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THE HARTFORD CONVENTION.
“Early in the year 1814, memorials from a great many towns in Massachusetts, were forwarded to the Legislature of that State, praying that body to exert their authority to protect the citizens in their Constitutional rights and privileges, and suggesting the expediency of appointing delegates to meet delegates from such other States as may choose to appoint them, for the purpose of devising proper measures to procure the united efforts of the commercial States to obtain such amendments and explanations of the Constitution as will secure them from further evils.” Accordingly, on the 16th of October, 1814, by a large majority of the Legislature—260 yeas, 90 nays—twelve men were appointed as delegates from Massachusetts to meet in convention other delegates from the other New England States. The Convention met in Hartford on the 15th of December, 1814. There were twelve members from Massachusetts; seven from Connecticut; four from Rhode Island; three from New Hampshire; one from Vermont. They were gentlemen of the highest character for intelligence, wisdom, and patriotism. Af. ter a session of three weeks, they made a report of the result of their conference. In order to remove the evils under which they were suffering, and prevent their recurrence, the Convention proposed certain amendments to the Federal Constitution; by which the slave States would be deprived of the slave representation, as at present provided; and by which, new States would be prevented from coming into the Union, except by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses; and by which, Congress would be deprived of power to lay an embargo for more than sixty days; and by which, Congress shall not have power, without the concurrence of two-thirds of both Houses, to interdict the commercial intercourse between the United States and any foreign nation; and by which, Congress shall not have power to make or declare war against a foreign nation, without the concurrence of twothirds of both Houses; and by which, persons naturalized hereafter shall not be eligible to certain offices; and by which, no person shall be a second time elected President. ! It was also resolved by the Convention, that in the event of the continuance of the present evils, without a prospect of relief, it will, in the opinion of the Convention, be expedient for the Legislatures of the several States to send delegates to another Convention, to meet in June next. Provision was also made for calling another meeting of the Convention, if it should be desirable, before new delegates shall be chosen. ... In that report, drawn up with great ability, they discuss the subject of the dissolution of the Union, to which public attention had been earnestly turned, and the formation of a new Con-, federacy, as the means of escaping the evils under which the * commercial States were suffering. Such a dissolution, they say, should “be the work of peaceable times and deliberate consent; ” “some new form of Confederacy should be substituted among those States which shall intend to maintain a Federal relation to each other.” “Whenever it shall appear that these causes (of our calamities) are radical and permanent, a separation, by mutual arrangement, will be preferable to an alliance, by constraint, among nominal friends but real enemies.” They argue, at length, against the claims of the General Government upon the militia of the States, and justify Massachusetts and Connecticut in refusing to place the militia in the regular army and under United States officers. They complain that the “Constitutional Compact,” as they term the Constitution, has been extensively violated by the General Government, and that so many abuses have been practised, under color of its authority, that the time for change is believed to be at hand. They declare that “acts of Congress in violation of the Constitution are absolutely void.” And, as the Governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut had refused to place the militia of those States in the regular army, and under the officers of the General Government, they propose that a portion of the national tax, raised by the State, should be paid into its treasury, to be used for its defence, for which the General Government had neglected to provide, in the case of those States. They declare that they are “solicitous for the continuance of the Union as well as the sovereignty of the States.”
The first amendment proposed, namely, to take from the South the representation of slaves, was designed to lessen the political power of the South. The object of the second amendment proposed was substantially the same ; or, in the language of HARRIsoN GRAY OTIs, “the object of the amendment was to diminish what the decision of the Missouri question is calculated to increase—the representation of slaves.” This referred to the admission of Louisiana.
The Legislatures of Massachusetts and Connecticut, on receiving the report of the Hartford Convention, sent commissioners to Washington; the former, HARRISON GRAY OTIS, THOMAS H. : PERKINs, and WILLIAM SULLIVAN ; the latter, NATHANIEL TERRY and CALVIN GODDARD.
CONTEMPORANEOUS VIEWS OF NORTHERN MEN.
In an ably-reasoned pamphlet, written by JoHN Lowell, of Massachusetts, and published in 1812, the writer asked: “Is there no Constitutional right in the executive, judiciary, and people of the several States, to judge whether the militia are, or are not, Constitutionally called into service' In whom, from the very nature of the limitation in the Constitution, reposes the ultimate right to judge whether either of the three cases, (to execute the laws of the Union; suppress insurrections; and repel invasion) provided by the Constitution, does exist?
“We answer, generally in the constituent, not in the delegate; in the master, not in the servant; ultimately in the people, (of the several States;) principally from the necessity of the case in the commanders-in-chief of the several States. The very idea of limitation excludes the possibility that the delegate should be the judge. If he were, his powers would be limited only by his own judgment, or, in other words, by his own arbitrary will, which is no limitation at all.” The General Government is regarded here as the delegate, and the people of the several States as the constituent, acting by their constituted anthorities as Governors, Judges, or Legislatures. We have the distinct declaration of the doctrine of State rights, from one of the ablest and best men of the times. If carried to its logical results it comes fully up to the Virginia resolutions of 1798, fully up to the teachings of JEFFERSON and MADISON.
GouvBRNEUR MoRRIs was the very man in the Constitutional Convention who revised the language of the Constitution before its final adoption by that body, and must therefore have understood what was its meaning and its bearings and the nature of the compact, and who were the parties to it. He declared that it was a compact between the States, and not a compact between individuals scattered over the whole Union. These are his words: “That the Constitution was a compact, not between solitary individuals, but between political societies, the people, not of America, but of the United States—each (State) enjoying sovereign power, and of course equal rights.” Thus it differs from a State Constitution, which is a compact, so far as it can be called a compact, between individuals. It is a compact between sovereignties. “New England will, I trust, continue true to herself. The appropriate course, pertinaciously pursued, must open the eyes even of the wilfully blind. You will unite with Massachusetts, and New York must connect herself, whether she will or no, with New England. The question of boundary to be solved, therefore, is the Delaware, Susquehanna, or Potomac.”—Letter of Gouverneur Morris to Lewis Sturgis, Connecticut, Wov. 1, 1814. “I supposed, also, that to such as would charge you with meditating a breach of the Union, you would calmly reply: “The Union is already broken by this Administration. Should we now rely upon it, we should forfeit all claim to common sense.’”—Idem, to Harrison Gray Otis, Wov. 8, 1814. Having in the first extract stated what is the nature of the Constitutional Compact, and who are the parties to it, namely, the States, he then, in the next two, shows in what way the meditated separation of the States can be justified, and where might be the line of separation. JoHN ADAMs, in a letter to THOMAs JEFFERSON, July, 1813, says: “The Northern States are now retaliating upon the Southern States, their conduct from 1797 to 1800.” He alludes to the opposition to his own administration by the Southern States, especially by Virginia and Kentucky.
DE WITT CLINTON.
“The opposition, now excited, is not an ordinary opposition. It does not merely aim a blow at a rival party. Nor is it confined to the destruction of an individual. It takes a more daring and adventurous attitude. It bids defiance to our laws, and threatens the dissolution of the Union. It is, perhaps, known to but few, that the project of the dismemberment of this country is not a novel plan growing out of recent measures of the Government, as has been pretended. It has been cherished by a number of individuals for a series of years; and a few months before the death of a distinguished citizen, whose death so strongly excited the public sensibility, it was proposed to him to enlist his great talents in the formation of this nefarious scheme; and, to his honor be it spoken, it was repelled by him with disdain. Some of the newspapers of New England have, at various times, inculcated the treasonable doctrines in elaborate essays, and the match appears to be now lighted, to produce an explosion, which will overwhelm us with all the evils of civil war.
“Look at the storm that is gathering in the east; its clouds are black, heavy, and portentous. Look at the resolves of several of the towns, and even of the capital of Massachusetts. Observe the disorganizing, jacobinical, seditious, and traitorous spirit which pervades them. The Legislatures of the several States are incited to array themselves against the General Government. The very men who a few years since were the strenuous advocates for putting down the State Governments, for a strong National Government, that would maintain the union of the States; for an energetic, absorbing National Government, that would control and regulate the centrifugal force of the local Government, these men are now warm partisans of a State supremacy, the devoted friends of the State Legislatures.”—Speech of DeWitt Clinton, in Senate of New York.
JoHN QUINCY ADAMs fully sustains the declarations of Mr. CLINTON, and refers to the “distinguished citizen,” who, it was