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fatigably to heal those infirmities, and to guard against the evils to which they might expose it.”
In thus lending his aid to amend what he could not entirely approve, Hamilton showed the largeness of his mind, and the sincerity of his patriotism. He was not willing to risk anarchy, civil war, perhaps military despotism, in the pursuit of that which can only be attained by TIME and EXPERIENCE. The explanation of his conduct is contained in his own memorable words :-"It may be in me a defect of political fortitude, but I acknowledge that I cannot entertain an equal tranquillity with those, who affect to treat the dangers of a longer continuance in our present situation as imaginary. A nation without a national government is an awful spectacle. The establishment of a constitution in a time of profound peace, by the voluntary consent of a whole people, is a PRODIGY, to the completion of which I look forward with trembling anxiety.”
FEDERALISTS AND REPUBLICANS.
HE Convention being dissolved, the plan of
the Constitution was laid before the country, and at once excited the most varied feelings of approbation and dissent. In general it was supported by those moderate men, who, like its framers, looked with apprehension at the actual state of affairs, and desired, by any reasonable compromise, to consolidate a practicable government.
On the other hand, it was violently opposed by all that class of politicians, who viewed with jealousy the rise of any central power, and whose theory of freedom precluded the notion of authority. Two great parties joined issue on the question of its acceptance or rejection. They took the names of Federalists and Anti-Federalists. A few years later, after the Constitution had been adopted, the same two parties, with some modifications, continued to
divide the people of America; but they were then called Federalists and Republicans.
These names, like almost all party designations, do not, in themselves, convey any accurate meaning. In one sense all Americans were Federalists, for all believed in the necessity of some Federal tie, to bind together the several States; and in one sense all were Republicans, for they were persuaded that no other form of government was then possible in the Union. But the original distinction between the parties was, that the one sought first to establish and afterwards to strengthen a central government, with sufficient powers to uphold its own dignity and that of the nation; whilst the other strove to circumscribe those powers on every side, and to make them in all respects subservient to the local privileges of the States. As time went on, other causes of difference arose between them, some of the leaders changed sides, old alliances were broken up, and new combinations formed. A day was to come, for instance, when Hamilton and Madison stood in direct opposition to each other. But, for the present, they acted heartily together, and their first object was to secure the acceptance of the Constitution.
One of the most efficient engines employed in accomplishing this purpose was the publication of a series of essays under the name of “THE FEDERALIST,” which Americans still regard as the greatest and most complete exposition of the principles of their constitutional law. It was the work of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay; but of the eighty-five essays, of which it is composed, upwards of fifty were written by Hamilton. “It was from him," says Mr. Curtis, “that the Federalist derived the weight and the power, which commanded the careful attention of the country, and carried conviction to the great body of intelligent men in all parts of the Union. The extraordinary forecast with which its luminous discussions anticipated the operation of the new institutions, and its profound elucidation of their principles, gave birth to American constitutional law, which was thus placed at once above the field of arbitrary constructions, and in the domain of legal truth. They made it a science; and so long as the Constitution shall exist, they will continue to be resorted to, as the most important source of contemporaneous interpretation which the annals of the country afford.”
The first number of the Federalist was written by Hamilton in the cabin of a sloop, as he glided down the waters of the Hudson on his way to New York, and was published in that city on the 27th of October, 1787. It opens with a remarkable introduction, as full of vigour and boldness as of wisdom and moderation. Among the most formidable of the obstacles," it says, “which the new Constitution will have to encounter, may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State, to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments--and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies, than from its union under one government.