What was the first work of the convention ?

Pennsylvania proposed George Washington should be President; Dr. Franklin was to have made the motion, but a storm of rain prevented him. Robert Morris was selected to act in his place; and John Rutledge, on behalf of South Carolina, seconded the motion of Pennsylvania.


Give the best description of the President.

General Washington is described by one of his biographers, Aaron Bancroft, who modelled his work after Marshall's “ Life,” “as exactly six feet in height; he appeared taller, as his shoulders rose a little higher than the true proportions. His eyes were of a gray, and his hair of a dark brown color. His complexion was light, and his countenance serene and thoughtful. His limbs were well formed, and indicated strength.” He had long and muscular arms, and General Lafayette said his hands were the largest he had ever seen on a human being. Washington was fifty-five at this time.

Who was the youngest, and who the oldest, deputy in the convention?

Nicholas Gilman of New Hampshire was the youngest, being twenty-five; and Dr. Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest, being eighty-one. One-third of the number were under forty years, and but seven of the fifty-five deputies exceeded sixty years.

Name the plans of government submitted to the convention.

Edmund Randolph, deputy from Virginia, offered a series of fifteen resolutions on the 29th of May, 1787, which looked to a “national” system of government, executive, legislative, and judiciary. Charles Pinckney, deputy from South Carolina, submitted a mixed plan, as it has been called. Both plans were referred to the Committee of the Whole on the same day. On the 15th of June, 1787, William Patterson, deputy from New Jersey, offered a plan to amend, in some particulars, the Articles of Confederation, but preserving the Federal features of the system. This, also, was referred to the Committee of the Whole.

Judge Joseph R. Flanders of New York, in “ A Sketch of Political Parties and their Principles,” thus summarizes the Hamiltonian plan: “On the 18th of June, 1787, Alexander Hamilton of New York made a speech in the convention, in which he read a paper expressing his ideas of a suitable plan of government, the prominent features of which were: A President for life; a Senate for life; a lower House elected for three years; the



legislative branch to be called the legislature of the United States, with power to pass all laws whatsoever, subject to the negative of the life executive, whose veto was to be absolute; and the governor of each State to be appointed by the general government, and to have the absolute power of vetoing all laws passed by the State legislature.

“In his speech he said : We must establish a general and national government completely sovereign, and annihilate all State distinctions and operations. . .

I believe the British goyernment forms the best model the world ever produced.

All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well born, the other the mass of the people. Give, therefore, to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the government. See the excellence of the British executive.

Nothing short of such an executive can be efficient.

I would give them (the two legislative branches] the unlimited power of passing all laws without exception [like the British parliament.]'”

National or Federal ?

The summarist continues: “In the discussion, in the Committee of the Whole, of the several

[ocr errors]



plans which had been presented, the prevailing sentiment seemed to favor a national' system. Mr. Patterson's plan, looking to a continuance of a ‘Federal' system, was rejected in committee, and Mr. Randolph's was approved. It bristled all through with the word 'national,' and was pregnant with centralization. The friends of a Federal system, of a union and government of States, and not of consolidated peoples, took the alarm, warned the States of their danger, advised them to look to their safety, called upon them to fill up their delegations with friends of liberty, and effectually aroused public sentiment; so that when the great battle came on, in the convention, for rights against power, they were strong enough to conquer, and they did conquer.

‘On the 20th of June, 1787, the question came up in the convention on Mr. Randolph's plan. Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut promptly moved to amend the first resolution by striking out the words 'national government,' and inserting in lieu thereof, the words government of the United States.' So strongly had the friends of the States mustered, and so powerful was public sentiment, that the nationalists made no opposition, and the amendment was unanimously carried. This settled the question; the victory was won, and liberty was saved. Then right on, day after day, the

[ocr errors]


word national' was stricken out wherever it occurred, and some other form of expression, indicating the Federal origin and character of the system, was substituted.”

Instead of “national government,” the plural United States is used, and in other instances the words “the Union” and “this Union" occur in the Constitution. Both were adopted as republican substitutes. They were opposed by the “strong government men,” as they were called at that day, and who had made a united effort to secure a majority of deputies from the thirteen States.

Who was Edmund Randolph ?

He was an eminent lawyer of Virginia, and warmly espoused the war for independence. Having filled several honorable offices of the Commonwealth, he was elected to Congress in 1779, and held his seat until 1782. In 1787 he was a member of the convention which framed the Constitution of the United States, voted against the adoption of the instrument, but in the Virginia convention urged its ratification. Mr. Randolph was chosen Governor of Virginia the succeeding year. In 1789 he was appointed Attorney-General of the United States, and in 1794 Secretary of State, which he resigned the year following. He departed this life September 12, 1813.

« ForrigeFortsett »