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When the Constitution was finished it was submitted to Congress, then in session in New York. A letter signed by Washington as president of the convention was likewise sent to Congress. He spoke of the difficulties that had confronted the delegates, of the necessity of a generous consideration for common interests, and of the Constitution as the result of a spirit of amity, mutual deference, and concession.

The members of Congress did not give the new plan an enthusiastic welcome. Richard Henry Lee was ready for immediate attack, and he was supported by Dane, of Massachusetts, and Melancthon Smith, of New York. At first technical objections were raised, and then a demand was made for certain radical amendments before the transmission of the Constitution to the states. It soon appeared, however, that such a course would be inexpedient, and at length, without a word of favorable comment, eleven states being present, it was unanimously voted that the Constitution should "be transmitted to the several legislatures in order to be submitted to a Convention of Delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the Convention."

No one could tell what its fate would be. At first, there were evidences of almost enthusiastic approval from the main body of the people. Nervous patriots like Patrick Henry or surly localists like Richard Henry Lee needed time to impress on the multitude the enormity of the convention's misdeeds. Randolph reported to Madison that Baltimore was resounding "with friendship for the new Constitution," that in Alexandria the people were enthusiastic, and that every town in Virginia was resounding with applause. Madison found New York City favorable and heard encouraging reports from the eastern states. New Jersey also appeared to be zealous. Gouverneur Morris wrote to Washington: "Jersey is so near unanimity in her favorable opinion, that we may count with certainty on something more than votes, should the state of affairs hereafter require the application of pointed arguments." Thus in the early days, there was good reason to hope for a speedy victory.

In truth, the Constitution had many foes to meet. There was a little band of irreconcilables who could see no good in making the central authority efficient, who had always opposed the extension of national authority and knew not how else to act. There were men of wide influence, like Samuel Adams, who had said so much about liberty that they were not conversant with the arguments for government. There were those who had already begun to cherish sectional antagonism, fearing the development of the west, or disliking the growing power of commercial New England. There were the paper-money men and the discontented needy, who saw in the Constitution a prohibition of bills of credit and of laws impairing the obligations of contracts — a party which had just been successful in controlling the legislatures of seven states. There were those who had been indignant at the proposition to close the Mississippi and were in no mood to see federal power increased and the full right to make treaties bestowed on the central government. There was the body of the people who for a generation had listened to the enchanting oratory of liberty and could be easily aroused to dread. There were those who, living away from the busy sources of trade, saw no need for a central government with wide power of taxation and authority to regulate commerce. No one of these elements was dangerous alone, but together they constituted a party of opposition which was aided, of course, by the big body of hesitants who at such times pause and shake their heads and wonder if it would not be best to let well enough alone. Fortunately, to leave bad enough alone was the alternative, and every day was sure to bring a few thoughtful reluctants to support of the new Constitution.

As the days went by, difficulties disclosed themselves. The Federalists, as the supporters of the Constitution, called themselves, to indicate that they were for a union and a federal government, and their opponents for disunion, were evidently strong in the central states. But in New York, the country districts, under the guidance of CHnton and the state office-holders, were rallying to defeat ratification. In Massachusetts, there was grave uncertainty. Virginia had among her counselors not only Lee but Mason and Patrick Henry, two powerful men, whose energy might yet be sufficient to defeat national union in the state of Madison and Washington. Recognizing the influence of Henry, Washington, on his return to Virginia, sent Henry and one or two others a copy of the Constitution, and delicately yet forcibly suggested the need of adoption. "From a variety of concurring accounts," he said, "it appears to me, that the political concerns of this country are in a manner suspended by a thread, and that the convention has been looked up to, by the reflecting part of the community, with a solicitude which is hardly to be conceived; and, if nothing had been agreed on by that body, anarchy would soon have ensued, the seeds being deeply sown in every soil." Henry answered that he could not bring his "mind to accord with the proposed constitution."

In Pennsylvania, there was undoubted enthusiasm for the new system, especially in Philadelphia and its vicinity, and the Federalists without much difficulty passed through the legislature a resolution calling a convention. Gouverneur Morris was partly right, however, in fearing the "cold and sour temper of the back counties" and the opposition of those who had "habituated themselves to live on the public" under the old system. Before the convention assembled, a torrent of newspaper articles and pamphlets supporting or defending the Constitution issued from the Pennsylvania press. The people were seriously in earnest. There were papers by "Homespun" and "American Citizen" and "Turk" and "Tar and Feathers" and a score of others. Turk thought he saw in the Constitution a resemblance "to that of our much admired Sublime Porte." "Your President general," he said, "will greatly resemble in his powers the mighty Ahdul Ahmed, our august Sultan — the senate will be his divan — your standing army will come in the place of our janizaries — your judges unchecked by vile juries may with great propriety be styled cadis." There was a heavy bit of satire signed by" John Humble, Secretary," and purporting to be the address of the "low-born" to their fellow slaves throughout the United States; in other words, to "all the people of the United States, except 600 or thereabouts," — those who were well-born. The low-born multitude professed themselves ready to allow the well-born to establish the divine Constitution which had just been laid before them. Another writer, gifted with powers of prophecy, depicted the condition of the Union in case the new Constitution was rejected. Such items as this, he said, would appear in the public press: "0n the 30th ult., his Excellency, David Shays, Esq., took possession of the government of Massachusetts. The execution of, Esq., the late tyrannical governor, was to take place the next day."

On the other side an "American Citizen" argued that the ludicrous papers signed by "Turk" and "Gaul" and "Briton" were but cunning tricks to make the readers believe that the opposition came from foreigners, a "thread-bare piece of political jockeyism," when in reality British and foreign agents everywhere were "bellowing forth" the praises of the proposed Constitution. A great deal of solemn nonsense was printed and some sound sense. From Pelatiah Webster and a few like him who could think with directness came vigorous arguments for the Constitution. The ablest single presentation of the whole subject was made by James Wilson in a speech before a mass meeting gathered at the Philadelphia state house. The opponents of the Constitution, however, could not be silenced by argument, for in mere power to pour out words they surpassed the Federal leaders. Wilson was answered by being called "Jimmy" and "James de Caledonia."

The Pennsylvania state convention met on November 21, 1787. The Federalists were well led by Wilson and Thomas McKean; the Anti-Federalists by Robert Whitehill, John Smithe, and William Findley. The debates were able: the Anti-Federalists were sometimes bitter, but they argued with strength and acumen till overborne by superior numbers. They attacked the Constitution because it did not have a bill of rights and because it endangered the existence of the states, or because, as they said, it established "a consolidated government." These were the chief objections; but the infrequency of elections, the danger of an established aristocracy, the want of a proper guaranty of jury trial in the federal courts, and, in general, the exclusive authority of Congress, were grounds of criticism and complaint. The Federalists asserted that a bill of rights was not essential, and Benjamin Rush went so far as to say, "I consider it as an honor to the late convention, that this system has not been disgraced with a bill of rights." "Would it not be absurd," he said, "to frame a formal declaration that our natural rights are acquired from ourselves?"

The brunt of the contest fell on the shoulders of Wilson. Despite a quaint pedantry and a certain didactic manner that must have annoyed his opponents and wearied his friends, he spoke convincingly and with a remarkable appreciation of the vitals of his subject. He dwelt on the essential nature of American institutions, emphasizing the fact that governments were now established by the people, who were the source of political authority. Borrowing his words from Montesquieu, he described the new political system as a "federal republic," a form of government which  "consists in assembling distinct societies which are consolidated into a new body, capable of being increased by the addition of other members."

Wilson's notion of the nature of the new order was well brought out by the term "federal liberty." "This, Sir, consists," he said, "in the aggregate of the civil liberty which is surrendered by each state to the national government; and the same principles that operate in the establishment of a single society, with respect to the rights reserved or resigned by the individuals that compose it, will justly apply in the case of a confederation of distinct and independent States." "This system, Sir, will at least make us a nation and put it in the power of the Union to act as such. We will be considered as such by every nation in the world. We will regain the confidence of our own citizens, and command the respect of others." "I consider," he said again, "the people of the United States as forming one great community, and I consider the people of the different States as forming communities again on a lesser scale." He called attention to the fact that the work of the convention was new; there were, it is true, groups of states known to history, but not like the organization now proposed. "The United Netherlands," he said, "are, indeed, an assemblage of societies; but this assemblage constitutes no new one, and therefore it does not correspond with the full definition of a confederate republic."

After three weeks of discussion the Anti-Federalists, hoping that delay might aid their cause, offered a series of fifteen amendments and proposed adjournment so that the people of the state might have time for consideration. The Federalists resisted all dilatory tactics and insisted on the immediate adoption of the Constitution as it came from the hands of its framers. The amendments were not unreasonable; the resemblance between them and the ten amendments afterward added to the Constitution is so striking that it has been suggested that Madison used the proposition of the Pennsylvania minority when he drew up the amendments in 1789 that were submitted to the states for adoption.

The ratification of the Constitution by the Pennsylvania convention took place on December 12 by a vote of forty-six to twenty-three. There was rejoicing in Philadelphia. On the morrow, a procession of dignitaries marched to the courthouse, where the ratification was read to a great gathering. In proper Philadelphia fashion a dinner was held at Mr. Epple's tavern, at the seasonable hour of three in the afternoon, and "the remainder of the day was spent in mutual congratulations upon the happy prospect of enjoying, once more, order, justice and good government in the United States." Toasts were drunk to "The People of the United States," to the "virtuous minority of Rhode Island," and to other bodies equally deserving approval.

Delaware's convention met at Dover after the assembling of the Pennsylvania convention, but it reached an earlier conclusion, ratifying the Constitution by a unanimous vote on December 7. New Jersey did not long delay. Its convention spent but a week in discussion and then without dissent voted for ratification (December 18). Thus three of the central states accepted the Constitution before the beginning of the new year. January 2 the convention of Georgia passed unanimously a resolution for ratification. Among the eastern states, Connecticut acted promptly, ratifying (January 9) by a vote of one hundred and twenty-eight to forty.

In Massachusetts, as in many other states, the first prospects for the adoption of the new Constitution were bright. "The people of Boston," wrote Knox, "are in raptures with it as it is, but would have liked it still better had it been higher toned." The reason for this apparent unanimity was probably the fact that the friends of the strong government were on the alert and were ready with arguments in favor of adoption. Opposition, however, soon developed, and ere long it was apparent that a hard struggle was at hand. Pamphlets and newspaper articles denouncing the Constitution as dangerous to the liberties of the people were widely circulated. Such pamphlets as Lee's Letters of the Federal Farmer and even George Mason's letter giving his reasons for refusing to sign the Constitution were scattered abroad. In a letter to the general court, which he is said to have prepared with the critical aid of Lee, Gerry presented, his objections to the Constitution: there was, he contended, no proper provision for representation; no suitable definition of the legislative powers of the new government; serious danger of an undue influence by the executive and of oppression by the judiciary; no restraint on the powers of the president, with the advice of two-thirds of a quorum of the Senate, to make treaties. Like so many others, he found fault with the failure to append a bill of rights as a security for individual liberty. He strongly advised amendments before ratification. "The constitution proposed," he said, "has few, if any federal features, but is rather a system of national government."

Such were some of the more sober criticisms of the Constitution. Other writers objected to the annihilation of the Confederation, the surrender of annual elections, the power, and structure of the Senate, the great and exclusive power of levying duties on imports and exports as well as collecting internal taxes, the power over the militia, the right of Congress to raise and support a standing army, the establishment of a supreme court superior to the courts of the states. "In short," said one of the least declamatory of the opponents, "... you must determine that the Constitution of your Commonwealth, which is instructive, beautiful and consistent in practice, ... a Constitution which is especially calculated for your territory, and is made conformable to your genius, your habits, the mode of holding your estates, and your particular interests, shall be reduced in its powers to those of a City Corporation."

Arguments such as these, bearing as they did some show of reason and candor, were not the most difficult to meet and refute. Just recovering from the perils and anxieties of Shays's rebellion, Massachusetts was filled with uneasy spirits who were not prepared to consider any constitution on its merits. They were ready to break out into declamation, to appeal to class prejudices, and make much noise by the use of popular phrases whose cogency outweighed much calm discussion. Those who had followed the fortunes of Shays and Luke Day were wroth, indeed, at the sight of an instrument that forbade the states to issue paper money or impair the obligations of contracts, and which proposed to establish a powerful government that could collect taxes, establish federal courts, and put down insurrections. The Anti-Federalists came largely from the interior districts, from regions without capital or commerce, where paper money and tender laws had found their chief support. The old distrust of the upper classes and the "well-born," the hostility among the countrymen to the dwellers in Boston, and the dislike of lawyers as instruments of injustice, all appear in the opposition to the Constitution. The advocates of adoption were declared by a vehement opponent to "consist generally, of the noble order of Cincinnatus, holders of public securities, . . . Bankers, and Lawyers: these with their train of dependents form the Aristocratic combination — the Lawyer in particular, keep up an incessant declamation for its adoption, like greedy gudgeons they long to satiate their voracious stomachs with the golden bait."

"It is a singular circumstance," wrote Knox, "that in Massachusetts, the property, the ability, and the virtue of the State, are almost solely in favor of the Constitution." The clergymen, whose political influence was of real moment, the merchants and businessmen, the men of substance who had been startled by the recent popular extravagances, the sober-minded who could reason thoughtfully and were not easily driven by declamation, strongly favored the proposed government. The Anti-Federalists were challenged by a Boston newspaper to point out a man of independent sentiments, either merchant, trader, farmer, mechanic, lawyer, physician, or divine, who was not fully persuaded that on the adoption of the Constitution depended the peace, honor, and happiness of the land.

The struggle in Massachusetts has for the student of history a profound interest. We see clearly the difficulty of establishing popular government, even under the best of circumstances — in a community where men were fairly well educated and had practical experience in politics. The opposition to the Constitution shows how hard it was to found a strong government at the end of a Revolution which had shaken the foundations of society. The conditions then disclosing themselves enable us to understand the political situation of the next generation, for party organizations were forming, and political prejudices and opinions were hardening in those days when the government of the new nation, peace, and domestic tranquillity were at stake. In watching the contest over the Constitution, we see the dangerous element of extreme democracy, vehement, suspicious, and talkative, which by its very strength confirmed the unbending conservatism of the substantial classes, the social and business leaders of the state, a conservatism which lasted for a generation and more. The substantial elements of society were gathering together preparing to support a strong and efficient government; they were to fight off the development of democratic tendencies for many years to come; they were, in a reactionary spirit, to oppose the liberal and enlightened notions of the reasonable, patriotic, and progressive democracy that was soon to find its own organization, its own distinct purpose.

When the convention assembled, it was plain that the majority was opposed to ratification. The Federalists found efficient leaders in King, Gorham, Strong, Fisher Ames, Parsons, and Bowdoin. The task was to meet prejudice and assertion with patient argument and to win over the remnant of silent delegates whose ears were still open to counsel. The opponents of ratification demanded amendments in the nature of a bill of rights; they objected to the exclusive powers of Congress and to its wide power of taxation in particular; they found fault with the representation of slaves and with the right to introduce slaves for twenty years. The problems of the Federal leaders were well described by King in a letter to Madison: "Our Convention proceeds slowly; an apprehension that the liberties of the people are in danger, and a distrust of men of property or education have a more powerful effect upon the minds of our opponents than any specific objections against the Constitution."

There were two men in Massachusetts whose influence was much needed by the Federalists. Without them, success was next to impossible. One was John Hancock. Though elected a delegate and chosen chairman of the convention, he did not at first attend the sessions, being detained at home by an attack of gout which some of his friends thought would disappear as soon as a majority was shown on either side of the difficult question. Plans were laid to secure his aid. He was given to understand that the friends of Bowdoin would support him for governor at the next election. He was also told that his chances for election to the vice presidency were good and that in case Virginia did not ratify the Constitution he would naturally be chosen as the first president of the new republic.

The other man whose influence was needed was the veteran politician Sam Adams. He was probably sincerely in doubt, for he did not lack decision when he could read the stars aright. When the Constitution first came into his hands he did not like it. "I stumble at the threshold," he wrote Lee in December. "I meet with a national government, instead of a federal union of sovereign states." The Federalists feared his opposition, for he had already expressed his dissatisfaction; but for some reason, perhaps common political shrewdness, he did not openly enter the lists of combatants, and so when the friends of the Constitution began gathering their strength, and when the Boston tradesmen announced their desire for ratification, he was ready to acquiesce without humiliation.

A letter from Washington, which probably had a decided effect on the Massachusetts convention, was now published in a Boston paper. "And clear I am," he said, "if another Federal Convention is attempted, that the sentiments of the members will be more discordant. ... I am fully persuaded . . . that it [the Constitution] or disunion is before us to choose from. If the first is our election, a constitutional door is opened for amendments, and may be adopted in a peaceable manner, without tumult or disorder." To those, then, who demanded a new convention or the adoption of amendments before ratification, the wiser plan was offered of adopting the Constitution and then asking for desired amendments.

After the convention had been in session for about three weeks, Hancock took his place, and under the skillful coaching of the Federal leaders prepared to play his part. He offered a conciliatory proposition, proposing immediate ratification of the Constitution and the recommendation of amendments that would quiet the fear of the good people of Massachusetts. Adams looked with favor on this method of avoiding the difficulty and moved the consideration^ of Hancock's proposals. The victory of the Federalists was won. Even Nathaniel Barrell, who at the time of his election was "a flaming Antifederalite," announced his conversion.

Several days of debate ensued, but when the final vote was taken, one hundred and eighty-seven voted for ratification and one hundred and sixty-eight against it.

The amendments which were asked for by the convention were intended to limit the powers of Congress and to assure the individual of certain rights and privileges. The most important was the first, declaring that the Constitution should explicitly state that all powers not expressly delegated by the Constitution were reserved to the several states. The method of ratification had its influence in other states. Had the delegates been reduced to the alternative of rejecting the Constitution or accepting it without reasonable hope of amendment, their fears in some cases would have made rejection certain. But the conciliatory proposition met with favor. Of the seven states acting on the Constitution after Massachusetts, only one failed to accompany ratification with amendments recommended for subsequent adoption.

By February 7, six states had adopted the Constitution, but Federal success was not yet assured. Even Virginia and New York, two important states, might still refuse to ratify, and in others, there was diligent opposition. In Maryland, there was a sharp struggle. The Anti-Federalists, led by Martin and Samuel Chase, were vehement in their opposition, declaring the new Constitution if adopted without amendments, deadly to liberty. But the Federalists, controlling the convention and refusing to be enticed into a fruitless discussion, remained at length "inflexibly silent" when their opponents demanded answers to their questions. The convention ratified the Constitution by a vote of sixty-three to eleven (April 26).

When the Constitution came before the legislature of South Carolina in January 1788, it was vigorously attacked and ably defended. Charles Pinckney took occasion to correct those who complained at the radical action of the makers of the Constitution who, being sent to add commercial and revenue powers to the authorities of the old Congress, had cast aside the Confederation and proposed a new system. Nothing can be more true, he said, than that the promoters of the Federal Convention had for their object the establishment of "a firm national government." The legislature finally voted to call a convention, and when the delegates came together they adopted the Constitution after a short discussion by a vote of over two to one.

Eight states had now ratified the Constitution, and a determined effort was made to secure the ninth so that it might at least be possible to organize the new government. New Hampshire gave both parties ground for hope. When the state convention met in February 1788, the Federalists found that if a vote were taken there would be a small majority for rejecting the Constitution, and it was therefore proposed to adjourn and meet again in June. The character of the convention was not the same when it was reassembled. After four days of discussion, the Constitution was ratified by a vote of fifty-seven to forty-seven. The ninth state was secured at last. Before the result in New Hampshire was known in the south, Virginia, as we shall see, had met and passed the crisis.