GILBERT LIVINGSTON. The question being called, and the yeas and nays required, Mr. G. Livingston rose, and made the following address: Mr. President, I hope for indulgence from this honorable house, that I may shortly state the reasons which actuate me, for taking the part I do in the business before us.— The great and final question on the constitution is now to be taken. Permit me sir again to say, that I have had a severe struggle in my mind, between duty and prejudice.
I entered this house, as fully determined on previous amendments (I sincerely believe) as any one member in it. Nothing sir, but a conviction that I am serving the most essential interests of my country, could ever induce me to take another ground, and differ from so many of my friends on this floor.—I think sir I am in this, pursuing the object I had at first in view; the real Good of my Country. With respect to the constitution itself, I have the same idea of it I ever had—that is, that there is not safety under it, unless amended. Some time after we first met sir, a majority of those in this house who oppose it, did determine not to reject it. Only one question then remained— which was the most eligible mode, to ensure a general convention of the States, to reconsider it, to have the essential amendments ingrafted into it?
I do not here mean to go into the reasons which have repeatedly been urged on this head—but only to say, that on the most mature and deliberate reflection on this momentous occasion, the result of my judgment is—that the adoption on the table, with the bill of rights and amendments contained in it, and the circular letter to the different States accompanying it, is, considering our present situation with respect to our sister States, the wisest and best measure, we can possibly pursue. I shall therefore vote for it.
As an American, I am proud of my country—as a Whig, I love it, and feel the duty of guarding its rights and freedom, to the utmost of my power:— And sir, considering my situation in this house as a representative of a respectable county—I feel the weight of duty increasing in a redoubled proportion.
Sir, I know I was elected a member of this convention, from a confidence the people had in my integrity.— And sir, I trust, I am at this instant, giving them an unquestionable evidence of it. The people of the county I have the honor to represent, are in general, thinking and sensible— and I have not the least doubt, but that they soon will, if they at present do not, see the propriety of the measure here pursued.
But sir, I would beg leave to mention another consideration, of a nature infinitely superior to any thing, which possibly can be put in competition with it, as a motive of action— an approving conscience, and an approving God.—I must hereafter stand at a bar, where, if the most trifling conduct must be accounted for (and which I fully believe) surely this most important transaction of my life will be strictly scrutinized:—To that awful being,— who will there preside,—I would with due submission and humility, appeal for the rectitude of my intensions. I hope sir, the house will pardon me, for having been so personal in this address; —I owe it sir to them, as well as to myself: —especially to a part of one side of the house, who, I have no doubt, are actuated by the purest motives— and are equally conscientious with myself, on this occasion— and with whom, and every friend to his country, I will steadily persevere, in every possible means to procure this desirable object, a revision of the Constitution.
For a consistency in conduct, to this honorable house, to my constituents, and to my country, on this occasion, with the utmost chearfulness do I submit myself. . . . .
WISNER. Mr. Livingston having concluded, Mr. Wisner, from Orange, made a short address; after stating a few reasons, having reconsidered the above ratification, said he should not give his assent to it. . . . .
GEORGE CLINTON. After ratifying, his Excellency the President, according to notice given last Thursday, addressed the Convention very politely: The purport of which was, that until a convention was called to consider the amendments now recommended by this convention, the probability was, that the body of the people who are opposed to the constitution, would not be satisfied— he would however, as far as his power and influence would extend, endeavour to keep up peace and good order among them: To which the members and spectators were very attentive— and more than a common pleasantness appeared in their countenance.