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ness, or should they toll for the death of bright hopes, now the task was done? Washington was intensely human. In that hour of silent thought his heart must have swelled with a consciousness that he had led his people through a successful Revolution, and now again from the darkness of political confusion and dissolution to the threshold of a new existence. But at the same time he never deceived himself. The new Constitution was but an experiment and an opportunity. Would the States accept it? And if they accepted it, would they abide by it? Was this instrument of government, wrought out so painfully, destined to go to pieces after a few years of trial, or was it to prove strong enough to become the charter of a nation and hold the States together indissolubly against all the shocks of politics and revolution? Washington, with his foresight and strong national instinct, plainly saw these momentous questions, somewhat dim then, although clear to all the world to-day. We can guess how solemnly he thought about them as he meditated alone in his room on that September afternoon.
Whatever his reflections, his conclusions were simple. He made up his mind that the only chance for the country lay in the adoption of the new scheme, but he was sober enough in his opinions as to the Constitution itself. He said of it to Lafayette the day after the signing: "It is the result of four months' deliberation. It is now a child of fortune, to be fostered by some and buffeted by others. What will be the general opinion or the reception of it is not for me to decide; nor shall I say anything for or against it. If it be good, I suppose it will work its way; if bad, it will recoil on the framers." We catch sight here of the old theory that his public life was at an end, and now, when this exceptional duty had been performed, that he would retire once more to remote privacy. This fancy, as well as the extremely philosophical mood about the fate of the Constitution, apparent in this letter, soon disappeared. Within a week he wrote to Henry, in whom he probably already suspected the most formidable opponent of the new plan in Virginia: "I wish the Constitution, which is offered, had been more perfect; but I sincerely believe it is the best that could be obtained at this time, and as a constitutional door is opened for amendments hereafter, the adoption of it under the present circumstances of the Union is, in my opinion, desirable." Copies of this letter were sent to Harrison and Nelson, and the correspondence thus started soon increased rapidly. He wrote to Hamilton and Madison to counsel with them as to the prospects of the Constitution, and to Knox to supply him with arguments and urge him to energetic work. By January of the new year the tone of indifference and doubt manifested in the letter to Lafayette had quite gone, and we find him writing to Governor Randolph, in reply to that gentleman-s objections: "There are some things in the new form, I will readily acknowledge, which never did, and I am persuaded never will, obtain my cordial approbation, but I did then conceive and do now most firmly believe that in the aggregate it is the best Constitution that can be obtained at this epoch, and that this or a dissolution of the Union awaits our choice, and is the only alternative before us. Thus believing, I had not, nor have I now, any hesitation in deciding on which to lean."
Thus the few letters to a few friends extended to many letters to many friends, and travelled into every State. They all urged the necessity of adopting the Constitution as the best that could be obtained. What Washington's precise objections to the Constitution were is not clear. In a general t way it was not energetic enough to com* up to his ideal, but he never particularized in his criticisms. He may have admitted the existence of defects in order simply to disarm opposition, and doubtless he, like most of the framers, was by no means completely satisfied with his work. But he brushed all faults aside, and drove steadily forward to the great end in view. He was as far removed as possible from that highly virtuous and very ineffective class of persons who will not support anything that is not perfect, and who generally contrive to do more harm than all the avowed enemies of sound government. Washington did not stop to worry over and argue about details, but sought steadily to bring to pass the main object at which he aimed. As he had labored for the convention, so he now labored for the Constitution, and his letters to his He wrote to Governor Randolph, acknowledging the honor, hut reiterating what he had said to Madison, and urging the choice of some one else in his place. Still Virginia held the question open, and on February 3d he wrote to Knox that his private intention was not to attend. The pressure continued, and, as usual when the struggle drew near, the love of battle and the sense of duty began to reassert themselves. March 8th he again wrote to Knox that he had not meant to come, but that the question had occurred to him, "Whether my non-attendance in the convention will not be considered as dereliction of republicanism; nay, more, whether other motives may not, however injuriously, be ascribed for my not exerting myself on this occasion in support of it;" and therefore he wished to be informed as to the public expectation on the matter. On March 28th he wrote again to Randolph that ill health might prevent his going, and therefore it would be well to appoint some one in his place. April 2d he said that if representation of the States was to be partial, or powers cramped, he did not want to be a sharer in the business. "If the delegates assemble," he wrote, "with such powers as will enable the convention to probe the defects of the constitution to the bottom and point out radical cures, it would be an honorable employment; otherwise not." This idea of inefficiency and failure in the convention had long been present to his mind, and he had already said that if their powers were insufficient, the convention should go boldly over and beyond, and make a government with the means of coercion, and able to enforce obedience, without which it would be, in his opinion, quite worthless. Thus he pondered on the difficulties, and held back his acceptance of the post; but when the hour of action drew near, the rheumatism and the misgivings alike disappeared before the inevitable, and Washington arrived in Philadelphia, punctual as usual, on May 13th, the day before the opening of the convention.
The other members were by no means equally prompt, and a week elapsed before a bare quorum was obtained and the convention enabled to organize. In this interval of waiting there appears to have been some informal discussion among the members present, between those who favored an entirely new Constitution and those who timidly desired only half-way measures. On one of these occasions Washington is reported by Gouverneur Morris, in a eulogy delivered twelve years later, to have said: "It is too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God." The language is no doubt that of Morris, speaking from memory and in a highly rhetorical vein, but we may readily believe that the quotation accurately