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that is always in the right—il n'y a que moi qui a toujours raison
“In these sentiments, sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government, but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered; and believe further, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. I doubt, too, whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected ? It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded, like those of the builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If
every one of us, in returning to our constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavour to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength and efficiency of any government, in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion-on the general opinion of the goodness of the government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors. I hope, therefore, that for our own sakes, as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress and confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to the means of having it well administered.
“On the whole, sir, I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention, who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.” He then moved that the Constitution be signed by the members, and offered the following as a convenient form, viz: “Done in Convention by the unanimous consent of the States present, the seventeenth of September, &c. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names."
This ambiguous form had been drawn up by Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, in order to gain the dissenting
members, and put into the hands of Doctor FRANKLIN, that it might have the better chance of suc
Mr. GORHAM said, if it was not too late, he could wish, for the purpose of lessening objections to the Constitution, that the clause, declaring that “the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every forty thousand,” which had produced so much discussion, might be yet reconsidered, in order to strike out “forty thousand,” and insert “thirty thousand.” This would not, he remarked, establish that as an absolute rule, but only give Congress a greater latitude, which could not be thought unreasonable.
Mr. King and Mr. CARROLL seconded and supported the ideas of Mr. GORHAM.
When the President rose, for the purpose ting the question, he said, that although his situation had hitherto restrained him from offering his sentiments on questions depending in the House, and, it might be thought, ought now to impose silence on him, yet he could not forbear expressing his wish that the alteration proposed might take place. It was much to be desired that the objections to the plan recommended might be made as few as possible. The smallness of the proportion of Representatives had been considered, by many members of the Convention an insufficient security for the rights and interests of the people. He acknowledged that it had always appeared to himself among the exceptionable parts of the plan; and late as the present moment was for admitting amendments, he thought
this of so much consequence, that it would give him much satisfaction to see it adopted.*
No opposition was made to the proposition of Mr. GORHAM, and it was agreed to unanimously.
On the question to agree to the Constitution, enrolled, in order to be signed, it was agreed to, all the States answering, aye.
Mr. RANDOLPH then rose, and with an allusion to the observations of Doctor FRANKLIN, apologized for his refusing to sign the Constitution, notwithstanding the vast majority and venerable names that would give sanction to its wisdom and its worth. He said, however, that he did not mean by this refusal to decide that he should oppose the Constitution without doors. He meant only to keep himself free to be governed by his duty, as it should be prescribed by his future judgment. He refused to sign, because he thought the object of the Convention would be frustrated by the alternative which it presented to the people. Nine States will fail to ratify the plan, and confusion must ensue. With such a view of the subject he ought not, he could not, by pledging himself to support the plan, restrain himself from taking such steps as might appear to him most consistent with the public good.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS said, that he too had objections, but considering the present plan as the best that was to be attained, he should take it with all its faults. The majority had determined in its favor, and by that determination he should abide. The
* This was the only occasion on which the President entered at all into the discussions of the Convention.
moment this plan goes forth, all other considerations will be laid aside, and the great question will be, shall there be a National Government, or not? and this must take place, or a general anarchy will be the alternative. He remarked that the signing, in the form proposed, related only to the fact that the States present were unanimous.
Mr. WILLIAMSON suggested that the signing should be confined to the letter accompanying the Constitution to Congress, which might perhaps do nearly as well, and would be found satisfactory to some members* who disliked the Constitution. For himself he did not think a better plan was to be expected, and had no scruples against putting his name to it.
Mr. Hamilton expressed his anxiety that every member should sign. A few characters of consequence, by opposing, or even refusing to sign the Constitution, might do infinite mischief, by kindling the latent sparks that lurk under an enthusiasm in favor of the Convention which may soon subside. No man's ideas were more remote from the plan than his own were known to be; but is it possible to deliberate between anarchy and convulsion on one side, and the chance of good to be expected from the plan on the other ?
Mr. BLOUNT said, he had declared that he would not sign so as to pledge himself in support of the plan, but he was relieved by the form proposed, and would, without committing himself, attest the fact
* He alluded to Mr. Blount for one. VOL. I.-101.