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government, in part national, and in part federal, was to be established, Yates and Lansing retired finally from the convention.* On the last day on which they appeared, Washington replied to Hamilton.
WASHINGTON TO HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 10th July, 1787. “ DEAR SIR.
I thank you for your communication of the third. When I refer you to the state of the counsels which prevailed at the period you left this city, and add that they are now, if possible, in a worse train than ever, you will find but little ground on which the hope of a good establishment can be formed. In a word, I almost despair of seeing a favourable issue to the proceedings of the convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.
The men who oppose a strong and energetic government, are, in my opinion, narrow-minded politicians, or are under the influence of local views.
The apprehension expressed by them, that the people will not accede to the form proposed, is the ostensible, not the real cause of opposition ; but admitting that the present sentiment is as they prognosticate, the question ought nevertheless to be, is it or is it not the best form? If the former, recommend it, and it will assuredly obtain maugre opposition.
I am sorry you went away,I wish you were back. The crisis is equally important and alarming, and no opposition, under such circumstances, should discourage exertions, till the structure is fixed. I will not, at this time, trouble you with more than my best wishes and sincere regards.”
* July 10.
An interesting statement exists in respect to Washington's opinions, in conformity with this letter. Hamilton related confidentially, that having given his views in his elaborate speech, he was “endeavoring afterwards, in constant conversation with the members, to work them up to a system of competent energy and stability. General Washington and Madison entirely concurred in his views, regarding the plan which he submitted to the Convention, as not exceeding in stability and strength what the exigencies of the country required. THEY WERE COMPLETELY UP TO THE SCHEME. No one of the three supposed it could possibly carry. It was thought, however, advisable to sketch a plan of sufficient stability, and in defending it, to bring forward those sound principles which would endure the test of enlightened investigation and of time. The minds of the members of the Convention were, in consequence, raised to a point, which otherwise they would not have reached.” He added, that “his opinion relative to a President during good behavior underwent a change from reflection on the more serious struggle likely to be produced by the choice of so permanent an officer."*
* Thomas Y. Howe was his military secretary in 1799 and 1800, when this conversation took place. Letter of Howe to the author, March 31, 1840. Detroit.
The withdrawal from the Convention of the two delegates from New York, at such a juncture, leaves no room for a doubt, that their object was to arrest totally its proceedings.
That they acted in accordance with Clinton, was proved by his deportment at this time. Unreserved declarations were made by him, that no good was to be expected from the appointment or deliberations of this body. That the most probable result was, that the country would be thrown into confusion by the measure. That it was by no means a necessary one, as the confederation had not undergone a sufficient trial, and probably, on a more full experiment, would be found to answer all the purposes of the union.
“ Clinton,” Hamilton remarked, “ was not a man governed in ordinary cases by sudden impulse; though of an irritable temper, when not under the immediate influence of irritation, he was circumspect and guarded, and seldom acted or spoke without premeditation or design."
Such declarations from such a source, could only have been intended to excite prejudices against whatever plan should be proposed by the convention. Feeling that Clinton's conduct might, and fearing that it would, induce the mischief he so confidently and openly predicted, Hamilton resolved to exhibit it before the public in all its deformity. He immediately published a pointed animadversion, charging these declarations upon him, and avowing a readiness to substantiate them.
Having thus interposed his personal influence to counteract this insidious policy by an appeal to the people, he hastened to Philadelphia, and there, without a vote, standing alone, and unsupported by his state, he renewed his exertions to compose the heats and heal the differences which had arisen, and, as far as was in his power, to aid in directing the course of the convention.
The discussion of the compromise as protracted until late in July, when the first of the propositions having been modified, both were adopted, though by a vote indicating a wide difference of opinion. Five states were in favour of them, but they were those of secondary importance. Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, voted against them; and the important commonwealth of Massachusetts was divided. During this debate the number of representatives was apportioned to each state, in the first congress. It was declared that the representation ought to be proportioned to direct taxation, and to ascertain the necessary alterations in it, that a periodical census should be taken. South Carolina and Georgia, seeking to increase their relative weight, would have embraced in this census all their slaves; but the three-fifths compromise, although at first rejected, * was finally adopted. An effort was also made to establish the principle, that the representation of the new states to be admitted into the union, should never exceed that of the original thirteen; but this unequal proposition was defeated.f
In determining the period when a census should be taken, a similar contest for power was also seen. The vote was at first unanimous for a re-apportionment at the expiration of fifteen years. Then two years were proposed; then six ; then twenty; a decennial census was ultimately established.
* Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, voting for it. + Affirmative, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland
The principles of the constitution of the first branch being settled, those of the second were considered. A proposal was made to fix the number of senators at thirty-six, and to apportion them among the states. Massachusetts and Virginia urged this change warmly, but it was resolved that each state should have an equal vote. The compromise on this point being effected, a new contest for power was seen in the several modifications suggested in the structure of the other departments of the government, and in the extent and distribution of its powers.
The legislative powers of the government were now considered, and a general declaratory clause was passed, having in view subsequent alterations. It was not to be expected that the proposed negative of Madison on the state laws, would be retained; it was only supported by the votes of three states, and in lieu of it, the legislative acts of the United States, and treaties made under its authority, were declared to be the supreme law of the land.
The institution of the executive department was the next subject of deliberation. This marked instance was now seen of the influences which were operating: Randolph had insisted earnestly on a plural executive; he suggested, as giving a reasonable security to the smaller states, the appointment of one executive, to be elected by an equality of state votes. The delegates from Virginia, who had hesitated, yielding, it was unanimously declared that the national executive was to consist of one person. The effort was renewed to render him eligible by the electors of the people. It was then proposed that he should be chosen by electors appointed by the legislatures of the states; but the choice was given to the national legislature, in conformity with the original proposition of Virginia. He was declared to be re-eligible. The trusts of carrying into execution the national laws, and of appointing the national officers, subject to the negative of two-thirds of the legislature, were con