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barrassed state of the finances was such as to require that the system of impost should be carried into immediate effect ; that they consider this an occasion sufficiently important and extraordinary for the convening of the legislature, and earnestly recommend that it should be immediately called." Clinton was immovable. This earnest and solemn appeal of the confederacy was disregarded, and the hope of establishing a general revenue was almost abandoned. sasa.
While the dignity of the nation was thus prostrated before the executive of a single state, difficulties, the consequences of recent example, were pending with several others. New-Jersey, wearied with fruitless efforts to inculcate the benefits of a national system, and jealous of the commercial prosperity of New York, early in this year had resorted to decisive measures. She passed a resolution (reciting as a reason for it the delinquency of other states) by which she refused a compliance with the requisition of congress for her quota, “ until all the states in the union had complied with the revenue system of seventeen hundred and eighty-three, or until states having peculiar commercial advantages should forbear a system of partial legislation.” This formidable decision alarmed the nation, and demanded the immediate attention of congress, who sent a deputation to remonstrate with that state. After an able address from each of the delegates, showing the necessity of union to the general happiness of all its members, but especially to the smaller states, the legislature rescinded their resolution, but declared that the requisition had no binding force.
Pennsylvania claimed a set-off against part of her quota, and a committee was appointed to confer with her legislature. A similar claim was, after much debate, conceded to South Carolina. Another committee was directed to repair to Connecticut, New-Jersey, and North Carolina,
and an address was made to New-Hampshire and Maryland, urging upon them a full and immediate compliance with the last requisition. Was this a government ?
These obstacles indicated the necessity of an adjustment of accounts with the several states, and an ordinance was framed for that purpose. Another ordinance before recommended was passed, of much prospective importance. It was for the establishment of a mint; the standard of gold and silver, and the money of account in a decimal ra. tio, having been previously fixed.
While congress were thus engaged, the insurrection of Massachusetts broke upon them. After much delay, they, in secret session, made a report strongly indicative of their feebleness and their fears. Having stated that unless speedy and effectual measures were taken to suppress the designs of the insurgents, they will possess themselves of the arsenal at Springfield, subvert the government, and not only reduce that commonwealth to a state of anarchy and confusion, but probably involve the United States in the calamity of a civil war; it declared their obligations to restore the authority of the state, and to protect the public property, and that for these purposes a body of troops should be immediately raised, but that the causes of raising them ought not to be publicly assigned, and that they had, in a separate report, on the intelligence from the western country, recommended the augmentation of the troops in the service of the United States. By this report a legionary corps was ordered to be enlisted for three years, principally in New-England.
Thus did an emergency, which every government should have been empowered to meet, drive congress to a usurpation upon a false pretext ; for where is to be found the authority in the articles of the confederation to raise a military force for such a purpose, and what was there to prevent an increase of its number, and its permanent existence ! The only security against this usurpation of power was the want of means; but this want involved the very danger, for, while acting upon the necessity of the measure, congress declared, “ that in the present embarrassments of the federal finances, they would not hazard the perilous step of putting arms into the hands of men, whose fidelity must in some degree depend on the faithful payment of their wages, had they not the fullest confidence, from authentic and respectable information, in the most liberal exertions of the money-holders in the state of Massachusetts and the other states, in filling the loans authorized” for that purpose.
The suppression of the insurrection by her own militia, leaves it only a subject for speculation what would have been the consequences of an invasion, by the confederacy, of so populous, so warlike, and then so jealous a state.
The friends of the union in New York had in the mean time determined to make another and a final effort. The popularity of Hamilton, it was hoped, might have influence ; and while General Schuyler was brought forward as a candidate for the senate, Hamilton was put in nomination for the assembly. His election was earnestly opposed-opposed by the men whose cupidity he had exposed in seventeen hundred and eighty-four, and who, identified with the state policy of Clinton, as leaders of the democratic party, regarded him as a formidable adversary to their narrow and selfish politics. But serious apprehensions had seized the community as to the future. They saw in the discords and the weakness of the confederacy the fulfilment of all his prophecies, and they looked to him as their last hope of changing the vicious direction which had been given to the councils of the state. He was elected.*
*On the eve of this election a letter was received by him from a tory merchant, asking his influence to obtain legislative relief. In his reply he states
The legislature opened its session in January, seventeen hundred and eighty-seven, at the city of New York. The speech from the governor, after alluding to the annual appointment of state officers, from which so large a share of his influence was derived, adverted to the requisitions for the service of the year, and stated his confidence that the dispositions of the legislature being truly federal, would induce a speedy compliance with a measure so essential to the national support and credit. The representatives were informed of the resolutions of congress, expressing their sense of the act granting the impost, and requesting an immediate call of the legislature, whereby the revenue system of seventeen hundred and eighty-three would be brought to their view—“a subject which had been repeatedly submitted to them, and must be well understood.”
The correspondence which had recently passed on that subject was laid before them, with a declaration, “ that a regard to their excellent constitution, and an anxiety to preserve unimpaired the right of free deliberation in matters not stipulated by the confederation, had restrained him from convening them at an earlier period.” The ad
" that he would not be understood to declare any opinion concerning the prin. ciples of the bill ;" and remarks, “I make this observation from that spirit of candour which I hope will always direct my conduct. I am aware that I have been represented as an enemy to the wishes of what you call your corps. If by this is meant that I do not feel as much as any man not immediately in. terested for the distresses of those merchants who have been in a great measure the victims of the revolution, the supposition does not do justice either to my head or my heart. But if it means that I have always viewed the mode of relieving them as a matter of peculiar delicacy and difficulty, it is well founded.
" I should have thought it unnecessary to enter into this explanation, were it not that I am held up as a candidate at the ensuing election, and would not wish that the step I have taken in respect to your letter should be considered as implying more than it does, for I would never wish to conciliate at the expense of candour; on the other hand, I confide in your liberality not to infer more than I intend from the explanation I have given you."
justment of the territorial controversies with Massachusetts and Pennsylvania was mentioned, and the speech concluded by calling the attention of the legislature to local topics.
The address in reply to the speech was referred to a committee, of which Hamilton was a member, and was reported by him. It was a mere echo of the speech on all subjects, except as to the request of congress to convene the legislature, which was passed by in silence. On being reported to the house, a motion was made by the speaker to amend it, by expressing their approbation of the governor's conduct in not convening the legislature at an earlier period than that fixed by law; he at the same time disclaiming all hostility to the impost. This motion produced the effect which had been sought to be avoided, and called up a long and vehement debate. While the friends of the Union expressed in general terms a dissent from the views of the governor, feeling themselves in a minority, they sedulously endeavoured to prevent all discussion of this topic, seeing that it had been thrown in as an apple of discord; but the friends of the governor, who were guided with an adroit and subtle policy, seized upon this occasion to kindle an excitement, and to rouse all the hostile feelings of the states rights party.
The speaker then proposed to withdraw the motion, but it was insisted that it could not be withdrawn. That no ill consequences could arise from a decision; that it was only a question whether there was such a pressing necessity as to authorize the governor to convene the legislature. That if the doctrine that the governor was bound to comply with a requisition of. congress on this subject was sustained, it was impossible to tell where it would end. That congress might, by repeated requisitions, perhaps once a month, tease and weary the legislature into a compliance with their measures; an apprehension not exaggerated, for such had been the practice of the former government.