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Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Hogan, Margaret A.; Reid, Jonathan M. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: New York (5)

VII-D. New York recommends the calling of a second constitutional convention,   pp. 2501-2530

Page 2503

unlikely because the objections to the Constitution were so "multifar-
ious and contradictory." The convention would be no more able to
avoid "ambiguities" than the Constitutional Convention had been (Daily
Advertiser, 21 January 1788 [RCS:N.Y., 630, 633]). "A Countryman" VI
(Antifederalist Hugh Hughes) questioned the authenticity of a widely
published extract of a letter from George Washington who declared
that a second convention would be "fruitless" and would not be har-
monious (New York Journal, 14 February [RCS:N.Y., 779-80]. For the
extract of Washington's letter which was reprinted in eight New York
newspapers, see Maryland Journal, 1 January [CC:386-A].).
As the elections for New York Convention delegates on 29 April ap-
proached, the issue of a second general convention became more promi-
nent. On 10 April the Albany Anti-federal Committee published a broad-
side circular outlining a long list of objections to the Constitution. A
paragraph near the end of the circular stated "The 5th article of the
Constitution points out a mode to obtain amendments, after it is adopted,
which is to call a Convention for the purpose-and we conceive that a
Convention may be called to amend the Constitution, before it is adopted
with so many material and radical defects" (RCS:N.Y., 1384). About a
week and a half later the Albany Federal Committee published an ad-
dress which pointed out that the Constitution provided for amendments
after ratification. It dismissed the idea of a second convention before
ratification and rejected the notion of previous amendments (RCS:N.Y.,
1398). In the last number of The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton ad-
vanced a similar argument (CC:766).
In a pamphlet published on 15 April, "A Citizen of New-York" (John
Jay) vigorously argued against a rejection of the Constitution in the hope
that a second convention could adopt a better one. The compromising
and accommodating spirit of the Constitutional Convention of 1787
could not be replicated by another convention. America had become
"divided into parties" and "pernicious heats and animosities have been
kindled." Both parties would choose as delegates the "most staunch
and active partizans" who will not be willing to compromise and con-
ciliate. "To expect that discord and animosity should produce the fruits
of confidence and agreement, is to expect 'grapes from thorns, and
figs from thistles' " (RCS:N.Y, 936-37). The Federalist called Jay's ar-
guments "unanswerable" (CC:776). Almost immediately, "A Plebeian"
(Melancton Smith?) answered "A Citizen of New-York," stating that
accommodation was still possible. The Constitution had been fully dis-
cussed so that solutions were available. There would be no surprises in
a second convention as there were in the first, which had created a

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