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ple of the various Colonies, although abundant evidence exists to justify the emphatic assertion of the elder Adams, that "it required more serenity of temper, a deeper understanding, and more courage than fell to the lot of Marlborough, to ride in the whirlwind” of sectional passions and interests which convulsed not Congress and the country alone, but the army itself. With peace and independence these passions naturally became more clamorous, and these interests more antagonistic than ever.
The inhabitants of thirteen British Colonies had acquired a fresh importance in their own eyes by becoming citizens of as many American States. It was the earnest hope of the wise and great men who presided over the foundation of the new Confederacy, that the general government might be so administed as gradually to wear away the centrifugal forces of local pride and prejudice and interest; and the earliest history of the Union is the history of their persistent and patriotic efforts to achieve this paramount object of statesmanship in America.*
The disruption in 1787 of that which in its articles of organization had been described as the "perpetual” Confederation, though in form a revolutionary act, was in substance an attempt to construct “a more perfect Union by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and leaving the separate parts to be united by the law of political gravitation to the centre.”+
The Constitutional Convention of 1787, after discussing the bases of this “more perfect Union,” from May to November, finally adopted, as the sole alternative of a disorderly dissolution, a plan of Constitution which was very far from commanding the cordial and deliberate support of the delegates, and was with no little difficulty recommended to the favor of their constituents.* Four of the States, indeed, New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, declined to join in this action; and though the first two of these States soon entered the new Confederacy, Rhode Island and North Carolina insisted upon trying the experiment of independence, and refused to accept the new terms of Union with their former confederates, the one for a little less and the other for a little more than three years. No men were more concerned as to the feasibility of maintaining and consolidating the Union thus framed and formed of such materials, than those who had taken an active and patriotic part in constructing it.
* In the Congress of the Confederation, it was announced as a matter of course by Mr. Graham, of Massachusetts, that the Eastern States, at the invitation of the Legislature of Massachusetts, were about to form a convention with New York, for “regulating matters of common concern.” A debate arose hereupon, (April 1, 1783,) in which Hamilton and Madison earnestly insisted upon the peril to the Union of such conventions, which Mr. Bland, of Virginia, described as gresses."
+ John Quincy Adams. (Jubilee Oration, delivered in New York, on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution.)
The fears that John Adams had expressed in 1775, as to the
consequences which might and probably would flow from the rooted “dissimilitude of character” between the people of the different Colonies, were felt as keenly in 1789 by men of the most widely different views on all other subjects. It was with a heavy heart that Washington left his home in Virginia to assume the presidential chair, and the scenes of popular joy and exultation through which he passed, on his way to the temporary capital of the newly founded nation, moved him to forebodings scarcely less melancholy than those with which the most gifted member of the cabinet of Wash
* Secret Debates of the Constitutional Convention. By Luther Martin of Maryland, and Lansing of New York.
f"I dread the consequences of this dissimilitude of character, and without the utmost caution on both sides, and the most considerate forbearance with one another, and prudent condescensions on both sides, they will certainly be fatal.”-Adams' Works, ix., 367.
John Adams hoped to see the danger conquered by an “ alteration of the Southern Constitutions,” but it was decreed that the cotton-gin, California, and Richard Cobden, should disappoint this hope.
ington has left it upon record, that he himself undertook “to prop the frail and worthless fabric."*
Under the administrtion of Washington, the conflict of sectional interests, as well as of sectional character, between the Northern and Southern States of the Union developed itself in discussions, which, although they were conducted for the most part, with candor and decorum, and in a temper of reciprocal respect, very clearly foreshadowed the dangers of the future. The institution of slavery at that time existed in most of the States of the Union, as well as throughout the British Colonial Empire. It was denounced by conspicuous statesmen at the South as well as at the North. The ordinance of '87, excluding slavery from the North-western Territory, was originated and passed by the South in the Congress of the Confederation; and the further introduction of slaves into Virginia had been prohibited by law in that commonwealth two years before the adoption in Massachusetts of that justly famous “Bill of Rights,” by which slavery was afterwards judicially held to have been abolished in that State. In the important agricultural States of the South, however, the number of slaves was greater, and their labor more productive than in the Middle and Northern States; and although the slavery question cannot properly be said to have been dangerously debated between the representatives of the South and of the North before the epoch of the “Missouri Compromise" in 1820, it undoubtedly contributed to the vivacity with which the differing commercial interests of the two sections were discussed in the Congress of the Union from the outset of its history.
But it was upon a great question of finance, the proposition
*“Perhaps no man in the United States has sacrificed or done more for the present Constitution than myself, and contrary to all my anticipations of its fate, as you well know, from the very beginning, I am still laboring to prop the frail and worthless fabric.”-Hamilton's Works, vi., 530.
+ Dunbar. Rise and Decline of Commercial Slavery in America. New York, 1863, pp. 212-16.
made by Mr. Hamilton, then secretary of the treasury, that the Federal
government should assume the debts of the States, that the two great sections of the Union were, in 1790, for the first time arrayed against each other in an attitude sufficiently ominous of coming mischief to justify the earnestness with which Washington, in his farewell address, a few years afterwards, warned his countrymen against the organization of sectional parties. The Northern States supported, the Southern States opposed this measure with so much acrimony on either side, that when the proposition was finally rejected, Congress met and adjourned from day to day without doing anything; and the members from the Eastern States openly threatened the secession of those States from the Union, and the formation of an Eastern Confederacy.* A compromise was finally effected by the concession to the South of a site for the National Capital on the banks of the Potomac, in return for the reconsideration by the Southern members of the vote which had defeated the “Assumption Bill;" and American statesmanship received its first important lesson in the only policy which could be reasonably relied upon to confirm and consummate the union of the States. This lesson Mr. Jefferson, writing in 1792 to General Washington, declared had been lost upon the people of the Northern States, whose representatives in Congress had “ availed themselves of no occasion of allaying the Southern opposition to the original coalescence” of the States; and the objections of Washington to accepting a second presidential term were finally removed by the solemn consideration that the continuance of the Union ” depended upon the fidence which the people of both sections reposed in him, and in him alone.
The importance of this consideration became painfully obvious during the administration of the successor of Washing.
* Jefferson's Abridgment of Debates, vol. i., p. 250. f Jefferson's Works, vol. i., p. 359.
ton. The resolutions passed in 1798 by the States of Virginia and Kentucky, in opposition to the high-handed policy of Mr. Adams, were couched in terms which clearly revealed the determination of those States to break asunder, in a certain contingency, the bond which united them with their Confed. erates.*
The policy of Mr. Adams, and the party by which that policy had been supported, were alike overwhelmed in the fresh political reaction of 1801, which carried Mr. Jefferson into power, and which that statesman styled the "peaceful revolution.”The conditions of American society, and the direction of American history, were profoundly affected by this revolution, and its most conspicuous immediate results were greatly to intensify the centrifugal forces of sectional feeling in the country, and greatly to widen the scope of the perils with which the Union was threatened by that force.
The territories west of the Alleghany were now becoming
* Upon the Resolutions of '98 Gouverneur Morris remarks: "During the administration of Mr. Adams, Virginia was almost in open revolt against the national authority, merely because a Yankee and not a Virginian was president."-Life, vol. iii., p. 196. The tone of this remark indicates a bitterness of sectional feeling in the writer, which is not less noteworthy than the remark itself. As to the extravagance of Mr. Adams' policy, Hamilton, a wiser witness than Morris, is strikingly explicit.-Hamilton's Works, vol. vi., p. 307.
+ The opponents of Mr. Jefferson, in the New England States, regarded his election very much as the extreme men of the South regarded the election of Mr. Lincoln in 1860. When Jefferson was first a candidate in 1796, Oliver Wolcott, of Connecticut, declared that his election would justify the secession of New England. "I will say that if French agency places Mr. Jefferson in the seat of the chief magistrate (and if he is placed there, it will be by their intrigues,) the government of the United States ought at that moment to discontinue its operations, and let those who have placed him there take him to themselves : for although I am sensible, by our last revolution, of the evils which attend one, I sincerely declare that I wish the Northern States would separate from the Southern the moment that event shall take place, and never to unite with them, except it shall be necessary for military operations."--Gibbs' Administration of Washington and Adams, vol. i.,