THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
ORIGIN AND ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION.
=A7 272. IN this state of things, commissioners were appointed by the
legislatures of Virginia and Maryland early in 1785, to form a compact
relative to the navigation of the rivers Potomac and Pocomoke, and the
Chesapeake Bay. The commissioners having met in March, in that year, felt
the want of more enlarged powers, and particularly of powers to provide for
a local naval force, and a tariff of duties upon imports. Upon receiving
their recommendation, the legislature of Virginia passed a resolution for
laying the subject of a tariff before all the states composing the Union.
Soon afterwards, in January, 1786, the legislature adopted another
resolution, appointing commissioners, "who were to meet such, as might be
appointed by the other states in the Union, at a time and place to be
agreed on, to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to
examine the relative situation and trade of the states; to consider how far
a uniform system in their commercial relations may be necessary to their
CH. I.] ORIGIN OF THE CONSTITUTION. 253
common interest, and their permanent harmony; and to report to the several
states such an act, relative to this great object, as, when unanimously
ratified by them, will enable the United States in congress assembled to
provide for the same."1
=A7 273. These resolutions were communicated to the states, and a
of commissioners from five states only, viz. New-York, New-Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia, met at Annapolis in September, 1786.2
After discussing the subject, they deemed more ample powers necessary,
and as well from this consideration, as because a small number only of the
states was represented, they agreed to come to no decision, but to frame a
report to be laid before the several states, as well as before congress.3
In this report they recommended the appointment of commissioners from all
the states, "to meet at Philadelphia, on the second Monday of May, then
next, to take into consideration the situation of the United States; to
devise such further provisions, as shall appear to them necessary, to
render the constitution of the federal government adequate to the
exigencies of the Union; and to report such an act for that purpose to the
United States in congress assembled, as when agreed to by them, and
afterwards confirmed by the legislature of every state, will effectually
provide for the same."4
=A7 274. On receiving this report, the legislature of Virginia
passed an ac=
for the appointment of delegates to meet such, as might be appointed by
other states, at Philadelphia.5 The report was also received in congress.
1 5 Marsh. Life of Wash. 90, 91; 1 Kent's Comm. 203.
2 1 Amer. Museum, 267; 2 Pitk. Hist. 218.
3 5 Marsh. Life of Wash. 267; 2 Pitk. Hist. 218; 1 U. S. Laws, (Bioren &
Duane's edit. 1815,) p 55, &c. to 58.
4 1 Amer. Museum, 267, 268.
5 Marsh. Life of Wash. 98.
254 CONSTITUTION OF THE U. STATES. [BOOK II.
But no step was taken, until the legislature of NewYork instructed its
delegation in congress to move a resolution, recommending to the several
states to appoint deputies to meet in convention for the purpose of
revising and proposing amendments to the federal constitution.1 On the
21st of February, 1787, a resolution was accordingly moved and carried in
congress, recommending a convention to meet in Philadelphia, on the second
Monday of May ensuing, "for the purpose of revising the articles of
confederation, and reporting to congress, and the several legislatures,
such alterations and provisions therein, as shall, when agreed to in
congress, and confirmed by the states, render the federal constitution
adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the
Union."2 The alarming insurrection then existing in Massachusetts,
without doubt, had no small share in producing this result. The report of
congress, on that subject, at once demonstrates their fears,=20and their
=A7 275. At the time and place appointed, the representatives of twelve
states assembled. Rhode-Island alone declined to appoint any on this
momentous occasion.4 After very protracted deliberations, the convention
finally adopted the plan of the present constitution on the 17th of
September, 1787; and by a contemporaneous resolution, directed it to be "
laid before the United States in congress assembled," and declared their
opinion, "that it should afterwards be submit-
1 It was carried in the senate of the state by a majority of one only. 5
Marsh. Life of Wash. 125.
CH. 1.] ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION. 255
2 2 Pitk. Hist. 219; 5 Marsh. Life of Wash. 124, 125; 12 Journ. of
Congress, 12, 13, 14; 2 Pitk. Hist. 219, 220, 222.
3 2 Pitk. Hist. 220, 221; Journ. of Congress, Oct. 1786; 1 Secret Journ.
268. 4 5 Marsh. Life of Wash. 128.
ted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by the people
thereof, under a recommendation of its legislature for their assent and
ratification;"1 and that each convention, assenting to and ratifying the
same, should give notice thereof to congress. The convention, by a further
resolution, declared their opinion, that as soon as nine states had
ratified the constitution, congress should fix a day, on which electors
should be appointed by the states, which should have ratified the same, and
a day, on which the electors should assemble and vote for the president,
and the time and place of commencing proceedings under the constitution;
and that after such publication, the electors should be appointed, and the
senators and representatives elected. The same resolution contained further
recommendations for the purpose of carrying the constitution into effect.
=A7 276. The convention, at the same time, addressed a letter to
expounding their reasons for their acts, from which the following extract
cannot but be interesting. "It is obviously impracticable (says the
address) in the federal government of these states, to secure all rights of
independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and
safety of all. Individuals, entering into society, must give up a share of
liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend,
as well on situation and circumstance, as on the object to be obtained. It
is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those
rights, which must be surrendered, and those, which may be reserved; and on
the present occasion this difficulty was increased by difference among the
1 5 Marsh. Life of Washington, 128, 129; Journ. of Convention, 370; 12
Journ. of Congress, 109; 2 Pitk. Hist. 224, 264.
256 CONSTITUTION OF THE U. STATES. [BOOK III.
eral states, as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular
interests. In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in
our view that, which appears to us the greatest interest of every true
American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our
prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence. This
important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led
each state in the convention to be less rigid on points of inferior
magnitude, than might have been otherwise expected. And thus the
constitution, which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity, and
of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our
political situation rendered indispensable."1
=A7 277. Congress, having received the report of the convention on
of September, 1787, unanimously resolved, "that the said report, with the
resolutions and letter accompanying the same, be transmitted to the several
legislatures in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen
in each state by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the
convention, made and provided in that case."2
=A7 278. Conventions in the various states, which had been
the general convention, were accordingly called by their respective
legislatures; and the constitution having been ratified by eleven out of
the twelve states, congress, on the 13th of September, 1788, passed a
resolution appointing the first Wednesday in January following, for the
choice of electors of presi-
1 12 Journ. of Congress, 109, 110; Journ. of Convention, 367, 368; 5
Marsh. Life of Wash. 129.
2 5 Marsh. Life of Wash. 128; 12 Journ. of Congress, 99, 110; Journ. of
Convention, App. 391.
3 Journ. of Convention, App. 449, 450, 451; 2 Pitk. Hist. 291.
CH. I.] ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION. 257
dent; the first Wednesday of February following, for the assembling of the
electors to vote for a president; and the first Wednesday of March
following, at the then seat of congress [New-York] the time and place for
commencing proceedings under the constitution. Electors were accordingly
appointed in the several states who met and gave their votes for a
president; and the other elections for senators and representatives having,
been duly made, on Wednesday, the 4th of March, 1789, congress assembled
under the new constitution, and commenced proceedings under it. A quorum of
both houses, however, did not assemble until the 6th of April, when the
votes for president being counted, it was found that George Washington was
unanimously elected president, and John Adams was elected vice president.1
On the 30th of April, president Washington was sworn into office, and the
government then went into full operation in all its departments.
=A7 279. North-Carolina had not, as yet, ratified the constitution. The
first convention called in that state, in August, 1788, refused to ratify
it without some previous amendments, and a declaration of rights. In a
second convention, however, called in November, 1789, this state adopted
the constitution.2 The state of Rhode-Island had declined to call a
convention; but finally, by a convention held in May, 1790, its assent was
obtained; and thus all the thirteen original states became parties to the
=A7 280. Thus was achieved another, and still more glorious triumph
cause of national liberty, than
1 5 Marsh. Life of Wash. 133, 151, 152; 2 Pitk. Hist. 317, 318; 1 Lloyd's
Debates, 3, 4, 5, 6.
2 2 Pitk. Hist. 283; Journ. of Convention, App. 452; 1 Kent's Comm. 204, 20=
3 2 Pitk. Hist. 265; Journ. of Convention, App. 452, 458.
258 CONSTITUTION OF THE U. STATES. [BOOK III.
even that, which separated us from the mother country. By it we fondly
trust, that our republican institutions will grow up, and be nurtured into
more mature strength and vigour; our independence be secured against
foreign usurpation and aggression; our domestic blessings be widely
diffused, and generally felt; and our union, as a people, be perpetuated,
as our own truest glory and support, and as a proud example of a wise and
beneficent government, entitled to the respect, if not to the admiration of