Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση



[ocr errors]

(NDER the Constitution each state was now entitled to two senators.

No date had been decided upon for the election of these officers, and on November 1, 1788, Patrick Henry, who had been foremost in the opposition to the Constitution, moved that the two houses of the Virginia assembly proceed to the election of senators as the order of business for one week from that day. It was the wish of his friends that Mr. Madison present his name as a candidate, although his preferences led him to the lower house. In deference, however, to the wishes of those who had sustained him in public life thus far, he consented that his name be presented, well aware that the determined opposition of Mr. Henry and all others who so strenuously condemned the ratification of the Constitution, would be centered toward his defeat. Mr. Henry took it upon himself to nominate two candidates for the offices—Richard Henry Lee and Mr. Grayson-both of the number of those who opposed the Constitution ; at the same time, by disparaging Madison in the minds of members of the assembly, he attempted to still further increase the strength of his candidates. As it was, the vote was close, resulting in ninety-eight for Mr. Lee, eighty-six for Mr. Grayson, and seventy-seven for Mr. Madison.

Efforts were made by Mr. Henry in an attempt to still further humiliate Mr. Madison. A new arrangement of Congressional districts was made, by which it was hoped to defeat him in a re-election to the House of Representatives; at the same time a law was passed that no member should represent a district in which he did not reside. These efforts to keep him out of Congress had the effect to excite a general interest in his behalf in other sections of the state. Both Williamsburg and Augusta, though in other districts, proposed that he run for office under their patronage, believing the law prohibiting such representation unconstitutional. He resolved to remain by his own district, and in the latter part of December returned to

his home in Orange. The election was to take place the ad day of Febru. ary; his opponent was James Monroe, an intimate friend, and one of those who had opposed the ratification of the Constitution. It is a remarkable fact that though these two were leaders in several political contests, and were pitted against each other during the greater part of the five weeks preceding this election, their friendship remained unimpaired through life. The result of this campaign was the election of Mr. Madison by a handsome majority.

The first Congress assembled in New York on the first Wednesday in March, 1789, to begin its deliberations under the new Constitution. not, however, until the early part of April that a quorum was present for the transaction of business. Immediately after organizing it proceeded to open the returns from the electoral colleges of the several states. On the 6th day of the month a joint meeting of the two houses was held, for the purpose of determining the election of a President and Vice President. The choice fell upon George Washington for President, and John Adams for Vice President. Measures were taken to inform the officers elect that their presence was desired. Information was conveyed to General Washington by Mr. Charles Thompson, who had served as secretary to the old Congress during a period of fourteen years. On the 23d of April the President-elect arrived in New York, and, arrangements being completed, on the 30th day of April, 1789, he subscribed to the oath of office before the two houses of Congress, sitting for that purpose, in the Senate chamber. Following his induction into office, the President delivered to Congress his inaugural address, in answer to which addresses of confidence and attachment were voted by both houses. That of the House of Representatives was reported by a committee, of which Mr. Madison was a member, and was written by him.

That Madison was most implicitly trusted by Washington is sus. ceptible of proof. While the first President was possessed of a good degree of education, and strong mental faculties, when he came to prepare his answer to the address of Congress, he experienced a strong distrust of his own capabilities for the formulation of a document that would, in all proba. bility, be spread upon the pages of history. He therefore solicited the assistance of Mr. Madison in its preparation in the following lines:

“MAY THE 5th, 1789. “MY DEAR SIR :-Notwithstanding the conviction I am under, of the labor which is imposed on you by individuals, as well as public bodies, yet, as you have begun, so I would wish you to finish the good work in a short reply to the address of the House of Representatives (which I now enclose) that there may be an accordance in the business. As the first of everything

in our situation will serve to establish a precedent, it is devoutly wished, on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles. “With affectionate regard, I am ever yours,

“GEORGE WASHINGTON." A few days later a similar request was made with regard to his reply to the address of the Senate. In both instances the request was complied with; and during the earlier part of his administration, President Washington honored both himself and Mr. Madison by frequently calling upon him for his advice and opinion, when came up any doubtful line of policy. There is no doubt he would have called Mr. Madison to a seat in his cabinet, had not the Constitution expressly declared that “no senator or representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased, during such time.” As the cabinet was created by Congress, so no member of either house could, under the foregoing article, be appointed to it during that term of Congress.

By general consent, the leadership of the House of Representatives in the first Congress under the Constitution, devolved upon Mr. Madison. Certainly no member was better entitled to such eminence, either by education, length of service, or characteristic fitness and ability. Almost the first business after the administration of the oath of office, was the offering by him of a resolution providing for the immediate raising of a revenue, and “rescuing the trade of the country, in some degree, from its present ararchy.” Heretofore it had been impossible to establish a uniform system of imposts, owing to jealousy between the maritime states. New and increased powers were conferred on Congress by the adoption of the Con stitution. Mr. Madison proposed the system of 1783 as the basis of their action. That system consisted of specific duties on certain enumerated articles of foreign merchandise, including spirituous liquors, wines, tcas, cocoa, coffee, sugars, molasses, and pepper, together with five per centum on unenumerated articles. To these he desired to add a graduated scale of duties on the tonnage of all foreign vessels importing goods into the United States, discriminating in favor of American citizens brought into competition with the subjects of foreign powers; and also allowing extraordinary privileges to such foreign countries as had formed treaties of commerce with the United States. Considerable discussion ensued on a proposition to add to the enumerated articles certain others used in the business of inanufacturing and distilling in the eastern states; but the greatest objection was encountered in the clause discriminating in favor of powers having commercial relations with us, as against those which had declined to enter into such relations. England was the most prominent of the latter class, and had already absorbed the greater part of the carrying trade. Great

opposition was brought to bear by the merchants of New York, many of whom favored British interests, that city being notoriously tory in sentiment. The propositions of Mr. Madison, ably advocated by himself and others among the leading minds of the House, were carried by a large majority, but were finally stricken out in the Senate. They were afterwards passed by that body after giving solemn assurance that a separate bill covering the points at issue, should be reported and carried, which, however, was never done.

Immediately following the settlement of the question of imposts came another important subject before the House. On the 18th of May, Mr. Madison introduced resolutions favoring the establishment of an executive department, to be known as the department of foreign affairs, – afterwards changed to department of state; also for a department of the treasury, and a department of war,—all of which was authorized by the Con. stitution. The discussion of this subject was long, and involved an examination into the true meaning of the Constitution in some of its most essential features: the security of the public liberty, and the efficiency and success of the administration. It was proposed that the President be empowered to appoint the heads of departments, who should constitute his cabinet, and the discussion turned on the point whether he should have absolute power in removals, or whether Congress, or the Senate, should be allowed a voice in the matter. It was finally determined by a vote of thirty to eighteen, that to the President alone belonged the right of removal.

In consonance with the demands of his constituents, and of the state which he represented, on the 8th of June, 1789, Mr. Madison introduced a series of propositions designed as amendments to the Constitution. These were mainly in the nature of a declaration of rights, for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the security of property, personal liberty, trial by jury, and other points not covered by the Constitution. In addition, he aimed to provide for a fuller representation of the people in Congress; and to prevent Congress from voting an increase of pay to take effect during the current representation. These propositions were accepted by both houses, and by them submitted to the states for their action, in the form of twelve additional articles to the Constitution. Of these, except the last two, all were promptly ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states, and became parts of the Constitution. The adoption of these amendments was soon followed by the ratification of the Constitution by both North Carolina and Rhode Island, which states had heretofore held themselves aloof from the Union under the new government. While the House was considering the foregoing propositions, the Senate turned its attention to the organization of the judiciary department. The bill was considered in committee, then reported to the Senate, and passed by a vote of fourteen to six. On the 25th of August it was taken

up in the House, and there discussed, at intervals, until the 17th of September. As a branch of government of paramount importance, Mr. Madison gave it his earnest and anxious attention. The measure was passed as it came from the Senate, though amendments were desirable, yet the close of the session was near at hand and members were desirous to return to their homes, and not disposed to give the subject the consideration its importance deserved.

The first session of Congress under the Constitution had called for the unremitting care and oversight of a leading and directing mind. It was necessary that nearly every feature of the government be revised and adapted to surrounding circumstances. Foreign relations, finance, imposts, the judiciary, were to be remodeled, or established, and to each of these in its turn did Mr. Madison direct his attention; in nearly all, his was the first proposition presented, and on him fell the burden of explanation, argument, and proof. Not alone in Congress was he relied upon: he was the trusted friend and counsellor of the President, and during the early months of his administration, until the appointment of the cabinet, he was frequently consulted regarding the proper course to be pursued; even in the selection of his permanent advisors, President Washington conferred with him and in the choice of a secretary of state solicited his influence with Mr. Jefferson. During the recess of Congress, which he spent at his home in Virginia, he visited Mr. Jefferson, who had recently returned from France, and explained to him the reasons why his services were at that time of more value to the country in the office to which he had been called, than they could by any possibility be as minister to France. It was in great part due to the earnest representations made by Mr. Madison, that Mr. Jefferson was prevailed upon to sacrifice his own inclinations and give to the President the benefit of his ripe experience in public affairs.

Mr. Madison was detained in Virginia by the serious illness of his mother, and during his trip to New York was himself delayed by illness, so that he did not arrive until some days after Congress had resumed, in January, 1790. The President's address was delivered the 8th. On the 14th an exhaustive report was made by Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury, which was ordered printed, and was made the order of the day, two weeks from the date of its reading. The immediate effect of the publication of this report was to precipitate speculation in the depreciated government securities, which were almost worthless, and of which he advocated the full payment. In a letter to Mr. Jefferson, written the 24th of January, Mr. Madison says:

Prior to the report's being made, the avidity for stocks had raised it from a few shillings to eight or ten shillings in the pound; and emissaries are still exploring the interior and distant parts of the Union, in order to take advantage of the ignorance of holders.” The mania for speculation extended even to members of Congress, to whom was entrusted the

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »