Mr. Franklin considered the Constitution the best obtainable from imperfect men. Foreign enemies will be surprised to find a collection of squabbling States on the edge of dissolution created such a plan. They will be equally surprised to find others intend to meet later on to cut each others throats. He consented to the Constitution because he was not sure it was not the best. If ratified, he hoped the delegates would do their best to ensure the government was well administered.
He asked the fellow delegates to doubt a little of their infallibility.
Nathaniel Gorham asked if it was not too late to alter the ratio of maximum representation to 1:30,000. It would assist ratification.
Rufus King and Daniel Carroll seconded.
George Washington, President of the Convention had heretofore refrained from offering an opinion. Inasmuch as objections to the plan should be minimized, he supported the change as beneficial and of such consequence that it would give him much satisfaction to see it adopted.
Mr. Gorhams motion passed unanimously.
Governor Randolph spoke in opposition and apologized for not agreeing with the gentlemen who signed it. It did not mean he would join those who at that moment were planning their public opposition. He predicted the Constitution would not be ratified by nine States. (Gov. Randolph would later defend the Constitution at the VA Ratifying Convention.)
Governeur Morris had objections too, but would take it with all of its faults. The great question will be, shall there be a national government or not? If not, there will be anarchy.
Hugh Williamson would limit signing to the letter accompanying the Constitution to Congress. He did not think a better plan could be expected.
Alexander Hamilton wished every member to sign. Infinite mischief would be done by the refusal of consequential men to do so. All knew his ideas were remote from the plan, but there was no choice between anarchy on one side and the chance of good government on the other.
William Blount (NC) would sign without committing himself to supporting it.
Benjamin Franklin wished to assure Governor Randolph that his comments were not directed at him. He acknowledged and thanked the Governor for bringing the plan forward in the first place. He hoped he would put aside his objections and prevent the great mischief his absence might produce. Edmund Randolph had to move with his conscience; he would not sign. He also objected to the up or down alternatives presented to the people. Forcing them to either accept or reject the Constitution in toto would produce anarchy and civil convulsions.
Elbridge Gerry respectfully elaborated on his intent to not sign the Constitution. He feared civil war in the present crisis facing the US. In MA, the State was torn between democracy and another violent party. Confusion and opposition will result from the failure of the Constitution to better mediate the parties. He could not pledge himself to abide by the plan and considered Mr. Franklins comments directed at him.
General Pinckney did not see the form of signing as converting any opponents. He pledged to support the Constitution with all his influence.
Benjamin Franklin thought it best to withhold support before Congress forwards, and the people of the States ratify.
Jared Ingersoll (PA) viewed signing as a recommendation of what most is most eligible, passable.
The motion of Mr. Franklin, that the Constitution be signed by the members and offered the following as a convenient form viz. "Done in Convention by the unanimous consent of the States present the 17th. of September - In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names," passed 10-0-1.
Rufus King asked whether the record of votes should be entrusted to the President or destroyed. If offered to the public they would be used to defeat the Constitution.
James Wilson preferred to trust the journal to the safekeeping of the President. The Convention voted unanimously to keep it confidential until a new Congress, if formed, should decide otherwise. Members signed the Constitution. Benjamin Franklin made his famous observation that a rising sun was painted on the back of George Washingtons chair.
The Constitution, being signed by all members present, (Recall that Robert Yates, John Lansing both from NY, left the Convention in early July. John Mercer and Luther Martin from MD left on September 4th, and RI never showed up at all.) save Mr. Randolph, Mr. Mason, Mr. Gerry, the Convention adjourned sine die.
We can hardly, truly appreciate 224 years later the enormity of what these men accomplished. Think of the regional animosities that occur in mostly in good humor at FreeRepublic, when for instance, the War between the States comes up. Multiply that by a hundred to perhaps get our minds around the State and regional distrust these men had upon meeting in May 1787.
A few notables of the era decided to not attend when appointed by their States. Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, both of Virginia declined. They were prominent, respected, revolutionary patriots. We will never know how our governing document would have emerged differently had these men been present. Other notable delegates contributed for a period and left early. At the top were Judge Robert Yates and John Lansing of New York, who left during the second week of July, presumably to consult with Governor Clinton and plan opposition to whatever the remaining delegates passed. Luther Martin, Attorney General of his State, the sour and pigheaded, managed to prick egos as well as consciences before he left to organize similar resistance in Maryland.
So, Elbridge Gerry, George Mason, and Edmund Randolph were not the only ones to express dismay with the Constitution. They were without a doubt, the most gentlemanly in their opposition. Despite misgivings, they attended and influenced the Convention to the end.
They were true Americans as much as James Madison, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the other signers and defenders of the Constitution.
Ultimately, our liberty is ours to regain or lose. No piece of parchment alone can retrieve that which our ancestors fought and died to give us.
Awesome day; where is Palin supposed to be today? Anyone know here logistics?
If it ain’t today, I’m not sure I want it to be...not sure how positive such an announcement would be for our side at this point.
The negative book is out and it is being laughed at, so that is good.
How could Palin and Perry team up at this point? Anyone think she and Perry are talking off-record?
I am getting fatigued with this, I have to admit.
Happy Constitution Day, Freepers!
The RevWar/Colonial History/General Washington ping list...
THANKS to you both.....
Imagine being so passionate about something, i.e., their new country, and simultaneously being willing to compromise on some personally held beliefs and even acknowledging one’s own fallability, in order to see that the new nation would survive and prosper. If only old Ben and the boys were around today!
Wow. Great stuff. But may I suggest that you space out your posts a bit, say one per day or the like? When you post so many articles at once, you push your own articles off the page along with articles posted by others.