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By the investigations and discussions which took place in the general and state conventions, relative to the new system of general government, the leading principles in the formation of American constitutions became better understood by the people of the United States. Many of the states, soon after the new government went into successful operation, revised the systems they had hastily established at an early period of the revolution.
Pennsylvania and South Carolina formed new constitutions in 1790, New Hampshire and Delaware in 1792. The alterations in that of South Carolina we have before noticed. Pennsylvania now divided her legislature into two branches, and gave her governor a qualified negative to legislative acts. The governor of that state was to be chosen by the people for three years, but was not capable of holding the office longer than nine years out of twelve, and was vested with the power of appointing most of the state officers. The council of censors was abolished. The constitution of Delaware was made in a great measure conformable to that of Pennsylvania, with the exception of the partial negative of the chief magistrate to legislative acts. Vermont revised her system in 1793, but retained most of the principles contained in that of 1786. The constitutions of the new states of Kentucky and Tennessee, admitted into the union during the administration of president Washington, conformed in their general principles to that of the United States. With respect to slavery, the constitution of Kentucky prohibited the legislature from passing laws for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of their owners, or without paying them a full equivalent in money for those emancipated. Nor could they prevent emigrants from bringing with them slaves, so long as slavery existed in the state. The legislature, however, were directed to pass laws permitting the owners of slaves to emancipate them, securing the rights of 'creditors, and preventing them from being a charge to any county; and the legislature had power also to prevent them from being brought into the state as merchandize, as well as from being brought there from a foreign country.
First congress under the new constitution meet at New York, on the 4th of March, 1789---George Washington chosen president, and John Adams vice-president--President's inaugural speech, and answers of both houses---Congress lay tonnage and other duties---Give a preference to American shipping---Establish different departments---Determine the question about the removal of the heads of these departments---Power of removal vested in the president alone---Debate on this subject---The senate about equally divided upon it---Amendments to the constitution proposed---A national judiciary established---Its powers and jurisdiction---Vessels of North Carolina and Rhode Island placed on the same footing with those of the United States, until the 15th of January, 1790---Congress direct the secretary of the treasury to report, at their next session, a plan for the support of public credit---Request the president to recommend the observance of a day of public thanksgiving and prayer---Adjourn to the first Monday of January, 1790---North Carolina adopts the constitution in November---Speech of the president at the opening of the second session of congress---He recommends the promotion of such manufactures, as would render the United States independent on others for essential articles, the establishment of a good militia system, and adequate provision for the support of public credit---Financial plan of the secretary of the treasury, submitted to the house in January-Outlines of this plan-Secretary recommends funding the debt of the United States, and the assumption of the state debts-This creates great divisions and long debates in congress-Motion to discriminate between the original holders and the assignees of the domestic debt negatived-Assumption of the state debts violently opposed-Debates on this question-Finally carried-Terms of funding the debts-Commissioners appointed to settle the accounts between the states, and principles of settlement adopted-Census of the inhabitants to be taken on the first Monday of August, 1790-Third session commences the first Monday of December, 1790-Vermont and Kentucky admitted into the union-National bank established-Strongly opposed as unconstitutional-Cabinet divided on the question-President decides in favor of its constitutionality-Duties laid on spirits distilled within the United States-Opposed in congress, and in some of the states -Speech of the president at the opening of the first session of the second congress in October, 1791-Ratio of representation settled-Difference between the houses and the president as to the constitutional rule of apportionment-Gen. St. Clair and his army defeated by the Indians-Opposition to the internal duties increasesThe two great parties in the United States more distinctly marked-Cabinet divided -An inquiry into the official conduct of the secretary of the treasury, instituted in the house of representatives-Charges exhibited against him—Negatived by a large majority-Supreme court decides, that a state is liable to a suit in favor of individuals—An amendment altering the constitution in this respect proposed and adopted-The first term of president Washington's administration expires on the 4th of March, 1793.
THE national legislature under the new system of government, convened at New York, on the 4th day of March, 1789, and consisted of senators and representatives from eleven states.
A quorum of both houses did not attend until the 6th of April, when, on counting the electoral votes it appeared, that George Washington was unanimously chosen president, and that John Adams was elected vice-president.
Whatever difference of opinion existed among the people of the United States, with respect to the government itself, there was none as to the person, who as their first chief magistrate, was to be selected to administer it. All eyes, from the beginning, were turned to general Washington, as the first president; and he received, what perhaps no individual in so high a station in any age ever before received, the unanimous and voluntary suffrages of a whole nation.
Informed of his election by a special messenger, the president immediately left his beloved retreat, and set out for the seat of government. He was received on his way, by the sincere congratulations of numerous public bodies, as well as individuals.*
He was met at Elizabethtown, by a committee from both houses of congress, and escorted into the city of New York, amidst the acclamations of thousands.
On the 30th of April, the oath of office was administered to him by the chancellor of the state of New York, in the gallery in
* His reception at Trenton was peculiarly interesting. The inhabitants of that village had not forgotten the memorable scenes of December, 1776.
On the bridge over the creek where the progress of the enemy was arrested twelve years before, the ladies of Trenton erected a triumphal arch, ornamented with flowers, on the front of which was inscribed, "the defender of the mothers will be the protector of the daughters." He was here met by the ladies, attended by their little daughters, who as he passed, literally strewed his way with flowers, as they sung the following ode-..
"Welcome mighty chief, once more
"Virgins fair and matrons grave
front of the senate chamber, in the presence of the members of the senate and house of representatives, and a vast concourse of citizens; and he was proclaimed president of the United States. Every countenance beamed with inexpressible joy, at the sight of the venerated chief, to whom, under God, they were so much indebted not only for their independence, but that form of government, in the administration of which he had consented to take a share, and which he had in their presence solemnly sworn to support. Soon after taking the oath, he retired to the senate chamber, and made the following address to both houses.
"Fellow citizens of the senate,
and house of representatives,
"Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties, than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years, a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens, a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence, one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature, and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver, is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope, is, that, if in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendant proof of the confidence of my fellow citizens,
and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as dis inclination, for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me, and its consequences be judged by my country, with some share of the partiality in which they originated.
"Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration, to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow citizens at large, less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government, the tranquil deliberations, and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude, along with a humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.
"By the article establishing the executive department, it is made the duty of the president,' to recommend to your consid