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Tricks of this sort are not uncommon with the enemies of the new Constitution. Colonel Mason's objections were, as I am told, published in Boston, mutilated of that which pointed at the regulation of commerce. Doctor Franklin's concluding speech, which you will meet with in one of the papers herewith enclosed, is both mutilated and adulterated, so as to change both the form and spirit of it.
I am extremely obliged by the notice you take of my request concerning the Potomac. I must insist that you will not consider it as an object of any further attention.
The Philadelphia papers will have informed you of the result of the Convention of that State. New Jersey is now in Convention, and has probably by this time adopted the Constitution. General Irvine, of the Pennsylvania Delegation, who is just arrived here, and who conversed with some of the members at Trenton, tells me that great unanimity reigns in the Convention.
Connecticut, it is pretty certain, will decide also in the affirmative by a large majority. So, it is presumed, will New Hampshire; though her Convention will be a little later than could be wished. There are not enough of the returns in Massachusetts known for a final judgment of the probable event in that State. As far as the returns are known, they are extremely favorable: but as they are chiefly from the maritime parts of the State, they are a precarious index of the public sentiment. I have good reason to believe that if you are in correspondence with any gentleman in that quarter, and a proper occasion should offer for an explicit com
munication of your good wishes for the plan, so as barely to warrant an explicit assertion of the fact, that it would be attended with valuable effects. I barely drop the idea. The circumstances on which the propriety of it depends are best known to you, as they will be best judged of by yourself. The information from North Carolina gave me great pleasure. We have nothing from the States south of it."
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.
New York, January 10, 1788. DEAR SIR,
I received two days ago your favor of December twenty seventh, enclosing a copy of your letter to the Assembly. I have read it with attention, and I can add with pleasure, because the spirit of it does as much honor to your candor, as the general reasoning does to your abilities. Nor can I believe that in this quarter the opponents of the Constitution will find encouragement in it. You are already aware that your objections are not viewed in the same decisive light by me that they are by you. I must own that I differ still more from your opinion, that a prosecution of the experiment of a second Convention will be favorable, even in Virginia, to the object which I am sure you have at heart. It is to me apparent that, had your duty led you to throw your influence into the opposite scale, it would have given it a decided and unalterable preponderance; and that Mr. Henry would either have suppressed his enmity, or been baffled in the policy which it has dictated. It appears also that the grounds taken by the opponents in different quarters forbid any hope of concord among them. Nothing can be further from your views than the principles of different sets of men who have carried on their
opposition under the respectability of your name. In this State the party adverse to the Constitution notoriously meditate either a dissolution of the Union, or protracting it by patching up the Articles of Confederation. In Connecticut and Massachusetts, the opposition proceeds from that part of the people who have a repugnance in general to good government, or to any substantial abridgement of State powers, and a part of whom in Massachusetts are known to aim at confusion, and are suspected of wishing a reversal of the Revolution. The minority in Pennsylvania, as far as they are governed by any other views than an habitual opposition to their rivals, are manifestly averse to some essential ingredients in a National Government. You are better acquainted with Mr. Henry's politics than I can be, but I have for some time considered him as no further concurring in the plan of amendments than as he hopes to render it subservient to his real designs. Viewing the matter in this light, the inference with me is unavoidable that were a second trial to be made, the friends of a good constitution for the Union would not only find themselves not a little differing from each other as to the proper amendments; but perplexed and frustrated by men who had objects totally different. A second Convention would, of course, be formed under the
influence, and composed in a great measure of the members of the opposition in the several States. But were the first difficulties overcome, and the Constitution re-edited with amendments, the event would still be infinitely precarious. Whatever respect may be due to the rights of private judgment, and no man feels more of it than I do, there can be no doubt that there are subjects to which the capacities of the bulk of mankind are unequal, and on which they must and will be governed by those with whom they happen to have acquaintance and confidence. The proposed Constitution is of this description. The great body of those who are both for and against it must follow the judgment of others, not their own. Had the Constitution been framed and recommended by an obscure individual, instead of a body possessing public respect and confidence, there cannot be a doubt, that although it would have stood in the identical words, it would have commanded little attention from most of those who now admire its wisdom. Had yourself, Colonel Mason, Colonel R. H. Lee, Mr. Henry, and a few others, seen the Constitution in the same light with those who subscribed it, I have no doubt that Virginia would have been as zealous and unanimous, as she is now divided, on the subject. I infer from these considerations, that, if a government be ever adopted in America, it must result from a fortunate coincidence of leading opinions, and a general confidence of the people in those who may recommend it. The very attempt at a second Convention strikes at the confidence in the first; and the existence of a second, by opposing influence to influence would in a manner destroy an effectual confidence in either, and give a loose rein to human opinions; which must be as various and irreconcileable concerning theories of government, as doctrines of religion; and give opportunities to designing men which it might be impossible to counteract.
The Connecticut Convention has probably come to a decision before this; but the event is not known here. It is understood that a great majority will adopt the Constitution. The accounts from Massachusetts vary extremely according to the channels through which they come. It is said that S. Adams, who has hitherto been reserved, begins to make open declaration of his hostile views. His influence is not great, but this step argues an opinion that he can calculate on a considerable party. It is said here, and I believe on good ground, that North Carolina has postponed her Convention till July, order to have the previous example of Virginia. Should North Carolina fall into Mr. Henry's politics, which does not appear to me improbable, it will endanger the Union more than any other circumstance that could happen. My apprehensions of this danger increase every day. The multiplied inducements at this moment to the local sacrifices necessary to keep the States together, can never be expected to coincide again, and they are counteracted by so many unpropitious circumstances, that their efficacy can with difficulty be confided in. I have no
information from South Carolina or Georgia, on which any certain opinion can be formed of the temper of those States. The prevailing idea has been, that both of them would speedily and