The Fathers of the Constitution
Max Farrand

Part 2 out of 3

have been revealed to all concerned by proposals seriously made
that the paper money which was issued should depreciate at a
regular rate each year until it should finally disappear.

The experience of Rhode Island is not to be regarded as typical
of what was happening throughout the country but is, indeed,
rather to be considered as exceptional. Yet it attracted
widespread attention and revealed to anxious observers the
dangers to which the country was subject if the existing
condition of affairs were allowed to continue. The machinery of
the State Government was captured by the paper-money party in the
spring election of 1786. The results were disappointing to the
adherents of the paper-money cause, for when the money was issued
depreciation began at once, and those who tried to pay their
bills discovered that a heavy discount was demanded. In response
to indignant demands the legislature of Rhode Island passed an
act to force the acceptance of paper money under penalty and
thereupon tradesmen refused to make any sales at all some closed
their shops, and others tried to carry on business by exchange of
wares. The farmers then retaliated by refusing to sell their
produce to the shopkeepers, and general confusion and acute
distress followed. It was mainly a quarrel between the farmers
and the merchants, but it easily grew into a division between
town and country, and there followed a whole series of town
meetings and county conventions. The old line of cleavage was
fairly well represented by the excommunication of a member of St.
John's Episcopal Church of Providence for tendering bank notes,
and the expulsion of a member of the Society of the Cincinnati
for a similar cause.

The contest culminated in the case of Trevett vs. Weeden, 1786,
which is memorable in the judicial annals of the United States.
The legislature, not being satisfied with ordinary methods of
enforcement, had provided for the summary trial of offenders
without a jury before a court whose judges were removable by the
Assembly and were therefore supposedly subservient to its wishes.
In the case in question the Superior Court boldly declared the
enforcing act to be unconstitutional, and for their contumacious
behavior the judges were summoned before the legislature. They
escaped punishment, but only one of them was reelected to office.

Meanwhile disorders of a more serious sort, which startled the
whole country, occurred in Massachusetts. It is doubtful if a
satisfactory explanation ever will be found, at least one which
will be universally accepted, as to the causes and origin of
Shays' Rebellion in 1786. Some historians maintain that the
uprising resulted primarily from a scarcity of money, from a
shortage in the circulating medium; that, while the eastern
counties were keeping up their foreign trade sufficiently at
least to bring in enough metallic currency to relieve the
stringency and could also use various forms of credit, the
western counties had no such remedy. Others are inclined to think
that the difficulties of the farmers in western Massachusetts
were caused largely by the return to normal conditions after the
extraordinarily good times between 1776 and 1780, and that it was
the discomfort attending the process that drove them to revolt.
Another explanation reminds one of present-day charges against
undue influence of high financial circles, when it is insinuated
and even directly charged that the rebellion was fostered by
conservative interests who were trying to create a public opinion
in favor of a more strongly organized government.

Whatever other causes there may have been, the immediate source
of trouble was the enforced payment of indebtedness, which to a
large extent had been allowed to remain in abeyance during the
war. This postponement of settlement had not been merely for
humanitarian reasons; it would have been the height of folly to
collect when the currency was greatly depreciated. But conditions
were supposed to have been restored to normal with the cessation
of hostilities, and creditors were generally inclined to demand
payment. These demands, coinciding with the heavy taxes, drove
the people of western Massachusetts into revolt. Feeling ran high
against lawyers who prosecuted suits for creditors, and this
antagonism was easily transferred to the courts in which the
suits were brought. The rebellion in Massachusetts accordingly
took the form of a demonstration against the courts. A paper was
carried from town to town in the County of Worcester, in which
the signers promised to do their utmost "to prevent the sitting
of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas for the county, or of any
other court that should attempt to take property by distress."

The Massachusetts Legislature adjourned in July, 1786, without
remedying the trouble and also without authorizing an issue of
paper money which the hardpressed debtors were demanding. In the
months following mobs prevented the courts from sitting in
various towns. A special session of the legislature was then
called by the Governor but, when that special session had
adjourned on the 18th of November, it might just as well have
never met. It had attempted to remedy various grievances and had
made concessions to the malcontents, but it had also passed
measures to strengthen the hands of the Governor. This only
seemed to inflame the rioters, and the disorders increased. After
the lower courts a move was made against the State Supreme Court,
and plans were laid for a concerted movement against the cities
in the eastern part of the State. Civil war seemed imminent. The
insurgents were led by Daniel Shays, an officer in the army of
the Revolution, and the party of law and order was represented by
Governor James Bowdoin, who raised some four thousand troops and
placed them under the command of General Benjamin Lincoln.

The time of year was unfortunate for the insurgents, especially
as December was unusually cold and there was a heavy snowfall.
Shays could not provide stores and equipment and was unable to
maintain discipline. A threatened attack on Cambridge came to
naught for, when preparations were made to protect the city, the
rebels began a disorderly retreat, and in the intense cold and
deep snow they suffered severely, and many died from exposure.
The center of interest then shifted to Springfield, where the
insurgents were attempting to seize the United States arsenal.
The local militia had already repelled the first attacks, and the
appearance of General Lincoln with his troops completed the
demoralization of Shays' army. The insurgents retreated, but
Lincoln pursued relentlessly and broke them up into small bands,
which then wandered about the country preying upon the
unfortunate inhabitants. When spring came, most of them had been
subdued or had taken refuge in the neighboring States.

Shays' Rebellion was fairly easily suppressed, even though it
required the shedding of some blood. But it was the possibility
of further outbreaks that destroyed men's peace of mind. There
were similar disturbances in other States; and there the
Massachusetts insurgents found sympathy, support, and finally a
refuge. When the worst was over, and Governor Bowdoin applied to
the neighboring States for help in capturing the last of the
refugees, Rhode Island and Vermont failed to respond to the
extent that might have been expected of them. The danger,
therefore, of the insurrection spreading was a cause of deep
concern. This feeling was increased by the impotence of Congress.
The Government had sufficient excuse for intervention after the
attack upon the national arsenal in Springfield. Congress,
indeed, began to raise troops but did not dare to admit its
purpose and offered as a pretext an expedition against the
Northwestern Indians. The rebellion was over before any
assistance could be given. The inefficiency of Congress and its
lack of influence were evident. Like the disorders in Rhode
Island, Shays' Rebellion in Massachusetts helped to bring about a
reaction and strengthened the conservative movement for reform.

These untoward happenings, however, were only symptoms: the
causes of the trouble lay far deeper. This fact was recognized
even in Rhode Island, for at least one of the conventions had
passed resolutions declaring that, in considering the condition
of the whole country, what particularly concerned them was the
condition of trade. Paradoxical as it may seem, the trade and
commerce of the country were already on the upward grade and
prosperity was actually returning. But prosperity is usually a
process of slow growth and is seldom recognized by the community
at large until it is well established. Farsighted men forecast
the coming of good times in advance of the rest of the community,
and prosper accordingly. The majority of the people know that
prosperity has come only when it is unmistakably present, and
some are not aware of it until it has begun to go. If that be
true in our day, much more was it true in the eighteenth century,
when means of communication were so poor that it took days for a
message to go from Boston to New York and weeks for news to get
from Boston to Charleston. It was a period of adjustment, and as
we look back after the event we can see that the American people
were adapting themselves with remarkable skill to the new
conditions. But that was not so evident to the men who were
feeling the pinch of hard times, and when all the attendant
circumstances, some of which have been described, are taken into
account, it is not surprising that commercial depression should
be one of the strongest influences in, and the immediate occasion
of, bringing men to the point of willingness to attempt some
radical changes.

The fact needs to be reiterated that the people of the United
States were largely dependent upon agriculture and other forms of
extractive industry, and that markets for the disposal of their
goods were an absolute necessity. Some of the States, especially
New England and the Middle States, were interested in the
carrying trade, but all were concerned in obtaining markets. On
account of jealousy interstate trade continued a precarious
existence and by no means sufficed to dispose of the surplus
products, so that foreign markets were necessary. The people were
especially concerned for the establishment of the old trade with
the West India Islands, which had been the mainstay of their
prosperity in colonial times; and after the British Government,
in 1783, restricted that trade to British vessels, many people in
the United States were attributing hard times to British
malignancy. The only action which seemed possible was to force
Great Britain in particular, but other foreign countries as well,
to make such trade agreements as the prosperity of the United
States demanded. The only hope seemed to lie in a commercial
policy of reprisal which would force other countries to open
their markets to American goods. Retaliation was the dominating
idea in the foreign policy of the time. So in 1784 Congress made
a new recommendation to the States, prefacing it with an
assertion of the importance of commerce, saying: "The fortune of
every Citizen is interested in the success thereof; for it is the
constant source of wealth and incentive to industry; and the
value of our produce and our land must ever rise or fall in
proportion to the prosperous or adverse state of trade."

And after declaring that Great Britain had "adopted regulations
destructive of our commerce with her West India Islands," it was
further asserted: "Unless the United States in Congress assembled
shall be vested with powers competent to the protection of
commerce, they can never command reciprocal advantages in trade."
It was therefore proposed to give to Congress for fifteen years
the power to prohibit the importation or exportation of goods at
American ports except in vessels owned by the people of the
United States or by the subjects of foreign governments having
treaties of commerce with the United States. This was simply a
request for authorization to adopt navigation acts. But the
individual States were too much concerned with their own
interests and did not or would not appreciate the rights of the
other States or the interests of the Union as a whole. And so the
commercial amendment of 1784 suffered the fate of all other
amendments proposed to the Articles of Confederation. In fact
only two States accepted it.

It usually happens that some minor occurrence, almost unnoticed
at the time, leads directly to the most important consequences.
And an incident in domestic affairs started the chain of events
in the United States that ended in the reform of the Federal
Government. The rivalry and jealousy among the States had brought
matters to such a pass that either Congress must be vested with
adequate powers or the Confederation must collapse. But the
Articles of Confederation provided no remedy, and it had been
found that amendments to that instrument could not be obtained.
It was necessary, therefore, to proceed in some extra-legal
fashion. The Articles of Confederation specifically forbade
treaties or alliances between the States unless approved by
Congress. Yet Virginia and Maryland, in 1785, had come to a
working agreement regarding the use of the Potomac River, which
was the boundary line between them. Commissioners representing
both parties had met at Alexandria and soon adjourned to Mount
Vernon, where they not only reached an amicable settlement of the
immediate questions before them but also discussed the larger
subjects of duties and commercial matters in general. When the
Maryland legislature came to act on the report, it proposed that
Pennsylvania and Delaware should be invited to join with them in
formulating a common commercial policy. Virginia then went one
step farther and invited all the other States to send
commissioners to a general trade convention and later announced
Annapolis as the place of meeting and set the time for September,

This action was unconstitutional and was so recognized, for James
Madison notes that "from the Legislative Journals of Virginia it
appears, that a vote to apply for a sanction of Congress was
followed by a vote against a communication of the Compact to
Congress," and he mentions other similar violations of the
central authority. That this did not attract more attention was
probably due to the public interest being absorbed just at that
time by the paper money agitation. Then, too, the men concerned
seem to have been willing to avoid publicity. Their purposes are
well brought out in a letter of Monsieur Louis Otto, French
Charge d'Affaires, written on October 10, 1786, to the Comte de
Vergennes, Minister for Foreign Affairs, though their motives may
be somewhat misinterpreted.

"Although there are no nobles in America, there is a class of men
denominated "gentlemen," who, by reason of their wealth, their
talents, their education, their families, or the offices they
hold, aspire to a preeminence which the people refuse to grant
them; and, although many of these men have betrayed the interests
of their order to gain popularity, there reigns among them a
connection so much the more intimate as they almost all of them
dread the efforts of the people to despoil them of their
possessions, and, moreover, they are creditors, and therefore
interested in strengthening the government, and watching over the
execution of the laws.

"These men generally pay very heavy taxes, while the small
proprietors escape the vigilance of the collectors. The majority
of them being merchants, it is for their interest to establish
the credit of the United States in Europe on a solid foundation
by the exact payment of debts, and to grant to congress powers
extensive enough to compel the people to contribute for this
purpose. The attempt, my lord, has been vain, by pamphlets and
other publications, to spread notions of justice and integrity,
and to deprive the people of a freedom which they have so
misused. By proposing a new organization of the federal
government all minds would have been revolted; circumstances
ruinous to the commerce of America have happily arisen to furnish
the reformers with a pretext for introducing innovations.

"They represented to the people that the American name had become
opprobrious among all the nations of Europe; that the flag of the
United States was everywhere exposed to insults and annoyance;
the husbandman, no longer able to export his produce freely,
would soon be reduced to want; it was high time to retaliate, and
to convince foreign powers that the United States would not with
impunity suffer such a violation of the freedom of trade, but
that strong measures could be taken only with the consent of the
thirteen states, and that congress, not having the necessary
powers, it was essential to form a general assembly instructed to
present to congress the plan for its adoption, and to point out
the means of carrying it into execution.

"The people, generally discontented with the obstacles in the way
of commerce, and scarcely suspecting the secret motives of their
opponents, ardently embraced this measure, and appointed
commissioners, who were to assemble at Annapolis in the beginning
of September.

"The authors of this proposition had no hope, nor even desire, to
see the success of this assembly of commissioners, which was only
intended to prepare a question much more important than that of
commerce. The measures were so well taken that at the end of
September no more than five states were represented at Annapolis,
and the commissioners from the northern states tarried several
days at New York in order to retard their arrival.

"The states which assembled, after having waited nearly three
weeks, separated under the pretext that they were not in
sufficient numbers to enter on business, and, to justify this
dissolution, they addressed to the different legislatures and to
congress a report, the translation of which I have the honor to
enclose to you."*

* Quoted by Bancroft, "History of the Formation of the
Constitution," vol. ii, Appendix, pp. 399-400.

Among these "men denominated 'gentlemen'" to whom the French
Charge d'Affaires alludes, was James Madison of Virginia. He was
one of the younger men, unfitted by temperament and physique to
be a soldier, who yet had found his opportunity in the
Revolution. Graduating in 1771 from Princeton, where tradition
tells of the part he took in patriotic demonstrations on the
campus -characteristic of students then as now--he had thrown
himself heart and soul into the American cause. He was a member
of the convention to frame the first State Constitution for
Virginia in 1776, and from that time on, because of his ability,
he was an important figure in the political history of his State
and of his country. He was largely responsible for bringing about
the conference between Virginia and Maryland and for the
subsequent steps resulting in the trade convention at Annapolis.
And yet Madison seldom took a conspicuous part, preferring to
remain in the background and to allow others to appear as the
leaders. When the Annapolis Convention assembled, for example, he
suffered Alexander Hamilton of New York to play the leading role.

Hamilton was then approaching thirty years of age and was one of
the ablest men in the United States. Though his best work was
done in later years, when he proved himself to be perhaps the
most brilliant of American statesmen, with an extraordinary
genius for administrative organization, the part that he took in
the affairs of this period was important. He was small and slight
in person but with an expressive face, fair complexion, and
cheeks of "almost feminine rosiness." The usual aspect of his
countenance was thoughtful and even severe, but in conversation
his face lighted up with a remarkably attractive smile. He
carried himself erectly and with dignity, so that in spite of his
small figure, when he entered a room "it was apparent, from the
respectful attention of the company, that he was a distinguished
person." A contemporary, speaking of the opposite and almost
irreconcilable traits of Hamilton's character, pronounced a bust
of him as giving a complete exposition of his character: "Draw a
handkerchief around the mouth of the bust, and the remnant of the
countenance represents fortitude and intrepidity such as we have
often seen in the plates of Roman heroes. Veil in the same manner
the face and leave the mouth and chin only discernible, and all
this fortitude melts and vanishes into almost feminine softness."

Hamilton was a leading spirit in the Annapolis Trade Convention
and wrote the report that it adopted. Whether or not there is any
truth in the assertion of the French charge that Hamilton and
others thought it advisable to disguise their purposes, there is
no doubt that the Annapolis Convention was an all-important step
in the progress of reform, and its recommendation was the direct
occasion of the calling of the great convention that framed the
Constitution of the United States.

The recommendation of the Annapolis delegates was in the form of
a report to the legislatures of their respective States, in which
they referred to the defects in the Federal Government and called
for "a convention of deputies from the different states for the
special purpose of entering into this investigation and digesting
a Plan for supplying such defects." Philadelphia was suggested as
the place of meeting, and the time was fixed for the second
in May of the next year.

Several of the States acted promptly upon this recommendation and
in February, 1787, Congress adopted a resolution accepting the
proposal and calling the convention "for the sole and express
purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting .
. . such alterations . . . as shall . . . render the Federal
Constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the
preservation of the Union." Before the time fixed for the meeting
of the Philadelphia Convention, or shortly after that date, all
the States had appointed deputies with the exception of New
Hampshire and Rhode Island. New Hampshire was favorably disposed
toward the meeting but, owing to local conditions, failed to act
before the Convention was well under way. Delegates, however,
arrived in time to share in some of the most important
proceedings. Rhode Island alone refused to take part, although a
letter signed by some of the prominent men was sent to the
Convention pledging their support.


The body of delegates which met in Philadelphia in 1787 was the
most important convention that ever sat in the United States. The
Confederation was a failure, and if the new nation was to be
justified in the eyes of the world, it must show itself capable
of effective union. The members of the Convention realized the
significance of the task before them, which was, as Madison said,
"now to decide forever the fate of Republican government."
Gouverneur Morris, with unwonted seriousness, declared: "The
whole human race will be affected by the proceedings of this
Convention." James Wilson spoke with equal gravity: "After the
lapse of six thousand years since the creation of the world
America now presents the first instance of a people assembled to
weigh deliberately and calmly and to decide leisurely and
peaceably upon the form of government by which they will bind
themselves and their posterity."

Not all the men to whom this undertaking was entrusted, and who
were taking themselves and their work so seriously, could pretend
to social distinction, but practically all belonged to the upper
ruling class. At the Indian Queen, a tavern on Fourth Street
between Market and Chestnut, some of the delegates had a hall in
which they lived by themselves. The meetings of the Convention
were held in an upper room of the State House. The sessions were
secret; sentries were placed at the door to keep away all
intruders; and the pavement of the street in front of the
was covered with loose earth so that the noises of passing
should not disturb this august assembly. It is not surprising
a tradition grew up about the Federal Convention which hedged it
round with a sort of awe and reverence. Even Thomas Jefferson
referred to it as "an assembly of demigods." If we can get away
from the glamour which has been spread over the work of the
Fathers of the Constitution and understand that they were human
beings, even as we are, and influenced by the same motives as
other men, it may be possible to obtain a more faithful
of what actually took place.

Since representation in the Convention was to be by States, just
as it had been in the Continental Congress, the presence of
delegations from a majority of the States was necessary for
organization. It is a commentary upon the times, upon the
difficulties of travel, and upon the leisurely habits of the
people, that the meeting which had been called for the 14th of
could not begin its work for over ten days. The 25th of May was
stormy, and only twenty-nine delegates were on hand when the
Convention organized. The slender attendance can only partially
be attributed to the weather, for in the following three months
and a half of the Convention, at which fifty-five members were
present at one time or another, the average attendance was only
slightly larger than that of the first day. In such a small body
personality counted for much, in ways that the historian can only
surmise. Many compromises of conflicting interests were reached
by informal discussion outside of the formal sessions. In these
small gatherings individual character was often as decisive as
weighty argument.

George Washington was unanimously chosen as the presiding officer
of the Convention. He sat on a raised platform; in a large,
carved, high-backed chair, from which his commanding figure and
dignified bearing exerted a potent influence on the assembly; an
influence enhanced by the formal courtesy and stately intercourse
of the times. Washington was the great man of his day and the
members not only respected and admired him; some of them were
actually afraid of him. When he rose to his feet he was almost
the Commitnder-in-Chief again. There is evidence to show that
his support or disapproval was at times a decisive factor in the
deliberations of the Convention.

Virginia, which had taken a conspicuous part in the calling of
the Convention, was looked to for leadership in the work that
was to be done. James Madison, next to Washington the most
important member of the Virginia delegation, was the very
opposite of Washington in many respects--small and slight in
stature, inconspicuous in dress as in figure, modest and
but with a quick, active mind and wide knowledge obtained both
from experience in public affairs and from extensive reading.
Washington was the man of action; Madison, the scholar in
Madison was the younger by nearly twenty years, but Washington
admired him greatly and gave him the support of his influence--a
matter of no little consequence, for Madison was the leading
worker of the Convention in the business of framing the
Governor Edmund Randolph, with his tall figure, handsome face,
and dignified manner, made an excellent impression in the
accorded tohim of nominal leader of the Virginia delegation.
others irom the same State who should be noticed were the famous
lawyers, George Wythe and George Mason.

Among the deputies from Pennsylvania the foremost was James
the "Caledonian," who probably stood next in importance in the
convention to Madison and Washington. He had come to America as
a young man just when the troubles with England were beginning
and by sheer ability had attained a position cof prominence.
times a member of Congress, a signer of the Declaration of
Independence, he was now regarded as one of the ablest lawyers
in the United States. A more brilliant member of the Pennsylvania
delegation, and one of the most brilliant of the Convention, was
Gouverneur Morris, who shone by his cleverness and quick wit as
well as by his wonderful command of )anguage. But Morris was
admired more than he was trusted; and, while he supported the
efforts for a strong government, his support was not always as
great a help as might have been expected. A crippled arm and a
wooden leg might detract from his personal appearance, but they
could not subdue his spirit and audacity.*

* There is a story which illustrates admirably the audacity of
Morris and the austere dignity of Washington. The story runs
that Morris and several members of the Cabinet were spending
an evening at the President's house in Philadelphia, where they
were discussing the absorbing question of the hour, whatever it
may have been. "The President," Morris is said to have related
on the following day, "was standing with his arms behind him--
his usual position--his back to the fire. I started up and spoke,
stamping, as I walked up and down, with my wooden leg; and, as
I was certain I had the best of the argument, as I finished I
stalked up to the President, slapped him on the back, and said.
"Ain't I right, General?" The President did not speak, but the
majesty of the American people was before me. Oh, his look! How I
wished the floor would open and I could descend to the cellar!
You know me," continued Mr. Morris, "and you know my eye
would never quail before any other mortal."--W. T. Read, Life
and Correspondence of George Read (1870) p.441.

There were other prominent members of the Pennsylvania
delegation, but none of them took an important part in the
Convention, not even the aged Benjamin Franklin, President of the
State. At the age of eighty-one his powers were failing, and he
was so feeble that his colleague Wilson read his speeches for
him. His opinions were respected, but they do not seem to have
carried much weight.

Other noteworthy members of the Convention, though hardly in the
first class, were the handsome and charming Rufus King of
Massachusetts, one of the coming men of the country, and
Gorham of the same State, who was President of Congress--a man
of good sense rather than of great ability, but one whose
reputation was high and whose presence was a distinct asset to
the Convention. Then, too, there were the delegates from South
Carolina: John Rutledge, the orator, General Charles Cotesworth
Pinckney of Revolutionary fame, and his cousin, Charles Pinckney.
The last named took a conspicuous part in the proceedings in
Philadelphia but, so far as the outcome was concerned, left his
mark on the Constitution mainly in minor matters and details.

The men who have been named were nearly all supporters of the
plan for a centralized government. On the other side were William
Paterson of New Jersey, who had been Attorney-General of his
State for eleven years and who was respected for his knowledge
and ability; John Dickinson of Delaware, the author of the
"Farmer's Letters" and chairman of the committee of Congress that
had framed the Articles of Confederation--able, scholarly, and
sincere, but nervous, sensitive, and conscientious to the verge
of timidity--whose refusal to sign the Declaration of
Independence had cost him his popularity, though he was afterward
returned to Congress and became president successively of
Delaware and of Pennsylvania; Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, a
successful merchant, prominent in politics, and greatly
interested in questions of commerce and finance; and the
Connecticut delegates, forming an unusual trio, Dr. William
Samuel Johnson, Roger Sherman, and Oliver Ellsworth. These men
were fearful of establishing too strong a government and were at
one time or another to be found in opposition to Madison and his
supporters. They were not mere obstructionists, however, and
while not constructive in the same way that Madison and Wilson
were, they must be given some credit for the form which the
Constitution finally assumed. Their greatest service was in
restraining the tendency of the majority to overrule the rights
of States and in modifying the desires of individuals for a
government that would have been too strong to work well in

Alexander Hamilton of New York, as one of the ablest members of
the Convention, was expected to take an important part, but he
was out of touch with the views of the majority. He was
rather than democratic and, however excellent his ideas may have
been, they were too radical for his fellow delegates and found
but little support. He threw his strength in favor of a strong
government and was ready to aid the movement in whatever way he
could. But within his own delegation he was outvoted by Robert
Yates and John Lansing, and before the sessions were half over
he was deprived of a vote by the withdrawal of his colleagues.
Thereupon, finding himself of little service, he went to New York
and returned to Philadelphia only once or twice for a few days
at a time, and finally to sign the completed document. Luther
Martin of Maryland was an able lawyer and the Attorney-General
of his State; but he was supposed to be allied with undesirable
interests, and it was said that he had been sent to the
for the purpose of opposing a strong government. He proved to be
a tiresome speaker and his prosiness, when added to the suspicion
attaching to his motives, cost him much of the influence which
he might otherwise have had.

All in all, the delegates to the Federal Convention were a
remarkable body of men. Most of them had played important parts
in the drama of the Revolution; three-fourths of them had served
in Congress, and practically all were persons of note in their
respective States and had held important public positions. They
may not have been the "assembly of demigods" which Jefferson
called them, for another contemporary insisted "that twenty
assemblies of equal number might be collected equally respectable
both in point of ability, integrity, and patriotism." Perhaps it
would be safer to regard the Convention as a fairly
representative body, which was of a somewhat higher order than
would be gathered together today, because the social conditions
of those days tended to bring forward men of a better class, and
because the seriousness of the crisis had called out leaders of
the highest type.

Two or three days were consumed in organizing the
Convention--electing officers, considering the delegates'
credentials, and adopting rules of procedure; and when these
necessary preliminaries had been accomplished the main business
was opened with the presentation by the Virginia delegation of a
series of resolutions providing for radical changes in the
machinery of the Confederation. The principal features were the
organization of a legislature of two houses proportional to
population and with increased powers, the establishment of a
separate executive, and the creation of an independent judiciary.
This was in reality providing for a new government and was
probably quite beyond the ideas of most of the members of the
Convention, who had come there under instructions and with the
expectation of revising the Articles of Confederation. But after
the Virginia Plan had been the subject of discussion for two
weeks so that the members had become a little more accustomed to
its proposals, and after minor modifications had been made in the
wording of the resolutions, the Convention was won over to its
support. To check this drift toward radical change the opposition
headed by New Jersey and Connecticut presented the so-called New
Jersey Plan, which was in sharp contrast to the Virginia
Resolutions, for it contemplated only a revision of the Articles
of Confederation, but after a relatively short discussion, the
Virginia Plan was adopted by a vote of seven States against four,
with one State divided.

The dividing line between the two parties or groups in the
Convention had quickly manifested itself. It proved to be the
same line that had divided the Congress of the Confederation, the
cleavage between the large States and the small States. The large
States were in favor of representation in both houses of the
legislature according to population, while the small States were
opposed to any change which would deprive them of their equal
vote in Congress, and though outvoted, they were not ready to
yield. The Virginia Plan, and subsequently the New Jersey Plan,
had first been considered in committee of the whole, and the
question of "proportional representation," as it was then called,
would accordingly come up again in formal session. Several weeks
had been occupied by the proceedings, so that it was now near the
end of June, and in general the discussions had been conducted
with remarkably good temper. But it was evidently the calm before
the storm. And the issue was finally joined when the question of
representation in the two houses again came before the
Convention. The majority of the States on the 29th of June once
more voted in favor of proportional representation in the lower
house. But on the question of the upper house, owing to a
peculiar combination of circumstances--the absence of one
delegate and another's change of vote causing the position of
their respective States to be reversed or nullified--the vote on
the 2d of July resulted in a tie. This brought the proceedings of
the Convention to a standstill. A committee of one member from
each State was appointed to consider the question, and, "that
time might be given to the Committee, and to such as chose to
attend to the celebration on the anniversary of Independence, the
Convention adjourned" over the Fourth. The committee was chosen
by ballot, and its composition was a clear indication that the
small-State men had won their fight, and that a compromise would
be effected.

It was during the debate upon this subject, when feeling was
running high and when at times it seemed as if the Convention
in default of any satisfactory solution would permanently
that Franklin proposed that "prayers imploring the assistance
of Heaven . . . be held in this Assembly every morning."
relates that Hamilton opposed the motion. The members were
evidently afraid of the impression which would be created
if it were suspected that there were dissensions in the
and the motion was not put to a vote.

How far physical conditions may influence men in adopting
any particular course of action it is impossible to say. But just
when the discussion in the Convention reached a critical stage,
just when the compromise presented by the committee was ready for
adoption or rejection, the weather turned from unpleasantly hot
to being comfortably cool. And, after some little time spent in
the consideration Of details, on the 16th of July, the great
compromise of the Constitution was adopted. There was no other
that compared with it in importance. Its most significant
features were that in the upper house each State should have an
equal vote and that in the lower house representation should be
apportioned on the basis of population, while direct taxation
should follow the same proportion. The further proviso that money
bills should originate in the lower house and should not be
amended in the upper house was regarded by some delegates as of
considerable importance, though others did not think so, and
eventually the restriction upon amendment by the upper house was

There has long been a prevailing belief that an essential feature
of the great compromise was the counting of only three-fifths of
the slaves in enumerating the population. This impression is
quite erroneous. It was one of the details of the compromise, but
it had been a feature of the revenue amendment of 1783, and it
was generally accepted as a happy solution of the difficulty that
slaves possessed the attributes both of persons and of property.
It had been included both in the amended Virginia Plan and in the
New Jersey Plan; and when it was embodied in the compromise it
was described as "the ratio recommended by Congress in their
resolutions of April 18, 1783." A few months later, in explaining
the matter to the Massachusetts convention, Rufus King said that,
"This rule . . . was adopted because it was the language of all
America." In reality the three-fifths rule was a mere incident in
that part of the great compromise which declared that
"representation should be proportioned according to direct
taxation." As a further indication of the attitude of the
Convention upon this point, an amendment to have the blacks
counted equally with the whites was voted down by eight States
against two.

With the adoption of the great compromise a marked difference was
noticeable in the attitude of the delegates. Those from the large
States were deeply disappointed at the result and they asked for
an adjournment to give them time to consider what they should do.
The next morning, before the Convention met, they held a meeting
to determine upon their course of action. They were apparently
afraid of taking the responsibility for breaking up the
Convention, so they finally decided to let the proceedings go on
and to see what might be the ultimate outcome. Rumors of these
dissensions had reached the ears of the public, and it may have
been to quiet any misgivings that the following inspired item
appeared in several local papers: "So great is the unanimity, we
hear, that prevails in the Convention, upon all great federal
subjects, that it has been proposed to call the room in which
they assemble Unanimity Hall."

On the other hand the effect of this great compromise upon the
delegates from the small States was distinctly favorable. Having
obtained equal representation in one branch of the legislature,
they now proceeded with much greater willingness to consider the
strengthening of the central government. Many details were yet to
be arranged, and sharp differences of opinion existed in
connection with the executive as well as with the judiciary. But
these difficulties were slight in comparison with those which
they had already surmounted in the matter of representation. By
the end of July the fifteen resolutions of the original Virginia
Plan had been increased to twenty-three, with many enlargements
and amendments, and the Convention had gone as far as it could
effectively in determining the general principles upon which the
government should be formed. There were too many members to work
efficiently when it came to the actual framing of a constitution
with all the inevitable details that were necessary in setting up
a machinery of government. Accordingly this task was turned over
to a committee of five members who had already given evidence of
their ability in this direction. Rutledge was made the chairman,
and the others were Randolph, Gorham, Ellsworth, and Wilson. To
give them time to perfect their work, on the 26th of July the
Convention adjourned for ten days.


Rutledge and his associates on the committee of detail
accomplished so much in such a short time that it seems as if
they must have worked day and night. Their efforts marked a
distinct stage in the development of the Constitution. The
committee left no records, but some of the members retained among
their private papers drafts of the different stages of the report
they were framing, and we are therefore able to surmise the way
in which the committee proceeded. Of course the members were
bound by the resolutions which had been adopted by the Convention
and they held themselves closely to the general principles that
had been laid down. But in the elaboration of details they seem
to have begun with the Articles of Confederation and to have used
all of that document that was consistent with the new plan of
government. Then they made use of the New Jersey Plan, which had
been put forward by the smaller States, and of a third plan
which had been presented by Charles Pinckney; for the rest they
drew largely upon the State Constitutions. By a combination of
these different sources the committee prepared a document bearing
a close resemblance to the present Constitution, although
were in a different order and in somewhat different proportions,
which, at the end of ten days, by working on Sunday, they were
able to present to the Convention. This draft of a constitution
was printed on seven folio pages with wide margins for notes and

The Convention resumed its sessions on Monday, the 6th of August,
and for five weeks the report of the committee of detail was
the subject of discussion. For five hours each day, and sometimes
for six hours, the delegates kept persistently at their task. It
was midsummer, and we read in the diary of one of the members
that in all that period only five days were "cool." Item by item,
line by line, the printed draft of the Constitution was
It is not possible, nor is it necessary, to follow that work
minutely; much of it was purely formal, and yet any one who has
had experience with committee reports knows how much importance
attaches to matters of phrasing. Just as the Virginia Plan was
made more acceptable to the majority by changes in wording that
seem to us insignificant, so modifications in phrasing slowly
won support for the draft of the Constitution.

The adoption of the great compromise, as we have seen, changed
the whole spirit of the Convention. There was now an expectation
on the part of the members that something definite was going to
be accomplished, and all were concerned in making the result as
good and as acceptable as possible. In other words, the spirit of
compromise pervaded every action, and it is essential to remember
this in considering what was accomplished.

One of the greatest weaknesses of the Confederation was the
inefficiency of Congress. More than four pages, or three-fifths
of the whole printed draft, were devoted to Congress and its
powers. It is more significant, however, that in the new
Constitution the legislative powers of the Confederation were
transferred bodily to the Congress of the United States, and that
the powers added were few in number, although of course of the
first importance. The Virginia Plan declared that, in addition
to the powers under the Confederation, Congress should have the
right "to legislate in all cases to which the separate States
are incompetent." This statement was elaborated in the printed
draft which granted specific powers of taxation, of regulating
commerce, of establishing a uniform rule of naturalization, and
at the end of the enumeration of powers two clauses were added
giving to Congress authority:

"To call forth the aid of the militia, in order to execute the
laws of the Union, enforce treaties, suppress insurrections, and
repel invasions;

"And to make all laws that shall be necessary and proper for
carrying into execution the foregoing powers."

On the other hand, it was necessary to place some limitations
upon the power of Congress. A general restriction was laid by
giving to the executive a right of veto, which might be
overruled, however, by a two-thirds vote of both houses.
Following British tradition yielding as it were to an inherited
fear--these delegates in America were led to place the first
restraint upon the exercise of congressional authority in
connection with treason. The legislature of the United States was
given the power to declare the punishment of treason; but treason
itself was defined in the Constitution, and it was further
asserted that a person could be convicted of treason only on the
testimony of two witnesses, and that attainder of treason should
not "work corruption of blood nor forfeiture except during the
life of the person attainted." Arising more nearly out of their
own experience was the prohibition of export taxes, of capitation
taxes, and of the granting of titles of nobility.

While the committee of detail was preparing its report, the
Southern members of that committee had succeeded in getting a
provision inserted that navigation acts could be passed only by a
two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature. New England
and the Middle States were strongly in favor of navigation acts
for, if they could require all American products to be carried in
American-built and American-owned vessels, they would give a
great stimulus to the ship-building and commerce of the United
States. They therefore wished to give Congress power in this
matter on exactly the same terms that other powers were granted.
The South, however, was opposed to this policy, for it wanted to
encourage the cheapest method of shipping its raw materials. The
South also wanted a larger number of slaves to meet its labor
demands. To this need New England was not favorably disposed. To
reconcile the conflicting interests of the two sections a
compromise was finally reached. The requirement of a two-thirds
vote of both houses for the passing of navigation acts which the
Southern members had obtained was abandoned, and on the other
hand it was determined that Congress should not be allowed to
interfere with the importation of slaves for twenty years. This,
again, was one of the important and conspicuous compromises of
the Constitution. It is liable, however, to be misunderstood, for
one should not read into the sentiment of the members of the
Convention any of the later strong prejudice against slavery.
There were some who objected on moral grounds to the recognition
of slavery in the Constitution, and that word was carefully
avoided by referring to "such Persons as any States now existing
shall think proper to admit." And there were some who were
especially opposed to the encouragement of that institution by
permitting the slave trade, but the majority of the delegates
regarded slavery as an accepted institution, as a part of the
established order, and public sentiment on the slave trade was
not much more emphatic and positive than it is now on cruelty to
animals. As Ellsworth said, "The morality or wisdom of slavery
are considerations belonging to the States themselves," and the
compromise was nothing more or less than a bargain between the

The fundamental weakness of the Confederation was the inability
of the Government to enforce its decrees, and in spite of the
increased powers of Congress, even including the use of the
militia "to execute the laws of the Union," it was not felt that
this defect had been entirely remedied. Experience under the
Confederation had taught men that something more was necessary in
the direction of restricting the States in matters which might
interfere with the working of the central Government. As in the
case of the powers of Congress, the Articles of Confederation
were again resorted to and the restrictions which had been placed
upon the States in that document were now embodied in the
Constitution with modifications and additions. But the final
touch was given in connection with the judiciary.

There was little in the printed draft and there is comparatively
little in the Constitution on the subject of the judiciary. A
Federal Supreme Court was provided for, and Congress was
permitted, but not required, to establish inferior courts; while
the jurisdiction of these tribunals was determined upon the
general principles that it should extend to cases arising under
the Constitution and laws of the United States, to treaties and
cases in which foreigners and foreign countries were involved,
and to controversies between States and citizens of different
States. Nowhere in the document itself is there any word as to
that great power which has been exercised by the Federal courts
of declaring null and void laws or parts of laws that are
regarded as in contravention to the Constitution. There is little
doubt that the more important men in the Convention, such as
Wilson, Madison, Gouverneur Morris, King, Gerry, Mason, and
Luther Martin, believed that the judiciary would exercise this
power, even though it should not be specifically granted. The
nearest approach to a declaration of this power is to be found in
a paragraph that was inserted toward the end of the Constitution.
Oddly enough, this was a modification of a clause introduced by
Luther Martin with quite another intent. As adopted it reads:
"That this Constitution and the Laws of the United States . . .
and all Treaties . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and
the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby; any Thing in
the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary
notwithstanding." This paragraph may well be regarded as the
keystone of the constitutional arch of national power. Its
significance lies in the fact that the Constitution is regarded
not as a treaty nor as an agreement between States, but as a law;
and while its enforcement is backed by armed power, it is a law
enforceable in the courts.

One whole division of the Constitution has been as yet barely
referred to, and it not only presented one of the most perplexing
problems which the Convention faced but one of the last to be
settled--that providing for an executive. There was a general
agreement in the Convention that there should be a separate
executive. The opinion also developed quite early that a single
executive was better than a plural body, but that was as far as
the members could go with any degree of unanimity. At the outset
they seemed to have thought that the executive would be dependent
upon the legislature, appointed by that body, and therefore more
or less subject to its control. But in the course of the
proceedings the tendency was to grant greater and greater powers
to the executive; in other words, he was becoming a figure of
importance. No such office as that of President of the United
States was then in existence. It was a new position which they
were creating. We have become so accustomed to it that it is
difficult for us to hark back to the time when there was no such
officer and to realize the difficulties and the fears of the men
who were responsible for creating that office.

The presidency was obviously modeled after the governorship of
the individual States, and yet the incumbent was to be at the
head of the Thirteen States. Rufus King is frequently quoted to
the effect that the men of that time had been accustomed to
considering themselves subjects of the British king. Even at the
time of the Convention there is good evidence to show that some
of the members were still agitating the desirability of
establishing a monarchy in the United States. It was a common
rumor that a son of George III was to be invited to come over,
and there is reason to believe that only a few months before the
Convention met Prince Henry of Prussia was approached by
prominent people in this country to see if he could be induced to
accept the headship of the States, that is, to become the king of
the United States. The members of the Convention evidently
thought that they were establishing something like a monarchy. As
Randolph said, the people would see "the form at least of a
little monarch," and they did not want him to have despotic
powers. When the sessions were over, a lady asked Franklin:
"Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" "A
republic," replied the doctor, "if you can keep it."

The increase of powers accruing to the executive office
necessitated placing a corresponding check upon the exercise of
those powers. The obvious method was to render the executive
subject to impeachment, and it was also readily agreed that his
veto might be overruled by a two-thirds vote of Congress; but
some further safeguards were necessary, and the whole question
accordingly turned upon the method of his election and the length
of his term. In the course of the proceedings of the Convention,
at several different times, the members voted in favor of an
appointment by the national legislature, but they also voted
against it. Once they voted for a system of electors chosen by
the State legislatures and twice they voted against such a
system. Three times they voted to reconsider the whole question.
It is no wonder that Gerry should say: "We seem to be entirely at
a loss."

So it came to the end of August, with most of the other matters
disposed of and with the patience of the delegates worn out by
the long strain of four weeks' close application. During the
discussions it had become apparent to every one that an election
of the President by the people would give a decided advantage to
the large States, so that again there was arising the divergence
between the large and small States. In order to hasten matters to
a conclusion, this and all other vexing details upon which the
Convention could not agree were turned over to a committee made
up of a member from each State. It was this committee which
pointed the way to a compromise by which the choice of the
executive was to be entrusted to electors chosen in each State as
its legislature might direct. The electors were to be equal in
number to the State's representation in Congress, including both
senators and representatives, and in each State they were to meet
and to vote for two persons, one of whom should not be an
inhabitant of that State. The votes were to be listed and sent to
Congress, and the person who had received the greatest number of
votes was to be President, provided such a number was a majority
of all the electors. In case of a tie the Senate was to choose
between the candidates and, if no one had a majority, the Senate
was to elect "from the five highest on the list."

This method of voting would have given the large States a decided
advantage, of course, in that they would appoint the greater
number of electors, but it was not believed that this system
would ordinarily result in a majority of votes being cast for one
man. Apparently no one anticipated the formation of political
parties which would concentrate the votes upon one or another
candidate. It was rather expected that in the great majority of
cases--"nineteen times in twenty," one of the delegates
said--there would be several candidates and that the selection
from those candidates would fall to the Senate, in which all the
States were equally represented and the small States were in the
majority. But since the Senate shared so many powers with the
executive, it seemed better to transfer the right of "eventual
election" to the House of Representatives, where each State was
still to have but one vote. Had this scheme worked as the
designers expected, the interests of large States and small
States would have been reconciled, since in effect the large
States would name the candidates and, "nineteen times in twenty,"
the small States would choose from among them.

Apparently the question of a third term was never considered by
the delegates in the Convention. The chief problem before them
was the method of election. If the President was to be chosen by
the legislature, he should not be eligible to reelection. On the
other hand, if there was to be some form of popular election, an
opportunity for reelection was thought to be a desirable
incentive to good behavior. Six or seven years was taken as an
acceptable length for a single term and four years a convenient
tenure if reelection was permitted. It was upon these
considerations that the term of four years was eventually agreed
upon, with no restriction placed upon reelection.

When it was believed that a satisfactory method of choosing the
President had been discovered--and it is interesting to notice
the members of the Convention later congratulated themselves that
at least this feature of their government was above criticism--it
was decided to give still further powers to the President, such
as the making of treaties and the appointing of ambassadors and
judges, although the advice and consent of the Senate was
required, and in the case of treaties two-thirds of the members
present must consent.

The presidency was frankly an experiment, the success of which
would depend largely upon the first election; yet no one seems to
have been anxious about the first choice of chief magistrate, and
the reason is not far to seek. From the moment the members agreed
that there should be a single executive they also agreed upon the
man for the position. Just as Washington had been chosen
unanimously to preside over the Convention, so it was generally
accepted that he would be the first head of the new state. Such
at least was the trend of conversation and even of debate on the
floor of the Convention. It indicates something of the conception
of the office prevailing at the time that Washington, when he
became President, is said to have preferred the title, "His High
Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of
their Liberties."

The members of the Convention were plainly growing tired and
are evidences of haste in the work of the last few days. There
a tendency to ride rough-shod over those whose temperaments
them to demand modifications in petty matters. This precipitancy
gave rise to considerable dissatisfaction and led several
to declare that they would not sign the completed document. But
the whole the sentiment of the Convention was overwhelmingly
favorable. Accordingly on Saturday, the 8th of September, a new
committee was appointed, to consist of five members, whose duty
it was "to revise the stile of and arrange the articles which
had been agreed to by the House." The committee was chosen by
ballot and was made up exclusively of friends of the new
Constitution: Doctor Johnson of Connecticut, Alexander Hamilton,
who had returned to Philadelphia to help in finishing the work,
Gouverneur Morris, James Madison, and Rufus King. On Wednesday
the twelfth, the Committee made its report, the greatest credit
for which is probably to be given to Morris, whose powers of
expression were so greatly admired. Another day was spent in
waiting for the report to be printed. But on Thursday this was
ready, and three days were devoted to going over carefully each
article and section and giving the finishing touches. By Saturday
the work of the Convention was brought to a close, and the
Constitution was then ordered to be engrossed. On Monday, the
17th of September, the Convention met for the last time. A few of
those present being unwilling to sign, Gouverneur Morris again
cleverly devised a form which would make the action appear to be
unanimous: "Done in Convention by the unanimous consent of the
states present . . . in witness whereof we have hereunto
subscribed our names." Thirty-nine delegates, representing twelve
States, then signed the Constitution.

When Charles Biddle of Philadelphia, who was acquainted with most
of the members of the Convention, wrote his "Autobiography,"
which was published in 1802, he declared that for his part he
considered the government established by the Constitution to be
"the best in the world, and as perfect as any human form of
government can be." But he prefaced that declaration with a
statement that some of the best informed members of the Federal
Convention had told him "they did not believe a single member was
perfectly satisfied with the Constitution, but they believed it
was the best they could ever agree upon, and that it was
infinitely better to have such a one than break up without fixing
on some form of government, which I believe at one time it was
expected they would have done."

One of the outstanding characteristics of the members of the
Federal Convention was their practical sagacity. They had a very
definite object before them. No matter how much the members might
talk about democracy in theory or about ancient confederacies,
when it came to action they did not go outside of their own
experience. The Constitution was devised to correct well-known
defects and it contained few provisions which had not been tested
by practical political experience. Before the Convention met,
some of the leading men in the country had prepared lists of the
defects which existed in the Articles of Confederation, and in
the Constitution practically every one of these defects was
corrected and by means which had already been tested in the
States and under the Articles of Confederation.


The course of English history shops that Anglo-Saxon tradition is
strongly in favor of observing precedents and of trying to
maintain at least the form of law, even in revolutions. When the
English people found it impossible to bear with James II and made
it so uncomfortable for him that he fled the country, they
shifted the responsibility from their own shoulders by charging
him with "breaking the original Contract between King and
People." When the Thirteen Colonies had reached the point where
they felt that they must separate from England, their spokesman,
Thomas Jefferson, found the necessary justification in the
fundamental compact of the first settlers "in the wilds of
America" where "the emigrants thought proper to adopt that system
of laws under which they had hitherto lived in the mother
country"; and in the Declaration of Independence he charged the
King of Great Britain with "repeated injuries and usurpations all
having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny
over these States."

And so it was with the change to the new form of government in
the United States, which was accomplished only by disregarding
the forms prescribed in the Articles of Confederation and has
been called, therefore, "the Revolution of 1789." From the outset
the new constitution was placed under the sanction of the old.
The movement began with an attempt, outwardly at least, to revise
the Articles of Confederation and in that form was authorized by
Congress. The first breach with the past was made when the
proposal in the Virginia Resolutions was accepted that amendments
made by the Convention in the Articles of Confederation should
be submitted to assemblies chosen by the people instead of to the
legislatures of the separate States. This was the more readily
accepted because it was believed that ratification by the
legislatures would result in the formation of a treaty rather
than in a working instrument of government. The next step was to
prevent the work of the Convention from meeting the fate of all
previous amendments to the Articles of Confederation, which had
required the consent of every State in the Union. At the time the
committee of detail made its report, the Convention was ready to
agree that the consent of all the States was not necessary, and
it eventually decided that, when ratified by the conventions of
nine States, the Constitution should go into effect between the
States so ratifying.

It was not within the province of the Convention to determine
the course of procedure should be in the individual States; so it
simply transmitted the Constitution to Congress and in an
accompanying document, which significantly omitted any request
for the approval of Congress, strongly expressed the opinion that
the Constitution should "be submitted to a convention of
chosen in each state by the people thereof." This was nothing
than indirect ratification by the people; and, since it was
impossible to foretell in advance which of the States would or
would not ratify, the original draft of "We, the People of the
States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, . . ." was
changed to the phrase "We, the People of the United States." No
man of that day could imagine how significant this change would
appear in the light of later history.

Congress did not receive the new Constitution enthusiastically,
yet after a few days' discussion it unanimously voted, eleven
States being present, that the recommendations of the Convention
should be followed, and accordingly sent the document to the
States, but without a word of approval or disapproval. On the
whole the document was well received, especially as it was
by the upper class, who had the ability and the opportunity for
expression and were in a position to make themselves heard. For
a time it looked as if the Constitution would be readily adopted.

The contest over the Constitution in the States is usually taken
as marking the beginning of the two great national political
parties in the United States. This was, indeed, in a way the
first great national question that could cause such a division.
There had been, to be sure, Whigs and Tories in America,
reproducing British parties, but when the trouble with the mother
country began, the successive congresses of delegates were
recognized and attended only by the so-called American Whigs, and
after the Declaration of Independence the name of Tory, became a
reproach, so that with the end of the war the Tory party
disappeared. After the Revolution there were local parties in the
various States, divided on one and another question, such as that
of hard and soft money, and these issues had coincided in
different States; but they were in no sense national parties with
organizations, platforms, and leaders; they were purely local,
and the followers of one or the other would have denied that they
were anything else than Whigs. But a new issue was now raised.
The Whig party split in two, new leaders appeared, and the
elements gathered in two main divisions--the Federalists
advocating, and the Anti-Federalists opposing, the adoption of
the new Constitution.

There were differences of opinion over all the questions which
had led to the calling of the Federal Convention and the framing
of the Constitution and so there was inevitably a division upon
the result of the Convention's work. There were those who wanted
national authority for the suppression of disorder and of what
threatened to be anarchy throughout the Union; and on the other
hand there were those who opposed a strongly organized government
through fear of its destroying liberty. Especially debtors and
creditors took opposite sides, and most of the people in the
United States could have been brought under one or the other
category. The former favored a system of government and
legislation which would tend to relieve or postpone the payment
of debts; and, as that relief would come more readily from the
State Governments, they were naturally the friends of State
rights and State authority and were opposed to any enlargement of
the powers of the Federal Government. On the other hand, were
those who felt the necessity of preserving inviolate every
private and public obligation and who saw that the separate power
of the States could not accomplish what was necessary to sustain
both public and private credit; they were disposed to use the
resources of the Union and accordingly to favor the strengthening
of the national government. In nearly every State there was a
struggle between these classes.

In Philadelphia and the neighborhood there was great enthusiasm
for the new Constitution. Almost simultaneously with the action
by Congress, and before notification of it had been received, a
motion was introduced in the Pennsylvania Assembly to call a
ratifying convention. The Anti-Federalists were surprised by the
suddenness of this proposal and to prevent action absented
themselves from the session of the Assembly, leaving that body
two short of the necessary quorum for the transaction of
business. The excitement and indignation in the city were so
great that early the next morning a crowd gathered, dragged two
of the absentees from their lodgings to the State House, and held
them firmly in their places until the roll was called and a
quorum counted, when the House proceeded to order a State
convention. As soon as the news of this vote got out, the city
gave itself up to celebrating the event by the suspension of
business, the ringing of church bells, and other demonstrations.
The elections were hotly contested, but the Federalists were
generally successful. The convention met towards the end of
November and, after three weeks of futile discussion, mainly upon
trivial matters and the meaning of words, ratified the
Constitution on the 12th of December, by a vote of forty-six to
twenty-three. Again the city of Philadelphia celebrated.

Pennsylvania was the first State to call a convention, but its
final action was anticipated by Delaware, where the State
convention met and ratified the Constitution by unanimous vote on
the 7th of December. The New Jersey convention spent only a week
in discussion and then voted, also unanimously, for ratification
on the 18th of December. The next State to ratify was Georgia,
where the Constitution was approved without a dissenting vote on
January 2, 1788. Connecticut followed immediately and, after a
session of only five days, declared itself in favor of the
Constitution, on the 9th of January, by a vote of over three to

The results of the campaign for ratification thus far were most
gratifying to the Federalists, but the issue was not decided.
With the exception of Pennsylvania, the States which had acted
were of lesser importance, and, until Massachusetts, New York,
and Virginia should declare themselves, the outcome would be
in doubt. The convention of Massachusetts met on the same day
that the Connecticut convention adjourned. The sentiment of
Boston, like that of Philadelphia, was strongly Federalist; but
the outlying districts, and in particular the western part of the
State, where Shays' Rebellion had broken out, were to be counted
in the opposition. There were 355 delegates who took part in the
Massachusetts convention, a larger number than was chosen in any
of the other States, and the majority seemed to be opposed to
ratification. The division was close, however, and it was
believed that the attitude of two men would determine the result.
One of these was Governor John Hancock, who was chosen chairman
of the convention but who did not attend the sessions at the
outset, as he was confined to his house by an attack of gout,
which, it was maliciously said, would disappear as soon as it was
known which way the majority of the convention would vote. The
other was Samuel Adams, a genuine friend of liberty, who was
opposed on principle to the general theory of the government set
forth in the Constitution. "I stumble at the threshold," he
wrote. "I meet with a national government, instead of a federal
union of sovereign states." But, being a shrewd politician, Adams
did not commit himself openly and, when the tradesmen of Boston
declared themselves in favor of ratification, he was ready to
yield his personal opinion.

There were many delegates in the Massachusetts convention who
felt that it was better to amend the document before them than
to try another Federal Convention, when as good an instrument
might not be devised. If this group were added to those who were
ready to accept the Constitution as it stood, they would make a
majority in favor of the new government. But the delay involved
in amending was regarded as dangerous, and it was argued that,
as the Constitution made ample provision for changes, it would
be safer and wiser to rely upon that method. The question was
therefore, of immediate or future amendment. Pressure was
accordingly brought to bear upon Governor Hancock and intimations
were made to him of future political preferment, until he was
persuaded to propose immediate ratification of the Constitution,
with an urgent recommendation of such amendments as would remove
the objections of the Massachusetts people. When this proposal
was approved by Adams, its success was assured, and a few days
later, on the 6th of February, the convention voted 187 to 168
in favor of ratification. Nine amendments, largely in the nature
of a bill of rights, were then demanded, and the Massachusetts
representatives in Congress were enjoined "at all times, . . . to
exert all their influence, and use all reasonable and legal
methods, To obtain a ratification of the said alterations and
provisions." On the very day this action was taken, Jefferson
wrote from Paris to Madison: "I wish with all my soul that the
nine first conventions may accept the new Constitution, to secure
to us the good it contains; but I equally wish that the four
latest, whichever they may be, may refuse to accede to it till
a declaration of rights be annexed."

Boston proceeded to celebrate as Philadelphia, and Benjamin
Lincoln wrote to Washington, on the 9th of February, enclosing an
extract from the local paper describing the event:

"By the paper your Excellency will observe some account of the
parade of the Eighth the printer had by no means time eno' to do
justice to the subject. To give you some idea how far he has been
deficient I will mention an observation I heard made by a Lady
the last evening who saw the whole that the description in the
paper would no more compare with the original than the light of
the faintest star would with that of the Sun fortunately for us
the whole ended without the least disorder and the town during
the whole evening was, so far as I could observe perfectly

*Documentary History, vol. IV, pp. 488-490.

He added another paragraph which he later struck out as being of
little importance; but it throws an interesting sidelight upon
the customs of the time.

"The Gentlemen provided at Faneul Hall some biscuit & cheese four
qr Casks of wine three barrels & two hogs of punch the moment
they found that the people had drank sufficiently means were
taken to overset the two hogspunch this being done the company
dispersed and the day ended most agreeably"*

* Ibid.

Maryland came next. When the Federal Convention was breaking up,
Luther Martin was speaking of the new system of government to his
colleague, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, and exclaimed: "I'll be
hanged if ever the people of Maryland agree to it!" To which his
colleague retorted: "I advise you to stay in Philadelphia, lest
you should be hanged." And Jenifer proved to be right, for in
Maryland the Federalists obtained control of the convention and,
by a vote of 63 to 11, ratified the Constitution on the 26th of

In South Carolina, which was the Southern State next in
importance to Virginia, the compromise on the slave trade proved
to be one of the deciding factors in determining public opinion.
When the elections were held, they resulted in an overwhelming
majority for the Federalists, so that after a session of less
than two weeks the convention ratified the Constitution, on the
28th of May, by a vote of over two to one.

The only apparent setback which the adoption of the Constitution
had thus far received was in New Hampshire, where the convention
met early in February and then adjourned until June to see what
the other States might do. But this delay proved to be of no
consequence for, when the time came for the second meeting of the
New Hampshire delegates, eight States had already acted favorably
and adoption was regarded as a certainty. This was sufficient to
put a stop to any further waiting, and New Hampshire added its
name to the list on the 21st of June; but the division of opinion
was fairly well represented by the smallness of the majority, the
vote standing 57 to 46.

Nine States had now ratified the Constitution and it was to go
into effect among them. But the support of Virginia and New York
was of so much importance that their decisions were awaited with
uneasiness. In Virginia, in spite of the support of such men as
Washington and Madison, the sentiment for and against the
Constitution was fairly evenly divided, and the opposition
numbered in its ranks other names of almost equal influence, such
as Patrick Henry and George Mason. Feeling ran high; the contest
was a bitter one and, even after the elections had been held and
the convention had opened, early in June, the decision was in
doubt and remained in doubt until the very end. The situation
was, in one respect at least, similar to that which had existed
in Massachusetts, in that it was possible to get a substantial
majority in favor of the Constitution provided certain amendments
were made. The same arguments were used; strengthened on the one
side by what other States had done, and on the other side by the
plea that now was the time to hold out for amendments. The
example of Massachusetts, however, seems to have been decisive,
and on the 25th of June, four days later than New Hampshire, the
Virginia convention voted to ratify, "under the conviction that
whatsoever imperfections may exist in the Constitution ought
rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein, than to
bring the Union into danger by delay, with a hope of obtaining
amendments previous to the ratification."

When the New York convention began its sessions on the 17th of
June, it is said that more than two-thirds of the delegates were
Anti-Federalist in sentiment. How a majority in favor of the
Constitution was obtained has never been adequately explained,
but it is certain that the main credit for the achievement
belongs to Alexander Hamilton. He had early realized how greatly
it would help the prospects of the Constitution if thinking
people could be brought to an appreciation of the importance and
value of the new form of government. In order to reach the
intelligent public everywhere, but particularly in New York, he
projected a series of essays which should be published in the
newspapers, setting forth the aims and purposes of the
Constitution. He secured the assistance of Madison and Jay, and
before the end of October, 1787, published the first essay in
"The Independent Gazetteer." From that time on these papers
continued to be printed over the signature of "Publius,"
sometimes as many as three or four in a week. There were
eighty-five numbers altogether, which have ever since been known
as "The Federalist." Of these approximately fifty were the work
of Hamilton, Madison wrote about thirty and Jay five. Although
the essays were widely copied in other journals, and form for us
the most important commentary on the Constitution, making what is
regarded as one of America's greatest books, it is doubtful how
much immediate influence they had. Certainly in the New York
convention itself Hamilton's personal influence was a stronger
force. His arguments were both eloquent and cogent, and met every
objection; and his efforts to win over the opposition were
unremitting. The news which came by express riders from New
Hampshire and then from Virginia were also deciding factors, for
New York could not afford to remain out of the new Union if it
was to embrace States on either side. And yet the debate
continued, as the opposition was putting forth every effort to
make ratification conditional upon certain amendments being
adopted. But Hamilton resolutely refused to make any concessions
and at length was successful in persuading the New York
convention, by a vote of 30 against 27, on the 26th of July, to
follow the example of Massachusetts and Virginia and to ratify
the Constitution with merely a recommendation of future

The satisfaction of the country at the outcome of the long and
momentous struggle over the adoption of the new government was
unmistakable. Even before the action of New York had been taken,
the Fourth of July was made the occasion for a great celebration
throughout the United States, both as the anniversary of
independence and as the consummation of the Union by the adoption
of the Constitution.

The general rejoicing was somewhat tempered, however, by the
reluctance of North Carolina and Rhode Island to come under "the
new roof." Had the convention which met on the 21st of July in
North Carolina reached a vote, it would probably have defeated
the Constitution, but it was doubtless restrained by the action
of New York and adjourned without coming to a decision. A second
convention was called in September, 1789, and in the meantime the
new government had come into operation and was bringing pressure
to bear upon the recalcitrant States which refused to abandon the
old union for the new. One of the earliest acts passed by
Congress was a revenue act, levying duties upon foreign goods
imported, which were made specifically to apply to imports from
Rhode Island and North Carolina. This was sufficient for North
Carolina, and on November 21, 1789, the convention ratified the
Constitution. But Rhode Island still held out. A convention of
that State was finally called to meet in March, 1790, but
accomplished nothing and avoided a decision by adjourning until
May. The Federal Government then proceeded to threaten drastic
measures by taking up a bill which authorized the President to
suspend all commercial intercourse with Rhode Island and to
demand of that State the payment of its share of the Federal
debt. The bill passed the Senate but stopped there, for the State
gave in and ratified the Constitution on the 29th of May. Two
weeks later Ellsworth, who was now United States Senator from
Connecticut, wrote that Rhode Island had been "brought into the
Union, and by a pretty cold measure in Congress, which would have
exposed me to some censure, had it not produced the effect which
I expected it would and which in fact it has done. But 'all is
well that ends well.' The Constitution is now adopted by all the
States and I have much satisfaction, and perhaps some vanity, in
seeing, at length, a great work finished, for which I have long
labored incessantly."*

* "Connecticut's Ratification of the Federal Constitution," by B.
C. Steiner, in "Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society,"
April 1915, pp. 88-89.

Perhaps the most striking feature of these conventions is the
trivial character of the objections that were raised. Some of the
arguments it is, true, went to the very heart of the matter and
considered the fundamental principles of government. It is
possible to tolerate and even to sympathize with a man who

"Among other deformities the Constitution has an awful squinting.
It squints toward monarchy; . . . . your president may easily
become a king . . . . If your American chief be a man of ambition
and ability how easy it is for him to render himself absolute. We
shall have a king. The army will salute him monarch.*

* "Connecticut's Ratification of the Federal Constitution," by B.
C. Steiner, in "Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society,"
April 1915 pp. 88-89.

But it is hard to take seriously a delegate who asked permission
"to make a short apostrophe to liberty," and then delivered
himself of this bathos:

"O liberty!--thou greatest good--thou fairest property--with thee
I wish to live--with thee I wish to die!--Pardon me if I drop a
tear on the peril to which she is exposed; I cannot, sir, see
this brightest of jewels tarnished! a jewel worth ten thousand
worlds! and shall we part with it so soon? O no!"*

* Elliot's "Debates on the Federal Constitution," vol. III. p.

There might be some reason in objecting to the excessive power
vested in Congress; but what is one to think of the fear that
imagined the greatest point of danger to lie in the ten miles
square which later became the District of Columbia, because the
Government might erect a fortified stronghold which would be
invincible? Again, in the light of subsequent events it is
laughable to find many protesting that, although each house was
required to keep a journal of proceedings, it was only required
"FROM TIME TO TIME to publish the same, excepting such parts as
may in their judgment require secrecy." All sorts of personal
charges were made against those who were responsible for the
framing of the Constitution. Hopkinson wrote to Jefferson in
April, 1788:

"You will be surprised when I tell you that our public News
Papers have anounced General Washington to be a Fool influenced &
lead by that Knave Dr. Franklin, who is a public Defaulter for
Millions of Dollars, that Mr. Morris has defrauded the Public out
of as many Millions as you please & that they are to cover their
frauds by this new Government."*

* "Documentary History of the Constitution," vol. IV, p. 563.

All things considered, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion
that such critics and detractors were trying to find excuses for
their opposition.

The majorities in the various conventions can hardly be said
really to represent the people of their States, for only a small
percentage of the people had voted in electing them; they were
representative rather of the propertied upper class. This
circumstance has given rise to the charge that the Constitution
was framed and adopted by men who were interested in the
of property, in the maintenance of the value of government
securities, and in the payment of debts which had been incurred
by the individual States in the course of the Revolution.
holders were unquestionably assisted by the mere establishment of
strong government. The creditor class seemed to require some
special provision and, when the powers of Congress were under
consideration in the Federal Convention, several of the members
argued strongly for a positive injunction on Congress to assume
obligations of the States. The chief objection to this procedure
seemed to be based upon the fear of benefiting speculators rather
than the legitimate creditors, and the matter was finally
compromised by providing that all debts should be "as valid
against the United States under this Constitution asunder the
Confederation." The charge that the Constitution was framed and
its adoption obtained by men of property and wealth is
true, but it is a mistake to attribute unworthy motives to them.
The upper classes in the United States were generally people of
wealth and so would be the natural holders of government
securities. They were undoubtedly acting in self-protection, but
the responsibility rested upon them to take the lead. They were
acting indeed for the public interest in the largest sense, for
conditions in the United States were such that every man might
become a landowner and the people in general therefore wished to
have property rights protected.

In the autumn of 1788 the Congress of the old Confederation made
testamentary provision for its heir by voting that presidential
electors should be chosen on the first Wednesday in January,
1789; that these electors should meet and cast their votes for
President on the first Wednesday in February; and that the Senate
and House of Representatives should assemble on the first
Wednesday in March. It was also decided that the seat of
government should be in the City of New York until otherwise
ordered by Congress. In accordance with this procedure, the
requisite elections were held, and the new government was duly
installed. It happened in 1789 that the first Wednesday in March
was the fourth day of that month, which thereby became the date
for the beginning of each subsequent administration.

The acid test of efficiency was still to be applied to the new
machinery of government. But Americans then, as now, were an
adaptable people, with political genius, and they would have been
able to make almost any form of government succeed. If the
Federal Convention had never met, there is good reason for
believing that the Articles of Confederation, with some
amendments, would have been made to work. The success of the new
government was therefore in a large measure dependent upon the
favor of the people. If they wished to do so, they could make it
win out in spite of obstacles. In other words, the new government
would succeed exactly to the extent to which the people stood
back of it. This was the critical moment when the slowly growing
prosperity, described at length and emphasized in the previous
chapters, produced one of its most important effects. In June,
1788, Washington wrote to Lafayette:

"I expect, that many blessings will be attributed to our new
government, which are now taking their rise from that industry
and frugality into the practice of which the people have been
forced from necessity. I really believe that there never was so
much labour and economy to be found before in the country as at
the present moment. If they persist in the habits they are
acquiring, the good effects will soon be distinguishable. When
the people shall find themselves secure under an energetic
government, when foreign Nations shall be disposed to give us
equal advantages in commerce from dread of retaliation, when the
burdens of the war shall be in a manner done away by the sale of
western lands, when the seeds of happiness which are sown here
shall begin to expand themselves, and when every one (under his
own vine and fig-tree) shall begin to taste the fruits of
freedom--then all these blessings (for all these blessings will
come) will be referred to the fostering influence of the new
government. Whereas many causes will have conspired to produce

A few months later a similar opinion was expressed by Crevecoeur
in writing to Jefferson:

"Never was so great a change in the opinion of the best people as
has happened these five years; almost everybody feels the
necessity of coercive laws, government, union, industry, and
labor . . . . The exports of this country have singularly
increased within these two years, and the imports have decreased
in proportion."

The new Federal Government was fortunate in beginning its career
at the moment when returning prosperity was predisposing the
people to think well of it. The inauguration of Washington marked
the opening of a new era for the people of the United States of


*The documents in this Appendix follow the text of the "Revised
Statutes of the United States", Second Edition, 1878.



The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one
people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them
with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the
separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of
Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the
pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments
are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the
consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government
becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People
to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,
laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its
powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect
their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that
Governments long established should not be changed for light and
transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that
mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable,
than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they
are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations,
pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce
them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their
duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for
their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of
these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains
them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of
the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated
injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the
establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove
this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and
necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and
pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his
Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly
neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large
districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the
right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable
to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual,
uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public
Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance
with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing
with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause
others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable
of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their
exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the
dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for
that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of
Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration
hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his
Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of
their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms
of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without
the Consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and
superior to the Civil Power. He has combined with others to
subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and
unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their acts of
pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any
Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring
Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and
enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example
and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into
these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws,
and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Government:

For suspending our own Legislature, and declaring themselves
invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his
Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns,
and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign
mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and
tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy
scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally
unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high
Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the
executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves
by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has
endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the
merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an
undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for
Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have
been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character
is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit
to be the ruler of a free People.

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our Brittish brethren.
We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their
legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We
have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and
settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and
magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common
kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably
interrupt our connections and correspondence[.] They too have
been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must,
therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our
Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind,
Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representative of the united States of
America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme
Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in
the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies,
solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are,
and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they
are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that
all political connection between them and the State of Great
Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free
and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War,
Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all
Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for
the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the
Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other
our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


New Hampshire.

Massachusetts Bay.

Rhode Island.


New York.

New Jersey.






North Carolina.

South Carolina.


NOTE.--Mr. Ferdinand Jefferson, Keeper of the Rolls in the
Department of State, at Washington, says: "The names of the
signers are spelt above as in the fac-simile of the original, but
the punctuation of them is not always the same; neither do the
names of the States appear in the fac-simile of the original. The
names of the signers of each State are grouped together in the
fac-simile of the original, except the name of Matthew Thornton,
which follows that of Oliver Wolcott."


To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned
Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting.

WHEREAS the Delegates of the United States of America in Congress
assembled did on the fifteenth day of November in the Year of our
Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventyseven, and in the
Second Year of the Independence of America agree to certain
articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States
of Newhampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhodeisland and Providence
Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South-Carolina and
Georgia in the Words following, viz.

"Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States
of Newhampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhodeisland and Providence
Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina
and Georgia.

ARTICLE I. The stile of this confederacy shall be "The United
States of America."

ARTICLE II. Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and
independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is
not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United
States, in Congress assembled.

ARTICLE III. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm
league of friendship with each other, for their common defence,
the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general
welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all
force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on
account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence

ARTICLE IV. The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship
and intercourse among the people of the different States in this
Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers,
vagabonds and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled
to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several
States; and the people of each State shall have free ingress and
regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all
the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties,
impositions and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof
respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so
far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any
State, to any other State of which the owner is an inhabitant;
provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be
laid by any State, on the property of the United States, or
either of them.

If any person guilty of, or charged with treason, felony, or
other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and
be found in any of the United States, he shall upon demand of the
Governor or Executive power, of the State from which he fled, be
delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his


Back to Full Books