The Adjournment of the New Hampshire Convention

February 22, 1788

John Langdon to Rufus King Portsmouth,

23February

I am sorry to inform you that our Convention adjourned yesterday (to meet again in June next), without compleating the important business of adopting the Constitution. contrary to the expectation of almost every man of reflection at our first meeting a majority appeared against the plan a great part of whom had positive Instructions to Vote against it. however after spending ten days in the arguments a number of opponents came to me, and said, they were convinced and should be very unhappy to Vote against the Constitution, which they (however absurd) must do, in case the question was called for. I therefore moved for the adjournment which was carried though much opposed by the other side. This question determined a majority in favor of the Constitution had it not been for their Instructions. This shews the fatality of the times.

Massachusetts Centinel, 27 February

NEW-HAMPSHIRE CONVENTION.

In order to give time to those Delegates in the Convention of New-Hampshire, who were instructed to vote against the Constitution, to re-turn home, and get their instructions taken off, that hon. body, on Friday last, adjourned, to meet at Concord, in that State, on the third Wednesday in June next. No other question was taken. This being the truth, to endeavour by the publication of a contrary report, as was the case in the Herald of Monday last, wickedly to deceive the publick, argues a depravity of mind, which, until the days of antifederalism, was unknown in the world; and instead of calling forth the sympathy of the publick, for the misfortune of erroneous judgment, will induce them to wish, and to endeavour, that the sphere of circulation of the paper thus employed, narrow as it is, may yet be contracted.

No one circumstance attending the discussion of the proposed Federal Constitution, has demonstrated its superiour excellence and perfection more than the measure of adjournment, adopted by the Convention of New-Hampshire, last week, if we consider the situation of affairs there respecting it.—Almost the whole of that State is inland, and a great part of it remote from the regular channels of information—by far the greater part of the people had not seen it, and received their information of it from factious demagogues and popularity-seekers, who had rode through the back parts of the State, inflaming and prejudicing the people’s minds against it. While under this infatuation, they chose delegates to meet in Convention, and bound them by INSTRUCTIONS to vote against it—and no delegate would have consented to have acted under such instructions, unless his sentiments on the subject, were in unison with those of his constituents.—This being the case, on the meeting of the Convention, a majority (all of whom were from the remote parts of the State) were found opposed to the adoption of the Constitution.—It was, however discussed for several days, and such lights thrown on the subject—and so many objections obviated, as induced many, thus instructed, and who had considered the Constitution as dangerous, to change their sentiments.—But these considering their instructions sacred, could not, on conviction, vote for it—and their consciences forbade their voting against it.—What was now the alternative? Either to reject the Constitution, (which they certainly would have done, had their opinions of it continued the same,) or for those thus convinced, (who with those originally in favour of it, made a considerable majority) to return home to their constituents—acquaint them of the conviction that had arisen in their minds, and of the arguments which produced it—and to prevail on them to annul the instructions, which bound them to act contrary to their opinions. The latter was thought the most proper—and, therefore, the Convention adjourned to a distant day, to give time for the circulation in every part of the State, of the information and arguments, which had thus proved convincing to the members of the Convention—and as the Conventions of several of the States are not to meet until June, no delay it was thought would arise from adjourning to the third Wednesday of that month, which was agreed to by a considerable majority.—From this statement—we may venture to assert, that the cause of federalism, in New-Hampshire, will not suffer a diminution—and that their Pillar of the Federal Edifice, THOUGH IT NOW RESTETH, WILL MOST ASSUREDLY RISE.

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