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the Convention, and so the Constitution was looked upon as substituting a national for a federal government. The Jersey or Clintonian plan was really the confederate or federal plan, and that was utterly rejected by the Convention. By that it was proposed to hold to the old Confederacy, and merely patch up its irremediable defects in the interests of the powerless State sovereignties. The opponents of the Constitution and the system it proposed should have borne the name Federalists, for they were the true federalists. They were supporters of a mere federation of the States, and unfriendly to any kind of national establishment which would conflict with their adhesion to a plan of government ten times worse than a “rope of sand," and a source of ridicule the world over. With its continuance American statesmanship would have taken the level of the savage confederations of the continent; and at no time in the history of the Continental Congress was that body much more potent and its provisions more binding than a “council fire” of neighboring Indian tribes. These men and their honest or foolish dupes would have taken the name Federalists gladly, if they had been allowed to do so. But the friends of a national government and of the Constitution saw that the word would serve them well. It was one of those peculiar, misleading, ambiguous, politic terms which may often be pressed into valuable service at the expense of the exact truth. The Nationalists were too wise, forced by the close circumstances to be too wise, not to appropriate this term to themselves. And their opponents, the opponents of the Constitution, were obliged to assume a name distasteful to them, and really a libel on their principles. If the supporters of the Constitution and a strong national form of government were miscalled Federalists, they could only be Anti-Federalists. These terms were only true as names of parties, not as expressive of party principles. This is a mere glance at the way in which the term federal was erroneously applied to this government, and it has so well subserved its political uses that it still survives. Federal Constitution, Federal Union, and Federal Government have always been misnomers. In the great contest over the adoption and establishment of the Constitution and Government, the Federalists, so-called, were nationalists of different degrees of intensity merely, and their opponents, the Anti-Federalists, were the genuine federalists or anti-nationalists; and in the parties of their political descendants this distinction in principle has, to some extent, always been maintained. Although the word country was constantly applied, even before the separation from England, to mean America, all the colonies, all the States, and all they claimed, the whole land, politically there was country until there was created one in the establishment of this Government in 1788 and 1789. That act made a country, a people, a nation. It was the act of all the States and all the people, exchanging, from choice and force of circumstances, a worthless confederation for a national government. Prior to this event the United States of America, the American Union, and the like terms, were sounding names without force or respectability. The Union, the Nation, the Government of the United States, the United States, the “Federal” Government, so-called, came into existence under the Constitution in the spring of 1789. Grad
ually ever since that day the true character and meaning of this Union have become more apparent. Its founders seemed to be in a political dream which they could not interpret. And under the old infatuations their opponents and their descendants struggled along with phantoms against which there was always a decree of "manifest destiny.” In the consummation of time the true meaning of the Union was explained. That was left for the grand and extraordinary events between 1860 and 1865. State lines exist as a matter of pride and convenience, a perpetual part of the beautiful and harmonious Republic, but the supremacy of the Nation is out of the bounds even of sane meditation, and beyond question on this Continent or in the Old World.
Mr. Madison said in the Constitutional Convention “that the equality of suffrage established by the Articles of Confederation ought not to prevail in the National Legislature, and that an equitable ratio of representation ought to be substituted.” And this view prevailed.
Roger Sherman, one of the solid democrats of that day, said in the Convention :
“The people immediately should have as little to do as may be about the Government. They want information, and are constantly liable to be misled.”
Mr. Gerry, who was subsequently accused of getting into office by Gerrymandering, gave utterance to similar sentiments in these words:
“The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.”
Governor Randolph avowed “that the evils under which the United States labored had their origin in the turbulence and follies of democracy.”
In the last extremity, at a moment when ultimate and speedy calamity was the only alternative to the country, amidst such convictions forced by the example of the times, was the Convention corvened and the new Government inaugurated.
In the discussion on the mode of electing a President, Mr. George Mason, in many respects apparently one of the most democratic members of the Convention, took occasion to say that “he considered it would be as unnatural to refer the choice of a proper character for chief magistrate to the people as it would to refer a trial of colors to a blind man. The extent of the country renders it impossible that the people can have the requisite capacity to judge of the respective pretensions of the candidates."
So little did Mr. Mason seem to be able to see what the capacity of this country and its people would be.
MR. MADISON IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION—THE
CONSTITUTION AND ITS FRAMERS.
HE only wonder is that men of such scant views
could provide for the future as well as they did. See for a moment how the account really stands with them. The greatest evil in a great part of the work of the “ Fathers of the Republic,” was their inveterate dread of pushing too far, for their own comfort and peace, matters which they hoped time would work out in a satisfactory manner. “If it be done at all, it better be well done,” was a principle of statesmanship which flourished at a much later date in the history of this country.
The variably qualified suffrage, established in accordance with the usages of the States, may have been wise and politic at that time, but in the progress of events it had to give way to a more liberal and just one. A permanent, bold intellectual and educational qualification might in the end have subserved best the interests of the people and the Government, but the opportunity to establish such a test of suffrage was lost. Gradually from that day forward party necessities have been too great to allow any thing to stand in the road to the polls except some mere naturalization formalities, and may be, certain forms of idiocy and crime.
It is interesting to see some of the early State