Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

and in different courts of the same State, rendered it impracticable for the Convention to make any general provision on the subject.

Upon the conclusion of the discussion by paragraphs. Chief Justice Parsons moved an assent to, and ratification of, the Constitution. This motion was strongly opposed, but means had been taken to divide the opposition. Hancock surrendered his objections.

As President of the Convention, he urged the adoption of the Constitution, with certain amendments, submitted by him, which, he stated, he believed would quiet the apprehensions of its opponents. These amendments were from the pen of Parsons.* †

This determination was supposed to have been produced by the strong manifestations of the feelings of the mechanics of Boston, who, at a full assemblage, passed earnest resolutions in favor of the Constitution, as a great mean of restoring to industry its due rewards. These resolutions were also presented to Samuel Adams, who, influenced by a voice that rarely reached his ear in vain, the voice of numbers, moved the acceptance of the amendment, and supported his motion by a series of cogent remarks on the necessity of adopting the Constitution, as the only mean of preserving the Union. He then urged the excellence of the amendments, particularly that which proposed an explicit declaration, that all pow

* Curtis's Hist. Const. ii. 541.

† King to Madison, January 23d: "Our prospects are gloomy, but hope is not entirely extinguished. We are now thinking of amendments to be submitted, not as the condition of a ratification, but as the opinion of the Convention subjoined to the ratification. This scheme may gain a few members, but the idea is doubtful.” January 30th, same to same. He states their hopes are increasing. “If Mr. Hancock does not disappoint our expectations, our wishes will be gratified, but his character is not entirely free from a portion of caprice.”

Vol. IV.-27

ers not expressly delegated to Congress, are reserved to the States to be exercised by them; another, restricting the control of Congress over the elections of its members; a third, conferring the power of direct taxation only when the proceeds of the impost and excise shall be insufficient for the public exigencies; and another, requiring an indictment before trial, and juries in civil cases, between citizens of different States, at the request of either of the parties.*

His motion gave rise to a discursive conversation, in which the general features of the Constitution were reviewed, and the right of a State Convention to offer amendments, discussed; Ames, in the lead, denying the validity of any acceptance of it upon condition. In the closing debates, a powerful array in favor of the Constitution was seen, in its advocacy, by the hitherto almost silent clergy.f The deliberations were terminated by a composing address from Hancock. The question was finally taken upon a ratification, with a recommendation of the proposed amendments. The votes were one hundred and eighty-seven in the affirmative, and one hundred and sixtyeight in the negative, thus, of so numerous a body, showing · a majority of only nineteen members—a result, with which, argument had much weight, influence, not a little. In the exceedingly doubtful opinions of the States which had not yet ratified the Constitution, this result was of highest moment. The recommendation of amendments, though an unavoidable concession, was, however, an example pregnant with danger.

* King wrote to Madison, “ Hancock submitted the propositions. Samuel Adams gave his public approbation of them. We flatter ourselves the weight of these two characters will insure our success, but the event is not absolutely certain."

† Of the nine Clergy in the Convention, seven vo ted for the Constitution.

CHAPTER LI.

On the eleventh of December, the Legislature of New Hampshire resolved, that a Convention of Delegates from each town should be held at Exeter on the nineteenth of February following.

During the interval, great efforts were made to excite the prejudices of its people.

This State, from its lofty mountains, and its beautiful lakes, often called the Switzerland of America, owes its chief distinction to the vigorous character of its population, who, originally from the Western Counties of England, were of an humble condition, at first fishers, afterwards farmers, then graziers, among the hills which approach within a few miles of the Ocean. The Colony was primarily held in a separate Government under a grant from the Crown.* Most of its Colonists being from Massachusetts, they early took refuge under her jurisdiction. Thus, the same laws governed, and similar customs prevailed. After the lapse of forty years, it passed under a Royal government, when it again, by a voluntary act, became united with that Colony ;t which connection continued some time.

* To John Mason and other Merchants of London-Mason, originally a Merchant, entered the Navy, and was a Governor of Newfoundland. He wished to establish a feudal system in this Colony, which led to his ruin.

+ 1689.

Its advance was not rapid. The culture of the soil was early neglected. Food was imported, and the only exchanges were the products of the sea, and of the forest

fish and lumber, part of which were carried in an illicit traffic to the West Indies, returning molasses, the distillation of which was long the only manufacture. By a few Irish emigrants, the fabric of linen was subsequently introduced; and a weak attempt was made to produce woollen goods. Disputed land titles—Indian warscontests with Canada—unsettled boundaries—were among the vexing incidents of their early history, preparing these Colonists for their gallant part in the Campaigns of the Revolution. Their Independent government established in seventy-six, showed their jealousy of power. It was vested in an Assembly, who chose from their own body, twelve Councillors, performing Legislative and Executive duties—dispensing with a Governor. An attempt to form another Constitution was made the next year. A Convention of Delegates proposed a plan to the people in their several town meetings, which was rejected. Another Convention was held, which “had nine Sessions, and continued for more than two years."* A Government of three branches was proposed by it; the Governor restrained by a Council with controlling powers. Such were the objections to this scheme, that it became necessary to modify, and submit it anew. The Representatives, instead of being elected by Counties, were required to be chosen by the town; and the “Governor," instead of being so named, was to be called, the “ President." Thus altered to meet popular feeling, it was once more submitted to the people, and was at last adopted.

The embarrassments resulting from interrupted industry, and a checked commerce, bore with especial severity

* History of New Hampshire, by Belknap.

on a State, with so few resources. The emission of paper money gave a temporary, but fleeting prosperity.

The embarrassments increased, and such laws were made as poor and uninformed people make, goaded by necessity-tender laws, which, were the paper refused, cancelled antecedent debts. In the hope of some day of wiser counsels, written obligations were transferred privately to avoid a tender. Laws against monopolies followed. After these, acts fixing prices, and prohibiting sales at auction ; to prevent a further depreciation of the paper. As the result of such Legislation, the paper became valueless ; and coin, in small quantities, gradually took its place. This, obeying the laws of commerce, soon disappeared. The Government resorted to taxation in its most oppressive form, and creditors resorted to the courts.

The cry rose aloud for paper money ; and the people were invoked “to assert their own majesty as the origin of power, and to make their Governors know, that they are but the executors of the public will."* An act for the tender of property at an appraisal followed—which was renewed; and a law was passed to encourage the import of coin-exempting from port duties vessels laden with it. The effort was vain. The evil grew until the previously mentioned insurrection followed, and was suppressed. It was to the fevered mind of this impoverished State, that the Federal Constitution, with all its salutary guards, was submitted. By many of the electors, inland, isolated, remote from information, the Constitution had not been read. Meeting in their towns under false impressions, a great number of the delegates were chosen with express instructions to reject it.

The State Convention assembled on the day appointed, when it was ascertained that there was a majority,

* Belknap.

« ZurückWeiter »