Page images

upon. Maryland was most decided in asserting that there must be some equal distribution of these lands.

Maryland refused to join the States at this time. "The Convention, for which Maryland declined to appoint coni missioners unless all the States would agree to take into consideration and adjust the system of Federal Government, which was seriously defective, met in Annapolis December IIth, 1786, and continued in session three days. From New York came Alexander Hamilton and E. Benson; from New Jersey, Abraham Clark, William E. Houston and James Scurrman; Delaware, George Reed, John Dickinson and Richard Bassett; Pennsylvania, Tench Coxe; Virginia, Edmund Randolph, James Madison, Jr., and H. George Tucker. John Dickinson, of Delaware, was President. The discussion, for and against the Constitution went on."

CONFEDERATION. "On the 26th of May, 1787, the necessary power was given to meet the deputies of the other States on the alteration and additions to the Federal Constitution, in Philadelphia, and to report an Act for that purpose to Congress, which when agreed upon should be submitted to the several States for ratification.” Maryland sent deputies.

Things were in a very bad condition. The Legislature of New Jersey, by an act, refused to pay her share of the public debt. The authority of Congress was disregarded by violating the treaties with France, England and Holland, and also their treaties with the Indians. The country had gone into trade, and many bought luxuries for which they could not pay, and the country was drained. There was much bankruptcy, and civil prosecutions caused much distress in private debts and those which the towns had contracted. There was general doubt of the power of Congress to settle all these difficulties. Some openly advocated a monarchy. The North renewed its paper issue, and did not meet the trouble by additional taxes as Maryland had done. The Maryland Assembly was violently agitated by a law which was passed by the House of Delegates, for issuing bills of credit to the amount of $350,000, to be sent by the State in various sums, redeemable

in ten years, and drawing annual interest at six per cent. The session of this Convention, in 1787, continued for four months, and was a stormy session. So much so, that at one time it seemed as though there would be a dissolution. Luther Martin was one of those who made the most violent opposition. But James McHenry, David of St. Thomas Jenifer, and Daniel Carroll signed the Constitution on behalf of Maryland. On the 5th of November, Governor Smallwood called the Legislature together at Annapolis, and requested the delegates who had been at the Convention to attend and report all that hadi happened. It was then that Luther Martin read his masterly paper. His objections were that the Constitution overpowered the States, and aggrandized the Federal Government. He said that in the original plan the States had agreed on terms of equality. Now that New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts being the larger States would control the government, he objected to the suspension of the right of habeas corpus in cases of rebellion, as the Federal Government might use this power improperly.

Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, Samuel Chase, William Kelty and Ramsay, Chase, Stone, Hanson and others wrote articles from week to week in this controversy. In the meantime Shay's rebellion broke out in Massachusetts, and was subdued by General Lincoln, who was called out by Governor Bowdoin. In spite of all these difficulties the Convention met in Philadelphia, at Independence Hall, May 21, 1787. On motion of Robert Morris, General Washington was made President of the Convention.

The Maryland Gazette of that day, says: "The Convention met at Annapolis, April 1st, 1788, and elected George Plater President. Thursday they established rules for the conduct of the business. The proposed plan of government was read for the first time. Mr. Plater stated his objections to the Constitution, and said he wanted to put his objections into form. Friday he stated his objections, and one member from each State, of the following counties, Talbot, Charles, Kent, Somerset, Prince George, Worcester, Queen Anne, Dorchester, Calvert, Caroline, one from city of Annapolis, and one from

Baltimore town, rose and declared for themselves and their colleagues that they were elected and instructed by the people they represented to ratify the proposed Constitution, and that as speedily as possible, and to do no other act. That after the ratification their power ceased, and they did not consider themselves as authorized by their constituents to consider any amendment. After this Mr. Plater was not allowed even to read his amendments. The opponents continued to make objections until Saturday noon. The advocates of the government, although repeatedly called upon to answer the objections, if not just, remained inflexibly silent, and called for the question that the Convention assent and ratify the proposed plan of Federal Government for the United States, which was carried in the affirmative by 63 to 11."

Thus closed the Maryland Convention for the ratification of the Federal Constitution. The opposition to the Constitution, because it lessened the power of the State, was so strong as to be nearly fatal to the new Constitution; but Washington, McHenry, Plater, Hanson, Johnson, Lee, Potts, Daniel Carroll, Richard Thomas, James Holliday, James Tilghman, William Tilghman and other distinguished men in the State secured its adoption. They agreed to meet in their several States and vote for a President, and that they were to meet in New York, the seat of government at that time, and commence proceedings under the Constitution. Charles Carroll was the first Senator from the West, and Henry from the Eastern Shore.

So the corner-stone of our stately edifice was laid by men who had become heroes in storm and cold, hunger and danger, but who had not left England with all its luxury, its beautiful old cathedrals, and stores of art, and learning, and come to a vast forest, surrounded by savage men and beasts, to yield to tyranny and oppression. In two hundred years they had made a country which they loved, because for it they had suffered and bled. They now proved wise statesmen as well as brave soldiers. They had shown themselves strong to endure and suffer. They now showed themselves wise in council. Their glorious chief laid down his military command,

[graphic][ocr errors]


(Courtesy of New York Times.)

and became their most honored citizen. In 1789, the year following the ratification of the Constitution, Washington was elected their President.

He was the shining light of his day. See to it, that we are not those who darken our day instead of making it brighter, and become oppressors instead of the advocates of freedom.


HILL, NEW JERSEY. The last residence occupied by General Washington as a headquarters during the Revolution was the property belonging to the estate of Judge John Berrien in Rocky Hill. The Judge himself, one of the most prominent men of the State, had died in 1722, four years before the war began, leaving the property to his widow, Mrs. Margaret Berrien. The place was called "Rockingham," and was quite an extensive one for those times, as is evidenced from an advertisement of its sale in the Royal Gazette, No. 707, published in New York, July 5th, 1783, as follows:


That very healthy and fine situated farm Rockingham-the property of Mrs. Margaret Berrien. This farm lies on the River Millstone, about five miles from Princeton, on the road leading from Princeton to Morristown; it contains about 320 acres, a good proportion of meadow and woodland; the soil is good for wheat and natural grass. so that a great quantity of the best English meadow may be made with little trouble or expense; the place is well watered. The house contains upwards of twenty rooms of different kinds, including a kitchen very conveniently contrived and genteely finished, and cellaalmost under the whole; there is also a very good barn and stables, coach house, grainary and fowl house, all painted; a curious smokehouse; and other out houses; there are several fine young apple orchards, containing the best grafted fruit in our country, besides a variety of pears, plums, peaches and cherries, raspberries and curran s; there is also a small tenement on the said farm, of three rooms, with a cellar and milk-room, and the whole farm abounds insprings of the best water.

There are several thousand very thrifty red cedar trees, a great number of which have been trimmed and properly cultivated.

« PreviousContinue »