil, but could not quite tell which. The envoy's love for mankind was
so great that he could not bear the thought of hostility between the
Americans and the Barbary States, and he suggested that everything might
be happily arranged for a million dollars or so. Adams thought it better
to fight than to pay tribute. It would be cheaper in the end, as well as
more manly. At the same time, it was better economy to pay a million
dollars at once than waste many times that sum in war risks and loss of
trade. But Congress could do neither one thing nor the other. It was too
poor to build a navy, and too poor to buy off the pirates; and so for
several years to come American ships were burned and American sailors
enslaved with utter impunity. With the memory of such wrongs deeply
graven in his heart, it was natural that John Adams, on becoming
president of the United States, should bend his energies toward founding
a strong American navy.

[Sidenote: Congress unable to protect American citizens.]

A government touches the lowest point of ignominy when it confesses its
inability to protect the lives and property of its citizens. A
government which has come to this has failed in discharging the primary
function of government, and forthwith ceases to have any reason for
existing. In March, 1786, Grayson wrote to Madison that several members
of Congress thought seriously of recommending a general convention for
remodelling the government. "I have not made up my mind," says Grayson,
"whether it would not be better to bear the ills we have than fly to
those we know not of. I am, however, in no doubt about the weakness of
the federal government. If it remains much longer in its present state
of imbecility, we shall be one of the most contemptible nations on the
face of the earth." "It is clear to me as A, B, C," said Washington,
"that an extension of federal powers would make us one of the most
happy, wealthy, respectable, and powerful nations that ever inhabited
the terrestrial globe. Without them we shall soon be everything which is
the direct reverse. I predict the worst consequences from a
half-starved, limping government, always moving upon crutches and
tottering at every step."

[Sidenote: Financial distress precipitates the political crisis.]

There is no telling how long the wretched state of things which followed
the Revolution might have continued, had not the crisis been
precipitated by the wild attempts of the several states to remedy the
distress of the people by legislation. That financial distress was
widespread and deep-seated was not to be denied. At the beginning of the
war the amount of accumulated capital in the country had been very
small. The great majority of the people did little more than get from
the annual yield of their farms or plantations enough to meet the
current expenses of the year. Outside of agriculture the chief resources
were the carrying trade, the exchange of commodities with England and
the West Indies, and the cod and whale fisheries; and in these
occupations many people had grown rich. The war had destroyed all these
sources of revenue. Imports and exports had alike been stopped, so that
there was a distressing scarcity of some of the commonest household
articles. The enemy's navy had kept us from the fisheries. Before the
war, the dock-yards of Nantucket were ringing with the busy sound of
adze and hammer, rope-walks covered the island, and two hundred keels
sailed yearly in quest of spermaceti. At the return of peace, the docks
were silent and grass grew in the streets. The carrying trade and the
fisheries began soon to revive, but it was some years before the old
prosperity was restored. The war had also wrought serious damage to
agriculture, and in some parts of the country the direct destruction of
property by the enemy's troops had been very great. To all these causes
of poverty there was added the hopeless confusion due to an
inconvertible paper currency. The worst feature of this financial device
is that it not only impoverishes people, but bemuddles their brains by
creating a false and fleeting show of prosperity. By violently
disturbing apparent values, it always brings on an era of wild
speculation and extravagance in living, followed by sudden collapse and
protracted suffering. In such crises the poorest people, those who earn
their bread by the sweat of their brows and have no margin of
accumulated capital, always suffer the most. Above all men, it is the
labouring man who needs sound money and steady values. We have seen all
these points amply illustrated since the War of Secession. After the War
of Independence, when the margin of accumulated capital was so much
smaller, the misery was much greater. While the paper money lasted there
was marked extravagance in living, and complaints were loud against the
speculators, especially those who operated in bread-stuffs. Washington
said he would like to hang them all on a gallows higher than that of
Haman; but they were, after all, but the inevitable products of this
abnormal state of things, and the more guilty criminals were the
demagogues who went about preaching the doctrine that the poor man needs
cheap money. After the collapse of this continental currency in 1780, it
seemed as if there were no money in the country, and at the peace the
renewal of trade with England seemed at first to make matters worse. The
brisk importation of sorely needed manufactured goods, which then began,
would naturally have been paid for in the south by indigo, rice, and
tobacco, in the middle states by exports of wheat and furs, and in New
England by the profits of the fisheries, the shipping, and the West
India trade. But in the southern and middle states the necessary revival
of agriculture could not be effected in a moment, and British
legislation against American shipping and the West India trade fell with
crippling force upon New England. Consequently, we had little else but
specie with which to pay for imports, and the country was soon drained
of what little specie there was. In the absence of a circulating medium
there was a reversion to the practice of barter, and the revival of
business was thus further impeded. Whiskey in North Carolina, tobacco in
Virginia, did duty as measures of value; and Isaiah Thomas, editor of
the Worcester "Spy," announced that he would receive subscriptions for
his paper in salt pork.

[Sidenote: State of the coinage.]

It is worth while, in this connection, to observe what this specie was,
the scarcity of which created so much embarrassment. Until 1785 no
national coinage was established, and none was issued until 1793.
English, French, Spanish, and German coins, of various and uncertain
value, passed from hand to hand. Beside the ninepences and
fourpence-ha'-pennies, there were bits and half-bits, pistareens,
picayunes, and fips. Of gold pieces there were the johannes, or joe, the
doubloon, the moidore, and pistole, with English and French guineas,
carolins, ducats, and chequins. Of coppers there were English pence and
halfpence and French sous; and pennies were issued at local mints in
Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The
English shilling had everywhere degenerated in value, but differently in
different localities; and among silver pieces the Spanish dollar, from
Louisiana and Cuba, had begun to supersede it as a measure of value. In
New England the shilling had sunk from nearly one fourth to one sixth of
a dollar; in New York to one eighth; in North Carolina to one tenth. It
was partly for this reason that in devising a national coinage the more
uniform dollar was adopted as the unit. At the same time the decimal
system of division was adopted instead of the cumbrous English system,
and the result was our present admirably simple currency, which we owe
to Gouverneur Morris, aided as to some points by Thomas Jefferson.
During the period of the Confederation, the chaotic state of the
currency was a serious obstacle to trade, and it afforded endless
opportunities for fraud and extortion. Clipping and counterfeiting were
carried to such lengths that every moderately cautious person, in taking
payment in hard cash, felt it necessary to keep a small pair of scales
beside him and carefully weigh each coin, after narrowly scrutinizing
its stamp and deciphering its legend.

[Sidenote: Cost of the war; Robert Morris and his immense services.]

In view of all these complicated impediments to business on the morrow
of a long and costly war, it was not strange that the whole country was
in some measure pauperized. The cost of the war, estimated in cash, had
been about $170,000,000--a huge sum if we consider the circumstances of
the country at that time. To meet this crushing indebtedness Mr.
Hildreth reckons the total amount raised by the states, whether by means
of repudiated paper or of taxes, down to 1784, as not more than
$30,000,000. No wonder if the issue of such a struggle seemed quite
hopeless. In many parts of the country, by the year 1786, the payment of
taxes had come to be regarded as an amiable eccentricity. At one
moment, early in 1782, there was not a single dollar in the treasury.
That the government had in any way been able to finish the war, after
the downfall of its paper money, was due to the gigantic efforts of one
great man,--Robert Morris, of Pennsylvania. This statesman was born in
England, but he had come to Philadelphia in his boyhood, and had amassed
an enormous fortune, which he devoted without stint to the service of
his adopted country. Though opposed to the Declaration of Independence
as rash and premature, he had, nevertheless, signed his name to that
document, and scarcely any one had contributed more to the success of
the war. It was he who supplied the money which enabled Washington to
complete the great campaign of Trenton and Princeton. In 1781 he was
made superintendent of finance, and by dint of every imaginable device
of hard-pressed ingenuity he contrived to support the brilliant work
which began at the Cowpens and ended at Yorktown. He established the
Bank of North America as an instrument by which government loans might
be negotiated. Sometimes his methods were such as doctors call heroic,
as when he made sudden drafts upon our ministers in Europe after the
manner already described. In every dire emergency he was Washington's
chief reliance, and in his devotion to the common weal he drew upon his
private resources until he became poor; and in later years--for shame be
it said--an ungrateful nation allowed one of its noblest and most
disinterested champions to languish in a debtor's prison. It was of ill
omen for the fortunes of the weak and disorderly Confederation that in
1784, after three years of herculean struggle with impossibilities, this
stout heart and sagacious head could no longer weather the storm. The
task of creating wealth out of nothing had become too arduous and too
thankless to be endured. Robert Morris resigned his place, and it was
taken by a congressional committee of finance, under whose management
the disorders only hurried to a crisis.

[Sidenote: The craze for paper-money, 1786.]

By 1786, under the universal depression and want of confidence, all
trade had well-nigh stopped, and political quackery, with its cheap and
dirty remedies, had full control of the field. In the very face of
miseries so plainly traceable to the deadly paper currency, it may seem
strange that people should now have begun to clamour for a renewal of
the experiment which had worked so much evil. Yet so it was. As starving
men are said to dream of dainty banquets, so now a craze for fictitious
wealth in the shape of paper money ran like an epidemic through the
country. There was a Barmecide feast of economic vagaries; only now it
was the several states that sought to apply the remedy, each in its own
way. And when we have threaded the maze of this rash legislation, we
shall the better understand that clause in our federal constitution
which forbids the making of laws impairing the obligation of contracts.
The events of 1786 impressed upon men's minds more forcibly than ever
the wretched and disorderly condition of the country, and went far
toward calling into existence the needful popular sentiment in favour of
an overruling central government.

[Sidenote: Agitation in southern and middle states.]

The disorders assumed very different forms in the different states, and
brought out a great diversity of opinion as to the causes of the
distress and the efficacy of the proposed remedies. Only two states out
of the thirteen--Connecticut and Delaware--escaped the infection, but,
on the other hand, it was only in seven states that the paper money
party prevailed in the legislatures. North Carolina issued a large
amount of paper, and, in order to get it into circulation as quickly as
possible, the state government proceeded to buy tobacco with it, paying
double the specie value of the tobacco. As a natural consequence, the
paper dollar instantly fell to seventy cents, and went on declining. In
South Carolina an issue was tried somewhat more cautiously, but the
planters soon refused to take the paper at its face value. Coercive
measures were then attempted. Planters and merchants were urged to sign
a pledge not to discriminate between paper and gold, and if any one
dared refuse the fanatics forthwith attempted to make it hot for him. A
kind of "Kuklux" society was organized at Charleston, known as the "Hint
Club." Its purpose was to hint to such people that they had better look
out. If they did not mend their ways, it was unnecessary to inform them
more explicitly what they might expect. Houses were combustible then as
now, and the use of firearms was well understood. In Georgia the
legislature itself attempted coercion. Paper money was made a legal
tender in spite of strong opposition, and a law was passed prohibiting
any planter or merchant from exporting any produce without taking
affidavit that he had never refused to receive this scrip at its full
face value. But somehow people found that the more it was sought to keep
up the paper by dint of threats and forcing acts, the faster its value
fell. Virginia had issued bills of credit during the campaign of 1781,
but it was enacted at the same time that they should not be a legal
tender after the next January. The influence of Washington, Madison, and
Mason was effectively brought to bear in favour of sound currency, and
the people of Virginia were but slightly affected by the craze of 1786.
In the autumn of that year a proposition from two counties for an issue
of paper was defeated in the legislature by a vote of eighty-five to
seventeen, and no more was heard of the matter. In Maryland, after a
very obstinate fight, a rag money bill was carried in the house of
representatives, but the senate threw it out; and the measure was thus
postponed until the discussion over the federal constitution superseded
it in popular interest. Pennsylvania had warily begun in May, 1785, to
issue a million dollars in bills of credit, which were not made a legal
tender for the payment of private debts. They were mainly loaned to
farmers on mortgage, and were received by the state as an equivalent for
specie in the payment of taxes. By August, 1786, even this carefully
guarded paper had fallen some twelve cents below par,--not a bad showing
for such a year as that. New York moved somewhat less cautiously. A
million dollars were issued in bills of credit receivable for the
custom-house duties, which were then paid into the state treasury; and
these bills were made a legal tender for all money received in lawsuits.
At the same time the New Jersey legislature passed a bill for issuing
half a million paper dollars, to be a legal tender in all business
transactions. The bill was vetoed by the governor in council. The aged
Governor Livingston was greatly respected by the people; and so the mob
at Elizabethtown, which had duly planted a stake and dragged his effigy
up to it, refrained from inflicting the last indignities upon the image,
and burned that of one of the members of the council instead. At the
next session the governor yielded, and the rag money was issued. But an
unforeseen difficulty arose. Most of the dealings of New Jersey people
were in the cities of New York and Philadelphia, and in both cities the
merchants refused their paper, so that it speedily became worthless.

The business of exchange was thus fast getting into hopeless confusion.
It has been said of Bradshaw's Railway Guide, the indispensable
companion of the traveller in England, that no man can study it for an
hour without qualifying himself for an insane asylum. But Bradshaw is
pellucid clearness compared with the American tables of exchange in
1786, with their medley of dollars and shillings, moidores and
pistareens. The addition of half a dozen different kinds of paper
created such a labyrinth as no human intellect could explore. No wonder
that men were counted wise who preferred to take whiskey and pork
instead. Nobody who had a yard of cloth to sell could tell how much it
was worth. But even worse than all this was the swift and certain
renewal of bankruptcy which so many states were preparing for

[Sidenote: Distress in New England.]

Nowhere did the warning come so quickly or so sharply as in New England.
Connecticut, indeed, as already observed, came off scot-free. She had
issued a little paper money soon after the battle of Lexington, but had
stopped it about the time of the surrender of Burgoyne. In 1780 she had
wisely and summarily adjusted all relations between debtor and creditor,
and the crisis of 1786 found her people poor enough, no doubt, but able
to wait for better times and indisposed to adopt violent remedies. It
was far otherwise in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. These were
preëminently the maritime states of the Union, and upon them the blows
aimed by England at American commerce had fallen most severely. It was
these two maritime states that suffered most from the cutting down of
the carrying trade and the restriction of intercourse with the West
Indies. These things worked injury to shipbuilding, to the exports of
lumber and oil and salted fish, even to the manufacture of Medford rum.
Nowhere had the normal machinery of business been thrown out of gear so
extensively as in these two states, and in Rhode Island there was the
added disturbance due to a prolonged occupation by the enemy's troops.
Nowhere, perhaps, was there a larger proportion of the population in
debt, and in these preëminently commercial communities private debts
were a heavier burden and involved more personal suffering than in the
somewhat patriarchal system of life in Virginia or South Carolina. In
the time of which we are now treating, imprisonment for debt was common.
High-minded but unfortunate men were carried to jail, and herded with
thieves and ruffians in loathsome dungeons, for the crime of owing a
hundred dollars which they could not promptly pay. Under such
circumstances, a commercial disturbance, involving widespread debt,
entailed an amount of personal suffering and humiliation of which, in
these kinder days, we can form no adequate conception. It tended to make
the debtor an outlaw, ready to entertain schemes for the subversion of
society. In the crisis of 1786, the agitation in Rhode Island and
Massachusetts reached white heat, and things were done which alarmed the
whole country. But the course of events was different in the two states.
In Rhode Island the agitators obtained control of the government, and
the result was a paroxysm of tyranny. In Massachusetts the agitators
failed to secure control of the government, and the result was a
paroxysm of rebellion.

[Sidenote: Rag money victorious in Rhode Island; the "Know Ye"

The debates over paper money in the Rhode Island legislature began in
1785, but the advocates of a sound currency were victorious. These men
were roundly abused in the newspapers, and in the next spring election
most of them lost their seats. The legislature of 1786 showed an
overwhelming majority in favor of paper money. The farmers from the
inland towns were unanimous in supporting the measure. They could not
see the difference between the state making a dollar out of paper and a
dollar out of silver. The idea that the value did not lie in the
government stamp they dismissed as an idle crotchet, a wire-drawn
theory, worthy only of "literary fellows." What they could see was the
glaring fact that they had no money, hard or soft; and they wanted
something that would satisfy their creditors and buy new gowns for their
wives, whose raiment was unquestionably the worse for wear. On the other
hand, the merchants from seaports like Providence, Newport, and Bristol
understood the difference between real money and the promissory notes of
a bankrupt government, but they were in a hopeless minority. Half a
million dollars were issued in scrip, to be loaned to the farmers on a
mortgage of their real estate. No one could obtain the scrip without
giving a mortgage for twice the amount, and it was thought that this
security would make it as good as gold. But the depreciation began
instantly. When the worthy farmers went to the store for dry goods or
sugar, and found the prices rising with dreadful rapidity, they were at
first astonished, and then enraged. The trouble, as they truly said, was
with the wicked merchants, who would not take the paper dollars at their
face value. These men were thus thwarting the government, and must be
punished. An act was accordingly hurried through the legislature,
commanding every one to take paper as an equivalent for gold, under
penalty of five hundred dollars fine and loss of the right of suffrage.
The merchants in the cities thereupon shut up their shops. During the
summer of 1786 all business was at a standstill in Newport and
Providence, except in the bar-rooms. There and about the market-places
men spent their time angrily discussing politics, and scarcely a day
passed without street-fights, which at times grew into riots. In the
country, too, no less than in the cities, the goddess of discord
reigned. The farmers determined to starve the city people into
submission, and they entered into an agreement not to send any produce
into the cities until the merchants should open their shops and begin
selling their goods for paper at its face value. Not wishing to lose
their pigs and butter and grain, they tried to dispose of them in Boston
and New York, and in the coast towns of Connecticut. But in all these
places their proceedings had awakened such lively disgust that placards
were posted in the taverns warning purchasers against farm produce from
Rhode Island. Disappointed in these quarters, the farmers threw away
their milk, used their corn for fuel, and let their apples rot on the
ground, rather than supply the detested merchants. Food grew scarce in
Providence and Newport, and in the latter city a mob of sailors
attempted unsuccessfully to storm the provision stores. The farmers were
threatened with armed violence. Town-meetings were held all over the
state, to discuss the situation, and how long they might have talked to
no purpose none can say, when all at once the matter was brought into
court. A cabinet-maker in Newport named Trevett went into a meat-market
kept by one John Weeden, and selecting a joint of meat, offered paper in
payment. Weeden refused to take the paper except at a heavy discount.
Trevett went to bed supperless, and next morning informed against the
obstinate butcher for disobedience to the forcing act. Should the court
find him guilty, it would be a good speculation for Trevett, for half of
the five hundred dollars fine was to go to the informer. Hard-money men
feared lest the court might prove subservient to the legislature, since
that body possessed the power of removing the five judges. The case was
tried in September amid furious excitement. Huge crowds gathered about
the court-house and far down the street, screaming and cheering like a
crowd on the night of a presidential election. The judges were
clear-headed men, not to be browbeaten. They declared the forcing act
unconstitutional, and dismissed the complaint. Popular wrath then turned
upon them. A special session of the legislature was convened, four of
the judges were removed, and a new forcing-act was prepared. This act
provided that no man could vote at elections or hold any office without
taking a test oath promising to receive paper money at par. But this was
going too far. Many soft-money men were not wild enough to support such
a measure; among the farmers there were some who had grown tired of
seeing their produce spoiled on their hands; and many of the richest
merchants had announced their intention of moving out of the state. The
new forcing act accordingly failed to pass, and presently the old one
was repealed. The paper dollar had been issued in May; in November it
passed for sixteen cents.

These outrageous proceedings awakened disgust and alarm among sensible
people in all the other states, and Rhode Island was everywhere reviled
and made fun of. One clause of the forcing act had provided that if a
debtor should offer paper to his creditor and the creditor should refuse
to take it at par, the debtor might carry his rag money to court and
deposit it with the judge; and the judge must thereupon issue a
certificate discharging the debt. The form of certificate began with the
words "Know Ye," and forthwith the unhappy little state was nicknamed
Rogues' Island, the home of Know Ye men and Know Ye measures.

[Sidenote: Rag money defeated in Massachusetts; the Shays insurrection,
Aug. 1786-Feb. 1787.]

While the scorn of the people was thus poured out upon Rhode Island,
much sympathy was felt for the government of Massachusetts, which was
called upon thus early to put down armed rebellion. The pressure of debt
was keenly felt in the rural districts of Massachusetts. It is estimated
that the private debts in the state amounted to some $7,000,000, and the
state's arrears to the federal government amounted to some $7,000,000
more. Adding to these sums the arrears of bounties due to the soldiers,
and the annual cost of the state, county, and town governments, there
was reached an aggregate equivalent to a tax of more than $50 on every
man, woman, and child in this population of 379,000 souls. Upon every
head of a family the average burden was some $200 at a time when most
farmers would have thought such a sum yearly a princely income. In those
days of scarcity most of them did not set eyes on so much as $50 in the
course of a year, and happy was he who had tucked away two or three
golden guineas or moidores in an old stocking, and sewed up the treasure
in his straw mattress or hidden it behind the bricks of the
chimney-piece. Under such circumstances the payment of debts and taxes
was out of the question; and as the same state of things made creditors
clamorous and ugly, the courts were crowded with lawsuits. The lawyers
usually contrived to get their money by exacting retainers in advance,
and the practice of champerty was common, whereby the lawyer did his
work in consideration of a percentage on the sum which was at last
forcibly collected. Homesteads were sold for the payment of foreclosed
mortgages, cattle were seized in distrainer, and the farmer himself was
sent to jail. The smouldering fires of wrath thus kindled found
expression in curses aimed at lawyers, judges, and merchants. The wicked
merchants bought foreign goods and drained the state of specie to pay
for them, while they drank Madeira wine and dressed their wives in fine
velvets and laces. So said the farmers; and city ladies, far kinder than
these railers deemed them, formed clubs, of which the members pledged
themselves to wear homespun,--a poor palliative for the deep-seated ills
of the time. In such mood were many of the villagers when in the summer
of 1786 they were overtaken by the craze for paper money. At the meeting
of the legislature in May, a petition came in from Bristol County,
praying for an issue of paper. The petitioners admitted that such money
was sure to deteriorate in value, and they doubted the wisdom of trying
to keep it up by forcing acts. Instead of this they would have the rate
of its deterioration regulated by law, so that a dollar might be worth
ninety cents to-day, and presently seventy cents, and by and by fifty
cents, and so on till it should go down to zero and be thrown overboard.
People would thus know what to expect, and it would be all right. The
delicious _naïveté_ of this argument did not prevail with the
legislature of Massachusetts, and soft money was frowned down by a vote
of ninety-nine to nineteen. Then a bill was brought in seeking to
reëstablish in legislation the ancient practice of barter, and make
horses and cows legal tender for debts; and this bill was crushed by
eighty-nine votes against thirty-five. At the same time this legislature
passed a bill to strengthen the federal government by a grant of
supplementary funds to Congress, and thus laid a further burden of taxes
upon the people.

There was an outburst of popular wrath. A convention at Hatfield in
August decided that the court of common pleas ought to be abolished,
that no funds should be granted to Congress, and that paper money should
be issued at once. Another convention at Lenox denounced such incendiary
measures, approved of supporting the federal government, and declared
that no good could come from the issue of paper money. But meanwhile the
angry farmers had resorted to violence. The legislature, they said, had
its sittings in Boston, under the influence of wicked lawyers and
merchants, and thus could not be expected to do the will of the people.
A cry went up that henceforth the law-makers must sit in some small
inland town, where jealous eyes might watch their proceedings. Meanwhile
the lawyers must be dealt with; and at Northampton, Worcester, Great
Barrington, and Concord the courts were broken up by armed mobs. At
Concord one Job Shattuck brought several hundred armed men into the town
and surrounded the court-house, while in a fierce harangue he declared
that the time had come for wiping out all debts. "Yes," squeaked a nasal
voice from the crowd,--"yes, Job, we know all about them two farms you
can't never pay for!" But this repartee did not save the judges, who
thought it best to flee from the town. At first the legislature deemed
it wise to take a lenient view of these proceedings, and it even went so
far as to promise to hold its next session out of Boston. But the
agitation had reached a point where it could not be stayed. In September
the supreme court was to sit at Springfield, and Governor Bowdoin sent a
force of 600 militia under General Shepard to protect it. They were
confronted by some 600 insurgents, under the leadership of Daniel Shays.
This man had been a captain in the Continental army, and in his force
were many of the penniless veterans whom Gates would fain have incited
to rebellion at Newburgh. Shays seems to have done what he could to
restrain his men from violence, but he was a poor creature, wanting
alike in courage and good faith. On the other hand the militia were
lacking in spirit. After a disorderly parley, with much cursing and
swearing, they beat a retreat, and the court was prevented from sitting.
Fresh riots followed at Worcester and Concord. A regiment of cavalry,
sent out by the governor, scoured Middlesex County, and, after a short
fight in the woods near Groton, captured Job Shattuck and dispersed his
men. But this only exasperated the insurgents. They assembled in
Worcester to the number of 1,200 or more, where they lived for two
months at free quarters, while Shays organized and drilled them.

[Sidenote: The insurrection suppressed by state troops.]

Meanwhile the habeas corpus act was suspended for eight months, and
Governor Bowdoin called out an army of 4,400 men, who were placed under
command of General Lincoln. As the state treasury was nearly empty, some
wealthy gentlemen in Boston subscribed the money needed for equipping
these troops, and about the middle of January, 1787, they were collected
at Worcester. The rebels had behaved shamefully, burning barns and
seizing all the plunder they could lay hands on. As their numbers
increased they found their military stores inadequate, and accordingly
they marched upon Springfield, with the intent to capture the federal
arsenal there, and provide themselves with muskets and cannon. General
Shepard held Springfield with 1,200 men, and on the 25th of January
Shays attacked him with a force of somewhat more than 2,000, hoping to
crush him and seize the arsenal before Lincoln could come to the rescue.
But his plan of attack was faulty, and as soon as his men began falling
under Shepard's fire a panic seized them, and they retreated in disorder
to Ludlow, and then to Amherst, setting fire to houses and robbing the
inhabitants. On the approach of Lincoln's army, three days later, Shays
retreated to Pelham, and planted his forces on two steep hills protected
at the bottom by huge snowdrifts. Lincoln advanced to Hadley and sought
to open negotiations with the rebels. They were reminded that a contest
with the state government was hopeless, and that they had already
incurred the penalty of death; but if they would now lay down their arms
and go home, a free pardon could be obtained for them. Shays seemed
willing to yield, and Saturday, the 3d of February, was appointed for a
conference between some of the leading rebels and some of the officers.
But this was only a stratagem. During the conference Shays decamped and
marched his men through Prescott and North Dana to Petersham. Toward
nightfall the trick was discovered, and Lincoln set his whole force in
motion over the mountain ridges of Shutesbury and New Salem. The day had
been mild, but during the night the thermometer dropped below zero and
an icy, cutting snow began to fall. There was great suffering during the
last ten miles, and indeed the whole march of thirty miles in thirteen
hours over steep and snow-covered roads was a worthy exploit for these
veterans of the Revolution. Shays and his men had not looked for such a
display of energy, and as they were getting their breakfast on Sunday
morning at Petersham they were taken by surprise. A few minutes sufficed
to scatter them in flight. A hundred and fifty, including Shays himself,
were taken prisoners. The rest fled in all directions, most of them to
Athol and Northfield, whence they made their way into Vermont. General
Lincoln then marched his troops into the mountains of Berkshire, where
disturbances still continued. On the 26th of February one Captain
Hamlin, with several hundred insurgents, plundered the town of
Stockbridge and carried off the leading citizens as hostages. He was
pursued as far as Sheffield, defeated there in a sharp skirmish, with a
loss of some thirty in killed and wounded, and his troops scattered.
This put an end to the insurrection in Massachusetts.

[Sidenote: Conduct of neighbouring states.]

During the autumn similar disturbances had occurred in the states to the
northward. At Exeter in New Hampshire and at Windsor and Rutland in
Vermont the courts had been broken up by armed mobs, and at Rutland
there had been bloodshed. When the Shays rebellion was put down,
Governor Bowdoin requested the neighbouring states to lend their aid in
bringing the insurgents to justice, and all complied with the request
except Vermont and Rhode Island. The legislature of Rhode Island
sympathized with the rebels, and refused to allow the governor to issue
a warrant for their arrest. On the other hand, the governor of Vermont
issued a proclamation out of courtesy toward Massachusetts, but he
caused it to be understood that this was but an empty form, as the state
of Vermont could not afford to discourage immigration! A feeling of
compassion for the insurgents was widely spread in Massachusetts. In
March the leaders were tried, and fourteen were convicted of treason and
sentenced to death; but Governor Bowdoin, whose term was about to
expire, granted a reprieve for a few weeks. At the annual election in
April the candidates for the governorship were Bowdoin and Hancock, and
it was generally believed that the latter would be more likely than the
former to pardon the convicted men. So strong was this feeling that,
although much gratitude was felt toward Bowdoin, to whose energetic
measures the prompt suppression of the rebellion was due, Hancock
obtained a large majority. When the question of a pardon came up for
discussion, Samuel Adams, who was then president of the senate, was
strongly opposed to it, and one of his arguments was very
characteristic. "In monarchies," he said, "the crime of treason and
rebellion may admit of being pardoned or lightly punished; but the man
who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer
death." This was Adams's sensitive point. He wanted the whole world to
realize that the rule of a republic is a rule of law and order, and that
liberty does not mean license. But in spite of this view, for which
there was much to be said, the clemency of the American temperament
prevailed, and Governor Hancock pardoned all the prisoners.

Nothing in the history of these disturbances is more instructive than
the light incidentally thrown upon the relations between Congress and
the state government. Just before the news of the rout at Petersham,
Samuel Adams had proposed in the senate that the governor should be
requested to write to Congress and inform that body of what was going on
in Massachusetts, stating that "although the legislature are firmly
persuaded that ... in all probability they will be able speedily and
effectively to suppress the rebellion, yet, if any unforeseen event
should take place which may frustrate the measures of government, they
rely upon such support from the United States as is expressly and
solemnly stipulated by the articles of confederation." A resolution to
this effect was carried in the senate, but defeated in the house through
the influence of western county members in sympathy with the insurgents;
and incredible as it may seem, the argument was freely used that it was
incompatible with the dignity of Massachusetts to allow United States
troops to set foot upon her soil. When we reflect that the arsenal at
Springfield, where the most considerable disturbance occurred, was
itself federal property, the climax of absurdity might seem to have been

[Sidenote: Congress afraid to interfere.]

It was left for Congress itself, however, to cap that climax. The
progress of the insurrection in the autumn in Vermont, New Hampshire,
and Massachusetts, as well as the troubles in Rhode Island, had alarmed
the whole country. It was feared that the insurgents in these states
might join forces, and in some way kindle a flame that would run through
the land. Accordingly Congress in October called upon the states for a
continental force, but did not dare to declare openly what it was to be
used for. It was thought necessary to say that the troops were wanted
for an expedition against the northwestern Indians! National humiliation
could go no further than such a confession, on the part of our central
government, that it dared not use force in defence of those very
articles of confederation to which it owed its existence. Things had
come to such a pass that people of all shades of opinion were beginning
to agree upon one thing,--that something must be done, and done quickly.



[Sidenote: Creation of a national domain beyond the Alleghanies.]

While the events we have heretofore contemplated seemed to prophesy the
speedy dissolution and downfall of the half-formed American Union, a
series of causes, obscure enough at first, but emerging gradually into
distinctness and then into prominence, were preparing the way for the
foundation of a national sovereignty. The growth of this sovereignty
proceeded stealthily along such ancient lines of precedent as to take
ready hold of people's minds, although few, if any, understood the full
purport of what they were doing. Ever since the days when our English
forefathers dwelt in village communities in the forests of northern
Germany, the idea of a common land or folkland--a territory belonging to
the whole community, and upon which new communities might be organized
by a process analogous to what physiologists call
cell-multiplication--had been perfectly familiar to everybody. Townships
budded from village or parish folkland in Maryland and Massachusetts in
the seventeenth century, just as they had done in England before the
time of Alfred. The critical period of the Revolution witnessed the
repetition of this process on a gigantic scale. It witnessed the
creation of a national territory beyond the Alleghanies,--an enormous
folkland in which all the thirteen old states had a common interest, and
upon which new and derivative communities were already beginning to
organize themselves. Questions about public lands are often regarded as
the driest of historical deadwood. Discussions about them in newspapers
and magazines belong to the class of articles which the general reader
usually skips. Yet there is a great deal of the philosophy of history
wrapped up in this subject, and it now comes to confront us at a most
interesting moment; for without studying this creation of a national
domain between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi, we cannot understand
how our Federal Union came to be formed.

[Sidenote: Conflicting claims to the western territory.]

When England began to contend with France and Spain for the possession
of North America, she made royal grants of land upon this continent, in
royal ignorance of its extent and configuration. But until the Seven
Years' War the eastward and westward partitioning of these grants was of
little practical consequence; for English dominion was bounded by the
Alleghanies, and everything beyond was in the hands of the French. In
that most momentous war the genius of the elder Pitt won the region east
of the Mississippi for men of English race, while the vast territory of
Louisiana, beyond, passed under the control of Spain. During the
Revolutionary War, in a series of romantic expeditions, the state of
Virginia took military possession of a great part of the wilderness east
of the Mississippi, founding towns in the Ohio and Cumberland valleys,
and occupying with garrisons of her state militia the posts at Cahokia,
Kaskaskia, and Vincennes. We have seen how, through the skill of our
commissioners at Paris, this noble country was secured for the Americans
in the treaty of 1783, in spite of the reluctance of France and the
hostility of Spain. Throughout the Revolutionary War the Americans
claimed the territory as part of the United States; but when once it
passed from under the control of Great Britain, into whose hands did it
go? To whom did it belong? To this question there were various and
conflicting answers. North Carolina, indeed, had already taken
possession of what was afterward called Tennessee, and at the beginning
of the war Virginia had annexed Kentucky. As to these points there could
be little or no dispute. But with the territory north of the Ohio River
it was very different. Four states laid claim either to the whole or to
parts of this territory, and these claims were not simply conflicting,
but irreconcilable.

[Sidenote: Claims of Massachusetts and Connecticut.]

The charters of Massachusetts and Connecticut were framed at a time when
people had not got over the notion that this part of the continent was
not much wider than Mexico, and accordingly these colonies had received
the royal permission to extend from sea to sea. The existence of a
foreign colony of Dutchmen in the neighbourhood was a trifle about which
these documents did not trouble themselves; but when Charles II.
conquered this colony and bestowed it upon his brother, the province of
New York became a stubborn fact, which could not be disregarded.
Massachusetts and Connecticut peaceably settled their boundary line with
New York, and laid no claims to land within the limits of that state;
but they still continued to claim what lay beyond it, as far as the
Mississippi River, where the Spanish dominion now began. The regions
claimed by Massachusetts have since become the southern halves of the
states of Michigan and Wisconsin. The region claimed by Connecticut was
a narrow strip running over the northern portions of Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Indiana, and Illinois; and we have seen how much trouble was occasioned
in Pennsylvania by this circumstance.

[Sidenote: Claims of New York.]

But New York laughed to scorn these claims of Connecticut. In the
seventeenth century all the Algonquin tribes between Lake Erie and the
Cumberland Mountains had become tributary to the Iroquois; and during
the hundred years' struggle between France and England for the supremacy
of this continent the Iroquois had put themselves under the protection
of England, which thenceforth always treated them as an appurtenance to
New York. For a hundred years before the Revolution, said New York, she
had borne the expense of protecting the Iroquois against the French, and
by various treaties she had become lawful suzerain over the Six Nations
and their lands and the lands of their Algonquin vassals. On such
grounds New York claimed pretty much everything north of the Ohio and
east of the Miami.

[Sidenote: Virginia's claims.]

But according to Virginia, it made little difference what Massachusetts
and Connecticut and New York thought about the matter, for every acre
of land, from the Ohio River up to Lake Superior, belonged to her. Was
not she the lordly "Old Dominion," out of which every one of the states
had been carved? Even Cape Cod and Cape Ann were said to be in "North
Virginia," until, in 1614, Captain John Smith invented the name "New
England." It was a fair presumption that any uncarved territory belonged
to Virginia; and it was further held that the original charter of 1609
used language which implicitly covered the northwestern territory,
though, as Thomas Paine showed, in a pamphlet entitled "Public Good,"
this was very doubtful. But besides all this, it was Virginia that had
actually conquered the disputed territory, and held every military post
in it except those which the British had not surrendered; and who could
doubt that possession was nine points in the law?

[Sidenote: Maryland's novel and beneficent suggestion, Oct. 15, 1777.]

Of these conflicting claims, those of New York and Virginia were the
most grasping and the most formidable, because they concerned a region
into which immigration was beginning rapidly to pour. They were regarded
with strong disfavour by the small states, Rhode Island, New Jersey,
Delaware, and Maryland, which were so situated that they never could
expand in any direction. They looked forward with dread to a future in
which New York and Virginia might wax powerful enough to tyrannize over
their smaller neighbours. But of these protesting states it was only
Maryland that fairly rose to the occasion, and suggested an idea which
seemed startling at first, but from which mighty and unforeseen
consequences were soon to follow.[5] It was on the 15th of October,
1777, just two days before Burgoyne's surrender, that this path-breaking
idea first found expression in Congress. The articles of confederation
were then just about to be presented to the several states to be
ratified, and the question arose as to how the conflicting western
claims should be settled. A motion was then made that "the United States
in Congress assembled shall have the sole and exclusive right and power
to ascertain and fix the western boundary of such states as claim to the
Mississippi, ... and lay out the land beyond the boundary so ascertained
into separate and independent states, from time to time, as the numbers
and circumstances of the people may require." To carry out such a
motion, it would be necessary for the four claimant states to surrender
their claims into the hands of the United States, and thus create a
domain which should be owned by the confederacy in common. So bold a
step towards centralization found no favour at the time. No other state
but Maryland voted for it.

[Sidenote: The several states yield their claims in favour of the United
States, 1780-85.]

But Maryland's course was well considered: she pursued it resolutely,
and was rewarded with complete success. By February, 1779, all the other
states had ratified the articles of confederation. In the following May,
Maryland declared that she would not ratify the articles until she
should receive some definite assurance that the northwestern territory
should become the common property of the United States, "subject to be
parcelled out by Congress into free, convenient, and independent
governments." The question, thus boldly brought into the foreground, was
earnestly discussed in Congress and in the state legislatures, until in
February, 1780, partly through the influence of General Schuyler, New
York decided to cede all her claims to the western lands. This act of
New York set things in motion, so that in September Congress recommended
to all states having western claims to cede them to the United States.
In October, Congress, still pursuing the Maryland idea, went farther,
and declared that all such lands as might be ceded should be sold in
lots to immigrants and the money used for federal purposes, and that in
due season distinct states should be formed there, to be admitted into
the Union, with the same rights of sovereignty as the original thirteen
states. As an inducement to Virginia, it was further provided that any
state which had incurred expense during the war in defending its western
possessions should receive compensation. To this general invitation
Connecticut immediately responded by offering to cede everything to
which she laid claim, except 3,250,000 acres on the southern shore of
Lake Erie, which she wished to reserve for educational purposes.
Washington disapproved of this reservation, but it was accepted by
Congress, though the business was not completed until 1786. This part
of the state of Ohio is still commonly spoken of as the "Connecticut
Reserve." Half a million acres were given to citizens of Connecticut
whose property had been destroyed in the British raids upon her coast
towns, and the rest were sold, in 1795, for $1,200,000, in aid of
schools and colleges.

In January, 1781, Virginia offered to surrender all the territory
northwest of the Ohio, provided that Congress would guarantee her in the
possession of Kentucky. This gave rise to a discussion which lasted
nearly three years, until Virginia withdrew her proviso and made the
cession absolute. It was accepted by Congress on the 1st of March, 1784,
and on the 19th of April, in the following year,--the tenth anniversary
of Lexington,--Massachusetts surrendered her claims; and the whole
northwestern territory--the area of the great states of Michigan,
Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio (excepting the Connecticut
Reserve)--thus became the common property of the half-formed nation.
Maryland, however, did not wait for this. As soon as New York and
Virginia had become thoroughly committed to the movement, she ratified
the articles of confederation, which thus went into operation on the 1st
of March, 1781.

[Sidenote: Magnanimity of Virginia.]

This acquisition of a common territory speedily led to results not at
all contemplated in the theory of union upon which the articles of
confederation were based. It led to "the exercise of national
sovereignty in the sense of eminent domain," as shown in the ordinances
of 1784 and 1787, and prepared men's minds for the work of the Federal
Convention. Great credit is due to Maryland for her resolute course in
setting in motion this train of events. It aroused fierce indignation at
the time, as to many people it looked unfriendly to the Union. Some
hot-heads were even heard to say that if Maryland should persist any
longer in her refusal to join the confederation, she ought to be
summarily divided up between the neighbouring states, and her name
erased from the map. But the brave little state had earned a better fate
than that of Poland. When we have come to trace out the results of her
action, we shall see that just as it was Massachusetts that took the
decisive step in bringing on the Revolutionary War when she threw the
tea into Boston harbour, so it was Maryland that, by leading the way
toward the creation of a national domain, laid the corner-stone of our
Federal Union. Equal credit must be given to Virginia for her
magnanimity in making the desired surrender. It was New York, indeed,
that set the praiseworthy example; but New York, after all, surrendered
only a shadowy claim, whereas Virginia gave up a magnificent and
princely territory of which she was actually in possession. She might
have held back and made endless trouble, just as, at the beginning of
the Revolution, she might have refused to make common cause with
Massachusetts; but in both instances her leading statesmen showed a
far-sighted wisdom and a breadth of patriotism for which no words of
praise can be too strong. In the later instance, as in the earlier,
Thomas Jefferson played an important part. He, who in after years, as
president of the United States, was destined, by the purchase of
Louisiana, to carry our western frontier beyond the Rocky Mountains,
had, in 1779, done more than any one else to support the romantic
campaign in which General Clark had taken possession of the country
between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi. He had much to do with the
generous policy which gave up the greater part of that country for a
national domain, and on the very day on which the act of cession was
completed he presented to Congress a remarkable plan for the government
of the new territory, which was only partially successful because it
attempted too much, but the results of which were in many ways notable.

[Sidenote: Jefferson proposes a scheme of government for the
northwestern territory, 1784.]

In this plan, known as the Ordinance of 1784, Jefferson proposed to
divide the northwestern territory into ten states, or just twice as many
as have actually grown out of it. In each of these states the settlers
might establish a local government, under the authority of Congress; and
when in any one of them the population should come to equal that of the
least populous of the original states, it might be admitted into the
Union by the consent of nine states in Congress. The new states were to
have universal suffrage; they must have republican forms of government;
they must pay their shares of the federal debt; they must forever remain
a part of the United States; and after the year 1800 negro slavery must
be prohibited within their limits. The names of these ten states have
afforded much amusement to Jefferson's biographers. In those days the
schoolmaster was abroad in the land after a peculiar fashion. Just as we
are now in the full tide of that Gothic revival which goes back for its
beginnings to Sir Walter Scott; as we admire mediæval things, and try to
build our houses after old English models, and prefer words of what
people call "Saxon" origin, and name our children Roland and Herbert, or
Edith and Winifred, so our great-grandfathers lived in a time of
classical revival. They were always looking for precedents in Greek and
Roman history; they were just beginning to try to make their wooden
houses look like temples, with Doric columns; they preferred words of
Latin origin; they signed their pamphlets "Brutus" and "Lycurgus," and
in sober earnest baptized their children as Cæsar, or Marcellus, or
Darius. The map of the United States was just about to bloom forth with
towns named Ithaca and Syracuse, Corinth and Sparta; and on the Ohio
River, opposite the mouth of Licking Creek, a city had lately been
founded, the name of which was truly portentous. "Losantiville" was this
wonderful compound, in which the initial _L_ stood for "Licking," while
_os_ signified "mouth," _anti_ "opposite," and _ville_ "town;" and the
whole read backwards as "Town-opposite-mouth-of-Licking." In 1790
General St. Clair, then governor of the northwest territory, changed
this name to Cincinnati, in honor of the military order to which he
belonged. With such examples in mind, we may see that the names of the
proposed ten states, from which the failure of Jefferson's ordinance has
delivered us, illustrated the prevalent taste of the time rather than
any idiosyncrasy of the man. The proposed names were Sylvania,
Michigania, Chersonesus, Assenisipia, Metropotamia, Illinoia, Saratoga,
Washington, Polypotamia, and Pelisipia.

[Sidenote: He wishes to prohibit slavery in the national domain.]

It was not the nomenclature that stood in the way of Jefferson's scheme,
but the wholesale way in which he tried to deal with the slavery
question. He wished to hem in the probable extension of slavery by an
impassable barrier, and accordingly he not only provided that it should
be extinguished in the northwestern territory after the year 1800, but
at the same time his anti-slavery ardour led him to try to extend the
national dominion southward. He did his best to persuade the legislature
of Virginia to crown its work by giving up Kentucky to the United
States, and he urged that North Carolina and Georgia should also cede
their western territories. As for South Carolina, she was shut in
between the two neighbouring states in such wise that her western claims
were vague and barren. Jefferson would thus have drawn a north-and-south
line from Lake Erie down to the Spanish border of the Floridas, and west
of this line he would have had all negro slavery end with the eighteenth
century. The policy of restricting slavery, so as to let it die a
natural death within a narrowly confined area,--the policy to sustain
which Mr. Lincoln was elected president in 1860,--was thus first
definitely outlined by Jefferson in 1784. It was the policy of
forbidding slavery in the national territory. Had this policy succeeded
then, it would have been an ounce of prevention worth many a pound of
cure. But it failed because of its largeness, because it had too many
elements to deal with. For the moment, the proposal to exclude slavery
from the northwestern territory was defeated, because of the two thirds
vote required in Congress for any important measure. It got only seven
states in its favour, where it needed nine. This defeat, however, was
retrieved three years later, when the famous Ordinance of 1787
prohibited slavery forever from the national territory north of the Ohio
River. But Jefferson's scheme had not only to deal with the national
domain as it was, but also to extend that domain southward to Florida;
and in this it failed. Virginia could not be persuaded to give up
Kentucky until too late. When Kentucky came into the Union, after the
adoption of the Federal Constitution, she came as a sovereign state,
with all her domestic institutions in her own hands. With the western
districts of North Carolina the case was somewhat different, and the
story of this region throws a curious light upon the affairs of that
disorderly time.

[Sidenote: John Sevier, and the state of Franklin, 1784-87.]

In surrendering her western territory, North Carolina showed
praiseworthy generosity. But the frontier settlers were too numerous to
be handed about from one dominion to another, without saying something
about it themselves; and their action complicated the matter, until it
was too late for Jefferson's scheme to operate upon them. In June, 1784,
North Carolina ceded the region since known as Tennessee, and allowed
Congress two years in which to accept the grant. Meanwhile, her own
authority was to remain supreme there. But the settlers grumbled and
protested. Some of them were sturdy pioneers of the finest type, but
along with these there was a lawless population of "white trash,"
ancestors of the peculiar race of men we find to-day in rural districts
of Missouri and Arkansas. They were the refuse of North Carolina,
gradually pushed westward by the advance of an orderly civilization.
Crime was rife in the settlements, and, in the absence of courts, a
rough-and-ready justice was administered by vigilance committees. The
Cherokees, moreover, were troublesome neighbours, and people lived in
dread of their tomahawks. Petitions had again and again gone up to the
legislature, urging the establishment of courts and a militia, but had
passed unheeded, and now it seemed that the state had withdrawn her
protection entirely. The settlers did not wish to have their country
made a national domain. If their own state could not protect them, it
was quite clear to them that Congress could not. What was Congress, any
way, but a roomful of men whom nobody heeded? So these backwoodsmen held
a convention in a log-cabin at Jonesborough, and seceded from North
Carolina. They declared that the three counties between the Bald
Mountains and the Holston River constituted an independent state, to
which they gave the name of Franklin; and they went on to frame a
constitution and elect a legislature with two chambers. For governor
they chose John Sevier, one of the heroes of King's Mountain, a man of
Huguenot ancestry, and such dauntless nature that he was generally known
as the "lion of the border." Having done all this, the seceders, in
spite of their small respect for Congress, sent a delegate to that
body, requesting that the new state of Franklin might be admitted into
the Union. Before this business had been completed, North Carolina
repealed her act of cession, and warned the backwoodsmen to return to
their allegiance. This at once split the new state into two factions:
one party wished to keep on as they had now started, the other wished
for reunion with North Carolina. In 1786 the one party in each county
elected members to represent them in the North Carolina legislature,
while the other party elected members of the legislature of Franklin.
Everywhere two sets of officers claimed authority, civil dudgeon grew
very high, and pistols were freely used. The agitation extended into the
neighbouring counties of Virginia, where some discontented people wished
to secede and join the state of Franklin. For the next two years there
was something very like civil war, until the North Carolina party grew
so strong that Sevier fled, and the state of Franklin ceased to exist.
Sevier was arrested on a warrant for high treason, but he effected an
escape, and after men's passions had cooled down his great services and
strong character brought him again to the front. He sat in the senate of
North Carolina, and in 1796, when Tennessee became a state in the Union,
Sevier was her first governor.

These troubles show how impracticable was the attempt to create a
national domain in any part of the country which contained a
considerable population. The instinct of self-government was too strong
to allow it. Any such population would have refused to submit to
ordinances of Congress. To obey the parent state or to set up for one's
self,--these were the only alternatives which ordinary men at that time
could understand. Experience had not yet ripened their minds for
comprehending a temporary condition of semi-independence, such as exists
to-day under our territorial governments. The behaviour of these
Tennessee backwoodsmen was just what might have been expected. The land
on which they were living was not common land: it had been appropriated;
it belonged to them, and it was for them to make laws for it. Such is
the lesson of the short-lived state of Franklin. It was because she
perceived that similar feelings were at work in Kentucky that Virginia
did not venture to loosen her grasp upon that state until it was fully
organized and ready for admission into the Union. It was in no such
partly settled country that Congress could do such a thing as carve out
boundaries and prohibit slavery by an act of national sovereignty. There
remained the magnificent territory north of the Ohio,--an empire in
itself, as large as the German Empire, with the Netherlands thrown
in,--in which the collective wisdom of the American people, as
represented in Congress, might autocratically shape the future; for it
was still a wilderness, watched by frontier garrisons, and save for the
Indians and the trappers and a few sleepy old French towns on the
eastern bank of the Mississippi, there were no signs of human life in
all its vast solitude. Here, where there was nobody to grumble or
secede, Congress, in 1787, proceeded to carry out the work which
Jefferson had outlined three years before.

[Sidenote: Origin of the Ohio company.]

It is interesting to trace the immediate origin of the famous Ordinance
of 1787. At the close of the war General Rufus Putnam, from the mountain
village of Rutland in Massachusetts, sent to Congress an outline of a
plan for colonizing the region between Lake Erie and the Ohio with
veterans of the army, who were well fitted to protect the border against
Indian attacks. The land was to be laid out in townships six miles
square, "with large reservations for the ministry and schools;" and by
selling it to the soldiers at a merely nominal price, the penniless
Congress might obtain an income, and at the same time recognize their
services in the only substantial way that seemed practicable. Washington
strongly favoured the scheme, but, in order to carry it out, it was
necessary to wait until the cession of the territory by the various
claimant states should be completed. After this had been done, a series
of treaties were made with the Six Nations, as overlords, and their
vassal tribes, the Wyandots, Chippewas, Ottawas, Delawares, and
Shawnees, whereby all Indian claims to the lands in question were
forever renounced. The matter was then formally taken up by Holden
Parsons of Connecticut, and Rufus Putnam, Manasseh Cutler, Winthrop
Sargent, and others, of Massachusetts, and a joint-stock company was
formed for the purchase of lands on the Ohio River. A large number of
settlers--old soldiers of excellent character, whom the war had
impoverished--were ready to go and take possession at once; and in its
petition the Ohio company asked for nothing better than that its
settlers should be "under the immediate government of Congress in such
mode and for such time as Congress shall judge proper." Such a proposal,
affording a means at once of replenishing the treasury and satisfying
the soldiers, could not but be accepted; and thus were laid the
foundations of a state destined within a century to equal in population
and far surpass in wealth the whole Union as it was at that time. It
became necessary at once to lay down certain general principles of
government applicable to the northwestern territory; and the result was
the Ordinance of 1787, which was chiefly the work of Edward Carrington
and Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, and Nathan Dane of Massachusetts, in
committee, following the outlines of a draft which is supposed to have
been made by Manasseh Cutler. Jefferson was no longer on the ground,
having gone on his mission to Paris, but some of the principles of his
proposed Ordinance of 1784 were adopted.

[Sidenote: The Ordinance of 1787.]

It was provided that the northwestern territory should ultimately be
carved into states, not exceeding five in number, and any one of these
might be admitted into the Union as soon as its population should reach
60,000. In the mean time, the whole territory was to be governed by
officers appointed by Congress, and required to take an oath of
allegiance to the United States. Under this government there was to be
unqualified freedom of religious worship, and no religious tests should
be required of any public official. Intestate property should descend in
equal shares to children of both sexes. Public schools were to be
established. Suffrage was not yet made universal, as a freehold in
fifty acres was required. No law was ever to be made which should impair
the obligation of contracts, and it was thoroughly agreed that this
provision especially covered and prohibited the issue of paper money.
The future states to be formed from this territory must make their laws
conform to these fundamental principles, and under no circumstances
could any one of them ever be separated from the Union. In such wise,
the theory of peaceful secession was condemned in advance, so far as it
was possible for the federal government to do so. Jefferson's principle,
that slavery should not be permitted in the national domain, was also
adopted so far as the northwest was concerned; and it is interesting to
observe the names of the states which were present in Congress when this
clause was added to the ordinance. They were Georgia, the two Carolinas,
Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts; and the
vote was unanimous. No one was more active in bringing about this result
than William Grayson of Virginia, who was earnestly supported by Lee.
The action of Virginia and North Carolina at that time need not surprise
us. But the movements in favour of emancipation in these two states, and
the emancipation actually effected or going on at the north, had already
made Georgia and South Carolina extremely sensitive about slavery; and
their action on this occasion can be explained only by supposing that
they were willing to yield a point in this remote territory, in order by
and by to be able to insist upon an equivalent in the case of the
territory lying west of Georgia. Nor would they have yielded at all had
not a fugitive slave law been enacted, providing that slaves escaping
beyond the Ohio should be arrested and returned to their owners. These
arrangements having been made, General St. Clair was appointed governor
of the territory; surveys were made; land was put up for sale at sixty
cents per acre, payable in certificates of the public debt; and settlers
rapidly came in. The westward exodus from New England and Pennsylvania
now began, and only fourteen years elapsed before Ohio, the first of the
five states, was admitted into the Union.

[Sidenote: Theory of folkland upon which the ordinance was based.]

"I doubt," says Daniel Webster, "whether one single law of any
law-giver, ancient or modern, has produced effects of more distinct,
marked, and lasting character than the Ordinance of 1787." Nothing could
have been more emphatically an exercise of national sovereignty; yet, as
Madison said, while warmly commending the act, Congress did it "without
the least colour of constitutional authority." The ordinance was never
submitted to the states for ratification. The articles of confederation
had never contemplated an occasion for such a peculiar assertion of
sovereignty. "A great and independent fund of revenue," said Madison,
"is passing into the hands of a single body of men, who can raise troops
to an indefinite number, and appropriate money to their support for an
indefinite period of time.... Yet no blame has been whispered, no alarm
has been sounded," even by men most zealous for state rights and most
suspicious of Congress. Within a few months this argument was to be
cited with telling effect against those who hesitated to accept the
Federal Constitution because of the great powers which it conferred upon
the general government. Unless you give a government specific powers,
commensurate with its objects, it is liable on occasions of public
necessity to exercise powers which have not been granted. Avoid the
dreadful dilemma between dissolution and usurpation, urged Madison, by
clothing the government with powers that are ample but clearly defined.
In a certain sense, the action of Congress in 1787 was a usurpation of
authority to meet an emergency which no one had foreseen, as in the
cases of Jefferson's purchase of Louisiana and Lincoln's emancipation of
the slaves. Each of these instances marked, in one way or another, a
brilliant epoch in American history, and in each case the public
interest was so unmistakable that the people consented and applauded.
The theory upon which the Ordinance of 1787 was based was one which
nobody could fail to understand, though perhaps no one would then have
known just how to put it into words. It was simply the thirteen states,
through their delegates in Congress, dealing with the unoccupied
national domain as if it were the common land or folkland of a
stupendous township.

[Sidenote: Spain, hearing of the secret article in the treaty of 1783,
loses her temper and threatens to shut up the Mississippi River.]

The vast importance of the lands between the Alleghanies and the
Mississippi was becoming more apparent every year, as the westward
movement of population went on. But at this time their value was much
more clearly seen by the southern than by the northern states. In the
north the westward emigration was only just beginning to pass the
Alleghanies; in the south, as we have seen, it had gone beyond them
several years ago. The southern states, accordingly, took a much sounder
view than the northern states of the importance to the Union of the free
navigation of the Mississippi River. The difference was forcibly
illustrated in the dispute with Spain, which came to a crisis in the
summer of 1786. It will be remembered that by the treaties which closed
the Revolutionary War the provinces of East and West Florida were ceded
by England to Spain. West Florida was the region lying between the
Appalachicola and the Mississippi rivers, including the southernmost
portions of the present states of Alabama and Mississippi. By the treaty
between Great Britain and the United States, the northern boundary of
this province was described by the thirty-first parallel of latitude;
but Spain denied the right of these powers to place the boundary so low.
Her troops still held Natchez, and she maintained that the boundary must
be placed a hundred miles farther north, starting from the Mississippi
at the mouth of the Yazoo River, near the present site of Vicksburg. Now
the treaty between Great Britain and the United States contained a
secret article, wherein it was provided that if England could contrive
to keep West Florida, instead of surrendering it to Spain, then the
boundary should start at the Yazoo. This showed that both England and
the United States were willing to yield the one to the other a strip of
territory which both agreed in withholding from Spain. Presently the
Spanish court got hold of the secret article, and there was great
indignation. Here was England giving to the Americans a piece of land
which she knew, and the Americans knew, was recently a part of West
Florida, and therefore belonged to Spain! Castilian grandees went to bed
and dreamed of invincible armadas. Congress was promptly informed that,
until this affair should be set right, the Americans need not expect the
Spanish government to make any treaty of commerce with them; and
furthermore, let no American sloop or barge dare to show itself on the
Mississippi below the Yazoo, under penalty of confiscation. When these
threats were heard in America, there was great excitement everywhere,
but it assumed opposite phases in the north and in the south. The
merchants of New York and Boston cared little more about the Mississippi
River than about Timbuctoo, but they were extremely anxious to see a
commercial treaty concluded with Spain. On the other hand, the
backwoodsmen of Kentucky and the state of Franklin cared nothing for the
trade on the ocean, but they would not sit still while their corn and
their pork were confiscated on the way to New Orleans. The people of
Virginia sympathized with the backwoodsmen, but her great statesmen
realized the importance of both interests and the danger of a conflict
between them.

[Sidenote: Gardoqui and Jay.]

[Sidenote: Threats of secession in Kentucky and in New England, 1786.]

The Spanish envoy, Gardoqui, arrived in the summer of 1784, and had many
interviews with Jay, who was then secretary for foreign affairs.
Gardoqui set forth that his royal master was graciously pleased to deal
leniently with the Americans, and would confer one favour upon them, but
could not confer two. He was ready to enter into a treaty of commerce
with us, but not until we should have renounced all claim to the
navigation of the Mississippi River below the Yazoo. Here the Spaniard
was inexorable. A year of weary argument passed by, and he had not
budged an inch. At last, in despair, Jay advised Congress, for the sake
of the commercial treaty, to consent to the closing of the Mississippi,
but only for twenty-five years. As the rumour of this went abroad among
the settlements south of the Ohio, there was an outburst of wrath, to
which an incident that now occurred gave added virulence. A North
Carolinian trader, named Amis, sailed down the Mississippi with a cargo
of pots and kettles and barrels of flour. At Natchez his boat and his
goods were seized by the Spanish officers, and he was left to make his
way home afoot through several hundred miles of wilderness. The story of
his wrongs flew from one log-cabin to another, until it reached the
distant northwestern territory. In the neighbourhood of Vincennes there
were Spanish traders, and one of them kept a shop in the town. The shop
was sacked by a band of American soldiers, and an attempt was made to
incite the Indians to attack the Spaniards. Indignation meetings were
held in Kentucky. The people threatened to send a force of militia down
the river and capture Natchez and New Orleans; and a more dangerous
threat was made. Should the northeastern states desert them and adopt
Jay's suggestion, they vowed they would secede, and throw themselves
upon Great Britain for protection. On the other hand, there was great
agitation in the seaboard towns of Massachusetts. They were disgusted
with the backwoodsmen for making such a fuss about nothing, and with the
people of the southern states for aiding and abetting them; and during
this turbulent summer of 1786, many persons were heard to declare that,
in case Jay's suggestion should not be adopted, it would be high time
for the New England states to secede from the Union, and form a
confederation by themselves. The situation was dangerous in the extreme.
Had the question been forced to an issue, the southern states would
never have seen their western territories go and offer themselves to
Great Britain. Sooner than that, they would have broken away from the
northern states. But New Jersey and Pennsylvania now came over to the
southern side, and Rhode Island, moving in her eccentric orbit,
presently joined them; and thus the treaty was postponed for the
present, and the danger averted.

[Sidenote: Washington's views on the importance of canals between east
and west.]

[Sidenote: His far-sighted genius and self-devotion.]

This lamentable dispute was watched by Washington with feelings of
gravest concern. From an early age he had indulged in prophetic dreams
of the grandeur of the coming civilization in America, and had looked to
the country beyond the mountains as the field in which the next
generation was to find room for expansion. Few had been more efficient
than he in aiding the great scheme of Pitt for overthrowing the French
power in America, and he understood better than most men of his time how
much that scheme implied. In his early journeys in the wilderness he had
given especial attention to the possibilities of water connection
between the east and west, and he had bought for himself and surveyed
many extensive tracts of land beyond the mountains. The subject was a
favourite one with him, and he looked at it from both a commercial and a
political point of view. What we most needed, he said in 1770, were easy
transit lines between east and west, as "the channel of conveyance of
the extensive and valuable trade of a rising empire." Just before
resigning his commission in 1783 Washington had explored the route
through the Mohawk Valley, afterward taken first by the Erie Canal, and
then by the New York Central Railroad, and had prophesied its commercial
importance in the present century. Soon after reaching his home at Mount
Vernon, he turned his attention to the improvement of intercourse with
the west through the valley of the Potomac. The east and west, he said,
must be cemented together by interests in common; otherwise they will
break asunder. Without commercial intercourse they will cease to
understand each other, and will thus be ripe for disagreement. It is
easy for mental habits, as well as merchandise, to glide down stream,
and the connections of the settlers beyond the mountains all centre in
New Orleans, which is in the hands of a foreign and hostile power. No
one can tell what complications may arise from this, argued Washington;
"let us bind these people to us by a chain that can never be broken;"
and with characteristic energy he set to work at once to establish that
line of communication that has since grown into the Chesapeake and Ohio
Canal, and into the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. During the three years
preceding the meeting of the Federal Convention he was largely occupied
with this work. In 1785 he became president of a company for extending
the navigation of the Potomac and James rivers, and the legislature of
Virginia passed an act vesting him with one hundred and fifty shares in
the stock of the company, in order to testify their "sense of his
unexampled merits." But Washington refused the testimonial, and declined
to take any pay for his services, because he wished to arouse the people
to the political importance of the undertaking, and felt that his words
would have more weight if he were known to have no selfish interest in
it. His sole purpose, as he repeatedly said, was to strengthen the
spirit of union by cementing the eastern and western regions together.
At this time he could ill afford to give his services without pay, for
his long absence in war-time had sadly impaired his estate. But such was

[Sidenote: Maryland confers with Virginia regarding the navigation of
the Potomac, 1785.]

In order to carry out the enterprise of extending the navigation of the
Potomac, it became necessary for the two states Virginia and Maryland to
act in concert; and early in 1785 a joint commission of the two states
met for consultation at Washington's house at Mount Vernon. A compact
insuring harmonious coöperation was prepared by the commissioners; and
then, as Washington's scheme involved the connection of the head waters
of the Potomac with those of the Ohio, it was found necessary to invite
Pennsylvania to become a party to the compact. Then Washington took the
occasion to suggest that Maryland and Virginia, while they were about
it, should agree upon a uniform system of duties and other commercial
regulations, and upon a uniform currency; and these suggestions were
sent, together with the compact, to the legislatures of the two states.
Great things were destined to come from these modest beginnings. Just as
in the Yorktown campaign, there had come into existence a multifarious
assemblage of events, apparently unconnected with one another, and all
that was needed was the impulse given by Washington's far-sighted genius
to set them all at work, surging, swelling, and hurrying straight
forward to a decisive result.

[Sidenote: Madison's motion; a step in advance, 1785.]

Late in 1785, when the Virginia legislature had wrangled itself into
imbecility over the question of clothing Congress with power over trade,
Madison hit upon an expedient. He prepared a motion to the effect that
commissioners from all the states should hold a meeting, and discuss the
best method of securing a uniform treatment of commercial questions; but
as he was most conspicuous among the advocates of a more perfect union,
he was careful not to present the motion himself. Keeping in the
background, he persuaded another member--John Tyler, father of the
president of that name, a fierce zealot for state rights--to make the
motion. The plan, however, was "so little acceptable that it was not
then persisted in," and the motion was laid on the table. But Madison
knew what was coming from Maryland, and bided his time. After some weeks
it was announced that Maryland had adopted the compact made at Mount
Vernon concerning jurisdiction over the Potomac. Virginia instantly
replied by adopting it also. Then it was suggested, in the report from
Maryland, that Delaware, as well as Pennsylvania, ought to be consulted,
since the scheme should rightly include a canal between the Delaware
River and the Chesapeake Bay. And why not also consult with these states
about a uniform system of duties? If two states can agree upon these
matters, why not four? And still further, said the Maryland
message,--dropping the weightiest part of the proposal into a
subordinate clause, just as women are said to put the quintessence of
their letters into the postscript,--might it not be well enough, if we
are going to have such a conference, to invite commissioners from all
the thirteen states to attend it? An informal discussion can hurt
nobody. The conference of itself can settle nothing; and if four states
can take part in it, why not thirteen? Here was the golden opportunity.
The Madison-Tyler motion was taken up from the table and carried.
Commissioners from all the states were invited to meet on the first
Monday of September, 1786, at Annapolis,--a safe place, far removed from
the influence of that dread tyrant, the Congress, and from wicked
centres of trade, such as New York and Boston. It was the governor of
Virginia who sent the invitations. It may not amount to much, wrote
Madison to Monroe, but "the expedient is better than nothing; and, as
the recommendation of additional powers to Congress is within the
purview of the commission, it may possibly lead to better consequences
than at first occur."

[Sidenote: Convention at Annapolis, Sept. 11, 1786.]

[Sidenote: Hamilton's address; a further step in advance.]

The seed dropped by Washington had fallen on fruitful soil. At first it
was to be just a little meeting of two or three states to talk about the
Potomac River and some projected canals, and already it had come to be a
meeting of all the states to discuss some uniform system of legislation
on the subject of trade. This looked like progress, yet when the
convention was gathered at Annapolis, on the 11th of September, the
outlook was most discouraging. Commissioners were there from Virginia,
Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Massachusetts and New
Hampshire, Rhode Island and North Carolina, had duly appointed
commissioners, but they were not there. It is curious to observe that
Maryland, which had been so earnest in the matter, had nevertheless now
neglected to appoint commissioners; and no action had been taken by
Georgia, South Carolina, or Connecticut. With only five states
represented, the commissioners did not think it worth while to go on
with their work. But before adjourning they adopted an address, written
by Alexander Hamilton, and sent it to all the states. All the
commissioners present had been empowered to consider how far a uniform
commercial system might be essential to the permanent harmony of the
states. But New Jersey had taken a step in advance, and instructed her
delegates "to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial
regulations _and other important matters_ might be necessary to the
common interest and permanent harmony of the several states." _And other
important matters_,--thus again was the weightiest part of the business
relegated to a subordinate clause. So gingerly was the great
question--so dreaded, yet so inevitable--approached! This reference to
"other matters" was pronounced by the commissioners to be a vast
improvement on the original plan; and Hamilton's address now urged that
commissioners be appointed by all the states, to meet in convention at
Philadelphia on the second Monday of the following May, "to devise such
further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the
constitution of the federal government adequate to the exigencies of the
Union, and to report to Congress such an act as, when agreed to by them,
and confirmed by the legislatures of every state, would effectually
provide for the same." The report of the commissioners was brought
before Congress in October, in the hope that Congress would earnestly
recommend to the several states the course of action therein suggested.
But Nathan Dane and Rufus King of Massachusetts, intent upon
technicalities, succeeded in preventing this. According to King, a
convention was an irregular body, which had no right to propose changes
in the organic law of the land, and the state legislatures could not
properly confirm the acts of such a body, or take notice of them.
Congress was the only source from which such proposals could properly
emanate. These arguments were pleasing to the self-love of Congress, and
it refused to sanction the plan of the Annapolis commissioners.

[Sidenote: New York defeats the impost amendment.]

In an ordinary season this would perhaps have ended the matter, but the
winter of 1786-87 was not an ordinary season. All the troubles above
described seemed to culminate just at this moment. The paper-money craze
in so many of the states, the shameful deeds of Rhode Island, the riots
in Vermont and New Hampshire, the Shays rebellion in Massachusetts, the
dispute with Spain, and the consequent imminent danger of separation
between north and south had all come together; and the feeling of
thoughtful men and women throughout the country was one of real
consternation. The last ounce was now to be put upon the camel's back in
the failure of the impost amendment. In 1783, when the cessions of
western lands were creating a national domain, a promising plan had been
devised for relieving the country of its load of debt, and furnishing
Congress with money for its current expenses. All the money coming from
sales of the western folkland was to be applied to reducing and wiping
out the principal of the public debt. Then the interest of this debt
must be provided for; and to that end Congress had recommended an
impost, or system of custom-house duties, upon liquors, sugars, teas,
coffees, cocoa, molasses, and pepper. This impost was to be kept up for
twenty-five years only, and the collectors were to be appointed by the
several states, each for its own ports. Then for the current expenses of
the government, supplementary funds were needed; and these were to be
assessed upon the several states, each of which might raise its quota as
it saw fit. Such was the original plan; but it soon turned out that the
only available source of revenue was the national domain, which had thus
been nothing less than the principal thread which had held the Union
together. As for the impost, it had never been possible to get a
sufficient number of states to agree upon it, and of the quotas for
current expenses, as we have seen, very little had found its way to the
federal treasury. Under these difficulties, it had been proposed that an
amendment to the articles of confederation should endow Congress with
the power of levying customs-duties and appointing the collectors; and
by the summer of 1786, after endless wrangling, twelve states had
consented to the amendment. But, in order that an amendment should be
adopted, unanimous consent was necessary. The one delinquent state,
which thus blocked the wheels of the confederacy, was New York. She had
her little system of duties all nicely arranged for what seemed to be
her own interests, and she would not surrender this system to Congress.
Upon the neighbouring states her tariff system bore hard, and especially
upon New Jersey. In 1786 this little state flatly refused to pay her
quota until New York should stop discriminating against her trade.
Nothing which occurred in that troubled year caused more alarm than
this, for it could not be denied that such a declaration seemed little
less than an act of secession on the part of New Jersey. The arguments
of a congressional committee at last prevailed upon the state to rescind
her declaration. At the same time there came the final struggle in New
York over the impost amendment, against which Governor Clinton had
firmly set his face. There was a fierce fight, in which Hamilton's most
strenuous efforts succeeded in carrying the amendment in part, but not
until it had been clogged with a condition that made it useless.
Congress, it was declared, might have the revenue, but New York must
appoint the collectors; she was not going to have federal officials
rummaging about her docks. The legislature well knew that to grant the
amendment in such wise was not to grant it at all, but simply to reopen
the whole question. Such was the result. Congress expostulated in vain.
On the 15th of February, 1787, the matter was reconsidered in the New
York legislature, and the impost amendment was defeated.

[Sidenote: Sudden changes in popular sentiment.]

Thus, only three months before the Federal Convention was to meet, if
indeed it was ever to meet, Congress was decisively informed that it
would not be allowed to take any effectual measures for raising a
revenue. There now seemed nothing left for Congress to do but adopt the
recommendation of the Annapolis commissioners, and give its sanction to
the proposed convention. Madison, however, had not waited for this, but
had prevailed upon the Virginia legislature to go on and appoint its
delegates to the convention. The events of the year had worked a change
in the popular sentiment in Virginia; people were more afraid of
anarchy, and not quite so much afraid of centralization; and now, under
Madison's lead, Virginia played her trump card and chose George
Washington as one of her delegates. As soon as this was known, there was
an outburst of joy throughout the land. All at once the people began
everywhere to feel an interest in the proposed convention, and presently
Massachusetts changed her attitude. Up to this time Massachusetts had
been as obstinate in her assertion of local independence, and as
unwilling to strengthen the hands of Congress, as any of the thirteen
states, except New York and Rhode Island. But the Shays rebellion had
served as a useful object-lesson. Part of the distress in Massachusetts
could be traced to the inability of Congress to pay debts which it owed
to her citizens. It was felt that the time had come when the question of
a national revenue must be seriously considered. Every week saw fresh
converts to the party which called for a stronger government. Then came
the news that Virginia had chosen delegates, and that Washington was one
of them; then that New Jersey had followed the example; then that
Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Delaware, had chosen delegates. It was
time for Massachusetts to act, and Rufus King now brought the matter up
in Congress. His scruples as to the legality of the proceeding had not
changed, and accordingly he moved that Congress should of itself propose
a convention at Philadelphia, identical with the one which the Annapolis
commissioners had already recommended. The motion was carried, and in
this way Congress formally approved and adopted what was going on.
Massachusetts immediately chose delegates, and was followed by New York.
In April, Georgia and South Carolina followed suit. Connecticut and
Maryland came on in May, and New Hampshire, somewhat tardily, in June.
Of the thirteen states, Rhode Island alone refused to take any part in
the proceedings.

[Sidenote: The Federal Convention meets at Philadelphia, May 14-25,

The convention held its meetings in that plain brick building in
Philadelphia already immortalized as the place from which the
Declaration of Independence was published to the world. The work which
these men were undertaking was to determine whether that Declaration had
been for the blessing or the injury of America and of mankind. That they
had succeeded in assembling here at all was somewhat remarkable, when we
think of the curious medley of incidents that led to it. At no time in
this distressed period would a frank and abrupt proposal for a
convention to remodel the government have found favour. Such proposals,
indeed, had been made, beginning with that of Pelatiah Webster in 1781,
and they had all failed to break through the crust of a truly English
conservatism and dread of centralized power. Now, through what some
might have called a strange chapter of accidents, before the element of
causal sequence in it all had become so manifest as it is to us to-day,
this remarkable group of men had been brought together in a single room,
while even yet but few of them realized how thoroughly and exhaustively
reconstructive their work was to be. To most of them it was not clear
whether they were going merely to patch up the articles of
confederation, or to strike out into a new and very different path.
There were a few who entertained far-reaching purposes; the rest were
intelligent critics rather than constructive thinkers; the result was
surprising to all. It is worth our while to pause for a moment, and
observe the character and composition of one of the most memorable
assemblies the world has ever seen. Mr. Gladstone says that just "as the
British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded
from progressive history, so the American Constitution is the most
wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose
of man."[6] Let us now see who the men were who did this wonderful
work,--this Iliad, or Parthenon, or Fifth Symphony, of statesmanship. We
shall not find that they were all great geniuses. Such is never the case
in such an assembly. There are not enough great geniuses to go around;
and if there were, it is questionable if the result would be
satisfactory. In such discussions the points which impress the more
ordinary and less far-sighted members are sure to have great value;
especially when we bear in mind that the object of such an assembly is
not merely to elaborate a plan, but to get the great mass of people,
including the brick-layers and hod-carriers, to understand it well
enough to vote for it. An ideally perfect assembly of law-makers will
therefore contain two or three men of original constructive genius, two
or three leading spirits eminent for shrewdness and tact, a dozen or
more excellent critics representing various conflicting interests, and a
rank and file of thoroughly respectable, commonplace men, unfitted for
shining in the work of the meeting, but admirably competent to proclaim
its results and get their friends and neighbours to adopt them. And in
such an assembly, even if it be such as we call ideally perfect, we must
allow something for the presence of a few hot-headed and irreconcilable
members,--men of inflexible mind, who cannot adapt themselves to
circumstances, and will refuse to play when they see the game going
against them.

[Sidenote: The men who were assembled.]

All these points are well illustrated in the assemblage of men that
framed our Federal Constitution. In its composition, this group of men
left nothing to be desired. In its strength and in its weakness, it was
an ideally perfect assembly. There were fifty-five men, all of them
respectable for family and for personal qualities,--men who had been
well educated, and had done something whereby to earn recognition in
these troubled times. Twenty-nine were university men, graduates of
Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, William and Mary, Oxford, Glasgow,
and Edinburgh. Twenty-six were not university men, and among these were
Washington and Franklin. Of the illustrious citizens who, for their
public services, would naturally have been here, John Adams and Thomas
Jefferson were in Europe; Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry
Lee disapproved of the convention, and remained at home; and the
greatest man of Rhode Island, Nathanael Greene, who--one likes to
think--might have succeeded in bringing his state into the convention,
had lately died of a sun-stroke, at the early age of forty-four.

[Sidenote: James Madison.]

Of the two most famous men present little need be said. The names of
Washington and Franklin stood for supreme intelligence and consummate
tact. Franklin had returned to this country two years before, and was
now president of Pennsylvania. He was eighty-one years of age, the
oldest man in the convention, as Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey, aged
twenty-six, was the youngest. The two most profound and original
thinkers in the company were but little older than Dayton. Alexander
Hamilton was thirty, James Madison thirty-six. Among political writers,
these two men must be ranked in the same order with Aristotle,
Montesquieu, and Locke; and the "Federalist," their joint production, is
the greatest treatise on government that has ever been written. John
Jay, who contributed a few pages to this immortal volume, had not been
sent to the convention, because New York did not wish to have it
succeed. Along with Hamilton, New York sent two commonplace men, Robert
Yates and John Lansing, who were extreme and obstinate Antifederalists;
and the action of Hamilton, who was thus prevented from carrying the
vote of his own state for any measure which he might propose, was in
this way sadly embarrassed. For another reason, Hamilton failed to
exert as much influence in the convention as one would have expected
from his profound thought and his brilliant eloquence. Scarcely any of
these men entertained what we should now call extreme democratic views.
Scarcely any, perhaps, had that intense faith in the ultimate good sense
of the people which was the most powerful characteristic of Jefferson.
But Hamilton went to the other extreme, and expressed his distrust of
popular government too plainly. His views were too aristocratic and his
preference for centralization was too pronounced to carry conviction to
his hearers. The leading part in the convention fell, therefore, to
James Madison, a young man somewhat less brilliant than Hamilton, but
superior to him in sobriety and balance of powers. Madison used to be
called the "Father of the Constitution," and it is true that the
government under which we live is more his work than that of any other
one man. From early youth his life had been devoted to the study of
history and the practice of statesmanship. He was a graduate of
Princeton College, an earnest student, familiar with all the best
literature of political science from Aristotle down to his own time, and
he had given especial attention to the history of federal government in
ancient Greece, and in Switzerland and Holland. At the age of
twenty-five he had taken part in the Virginia convention which
instructed the delegates from that state in Congress to bring forward
the Declaration of Independence. During the last part of the war he was
an active and influential member of Congress, where no one equalled or
approached him for knowledge of English history and constitutional law.
In 1784 he had returned to the Virginia legislature, and been foremost
in securing the passage of the great act which gave complete religious
freedom to the people of that state. No man understood better than he
the causes of the alarming weakness of the federal government, and of
the commercial disturbances and popular discontent of the time; nor had
any one worked more zealously or more adroitly in bringing about the
meeting of this convention. As he stood here now, a leader in the
debate, there was nothing grand or imposing in his appearance. He was
small of stature and slight in frame, like Hamilton, but he had none of
Hamilton's personal magnetism. His manner was shy and prim, and blushes
came often to his cheeks. At the same time, he had that rare dignity of
unconscious simplicity which characterizes the earnest and disinterested
scholar. He was exceedingly sweet-tempered, generous, and kind, but very
hard to move from a path which, after long reflection, he had decided to
be the right one. He looked at politics judicially, and was so little of
a party man that on several occasions he was accused (quite wrongfully,
as I hope hereafter to prove) of gross inconsistency. The position of
leadership, which he won so early and kept so long, he held by sheer
force of giant intelligence, sleepless industry, and an integrity which
no man ever doubted. But he was above all things a man of peace. When in
after years, as president of the United States, he was called upon to
manage a great war, he was out of place, and his reputation for supreme
ability was temporarily lowered. Here in the Federal Convention we are
introduced to him at the noblest and most useful moment of his life.

[Sidenote: Other leading members.]

Of the fifty-five men here assembled, Washington, Franklin, Hamilton,
and Madison were of the first order of ability. Many others in the room
were gentlemen of more than ordinary talent and culture. There was John
Dickinson, who had moved from Pennsylvania into Delaware, and now came
to defend the equal rights of the smaller states. There was James Wilson
of Pennsylvania, born and educated in Scotland, one of the most learned
jurists this country has ever seen. Beside him sat the financier, Robert
Morris, and his namesake Gouverneur Morris of Morrisania, near the city
of New York, the originator of our decimal currency, and one of the
far-sighted projectors of the Erie Canal. Then there was John Rutledge
of South Carolina, who ever since the Stamp Act Congress had been the
mainstay of his state; and with him were the two able and gallant
Pinckneys. Caleb Strong, afterward ten times governor of Massachusetts,
was a typical Puritan, hard-headed and supremely sensible; his
colleague, Rufus King, already distinguished for his opposition to negro
slavery, was a man of brilliant attainments. And there were George
Wythe, the chancellor of Virginia, and Daniel Carroll of Maryland, who
had played a prominent part in the events which led to the creation of a
national domain. Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, afterward chief
justice of the United States, was one of the ablest lawyers of his
time; with him were Roger Sherman and William Johnson, the latter a
Fellow of the Royal Society, and afterward president of Columbia
College. The New Jersey delegation, consisting of William Livingston,
David Brearley, William Paterson, and Jonathan Dayton, was a very strong
one; and as to New Hampshire, it is enough to mention the name of John
Langdon. Besides all these there were some twenty of less mark, men who
said little, but listened and voted. And then there were the
irreconcilables, Yates and Lansing, the two Antifederalists from New
York; and four men of much greater ability, who took an important part
in the proceedings, but could not be induced to accept the result. These
four were Luther Martin of Maryland; George Mason and Edmund Randolph of
Virginia; and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts.

When these men had assembled in Independence Hall, they chose George
Washington president of the convention. The doors were locked, and an
injunction of strict secrecy was put upon every one. The results of
their work were known in the following September, when the draft of the
Federal Constitution was published. But just what was said and done in
this secret conclave was not revealed until fifty years had passed, and
the aged James Madison, the last survivor of those who sat there, had
been gathered to his fathers. He kept a journal of the proceedings,
which was published after his death, and upon the interesting story told
in that journal we have now to enter.



[Sidenote: Difficult problem before the convention.]

[Sidenote: Washington's solemn appeal.]

The Federal Convention did wisely in withholding its debates from the
knowledge of the people. It was felt that discussion would be more
untrammelled, and that its result ought to go before the country as the
collective and unanimous voice of the convention. There was likely to be
wrangling enough among themselves; but should their scheme be unfolded,
bit by bit, before its parts could be viewed in their mutual relations,
popular excitement would become intense, there might be riots, and an
end would be put to that attitude of mental repose so necessary for the
constructive work that was to be done. It was thought best that the
scheme should be put forth as a completed whole, and that for several
years, even, until the new system of government should have had a fair
trial, the traces of the individual theories and preferences concerned
in its formation should not be revealed. For it was generally assumed
that a system of government new in some important respects would be
proposed by the convention, and while the people awaited the result the
wildest speculations and rumours were current. A few hoped, and many
feared, that some scheme of monarchy would be established. Such
surmises found their way across the ocean, and hopes were expressed in
England that, should a king be chosen, it might be a younger son of
George III. It was even hinted, with alarm, that, through gratitude to
our recent allies, we might be persuaded to offer the crown to some
member of the royal family of France. No such thoughts were entertained,
however, by any person present in the convention. Some of the delegates
came with the design of simply amending the articles of confederation by
taking away from the states the power of regulating commerce, and
intrusting this power to Congress. Others felt that if the work were not
done thoroughly now another chance might never be offered; and these men
thought it necessary to abolish the confederation, and establish a
federal republic, in which the general government should act directly
upon the people. The difficult problem was how to frame a plan of this
sort which people could be made to understand and adopt. At the very
outset some of the delegates began to exhibit symptoms of that peculiar
kind of moral cowardice which is wont to afflict free governments, and
of which American history furnishes so many instructive examples. It was
suggested that palliatives and half measures would be far more likely to
find favour with the people than any thorough-going reform, when
Washington suddenly interposed with a brief but immortal speech, which
ought to be blazoned in letters of gold, and posted on the wall of every
American assembly that shall meet to nominate a candidate, or declare a
policy, or pass a law, so long as the weakness of human nature shall
endure. Rising from his president's chair, his tall figure drawn up to
its full height, he exclaimed in tones unwontedly solemn with suppressed
emotion, "It is too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted.
Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If, to please the
people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward
defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the
honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God."

This outburst of noble eloquence carried conviction to every one, and
henceforth we do not hear that any attempt was avowedly made to avoid
the issues as they came up. It was a most wholesome tonic. It braced up
the convention to high resolves, and impressed upon all the delegates
that they were in a situation where faltering or trifling was both
wicked and dangerous. From that moment the mood in which they worked
caught something from the glorious spirit of Washington. There was need
of such high purpose, for two plans were presently laid before the
meeting, which, for a moment, brought out one of the chief elements of
antagonism existing between the states, and which at first seemed
irreconcilable. It was the happy compromise which united and harmonised
these two plans that smoothed the further work of the convention, and
made it possible for a stable and powerful government to be constructed.

[Sidenote: The root of all the difficulties.]

The first of these plans was known as the Virginia plan. It was agreed
upon in a committee of the delegates of that state, and was brought
forward by Edmund Randolph, governor of Virginia, in the name of the
state, but its chief author was Madison. It struck instantly at the root
of the difficulties under which the country had been staggering ever
since the Declaration of Independence. The federal government had
possessed no means of enforcing obedience to its laws. Its edicts were
without a sanction; and this was because they operated upon states, and
not upon individuals. When an individual defies the law, you can lock
him up in jail, or levy an execution upon his property. The immense
force of the community is arrayed against him, and he is as helpless as
a straw on the billows of the ocean. He cannot raise a militia to
protect himself. But when the law is defied by a state, it is quite
otherwise. You cannot put a state into jail, nor seize its goods; you
can only make war on it, and if you try that expedient you find that the
state is not helpless. Its local pride and prejudices are aroused
against you, and its militia will turn out in full force to uphold the
infraction of law. Against this obstinate and exasperated military force
what superior force can you bring? Under some rare combination of
circumstances you might get the military force of several of the other
states; but ordinarily, when what you are trying to do is simply to
enforce every-day laws, and when you simply represent a distrusted
general government in conflict with a local government, you cannot do
this. The other states will sympathize with the delinquent state; they
will feel that the very same condition of things which leads you to
attack that state to-day will lead you to attack some other state
to-morrow. Hence you cannot get any military help, and you are

Such was the case with the Continental Congress. A novel and distrusted
institution, it was called upon to enforce its laws upon
long-established communities, full of sturdy independence and obstinate
local prejudices. It was able to act, though with clumsy slowness, as
long as there was an enemy in the field who was even more dreaded. But
as soon as this enemy had been beaten out of sight it could not act at
all. This had been because it did not represent the American people, but
only the American states. The vital force which moved it was not the
resistless force of a whole people, but only a shadowy semblance of
force, derived from a theoretical consent of thirteen corporate bodies,
which in their corporate capacity could never be compelled to agree
about anything under the sun; and unless compelled they would not agree.
Four years of disturbance in every part of the country, in the course of
which troops had been called out in several states, and civil war had
been narrowly averted at least half a dozen times, had proved this
beyond all cavil. With almost any other people than the Americans civil
war would have come already. With all the vast future interests that
were involved in these quarrels looming up before their keen, sagacious
minds, it was a wonder that they had been kept from coming to blows.
Such self-restraint had been greatly to their credit. It was the blessed
fruit of more than a century of government by free discussion, while yet
these states were colonies, peopled by the very cream of English
freemen who had fought the decisive battle of civil and religious
freedom for mankind in that long crisis when the Invincible Armada was
overwhelmed and the Long Parliament won its triumphs. Such
self-restraint had this people shown in days of trial, under a vicious
government adopted in a time of hurry and sore distress. But late events
had gone far to show that it could not endure.

The words of Randolph's opening speech are worth quoting in this
connection. "The confederation," he said, "was made in the infancy of
the science of constitutions, when the inefficiency of requisitions was
unknown; when no commercial discord had arisen among states; when no
rebellion like that in Massachusetts had broken out; when foreign debts
were not urgent; when the havoc of paper money had not been foreseen;
when treaties had not been violated; and when nothing better could have
been conceded by states jealous of their sovereignty. But it offered no
security against foreign invasion, for Congress could neither prevent
nor conduct a war, nor punish infractions of treaties or of the law of
nations, nor control particular states from provoking war. The federal
government has no constitutional power to check a quarrel between
separate states; nor to suppress a rebellion in any one of them; nor to
establish a productive impost; nor to counteract the commercial
regulations of other nations; nor to defend itself against the
encroachments of the states. From the manner in which it has been
ratified in many of the states, it cannot be claimed to be paramount to
the state constitutions; so that there is a prospect of anarchy from the
inherent laxity of the government. As the remedy, the government to be
established must have for its basis the republican principle."

[Sidenote: The Virginia plan; a radical cure.]

Having thus tersely stated the whole problem, Randolph went on to
present the Virginia plan. To make the federal government operate
directly upon individuals, one provision was absolutely necessary. It
did not solve the whole problem, but it was an indispensable beginning.
This was the proposal that there should be a national legislature, in
which the American _people_ instead of the American states should be
represented. For the purposes of federal legislation, there must be an
assembly elected directly by the people, and with its members
apportioned according to population. There must be such an assembly as
our present House of Representatives, standing in the same immediate
relation to the people of the whole country as was sustained by the
assembly of each separate state to the people of that state. Without
such direct representation of the whole people in the Federal Congress,
it would be impossible to achieve one secure step toward the radical
reform of the weaknesses and vices of the confederation. It was the only
way in which the vexed question of one nation or thirteen could be made
to yield a satisfactory answer. At the same time it could not be denied
that such a proposal was revolutionary in character. It paved the way
for a national consolidation which might go further than any one could
foresee, and much further than was desirable. The moribund Congress of
the Confederation, with its delegates chosen by the state assemblies,
and casting its vote simply by states, had utterly failed to serve as a
national legislature. There was a good deal of truth in what John Adams
once said of it, that it was more a diplomatic than a legislative body.
It was, indeed, because of this consciously felt diplomatic character
that it was called a Congress, and not a Parliament. In its lack of
coercive power it resembled the international congresses of Europe
rather than the supreme legislature of any country. To substitute
abruptly for such a body a truly national legislature, based not upon
states but upon population, was quietly to inaugurate a revolution of no
less magnitude than that which had lately severed us from Great Britain.
So bold a step, while all-essential in order to complete that
revolution, and make its victorious issue fortunate instead of
disastrous to the American people, was sufficiently revolutionary to
awaken the fears of many members of the Federal Convention. To the
familiar state governments which had so long possessed their love and
allegiance, it was super-adding a new and untried government, which it
was feared would swallow up the states and everywhere extinguish local
independence. Nor can it be said that such fears were unreasonable. Our
federal government has indeed shown a strong tendency to encroach upon
the province of the state governments, especially since our late Civil
War. Too much centralization is our danger to-day, as the weakness of
the federal tie was our danger a century ago. The rule of the
Federalist party was needed in 1789 as the rule of the Republican party
was needed in 1861, to put a curb upon the centrifugal tendencies. But
after Federalism had fairly done its great work, at the beginning of the
nineteenth century, it was well that the administration of our national
affairs should pass into the hands of the party to which Thomas
Jefferson and Samuel Adams belonged, and which Madison, in his calm
statesmanlike wisdom, had come to join. And now that, in our own day,
the disruptive forces have been even more thoroughly and effectually
overcome, it is time for the principles of that party to be reasserted
with fresh emphasis. If the day should ever arrive (which God forbid!)
when the people of the different parts of our country shall allow their
local affairs to be administered by prefects sent from Washington, and
when the self-government of the states shall have been so far lost as
that of the departments of France, or even so far as that of the
counties of England,--on that day the progressive political career of
the American people will have come to an end, and the hopes that have
been built upon it for the future happiness and prosperity of mankind
will be wrecked forever.

I do not think that the historian writing at the present day need fear
any such direful calamity, for the past century has shown most
instructively how, in such a society as ours, the sense of political
dangers slowly makes its way through the whole mass of the people, until
movements at length are made to avert them, and the pendulum swings in
the opposite direction. The history of political parties in the United
States is especially rich in lessons of this sort. Compared with the
statesmen of the Federal Convention, we are at a great advantage in
studying this question of national consolidation; and we have no excuse
for failing to comprehend the attitude of the men who dreaded the
creation of a national legislature as the entering wedge which would by
and by rend asunder the structure of our liberties. The great mind of
Madison was one of the first to entertain distinctly the noble
conception of two kinds of government operating at one and the same time
upon the same individuals, harmonious with each other, but each supreme
in its own sphere. Such is the fundamental conception of our partly
federal, partly national, government, which appears throughout the
Virginia plan as well as in the Constitution which grew out of it. It
was a political conception of a higher order than had ever before been
entertained; it took a great deal of discussion to make it clear to the
minds of the delegates generally; and the struggle over this initial
measure of a national legislature was so bitter as to come near breaking
up the convention.

In its original shape the Virginia plan went much further toward
national consolidation than the Constitution as adopted. The reaction
against the evils of the loose-jointed confederation, which Randolph so
ably summed up, was extreme. According to the Virginia plan, the
national legislature was to be composed of two houses, like the
legislatures of the several states. The members of the lower house
should be chosen directly by the people; members of the upper house, or
Senate, should be elected by the lower house out of persons nominated by
the state legislatures. In both the lower and the upper branches of this
national legislature the votes were to be the votes of individuals, and
no longer the votes of states, as in the Continental Congress. Under the
articles of confederation each state had an equal vote, and two thirds
were required for every important measure. Under the proposed
Constitution each state was to have a number of representatives
proportionate either to its wealth or to the number of its free
inhabitants, and a bare majority of votes was to suffice to pass all
measures in the ordinary course of business; and these rules were to
apply both to the lower house and to the Senate. To adopt such a plan
would overthrow the equality of the states altogether. It would give
Virginia, the greatest state, sixteen representatives, where Georgia,
the smallest state, had but one; and besides, as the votes were no
longer to be taken by states, individual members could combine in any
way they pleased, quite irrespective of state lines. It was not strange
that to many delegates in the convention such a beginning should have
seemed revolutionary. This impression was deepened when it was further
proposed not only to clothe this national legislature with original
powers of legislation in all cases to which the several states are
incompetent, but also to allow it to set aside at discretion such state
laws as it might deem unconstitutional. It is interesting to find
Madison, whose Federalism afterward came to be so moderate, now
appearing as the earnest defender of this extreme provision, so
incompatible with state rights. But in Madison's mind at this moment, in
the actual presence of the anarchy of the confederation, the only
alternative which seemed to present itself was that of armed coercion.
"A negative on state laws," he said, "is the mildest expedient that can
be devised for enforcing a national decree. Should no such precaution be
engrafted, the only remedy would be coercion. The negative would render
the use of force unnecessary. This prerogative of the general government
is the great pervading principle that must control the centrifugal
tendency of the states, which, without it, will continually fly out of
their proper orbits, and destroy the order and harmony of the political
system." But these views were not destined to find favour with the
convention, which finally left the matter to be much more satisfactorily
adjusted through the medium of the federal judiciary.

Such were the fundamental provisions of the Virginia plan with regard to
the national legislature. To carry out the laws, it was proposed that
there should be a national executive, to be chosen by the national
legislature for a short term, and ineligible a second time. Whether the
executive power should be invested in a single person or in several was
not specified. As will be seen hereafter, this was regarded as an
extremely delicate point, with which it was thought best not to
embarrass the Virginia plan at the outset. Passing lightly over this, it
was urged that, in order to complete the action of the government upon
individuals, there must be a national judiciary to determine cases
arising under the Constitution, cases in admiralty, and cases in which
different states or their citizens appear as parties. The judges were to
be chosen by the national legislature, to hold office during good

[Sidenote: First reception of the Virginia plan.]

Such, in its main outlines, was the plan which Randolph laid before the
convention, in the name of the Virginia delegation. An audacious scheme!
exclaimed some of the delegates; it was enough to take your breath away.
If they were going to begin like this, they might as well go home, for
all discussion would be time wasted. They were not sent there to set on
foot a revolution, but to amend and strengthen the articles of
confederation. But this audacious plan simply abolished the
Confederation in order to substitute for it a consolidated national
government. Foremost in urging this objection were Yates and Lansing of
New York, with Luther Martin of Maryland. Dickinson said it was pushing
things altogether too far, and his colleague, George Read, hinted that
the delegation from Delaware might feel obliged to withdraw from the
convention if the election of representatives according to population
should be adopted. By the tact of Madison and Gouverneur Morris this
question was postponed for a few days. After some animated discussion,
the issues became so narrowed and defined that they could be taken up
one by one. It was first decided that the national legislature should
consist of two branches. Then came a warm discussion as to whether the
members of the lower house should be elected directly by the people.
Curiously enough, in a country where the principle of popular election
had long since taken such deep root, where the assemblies of the several
states had been chosen by the people from the very beginning, there was
some doubt as to whether the same principle could safely be applied to
the national House of Representatives. Gerry, with his head full of the
Shays rebellion and the "Know Ye" measures of the neighbouring state,
thought the people could not be trusted. "The people do not want
virtue," said he, "but are the dupes of pretended patriots." Roger
Sherman took a similar view, and was supported by Martin, Rutledge, and
both the Pinckneys; but the sounder opinion prevailed. On this point
Hamilton was at one with Mason, Wilson, and Dickinson. The proposed
assembly, said Mason, was to be, so to speak, our House of Commons, and
ought to know and sympathize with every part of the community. It ought
to have at heart the rights and interests of every class of the people,
and in no other way could this end be so completely attained as by
popular election. "Yes," added Wilson, "without the confidence of the
people no government, least of all a republican government, can long
subsist.... The election of the first branch by the people is not the
corner-stone only, but the foundation of the fabric." "It is essential
to the democratic rights of the community," said Hamilton, "that the
first branch be directly elected by the people." Madison argued
powerfully on the same side, and the question was finally decided in
favour of popular election.

[Sidenote: Antagonism between large states and small states.]

[Sidenote: The New Jersey plan; a feeble palliative.]

It was now the 4th of June, when the great question came up which nearly
wrecked the convention before it was settled, after a whole month of
stormy debate. This was the question as to how the states should be
represented in the new Congress. On the Virginia plan, the smaller
states would be virtually swamped. Unless they could have equal votes,
without regard to wealth or population, they would be at the mercy of
the great states. In the division which ensued, the four most populous
states--Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and North
Carolina--favoured the Virginia plan; and they succeeded in carrying
South Carolina with them. Georgia, too, which, though weak at that
moment, possessed considerable room for expansion, voted upon the same
side. On the other hand, the states of Connecticut, New Jersey,
Delaware, and Maryland--which were not only small in area, but were cut
off from further expansion by their geographical situation--were not
inclined to give up their equal vote in either branch of the national
legislature. At this stage of the proceedings the delegation from New
Hampshire had not yet arrived upon the scene. On several occasions the
majority of the Maryland delegation went with the larger states, but
Luther Martin, always opposed to the Virginia plan, usually succeeded in
dividing the vote of the delegation. Of the New York members, Yates and
Lansing, here as always, thwarted Hamilton by voting with the smaller
states. Their policy throughout was one of obstruction. The members from
Connecticut were disposed to be conciliatory; but New Jersey was
obstinate and implacable. She knew what it was to be tyrannized over by
powerful neighbours. The wrongs she had suffered from New York and
Pennsylvania rankled in the minds of her delegates. Accordingly, in the
name of the smaller states, William Paterson laid before the convention
the so-called "New Jersey plan" for the amendment of the articles of
confederation. This scheme admitted a federal legislature, consisting of
a single house, an executive in the form of a council to be chosen by
Congress, and likewise a federal judiciary, with powers less extensive
than those contemplated by the Virginia plan. It gave to Congress the
power to regulate foreign and domestic commerce, to levy duties on
imports, and even to raise internal revenue by means of a Stamp Act. But
with all this apparent liberality on the surface, the New Jersey plan
was vicious at bottom. It did not really give Congress the power to act
immediately upon individuals. The federal legislature which it proposed
was to represent states, and not individuals, and the states were to
vote equally, without regard to wealth or population. If things were to
be left in this shape, there was no security that the powers granted to
Congress could ever be really exercised. Nay, it was almost certain that
they could not be put into operation. It was easy enough on paper to
give Congress the permission to levy duties and regulate commerce, but
such a permission would amount to nothing unless Congress were armed
with the power of enforcing its decrees upon individuals. And it could
in no wise acquire such power unless as the creature of the people, and
not of the states. The New Jersey plan, therefore, furnished no real
remedy for the evils which afflicted the country. It was vigorously
opposed by Hamilton, Madison, Wilson, and King. Hamilton, indeed, took
this occasion to offer a plan of his own, which, in addition to
Madison's scheme of a purely national legislature, contained the
features of a tenure for life or good behaviour, for the executive and
the members of the upper house. But to most of the delegates this scheme
seemed too little removed from a monarchy, and Hamilton's brilliant
speech in its favour, while applauded by many, was supported by none.
The weighty arguments of Wilson, King, and Madison prevailed, and the
New Jersey plan lost its original shape when it was decided that
Congress should consist of two houses. The principle of equal state
representation, however, remained as a stumbling-block. Paterson,
supported by his able colleague Brearley, as well as by Martin and the
two irreconcilables from New York, stoutly maintained that to depart
from this principle would be to exceed the powers of the convention,
which assuredly was not intended to remodel the government from
beginning to end. But Randolph answered, "When the salvation of the
republic is at stake, it would be treason to our trust not to propose
what we find necessary;" and Hamilton pithily reminded the delegates
that as they were there only for the purpose of recommending a scheme
which would have to be submitted to the states for acceptance, they
need not be deterred by any false scruples from using their wits to the
best possible advantage. The debate on the merits of the question was an
angry one. According to the Virginia plan, said Brearly, the three
states of Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania will carry
everything before them. "It was known to him, from facts within New
Jersey, that where large and small counties were united into a district
for electing representatives for the district, the large counties always
carried their point, and consequently the large states would do so....
Was it fair, on the other hand, that Georgia should have an equal vote
with Virginia? He would not say it was. What remedy, then? One only:
that a map of the United States be spread out, that all the existing
boundaries be erased, and that a new partition of the whole be made into
thirteen equal parts." "Yes," said Paterson, "a confederacy supposes
sovereignty in the members composing it, and sovereignty supposes
equality. If we are to be considered as a nation, all state distinctions
must be abolished, the whole must be thrown into hotchpot, and when an
equal division is made then there may be fairly an equality of
representation." This argument was repeated with a triumphant air, as
seeming to reduce the Virginia plan to absurdity. Paterson went on to
say that "there was no more reason that a great individual state,
contributing much, should have more votes than a small one, contributing
little, than that a rich individual citizen should have more votes than
an indigent one. If the ratable property of A was to that of B as forty
to one, ought A, for that reason, to have forty times as many votes as
B?... Give the large states an influence in proportion to their
magnitude, and what will be the consequence? Their ambition will be
proportionally increased, and the small states will have everything to
fear. It was once proposed by Galloway [in the first Continental
Congress] that America should be represented in the British Parliament,
and then be bound by its laws. America could not have been entitled to
more than one third of the representatives which would fall to the share
of Great Britain: would American rights and interests have been safe
under an authority thus constituted?" Then, warming with the subject, he
exclaimed, If the great states wish to unite on such a plan, "let them
unite if they please, but let them remember that they have no authority
to compel the others to unite.... Shall I submit the welfare of New
Jersey with five votes in a council where Virginia has sixteen?... I
will never consent to the proposed plan. I will not only oppose it here,
but on my return home will do everything in my power to defeat it there.
Neither my state nor myself will ever submit to tyranny."

Paterson was ably answered by James Wilson, of Pennsylvania, who pointed
out the absurdity of giving 180,000 men in one part of the country as
much weight in the national legislature as 750,000 in another part. It
is unjust, he said. "The gentleman from New Jersey is candid. He
declares his opinions boldly. I commend him for it. I will be equally
candid.... I never will confederate on his principles." The convention
grew nervous and excited over this seemingly irreconcilable antagonism.
The discussion was kept up with much learning and acuteness by Madison,
Ellsworth, and Martin, and history was ransacked for testimony from the
Amphiktyonic Council to Old Sarum, and back again to the Lykian League.
Madison, rightly reading the future, declared that if once the proposed
union should be formed, the real danger would come not from the rivalry
between large and small states, but from the antagonistic interests of
the slave-holding and non-slaveholding states. Hamilton pointed out that
in the state of New York five counties had a majority of the
representatives, and yet the citizens of the other counties were in no
danger of tyranny, as the laws have an equal operation upon all. Rufus
King called attention to the fact that the rights of Scotland were
secure from encroachments, although her representation in Parliament was
necessarily smaller than that of England. But New Jersey and Delaware,
mindful of recent grievances, were not to be argued down or soothed.
Gunning Bedford of Delaware was especially violent. "Pretences to
support ambition," said he, "are never wanting. The cry is, Where is the
danger? and it is insisted that although the powers of the general
government will be increased, yet it will be for the good of the whole;
and although the three great states form nearly a majority of the people
of America, they never will injure the lesser states. _Gentlemen, I do
not trust you._ If you possess the power, the abuse of it could not be
checked; and what then would prevent you from exercising it to our
destruction?... Sooner than be ruined, _there are foreign powers who
will take us by the hand_. I say this not to threaten or intimidate, but
that we should reflect seriously before we act." This language called
forth a rebuke from Rufus King. "I am concerned," said he, "for what
fell from the gentleman from Delaware,--_take a foreign power by the
hand!_ I am sorry he mentioned it, and I hope he is able to excuse it to
himself on the score of passion."

[Sidenote: The Connecticut compromise.]

The situation had become dangerous. "The convention," said Martin, "was
on the verge of dissolution, scarce held together by the strength of a
hair." When things were looking darkest, Oliver Ellsworth and Roger
Sherman suggested a compromise. "Yes," said Franklin, "when a joiner
wishes to fit two boards, he sometimes pares off a bit from both." The
famous Connecticut compromise led the way to the arrangement which was
ultimately adopted, according to which the national principle was to
prevail in the House of Representatives, and the federal principle in
the Senate. But at first the compromise met with little favour. Neither
party was willing to give way. "No compromise for us," said Luther
Martin. "You must give each state an equal suffrage, or our business is
at an end." "Then we are come to a full stop," said Roger Sherman. "I
suppose it was never meant that we should break up without doing
something." When the question as to allowing equality of suffrage to the
states in the Federal Senate was put to vote, the result was a tie.
Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland--five
states--voted in the affirmative; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia,
North Carolina, and South Carolina--five states--voted in the negative;
the vote of Georgia was divided and lost. It was Abraham Baldwin, a
native of Connecticut and lately a tutor in Yale College, a recent
emigrant to Georgia, who thus divided the vote of that state, and
prevented a decision which would in all probability have broken up the
convention. His state was the last to vote, and the house was hushed in
anxious expectation, when this brave and wise young man yielded his
private conviction to what he saw to be the paramount necessity of
keeping the convention together. All honour to his memory!

The moral effect of the tie vote was in favour of the Connecticut
compromise; for no one could doubt that the little states, New Hampshire
and Rhode Island, had they been represented in the division, would have
voted upon that side. The matter was referred to a committee as
impartially constituted as possible, with Elbridge Gerry as chairman;
and On the 5th of July, after a recess of three days, the committee
reported in favour of the compromise. Fresh objections on the part of
the large states were now offered by Wilson and Gouverneur Morris, and
gloom again overhung the convention. Gerry said that, while he did not
fully approve of the compromise, he had nevertheless supported it,
because he felt sure that if nothing were done war and confusion must
ensue, the old confederation being already virtually at an end. George
Mason observed that "it could not be more inconvenient for any
gentleman to remain absent from his private affairs than it was for him;
but he would bury his bones in that city rather than expose his country
to the consequences of a dissolution of the convention." Mason's
subsequent behaviour was hardly in keeping with the promise of this
brave speech, and in Gerry we shall observe like inconsistency. At
present a timely speech from Madison soothed the troubled waters; but it
was only after eleven days of somewhat more tranquil debate that the
compromise was adopted on the 16th of July. Even then it was but
narrowly secured. The ayes were Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware,
Maryland, and North Carolina,--five states; the noes were Pennsylvania,
Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia,--four states; Gerry and Strong
against King and Gorham divided the vote of Massachusetts, which was
thus lost. New York, for reasons presently to be stated, was absent. It
is accordingly to Elbridge Gerry and Caleb Strong that posterity are
indebted for here preventing a tie, and thus bringing the vexed question
to a happy issue.

According to the compromise secured with so much difficulty, it was
arranged that in the lower house population was to be represented, and
in the upper house the states, each of which, without regard to size,
was forever to be entitled to two senators. In the lower house there was
to be one representative for every 40,000 inhabitants, but at
Washington's suggestion the number was changed to 30,000, so as to
increase the house, which then seemed likely to be too small in numbers.
Some one suggested that with the growth of population that rate would
make an unwieldy house within a hundred and fifty years from that time,
whereat Gorham of Massachusetts laughed to scorn the idea that any
system of government they could devise in that room could possibly last
a hundred and fifty years. The difficulty has been surmounted by
enlarging from time to time the basis of representation. It now seemed
inadvisable that the senators should be chosen by the lower house out of
persons nominated by the state legislatures; and it was accordingly
decided that they should be not merely nominated, but elected, by the
state legislatures. Thus the Senate was made quite independent of the
lower house. At the same time, the senators were to vote as individuals,
and thus the old practice of voting by states, except in certain
peculiar emergencies, was finally done away with.

[Sidenote: It was a decisive victory for Madison's scheme.]

[Sidenote: Irreconcilables go home.]

It is seldom, if ever, that a political compromise leaves things evenly
balanced. Almost every such arrangement, when once set working, weighs
down the scales decidedly to the one side or the other. The Connecticut
compromise was really a decisive victory for Madison and his party,
although it modified the Virginia plan so considerably. They could well
afford to defer to the fears and prejudices of the smaller states in the
structure of the Senate, for by securing a lower house, which
represented the American people, and not the American states, they won
the whole battle in so far as the question of radically reforming the
government was concerned. As soon as the foundation was thus laid for a
government which should act directly upon individuals, it obviously
became necessary to abandon the articles of confederation, and work out
a new constitution in all its details. The plan, as now reported,
omitted the obnoxious adjective "national," and spoke of the _federal_
legislature and _federal_ courts. But to the men who were still blindly
wedded to the old confederation this soothing change of phraseology did
not conceal their defeat. On the very day that the compromise was
favourably reported by the committee, Yates and Lansing quit the
convention in disgust, and went home to New York. After the departure of
these uncongenial colleagues, Hamilton might have acted with power, had
he not known too well that the sentiment of his state did not support
him. As a mere individual he could do but little, and accordingly he
went home for a while to attend to pressing business, returning just in
time to take part in the closing scenes. His share in the work of
framing the Federal Constitution was very small. About the time that
Hamilton returned, Luther Martin, whose wrath had waxed hotter every
day, as he saw power after power extended to the federal government, at
length gave way and went back to Maryland, vowing that he would have
nothing more to do with such high-handed proceedings.

While the Connecticut compromise thus scattered a few scintillations of
discontent, and relieved the convention of some of its most discordant
elements, its general effect was wonderfully harmonizing. The men who
had opposed the Virginia plan only through their dread of the larger
states were now more than conciliated. The concession of equal
representation in the Senate turned out to have been a master stroke of
diplomacy. As soon as the little states were assured of an equal share
in the control of one of the two central legislative bodies, they
suddenly forgot their scruples about thoroughly overhauling the
government, and none were readier than they to intrust extensive powers
to the new Congress. Paterson of New Jersey, the fiercest opponent of
the Virginia plan, became from that time forth to the end of his life
the most devoted of Federalists.

[Sidenote: Other antagonisms; vague dread of the future west.]

[Sidenote: Antagonism between slave states and free states.]

That first step which proverbially gives the most trouble had now been
fairly taken. But other compromises were needed before the work of
construction could properly be carried out. As the antagonism between
great and small states disappeared from the scene, other antagonisms
appeared. It is worth noting that just for a moment there was revealed a
glimmering of jealousy and dread on the part of the eastern states
toward those of which the foundations were laid in the northwestern
territory. Many people in New England feared that their children would
be drawn westward in such numbers as to create immense states beyond the
Ohio; and thus it was foreseen that the relative political weight of New
England in the future would be diminished. To a certain extent this
prediction has been justified by events, but Roger Sherman rightly
maintained that it afforded no just grounds for dread. King and Gerry
introduced a most illiberal and mischievous motion, that the total
number of representatives from new states must never be allowed to
exceed the total number from the original thirteen. Such an arrangement,
which would surely have been enough to create that antagonism between
east and west which it sought to forestall and avoid, was supported by
Massachusetts and Connecticut, with Delaware and Maryland; but it was
defeated by the combination of New Jersey with the four states south of
Maryland. The ground was thus cleared for a very different kind of
sectional antagonism,--that which, as Madison truly said, would prove
the most deep-seated and enduring of all,--the antagonism between north
and south. The first great struggle between the pro-slavery and
anti-slavery parties began in the Federal Convention, and it resulted in
the first two of the long series of compromises by which the
irrepressible conflict was postponed until the north had waxed strong
enough to confront the dreaded spectre of secession, and, summoning all
its energies in one stupendous effort, exorcise it forever. From this
moment down to 1865 we shall continually be made to realize how the
American people had entered into the shadow of the coming Civil War
before they had fairly emerged from that of the Revolution; and as we
pass from scene to scene of the solemn story, we shall learn how to be
forever grateful for the sudden and final clearing of the air wrought by
that frightful storm which men not yet old can still so well remember.

The first compromise related to the distribution of representatives
between north and south. Was representation in the lower house of
Congress to be proportioned to wealth, or to population; and if the
latter, were all the inhabitants, or only all the free inhabitants, to
be counted? It was soon agreed that wealth was difficult to reckon and
population easy to count; and to an extent sufficient for all ordinary
purposes, population might serve as an index of wealth. A state with
500,000 inhabitants would be in most cases richer than one with 400,000.
In those days, when cities were few and small, this was approximately
true. In our day it is not at all true. A state with large commercial
and manufacturing cities is sure to be much richer than a state in which
the population is chiefly rural. The population of Massachusetts is
somewhat smaller than that of Indiana; but her aggregate wealth is more
than double that of Indiana. Disparities like this, which do not trouble
us to-day, would have troubled the Federal Convention. We no longer
think it desirable to give political representation to wealth, or to
anything but persons. We have become thoroughly democratic, but our
great-grandfathers had not. To them it seemed quite essential that
wealth should be represented as well as persons; but they got over the
main difficulty easily, because under the economic conditions of that
time population could serve roughly as an index to wealth, and it was
much easier to count noses than to assess the value of farms and stock.

[Sidenote: Were slaves to be reckoned as persons or as chattels?]

But now there was in all the southern states, and in most of the
northern, a peculiar species of collective existence, which might be
described either as wealth or as population. As human beings the slaves
might be described as population, but in the eye of the law they were
chattels. In the northern states slavery was rapidly disappearing, and
the property in negroes was so small as to be hardly worth considering;
while south of Mason and Dixon's line this peculiar kind of property was
the chief wealth of the states. But clearly, in apportioning
representation, in sharing political power in the federal assembly, the
same rule should have been applied impartially to all the states. At
this point, Pierce Butler and Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina
insisted that slaves were part of the population, and as such must be
counted in ascertaining the basis of representation. A fierce and
complicated dispute ensued. The South Carolina proposal suggested a
uniform rule, but it was one that would scarcely alter the political
weight of the north, while it would vastly increase the weight of the
south; and it would increase it most in just the quarter where slavery
was most deeply rooted. The power of South Carolina, as a member of the
Union, would be doubled by such a measure. Hence the northern delegates
maintained that slaves, as chattels, ought no more to be reckoned as
part of the population than houses or ships. "Has a man in Virginia,"
exclaimed Paterson, "a number of votes in proportion to the number of
his slaves? And if negroes are not represented in the states to which
they belong, why should they be represented in the general
government?... If a meeting of the people were to take place in a slave
state, would the slaves vote? They would not. Why then should they be
represented in a federal government?" "I can never agree," said
Gouverneur Morris, "to give such encouragement to the slave-trade as
would be given by allowing the southern states a representation for
their negroes.... I would sooner submit myself to a tax for paying for
all the negroes in the United States than saddle posterity with such a

[Sidenote: The three fifths compromise; a genuine English solution, if
ever there was one.]

The attitude taken by Virginia was that of peace-maker. On the one hand,
such men as Washington, Madison, and Mason, who were earnestly hoping to
see their own state soon freed from the curse of slavery, could not fail
to perceive that if Virginia were to gain an increase of political
weight from the existence of that institution, the difficulty of getting
the state legislature to abolish it would be enhanced. But on the other
hand, they saw that South Carolina was inexorable, and that her refusal
to adopt the Constitution for this reason would certainly carry Georgia
with her, and probably North Carolina, also. Even had South Carolina
alone been involved, it was not simply a question of forming a Union
which should either include her or leave her out in the cold. The case
was much more complicated than that. It was really doubtful if, without
the cordial assistance of South Carolina, a Union could be formed at
all. A Federal Constitution had not only to be framed, but it had to be
presented to the thirteen states for adoption. It was by no means clear
that enough states would ratify it to enable the experiment of the new
government to go into operation. New York and Rhode Island were known to
be bitterly opposed to it; Massachusetts could not be counted on as
sure; to add South Carolina to this list would be to endanger
everything. The event justified this caution. We shall hereafter see
that it was absolutely necessary to satisfy South Carolina, and that but
for her ratification, coming just at the moment when it did, the work of
the Federal Convention would probably have been done in vain. It was a
clear perception of the wonderful complication of interests involved in
the final appeal to the people that induced the Virginia statesmen to
take the lead in a compromise. Four years before, in 1783, when Congress
was endeavouring to apportion the quotas of revenue to be required of
the several states, a similar dispute had arisen. If taxation were to be
distributed according to population, it made a great difference whether
slaves were to be counted as population or not. If slaves were to be
counted, the southern states would have to pay more than their equitable
share into the federal treasury; if slaves were not to be counted, it
was argued at the north that they would be paying less than their
equitable share. Consequently, at that time the north had been inclined
to maintain that the slaves were population, while the south had
preferred to regard them as chattels. Thus we see that in politics, as
well as in algebra, it makes all the difference in the world whether you
start with _plus_ or with _minus_. On that occasion Madison had offered
a successful compromise, in which a slave figured as three fifths of a
freeman; and Rutledge of South Carolina, who was now present in the
convention, had supported the measure. Madison now proposed the same
method of getting over the difficulty about representation, and his
compromise was adopted. It was agreed that in counting population,
whether for direct taxation or for representation in the lower house of
Congress, five slaves should be reckoned as three individuals.

[Sidenote: In other words, it was the best solution attainable under the

All this was thoroughly illogical, of course; it left the question
whether slaves are population or chattels for theorizers to wrangle
over, and for future events to decide. It was easy for James Wilson to
show that there was neither rhyme nor reason in it: but he subscribed to
it, nevertheless, just as the northern abolitionists, Rufus King and
Gouverneur Morris, joined with Washington and Madison, and with the
pro-slavery Pinckneys, in subscribing to it, because they all believed
that without such a compromise the Constitution would not be adopted;
and in this there can be little doubt that they were right. The evil
consequences were unquestionably very serious indeed. Henceforth, so
long as slavery lasted, the vote of a southerner counted for more than
the vote of a northerner; and just where negroes were most numerous the
power of their masters became greatest. In South Carolina there soon
came to be more blacks than whites, and the application of the rule
therefore went far toward doubling the vote of South Carolina in the
House of Representatives and in the electoral college. Every five
slaveholders down there were equal in political weight to not less than
eight farmers or merchants in the north; and thus this troublesome state
acquired a power of working mischief out of all proportion to her real
size. At a later date the operation of the rule in Mississippi was
similar; and in general it was just the most backward and barbarous
parts of the Union that were thus favoured at the expense of the most
civilized parts. Admitting all this, however, it remains undeniable that
the Constitution saved us from anarchy; and there can be little doubt
that slavery and every other remnant of barbarism in American society
would have thriven far more lustily under a state of chronic anarchy
than was possible under the Constitution. Four years of concentrated
warfare, animated by an intense and lofty moral purpose, could not hurt
the character or mar the fortunes of the people, like a century of
aimless and miscellaneous squabbling over a host of petty local
interests. The War of Secession was a terrible ordeal to pass through;
but when one tries to picture what might have happened in this fair land
without the work of the Federal Convention, the imagination stands

[Sidenote: Compromise between New England and South Carolina as to the
foreign slave-trade.]

The second great compromise between northern and southern interests
related to the abolition of the foreign slave-trade and the power of the
federal government over commerce. All the states except South Carolina
and Georgia wished to stop the importation of slaves; but the physical
conditions of rice and indigo culture exhausted the negroes so fast
that these two states felt that their industries would be dried up at
the very source if the importation of fresh negroes were to be stopped.
Cotesworth Pinckney accordingly declared that South Carolina would
consider a vote to abolish the slave-trade as simply a polite way of
telling her that she was not wanted in the Union. On the other hand, the
three New England states present in the convention had made up their
minds that it would not do to allow the several states any longer to
regulate commerce each according to its own whim. It was of vital
importance that this power should be taken from the states and lodged in
Congress; otherwise, the Union would soon be rent in pieces by
commercial disputes. The policy of New York had thoroughly impressed
this lesson upon all the neighbouring states. But none of the southern
states were in favour of granting this power unreservedly to Congress.
If a navigation act could be passed by a simple majority in Congress, it
was feared that the New Englanders would get all the carrying trade into
their own hands, and then charge ruinous freights for carrying rice,
indigo, and tobacco to the north and to Europe. On this point,
accordingly, the southern delegates acted as a unit in insisting that
Congress should not be empowered to pass navigation acts, except by a
two thirds vote of both houses. This would have tied the hands of the
federal government most unfortunately; and the New Englanders,
enlightened by their own interests, saw it to be so. Here were the
materials ready for a compromise, or, as the stout abolitionist,
Gouverneur Morris, truly called it, a "bargain" between New England and
the far south. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut consented
to the prolonging of the foreign slave-trade for twenty years, or until
1808; and in return South Carolina and Georgia consented to the clause
empowering Congress to pass navigation acts and otherwise regulate
commerce by a simple majority of votes. At the same time, as a
concession to rice and indigo, the New Englanders agreed that Congress
should be forever prohibited from taxing exports; and thus one remnant
of mediæval political economy was neatly swept away.

[Sidenote: This last compromise seems to make the adhesion of Virginia

This compromise was carried against the sturdy opposition of Virginia.
The language of George Mason of Virginia is worth quoting, for it was
such as Theodore Parker might have used. He called the slave-trade "this
infernal traffic." "Slavery," said he, "discourages arts and
manufactures. The poor despise labour when performed by slaves. They
prevent the immigration of whites, who really strengthen and enrich a
country. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every
master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of
Heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the
next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and
effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities." But
these prophetic words were powerless against the combination of New
England with the far south. One thing was now made certain,--that the
vast influence of Rutledge and the Pinckneys would be thrown
unreservedly in behalf of the new Constitution. "I will confess," said
Cotesworth Pinckney, "that I had prejudices against the eastern states
before I came here, but I have found them as liberal and candid as any
men whatever." But this compromise, which finally secured South Carolina
and Georgia, made Virginia for the moment doubtful; for Mason and
Randolph were so disgusted at the absolute power over commerce conceded
to Congress that, when the Constitution was finished and engrossed on
paper, they refused to sign it.

It is difficult to read this or any other episode in our history whereby
negro slavery was extended and fostered without burning indignation. But
this is not the proper mood for the historian, whose aim is to interpret
men's actions by the circumstances of their time, in order to judge
their motives correctly. In 1787 slavery was the cloud like unto a man's
hand which portended a deluge, but those who could truly read the signs
were few. From north to south, slavery had been slowly dying out for
nearly fifty years. It had become extinct in Massachusetts, it was
nearly so in all the other northern states, and it had just been forever
prohibited in the national domain. In Maryland and Virginia there was a
strong and growing party in favour of abolition. The movement had even
gathered strength in North Carolina. Only the rice-swamps of the far
south remained wedded to their idols. It was quite generally believed
that slavery was destined speedily to expire, to give place to a better
system of labour, without any great danger or disturbance; and this
opinion was distinctly set forth by many delegates in the convention.[7]
Even Charles Pinckney went so far as to express a hope that South
Carolina, if not too much meddled with, would by and by voluntarily rank
herself among the emancipating states; but his older cousin declared
himself bound in candour to acknowledge that there was very little
likelihood indeed of so desirable an event. Not even these South
Carolinians ventured to defend slavery on principle. This belief in the
moribund condition of slavery prevented the convention from realizing
the actual effect of the concessions which were made. Scarcely any
cotton was grown at that time, and none was sent to England. The
industrial revolution about to be wrought by the inventions of Arkwright
and Hargreaves, Cartwright and Watt and Whitney, could not be foreseen.
Nor could it be foreseen that presently, when there should thus arise a
great demand for slaves from Virginia as a breeding-ground, the
abolitionist party in that state would disappear, leaving her to join
in the odious struggle for introducing slavery into the national domain.
Though these things were so soon to happen, the wisest man in 1787 could
not foresee them. The convention hoped that twenty years would see not
only the end of the foreign slave-trade, but the restriction and
diminution of slavery itself. It was in such a mood that they completed
the compromise by recommending a tariff of ten dollars a head upon all
negroes imported, while at the same time a clause was added for insuring
the recovery of fugitive slaves, quite similar to the clause in the
ordinance for the government of the northwestern territory.

[Sidenote: The foundations of the Constitution were thus laid in

It was the three great compromises here described that laid the
foundations of our Federal Constitution. The first compromise, by
conceding equal representation to the states in the Senate, enlisted the
small states in favour of the new scheme, and by establishing a national
system of representation in the lower house, prepared the way for a
government that could endure. This was Madison's great victory, secured
by the aid of Sherman and Ellsworth, without which nothing could have
been effected. The second compromise, at the cost of giving
disproportionate weight to the slave states, gained their support for
the more perfect union that was about to be formed. The third
compromise, at the cost of postponing for twenty years the abolition of
the foreign slave-trade, secured absolute free-trade between the states,
with the surrender of all control over commerce into the hands of the
federal government. After these steps had been taken, the most difficult
and dangerous part of the road had been travelled; the remainder, though
extremely important, was accomplished far more easily. It was mainly the
task of building on the foundations already laid.

[Sidenote: Powers granted to the federal government.]

In the grants to the federal government of powers hitherto reserved to
the several states, the diversity of opinion among the members of the
convention was but slight compared to the profound antagonism which had
been allayed by the three initial compromises. It was admitted, as a
matter of course, that the federal government alone could coin money,
fix the standard of weights and measures, establish post-offices and
post-roads, and grant patents and copyrights. To it alone was naturally
intrusted the whole business of war and of international relations. It
could define and punish felonies committed on the high seas; it could
maintain a navy and issue letters of marque and reprisal; it could
support an army and provide for calling forth the militia to execute the
laws of the Union, to suppress insurrections, and to repel invasions.
But in relation to this question of the army and the militia there was
some characteristic discussion. It was at first proposed that Congress
should have the power "to subdue a rebellion in any state on the
application of its legislature." The Shays rebellion was then fresh in
the memory of all the delegates, and their arguments simply reflected
the impression which that unpleasant affair had left upon them. Charles
Pinckney, Gouverneur Morris, and John Langdon wished to have the power
given to Congress unconditionally, without waiting for an application
from the legislature. But Gerry, who had been on the ground, spoke
sturdily against such a needless infraction of state rights. He was
utterly opposed, he said, to "letting loose the myrmidons of the United
States on a state without its own consent. The states will be the best
judges in such cases. More blood would have been spilt in Massachusetts
in the late insurrection if the general authority had intermeddled."
Ellsworth suggested that Congress should use its discretion only in
cases where the legislature of the state could not meet; but Randolph
forcibly replied that if Congress is to judge whether a state
legislature can or cannot meet, the difficulty is in no wise surmounted.
Gerry's view at last prevailed, and in accordance therewith it was
decided that the federal power should guarantee to every state a
republican form of government, and should protect each of them against
invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (if
the legislature could not be convened), it should protect them against
domestic violence. This arrangement did not fully provide against such
an emergency as that of rival and hostile executives in the same state,
as under the so-called "carpet-bag" governments which followed after the
War of Secession, but it was doubtless as sound a provision as any
general constitution could make.

The federal government was further empowered to borrow money on the
credit of the United States; and it was declared that all debts
contracted and engagements entered into before the adoption of this
constitution should be as valid against the United States under this
constitution as under the confederation. There was to be no repudiation
or readjustment of debts on the ground of inability to pay. Congress was
further empowered to establish a uniform rule of naturalization and a
uniform law of bankruptcy. But it was prohibited from passing bills of
attainder or _ex post facto_ laws, or suspending the writ of _habeas
corpus_, except under the stress of rebellion or invasion. It was
provided that all duties, imposts, or excises should be uniform
throughout the United States. The federal government could not give
preference to one state over another in its commercial regulations. It
could not tax exports. It could not draw money from the treasury save by
due process of appropriation, and all bills relating to the raising of
revenue must originate in the lower house, which directly represented
the people. Congress was empowered to admit new states into the Union,
but it was not allowed to interfere with the territorial areas of states
already existing without the express consent of the local legislatures.
To insure the independence of the federal government, it was provided
that senators and representatives should be paid out of the federal
treasury, and not by their respective states, as had been the case under
the confederation. Except for such offences as treason, felony, or
breach of the peace, they should be "privileged from arrest during their
attendance, at the session of their respective houses, and in going to
or returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either
house" they were not to be "questioned in any other place." It was
further provided that a territory not exceeding ten miles square should
be ceded to the United States, and set apart as the site of a federal
city, in which the general government should ever after hold its
meetings, erect its buildings, and exercise exclusive jurisdiction.
During the past four years the Continental Congress had skipped about
from Philadelphia to Princeton, to Annapolis, to Trenton, to New York,
until it had become a laughing-stock, and the newspapers were full of
squibs about it. Verily, said one facetious editor, the Lord shall make
this government like unto a wheel, and keep it rolling back and forth
betwixt Dan and Beersheba, and grant it no rest this side of Jordan.
This inconvenience was now to be remedied. Congress was hereafter to
have a federal police force at its disposal, and was never more to be
reduced to the humiliation of a fruitless appeal to the protecting arm
of a state government, as at Philadelphia in the summer of 1783.
Furthermore, the Continental Congress had of late years commanded so
little respect, and had offered so few temptations to able men in quest
of political distinction, that its meetings were often attended by no
more than eight or ten members. It was actually on the point of dying a
natural death through sheer lack of public interest in it. To prevent
any possible continuance of such a disgraceful state of things, it was
agreed that the Federal Congress should be "authorized to compel the
attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties
as each house may provide." Had the political life of the country
continued to go on as under the confederation, it is very doubtful
whether such a provision as this would have remedied the evil. But the
new Federal Congress, drawing its life directly from the people, was
destined to afford far greater opportunities for a political career than
were afforded by the feeble body of delegates which preceded it; and a
penal clause, compelling members to attend its meetings, was hardly
needed under the new circumstances which arose.

[Sidenote: Powers denied to the states.]

[Sidenote: Emphatic condemnation of paper money.]

While the powers of the federal government were thus carefully defined,
at the same time several powers were expressly denied to the states. No
state was allowed, without explicit authority from Congress, to lay any
tonnage or custom-house duties, "keep troops or ships of war in time of
peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state or with a
foreign power, or engage in war unless actually invaded, or in such
imminent danger as will not admit of delays." The following clause
provided against a recurrence of some of the worst evils which had been
felt under the "league of friendship:" "No state shall enter into any
treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and
reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and
silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder,
_ex post facto_ law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or
grant any title of nobility." Henceforth there was to be no repetition
of such disgraceful scenes as had lately been witnessed in Rhode
Island. So far as the state legislatures were concerned, paper money was
to be ruled out forever. But how was it with the federal government? By
the articles of confederation the United States were allowed to issue
bills of credit, and make them a tender in payment of debts. In the
Federal Convention the committee of detail suggested that this
permission might remain under the new constitution; but the suggestion
was almost unanimously condemned. All the ablest men in the convention
spoke emphatically against it. Gouverneur Morris urged that the federal
government, no less than the state governments, should be expressly
prohibited from issuing bills of credit, or in any wise making its
promissory notes a legal tender. He went over the history of the past
ten years; he called attention to the obstinacy with which the wretched
device had been resorted to again and again, after its evils had been
thrust before everybody's eyes; and he proved himself a true prophet
when he said that if the United States should ever again have a great
war to conduct, people would have forgotten all about these things, and
would call for fresh issues of inconvertible paper, with similar
disastrous results. Now was the time to stop it once for all. "Yes,"
echoed Roger Sherman, "this is the favourable crisis for crushing paper
money." "This is the time," said his colleague, Ellsworth, "to shut and
bar the door against paper money, which can in no case be necessary.
Give the government credit, and other resources will offer. The power
may do harm, never good." There was no way, he added, in which powerful
friends could so soon be gained for the new constitution as by
withholding this power from the government. James Wilson took the same
view. "It will have the most salutary influence on the credit of the
United States," said he, "to remove the possibility of paper money."
"Rather than grant the power to Congress," said John Langdon, "I would
reject the whole plan." "The words which grant this power," said George
Read of Delaware, "if not struck out, will be as alarming as the mark of
the Beast, in the Apocalypse." On none of the subjects that came up for
discussion during that summer was the convention more nearly unanimous
than in its condemnation of paper money. The only delegate who ventured
to speak in its favour was Mercer of Maryland. What Hamilton would have
said, if he had been present that day, we may judge from his vigorous
words published some time before. The power to emit an inconvertible
paper as a sign of value ought never hereafter to be used; for in its
very nature, said he, it is "pregnant with abuses, and liable to be made
the engine of imposition and fraud, holding out temptations equally
pernicious to the integrity of government and to the morals of the
people." Paterson called it "sanctifying iniquity by law." The same
views were entertained by Washington and Madison. There were a few
delegates, however, who thought it unsafe to fetter Congress absolutely.
To use Luther Martin's expression, they did not set themselves up to be
"wise beyond every event." George Mason said he "had a mortal hatred to
paper money, yet, as he could not foresee all emergencies, he was
unwilling to tie the hands of the legislature. The late war," he
thought, "could not have been carried on had such a prohibition
existed." Randolph spoke to the same effect. It was finally decided, by
the vote of nine states against New Jersey and Maryland, that the power
to issue inconvertible paper should not be granted to the federal
government. An express prohibition, such as had been adopted for the
separate states, was thought unnecessary. It was supposed that it was
enough to withhold the power, since the federal government would not
venture to exercise it unless expressly permitted in the Constitution.
"Thus," says Madison, in his narrative of the proceedings, "the pretext
for a paper currency, and particularly for making the bills a tender,
either for public or private debts, was cut off." Nothing could be more
clearly expressed than this. As Mr. Justice Field observes, in his able
dissenting opinion in the recent case of Juilliard _vs._ Greenman, "if
there be anything in the history of the Constitution which can be
established with moral certainty, it is that the framers of that
instrument intended to prohibit the issue of legal-tender notes both by
the general government and by the states, and thus prevent interference
with the contracts of private parties." Such has been the opinion of our
ablest constitutional jurists, Marshall, Webster, Story, Curtis, and
Nelson. There can be little doubt that, according to all sound
principles of interpretation, the Legal Tender Act of 1862 was passed in
flagrant violation of the Constitution. Could Ellsworth and Morris,
Langdon and Madison, have foreseen the possibility of such extraordinary
judgments as have lately emanated from the Supreme Court of the United
States, they would doubtless have insisted upon the express prohibition,
instead of leaving it to posterity to root out the plague, as it will
apparently some time have to do, by the cumbrous process of an amendment
to the Constitution.

The work of the convention, as thus far considered, related to the
legislative department of the new government. While these discussions
were going on, much attention had been paid, from time to time, to the
characteristics of the proposed federal executive. The debates on this
question, though long kept up, were far less acrimonious than the
debates on representation and the power of Congress over trade, because
here there was no obvious clashing of local interests. But for this very
reason the convention had no longer so clear a chart to steer by. On the
question of the slave-trade, the Pinckneys knew accurately just what
South Carolina wanted, how much it would do to claim, and how far it
would be necessary to yield. As to the regulation of commerce by a bare
majority of votes in Congress, King and Sherman on the one hand, Mason
and Randolph on the other, were able to pursue a thoroughly definite
course of action in behalf of what were supposed to be the special
interests of New England or of Virginia. Consequently, the debates kept
close to the point; the controversy was keen, and sometimes, as we have
seen, angry.

[Sidenote: Debates as to the federal executive.]

It was very different with the question as to the federal executive.
Upon this point the discussions were guided rather by general
speculations as to what would be most likely to work well, and
accordingly they wandered far and wide. Some of the delegates seemed to
think we should sooner or later come to adopt a hereditary monarchy, and
that the chief thing to be done was to postpone the event as long as
possible. Many wild ideas were broached: such, for example, as a
triple-headed executive, to represent the eastern, middle, and southern
states, somewhat as associated Roman emperors at times administered
affairs in the different portions of an undivided empire. The Virginia
plan had not stated whether its proposed executive was to be single or
plural, because the Virginia delegates could not agree. Madison wished
it to be single, to insure greater efficiency, but to Randolph and Mason
a tyranny seemed to lurk in such an arrangement. When James Wilson and
Charles Pinckney suggested that the executive power should be intrusted
into the hands of one man, a profound silence fell upon the convention.
No one spoke for several minutes, until Washington, from the chair,
asked if he should put the question. Franklin then got up, and said it
was an interesting subject, and he should like to hear what the members
had to say; and so the ball was set rolling. Rutledge said there was no
need of their being so shy. A man might frankly express his opinions,
and afterwards change them if he saw good reason for so doing. For his
part, he was in favour of vesting the executive power in a single
person, to secure efficiency of administration and concentration of
responsibility; but he would not give him the power to declare war and
make peace. Sherman then made the far-reaching suggestion, that the
executive magistracy was really "nothing more than an institution for
carrying the will of the legislature into effect; that the person or
persons ought to be appointed by and accountable to the legislature
only, which was the depository of the supreme will of the society. As
they were the best judges of the business which ought to be done by the
executive department, ... he wished the number might not be fixed, but
that the legislature should be at liberty to appoint one or more, as
experience might dictate." It would greatly have astonished the
convention had they been told that this suggestion of Sherman's was a
move in the very same line of development which the British government
had been following for more than half a century; yet such, as we shall
presently see, was the case. Had this point been understood then as we
understand it now, the proceedings of the convention could not have
failed to be profoundly affected by it. As it was, the suggestion did
not receive due attention, and the stream of discussion was turned into
a very different channel. Wilson argued powerfully in favour of a single
chief magistrate, and this view finally prevailed.

[Sidenote: There should be a president, but how should he be elected.]

After it had been decided that there should be one man set in so high a
position, there was endless discussion as to whether he should be
elected by the people or by Congress, and whether he should serve for
one, or two, or three, or four, or ten, or fifteen years. "Better call
it twenty," said Rufus King, sarcastically; "it is the average reign of
princes." Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris would have had him chosen for
life, subject to removal for misbehaviour; but the preference for a
short term of service was soon manifest. As to the method of election,
opinions oscillated back and forth for several weeks. Wilson said "he
was almost unwilling to declare the mode which he wished to take place,
being apprehensive that it might appear chimerical. He would say,
however, at least, that in theory he was for an election by the people.
Experience, particularly in New York and Massachusetts, showed that an
election of the first magistrate by the people at large was both a
convenient and a successful mode. The objects of choice in such cases
must be persons whose merits have general notoriety." Mason, Rutledge,
and Strong agreed with Sherman that the executive should be chosen by
the legislature; but Washington, Madison, Gerry, and Gouverneur Morris
strongly disapproved of this. Morris argued that an election by the
national legislature would be the work of intrigue and corruption, like
the election of the king of Poland by a diet of nobles; but Mason
declared, on the other hand, that "to refer the choice of a proper
character for a chief magistrate to the people would be as unnatural as
to refer a trial of colours to a blind man." A decision was first
reached against an election by Congress, because it was thought that if
the chief magistrate should prove himself thoroughly competent he ought
to be reëligible; but if reëligible he would be exposed to the
temptation of truckling to the most powerful party or cabal in Congress,
in order to secure his reëlection. It did not occur to any one to
suggest that under ordinary circumstances the executive ought to follow
the policy of the most powerful party in Congress, and that he might at
the same time preserve all needful independence by being clothed with
the power of dissolving Congress and making an appeal to the people in a
new election. It is interesting to consider what might have come of such
a suggestion, following upon the heels of that made by Roger Sherman. As
we shall presently see, it would have immeasurably simplified the
machinery of our government, besides making the executive what it ought
to be, the arm of the legislature, instead of a separate and coördinate
power. Upon this point the minds of nearly all the members were so far
under the sway of an incorrect theory that such an idea occurred to none
of them. It was decided that the chief magistrate ought to be
reëligible, and therefore should not be elected by Congress.

[Sidenote: Suggestion of an electoral college.]

An immediate choice by the people, however, did not meet with general
favour. To obviate the difficulty, Ellsworth and King suggested the
device of an electoral college, in which the electors should be chosen
by the state legislatures, and should hold a meeting at the federal city
for the sole purpose of deciding upon a chief magistrate. It was then
objected that it would be difficult to find competent men who would be
willing to undertake a long journey simply for such a purpose. The
objection was felt to be a very grave one, and so the convention
returned to the plan of an election by Congress, and again confronted
the difficulty of the chief magistrate's intriguing to secure his
reëlection. Wilson thought to do away with this difficulty by
introducing the element of blind chance, as in some of the states of
ancient Greece, and choosing the executive by a board of electors taken
from Congress by lot; but the suggestion found little support. Dickinson
thought it would be well if the people of each state were to choose its
best citizen,--in modern parlance, its "favourite son;" then out of
these thirteen names a chief magistrate might be chosen, either by
Congress or by a special board of electors. At length, on the 26th of
July, at the motion of Mason, the convention resolved that there should
be a national executive, to consist of a single person, to be chosen by
the national legislature for the term of seven years, and to be
ineligible for a second term. He was to be styled President of the
United States of America.

This decision remained until the very end of August, when the whole
question was reopened by a motion of Rutledge that the two houses of
Congress, in electing the president, should proceed by "joint ballot."
The object of this motion was to prevent either house from exerting a
negative on the choice of the other. It was carried in spite of the
opposition of some of the smaller states, which might hope to exercise a
greater relative influence upon the choice of presidents, if the Senate
were to vote separately. At this point the fears of Gouverneur Morris,
that an election by Congress would result in boundless intrigue, were
revived; and in a powerful speech he persuaded the convention to return
to the device of the electoral college, which might be made equal in
number and similar in composition to the two houses of Congress sitting
together. It need not be required of the electors, after all, that they
should make a long journey to the seat of the federal government. They
might meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two
persons, one of whom must be an inhabitant of a different state. By this
provision it was hoped to diminish the chances for extreme sectional
partiality. A list of these votes might be sent under seal to the
presiding officer of the Senate, to be counted. Should no candidate turn
out to have a majority of the votes, the Senate might choose a president
from the five highest candidates on the list. The candidate having the
next highest number of votes might be declared vice-president, and
preserve the visible continuity of the government in case of the death
of the president during his term of office. By these changes the method
of electing the president, as finally decided upon, was nearly
completed. But Mason, Randolph, Gerry, King, and Wilson were not
satisfied with the provision that the Senate might choose the president
in case of a failure of choice on the part of the electoral college:
they preferred to give this power to the House of Representatives. It
was thought that the Senate would be likely to prove an aristocratic
body, somewhat removed from the people in its sympathies, and there was
a dread of intrusting to it too many important functions. Mason thought
that the sway of an aristocracy would be worse than an absolute
monarchy; and if the Senate might every now and then elect the
president, there would be a risk that the dignity of his office might
degenerate, until he should become a mere creature of the Senate. On the
other hand, the small states, in order to have an equal voice with the
large ones, in such an emergency as the failure of choice by the
electoral college, wished to keep the eventual choice in the hands of
the Senate. Among the delegates from the small states, only Langdon and
Dickinson at first supported the change, and only New Hampshire voted
for it. At length Sherman proposed a compromise, which was carried. It
was agreed that the eventual choice should be given to the House of
Representatives, and not to the Senate, but that in exercising this
function the vote in the House of Representatives should be taken by
states. Thus the humours of the delegates from the small states, and of
those who dreaded the accumulation of powers into the hands of an
oligarchy, were alike gratified. This arrangement was finally adopted by
the votes of ten states against Delaware.

But in spite of all the minute and anxious care that was taken in
guarding this point, the contingency of an election being thus thrown
into the hands of the national legislature was not regarded as likely
often to occur. In point of fact, it has hitherto happened only twice in
the century, in the elections of 1800 and of 1824. It was recognized
that the work would ordinarily be done through the machinery of the
electoral college, and that thus the fear of intrigue between the
president and Congress, as it had originally been felt by the
convention, might be set aside. To make assurance doubly sure, it was
provided that "no person shall be appointed an elector who is a member
of the legislature of the United States, or who holds any office of
profit or trust under the United States." It then appeared that the
arguments which had been alleged against the eligibility of the
president for a second term had lost their force; and he was accordingly
made reëligible, while his term of service was reduced from seven years
to four.

[Sidenote: How to count the votes.]

The scheme had thus arrived substantially at its present shape, except
that the counting of the electoral vote still remained in the hands of
the Senate. On the 6th of September this provision was altered, and it
was decided that "the president of the Senate shall, in the presence of
the Senate and the House of Representatives, open all the certificates,
and the votes shall then be counted." The object of this provision was
to take the office of counting away from the Senate alone, and give it
to Congress as a whole; and while doing so, to guard against the failure
of an election through the disagreement of the two houses. The method of
counting was not prescribed, for it was thought that it might safely be
left to joint rules established by the two houses of Congress
themselves, after analogies supplied by the experience of the several
state legislatures. The case of double returns, sent in by rival
governments in the same state, was not contemplated by the convention;
and thus the door was left open for a danger considerably greater than
many of those over which the delegates were agitated. It may safely be
said, however, that not even the wildest license of interpretation can
find any support for the ridiculous doctrine suggested by some persons
blinded by political passion in 1877, that the business of counting the
votes and deciding upon the validity of returns belongs to the president
of the Senate. No such idea was for a moment entertained by the
convention. Any such idea is completely negatived by their action of the
6th of September. The express purpose of the final arrangement made on
that day was to admit the House of Representatives to active
participation in the office of determining who should have been elected
president. It was expressly declared that this work was too important to
be left to the Senate alone. What, then, would the convention have said
to the preposterous notion that this work might safely be left to the
presiding officer of the Senate? The convention were keenly alive to any
imaginable grant of authority that might enable the Senate to grow into
an oligarchy. What would they have said to the proposal to create a
monocrat _ad hoc_, an official permanently endowed by virtue of his
office with the function of king-maker?

[Sidenote: The convention foresaw imaginary dangers, but not the real

In this connection it is worth our while to observe that in no respect
has the actual working of the Constitution departed so far from the
intentions of its framers as in the case of their provisions concerning
the executive. Against a host of possible dangers they guarded most
elaborately, but the dangers and inconveniences against which we have
actually had to contend they did not foresee. It will be observed that
Wilson's proposal for a direct election of the president by the people
found little favour in the convention. The schemes that were seriously
considered oscillated back and forth between an election by the national
legislature and an election by a special college of electors. The
electors might be chosen by a popular vote, or by the state
legislatures, or in any such wise as each state might see fit to
determine for itself. In point of fact, electors were chosen by the
legislature in New Jersey till 1816; in Connecticut till 1820; in New
York, Delaware, and Vermont, and with one exception in Georgia, till
1824; in South Carolina till 1868. Massachusetts adopted various plans,
and did not finally settle down to an election by the people until 1828.
Now there were several reasons why the Federal Convention was afraid to
trust the choice of the president directly to the people. One was that
very old objection, the fear of the machinations of demagogues, since
people were supposed to be so easily fooled. As already observed, the
democratic sentiment in the convention was such as we should now call
weak. Another reason shows vividly how wide the world seemed in those
days of slow coaches and mail-bags carried on horseback. It was feared
that people would not have sufficient data wherewith to judge of the
merits of public men in states remote from their own. The electors, as
eminent men exceptionally well informed, and screened from the sophisms
of demagogues, might hold little conventions and select the best
possible candidates, using in every case their own unfettered judgment.

In this connection the words of Hamilton are worth quoting. In the
sixty-eighth number of the "Federalist" he says: "The mode of
appointment of the chief magistrate of the United States is almost the
only part of the system which has escaped without severe censure, or
which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents.
The most plausible of these who has appeared in print has even deigned
to admit that the election of the president is well guarded.... It was
desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of
the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided.... It was
equally desirable that the immediate election should be made by men
capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting
under circumstances favourable to deliberation and to a judicious
combination of all the reasons and inducements that were proper to
govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their
fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess
the information and discernment requisite to so complicated an
investigation.... It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little
opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least
to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate who was to have so
important an agency in the administration of the government."

[Sidenote: Actual working of the electoral scheme.]

Such was the theory as set forth by a thinker endowed with rare ability
to follow out in imagination the results of any course of political
action. It is needless to say that the actual working of the scheme has
been very different from what was expected. In our very first great
struggle of parties, in 1800, the electors divided upon party lines,
with little heed to the "complicated investigation" for which they were
supposed to be chosen. Quite naturally, for the work of electing a
candidate presupposes a state of mind very different from that of serene
deliberation. In 1800 the electors acted simply as automata recording
the victory of their party, and so it has been ever since. In our own
time presidents and vice-presidents are nominated, not without elaborate
intrigue, by special conventions quite unknown to the Constitution; the
people cast their votes for the two or three pairs of candidates thus
presented, and the electoral college simply registers the results. The
system is thus fully exposed to all the dangers which our forefathers
dreaded from the frequent election of a chief magistrate by the people.
Owing to the great good-sense and good-nature of the American people,
the system does not work so badly as might be expected. It has, indeed,
worked immeasurably better than any one would have ventured to predict.
It is nevertheless open to grave objections. It compels a change of
administration at stated astronomical periods, whether any change of
policy is called for or not; it stirs up the whole country every fourth
year with a furious excitement that is often largely factitious; and
twice within the century, in 1801 and again in 1877, it has brought us
to the verge of the most foolish and hopeless species of civil war, in
view of that thoroughly monarchical kind of accident, a disputed

[Sidenote: The convention supposed itself to be copying from the British

The most curious and instructive point concerning the peculiar executive
devised for the United States by the Federal Convention is the fact that
the delegates proceeded upon a thoroughly false theory of what they were
doing. As already observed, in this part of its discussions the
convention had not the clearly outlined chart of local interests to
steer by. It indulged in general speculations and looked about for
precedents; and there was one precedent which American statesmen then
always had before their eyes, whether they were distinctly aware of it
or not. In creating an executive department, the members of the
convention were really trying to copy the only constitution of which
they had any direct experience, and which most of them agreed in
thinking the most efficient working constitution in existence,--as
indeed it was. They were trying to copy the British Constitution,
modifying it to suit their republican ideas: but curiously enough, what
they copied in creating the office of president was not the real English
executive or prime minister, but the fictitious English executive, the
sovereign. And this was associated in their minds with another profound
misconception, which influenced all this part of their work. They
thought that to keep the legislative and executive offices distinct and
separate was the very palladium of liberty; and they all took it for
granted, without a moment's question, that the British Constitution did
this thing. England, they thought, is governed by King, Lords, and
Commons, and the supreme power is nicely divided between the three, so
that neither one can get the whole of it, and that is the safeguard of
English liberty. So they arranged President, Senate, and Representatives
to correspond, and sedulously sought to divide supreme power between the
three, so that they might operate as checks upon each other. If either
one should ever succeed in acquiring the whole sovereignty, then they
thought there would be an end of American liberty.

[Sidenote: Influence of Montesquieu and Blackstone.]

Now in the earlier part of the work of the Federal Convention, in
dealing with the legislative department, the delegates were on firm
ground, because they were dealing with things of which they knew
something by experience; but in all this careful separation of the
executive power from the legislative they went wide of the mark, because
they were following a theory which did not truly describe things as they
really existed. And that was because the English Constitution was, and
still is, covered up with a thick husk of legal fictions which long ago
ceased to have any vitality. Blackstone, the great authority of the
eighteenth century, set forth this theory of the division of power
between King, Lords, and Commons with clearness and force, and nobody
then understood English history minutely or thoroughly enough to see its
fallaciousness. Montesquieu also, the ablest and most elegant political
writer of the age, with whose works most of the statesmen in the Federal
Convention were familiar, gave a similar description of the English
Constitution, and generalized from it as the ideal constitution for a
free people. But Montesquieu and Blackstone, in their treatment of this
point, had their eyes upon the legal fictions, and were blind to the
real machinery which was working under them. They gave elegant
expression to what the late Mr. Bagehot called the "literary theory" of
the English Constitution. But the real thing differed essentially from
the "literary theory" even in their day. In our own time the divergence
has become so conspicuous that it would not now be possible for
well-informed writers to make the mistake of Montesquieu and Blackstone.
In our time it has come to be perfectly obvious that so far from the
English Constitution separating the executive power from the
legislative, this is precisely what it does not do. In Great Britain the
supreme power is all lodged in a single body, the House of Commons. The
sovereign has come to be purely a legal fiction, and the House of Lords
maintains itself only by submitting to the Commons. The House of Commons
is absolutely supreme, and, as we shall presently see, it really both
appoints and dismisses the executive. The English executive, or chief
magistrate, is ordinarily the first lord of the treasury, and is
commonly styled the prime minister. He is chairman of the most
important committee of the House of Commons, and his cabinet consists of
the chairmen of other committees.

[Sidenote: What our government would be if it were really like that of
Great Britain.]

To make this perfectly clear, let us see what our machinery of
government would be, if it were really like the English. The presence or
absence of the crowned head makes no essential difference; it is only a
kind of ornamental cupola. Suppose for a moment the presidency
abolished, or reduced to the political nullity of the crown in England;
and postpone for a moment the consideration of the Senate. Suppose that
in our House of Representatives the committee of ways and means had two
chairmen,--an upper chairman who looks after all sorts of business, and
a lower chairman who attends especially to the finances. This upper
chairman, we will say, corresponds to the first lord of the treasury,
while the lower one corresponds to the chancellor of the exchequer.
Sometimes, when the upper chairman is a great financier, and capable of
enormous labour, he will fill both places at once, as Mr. Gladstone was
lately first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer. The
chairmen of the other committees on foreign, military, and naval affairs
will answer to the English secretaries of state for foreign affairs and
for war, the first lord of the admiralty, and so on. This group of
chairmen, headed by the upper chairman of the ways and means, will then
answer to the English cabinet, with its prime minister. To complete the
parallel, let us suppose that, after a new House of Representatives is
elected, it chooses this prime minister, and he appoints the other
chairmen who are to make up his cabinet. Suppose, too, that he initiates
all legislation, and executes all laws, and stays in office three weeks
or thirty years, or as long as he can get a majority of the house to
vote for his measures. If he loses his majority, he can either resign or
dissolve the house, and order a new election, thus appealing directly to
the people. If the new house gives him a majority, he stays in office;
if it shows a majority against him, he steps down into the house, and
becomes, perhaps, the leader of the opposition.

Now if this were the form of our government, it would correspond in all
essential features to that of England. The likeness is liable to be
obscured by the fact that in England it is the queen who is supposed to
appoint the prime minister; but that is simply a part of the antiquated
"literary theory" of the English Constitution. In reality the queen only
acts as mistress of the ceremonies. Whatever she may wish, the prime
minister must be the man who can command the best working majority in
the house. This is not only tested by the first vote that is taken, but
it is almost invariably known beforehand so well that if the queen
offers the place to the wrong man he refuses to take it. Should he be so
foolish as to take it, he is sure to be overthrown at the first test
vote, and then the right man comes in. Thus in 1880 the queen's manifest
preference for Lord Granville or Lord Hartington made no sort of
difference. Mr. Gladstone was as much chosen by the House of Commons as
if the members had sat in their seats and balloted for him. If the crown
were to be abolished to-morrow, and the house were henceforth, on the
resignation of a prime minister, to elect a new one to serve as long as
he could command a majority, it would not be doing essentially otherwise
than it does now. The house then dismisses its minister when it rejects
one of his important measures. But while thus appointed and dismissed by
the house, he is in no wise its slave; for by the power of dissolution
he has the right to appeal to the country, and let the general election
decide the issue. The obvious advantages of this system are that it
makes anything like a deadlock between the legislature and the executive
impossible; and it insures a concentration of responsibility. The prime
minister's bills cannot be disregarded, like the president's messages;
and thus, too, the house is kept in hand, and cannot degenerate into a
debating club.[9]

[Sidenote: In the British government, the executive department is not
separated from the legislative.]

A system so delicate and subtle, yet so strong and efficient, as this
could no more have been invented by the wisest of statesmen than a
chemist could make albumen by taking its elements and mixing them
together. In its practical working it is a much simpler system than
ours, and still its principal features are not such as would be likely
to occur to men who had not had some actual experience of them. It is
the peculiar outgrowth of English history. As we can now see, its chief
characteristic is its not separating the executive power from the
legislative. As a member of Parliament, the prime minister introduces
the legislation which he is himself expected to carry into effect. Nor
does the English system even keep the judiciary entirely separate, for
the lord chancellor not only presides over the House of Lords, but sits
in the cabinet as the prime minister's legal adviser. It is somewhat as
if the chief justice of the United States were _ex officio_ president of
the Senate and attorney-general; though here the resemblance is somewhat
superficial. Our Senate, although it does not represent landed
aristocracy or the church, but the federal character of our government,
has still a superficial resemblance to the House of Lords. It passes on
all bills that come up from the lower house, and can originate bills on
most matters, but not for raising revenue. Its function as a high court
of impeachment, with the chief justice for its presiding officer, was
directly copied from the House of Lords. But here the resemblance ends.
The House of Lords has no such veto upon the House of Commons as our
Senate has upon the House of Representatives. Between our upper and
lower houses a serious deadlock is possible; but the House of Lords can
only reject a bill until it sees that the House of Commons is determined
to have it carried. It can only enter a protest. If it is obstinate and
tries to do more, the House of Commons, through its prime minister, can
create enough new peers to change the vote,--a power so formidable in
its effects upon the social position of the peerage that it does not
need to be used. The knowledge that it exists is enough to bring the
House of Lords to terms.

[Sidenote: Circumstances which obscured the true aspect of the case a
century ago.]

These features of the English Constitution are so prominent since the
reform of Parliament in 1832 as to be generally recognized. They have
been gradually becoming its essential features ever since the Revolution
of 1688. Before that time the crown had really been the executive, and
there had really been a separation between the executive and legislative
branches of the government, which on several occasions, and notably in
the middle of the seventeenth century, had led to armed strife. What the
Revolution of 1688 really decided was that henceforth in England the
executive was to be the mighty arm of the legislature, and not a
separate and rival power. It ended whatever of reality there was in the
old system of King, Lords, and Commons, and by the time of Sir Robert
Walpole the system of cabinet government had become fairly established;
but men still continued to use the phrases and formulas bequeathed from
former ages, so that the meaning of the changes going on under their
very eyes was obscured. There was also a great historical incident,
after Walpole's time, which served further to obscure the meaning of
these changes, especially to Americans. From 1760 to 1784, by means of
the rotten borough system of elections and the peculiar attitude of
political parties, the king contrived to make his will felt in the
House of Commons to such an extent that it became possible to speak of
the personal government of George III. The work of the Revolution of
1688 was not really completed till the election of 1784 which made Pitt
the ruler of England, and its fruits cannot be said to have been fully
secured till 1832. Now as our Revolutionary War was brought on by the
attempts of George III. to establish his personal government, and as it
was actually he rather than Lord North who ruled England during that
war, it was not strange that Americans, even of the highest education,
should have failed to discover the transformation which the past century
had wrought in the framework of the English government. Nay, more,
during this century the king had seemed even more of a real institution
to the Americans than to the British. He had seemed to them the only
link which bound the different parts of the empire together. Throughout
the struggles which culminated in the War of Independence, it had been
the favourite American theory that while the colonial assemblies and the
British Parliament were sovereign each in its own sphere, all alike owed
allegiance to the king as visible head of the empire. To people who had
been in the habit of setting forth and defending such a theory, it was
impossible that the crown should seem so much a legal fiction as it had
really come to be in England. It is very instructive to note that while
the members of the Federal Convention thoroughly understood the
antiquated theory of the English Constitution as set forth by
Blackstone, they drew very few illustrations from the modern working of
Parliament, with which they had not had sufficient opportunities of
becoming familiar. In particular they seemed quite unconscious of the
vast significance of a dissolution of Parliament, although a dissolution
had occurred only three years before under such circumstances as to work
a revolution in British politics without a breath of disturbance. The
only sort of dissolution with which they were familiar was that in which
Dunmore or Bernard used to send the colonial assemblies home about their
business whenever they grew too refractory. Had the significance of a
dissolution, in the British sense, been understood by the convention,
the pregnant suggestion of Roger Sherman, above mentioned, could not
have failed to give a different turn to the whole series of debates on
the executive branch of the government. Had our Constitution been framed
a few years later, this point would have had a better chance of being
understood. As it was, in trying to modify the English system so as to
adapt it to our own uses, it was the archaic monarchical feature, and
not the modern ministerial feature, upon which we seized. The president,
in our system, irremovable by the national legislature, does not answer
to the modern prime minister, but to the old-fashioned king, with powers
for mischief curtailed by election for short terms.

[Sidenote: The American cabinet is analogous not to the British cabinet,
but to the privy council.]

The close parallelism between the office of president and that of king
in the minds of the framers of the Constitution was instructively shown
in the debates on the advisableness of restraining the president's
action by a privy council. Gerry and Sherman urged that there was need
of such a council, in order to keep watch over the president. It was
suggested that the privy council should consist of "the president of the
Senate, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the chief justice
of the supreme court, and the principal officer in each of five
departments as they shall from time to time be established; their duty
shall be to advise him in matters which he shall lay before them, but
their advice shall not conclude him, or affect his responsibility." The
plan for such a council found favour with Franklin, Madison, Wilson,
Dickinson, and Mason, but did not satisfy the convention. When it was
voted down Mason used strong language. "In rejecting a council to the
president," said he, "we are about to try an experiment on which the
most despotic government has never ventured; the Grand Seignior himself
has his Divan." It was this failure to provide a council which led the
convention to give to the Senate a share in some of the executive
functions of the president, such as the making of treaties, the
appointment of ambassadors, consuls, judges of the supreme court, and
other officers of the United States whose appointment was not otherwise
provided for. As it was objected to the office of vice-president that he
seemed to have nothing provided for him to do, he was disposed of by
making him president of the Senate. No cabinet was created by the
Constitution, but since then the heads of various executive departments,
appointed by the president, have come to constitute what is called his
cabinet. Since, however, the members of it do not belong to Congress,
and can neither initiate nor guide legislation, they really constitute a
privy council rather than a cabinet in the modern sense, thus furnishing
another illustration of the analogy between the president and the
archaic sovereign.

[Sidenote: The federal judiciary.]

Concerning the structure of the federal judiciary little need be said
here. It was framed with very little disagreement among the delegates.
The work was chiefly done in committee by Ellsworth, Wilson, Randolph,
and Rutledge, and the result did not differ essentially from the scheme
laid down in the Virginia plan. It was indeed the indispensable
completion of the work which was begun by the creation of a national
House of Representatives. To make a federal government immediately
operative upon individual citizens, it must of course be armed with
federal courts to try and federal officers to execute judgment in all
cases in which individual citizens were amenable to the national law.
But for this system of United States courts extended throughout the
states and supreme within its own sphere, the federal constitution could
never have been put into practical working order. In another respect the
federal judiciary was the most remarkable and original of all the
creations of that wonderful convention. It was charged with the duty of
interpreting, in accordance with the general principles of common law,
the Federal Constitution itself. This is the most noble as it is the
most distinctive feature in the government of the United States. It
constitutes a difference between the American and British systems more
fundamental than the separation of the executive from the legislative
department. In Great Britain the unwritten constitution is administered
by the omnipotent House of Commons; whatever statute is enacted by
Parliament must stand until some future Parliament may see fit to repeal
it. But an act passed by both houses of Congress, and signed by the
president, may still be set aside as unconstitutional by the supreme
court of the United States in its judgments upon individual cases
brought before it. It was thus that the practical working of our Federal
Constitution during the first thirty years of the nineteenth century was
swayed to so great an extent by the profound and luminous decisions of
Chief Justice Marshall, that he must be assigned a foremost place among
the founders of our Federal Union. This intrusting to the judiciary the
whole interpretation of the fundamental instrument of government is the
most peculiarly American feature of the work done by the convention, and
to the stability of such a federation as ours, covering as it does the
greater part of a huge continent, it was absolutely indispensable.

Thus, at length, was realized the sublime conception of a nation in
which every citizen lives under two complete and well-rounded systems of
laws,--the state law and the federal law,--each with its legislature,
its executive, and its judiciary moving one within the other,
noiselessly and without friction. It was one of the longest reaches of
constructive statesmanship ever known in the world. There never was
anything quite like it before, and in Europe it needs much explanation
to-day even for educated statesmen who have never seen its workings. Yet
to Americans it has become so much a matter of course that they, too,
sometimes need to be told how much it signifies. In 1787 it was the
substitution of law for violence between states that were partly
sovereign. In some future still grander convention we trust the same
thing will be done between states that have been wholly sovereign,
whereby peace may gain and violence be diminished over other lands than
this which has set the example.

Great as was the work which the Federal Convention had now accomplished,
none of the members supposed it to be complete. After some discussion,
it was decided that Congress might at any time, by a two thirds vote in
both houses, propose amendments to the constitution, or on the
application of the legislatures of two thirds of the states might call a
convention for proposing amendments; and such amendments should become
part of the constitution as soon as ratified by three fourths of the
states, either through their legislatures or through special conventions
summoned for the purpose. The design of this elaborate arrangement was
to guard against hasty or ill-considered changes in the fundamental
instrument of government; and its effectiveness has been such that an
amendment has come to be impossible save as the result of intense
conviction on the part of a vast majority of the whole American people.

Finally it was decided that the Federal Constitution, as now completed,
should be presented to the Continental Congress, and then referred to
special conventions in all the states for ratification; and that when
nine states, or two thirds of the whole number, should have ratified, it
should at once go into operation as between such ratifying states.

[Sidenote: Signing the Constitution.]

When the great document was at last drafted by Gouverneur Morris, and
was all ready for the signatures, the aged Franklin produced a paper,
which was read for him, as his voice was weak. Some parts of this
Constitution, he said, he did not approve, but he was astonished to find
it so nearly perfect. Whatever opinion he had of its errors he would
sacrifice to the public good, and he hoped that every member of the
convention who still had objections would on this occasion doubt a
little of his own infallibility, and for the sake of unanimity put his
name to this instrument. Hamilton added his plea. A few members, he
said, by refusing to sign, might do infinite mischief. No man's ideas
could be more remote from the plan than his were known to be; but was it
possible for a true patriot to deliberate between anarchy and
convulsion, on the one side, and the chance of good to be expected from
this plan, on the other? From these appeals, as well as from
Washington's solemn warning at the outset, we see how distinctly it was
realized that the country was on the verge of civil war. Most of the
members felt so, but to some the new government seemed far too strong,
and there were three who dreaded despotism even more than anarchy.
Mason, Randolph, and Gerry refused to sign, though Randolph sought to
qualify his refusal by explaining that he could not yet make up his
mind whether to oppose or defend the Constitution, when it should be
laid before the people of Virginia. He wished to reserve to himself full
liberty of action in the matter. That Mason and Gerry, valuable as their
services had been in the making of the Constitution, would now go home
and vigorously oppose it, there was no doubt. Of the delegates who were
present on the last day of the convention, all but these three signed
the Constitution. In the signatures the twelve states which had taken
part in the work were all represented, Hamilton signing alone for New

Thus after four months of anxious toil, through the whole of a scorching
Philadelphia summer, after earnest but sometimes bitter discussion, in
which more than once the meeting had seemed on the point of breaking up,
a colossal work had at last been accomplished, the results of which were
most powerfully to affect the whole future career of the human race so
long as it shall dwell upon the earth. In spite of the high-wrought
intensity of feeling which had been now and then displayed, grave
decorum had ruled the proceedings; and now, though few were really
satisfied, the approach to unanimity was remarkable. When all was over,
it is said that many of the members seemed awe-struck. Washington sat
with head bowed in solemn meditation. The scene was ended by a
characteristic bit of homely pleasantry from Franklin. Thirty-three
years ago, in the days of George II., before the first mutterings of the
Revolution had been heard, and when the French dominion in America was
still untouched, before the banishment of the Acadians or the rout of
Braddock, while Washington was still surveying lands in the wilderness,
while Madison was playing in the nursery and Hamilton was not yet born,
Franklin had endeavoured to bring together the thirteen colonies in a
federal union. Of the famous Albany plan of 1754, the first complete
outline of a federal constitution for America that ever was made, he was
the principal if not the sole author. When he signed his name to the
Declaration of Independence in this very room, his years had rounded the
full period of threescore and ten. Eleven years more had passed, and he
had been spared to see the noble aim of his life accomplished. There was
still, no doubt, a chance of failure, but hope now reigned in the old
man's breast. On the back of the president's quaint black armchair there
was emblazoned a half-sun, brilliant with its gilded rays. As the
meeting was breaking up and Washington arose, Franklin pointed to the
chair, and made it the text for prophecy. "As I have been sitting here
all these weeks," said he, "I have often wondered whether yonder sun is
rising or setting. But now I know that it is a rising sun!"



[Sidenote: The new Constitution is laid before Congress and submitted
forthwith to the several states for ratification.]

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 favourable 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 honoured 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 of 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 favour 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 death-warrant? 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 by refusing 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
outgeneralled, 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."

[Sidenote: First American parties, Federalists and Antifederalists.]

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 short-lived 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."

[Sidenote: The contest in Pennsylvania.]

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 favour 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 savoured 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.

[Sidenote: How to make a quorum.]

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 the 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 vigour 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 doubtless 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!

[Sidenote: Delaware ratifies the Constitution, Dec. 6, 1787;
Pennsylvania, Dec. 12; New Jersey, Dec. 18.]

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 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.

[Sidenote: Georgia ratifies, Jan. 2, 1788; Connecticut, Jan. 9. The
outlook in Massachusetts.]

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 self-government reached a higher
degree of efficiency; nowhere had the town meeting flourished with such
vigour. 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 untrammelled
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 one
of the greatest citizens 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
weather-beaten 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.

[Sidenote: Debates in the Massachusetts convention.]

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
power 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 Meeting-House? 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 skilful 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!"

[Sidenote: Liberal attitude of the clergy.]

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."

[Sidenote: Speech of a Berkshire farmer.]

The 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 honourable 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 5,000
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 labour; and if we do not do it now, I am
afraid we shall never have another opportunity."

[Sidenote: Attitude of Samuel Adams.]

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
views of so many delegates, 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 favour 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."

[Sidenote: Washington's fruitful suggestion.]

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 neighbouring
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."

[Sidenote: Massachusetts ratifies, proposing amendments, Feb. 6, 1788.]

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 offences. 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.

[Sidenote: Maryland ratifies, April 28.]

[Sidenote: Debates in the South Carolina legislature.]

[Sidenote: South Carolina ratifies, May 23.]

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 at work, 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 defence 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.

[Sidenote: Important effect upon Virginia.]

[Sidenote: Debates in the Virginia Convention.]

[Sidenote: Madison and Marshall prevail and Virginia ratifies, June 25.]

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 favoured 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 favourable 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 favour 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 paper-money 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 favourite 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
masterly and far-reaching 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 coloured 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.

[Sidenote: New Hampshire had already ratified, June 21.]

The discussion had lasted so long that Virginia lost the distinction of
being the ninth state to ratify the Constitution. That honour 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
Confederacy, 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.

[Sidenote: The struggle in New York.]

[Sidenote: The "Federalist."]

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 fifty-one. 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 isn'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

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 defence
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.

[Sidenote: Hamilton wins the victory, and New York ratifies, July 26.]

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 equalled 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.

[Sidenote: The laggard states, North Carolina and Rhode Island.]

New York, however, dogged 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
neighbouring 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

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.

[Sidenote: First presidential election, Jan. 7, 1789.]

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 honour 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 fervour 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.

[Sidenote: Inauguration of Washington, April 30.]

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 splendour,--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 peace-loving 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 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 skilful 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 dress-sword. 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!"


The bibliography of the period covered in this book is most copiously
and thoroughly treated in the seventh volume of Winsor's _Narrative and
Critical History of America_, Boston, 1888. For the benefit of the
reader who may not have ready access to that vast storehouse of
information, the following brief notes may be of service.

The best account of the peace negotiations is to be found in chapter ii.
of Winsor's volume just cited, written by Hon. John Jay, who had already
discussed the subject quite thoroughly in his _Address before the New
York Historical Society on its Seventy-Ninth Anniversary_, Nov. 27,
1883. Of the highest value are Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice's _Life of Lord
Shelburne_, 3 vols., London, 1875-76, and Adolphe de Circourt, _Histoire
de l'action commune de la France et de l'Amérique, etc._, tome iii.,
_Documents originaux inédits_, Paris, 1876. See also Sparks, _Diplomatic
Correspondence of the American Revolution_, 12 vols., Boston, 1829-30;
Trescot's _Diplomacy of the American Revolution_, N.Y., 1852; Lyman's
_Diplomacy of the United States_, Boston, 1826; Elliot's _American
Diplomatic Code_, 2 vols., Washington, 1834; Chalmers's _Collection of
Treaties_, 2 vols., London, 1790; Lord Stanhope's _History of England_,
vol. vii., London, 1853; Lecky's _History of England_, vol. iv., London,
1882; Lord John Russell's _Memorials of Fox_, 4 vols., London, 1853-57;
Albemarle's _Rockingham and his Contemporaries_, 2 vols., London, 1852;
Walpole's _Last Journals_, 2 vols., London, 1859; Force's _American
Archives_, 4th series, 6 vols., Washington, 1839-46; John Adams's
_Works_, 10 vols., Boston, 1850-56; Rives's _Life of Madison_, 3 vols.,
Boston, 1859-68; Madison's _Letters and other Writings_, 4 vols.,
Phila., 1865; the lives of Franklin, by Bigelow and Parton; the lives
of Jay, by Jay, Flanders, and Whitelocke; Morse's _John Adams_, Boston,
1885; _Correspondence of George III. with Lord North_, 2 vols., London,
1867; Wharton's _Digest of International Law_, Washington, 1887,
_Appendix_ to vol. iii.; Hale's _Franklin in France_, 2 vols., Boston,
1888. The view of the treaty set forth in 1830 by Sparks, according to
which Jay and Adams were quite mistaken in their suspicions of the
French court, we may now regard as disposed of by the evidence presented
by Circourt and Fitzmaurice. It has led many writers astray, and even
with all the lights which Mr. Bancroft has had, the account in the last
revision of his _History of the United States_, vol. v., N.Y., 1886,
though in some respects one of the best to be found in the general
histories, still leaves much to be desired.

The general condition of the United States under the articles of
confederation is well sketched in the sixth volume of Bancroft's final
revision, and in Curtis's _History of the Constitution_, 2 vols., N.Y.,
1861. An excellent summary is given in the first volume of Schouler's
_History of the United States under the Constitution_, of which vols,
i.-iii. (Washington, 1882-85) have appeared. Mr. Schouler's book is
suggestive and stimulating. The work most rich in details is Professor
McMaster's _History of the People of the United States_, of which the
first volume rather more than covers the period 1783-89. The author is
especially deserving of praise for the diligence with which he has
searched the newspapers and obscure pamphlets of the period. He has thus
given much fresh life to the narrative, besides throwing valuable light
upon the thoughts and feelings of the men who lived under the "league of
friendship." I take pleasure in acknowledging my indebtedness to
Professor McMaster for several interesting illustrative details, chiefly
in my third, fourth, and seventh chapters. At the same time one is
sorely puzzled at some of his omissions, as in the account of the
Federal Convention, in which one finds no allusion whatever to the
all-important question of the representation of slaves, or to the
compromise by which New England secured to Congress full power to
regulate commerce by yielding to Georgia and South Carolina in the
matter of the African slave-trade. So the discussion as to the national
executive is carried on till July 26th, when it was decided that the
president should be chosen by Congress for a single term of seven years;
then the subject is dropped, and the reader is left to suppose that such
was the final arrangement. Instances of what seems like carelessness are
sufficiently numerous to make the book in some places an unsafe guide to
the general reader, but in spite of such defects, which a careful
revision might remedy, its value is great. Further general information
as to the period of the Confederation may be found in Morse's admirable
_Life of Alexander Hamilton_, 3d ed., 2 vols., Boston, 1882; J.C.
Hamilton's _Republic of the United States_, 7 vols., Boston, 1879;
Frothingham's _Rise of the Republic_, Boston, 1872, chapter xii.; Von
Holst's _Constitutional History_, 5 vols., Chicago, 1877-85, chapter i.;
Pitkin's _History of the United States_, 2 vols., New Haven, 1828, vol.
ii.; Marshall's _Life of Washington_, 5 vols., Phila., 1805-07;
_Journals of Congress_, 13 vols., Phila., 1800; _Secret Journals of
Congress_, 4 vols., Boston, 1820-21.

On the loyalists and their treatment, the able essay by Rev. G.E. Ellis,
in Winsor's seventh volume, is especially rich in bibliographical
references. See also Sabine's _Loyalists of the American Revolution_, 2
vols., Boston, 1864; Ryerson's _Loyalists of America_, 2 vols., Toronto,
1880; Jones's _New York during the Revolution_, 2 vols., N.Y., 1879.
Although chiefly concerned with events earlier than 1780, the _Journal
and Letters of Samuel Curwen_, 4th ed., Boston, 1864, and especially the
_Diary and Letters of Thomas Hutchinson_, 2 vols., Boston, 1884-86, are
valuable in this connection.

For the financial troubles the most convenient general survey is to be
found in A.S. Bolles's _Financial History of the United States_,
1774-1789, N.Y., 1879; Sparks's _Life of Gouverneur Morris_, 3 vols.,
Boston, 1832; Pelatiah Webster's _Political Essays_, Phila., 1791;
Phillips's _Colonial and Continental Paper Currency_, 2 vols., Roxbury,
1865-66; Varnum's _Case of Trevett v. Weeden_, Providence, 1787;
Arnold's _History of Rhode Island_, 2 vols., N.Y., 1859-60. The best
account of the Shays rebellion is G.R. Minot's _History of the
Insurrections in Massachusetts_, Worcester, 1788; see also Barry's
_History of Massachusetts_, 3 vols., Boston, 1855-57; Austin's _Life of
Gerry_, 2 vols., Boston, 1828-29. A new and interesting account of the
northwestern cessions and the Ordinance of 1787 is B.A. Hinsdale's _Old
Northwest_, N.Y., 1888; see also Dunn's _Indiana_, Boston, 1888;
Cutler's _Life, Journal, and Correspondence of Manasseh Cutler_, 2
vols., Cincinnati, 1887.

In the _Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political
Science_, the following articles bear especially upon subjects here
treated and are worthy of careful study: II., v., vi., H.C. Adams,
_Taxation in the United States_, 1789-1816; III., i., H.B. Adams,
_Maryland's Influence upon Land Cessions to the United States_; III.,
ix., x., Davis, _American Constitutions_; IV., v., Jameson's
_Introduction to the Constitutional and Political History of the
Individual States_; IV., vii.-ix., Shoshuke Sato's _History of the Land
Question in the United States_.

For the proceedings of the Federal Convention in framing the
Constitution, and of the several state conventions in ratifying it, the
great treasure-house of authoritative information is Elliot's _Debates
in the Conventions_, 5 vols., originally published under the sanction of
Congress in 1830-45; new reprint, Phila., 1888. The contents of the
volumes are as follows:--

     I. Sundry preliminary papers, relating to the ante-revolutionary
     period, and the period of the Confederation; journal of the Federal
     Convention; Yates's minutes of the proceedings; the official
     letters of Martin, Yates, Lansing, Randolph, Mason, and Gerry, in
     explanation of their several courses; Jay's address to the people
     of New York; and other illustrative papers.

     II, III., IV. Proceedings of the several state conventions; with
     other documents, including the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of
     1798, and data relating thereto.

     V. Madison's journal of debates in the Congress of the
     Confederation, Nov. 4, 1782-June 21, 1783, and Feb. 19-April 25,
     1787; Madison's journal of the Federal Convention; letters from
     Madison to Washington, Jefferson, and Randolph, Sept. 1787-Nov.
     1788; and other papers.

The best edition of the "Federalist" is by H.C. Lodge, N.Y., 1888. See
also Story's _Commentaries on the Constitution_, 4th ed., 3 vols.,
Boston, 1873; the works of Daniel Webster, 6 vols., Boston, 1851; Hurd's
_Theory of our National Existence_, Boston, 1881. The above works
expound the Constitution as not a league between sovereign states but a
fundamental law ordained by the people of the United States. The
opposite view is presented in _The Republic of Republics_, by P.C. Centz
[Plain Common Sense, pseudonym of B.J. Sage of New Orleans], Boston,
1881; the works of Calhoun, 6 vols., N.Y., 1853-55; A.H. Stephens's _War
between the States_, 2 vols., Phila., 1868; Jefferson Davis's _Rise and
Fall of the Confederate Government_, 2 vols., N.Y., 1881.

Several volumes of the "American Statesmen" contain interesting accounts
of discussions in the various conventions, as Tyler's _Patrick Henry_,
Hosmer's _Samuel Adams_, Lodge's _Hamilton_, Magruder's _Marshall_,
Roosevelt's _Morris_. Gay's _Madison_ falls far below the general
standard of this excellent and popular series. No satisfactory biography
of Madison has yet been written, though the voluminous work of W.C.
Rives contains much good material. For judicial interpretations of the
Constitution one may consult B.R. Curtis's _Digest of Decisions_,
1790-1854; Flanders's _Lives of the Chief Justices_, Phila., 1858;
Marshall's _Writings on the Federal Constitution_, ed. Perkins, Boston,
1839; see also Pomeroy's _Constitutional Law_, N.Y., 1868; Wharton's
_Commentaries_, Phila., 1884; Von Holst's _Calhoun_, Boston, 1882;
Tyler's _Letters and Times of the Tylers_, 2 vols., Richmond, 1884-85.
Among critical and theoretical works, Fisher's _Trial of the
Constitution_, Phila., 1862, and Lockwood's _Abolition of the
Presidency_, N.Y., 1884, are variously suggestive; Woodrow Wilson's
_Congressional Government_, Boston, 1885, is a work of rare ability,
pointing out the divergence which has arisen between the literary theory
of our government and its practical working. Walter Bagehot's _English
Constitution_, revised ed., Boston, 1873, had already, in a most
profound and masterly fashion, exhibited the divergence between the
literary theory and the actual working of the British government. Some
points of weakness in the British system are touched in Albert
Stickney's _True Republic_, N.Y., 1879; see also his _Democratic
Government_, N.Y., 1885. The constitutional history of England is
presented, in its earlier stages, with prodigious learning, by Dr.
Stubbs, 3 vols., London, 1873-78, and in its later stages by Hallam, 2
vols., London, 1842, and Sir Erskine May, 2 vols., Boston, 1862-63; see
also Freeman's _Growth of the English Constitution_, London, 1872;
_Comparative Politics_, London, 1873; _Some Impressions of the United
States_, London, 1883; Rudolph Gneist, _History of the English
Constitution_, 2 vols., London, 1886; J.S. Mill, _Representative
Government_, N.Y., 1862; Sir H. Maine, _Popular Government_, N.Y., 1886;
S.R. Gardiner's _Introduction to the Study of English History_, London,
1881. In this connection I may refer to my own book, _American Political
Ideas_, N.Y., 1885; and my articles, "Great Britain," "House of Lords,"
and "House of Commons," in Lalor's _Cyclopædia of Political Science_, 3
vols., Chicago, 1882-84. It is always pleasant to refer to that
cyclopædia, because it contains the numerous articles on American
history by Prof. Alexander Johnston. One must stop somewhere, and I will
conclude by saying that I do not know where one can find anything more
richly suggestive than Professor Johnston's articles.


The names of those who for various reasons were absent when the
Constitution was signed are given in italics; the names of those who
were present, but refused to sign, are given in small capitals.

  New Hampshire     John Langdon.
                    Nicholas Gilman.
  Massachusetts     ELBRIDGE GERRY.
                    Nathaniel Gorham.
                    Rufus King.
                    _Caleb Strong._
  Connecticut       William Samuel Johnson.
                    Roger Sherman.
                    _Oliver Ellsworth._
  New York          _Robert Yates._
                    Alexander Hamilton.
                    _John Lansing._
  New Jersey        William Livingston.
                    David Brearley.
                    _William Churchill Houston._
                    William Paterson.
                    Jonathan Dayton.
  Pennsylvania      Benjamin Franklin.
                    Thomas Mifflin.
                    Robert Morris.
                    George Clymer.
                    Thomas Fitzsimmons.
                    Jared Ingersoll.
                    James Wilson.
                    Gouverneur Morris.

  Delaware          George Read.
                    Gunning Bedford.
                    John Dickinson.
                    Richard Bassett.
                    Jacob Broom.
  Maryland          James McHenry.
                    Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer.
                    Daniel Carroll.
                    _John Francis Mercer._
                    _Luther Martin._
  Virginia          George Washington.
                    EDMUND RANDOLPH.
                    John Blair.
                    James Madison.
                    GEORGE MASON.
                    _George Wythe._
                    _James McClurg._
  North Carolina    _Alexander Martin._
                    _William Richardson Davie._
                    William Blount.
                    Richard Dobbs Spaight.
                    Hugh Williamson.
  South Carolina    John Rutledge.
                    Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.
                    Charles Pinckney.
                    Pierce Butler.
  Georgia           William Few.
                    Abraham Baldwin.
                    _William Pierce._
                    _William Houstoun._

Of those who signed their names to the Federal Constitution, the six
following were signers of the Declaration of Independence:--

  Roger Sherman,
  Benjamin Franklin,
  Robert Morris,
  George Clymer,
  James Wilson,
  George Read.

The ten following were appointed as delegates to the Federal
Convention, but never took their seats:--

  New Hampshire     John Pickering.
                    Benjamin West.
  Massachusetts     Francis Dana.
  New Jersey        John Nelson.
                    Abraham Clark.
  Virginia          Patrick Henry (declined).
  North Carolina    Richard Caswell (resigned).
                    Willie Jones (declined).
  Georgia           George Walton.
                    Nathaniel Pendleton.

No delegates were appointed by Rhode Island. In a letter addressed to
"the Honourable the Chairman of the General Convention," and dated
"Providence, May 11, 1787," several leading citizens of Rhode Island
expressed their regret that their state should not be represented on so
momentous an occasion. At the same time, says the letter, "the result of
your deliberations ... we still hope may finally be approved and adopted
by this state, for which we pledge our influence and best exertions."
The letter was signed by John Brown, Joseph Nightingale, Levi Hall,
Philip Allen, Paul Allen, Jabez Bowen, Nicholas Brown, John Jinkes,
Welcome Arnold, William Russell, Jeremiah Olney, William Barton, and
Thomas Lloyd Halsey. The letter was presented to the Convention on May
28th by Gouverneur Morris, and, "being read, was ordered to lie on the
table for further consideration." See Elliot's _Debates_, v. 125.

The Constitution was ratified by the thirteen states, as follows:--

   1. Delaware         Dec. 6, 1787.
   2. Pennsylvania     Dec. 12, 1787.
   3. New Jersey       Dec. 18, 1787.
   4. Georgia          Jan. 2, 1788.
   5. Connecticut      Jan. 9, 1788.
   6. Massachusetts    Feb. 6, 1788.
   7. Maryland         April 28, 1788.
   8. South Carolina   May 23, 1788.
   9. New Hampshire    June 21, 1788.
  10. Virginia         June 25, 1788.
  11. New York         July 26, 1788.
  12. North Carolina   Nov. 21, 1789.
  13. Rhode Island     May 29, 1790.


   1. Peyton Randolph of Virginia        Sept. 5, 1774.
   2. Henry Middleton of South Carolina  Oct. 22, 1774.
      Peyton Randolph                    May 10, 1775.
   3. John Hancock of Massachusetts      May 24, 1775.
   4. Henry Laurens of South Carolina    Nov. 1, 1777.
   5. John Jay of New York               Dec. 10, 1778.
   6. Samuel Huntington of Connecticut   Sept. 28, 1779.
   7. Thomas McKean of Delaware          July 10, 1781.
   8. John Hanson of Maryland            Nov. 5, 1781.
   9. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey       Nov. 4, 1782.
  10. Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania     Nov. 3, 1783.
  11. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia      Nov. 30, 1784.
  12. Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts  June 6, 1786.
  13. Arthur St. Clair of Pennsylvania   Feb. 2, 1787.
  14. Cyrus Griffin of Virginia          Jan. 22, 1788.


Acadians, 205.

Adams, Herbert B., 192.

Adams, John, arrives in Paris, 22;
  his indignation at the pusillanimous instructions from Congress, 36;
  condemns the Cincinnati, 116;
  tries in vain to negotiate commercial treaty with Great Britain, 139-141;
  negotiates a treaty with Holland, 155;
  obtains a loan there, 156, 157;
  his interview with the envoy from Tripoli, 161;
  absent from the United States at the time of the Federal Convention, 223;
  elected vice-president of the United States, 348.

Adams, Samuel, his devotion to local self-government, 57, 318;
  his committees of correspondence, 92;
  opposes Washington's proposal for pensioning officers, 106;
  but at length supports the Commutation Act, 114;
  condemns the Cincinnati, 116, 118;
  approves the conduct of the Massachusetts delegates, 143;
  opposes pardoning the ringleaders in the Shays insurrection, 184;
  not a delegate to the Federal Convention, 225;
  "the man of the town meeting," 318;
  in the Massachusetts convention, 324, 326-328;
  why not selected for the vice-presidency, 347.

Albany, riot in, 339.

Amendments to Constitution, 302, 330, 338.

Ames, Fisher, 319, 326, 348.

Amis, North Carolinian trader, 210.

Amphiktyonic council, 249.

Annapolis convention, 216.

Antagonisms between large and small states, 244-252;
  between east and west, 255;
  between north and south, 256-267.

Antifederalist party, 309;
  in Pennsylvania, 310;
  in Massachusetts, 317, 324;
  in South Carolina, 334;
  in Virginia, 335-337;
  in New York, 340, 341, 346.

Antipathies between states, 62.

Aranda, Count, his prophecy, 19.

Aristides, pseudonym, 312.

Aristocracy, 283.

Aristotle, 225.

Arkwright, Sir Richard, 267.

Armada, the Invincible, 235.

Armstrong, John, 109, 150.

Army, dread of, 105, 321.

Arnold, Benedict, 28, 106, 151.

Asbury, Francis, 85.

Ashburton, Lord, 5.

Ashburton treaty, 26.

Assemblies, 65.

Assunpink Creek, 349.

Augustine, 158.

Backus, Rev. Isaac, 322.

Bagehot, Walter, 291.

Baldwin, Abraham, 251.

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 213.

Baptists persecuted in Virginia, 80.

Barbary pirates, 157-161.

Barré, Isaac, 41.

Bedford, Gunning, 249.

Bennington, 321.

Bernard, Sir Francis, 298.

Biennial elections, 327.

Bill of rights demanded, 329.

Blackstone, Sir William, 290, 291, 297.

Bossuet on slavery, 72.

Boston Gazette, quoted, 328.

Boundaries of United States as settled by the treaty, 25.

Bowdoin, James, 143, 180-184, 319, 324.

Boyd, Lieutenant, 122.

Braddock, Edward, 305.

Bradshaw's Railway Guide, 171.

Brearley, David, 229, 246.

Bribery, charges of, 328.

British army departs, 51.

British Constitution compared with American, 290-298.

Buff and blue colours, 2.

Burgesses, House of, in Virginia, 65.

Burke, Ædanus, 116.

Burke, Edmund, his sympathy with the Americans, 2;
  could not see the need for parliamentary reform, 6;
  his invective against Shelburne, 17;
  on the slave-trade, 72.

Butler, Pierce, 258.

Cabinet, the president's, 299.

Cabinet government, growth of, in England, 296.

Camden, Lord, 5.

Canada, Franklin suggests that it should be ceded to the United
  States, 9, 14.

Carleton, Sir Guy, 50, 131.

Carlisle, Pa., disturbances at, 315.

Carpet-bag governments, 270.

Carr, Dabney, 92.

Carrington, Edward, 204, 307.

Carroll, Daniel, 228.

Carrying trade, 163, 263.

Cartwright, Edmund, 267.

Catalonian rebels indemnified, 29.

Catholics in the United States, 87.

Cato, pseudonym, 312.

Cavendish, Lord John, 5, 16.

Censors, council of, in Pennsylvania, 150.

Centinel, pseudonym, 313.

Cervantes, Miguel de, 159.

Charles II., 29.

Chase, Samuel, 322.

Chatham, Lord, 188.

Cherry Valley, 122.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, 213.

Chittenden, Thomas, 121.

Cincinnati, order of the, 114-118.

Cincinnati, the city, original name of, 197.

Cincinnatus, pseudonym, 312.

Clan system, 62.

Clergymen in the Massachusetts convention, 319;
  their liberal spirit, 322.

Cleveland, Grover, his tariff message, 294.

Clinton, George, favours persecution of Tories, 123;
  an enemy to closer union of the states, 145;
  defeats impost amendment, 220;
  opposes the Constitution, 340;
  entertains President Washington at dinner, 350.

Clinton, Sir Henry, 322.

Clymer, George, 311.

Coalition ministry, 38-46.

Coeur-de-Lion and Saladin, 161.

Coinage, 165.

Coke, Thomas, 86.

Columbia College, 125.

Commerce, control of, given to Congress, 263.

Common law in the United States, 69.

Commons, House of, in England, 68, 290-298;
  in North Carolina, 65.

Compromises of the Federal Constitution, 250-267.

Confederation, articles of, 92-98.

Congress, Continental, its instructions to the commissioners at Paris, 35;
  its weakness, 56, 98, 102-113, 234;
  its anomalous character, 92;
  its presidents, 96;
  driven from Philadelphia by drunken soldiers, 112;
  flees to Princeton, 113;
  unable to enforce the provisions of the treaty, 119-131, 154;
  unable to regulate commerce, 140-144;
  afraid to interfere openly in the Shays rebellion, 185;
  passes ordinance for government of northwestern territory, 203-206;
  refuses to recommend a convention for reforming the government, 218;
  reconsiders its refusal, 221;
  in some respects a diplomatic rather than a legislative body, 237;
  its migrations, 271, 306;
  debates on the Constitution, 307;
  submits it to the states, 308;
  comes to an end, 345.

Congress, Federal, powers granted to, 270;
  choice of president by, 282-284;
  counting electoral votes in, 284, 285, 289.

Connecticut, government of, 65;
  quarrels with New York and Pennsylvania, 146-151;
  keeps almost entirely clear of paper money, 172;
  western claims of, 189, 194;
  ratifies the Constitution, 316.

Connecticut compromise, the, 250-255.

Conservative character of the American Revolution, 64.

Constitution, emblematic federal ship, 339, 344.

Convention, the Federal, 154, 222-305.

Conway, Gen. Henry, 5.

Cooper, Dr. Myles, 126.

Cornwallis, Lord, 22, 51, 349.

Council, privy, 299.

Cowardice of American politicians, 231.

Crawford, William, 51.

Curtis, B.R., 276.

Cutler, Manasseh, 203.

Dane, Nathan, 204, 217, 307.

Dayton, Jonathan, 225, 229.

Debt, imprisonment for, 173.

Debts to British creditors, 27, 131.

Delaware, government of, 65;
  ratifies the Constitution, 314.

Democratic-Republican party, 309.

Dickinson, John, 93, 112, 228, 242, 243, 281, 283, 299, 312.

Dissolution of Parliament, 298.

Dollar, the Spanish, 165.

Dunmore, Lord, 298.

Election by lot, 281;
  first presidential, 346-348.

Electoral college in Maryland, 66;
  device adopted for choosing the president, 281-287;
  its practical working, 288.

Elliot, Sir Gilbert, 3.

Ellsworth, Oliver, 228, 249, 250, 267, 269, 274, 276, 280, 300.

Embargo acts, 142.

Eminent domain, 194.

Episcopal church, 77-85.

Erie Canal, 212, 228.

Executive, federal, 241, 277;
  length of term, 279;
  how elected, 279-285;
  corresponds to sovereign, not to prime minister, 290, 299.

Exports not to be taxed, 264, 270.

"Federal," the word preferred to "national," 254.

Federal city under federal jurisdiction, 271, 320.

"Federal Farmer" (letters by R.H. Lee), 314.

Federal Street in Boston, 331.

"Federalist," the, 235, 341-343.

Federalist party, 238, 309.

Field, S.J., 275.

Fisheries, question of, 20, 26, 37, 139, 163.

Fitzherbert, Alleyne, 22, 45.

Florida surrendered by Great Britain to Spain, 37;
  disputes about boundary of, 208.

Folkland, 187, 207.

Fox, C.J., his sympathy with the Americans, 2;
  quarrels with Shelburne, 6, 14;
  resigns, 15;
  waywardness of his early career, 16;
  coalition with North, 38-42;
  mistake in opposing a dissolution, 48.

France, treaty of 1783 with Great Britain, 37.

Franklin, Benjamin, negotiates with Oswald, 9;
  overruled by Jay and Adams, 23;
  his arguments against compensating the loyalists, 30;
  ridicules the Cincinnati, 116;
  returns from France, 138;
  in the Federal Convention, 225, 250, 277, 299, 303, 305;
  lays the Constitution before the Pennsylvania legislature, 306;
  called a dotard by the Antifederalists, 313.

Franklin, state of, 200, 209.

Frederick the Great, on republics, 58.

Free trade, 4, 134-139.

French army embarks at Boston, 51.

Froissart, 153.

Frontier posts to be surrendered by Great Britain, 51;
  why not surrendered, 152.

Fugitive slaves, 206, 267, 333.

Fur trade, 132, 164.

Gadsden, C., 122, 334.

Gallatin, A., 125, 134.

Galloway, Joseph, 248.

Gardoqui, Diego, 209.

Gates, Horatio, 108-111, 180.

George III. threatens to abdicate, 3;
  his disgust at the coalition, 44;
  rebuked by House of Commons, 46;
  his personal government overthrown, 48;
  hopes the Americans will repent of their folly, 58, 141;
  resists the movement for abolishing slave-trade, 72;
  his personal government, 297.

Georgia takes the lead in making the judiciary elective, 69;
  abandons that evil practice, 69;
  issues paper money, 169;
  ratifies the Constitution, 316.

Germaine, Lord George, 39.

Gerry, Elbridge, 118, 229, 243, 251, 252, 256, 269, 279, 282, 298, 303,
  304, 328, 347.

Gibbon, Edward, 38, 39.

Gibraltar, 17, 36.

Gladstone, W.E., 223, 292, 294.

Gorham, Nathaniel, 252, 253, 319.

Governors, colonial, unpopularity of, 67.

Gower, Lord, 44.

Grafton, Duke of, 5.

Grantham, Lord, 17.

Granville, Lord, 293.

Grasse, Count, defeated by Rodney, 12, 13.

Grayson, William, 162, 205, 337.

Green Dragon tavern, 327.

Greene, Nathanael, 94, 102, 108, 116, 122, 225.

Grenville, Thomas, 11.

Guadaloupe, 36.

Guilford, Earl of, 44.

Half-pay controversy, 106.

Hamilton, Alexander, his early life, 124-126;
  attacks the Trespass Act, 128;
  calls for a federal convention, 217;
  advocates the impost amendment, 220;
  in the Federal Convention, 225, 226, 243, 244, 246, 249, 254, 279, 303,
  on inconvertible paper, 274;
  on the electoral college, 287;
  called a boy by the Antifederalists, 313;
  authorship of the "Federalist," 341-343;
  supports the Constitution in the New York convention, 343, 344;
  his financial measures, 349.

Hancock, John, 104, 184, 318, 319, 330.

Hannibal, 158.

Hargreaves, James, 267.

Harrington, James, 64.

Harrison, Benjamin, 337.

Hartington, Lord, 293.

Hartley, David, 45.

Hawks, F.L., 82.

Heath, Gen. William, 319.

Henry, Patrick, 80, 225, 331, 335, 336, 347.

Hint Club, 169.

Impost amendment, 218-240.

India bill, 46.

Insurrections, suppression of, 269.

Intercitizenship, 94.

Iroquois league, 190.

Irreconcilables in the Federal Convention, 225, 242, 244, 246, 254.

Isolation of states a century ago, 62.

Jay, John, thwarts Vergennes, 21, 35;
  tries to establish free trade between United States and Great Britain,
  condemns persecution of Tories, 122;
  on compensation for slaves, 132;
  consents to the closing of the Mississippi River for twenty-five years,
  why not sent as delegate to Federal Convention, 225;
  supports the Constitution in New York convention, 340;
  contributes articles to the "Federalist," 341;
  receives nine electoral votes for the vice-presidency, 348.

Jefferson, Thomas, opposed to slavery, 72;
  favours religious freedom, 81;
  minister to France, 138, 155;
  assists Gouverneur Morris in arranging our decimal currency, 166;
  his plan for the government of the northwestern territory, 196;
  wishes to prohibit slavery in the national domain, 198, 205;
  his purchase of Louisiana, 207;
  absent from United States at the time of the Federal Convention, 225;
  his faith in the people, 226, 337;
  his opinion of the Constitution, 309;
  approves the action of the Massachusetts convention, 331.

Johnson, W.S., 229.

Johnston, Alexander, 223.

Jones, Paul, 339.

Jonesborough, convention at, 200.

Judiciary, elective, 69;
  federal, 242, 300, 301.

Juilliard _vs._ Greenman, 275.

Kentucky, 18, 189, 199, 202, 209, 210.

Keppel, Lord, 5, 16, 45.

King, Rufus, 217, 221, 228, 246, 249, 250, 256, 261, 276, 279, 282, 324,

King's Mountain, 28, 200, 321.

Kings, election of, in Poland, 279.

Know Ye men and Know Ye measures, 177, 243.

Knox, Henry, 114.

Lafayette, 50, 54.

Langdon, John, 229, 269, 274, 276, 283, 346.

Lansing, John, 225, 242, 244, 246, 254, 340, 341.

Laurens, Henry, 2, 22.

Lecky, W., 103.

Ledyard, Isaac, 128.

Lee, Henry, 307, 337.

Lee, Richard Henry, 57, 143, 204, 205, 225, 307, 313, 318, 328, 336, 337,

"Letters from a Federal Farmer," by R.H. Lee, 314.

Lexington, 50, 321.

Lincoln, Abraham, 72, 198, 207.

Lincoln, Benjamin, 181-183, 319, 332.

Livingston, Robert, 36, 340, 350.

Livingston, William, 171, 229.

Locke, John, 64, 225.

Long Lane becomes Federal Street, 331.

Long Parliament, 92, 235.

Lords, House of, 66, 68;
  contrasted with Senate, 295.

Lowndes, Rawlins, 332-334.

Loyalists, compensation of, 28-33;
  persecution of, 120-130;
  did not form, in any proper sense of the word, an opposition party, 308.

Luzerne, Chevalier de, 35, 54.

Lykian League, 249.

Macdougall, Alexander, 107.

McDuffle, George, 60.

McKean, Thomas, 316.

McMaster, J.B., 151.

Madison, James, and the Religious Freedom Act, 81;
  on right of coercion, 100;
  advocates five per cent. impost, 104;
  on the ordinance of 1787, 206;
  moves that a convention be held to secure a uniform commercial policy,
  succeeds in getting delegates appointed, 220;
  his character and appearance, 226, 227;
  his journal of the proceedings, 229;
  chief author of the Virginia plan, 233, 267;
  one of the first to arrive at the fundamental conception of our partly
    federal and partly national government, 239;
  approves at first of giving Congress the power to annul state laws, 241;
  opposes the New Jersey plan, 246;
  declares that the real antagonism is between slave states and free
    states, 249, 256;
  author of the three fifths compromise, 260, 261;
  condemns paper money, 275;
  disapproves of election of the executive by the legislature, 279;
  approves of a privy council, 299;
  supports the Constitution in Congress, 307;
  called a boy by the Antifederalists, 313;
  supports the Constitution in the Virginia convention, 337;
  part author of the "Federalist," 341, 342;
  denies that there can be a constitutional right of secession, 344.

Maine as part of Massachusetts, 317.

Manchester, Duke of, 45.

Marbois, François de Barbé, 22, 35.

Marion, Francis, 122.

Marshall, John, 82, 276, 301, 337.

Martin, Luther, 229, 242-244, 246, 249, 250, 254, 275, 322.

Maryland, government of, 65;
  insists upon cession of northwestern lands, 93, 192, 195;
  paper money in, 170;
  message to Virginia, 215;
  ratifies the Constitution, 332.

Mason, George, 229, 243, 252, 264, 265, 275, 276, 277, 279, 281, 282, 283,
  299, 303, 304, 335, 337.

Massachusetts, government of, 67;
  abolishes slavery, 75;
  religious bigotry, 76;
  on the five per cent. duty, 104;
  tries to propose a convention for increasing the powers of Congress, 142;
  lays claim to a small part of Vermont, 152;
  paper money in, 172-179;
  western claims of, 189;
  changes her attitude, 221;
  local self-government in, 317;
  debates on the Constitution, 320-330;
  ratifies it, suggesting amendments, 331.

Massachusetts Chronicle, quoted, 120.

Massacre, Boston, 321.

Mayhew, Jonathan, 92.

Meade, William, 79, 83.

Mentor and Phocion, 128.

Mercer, J.F., 274.

Methodists, 85.

Middletown convention, 113.

Mifflin, Thomas, 52.

Minisink, 122.

Mirabeau, Count de, 116.

Mississippi River, attempt to close it, 209-211, 335;
  valley of the, 18, 188.

Monroe, James, 216.

Montesquieu, C., 225, 291.

Moonshiners, 334.

Morris, Gouverneur, 108, 166, 228, 242, 251, 261, 264, 269, 273, 276, 279,
  282, 303.

Morris, Robert, 108, 167, 228, 312.

Moultrie, William, 143, 334.

Muley Abdallah, 158.

Mutiny act, 321.

Names of persons and places, fashions in, 197.

Nantucket, 163.

Nason, Samuel, 321.

Naval eminence of New England, 20, 139.

Navigation acts, 138-143, 164.

Negroes carried away by British fleet, 131.

Nelson, Samuel, 276.

New Connecticut, 152.

New Hampshire lays claim to Vermont, 151-153;
  riots in, 183;
  hesitates to ratify the Constitution, 331;
  ratifies it, 338.

New Jersey quarrels with New York, 146;
  paper money in, 171;
  opposes the attempt to close the Mississippi, 211;
  instructs her delegates to the Annapolis convention, 217;
  her plan for amending the articles of confederation, 245;
  ratifies the Constitution, 315.

New Roof, 338.

New York passes navigation and tariff acts directed against neighbouring
    states, 146;
  lays claim to Vermont, 151-153;
  paper money in, 170;
  western claims of, 190, 193;
  defeats the impost amendment, 218-220;
  debates on the Constitution, 340-344;
  ratifies it, 344;
  asks for a second convention, 344;
  fails to choose electors, 346.

New York Central Railroad, 212.

Newburgh address, 108-112, 118.

Nicola, Louis, his letter to Washington, 107, 118.

Non-importation agreement, 142.

North, Frederick, Lord, fall of his ministry, 1;
  coalition with Fox, 38-42;
  his blindness, 41;
  his proposals after Saratoga, 91;
  his subservience to the king, 297.

North Carolina issues paper money, 169;
  cedes her western lands to the United States, 199;
  repeals the act of cession, 201;
  delays her ratification of the Constitution, 345.

Ohio, 203-206.

Old Sarum, 249.

Old South Church, 321.

Onslow, George, 2.

Ordinance of 1787, 199, 203-206.

Oregon, 60.

Oswald, Richard, 9-14, 22-26, 32, 45.

Paine, Thomas, 50, 55, 191.

Paper currency, 163-179, 205, 218, 273-276.

Parker, Theodore, 264.

Parsons, Samuel Holden, 203.

Parsons, Theophilus, 319, 324.

Parties, formation of, 308.

Paterson, William, 229, 245-248, 255, 258, 274.

Patterson, militia officer in Wyoming, 149.

Payson, Rev. Philip, 322.

Pendleton, Edmund, 336.

Pennsylvania, government of, 65;
  first tariff act, 142;
  quarrels with Connecticut, 148-150;
  paper money in, 170;
  opposes the closing of the Mississippi, 211;
  contest over the Constitution, 309-314;
  ratifies it, 315.

Petersham, scene of Shays's defeat, 182, 319.

Philadelphia, Congress driven from, 112;
  Federal Convention meets at, 222;
  unparliamentary proceedings in legislature, 311;
  celebrates ratification by ten states, 339.

Phocion and Mentor, 128.

Pinckney, Charles, 228, 243, 261, 265, 266, 269, 276, 277, 334.

Pinckney, Cotesworth, 228, 243, 258, 261, 263, 265, 266, 276, 333, 334.

Pitt, Thomas, 44.

Pitt, William, chancellor of exchequer, 16;
  denounces the coalition, 39;
  defends the treaty, 43;
  refuses to form a ministry, 44;
  character, 47;
  prime minister, 47;
  wins a great political victory, 48;
  favours free trade with the United States, 136.

Polish kings, election of, 279.

Population as an index of wealth, 257.

Portland, Duke of, 16, 45.

Potomac, navigation of, 213-216.

Poughkeepsie, convention at, 340-344.

Powers granted to federal government, 268.

Presbyterians, 81, 86.

Presidents of Continental Congress, 96.

Prevost's march against Charleston, 27.

Prime minister contrasted with president, 292-294.

Primogeniture, abolition of, 71.

Proprietary governments, 65, 71.

Providence, R.I., barbecue and mob at, 339.

Public lands, 188.

Putnam, Israel, 151.

Putnam, Rufus, 203.

Quebec act, 18.

Quesnay, François, 141.

Quorum, how to make a, 311.

Railroads, political influence of, 60.

Randolph, Edmund, 229, 233, 235, 239, 242, 246, 265, 269, 275, 276, 277,
  282, 300, 303, 335, 337.

Rayneval, Gérard de, 21.

Read, George, 242, 274.

Reform, parliamentary, 6.

Religious freedom, progress in, 76-87.

Religious tests opposed by Massachusetts clergymen, 322.

Representation of slaves, 258-262.

Representatives, House of, 236, 252.

Republican party, 238.

Republics, old notion that they must be small in area, 59.

Reserve, Connecticut's western, 194.

Revenue bills, 270.

Revere, Paul, 327.

Revolution, American, its conservative character, 64;
  the French, 64, 118.

Rhode Island, government of, 65;
  extends franchise to Catholics, 77;
  on the five per cent. duty, 104;
  paper money in, 172-177;
  opposes the closing of the Mississippi, 211;
  does not send delegates to Philadelphia, 222;
  delays her ratification of the Constitution, 345.

Richmond, Duke of, 2, 16.

Rittenhouse, David, 111.

Rockingham, Marquis of, 4;
  instability of his ministry, 5;
  its excellent work, 7;
  his death, 15.

Rodney's victory over Grasse, 12, 13.

Roman republic not like the United States, 59.

Rousseau, J.J., 64, 117.

Rutgers, Elizabeth, 127.

Rutledge, John, 228, 243, 261, 265, 278, 279, 281, 300, 334.

St. Clair, Arthur, 197, 206.

Saladin and Coeur-de-Lion, 161.

Sandy Hook light-house, 147.

Sargent, Winthrop, 203.

Schuyler, Philip, 126, 146, 151, 193.

Scott, Sir Walter, 153.

Scottish representation in Parliament, 249.

Seabury, Samuel, 84.

Secession, threats of, 211, 218;
  no constitutional right of, 344.

Secrecy of the debates in Federal Convention, 230.

Sedgwick, Theodore, 122, 319.

Self-government, 57, 63, 88.

Senate, federal, made independent of lower house, 253;
  contrasted with House of Lords, 295.

Senates, origin of, 66.

Seven Years' War, 13, 188.

Sevier, John, 200.

Shattuck, Job, 180.

Shays rebellion, 180-182, 218, 243, 316, 319, 325.

Sheffield, Lord, protectionist, 137;
  on the Barbary pirates, 160.

Shelburne, William, Earl of, his character, 4;
  his memorandum on proposed cession of Canada, 11;
  prime minister, 16;
  approached by Rayneval and Vaughan, 22;
  misjudged by Fox, 40;
  defends the treaty, 43;
  resigns, 44;
  his conduct justified by his enemies, 45;
  understood the principles of free trade, 4, 134.

Shepard, William, 180, 181.

Sherman, Roger, 229, 243, 250, 255, 267, 274, 276, 279, 283, 299, 313;
  his suggestion as to relations of the executive to the legislature, 278,
    280, 298.

Shillings, 165.

Ship-building in New England, 137-139.

Shute, Rev. Daniel, 322.

Sidney, Algernon, 64.

Singletary, Amos, 322, 324, 325.

Six Nations, 190, 203.

Slave-trade, foreign, permitted for twenty years, 264, 323, 333.

Slavery in the several states, 72-75, 266;
  prohibited in northwestern territory, 205;
  discussions about it in Federal Convention, 257-267;
  condemned by George Mason, 264.

Slaves, representation of, 258-262;
  numbers of, in the several states, 266.

Small states converted to federalism by the Connecticut compromise, 255,

Smith, Adam, 125, 134, 135.

Smith, Capt. John, 191.

Smith, Jonathan, 324-326.

Smith, Melanchthon, 340, 343, 344.

Smugglers, 135.

South Carolina, Episcopal church in, 78, 82;
  revokes five per cent. impost, 108;
  issues paper money, 169;
  absolute need of conciliating her, 259, 260;
  makes bargain with New England states, 262-267;
  debates on the Constitution, 332-334;
  ratifies it, 334.

Sovereignty never belonged to separate states, 90.

Spain, treaty of 1783 with Great Britain, 36;
  attempts to close Mississippi River, 208-211, 218, 335.

Spanish dollar, why it superseded English pound as unit of value in
  America, 166.

Spermaceti oil, 139, 163.

Springfield arsenal, 181, 185.

States, powers denied to, 272.

Stormont, Lord, 45.

Story, Joseph, 276.

Strachey, Sir Henry, 22.

Strong, Caleb, 228, 252, 279, 324, 327.

Succession disputed, 289.

Suffrage, limitations upon, 70.

Sugar trade, 138.

Temple, Lord, 44, 46.

Tennessee, 18, 189, 199.

Thayendanegea, 50.

Thomas, Isaiah, 165.

Thompson, Gen., in Massachusetts convention, 324.

Thurlow, Lord, 5.

Thurston, member of Virginia legislature, 144.

Tithing-men in New England, 76.

Tobacco as currency in Virginia, 165.

Tories, American; see Loyalists.

Tories, British, 42.

Townshend, Thomas, 17.

Trade, barbarous superstitions about, 134.

Travelling, difficulties of, a century ago, 61.

Treaty of 1783, difficulties in the way of, 8;
  strange character of, 24;
  provisions of, 25-33;
  a great diplomatic victory for the Americans, 34, 189;
  secret article relating to Florida boundary, 33, 208;
  adopted, 45;
  news arrives in America, 50;
  Congress unable to carry out its provisions, 119-132, 154.

Trespass Act in New York. 123-128.

Trevett _vs._ Weeden, 176.

Tucker, Josiah, 58, 141.

Tyler, John, the elder, 214, 337.

Union, sentiment of, 55.

Unitarianism, 86.

University men in Federal Convention, 224.

Vaughan, Benjamin, 22, 35.

Vergennes, Count de, 12;
  wishes to satisfy Spain at the expense of the United States, 18-21;
  thwarted by Jay, 22;
  accuses the Americans of bad faith, 33;
  tired of sending loans, 104.

Vermont, troubles in, 151-153;
  riots in connection with the Shays rebellion, 183.

Vice-presidency, 282.

Victoria, Queen, 293.

Vincennes, riot in, 210.

Violence of political invective, 39.

Virginia, church and state in, 78-85;
  on five per cent. impost, 104;
  paper money in, 170;
  takes possession of northwestern territory, 188-191;
  cedes it to the United States, 194;
  plan for new federal government, 233-242;
  its reception by the convention, 242;
  compromise as to representation of slaves, 259-262;
  resents the compromise between South Carolina and the New England
    states, 265;
  debates on the Constitution, 335-337;
  ratifies it, 337.

"Visionary young men," i.e., Hamilton, Madison, Gouverneur Morris,
  etc., 318.

Waddington, Joshua, 127.

Walpole, Horace, 16.

Walpole, Sir Robert, 296.

War, the Civil, 55, 256, 262;
  contrast with Revolutionary, 101-103;
  cost of Revolutionary, 166.

Washington, George, marches from Yorktown to the Hudson River, 51;
  disbands the army, 51;
  resigns his command, 52;
  goes home to Mount Vernon, 53;
  his "legacy" to the American people, 54;
  on the right of coercion, 100;
  urges half-pay for retired officers, 106;
  supposed scheme for making him king, 107;
  his masterly speech at Newburgh, 110;
  president of the Cincinnati, 115;
  on the weakness of the confederation, 162;
  wishes to hang speculators in bread-stuffs, 164;
  disapproves of Connecticut's reservation of a tract of western land, 193;
  approves of Ohio Company, 203;
  his views on the need for canals between east and west, 212;
  important meeting held at his house, 214;
  is chosen delegate to the Federal Convention, 221;
  president of the convention, 229;
  his solemn warning, 231, 303;
  his suggestion as to the basis of representation, 252;
  asks if he shall put the question on the motion of Wilson and Pinckney,
  disapproves of electing executive by the legislature, 279;
  sends draft of the Constitution to Congress, 307;
  called a fool by the Antifederalists, 313;
  approves of amendments, but opposes a second convention, 329;
  unanimously chosen president of the United States, 346;
  his journey to New York, 349;
  his inauguration, 350.

Washington, William, 334.

Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, 83.

Watt, James, 60, 267.

Wayne, Anthony, 50.

Wealth as a basis of representation, 257.

Webster, Daniel, 56, 206, 276.

Webster, Pelatiah, 101, 222.

Weems, Mason, 83.

Wesley, John, 85.

West, Rev. Samuel, 322.

West India trade, 138, 164.

Whigs, British, sympathize with revolutionary party in America, 2.

Whiskey as currency in North Carolina, 165.

White, Abraham, 324.

Whitefield, George, 85.

Whitehill, Robert, 313.

Whitney, Eli, 267.

William the Silent, 55.

Wilson, James, 228, 243, 246, 248, 251, 261, 274, 277, 279, 281, 282, 299,
  300, 312, 313, 316.

Witenagemot, 66.

Worcester Spy, 165.

Wraxall's Memoirs, 2.

Wyoming, troubles in, 148-150.

Wythe, George, 228.

Yates, Robert, 225, 242, 244, 246, 254, 340, 341.

Yazoo boundary, 33, 208.


[1] In recent years Georgia has been one of the first states to abandon
this bad practice.

[2] I suppose it was this same Mason Weems that was afterward known in
Virginia as Parson Weems, of Pohick parish, near Mount Vernon. See
_Magazine of American History_, iii. 465-472; v. 85-90. At first an
eccentric preacher, Parson Weems became an itinerant violin-player and
book-peddler, and author of that edifying work, _The Life of George
Washington, with Curious Anecdotes equally Honourable to Himself and
Exemplary to his Young Countrymen_. On the title-page the author
describes himself as "formerly rector of Mount Vernon Parish,"--which
Bishop Meade calls preposterous. The book is a farrago of absurdities,
reminding one, alike in its text and its illustrations, of an overgrown
English chap-book of the olden time. It has had an enormous sale, and
has very likely contributed more than any other single book toward
forming the popular notion of Washington. It seems to have been this
fiddling parson that first gave currency to the everlasting story of the
cherry-tree and the little hatchet.

[3] _History of England in the Eighteenth Century_, iii. 447.

[4] A very interesting account of these troubles may be found in the
first volume of Professor McMaster's _History of the People of the
United States_.

[5] This subject has been treated in a masterly manner by Mr. H.B.
Adams, in an essay on Maryland's Influence upon Land Cessions to the
United States, published in the Third Series of the admirable _Johns
Hopkins University Studies in History and Politics_. I am indebted to
Mr. Adams for many valuable suggestions.

[6] It would be in the highest degree erroneous, however, to suppose
that the Constitution of the United States is not, as much as any other,
an instance of evolution from precedents. See, in this connection, the
very able article by Prof. Alexander Johnston, _New Princeton Review_,
Sept., 1887, pp. 175-190.

[7] The slave-population of the United States, according to the census
of 1700, was thus distributed among the states:--


New Hampshire          158
Vermont                 17
Massachusetts           --
Rhode Island           952
Connecticut          2,759
New York            21,324
New Jersey          11,423
Pennsylvania         3,737


Delaware             8,887
Maryland           103,036
Virginia           293,427
North Carolina     100,572
South Carolina     107,094
Georgia             29,264
Kentucky            11,830
Tennessee            3,417

Total              697,897.

[8] Since this was written, this last and most serious danger would seem
to have been removed by the acts of 1886 and 1887 regulating the
presidential succession and the counting of electoral votes.

[9] The history of President Cleveland's tariff message of 1887,
however, shows that, where a wise and courageous president calls
attention to a living issue, his party, alike in Congress and in the
country, is in a measure compelled to follow his lead.

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