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The imperfect Journal of the Convention, which, by order of the body, was transferred to the keeping of its President, General Washington, and was filed among his papers in the Department of State, was published, by order of Congress, in 1819; and even in this case we are indebted to the provident industry of Madison, for the corrections and additions which were necessary to make even this official record of their proceedings intelligible. So accurately had this illustrious man-as if forewarned by his destiny of the value which future times would attach to their labors-kept his private minutes of the proceedings in the Convention, that he was able, on the application of President Monroe, to complete in all its parts the journal left unfinished more than thirty years before, by the Secretary appointed to record it; and which thus constitutes not less a memorial of these important labors, than an inter. esting tribute to a representative fidelity and care, that we may safely call without a parallel. The Debates in the States of Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, on the adoption of the Constitution, are all that have reached us. They have been collected in a slovenly publication issued at Washington, but contain contemporary materials of a sufficient value to war. rant their preservation in a form at once durable and respectable. These, with the minutes of Yates, who left the Convention long before it adjourned, and the very interesting statements of Luther Martin, and of Governor Edmund Randolph, to the Legislatures of Maryland and Virginia, constitute all the materials we possess for the history of that memorable assemblage, from which the broad and stately fabric of our present system has dated its commence. ment. The interest, therefore, which must attach to a FULL REPORT OF THE ENTIRE DEBATES, by a hand of whose faithful accuracy we have above mentioned a striking test, may be easily imagined ; and every lover of his country will be ready to admit that one of the fathers of that Constitution which has safely conducted it through so many dangers to so high a destiny, did not over-estimate its importance in the opinion of his grateful country, when he left it such a manuscript, as at once the most precious legacy he could offer, and the best fruit of his long and illustrious life.
We do not propose more in the present paper than to give an account of the manuscripts and their history, reserving for future notice the observations that their contents may suggest, when they shall be in possession of the public.
The first distinct information of the character and extent of the work was communicated to the country in a letter from Mrs. Madi. son to President Jackson, and by him transmitted to Congress, as a matter in every respect deserving their attention. It appeared from this letter that the departed statesman had, long previous to his death, carefully written out his notes of the Debates in the Convention for the press, and had left directions in his will for their publication, charging several legacies on the profits which he reasonably expected the work would produce. The proposals, however, which his heirs received from the publishing houses to which the copy-right was offered, fell so far short of these expectations, that Mrs. Madison, with a just perception of what was under the circumstances due from the country, at once submitted a statement of the circumstances to the President, who communicated them to Congress in a special message on the eighth of December, 1836. The result was the appointment of a Committee, who recommended the purchase and publication of the manuscripts as a National Work, and thirty thousand dollars were subsequently appropriated to Mrs. Madison for the former object. The novel and interesting features of the case, -the venerated relict of one of the founders of the Republic coming before the country with a manuscript precious in its relation to its national destiny as the Sybil's books which the fables of mythology have loved to associate with the infant glories of the Roman State, -were such that the proposition was not to be met with a cold appreciation of merits, or with nice questions of Congressional power; and this feeling, combined with the consciousness that the amount did not nearly equal that which every Congress was in the habit of appropriating with lavish hand for publications unknown to all literature save that of the contingent fund, and not the less costly or paramount in their claims on the national purse, that they are as regularly denominated “trash” and “rubbish” by hundreds of grumbling economists, as the everlasting appropriation comes up for yearly action, silenced the constitutional scruples of the school who believe with us, that Congress has not the right to spend money by constructive legislation, because it may have the power. Indeed all the legislative proceedings in relation to this matter, rather resembled the tribute of a grateful country through its highest representative body, to the family of a citizen so illustrious alike by his character, his employments and his services to the State, than the purchase of a work, merely useful or interesting, for a given value. It was this feeling also which induced Congress to pass a subsequent act, giving to Mrs. Madison the honorary privilege of a copy-right in foreign countries, with the single proviso that the manuscripts in possession of Congress should not be used for the purpose, doubtless to avoid the impropriety of a work being published abroad, before its appearance in the country where it was the national property, and to which its subject exclusively appertained, a merely nominal restriction, since one of the copies printed here would afford every requisite facility should its republication be desired.
The work thus purchased was transferred by Congress to the care of the Joint Committee of the Library, and that body, it is understood, after inviting propositions from numerous publishers,
have made arrangements for its early appearance in suitable style, and by attaching a fixed sum for the copy-right of the work, to each copy that may be sold, sought to meet the original constitutional objection by putting it in the power of the country to repay the liberal advance which the Legislature has made from the National Treasury for the purchase of the work. We now proceed to give a brief description of the manuscripts.
The work consists of two distinct parts. The first contains the only records known to exist of Debates in the Congress of the Con. federation; and as these Debates are merely fragments of those which occurred during the years 1782 and 1787, the interval has been filled up with numerous letters and extracts of letters de scriptive of passing events, which were written by Mr. Madison in his official capacity to various distinguished friends, and which will be received as valuable accessions to our materials for the history of the period. Respecting these letters and debates, Mr. Madison himself gives the following circumstantial and authentic information in a prefatory note attached to the volume:
“Mr. Madison took his seat in the Congress of the Confederation on the twentieth day of March, 1780, but did not commence his Diary of its Debates till November fourth, 1782. It was continued through the sequel of that year, and until the removal of Congress was decided on the twenty-first of June, 1783, from Philadelphia to Princeton, where the task was not renewed.
“In February, 1787, being again a member, he resumed his Diary, which was continued till May second of that year, when he left Congress to give his attendance in the approaching Convention at Philadelphia, which was to prepare a new Constitution for the United States.
“On the close of that Convention he returned to his seat in Congress, which he held till March, 1788, when he was called to Virginia with a view to his being elected to the State Convention which was to decide on the Constitution proposed by the General Convention. During this period it appears that no Diary was kept the effect perhaps of the share he had in writing the Federalist. Nor was it resumed in the interval between his return from the close of the State Convention, and his final departure from Congress, then in the last stage of its existence, to become a candidate for a seat in the approaching House of Representatives under the new Constitution.
“The series of Debates now published, though generally condensed into their substance, are not without more detailed discussions on particular topics; and being, with the exception of the debates in 1776 on the Declaration of Independence, and on a few of the articles of the Confederation preserved by Mr. Jefferson, which are also prefixed, the only known or probable materials of what passed in Congress in that form, they cannot fail to be particularly acceptable to the public. The periods of the Diary comprise much that has been least known, and is of a nature to gratify a just curiosity.
"As Mr. Madison was engaged, whilst a member of the old Congress, in regular and often confidential correspondence * with several distinguished friends, some of them at that time his absent colleagues, it was thought that a number of his letters, and extracts from others, in which he gives information of what occurred in Con
" * His letters of an important and secret nature to Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Randolph were written in cypher, but decyphered under his eye, except a few of a cypher used a short time with Mr. Randolph, the key to which could not be discovered.'
gress, as well as what related to the public affairs generally, might advantageously make a part of this publication. Such of the communications as were contemporary with the Diary often add to the lights which it affords, and such as belong to the periods prior and subsequent to it will often supply its place, and sometimes perhaps more than supply it.
“It cannot be amiss to remark, that the letters derive a value not only from their perfect anthenticity, and from the position of the writer as a member of Congress, but from the consideration that they were written without a thought that they would ever meet the public eye. So entirely absent was such a thought, that no copies, with scarce an exception, were, or indeed, considering their number, the frequency and the haste of the letters, and the situation of the writer, could be retained. And it was owing to the kindness of his correspondents or their representatives, that the originals here used make a part of his files. It is regretted that some of those originals were not effectually guarded against damage, and that others appear to be missing."
The more important Debates of the Convention which framed the Constitution, partake in no respect of the imperfections which must necessarily be expected in a preliminary volume thus composed of historical fragments, which fortunate though accidental circumstances only enabled their author to preserve, and which were never intended as portions of a more perfect and permanent work. Mr. Madison entered upon the duties of the Convention with a solemn sense of responsibility to his country and to posterity, which controlled all his actions; and the record of the debates which he preserved was the result of a deliberate and systematic design, originating in a profound appreciation of the importance of the discussions he recorded, which looked far into the future, and beyond the grave for a reward. These labors, which were viewed with distrust, by many, with unconcern, or hopelessly by others, and with doubt and anxiety by all contemporaries, he, with a few other trusting spirits, as surely saw, would be regarded by posterity with the intensest interest and veneration ever accorded to the deliberations of a public body, and unmindful of the vexations and anxieties of the day, the solemn-minded child of the future sat down to his task. No hope of fame, or reward, or applause of his fellow-citizens cheered his way, but the light of truth, manifested in the sublime developement of immortal principles flashed upon his page, as day after day he urged his noble toil, and laid by his volumes for readers then unborn. The generations around were too near to discern rightly the value and importance of his record in all its full and sublime proportions; and with a faith and trust characteristic of the man, he kept his work throngh all the phases of a long and trying political life, sacred for its owner-the posterity for which it was intended. We confess there is something noble and almost touching in the fidelity with which this reliance was maintained. How often, during the course of the last half century have we not heard our prominent statesmen radically differ in their interpretation of the Constitution? How often during that time have aot the intentions of its framers been misrepresented or misunderstood ? How often has not every politician, mingling in the party conflicts of the time, felt the loss of the unerring guide which this publication will hereafter afford? How often have we not seen the parties and partisans of the day interpret wrongfully, or darkly, or wilfully, the thoughts and meaning of the past which can now be illustrated and explained beyond the possibility of a cavil, from a work held back in the deep consciousness of its author that the time for full revelation was not come, and that the impenetrable curtain of the grave should be interposed between the last survivor of its framers and the millions of the great and prosperous nation who looked to the Constitution, and the new system of government which it created as the greatest and noblest fruit of the blood and toil of the Revolution-ere the proper period for fully unbosoming the secret proceedings of that time, to the respectful veneration of the country should arrive.
The following extract from a preliminary essay to the volume of Debates, by Mr. Madison himself, will be found most interesting, and will satisfy every mind of the truth of the above remarks, and fully shows how completely he was possessed with the responsibiliy of his self-imposed task, and what thorough confidence may be reposed in advance in reports prepared under such circumstances by such a hand :
"On the arrival of the Virginia deputies at Philadelphia, it occurred to them that from the early and prominent part taken by, that State in bringing about the Convention, some initiative step might be expected from them. The resolutions introduced by Governor Randolph were the result of a consultation on the subject, with an understanding that they left all the deputies entirely open to the lights of discussion, and free to concur in any alterations or modifications which their reflections and judgments might approve. The resolutions, as the journals shew, became the basis on which the proceedings of the Convention commenced, and to the developements, variations and modifications of which the plan of government proposed by Convention may be traced.
“The curiosity I had felt during my researches into the history of the most distinguished confederacies, particularly those of antiquity,, and the deficiency I found in the means of satisfying it, more especially in what related to the process, the principles, the reasons, and the anticipations which prevailed in the formation of them, determined me to preserve as far as I could, an exact account of what might pass in the Convention whilst executing its trust, with the magnitude of which I was duly impressed, as I was by the gratification promised to future curiosity by an authentic exhibition of the objects, the opinions and the reasonings from which the new system of government was to receive its peculiar structure and organization. Nor was I unaware of the value of such a contribution to the fund of materials for the history of a constitution on which would be staked the happiness of a people great even in its infancy, and possibly the cause of liberty throughout the world.
“In pursuance of the task I had assumed, I chose a seat in front of the presiding member, with the other members on my right and left hands. In this favorable position for hearing all that passed, I noted in terms legible, and in abbreviations and marks intelligible to myself, what was read from the chair or spoken by the members; and losing not a moment unnecessarily between the adjournment and reassembling of the Convention, I was enabled to write out my daily notes during the