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their just pretensions, as a matter of prudence and expedience. For my own part, there is nothing I so much dread as a failure to devise and establish some efficient and equal form of government for our infant republic. The present effort has been made under the happiest auspices, and has promised the most favorable results: but should this effort prove vain, it will be long ere another can be made with any prospect of success. Our strength and our prosperity will depend on our unity; and the secession of even four of the smallest States, interspersed as they are, would, in my mind paralyze and render useless any plan which the majority could devise. I should therefore be grieved, Mr. President, to see matters brought to the test which has been, perhaps too rashly, threatened on the one hand, and which some of my honored colleagues have treated too lightly on the other. I am convinced that it is a subject which should be approached with caution, treated with tenderness, and decided on with candor and liberality. It is, however, to be feared that the members of this Convention are not in a temper, at this moment, to approach the subject on which we differ, in a proper spirit. I would therefore propose, Mr. President, that, without proceeding further in this business at this time, the Convention should adjourn for three days; in order to let the present ferment pass off, and to afford time for a more full and dispassionate investigation of the subject; and I would earnestly recommend to the members of this Convention that they spend the time of this recess, not in associating with their own party, and devising new arguments to fortify themselves in their own opinions, but that they mix with members of opposite sentiments, lend a patient ear to their reasoning, and candidly allow them all the weight to which they may be entitled; and when we assemble again, I hope it will be with a determination to form a Constitution--if not such an one as we can individually, and in all respects, approve, yet the best which, under existing circumstances, can be obtained. Here the countenance of Washington brightened, and a cheering ray seemed to break in upon the gloom which had recently covered our political horizon. The Doctor continued :— Before I sit down, Mr. President, I will suggest another matter; and I am really surprised that it has not been proposed by some other member at an earlier period of our deliberations. I will suggest, Mr. President, the propriety of nominating and appointing, before we separate, a chaplain to this Convention, whose duty it shall be uniformly to assemble with
us, and introduce the business of each day by an address to the Creator of the Universe, and the Governor of all nations, beseeching Him to preside in our councils, enlighten our minds with a portion of heavenly wisdom, influence our hearts with a love of truth and justice, and crown our labors with complete and abundant success!
“ The Doctor sat down; and never did I behold a countenance at once so dignified and delighted as was that of Washington, at the close of his address. Nor were the members of this Conyention, generally, less affected. The words of the venerable Franklin fell upon our ears with a weight and authority, even greater than we may suppose an oracle to have had in a Roman Senate. A silent admiration superseded, for a moment, the expression of that assent and approbation which was strongly marked on almost every countenance; I say almost--for one man was found in the Convention, Mr.
who rose and said, with regard to the first motion of the honorable gentleman, for an adjournment, he would yield his consent; but he protested against the second motion, for the appointment of a Chaplain, He then commenced a high strained eulogium on the assemblage of wisdomn, talent, and experience, which the Convention embraced-declared the high sense he entertained of the honor which his constituents had conferred upon him, in making him a member of that respectable body; said he was confidently of opinion that they were competent to transact the business which had been entrusted to their care; that they were equal to every exigence which might occur; and concluded by saying that, therefore, he had not seen the necessity of calling in foreign aid.
Washington fixed his eyes upon the speaker with a mixture of surprise and indignation, while he uttered this impertinent and impious speech, and then looked around to ascertain in what manner it affected others. They did not leave him a moment to doubt--no one deigned to reply, or take the smallest notice of the speaker, but the motion for appointing a Chaplain was instantly seconded and carried; whether under the silent disapprobation of Mr.
or his solitary negative, I do not recollect. The motion for an adjournment was then put, and carried unanimously; and the Convention adjourned accordingly.
“ The three days recess were spent in the manner advised by Doctor Franklin; the opposite parties mixed with each other, and
a free and frank interchange of sentiments took place. On the fourth day we assembled again; and if great additional light had not been thrown on the subject, every unfriendly feeling had been expelled, and a spirit of conciliation had been cultivated which promised at least a calm and dispassionate reconsideration of the subject.
“ As soon as the Chaplain had closed his prayer, and the minutes of the last sitting were read, all eyes were turned to the Doctor. He rose, and in a few words stated, that during the recess he had listened attentively to all the arguments, pro and con, which had been urged on both sides of the House; that he had himself said much, and thought more on the subject; he saw difficulties and objections which might be urged by individual States against every scheme which had been proposed; and he was now more than ever convinced that the Constitution which they were about to form, in order to be just and equal, must be founded on the basis of compromise and mutual concession. With such views and feelings, he would now move a reconsideration of the vote last taken on the organization of the Senate. The motion was seconded-the vote carried—the former vote rescinded-and by a successive motion and resolution, the Senate was organized on the present plan.”
Substantially the same account is given in Southwick's letters on the duty of opening Legislative Assemblies with prayer, as is now done in the National Legislature, and I believe also generally in the Legislatures of the different States. The custom is a testimony to Christianity, which I hope will always be retained. But I am sorry to say that the incident referred to in the history of the Convention cannot be quoted as a precedent. The Observer is deservedly noted for its caution in stating facts. But in this instance, its correspondent is under a mistake in one point. The narrative must have undergone somewhat of a change after it came from General Dayton. The good spirit of the communication shows that if the author has been led into error, he would be thankful to have it corrected. Truth is always the best weapon in vindication of religion; and
I will state the facts as authentic records show them to have actually occurred.
“ Veritas non verba magister” was Madison's motto, and we shall have occasion to refer to him as authority. He was a leading member of that memorable Convention, and kept a very minute record of all its deliberations and proceedings, which is now published in the “ Madison Papers.” He describes the crisis in the Convention on the subject of representation in the Senate, to have become very alarming, and shows that the impending danger was averted by a general spirit of concession and compromise on both sides of the question. On these points he fully agrees with the correspondent of the Observer. They also agree as to the measures proposed by Dr. Franklin for an adjournment, and also for the introduction of religious service by a chaplain. But although the Convention agreed unanimously to the motion for an adjournment, that time might be given for excitement to subside and conflicting views to be reconciled; the motion for inviting a chaplain to open the Convention with prayer was not carried. In Franklin's works, we have his speech on the subject, to which a note is appended by himself, stating that his proposition failed; and in the “Madison Papers " we find the history of the whole matter to have been as follows:
The proceedings referred to were on the 28th June; and on that day the determination of the question before the Convention “was put off till to-morrow, at the request of the Deputies from New-York,” when Dr. Franklin arose, and said:
“ MR. PRESIDENT,—The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other-our different sentiments on almost every ques. tion, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes--is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. We, indeed, seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, hava ing been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern states all round Europe, but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
“ In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that 'except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by-word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.
“ I therefore beg leave to move-that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we pro