The Critical Period of American History, 1783-1789

By John Fiske | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VI
THE FEDERAL CONVENTION

THE Federal Convention did wisely in withholding its debates from the knowledge of the people. It was felt that discussion would be more untrammelled, and that its result ought to go before the country as the collective and unanimous voice of the convention. There was likely to be wrangling enough among themselves; but should their scheme be unfolded, bit by bit, before its parts could be viewed in their mutual relations, popular excitement would become intense, there might be riots, and an end would be put to that attitude of mental repose so necessary for the constructive work that was to be done. It was thought best that the scheme should be put forth as a completed whole, and that for several years, even, until the new system of government should have had a fair trial, the traces of the individual theories and preferences concerned in its formation should not be revealed. For it was generally assumed that a system of government new in some important respects would be proposed by the convention, and while the people awaited the result the wildest speculations and rumours were current. A few hoped, and many feared, that some scheme of monarchy would be established. Such surmises found their way across the ocean, and hopes were expressed in England that, should a king be chosen, it might be a younger son of George III. It was even hinted, with alarm, that, through gratitude to our recent allies, we might be persuaded to offer the crown to some member of the royal family of France. No such thoughts were entertained, however, by any person present in the convention. Some of the delegates came with the

Difficult problem before the convention

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