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[10] far as the framers of the Constitution were concerned, it seems to me clear that, acting as wise men of conflicting views naturally would act in a formative period during which many conflicting views prevailed, they did not care to incur the danger of a shipwreck of their entire scheme by undertaking to settle, distinctly and in advance, abstract questions, the discussion of which was fraught with danger. In so far as they could, they, with great practical shrewdness, left those questions to be settled, should they ever present themselves in concrete form, under the conditions which might then exist. The truth thus seems to be that the mass of those composing the Convention of 1787, working under the guidance of a few very able and exceedingly practical men, of constructive mind, builded a great deal better than they knew. The delegates met to harmonize trade differences; they ended by perfecting a scheme of political union that had broad consequences of which they little dreamed. If they had dreamed of them, the chances are the fabric would never have been completed. That Madison, Hamilton and Jay were equally blind to consequences does not follow. They probably designed a nation. If they did, however, they were too wise to take the public fully into their confidence; and, today, ‘no impartial student of our constitutional history can doubt for a moment that each State ratified’ the form of government submitted in ‘the firm belief that at any time it could withdraw therefrom.’ (Donn Piatt, George H. Thomas, p. 88.) Probably, however, the more far-seeing,— and, in the long run, they alone count,—shared with Washington in the belief that this withdrawal would not be unaccompanied by practical difficulty. And, after all is said and done, the legality of secession is somewhat of a metaphysical abstraction so long as the right of revolution is inalienable. As matter of fact it was to might and revolution the South appealed in 1861; and it was to coercion the government of Union had recourse. So with his supreme good sense and that political insight at once instinctive and unerring, in respect to which he stands almost alone, Washington foresaw this alternative in 1798.1 He looked upon the doctrine of secession as a

1 Washington seems, indeed, to have foreseen it from the commencement. Hardly was the independence of the country achieved before he began to direct his efforts toward the creation of a nation, with a central power adequate to a coercive policy if called for by the occasion.

Thus, in March, 1783, he wrote to Nathaniel Greene (Ford, Writings of Washington, Vol. X, p. 203, note): ‘It remains only for the States to be wise, and to establish their independence on the basis of an inviolable, efficacious union, and a firm confederation.’ The following month he wrote in the same spirit to Tench Tilghman (Ib., Vol. X, p. 238): ‘In a word the Constitution of Congress must be competent to the general purposes of Government, and of such a nature as to bind us together. Otherwise we shall be like of sand and as easily broken.’

Finally, in the circular letter addressed to the governor of all the States on disbanding the army, June 8, 1783 (Ib., Vol. X, p. 257): ‘There are four things which, I humbly conceive, are essential to the well-being, a way, even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an independent power. First, on indissoluble union of the States under one federal head.’ In language even stronger he, July 8, 1783—only a month later—wrote to Dr. William Gordon, the historian (Ib., Vol. X, p. 276): ‘We are known by no other character among other nations than as the United States. Massachusetts or Virginia is no better defined, nor any more thought of, by Foreign Powers, than the county of Worcester in Massachusetts is by Virginia, or Gloucester county in Virginia is by Massachusetts (reputable as they are), and yet these counties with as much propriety might oppose themselves to the laws of the States in which they are, as an individual State can oppose itself to the Federal Government, by which it is, or ought to be bound.’ With the passage of time, Washington's feelings on this subject seem to have grown stronger, and, on March 10, 1787, he wrote to John Jay: ‘A thirst for power, and the bantling—I had liked to have said Monster—sovereignty, which have taken such fast hold of the States,’ etc. (William Jay, Life of John Jay, Vol. I, p. 259). A year earlier, August 1, 1786, he had written to Jay: ‘Experience has taught us that men will not adopt and carry into execution measures the best calculated for their own good without the intervention of a coercive power. I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation without having lodged somewhere a power, which will provide the whole Union in as energetic a manner as the authority on the State governments extends over the several States.’ (Ford Writings of Washington, Vol. XI, p. 53.) This, it will be observed, was within a few days less than seven months only before the passage by the Confederation Congress of the resolution of February 21, 1787, calling for the Convention, which, during the ensuing summer, framed the present Constitution.

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