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CONTENTS OF VOLUME FIRST.
Mr. Wilson's Speech on the expediency of adopting
the Federal Constitution, in the Convention of
President WASHINGTON's Inaugural Address, April 30,
Mr. Madison's Speech on the British Treaty, in the
SPEECH OF JAMES WILSON,
ON THE EXPEDIENCY OF ADOPTING THE
DELIVERED IN THE CONVENTION OF PENNSYLVANIA,
NOVEMBER 26th, 1787.*
THE system proposed, by the late convention, for the government of the United States, is now before you.
Of that convention I had the honor to be a member. As I am the only member of that body, who has the honor to be also a member of this, it may be
* Soon after the termination of the war of the revolution, it became apparent that the powers vested in the General Government, by the articles of Confederation, were inadequate, and that the unity which had existed among the states during the war, had resulted rather from the pressure of circumstances, than from any authority of the General Government.
So universal was the conviction that the public welfare required a Government of more extensive powers, that in May, 1787, a convention, composed of delegates from all the states in the union, with the exception of Rhode Island, assembled at Philadelphia, to take the subject into consideration. It continued its deliberations with closed doors until the 17th of the following September, when the Federal Constitution was promulgated. The convention resolved, " That the constitution be laid before the United States, in Congress assembled, and that it is the opinion of this convention that it should afterwards be submitted to a convention of delegates, chosen in each state by the people thereof, for their assent and ratification.”
In conformity to the recommendation of the convention, Con. gress, on the 28th of the same month, passed a resolution directing that the constitution be submitted to conventions to be assembled in the several states.
In the conventions subsequently assembled, the expediency of adopting the constitution was discussed with great ability and eloquence. The wisdom, genius and patriotism of the nation, were here called into action, and their concentrated rays threw over the subject a flood of light which left none of its intricacies unrevealed..COMPILEE.. VOL. 1.
expected that I should prepare the way for the deliberations of this assembly, by unfolding the difficulties which the late convention were obliged to encounter; by pointing out the end which they proposed to accomplish; and by tracing the general principles which they have adopted for the accomplishment of that end.
To form a good system of government for a single city or state, however limited as to territory, or inconsiderable as to numbers, has been thought to require the strongest efforts of human genius. With what conscious diffidence, then, must the members of the convention have revolved in their minds the immense undertaking which was before them. Their views could not be confined to a small or a single community, but were expanded to a great number of states; several of which contain an extent of territory, and resources of population, equal to those of some of the most respectable kingdoms on the other side of the Atlantic. Nor were even these the only objects to be comprehended within their deliberations. Numerous states yet unformed, myriads of the human race, who will inhabit regions hitherto uncultivated, were to be affected by the result of their proceedings. It was necessary, therefore, to form their calculations on a scale commensurate to a large portion of the globe.
For my own part, I have been often lost in astonishment at the vastness of the prospect before us. To open the navigation of a single river was lately thought, in Europe, an enterprise adequate to imperial glory. But could the commercial scenes of the Scheldt be compared with those that, under a good government, will be exhibited on the Hudson, the Delaware, the Potomac, and the numerous other rivers, that water and are intended to enrich the dominions of the United States ?
The difficulty of the business was equal to its magnitude. No small share of wisdom and address is requisite to combine and reconcile the jarring interests, that prevail, or seem to prevail, in a single community.