[Poughkeepsie, New York, June 28, 1788]
A letter of the 1st inst. says, “That on Saturday the 28th ult. the Convention were still discussing the 1st clause of the 8th section of the 1st article, respecting the powers of Congress. Objections were at large stated, and amendments proposed by Mr. Williams, Mr. Smith and Mr. Lansing,3 who were answered by Mr. Hamilton in a most animated and powerful defence of the clause.4 Mr. Lansing in reply, let fall some expressions which tended to shew an inconsistency in Col. Hamilton’s conduct. He asserted that in the Federal Convention that gentleman had agreed strongly that the State governments ought to be subverted or reduced to mere corporations. He compared these sentiments to those he had avowed in the present Convention, viz. That the State governments were necessary for the preservation of liberty. This called up Mr. Hamilton, who entered into a statement of facts; denied what the gentleman had asserted; declared that in the General Convention his ideas had been uniformly the same as on the present occasion: that tho’ he at that time declared, as he had constantly and publicly done since, his apprehension that the State governments would finally subvert the general system, unless the arm of the Union was more strengthened than it was even by this Constitution; yet he had through the whole of the business advocated the preservation of the State governments, and affirmed them to be useful and necessary. He accused Mr. Lansing’s insinuation as improper, unbecoming and uncandid. Mr. Lansing rose, and with much spirit resented the imputation. He made an appeal to Judge Yates,5 who had taken notes in the Federal Convention for a proof of Mr. Hamilton’s expressions. This produced some disorder in the Committee, and the Chairman was obliged to call to order. A motion for adjournment put an end to the altercation.6
The [New York] Daily Advertiser, July 4, 1788.
1. The account of H’s remarks on June 28, 1788 in The Daily Advertiser is the most complete available. Francis Childs, who took notes in shorthand, did not relate what H said in reply to John Lansing, Jr.’s charge that he had stated in the Constitutional Convention that the states should be left only with corporate rights. Childs wrote: “Mr. Hamilton here interrupted Mr. Lansing and contradicted, in the most positive terms, the charge of inconsistency included in the preceding observations. This produced a warm personal altercation between those gentlemen, which engrossed the remainder of the day. As this dispute was of a delicate nature, and as a statement of the circumstances, however cautiously formed, may wear a complexion not perfectly satisfactory to the parties; the Editor presumes, that the public will excuse an entire omission of the subject” (Childs, Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York description begins The Debates and Proceedings of the State of New-York, Assembled at Poughkeepsie, on the 17th June, 1788. To deliberate and decide on the Form of Federal Government recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, on the 17th September, 1787. Taken in Short Hand (New York: Printed and Sold by Francis Childs, 1788). description ends , 123).
3. John Williams, Melancton Smith, and John Lansing, Jr.
5. Robert Yates. See “Constitutional Convention. Speech on a Plan of Government,” June 18, 1787, Robert Yates’s Version.
6. The “altercation” was renewed on Monday, June 30.