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As the day approaches, and the strength of both sides is so great that neither can certainly depend on a majority, the anxiety of every friend to government and justice is increased. "Life and death are before us." Heaven grant a favourable issue. One of the most sanguine of the Feds., and best informed, told me yesterday that he could not count on a majority of more than 5 for the Constitution. The Anti-feds, say now: "You have told us of the perfections of the Constitution; now you acknowledge defects, and want amendments yourselves.'' The Feds. answer: "We are quite willing to take it as it is, trusting to amendments hereafter; but, to accommodate some gentlemen of a delicate mind, propose them now, and think there is a better chance of success, because those States who have not yet adopted the plan may follow our example, and instruct their representatives in the same manner."
You will have the whole course of debates by and bye.
Adieu. Mr. W. is waiting.
Love to you and yours.
BELKNAP TO HAZARD.
Boston, 6 February, 1788.
This P.m the great question is decided by a majority of 19, in favour of the Constitution; the whole House being 355. I congratulate you on this auspicious event, and am, with ardent praise to Heaven, and the most sincere affection to you and yours,
Your joyful and happy friend,
BELKNAP TO HAZARD.
Boston, February 10, 1788.
My Dear Sir, — You got the news of the Constitution being ratified three days before it happened! But, in three days from this time, you will have it authenticated by my letter of Wednesday evening. We have had bellringing for three days, and on Friday a kind of Lord Mayor s show, the account of which you will see in the papers; and the description is not heightened nor embellished. To-morrow we are to begin again, it being General Washington's birthday.* How long this Federal frolicking will hold, I know not. S. Adams had almost overset the apple-cart by intruding an amendment of his own fabrication on the morning of the day of ratification. It was to this purpose: "That Congress should not infringe the rights of conscience, the liberty of the press, the right of peaceable citizens to bear arms, nor suffer unwarrantable seizure of persons, papers, nor property, &c." Feds, and Antis were alarmed; the former, because they saw the fatal tendency of creating such apprehensions as immediately appeared in the latter, some of whom said that such a man as Mr. A. would not have guarded against these evils, if he had not seen a foundation for them in the Constitution. When A. perceived the mischief he had made, he withdrew his motion; but some of the Anti leaders revived it, and he was obliged finally to vote against it. It was thrown out by a very general vote, but it is apprehended this manoeuvre lost the Constitution several votes. Some suspect his intention was to overset the whole; but " Charity hopeth all things," and I am seriously of the mind that it rather proceeded from a vanity of increasing his own popularity, as Hancock had his, by the midwifeing the other amendments into the world. Had it not been for this step, the whole exertion had been in vain. A. has made himself unpopular. Some of the delegates from Maine were converted, but I believe not a greater proportion of them than of the other counties. There were near 100 in all. Some of the most virulent opposers were Mainites; viz., Nason, Wedgery, and Samuel Thompson. The last is implacable, and I fancy has a kind of distraction about him. Parsons gave him a caution against indulging his opposition now the matter was settled, and reminded him of the danger of being punished for treason. His answer was, he should not fear being hanged, if he could have him for his lawyer.
* According to the old style of reckoning, corresponding to the 22d, N.S. — Eds. Vol. II. 2
The Antis would have had the question called much sooner, but the Feds, protracted the debates on paragraphs till they were sure of a majority. The address with which they conducted, both in public and private, does them much honour.
Gerry is crestfallen, but acquiesces.
I have had a letter from Jedidiah Morse, requesting assistance and correction for his geography. When I write, I will enclose it to you, as you say he is to be at New York.
I thank you for the hint about my new correspondent. Will you be so good as to forward the inclosed for me to Norfolk or Portsmouth, in Virginia, directed to Captain Nathaniel Goodwin, of the ship Thomas and Sarah, lying in that harbour? He is a worthy friend, and is detained in Virginia for a load of tobacco bound to Russia. Love from all mine to all yours.
Your affectionate friend,
P. S. That the tradesmen may have something beside frolicking, there was yesterday begun a subscription for a company to engage in building three ships, of 250 tons each. 11 shares, at £100, were down before noon. This will give employ to many poor fellows who have been in great want.
HAZARD TO BELKNAP.
New York, February IB, 1788.
My Dear Sir, — I have but a moment to thank you for several favours, particularly for the one received to-day, informing of the adoption of the new Constitution by your State. This I consider as another interposition of Divine Providence in our favour, and am heartily rejoiced at it. Mr. Wingate has arrived safely, and delivered me two letters from you. I am much pleased with your character of him, and intend to try to be intimate with him.
I send the Columbian Magazine, with a good map of Pennsylvania in it, and am, with love to Mrs. B., in which Mrs. H. joins,
BELKNAP TO HAZARD.
Boston, February 17, 1788.
My Dear Friend, — You will see, in the Centinel of yesterday, an account of a most atrocious insult on the rights of mankind and the laws of society, committed within the limits of our harbour a few days ago. Several peaceable negroes, and some of very good character, who have families here, were decoyed on board a vessell which lay below Long Island, under pretence of shifting the ballast, and then carried off to be sold (no doubt) for slaves abroad. It is but just that the author of this mischief should be known. His name is said to be Avery, a native of Connecticut, but pretends to be a citizen of Philadelphia. He is a tall, slim young man, not more than 30 years old; is very supple, and affectedly complaisant; talks much about making and marrying fortunes; is loquacious, forward, and impertinent. The master of the vessell is a Captain Batson, of Cape Ann; and the vessell belongs there, being chartered by Avery for Martinico, for which place he cleared out, but it is suspected by some that he has gone to Georgia. Wherever he goes, I hope the news of his villainy will go before him, or soon follow him, so that he may be detected and avoided, if he cannot be punished.
It often happens that good comes out of evil, and this daring outrage has alarmed and roused the spirit of all consistent advocates for freedom, and will probably produce a strong application to our General Court for a law to abolish all the remains of the iniquitous slave-trade. This is yet in embryo; but I hope, in a few weeks, to be able to give you the whole affair. At present, I wish not to have any thing said of it, though I am willing the account of Avery should be as public as you please to make it.
I was told to-day that 40 towns in New Hampshire have instructed their delegates in Convention to vote against the Constitution. I hope it is not true; for that number will be near one-half the Convention, if they send no more than to the General Court. Pray let me hear how the news of our receiving the Constitution, and the manner of our doing it, operates in your State.
Nothing more than that I am, as usual, with affectionate salutations,