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was persuaded to endorse this summons; twelve of the States chose delegates, and the convention met at Philadelphia, May, 14, 1787. A
A quorum was obtained, May 25th, and the deliberations of the convention lasted until Sept. 28th, when the Constitution was reported to Congress.
The difficulties which met the convention were mainly the results of the division of the States into large and small States. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, the States which claimed to extend to the Mississippi on the west and cherished indefinite expectations of future growth, were the
large” States. They desired to give as much power as possible to the new national government, on condition that the government should be so framed that they should have control of it. The remaining States were properly "small" states, and desired to form a government which would leave as much power as possible to the States. Circumstances worked strongly in favor of a reasonable result. There never were more
than eleven States in the convention. Rhode Island, a small State, sent no delegates. The New Hampshire delegates did not appear until the New York delegates (except Hamilton) had lost patience and retired from the convention. Pennsylvania was usually neutral. The convention was thus composed of five large, five small, and one neutral State; and almost all its decisions were the outcome of judicious compromise.
The large States at first proposed a Congress in both of whose Houses the State representation should be proportional. They would thus have had a clear majority in both Houses, and, as Congress was to elect the President, and other officers, the government would thus have been a large State government. When “the little States gained their point,” by forcing through the equal representation of the States in the Senate, the unsubstantial nature of the “national" pretensions of the large States at once became apparent. The opposition to the whole scheme centred in the large States, with very considerable assistance from New York, which was not satisfied with the concessions which the small States had obtained in the convention. The difficulty of ratification may be estimated from the final votes in the following State conventions: Massachusetts, 187 to 168 ; New Hampshire, 57 to 46; Virginia, 89 to 79; and New York, 30 to 27. It should also be noted that the last two ratifications were only made after the ninth State (New Hampshire) had ratified, and when it was certain that the Constitution would go into effect with or without the ratification of Virginia or New York. North Carolina did not ratify until 1789, and Rhode Island not until 1790.
The division between North and South also appeared in the convention. In order to carry over the Southern States to the support of the final compromise, it was necessary to insert a guarantee of the slave trade for twenty years, and a provision that three fifths of the slaves should be counted in estimating the population for State representation in Congress. But these
provisions, so far as we can judge from the debates of the time, had no influence against the ratification of the Constitution ; the struggle turned on the differences between the national leaders, aided by the satisfied small States, on one side, and the leaders of the State party, aided by the dissatisfied States, large and small, on the other. The former, the Federalists, were successful, though by very narrow majorities in several of the States. Washington was unanimously elected the first President of the Republic; and the new government was inaugurated at New York, March 4, 1789.
The speech of Henry in the Virginia House of Delegates has been chosen as perhaps the best representative of the spirit which impelled and guided the American Revolution. It is fortunate that the ablest of the national leaders was placed in the very focus of opposition to the Constitution, so that we may take Hamilton's argument in the New York convention and Madison's in the Virginia convention, as the most carefully stated conclusions of the master-minds of the National party. .
ON THE WRITS OF ASSISTANCE —BEFORE THE SUPERIOR COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS, FEBRUARY, 1761.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONORS: I was desired by one of the court to look into the books, and consider the question now before them concerning Writs of Assistance. I have accordingly considered it, and now appear not only in obedience to your order, but likewise in behalf of the inhabitants of this town, who have presented another petition, and out of regard to the liberties of the subject. And I take this opportunity to declare, that whether under a fee or not (for in such a cause as this I despise a fee), I will to my dying day oppose with all the powers and faculties God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the one
* For notes on Otis see Appendix. p. 337.