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outlook indicated that Mr. Bingham's proposition in the old Congress, to divide the country into several confederacies; or the hint of Gouverneur Morris in the convention, of a peaceful and friendly separation of the Northern and Southern States; or the separate republic composed of New York and New England favored by Governor George Clinton; or the Confederacy of Southern States favored by Patrick Henry, might at last be prophetic.
Where did the new Congress meet?
Congress met in the city of New York. For twenty-seven days there was no quorum, which compelled Congress to adjourn from day to day. On the first day of April, 1789, they elected Gen. Frederick Augustus Muhlenburg, of Pennsylvania, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
It required an earnest appeal to the laggard members to come to New York and start the wheels of the new machine. It was necessary to count the electoral votes and apprise General Washington that he had been elected President. The retired soldier at Mt. Vernon was silent and reticent. A strange apathy, if not timidity, had fallen on some Senators.
On the 6th of April the clouds parted and let through some sunshine.
Richard Henry Lee, Senator from Virginia, who had offered the first resolution of independ. ence, and who had opposed ratification without amendments, arrived in New York. That graceful and eloquent patriot gave the Senate a quorum. A temporary president enabled the body to count the vote of the electors and notify the Presidentelect. Colonel Lee had left Henry and Mason dissatisfied, but he carried with him amendments to the Constitution with which to neutralize consolidation.
While Congress was in a dilemma, which looked as if failure might bring chaos, there were antiFederalists who still resisted. As late as the 9th of April, Representative Tucker of South Carolina was the sole member of the House south of Virginia. Washington came, and on his inauguration at Federal Hall, in Wall Street, April 3oth, the “new form," as he called the untried government, went into operation.
Was this an auspicious beginning ?
A future Buckle, writing a history of American civilization, might reason as follows: The sword had achieved the independence of the States. The new government was civil.
A civilian pure and simple should have been elected President. General Washington was a coercionist, a national
ist, and a protectionist. Hamilton ruled. Thomas Jefferson should have been the first instead of the third President. That event would have made impossible the odiously tyrannical Alien and Sedition law of John Adams.
The reaction came, and Jefferson, the champion of the States, broke down the nationalistic Federalists. He gave in his inaugural the true theory of the reserved rights of the States and the limitations of the government of the Union.
The great war between the States could not have occurred if Jefferson had been chosen first President and Madison second President. The States would have been on their good behavior. No one, no party thereafter, would have stood for “ the nation,” which means localized coercion and consequent tyranny. The start was wrong, and we have not yet paid the penalty.
Whatever a future historian may say, we of the latter part of the nineteenth century, looking over into the new century, find Washington without a parallel in heroism and patriotism. All honor to the model man of the world !
What of the third term heresy ? There was a deep and bitter prejudice against unusual power among our revolutionary ancestors. When it was proposed in Virginia, during the war,
to make Patrick Henry dictator, there arose a cry among patriots which had terrible significance. His brother said to him with deadly decision : “ I learn that certain parties desire to create you dictator. Before Sundown of the day you accept I will plant a dagger in your heart!"
Power and long official tenure go together, and hence the opposition to a third term President. One term was regarded by Washington as enough. He did not desire to serve a second term because of the opposition generated by the idea and his distaste for public office. Thomas Jefferson, in a warm patriotic letter, urged Washington to permit his name to go before the people for a second term. He contended that it was the duty of the President to make a sacrifice of his personal feelings for the good of his country. After a second term, literally forced upon him by political opponents as well as friends, he never had a thought of a third term. Thus was established that unwritten law which will always make it perilous for any man whose ambition prompts him to override it and invoke the vengeance of patriots on dictators.
This Washingtonian precedent is a declaration to the States and the people that ROTATION IN OFFICE IS THE LIFE OF A REPUBLIC.
What was the Declaration of Independence ?
separation” from Great Britain. It was a prophecy of the coming first and second Constitutions, especially of the Bill of Rights of the latter. It expressly declares for “separation" in the preamble to the bill of indictment against George III. Jefferson knew that it would intensify hostilities.
Is separation a peaceful and efficacious remedy?
It never can be and it would be folly to think so where there are conflicting opinions and interests.
Revolution is a natural right. It is therefore a perfect right which can enforce itself. Separation is an imperfect right, and cannot enforce itself.
If ever a successful war is waged against the Union by the people, growing out of centralized encroachments, the United States would cease to be, but the States would live. As an example, the Confederation passed away, but the States survived. Ours is not an "indestructible Union," but the States are indestructible bodies politic. They are perpetually vivified by the people who occupy them.
What did Choate say ?