Skip to comments.Journal of the Federal Convention May 29th 1787
Posted on 05/29/2011 2:22:12 AM PDT by Jacquerie
Convention Minutes. Objects of Government. Confederation Defects. Randolph/Virginia Plan. Pinckney Plan.
John DICKINSON, and Elbridge Gerry, the former from Delaware, the latter from Massts. took their seats. The following rules were added, on the report of Mr. Wythe from the Committee [see the Journal]- [FN2]
Additional rules. [see preceding page] [FN2] That no member be absent from the House, so as to interrupt the representation of the State, without leave.
That Committees do not sit whilst the House shall be or ought to be, sitting.
That no copy be taken of any entry on the journal during the sitting of the House without leave of the House.
That members only be permitted to inspect the journal.
That nothing spoken in the House be printed, or otherwise published or communicated without leave.
That a motion to reconsider a matter which had [FN3] been determined by a majority, may be made, with leave unanimously given, on the same day on which the vote passed; but otherwise not without one day's previous notice: in which last case, if the House agree to the reconsideration, some future day shall be assigned for the [FN4] purpose.
Mr. C. PINKNEY moved that a Committee be appointed to superintend the Minutes.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS objected to it. The entry of the proceedings of the Convention belonged to the Secretary as their impartial officer. A committee might have an interest & bias in moulding the entry according to their opinions and wishes.
The motion was negatived, 5 noes, 4 ays.
Mr. RANDOLPH then opened the main business. [Here insert his speech [FN5] including his resolutions.] [FN6] (Mr. R. Speech A. to be inserted Tuesday May 29) [FN6] He expressed his regret, that it should fall to him, rather than those, who were of longer standing in life and political experience, to open the great subject of their mission. But, as the convention had originated from Virginia, and his colleagues supposed that some proposition was expected from them, they had imposed this task on him. He then commented on the difficulty of the crisis, and the necessity of preventing the fulfilment of the prophecies of the American downfal. He observed that in revising the foederal system we ought to inquire 1. [FN7] into the properties, which such a government ought to possess, 2. [FN7] the defects of the confederation, 3. [FN7] the danger of our situation & 4. [FN7] the remedy.
1. The Character of such a government ought to secure 1. [FN7] against foreign invasion: 2. [FN7] against dissentions between members of the Union, or seditions in particular states: 3. [FN7] to procure to the several States, various blessings, of which an isolated situation was incapable: 4. [FN7], [FN8] to be able to defend itself against incroachment: & 5. [FN7] to be paramount to the state constitutions.
2. In speaking of the defects of the confederation he professed a high respect for its authors, and considered them, as having done all that patriots could do, in the then infancy of the science, of constitutions, & of confederacies,- when the inefficiency of requisitions was unknown-no commercial discord had arisen among any states-no rebellion had appeared as in Massts.-foreign debts had not become urgent-the havoc of paper money had not been foreseen-treaties had not been violated-and perhaps nothing better could be obtained from the jealousy of the states with regard to their sovereignty.
He then proceeded to enumerate the defects:
1. [FN9] that the confederation produced no security against foreign invasion; congress not being permitted to prevent a war nor to support it by their own authority-Of this he cited many examples; most of which tended to shew, that they could not cause infractions of treaties or of the law of nations, to be punished: that particular states might by their conduct provoke war without controul; and that neither militia nor draughts being fit for defence on such occasions, inlistments only could be successful, and these could not be executed without money.
2. [FN9] that the foederal government could not check the quarrels between states, nor a rebellion in any, not having constitutional power nor means to interpose according to the exigency: 3. [FN9] tha t there were many advantages, which the U. S. might acquire, which were not attainable under the confederation-such as a productive impost- counteraction of the commercial regulations of other nations-pushing of commerce ad libitum-&c &c.
4. [FN9] that the foederal government could not defend itself against the [FN10] incroachments from the states.
5. [FN9] that it was not even paramount to the state constitutions, ratified, as it was in may of the states.
3. He next reviewed the danger of our situation, [FN11] appealed to the sense of the best friends of the U. S.-the prospect of anarchy from the laxity of government every where; and to other considerations. He proposed as conformable to his ideas the following resolutions, which he explained one by one [Here insert ye Resolutions annexed.] [FN12]
Resolutions proposed by Mr. Randolph in Convention May 29, 1787[FN12]
(See Variant Texts A, B and C [Inserted by the Avalon Project] )
1. Resolved that the Articles of Confederation ought to be so corrected & enlarged as to accomplish the objects proposed by their institution; namely, "common defence, security of liberty and general welfare."
2. Resd. therefore that the rights of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be proportioned to the Quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants, as the one or the other rule may seem best in different cases.
3. Resd. that the National Legislature ought to consist of two branches.
4. Resd. that the members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States every ----- for the term of -----; to be of the age of ----- years at least, to receive liberal stipends by with they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to [FN13] public service; to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the first branch, during the term of service, and for the space of ----- after its expiration; to be incapable of reelection for the space of ----- after the expiration of their term of service, and to be subject to recall.
5. Resd. that the members of the second branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by those of the first, out of a proper number of persons nominated by the individual Legislatures, to be of the age of ----- years at least; to hold their offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independency; [FN14] to receive liberal stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to [FN15] public service; and to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch, during the term of service, and for the space of ----- after the expiration thereof.
6. Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of originating Acts; that the National Legislature ought to be impowered to enjoy the Legislative Rights vested in Congress by the Confederation & moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent, or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual Legislation; to negative all laws passed by the several States, contravening in the opinion of the National Legislature the articles of Union; [FN16] and to call forth the force of the Union agst. any member of the Union failing to fulfill its duty under the articles thereof.
7. Resd. that a National Executive be instituted; to be chosen by the National Legislature for the term of ----- years, [FN17] to receive punctually at stated times, a fixed compensation for the services rendered, in which no increase or [FN18] diminution shall be made so as to affect the Magistracy, existing at the time of increase or diminution, and to be ineligible a second time; and that besides a general authority to execute the National laws, it ought to enjoy the Executive rights vested in Congress by the Confederation.
8. Resd. that the Executive and a convenient number of the National Judiciary, ought to compose a Council of revision with authority to examine every act of the National Legislature before it shall operate, & every act of a particular Legislature before a Negative thereon shall be final; and that the dissent of the said Council shall amount to a rejection, unless the Act of the National Legislature be again passed, or that of a particular Legislature be again negatived by ----- of the members of each branch.
9. Resd. that a National Judiciary be established to consist of one or more supreme tribunals, and of inferior tribunals to be chosen by the National Legislature, to hold their offices during good behaviour; and to receive punctually at stated times fixed compensation for their services, in which no increase or diminution shall be made so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time of such increase or diminution. that the jurisdiction of the inferior tribunals shall be to hear & determine in the first instance, and of the supreme tribunal to hear and determine in the dernier resort, all piracies & felonies on the high seas, captures from an enemy; cases in which foreigners or citizens of other States applying to such jurisdictions may be interested, or which respect the collection of the National revenue; impeachments of any National officers, and questions which may involve the national peace and harmony.
10. Resolvd. that provision ought to be made for the admission of States lawfully arising within the limits of the United States, whether from a voluntary junction of Government & Territory or otherwise, with the consent of a number of voices in the National legislature less than the whole.
11. Resd. that a Republican Government & the territory of each State, except in the instance of a voluntary junction of Government & territory, ought to be guarantied by the United States to each State.
12. Resd. that provision ought to be made for the continuance of Congress and their authorities and privileges, until a given day after the reform of the articles of Union shall be adopted, and for the completion of all their engagements.
13. Resd. that provision ought to be made for the amendment of the Articles of Union whensoever it shall seem necessary, and that the assent of the National Legislature ought not to be required thereto.
14. Resd. that the Legislative Executive & Judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of Union
15. Resd. that the amendments which shall be offered to the Confederation, by the Convention ought at a proper time, or times, after the approbation of Congress to be submitted to an assembly or assemblies of Representatives, recommended by the several Legislatures to be expressly chosen by the people, to consider & decide thereon. [FN19]
He concluded with an exhortation, not to suffer the present opportunity of establishing general peace, harmony, happiness and liberty in the U. S. to pass away unimproved. [FN20] It was then Resolved - That the House will tomorrow resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House to consider of the state of the American Union. - and that the propositions moved by Mr. Randolphbe referred to the said Committee. It was then Resolved-That the House will tomorrow resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House to consider of the state of the American Union. - and that the propositions moved by Mr. Randolph be referred to the said Committee.
Mr. CHARLES PINKNEY laid before the house the draught of a federal Government which he had prepared, to be agreed upon between the free and independent States of America. [FN22] -Mr. P. plan [FN23] ordered that the same be referred to the Committee of the Whole appointed to consider the state of the American Union.
FN1 The words "In convention" are here inserted in the transcript.
FN2 Madison's directions "[see the Journal]-" and "[see preceding page]" are omitted in the transcript as are also the words "Additional rules."
FN3 The word "has" is substituted in the transcript for "had."
FN4 The word "that" is substituted in the transcript for "the."
FN5 The speech is in Randolph's handwriting.
FN6 Madison's direction is omitted in the transcript
. FN7 The figures indicated by the reference mark [FN7] are changed in the transcript to "first," "secondly," "thirdly," etc.
FN8 the words "it should" are here inserted in the transcript.
FN9 The figures indicated by the reference mark [FN9] are changed in the transcript to "First," "Secondly," etc.
FN10 The word "the" is crossed out in the transcript.
FN11 The word "and" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN12 This direction and the heading are omitted in the transcript.
FN13 The word "the" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN14 The word "independency" is changed to "independence" in the transcript.
FN15 The word "the" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN16 The phrase "of any treaty subsisting under the authority of the Union" is here added in the transcript.
FN17 The word "years" is omitted in the transcript.
FN18 The word "or" is changed to "nor" in the transcript.
FN19 The fifteen resolutions, constituting the "Virginia Plan," are in Madison [VA]'s handwriting.
FN20 This Abstract of the speech was furnished to J. M. by Mr. Randolph [VA] and is in his handwriting. [FN21] As a report of it from him had been relied on, it was omitted by J. M.
FN21 this sentence is omitted on the transcript.
FN22 Robert Yates, a delegate from New York, gives the following account of Pinckney's motion: "Mr. C. Pinkney, a member from South-Carolina, then added, that he had reduced his ideas of a new government of to a system, which he read, and confessed that it was grounded on the same principle as of the above resolutions." (Secret Proceedings of the Federal Convention (1821), p. 97.)
FN23 The words, "Mr. P. plan," are omitted in the transcript, and what purports to be the plan itself is here inserted. Madison himself did not take a copy of the draft nor did Pinckney furnish him one, as he did a copy of his speech which he later delivered in the Convention and which is printed as a part of the debates (session of Monday, June 25). Many years later, in 1818, when John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State, was preparing the Journal of the Convention for publication, he wrote to Pinckney, requesting a copy of his plan, and, in compliance with this request, Pinckey sent him what purported to be the draft, but which appears to have been a copy of the report of the Committee of Detail of August 6, 1787, with certain alterations and additions. The alleged draft and Pinckney's letter transmitting it were written upon paper bearing the water-mark, "Russell & Co. 1797." The Pinckney draft was not debated; it was neither used in the Committee of the Whole nor in the Convention. It was however referred to the Committee of Detail, which appears to have made some use of it, as extracts from it have been identified by J. Franklin Jameson and an outline of it discovered by Andrew C. McLaughlin, among the papers and in the handwriting of James Wilson, a delegate from Pennsylvania, deposited with the Pennsylvania Historical Society.
Charles Pinckney (SC) moved a committee be appointed to oversee the Minutes of the Convention.
Governeur Morris (PA) disagreed. The Minutes were the responsibility of an impartial officer, the Secretary. A committee could have reason to embellish the proceedings to their liking. The motion to move safe keeping of the Minutes to a committee failed 5-4.
(Tension is evident from the beginning. Also, it will soon be apparent the delegates spared each other from lengthy, blowhard speeches. They were all practical men, experienced in government and didnt attempt to impress each other with flowery oration in this setting. They were important men talking to a small gathering of other important men. It is thought that about thirty delegates on any day sat in attendance.)
Governor Edmund Randolph (VA) opened the main business. He started with the characteristics government should posses, followed by the defects of the Articles, the dangers of the situation and finally, the remedy, the Randolph aka Virginia Plan. (He would speak for over three hours.)
(Mr. Randolph: Born 1753. William & Mary Class of 1771. Studied law and practiced with his father in Williamsburg. His father fled with last VA Royal Governor to a British warship in 1775. Served briefly on Washingtons staff, left to sit on the drafting committee of the VA Constitution. Served as VA Attorney General, delegate to Congress, attended Annapolis convention and relieved Patrick Henry as Governor, which he was in 1787. Mr. Randolph desired a government commensurate to its objects, just not to the extent of Mr. Madison. He would not sign the Constitution history credited him with introducing.)
The Articles of Confederation failed in their purpose to secure Their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare.
(Similar, yet simpler and more precise wording would appear twice in the Constitution. It is also evident from definition and common usage, common defense and general welfare did not grant plenary powers to Congress.)
The authors of the Articles of Confederation were lauded for their work. They could not know the problems that would afflict the country.
Mr. Randolph listed the defects of the Articles.
The defects were manifested by rebellion in MA, paper money, violated treaties, commercial discord.
(But wait, it got worse. A rumor floated that a certain group in the NY Legislature had opened communications with the Viceroy of Canada. Later that summer, Martial Law would be declared in GA. Savannah was fortified against Creek Indians supported by Spain.)
It proposed a framework of government similar to the state governments in which three branches were devised to prevent power from accumulating in one or just a few hands.
The Randolph/Virginia plan would impose term limits on legislators and the executive. (The idea would reappear over and over during the debates, yet never make it into the Constitution)
Legislative power over all matters in which the states were incompetent was a starting point and description of what later enumerated powers would address. (As a clause in a written Constitution it would not do.)
A negative over State Law was a assumption of power over the States. Later debates would show it was unworkable in a vision of overwhelming work by Congress to debate and vote on every single state law in a country expected to reach across the continent.
(As opposed to the Articles of Confederation, the Randolph plan of proportional representation in the legislature favored large states. The Convention nearly dissolved in July over the matter of Senatorial suffrage.)
The Randolph/Virginia plan of government, like those in some of the states, offered Executive veto of legislation. The Council of Revision however, would bring the Judiciary into the political machinery and be eventually rejected.
(Judicial jurisdiction appears at first to be limited to specific cases. It was then expanded with, questions which may involve the national peace and harmony. Again, I must remind myself that these are starting points for debate submitted by the Governor of the State that proposed the convention. The want of a Judicial branch was sorely missing from the Articles of Confederation.)
Randolphs thirteenth article provided for amendments. He removed Congress from any involvement.
This framework of government was not appreciated by all delegates.
(Robert Yates, in his notes from the Convention wrote, He (Mr. Randolph) candidly confessed that they were not intended for a federal government he meant a strong consolidated union, in which the idea of states should be nearly annihilated.)
(Mr. Yates exaggerated, but it was certainly a bold plan.)
Charles Pinckneys Plan was submitted that day as well:
(I believe that had Pinckneys Plan been submitted first, it would have meant serious trouble for the Randolph Plan.)
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/pinckney.asp. It kept the Confederacy more or less alive without an independent judicial branch, and offered the hope of Means of enforcing and compelling the Payment of the Quota of each State. Like the Randolph Plan, it had a two house Congress, but with a massive House of Delegates, and a Senate. Senators were to be chosen from four districts by the House of Delegates or the people directly. Requisitions of taxes from the States remained, a serious problem that would have to be corrected.
See FN23, The Pinckney draft was not debated; it was neither used in the Committee of the Whole nor in the Convention. It was however referred to the Committee of Detail, which appears to have made some use of it, as extracts from it have been identified by J. Franklin Jameson and an outline of it discovered by Andrew C. McLaughlin, among the papers and in the handwriting of James Wilson (PA), a delegate from Pennsylvania, deposited with the Pennsylvania Historical Society.
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