University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

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)
23 (2009)

VII-B. Public and private commentaries on the Constitution, 25 July 1788-23 February 1789,   pp. 2426-2498

Page 2495

must be original.(b) The figures of the ancient orators, of Greece and
Rome, and the modern ones of England, would be misapplied, where
the audience have not a taste proportional to the talents of those great
orators. When Demosthenes figured, the herb women were critics;10
and the gallery of the house of commons is rather superior to those of
Poughkeepsie and Albany.
If men of taste would pursue this line, and only decorate the argu-
ment, that the common sense of every man feels on most given ques-
tions, but which they cannot express, and study the modulations of
voise, and the graces of persons, they would acquire an authority which
logical blockheads would call magic.
I observed, in the debates of the convention, strength, but no dex-
terity.-Hercules has a strong weapon in his hand, but was mal a droit
in the use of it.
(a) The metaphor of the balanced board" was insulting and
puerile, and was I not acquainted with the age of this great
orator-I should have imagined he had lately quitted the
(b) The metaphor of, the liquid wall of gold and adament,'2
has only the merit of being perfectly original.
Newspaper Report of Assembly Debates, Monday, 23 February 17891
... I [Francis Childs] had said, it seems, that in the debates of the
convention, ina speech of Mr. M. Smith's, where "a beast, dreadful
and terrible to behold,"14 was spoken of-that the allusion had prob-
ably been occasioned by this fair faced gentleman [William Harper]
sitting, while he was speaking, directly opposite to him, and that he
must have had him in his eye.
1. RC, Lamb Papers, NHi. The enclosure has not been located.
2. Lansing is referring to his altercation with Alexander Hamilton that took place in
the New York Convention on Saturday and Monday, 28 and 30 June. John Jay and Robert
Yates, among other Convention delegates, were drawn into the dispute that concerned
Hamilton's position in the Constitutional Convention on the role of the state govern-
ments under the Constitution. See RCS:N.Y, 2000-2005, 2009-14, 2016-17.
3. This advertisement was run daily through 2 March 1789.
4. New York Daily Advertiser, 23 January 1789. The excerpts printed here concern the
partisan debates in the Assembly over the choice of a state printer. Three of the four
speakers-Matthew Adgate, William Harper, and Philip Livingston-had been members
of the New York Convention. Adgate and Harper had voted against ratification, while
Livingston voted for it. Brockholst Livingston was a Federalist.
5. Probably a reference to "A Real Federalist," Albany Register, 5 January 1789 (Appen-
dix III, below).

Go up to Top of Page