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Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight
hundred and thirty-three, by THEODORE Dwight, in the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New York.
No political subject that has ever occupied the attention, or excited the feelings of the great body of the people of these United States, has ever been the theme of more gross misrepresentation, or more constant reproach, than the assembly of delegates from several of the NewEngland states, which met at Hartford, in the state of Connecticut, in December, 1814, commonly called the “ Hartford Convention.” It has been reviled by multitudes of persons who were totally unacquainted with its objects, and its proceedings, and by not a few who probably were ignorant even of the geographical position of the place where the convention was held. And it was sufficient for those who were somewhat better informed, but equally regardless of truth and justice, that it afforded an opportunity to kindle the resentments of party against men whose talents they feared, whose respectability they could not but acknowledge, whose integrity they dare not impeach, and the purity of whose principles they had not the courage even to question. A great proportion of those who, at the present time, think themselves well employed in railing at the Hartford Convention, were school-boys at the time of its session, and, of course, incapable of forming opinions entitled to the least respect in regard to the objects which it had in view, or of the manner in which its duties were performed. In the meantime, men of more age,
, and greater opportunities for acquiring knowledge, have stood calmly by, and have coolly heard the general falsehoods and slanders that have been uttered against the convention, giving them at least their countenance, if not their direct and positive support.
In these, and in various other ways, the Hartford Convention, from the time of its coming together to the present hour, has been the general topic of reproach and calumny, as well as of the most unfounded and unprincipled misrepresentation and falsehood.
In the meantime, very little has been done, or even attempted, by any person, to stem the general torrent of reproach by which that assembly have been assailed. Conscious of their own integrity, and the purity of their motives and objects, the members, with a single exception, have remained silent and tranquil, amidst the long series of efforts to provoke them to engage in a vindication of their characters and conduct. One able and influential member of the convention, a number of years since, published a clear and satisfactory account of its objects and its proceedings. But it was deemed sufficient for those who did not believe the accusations which had been so lavishly preferred against that body, and who, of course, had no intention of engaging seriously in a discussion of the general subject, to reply, that the author of the vindication was one of the accused, and on trial upon the charge of sedition, at least, if not meditated treason, against the United States, and therefore not entitled to credit.
This mode of replying to an unanswerable vindication of the convention, as might have been expected, satisfied the feelings of interested and devoted partizans; of course, that publication had no tendency to check the utterance or the circulation of party virulence, or vulgar detraction. Revilings of the convention have been continued in common conversation, in newspapers, in Fourth of July orations, in festive toasts, and bacchanalian revelries and songs. And finally, when driven from every other topic on which to support false principles by unfounded argumentation, grave senators and representatives of the United States, have introduced the threadbare subject of the Hartford Convention into debate, in the legislative halls of the nation, when engaged in discussing the weighty concerns of this extensive republic, and united with those of inferior standing and character, in villifying the Hartford Convention.
Occurrences of this kind, with others of a more serious and portentous description, seemed to indicate, in a clear and convincing manner, that the time had arrived when the public at large should be better informed on the subject of this convention. The objects for the accomplishment of which it had originally been convened, and the able and most satisfactory exhibition of their labors contained in their report, which was published by them to the world at the moment of their adjournment, have long been lost sight of, and forgotten. With this is connected the extraordinary circumstance, that besides the members themselves, no individual, except a single executive officer of the body, had any means of knowing what passed during their session. That officer was the only disinterested witness of what was transacted by the convention. He was present throughout every sitting, witnessed every debate, heard every speech, was acquainted with every motion and every proposition, and carefully noted the result of every vote on every question. He, therefore, of necessity was, ever has been, and still is, the only person, except the members, who had the opportunity to know, from personal observation, every thing that occurred. His testimony, therefore, must be admitted and received, unless he can be discredited, his testimony invalidated, or its force entirely destroyed.
Previously to entering upon the immediate history of the convention, it will be necessary to review the policy and measures of the national government, which eventually led to the war between this country and Great Britain; as it was that war which induced the New England states to call the convention.
After the formation of the Constitution of the United States by the Convention of 1787, and before its adoption by the several states, the country became divided into two political parties—THE FRIENDS and THE ENEMIES of that constitution. The former, being in favour of the establishment of a federal government, according to the plan delineated in the constitution, naturally took the name of Federalists. Those who were opposed to the constitution, and the form of government which it contained, as naturally took the name of Anti-federalists. Under these titles, when the constitution had been adopted, and was about to commence its operations, these parties took the field, and arrayed themselves, both in congress and in the country, under their several banners. The Federalists, that is, the friends of the new constitution and government, were for the first eight years the majority, and of course were able to pursue the policy, and adopt the measures, which in their judgment were best calculated to promote the great interests of the Union. At their head, by the unanimous vote of the nation, was placed the illustrious WASHINGTON, who had led their armies to victory in the war of independence, and who was now designated by the whole body of the people as their civil leader and guide, and the protector of their rights and liberties. No person who is not old enough to remember the feelings of 1789, can realize the deep emotions of that most interesting period, the hopes that were enkindled by the reappearance of this great man upon the stage of active usefulness, and of the confidence that was reposed in his talents, his wisdom, the purity of his character, and the disinterestedness of his patriotism. Congress assembled, and the government was