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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 2506

See also Washington's letters to Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin
Lincoln on 28 August [both VII-B, above].). Like Washington, Madi-
son was also surprised that the letter was adopted unanimously, and he
concluded that the manner of New York's ratification "will prove more
injurious than a rejection would have done" (to Washington, 24 August
[VII-B, above]). Madison expressed his concern to Thomas Jefferson
that another general convention "would terminate in discord, or in
alterations of the federal system which would throw back essential pow-
ers into the State Legislatures. The delay of a few years will assuage the
jealousies" and reveal the faults in the system that called for amend-
ments (10 August [VII-B, above]. See also Madison to Jefferson, 23
August, and Madison to Edmund Randolph, 22 August [Rutland, Madi-
son, XI, 237, 238-39].).
Some out-of-state newspapers severely criticized the circular letter and
New York's amendments. On 6 and 13 August widely circulated items
in the Pennsylvania Gazette charged that the New York amendments
"would annihilate the Constitution," bring back anarchy to America,
and "introduce poverty, misery, bloodshed, and slavery into every state
in the Union." The authors of the amendments were compared to "the
lawless Indians" who did not "understand a system of government fit
for a civilized nation." The circular letter was described as "imperti-
nent" and it merited "the severest treatment from all the friends of
good government." The Pennsylvania Gazette asked that the Constitu-
tion be given a fair trial and, if found faulty, it could be amended
(DHFFE, I, 46). "X," addressing the governors of the states, chided
New York for dictating to the other states in the Union (Connecticut
Gazette, 15 August [DHFFE, I, 46-47]). (For a commentary by a New
York Antifederalist on such attacks, see De Witt Clinton to Charles Clin-
ton, 19 September [VII-B, above].)
Beginning in September Federalist fears about a general convention
began to subside. John Jay, the principal author of the New York cir-
cular letter, believed that if a general convention were obtained "im-
mediately .. . its friends will be satisfied, and if convened three years
hence, little danger, perhaps some good, will attend it" (to Edward
Rutledge, 15 October [VII-B, above]). Jay believed that a majority of
Antifederalists would be satisfied with a delay. If a delay were obtained,
a general convention was not to be feared, especially if people were
impressed by the operation of the new government (to George Wash-
ington, 21 September [VII-B, above]). By the end of September, George
Washington was less fearful about the calling of a general convention
since "all honest men, who are friends to the new Constitution" wanted
to give it a chance and those who were "slily" trying to subvert the

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