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A NEW CONSTITUTION ADOPTED
prosperous states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota, -- and thus get money to pay off the war debt of the Revolution. That belief helped to hold the country together.
196. The Articles of Confederation are set aside and a New Constitution adopted, 1787. Still, even with this hope to brighten the sky, the outlook was dark enough. Washington, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, -- in a word, the ablest men of that day, -- thought the prospect anything but encouraging. It seemed to them that unless we secured a better form of government than that which the defective Articles of Confederation provided (§ 192) the newborn republic was likely to die in its cradle.
At last (1787) a convention of fifty-five members was held in Philadelphia to make a new Constitution. Washington presided over this convention, and a majority of the state legislatures sent their chief men to take part in it. The convention held a secret session of nearly four months, and had many stormy debates before the articles of the new Constitution could be agreed upon. At one time Benjamin Franklin (§§ 135, 152, 157, 163, 183) and other eminent men nearly despaired of any successful result. But by three judicious compromises1 the great work was finally
1 The first important question of debate was between the delegates from the small states and those from the large ones in regard to representation in Congress. If the representation rested wholly on population, then the large states would, of course, have entire control.
This question was settled by a compromise or mutual concession by which it was finally agreed that Congress should consist of two houses: (1) the House of Representatives chosen by the people of the different states and representing them; (2) the Senate, or Upper House, consisting of two members from each state. (See the Constitution, in the Appendix, Article 1, Sections 2 and 3.) In the Senate the small states stand equal to the large ones.
The second great question was whether slaves should be counted in reckoning the number of the population with reference to representation in Congress. The North insisted that they should not; the South (where slaves were very numerous), that they should. The contest on this point was long and bitter. Finally, it was agreed that three fifths of the slaves should be counted with reference to both representation and taxation (though the slaves themselves were of course neither represented nor taxed). (See the Constitution, Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3, "Three fifths of all other persons." These "other persons" were slaves.)
The third and last question was in regard to commerce and to protection of slaveholders. It was agreed that Congress should have the entire control of commerce (the states had had it before). (See the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 3.) Furthermore, it was agreed that the importation of slaves might be prohibited after 1808. (See the Constitution, Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 1; these slaves are called "such persons." The word "slave"
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
completed. The opening lines of the Constitution show first, who made it, and secondly, why they made it. It begins with these ever-memorable words:
After the convention had accepted the new Constitution, it was sent to the different states to be voted upon by the people. Those who favored it called themselves Federalists, while those who opposed it, because they thought it gave the national government too much power, called themselves Anti-Federalists.
THE "SHIP OF STATE"
But in time all of the states decided to adopt it. The man who did the most to convince them of the wisdom of such a course
does not occur in the Constitution.) It was also agreed that runaway slaves should be returned to their owners. (See the Constitution, Article IV, Section 2, Paragraph 3, "No person [i.e. slave] held to service," etc.) The first Fugitive-Slave Law was passed in 1793.
If the compromises between the small states and the large, and the North and South, had not been made, the Constitution would have been rejected, and we should probably have split up into two or three hostile republics; even after its adoption it took the better part of a year to get the states to ratify it.
WHAT THE NEW CONSTITUTION DID
was Alexander Hamilton1 of New York. When the city of New York celebrated the adoption of the Constitution (1788) a ship on wheels representing the "Ship of State," or the Union,2 was drawn through the streets by ten milk-white horses. Hamilton's name was painted in large letters on the platform upholding the vessel.
197. What the New Constitution did for the Country. The Constitution went into effect in 1789. It accomplished six great objects, not one of which was provided for in the old Articles of Confederation (§ 192).
I. It gave the nation a head, the President of the United States, and made it his duty to see that the laws made by Congress should be faithfully enforced.
2. It gave Congress full power to raise money by taxation to carry on and defend the national government.
3. It gave every citizen of the United States equal rights in all the states, with liberty to buy and sell in all parts of the country. This secured freedom of trade throughout the Union.
4. It gave Congress the control of all foreign commerce, and the sole right to levy duties or taxes on imported goods.
5. It gave Congress the entire control of all the territory and public lands of the nation.
6. It established the Supreme Court of the United States with full authority to decide all questions and disputes in regard to the powers of the national government.
1 Alexander Hamilton was born in the West Indies, 1757. He went to New York in 1772 and entered Columbia College. He took part in the Revolution and gained the friendship and esteem of Washington. After the Revolution he earnestly advocated the forming and adoption of the Federal Constitution. As Secretary of the Treasury of the United States he put the nation on a permanent financial basis. Many good judges consider him the ablest man who ever occupied that office. He restored public confidence and helped to establish trade and industry by his successful advocacy of the first tariff and the first United States Bank. Daniel Webster said of him: "He smote the rock of the national resources, and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth. He touched the dead corpse of Public Credit and it sprung upon its feet." Hamilton was killed by Aaron Burr (§ 219) in a duel in 1804. The whole country felt the irreparable loss of this great statesman and patriot.
2 See Longfellow's "Building of the Ship," last part, lines beginning
"Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
A few years later ten very important amendments were added to the Constitution.1 They were called a "Bill of Rights." They secured still further protection to the rights and liberties of the people. For this reason many of the Anti-Federalists (§ 196) who had strongly opposed the original Constitution now gave it their hearty support.
198. Summary. The Revolution made us an independent people; the Constitution completed the work by making us a United people, -- a true American nation. Now, to use the words of John Adams, "the thirteen clocks all struck together."
1 The Amendments to the Constitution are certain additions to it made for the purpose of extending and improving it. See Appendix, pages xx-xxiv. Two more amendments were adopted between 1798 and 1804, the Eleventh and Twelfth, the first of which exempted a state from suit 11 by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state," and the second changed the method of electing the President of the United States. After the Civil War the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments were adopted relating to the emancipated slave& and to the reconstruction of the seceded states. Since then (1913-1920) three more amendments have been adopted. The first of these relates to the income tax, the second to the election of United States senators, the third to the prohibition of the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquors. The total number of amendments is now eighteen.