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added. Their object was to restrain the exercise of power in congress strictly within the grants and provisions of the constitution, and to preserve to the several states all authority not clearly given by that instrument. Most of the articles proposed by the convention in Massachusetts, were approved by two thirds of the states, and became part of the federal constitution. But few states had accepted of the constitution when Massachusetts voted to adopt it; and, as it was one of the largest states, this vote probably had an influence in its favor, in some other parts of the union. General Washington discovered great anxiety while it was in discussion in Massachusetts, and was highly gratified by its acceptance.
Most of those who opposed the constitution, when it was under discussion, after its adoption had the candor to give it their support: but there was still a difference of opinion on the subject, after the federal government went into operation. Some were for a rigid construction of the clauses giving power to congress, and were jealous lest it should in any case exceed the authority delegated; while others were ready to allow discretionary powers, or to permit congress to put their own construction on the constitution.
The blessings of the federal government soon became apparent, in the increased enterprise and prosperity of the country, and in the confidence created in the public credit. But in no part of the United States were these advantages seen more than in Massachusetts. The pursuits of a large portion of her citizens were directed to commerce and navigation, and these prospered under the new government. Her debt, arising from great expenses and efforts to support the war of the revolution, was a burden and a cause of constant complaint; and this was to be provided for by congress, except a small amount comparatively, which the state alone must meet.
Federal Government favorable to Commerce-Assumes the debt of the State in part-Debt and Taxes-Public Credit restored-Slave Trade prohibited-Conduct of Mr. Hancock towards the Lt. Governor-New York and Virginia propose another Convention-Massachusetts disapproves the plan-Members of Congress-Address of General Court to President Washington-The Brass Field-Pieces, Hancock and Adams-President Washington's Tour-Address to him-Reply of Washington.
THE federal government was organized in April, 1789; and among the first acts were those for regulating foreign trade and commerce by uniform laws, and for raising a revenue from this source, to be appropriated to the payment of the public debt. The credit of the United States was thus at once and permanently established; and by assuming a great part of the debts due from individual states, Massachusetts was relieved in some measure from the burdens which had been pressing on the people for several years. On an adjustment of expenses and advances made by all the states, and by each, it was found that Massachusetts had large claims on the general government, which would go to lessen the portion, otherwise belonging to her to pay. But even on this adjustment, the state had a great amount to be answerable for; and congress having now all the revenue arising from impost duties, the state debt was large, compared to its resources to pay. The tax for 1788 was $220,000, while that for three years past was in great part uncollected. In 1789 it was much less; the sum required for the interest on the public debt being about $200,000, and the support of government $50,000; but the avails of the excise, which was laid by an act of the state, and still in force, was not sufficient to pay half of that amount. A committee of the general court, chosen in June, 1789, soon after reported that, deducting allowances by congress, and the proceeds of sales of land in New York, the debt of the state would be but a little
more than a million of dollars; but the sum necessary for the support of the civil list was to be added to this, in estimating the amount annually to be raised. The public tax was therefore reduced, after this year, far below that assessed for many previous years.
From this period, the state and whole country became prosperous, lands rose in value, agricultural produce bore a high price, commerce increased and was very profitable, and the labor of mechanics was in demand and well rewarded. The amount of revenue from the judicious regulations on commerce and navigation, was far greater than had been anticipated; and public securities, which had been often sold for one sixth of the face of them, rose to a par value. Many of the soldiers had been necessitated to part with their certificates, at a great sacrifice; but those who were able to retain them till 1789 were fully paid both principal and interest.
The legislature of Massachusetts, in 1788, again manifested its disapprobation of the slave trade, and of all traffic in human beings, by the passage of a law subjecting those who should have any concern in kidnapping and selling of negroes, to heavy penalties. The immediate occasion of the law was the forcible seizure of three persons of color, by the master of a vessel lying in Boston, with intent to carry them to the West Indies to be sold for slaves. The fine laid both on the captain and the owners of the vessel, was to a great amount; the insurance was declared void; and the relations of the persons seized (if sold in a distant country) were allowed to prosecute for the crime.
Mr. Hancock was elected governor for 1788, 1789, and each successive year, including 1793, when he died. In 1788 General Lincoln was chosen lieutenant governor, but was not particularly acceptable to Mr. Hancock. The conduct of the governor towards General Lincoln, was condemned as unjust and illiberal. The lieutenant governor had usually been commander of the castle, by appointment of the governor; and received about $1000 for his services. As lieutenant governor, he had no salary. Governor Hancock did not appoint General Lincoln to the command of that fortress. At a future session inquiry was made, why the appointment had not been given him. The governor replied, that he had the sole right to appoint, and that it was also for him to decide, whether he would have any one to command the castle. Great complaints were made against the governor, not only for not appointing the lieutenant governor, who was thus deprived of his salary as well as the office, but for undertaking to judge of
the propriety of carrying into effect a law or resolve of the legislature. Governor Hancock claimed the right to decline executing a law of the general court, if he could not see the necessity or propriety of the law himself. This was considered a mere evasion. The governor was too intelligent to reason in this way, except that he was opposed to giving the office to General Lincoln: and he lost many friends by his treatment of that meritorious officer. A committee reported in favor of $600 salary for the lieutenant governor, but the house, of representatives allowed only $533. The majority in that branch were the friends of the governor; but the senate were willing to do justice to General Lincoln.
The senate differed from the house, at this time, respecting a compliance with the request of Virginia and New York, that another general convention be called to prepare a new constitution, or to alter some parts of the one already proposed, and to incorporate some additional articles more favorable to the sovereign authority of the states. The house were in favor of the proposition from New York and Virginia; but the senate were opposed to the measure, as of fatal tendency. The governor, also, though desirous of some alterations, had given his opinion, in a message communicating the request of those two states, against the plan; believing it more proper to leave it to the states afterwards to act on those articles, rather than to postpone the ratification of the constitution, and wait for the result of another convention.
The first representatives from Massachusetts in congress, under the new constitution, which was in April, 1789, were Fisher Ames, George Partridge, George Leonard, George Thacher, Elbridge Gerry, Benjamin Goodhue, Theodore Sedgwick, and Jonathan Grout; the four last were chosen on the second trial. At a ratio of one representative for thirty thousand inhabitants, Massachusetts was probably entitled to twelve; but the population was not then accurately known, though it was supposed to be three hundred and seventy thousand; for, in 1784, it was three hundred and fifty-eight thousand.
Soon after General Washington was inducted into office, as first president of the United States, in April, 1789, the general court of Massachusetts addressed him, by letter, in the following terms: "Sir: Your acceptance of your present exalted and important station affords universal joy to the people of Massachusetts. They have long felt the most grateful sentiments for your services, and admiration for your character. And they reflect with pleasure on the ardor which your presence inspired
in the alarming and novel circumstances of a war within their country, and against their civil security, so soon restored by the discipline and success of the army under your command. The unanimity of the suffrages of the states in your election, is no less a testimony of your merit, than of the gratitude of this extensive community. They have declared, by investing you with the powers of their president, their confidence in you, from the experience of your wisdom and virtues, and they delight to honor you. For your services, in their estimation, will yet far exceed their rewards. The union of the states, by a form of government intended to secure the blessings of liberty, is rendered more perfect under you, as their chief. All the advantages of that government, of our national independence, and civil liberty, may be rationally expected under your administration. From you we shall receive those examples of public and private economy, of prudence, fortitude, and patriotism, of justice, morality, and religion, which, by the aid of divine providence, insure the welfare of a community. To express the voice of our constituents, we join in the congratulations of united America, on this great event; and we earnestly implore the protection of the Almighty on your person and family; that he would afford you his divine aid in the duties of your important station, and long continue you a blessing to the United States."
On a request from the executive of Massachusetts, two brass field-pieces, then in the keeping of congress, were restored to Massachusetts. There were only four belonging to the American artillery when the war began. And all were received from that province. Two were the property of the province, and were taken by the British. The two, at this time returned to Massachusetts, were owned by individuals, citizens of Boston, and were frequently used in the course of the war. By order of congress, the following inscription was placed upon them on one, "HANCOCK," and on the other, "ADAMS;" and on each "Sacred to Liberty-This is one of the four cannon which constituted the whole train of field artillery possessed by the American colonies, at the commencement of the war, April 19, 1775."
After the federal government was organized, the legislation and proceedings of the separate states became less interesting and important. All which related to foreign affairs, and to subjects of general concern to the union, were under the exclusive cognizance and direction of congress. And what had been of peculiar interest, in Massachusetts, as well as in the other states, provision for the payment of debts growing out of the war, had become the duty of the general government. Yet, in