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carry into execution measures the best calculated for their own good, without the intervention of coercive power.
“I do not conceive, we can exist long as a nation, without lodging somewhere, a power, which will pervade the whole union, in as energetic a manner, as the authority of the state governments extend over the several states. To be fearful of investing congress, constituted as that body is, with ample authority for national purposes, appears to me, the climax of popular absurdity and madness. Could congress exert this, for the detriment of the people, without injuring themselves, in an equal, or greater proportion? Are not their interests inseparably connected with those of their constituents ?
* By the rotation of appointment, must they not mingle frequently with the mass of citizens? Is it not rather to be apprehended, if they were possessed of the powers before described, that the individual members would be induced to use them, on many occasions, very timidly and inefficiently, for fear of losing their popularity and future election ? We must take human nature as we find it; perfection falls not to the share of mortals. Many are of opinion, that congress have too frequently made use of the suppliant humble tone of requisition in their applications to the states, when they had a right to assert their imperial dignity, and command obedience. Be this as it may, requisitions are a perfect nullity, when thirteen sovereign, independent and disunited states, are in the habit of discussing and refusing them, at their option. Requisitions are actually little better than a jest and a bye-word throughout the land. If you tell the legislatures they have violated the treaty of peace, and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy, they will laugh in your face. What then is to be done? It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people, being disgusted with these circumstances, will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever.
“ We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To anticipate and prevent disastrous contingences, would be the part of wisdom and patriotism.
" What astonishing changes, a few years are capable of producing? I am told that even respectible characters speak of a monarchial form of government, without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous ! What a triumph for our enemies to verify their predictions ! what a triumph for the advocates of despotism, to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty, are merely ideal and fallacious ? Would to God, that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences, we have but too much reason to apprehend."* The convention alluded to by Mr. Jay, originated in Virginia.
In January, 1786, the legislature of that state appointed a number of gentlemen, “to meet such commissioners as were, or might be appointed by the other states in the union, at such time and place as should be agreed upon by said commissioners, to take into consideration the trade and commerce of the United States ; to consider how far an uniform system, in their commercial intercourse and regulations, might be necessary to their common interest and permanent harmony; and to report to the several states such an act relative to this great object, as when unanimously ratified by them, would enable the United States in congress assembled, effectually to provide for the same.” It was af . terwards agreed, that this meeting should be held at Annapolis, in Maryland, in September of the same year. Commissioners from the states of Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, only attended. Delegates were appointed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, but did not attend. In consequence of such a partial representation of the states, the commissioners present, thought it improper to proceed on the important business, with which they were intrusted. They were now, more than ever, sensible of the necessity of a general convention of all the states, and were also satisfied, that the powers of this convention should ex
* Marshall's Life of Washington, vol. 5.
tend to other objects, than merely the regulation of trade and commerce. They, therefore, drew up a report and address to the states, in which, after stating the defects of the federal government and that the situation of the United States “ was delicate and critical, calling for an exertion of the virtue and wisdom of all the members of the confederacy,” they recommended to all the states, to concur" in the appointment of commissioners, to meet at Philadelphia, on the second Monday in May, 1787, take into consideration the situation of the United States, to devise such further provisions as should appear to them necessary, to render the constitution of the federal government adequate to the exigences of the union.” This address was also sent to congress, as well as to the several states.
Virginia first appointed delegates, according to the recommendation of the meeting at Annapolis. The general assembly of that state, which commenced their session in October, 1786, selected seven of her most distinguished citizens, to meet delegates from the other states, at Philadelphia, in May following, and" to join with them, in devising and discussing all such alterations and further provisions, as may be necessary to render the federal constitution adequate to the exigences of the union.” Other states soon after followed the example of Virginia. In February, 1787, the subject claimed the attention of congress, and they passed the following resolution—"Whereas there is provision, in the articles of confederation and perpetual union, for making alterations therein, by the assent of a congress of the United States, and of the legislatures of the several states; and whereas experience hath evinced, that there are defects in the present confederation, as a means to remedy which, several of the states and particularly the state of New York, by express instructions to their delegates in congress, have suggested a convention for the purposes expressed in the following resolution; and such convention appearing to be the most probable means of establishing in these states a firm national government-Resolved, that in the opinion of congress, it is expedient, that on the second Monday in May next, a convention of delegates, who shall have been appointed
by the several states, be held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express 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 exigences of government, and the preservation of the union.”
In consequence of this, delegates to the convention were appointed from all the states, except Rhode Island.
Many causes combined to convince congress and the American people, of the necessity of this measure ; none, perhaps, had greater influence, than the insurrection in Massachusetts, in the year 1786. This open and formidable opposition to the laws, threatened not only the destruction of the government of that state, but of the union. So numerous were the insurgents in the western counties, and so confident of success, and even of support from their fellow citizens, that they refused all terms of accommodation offered by the legislature. They completely obstructed judicial proceedings in several counties, and for a time, it was extremely doubtful, whether a sufficient force could be found in Massachusetts, to reduce them to obedience.
The public arsenal at Springfield, containing arms and ammunition belonging to the United States, was threatened ; and the secretary of war communicated his fears to congress on this subject. This communication, as well as a letter from the same officer, concerning some hostile movements of the Indians in the western country, was referred to a committee. In October, 1786, this committee made a secret report to congress, in which they stated, “ that a dangerous insurrection has taken place, in divers parts of the state of Massachusetts, which was rapidly extending its influence; that the insurgents had already, by force of arms, suppressed the administration of justice in several counties; that though the legislature of said state was in session, yet from the circumstances attending it, it would undoubtedly defeat the object of the federal interposition, should a formal application for the same be made.” The committee then added, that it ap
peared to them, “ that the aid of the federal government is necessary, to stop the progress of the insurgents, that there is the greatest reason to believe, that unless speedy and effectual measures shall be taken to defeat their designs, they will possess them. selves of the arsenal at Springfield, subvert the government, and not only reduce the commonwealth to a state of anarchy and confusion, but probably involve the United States in the calamities of a civil war.” Under these circumstances, the committee were of opinion, that the United States were bound by the confederation and good faith, as well as by principles of friendship and sound policy, to be prepared to extend such aid as should be necessary to restore constitutional authority in Massachusetts, and to afford protection to the public stores there deposited. For these purposes, the committee recommended that a body of troops be immediately raised.* The same committee made a public report, in which they recommended the raising of thirteen hundred and forty men,t ostensibly for the purpose of protecting the frontiers against the hostile movements of the Indians, but really, to aid in quelling the insurrection in Massachusetts. These reports were accepted by congress, and the troops were to be inlisted principally in the four New England states.
For the support and payment of these troops, the states were called upon to pay into the public treasury, by the first of June, 1787, their proportion of five hundred thirty thousand dollars in specie, and a loan of half a million of dollars, was authorized to be opened immediately. It was expected the money might be obtained from individuals in Boston. Fortunately the state of Massachusetts, by the firmness of its governor and legisla. ture, and the patriotism of individuals, with four thousand militia, under the command and direction of general Lincoln, was
* Secret Journals of Congress, vol. 1, p. 268. † These troops were apportioned among the states as follows :
New Hampshire, 260,
Infantry and Artillery.
† Public Journal, vol 11, p. 180.