The Republicans and Federalists in Pennsylvania, 1790-1801: A Study in National Stimulus and Local Response

By Harry Marlin Tinkcom | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
COMPROMISE CONFIRMED, 1790

THE AMORPHOUSNESS of Pennsylvania politics in 1790 was well illustrated by the gubernatorial election held in that year. The political dominance enjoyed by the conservatives on State issues since 1787 was not overwhelming; neither was their partisan majority. Those facts were emphasized by the constitutional convention, summoned at their behest, in a body of organic law which was frankly a compromise effort. The real test of their superiority would lie in their ability to install a man of their own choice in the Governor's chair. As it turned out they failed to do so, for the man eventually selected was as much of a compromise as the constitution itself.

The governorship of Pennsylvania was considered to be a very desirable position, and several men began setting their political caps for it long before the constitution which provided for the office had been proclaimed. In the nature of things the screening of those candidates was almost certain to be an unrepresentative and haphazard proceeding. Lacking a stimulating issue such as had marked the congressional nominating conventions of 1788, lacking also any organizational and selective machinery, and finally, without precedent to guide them, the leading politicians were forced to decide on candidates themselves, a task, incidentally, which they did not find distasteful.

It is little wonder then that some members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation calmly assumed that the task of selecting a candidate would naturally fall upon them. For intimate information on the schemes and plans they concocted we are indebted to Senator Maclay. Nostalgic for his beloved Susquehanna, rheumatic and often only painfully mobile, he kept his sensitive ears to the ground and his vitriolic pen handy. Suspicious and distrustful of the group he referred to as the "Philadelphia junto," in which he included Fitzsimons, Morris and Clymer, he busied himself in ferreting out any schemes that might be afoot. On February 4, 1790, he confessed a doubt as to whom the junto would support. But he was certain that it would select someone who would "be their tool."1

As time went on, the plotting and conniving progressed. On February 8, 1790, Morris presented a memorial to the Senate requesting the appointment of commissioners "to inquire into his conduct while

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