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whole discussion with his characteristic ardor, perseverance, and power of logic and eloquence. Taking the whole country through, he was by far the most distinguished and conspicuous person, who opposed the new system. The great prosperity which the country has enjoyed for half a century in succession under this system, and which is justly attributed in no small degree to its beneficial influence, has long since stamped the constitution with the seal of general favor. It is now a matter of surprise and regret, to find that any one, and especially one so renowned as Henry for talent, patriotism, and eloquence, should have failed to perceive what has since become so apparent to all, and should have labored with so much earnestness to prevent the adoption of a system that has proved, in practice, the salvation of the country.

We are half tempted to doubt, whether the opponents of the constitution acted with correct intentions and purely patriotic feelings, in resisting a measure which appears to us, at the present day, so clearly and manifestly right, and to attribute their course to perversity and selfishness, rather than to the lofty and patriotic motives upon which it was at the time justified by themselves.

We must recollect, however, in forming an opinion upon their conduct, that the constitution presented itself to their minds under a very

different aspect from that in which it now appears to us. It came before the State Conventions, no doubt, under circumstances, in some respects, of the most auspicious character. It was offered as the result of the long and anxious deliberations of a most respectable assembly; it bore the signature of Washington. But there were other considerations connected with it of a different kind. It was known that the Convention had been greatly divided in opinion, and that the most important provisions in the constitution had been sanctioned by the smallest possible majorities, after the most intense and bitter opposition. The plan was untried, and patriotism imperiously required that an untried system, involving a complete revolution in the government, should be examined with extreme jealousy. This appeared the more necessary, as the Convention, in framing a new government, instead of merely amending the existing one, had in some degree exceeded its

formal powers.

The system presented, in its most conspicuous, if not most important, features, particularly that of a single executive magistrate, forms repugnant to the cherished and habitual feelings of the people. These feelings were, of course, not diminished, in the present instance, by the knowledge, that the prominent friends of the constitution had urged, with great earnestness, in the Convention, the

adoption of the provisions in a much more obnoxious shape. If the tendency of the system, as it stood, were considered doubtful, the fact that its ablest supporters in the Convention declared the British constitution, especially in the executive branch, to be the model of a good government, might well justify the suspicion that the new project had, as Henry remarked, an “awful squinting towards monarchy.” It may even be doubted, whether the views of the opponents of the plan were not, on some points, more correct than those of its supporters, and whether the immense amount of good, which has resulted from the adoption of the constitution, may not have been the effect of its great leading principles, operating in spite, rather than by the aid, of some provisions, which were considered at the time, both by friends and opponents, as more important than they really were, and which, so far as they have operated, have been of injurious rather than beneficial tendency. On the whole, it not only seems unnecessary to attribute the action of the opponents of the constitution to perversity or selfish views, but it may even be doubted whether the course pursued by them was not the one, which would most naturally recommend itself to an ardent and uncompromising friend of popular principles of government.

The point upon which the debates in the General Convention chiefly turned was the question, whether the states should possess an equal vote in Congress, as had been the case under the old confederacy, or a number of votes proportional in each case to their comparative population, The Virginia plan, as it was called, which had been proposed by Governor Randolph, was supported with great power by Mr. Madison, who recommended the latter course. The former was the leading feature in the New Jersey plan, proposed by Mr. Paterson. After protracted and warm debates, the point was finally compromised by granting to the states an equal vote in the Senate, and a proportional one in the House of Representatives. This arrangement was not satisfactory, at the time, to the ardent supporters of either principle.

Some of the most prominent champions of the New Jersey scheme actually quitted the Convention and returned home, after it was agreed upon, under the impression that the rights of the states had been abandoned, that the compromise could never be sanctioned by them, and that there could be no advantage in taking any further part in the proceedings. On the other hand, the most active friends of the Virginia model were equally dissatisfied, though for a directly opposite

Governor Randolph refused to affix his name to his own plan as amended, and Mr. Madison, its principal champion, although he consented to sign it, declared, and has recorded the opinion in his report of the debates, that he considered it as completely vitiated by the introduction of the equal vote of the states in the Senate, which would, as he thought, inevitably perpetuate in the new system the essential vices of the old confederacy.

reason.

But, though the prominent supporters of the Virginia scheme in the Convention were wholly discontented with the result, they were generally considered, by the people at large of all parties, as having substantially carried their point, and given to the general government a great increase of strength, as compared with that which it possessed under the confederacy. The experience of half a century has confirmed the correctness of this view of the subject. The equal vote of the states in the Senate has not thus far proved to be of any practical importance for the purpose which led to its introduction. All the struggles that have taken place in Congress, including even those in which the respective pretensions of the states and the general government were directly at issue, have been decided by comparison of the strength of great parties pervading the whole Union, as represented in both branches of Congress, and not by the votes of the states, as represented on a footing of equality in the Senate;

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VOL. I.

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