Skip to comments.Federal Convention Committee of Detail July 27th to August 6th 1787
Posted on 07/27/2011 2:27:02 AM PDT by Jacquerie
The Convention adjourned yesterday in order for the Committee of Detail to smooth the resolutions passed to date. Members will reconvene on August 6th.
Experienced Constitution writers and legal theorists composed the Committee. There were two Northerners, Nathaniel Gorham & Judge Oliver Ellsworth, two Southerners in Governor Edmund Randolph and former Governor John Rutlidge and a Middle Statesman in the Scots born James Wilson. All were of the Nationalist bent; no small state advocates like Luther Martin or William Paterson were there.
Very little is known of the proceedings of the committee. George Masons great granddaughter found some of the committee works in papers passed down to her from the famous man. They were originals from Governor Edmund Randolph detailing how to write a Constitution.
In the draught of a fundamental constitution, two things deserve attention:
1. To insert essential principles only, lest the operations of government should be clogged by rendering those provisions permanent and unalterable, which ought to be accommodated to times and events. And
2. To use simple and precise language, and general propositions, according to the example of the (several) constitutions of the several states. (For the construction of a constitution of necessarily differs from that of law.
Governor Edmund Randolph had for instance, an opinion as to the proper composition of the Preamble to our Constitution:
A preamble seems proper not for the purpose of designating the ends of government and human polities This (business, if not fitter for the schools, is at least sufficiently exhausted) display of theory, howsoever proper in the first formation of state governments, (seems) is unfit here; since we are not working on the natural rights of men not yet gathered into society, but upon those rights, modified by society, and (supporting) interwoven with what we call (states) the rights of states Nor yet is it proper for the purpose of mutually pledging the faith of the parties for the observance of the articles This may be done more solemnly at the close of the draught, as in the confederation But the object of our preamble ought to be briefly to (represent) declare, that the present foederal government is insufficient to the general happiness, that the conviction of this fact gave birth to this convention; and that the only effectual means which they (could) can devise, for curing this insufficiency, is the establishment of a supreme legislative executive and judiciary In this manner we may discharge the first resolution. Let it be next declared, that the following are the constitution and fundamentals of government for the United States.
Try as it did, the Committee of Detail did not finish a proper Preamble. The later Committee of Style would take Mr. Randolphs framework and use it to craft our wonderful Preamble to the Constitution of The United States.
It is known they had help from copies of the Articles of Confederation, State Constitutions, the Paterson and Pinckney Plans, and other documents with which they were familiar. Lack of news from the Convention was infuriating. A member of the NC delegation apologized to his Governor that secrecy forbade discussion of the proceedings. James Madisons father tried his utmost, with no success to pry something from his son.
During the 27 July 6 August break for non-committee members, George Washington and Governeur Morris went trout fishing. They stayed with a friend of Mr. Morris near Valley Forge. The General visited the ruins of the cantonment of the American Army over the winter of 1777 -78. Plowed fields ran between the eroding earthworks. Imagine the scenes that traversed his mind.
When the Committee of Detail reports on August 6th, well have our first glimpse of enumerated powers and how they dealt with the lack of a negative over State Laws. It will show how influential the two Southern Governors were. Slavery and southern agricultural interests would be protected at the expense of Northern commercial and shipping interests.
Constitutional Convention Ping!
Regarding the proposed preamble: Huh?
The Committee of Style will present the Preamble on Sep 12.
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