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rank, William Samuel Johnson, Oliver Ellsworth, and Roger Sherman. Johnson, just elected president of Columbia College, had been a member of Congress, and had a broad view of the situation, Ellsworth was a lawyer of reputation and had at an early age been made a judge of the superior court. of his state. Sherman had started life as a shoemaker, had entered into the political struggles of the Revolution, and had held many positions of trust and honor. His simple honesty, his sound sense, and his straightforward thinking made him a man on whom others relied. The two most prominent delegates from Massachusetts were Elbridge Gerry and Rufus King. Both had been members of Congress. Both were young men of talent. Gerry played a curious rôle in the convention, and has not left a reputation for either just discrimination or wise judgment. King, an eloquent and polished speaker, a man of exceptional personal charm, had for some time been opposed to radical action in altering the Confederation; but he had come to see the danger of delay, and was now ready to act with Wilson and Madison as one of the most effective nationalists in the convention.
In the New Jersey delegation was William Paterson, a lawyer like many of the rest, a man of good ability and of undoubted rectitude of purpose. He was not, however, broad-minded, when compared with the best men about him, and he did not, as we now see, appreciate the magnitude of the problem
or really know the condition of the country. From Delaware came John Dickinson, who had won undying reputation as the “penman of the Revolution.” One of the ablest lawyers and most scholarly men of his day, honest, right-minded, and earnest, he did not always have the faculty of looking at things simply or without misgivings and hesitations. The most conspicuous delegate from Maryland was Luther Martin, a learned lawyer, an implacable and irritating opponent, a prolix and wearisome speaker.' The delegates from South Carolina, John Rutledge, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, and Pierce Butler, were men of strength. The youngest of them all, Charles Pinckney, then under thirty years of age, had already been a member of Congress and had taken a deep interest in the reformation of the Confederation. His experience in public affairs had taught him the need of a thorough change in the organization of the Union.
The second Monday in May was the day set for the convention, but when the time came only a few delegates had assembled. Rhode Island, in placid self-assurance, had not appointed any delegates, and had no intention of doing so. New Hampshire did not appoint till June. At the beginning, therefore, the most that could be expected was representation from eleven states. These early days, when the
· Pierce's notes, in Amer. Hist. Review, III., 330; P. L. Ford, Essays on the Constitution, 183.
Amer. Hist. Review, IX., 738. • Elliot, Debates, I., 126.
delegates on the ground were waiting for a quorum, were not without their value. The more earnest advocates of strong government had a chance to talk over the situation. There was prevalent among the delegates that first assembled a desire for radical action. Some of them had clearly in mind a total alteration of the existing system—they proposed to establish “a great national council or parliament” consisting of two branches; to base this council on proportional representation of the states; to grant it full legislative authority; to bestow upon it unrestricted power of vetoing state laws; and to create an executive office and a judicial system.' The Pennsylvania delegates proposed to Virginia that the large states should at the outset unite in refusing the small states an equal vote in the convention, “as unreasonable, and as enabling the small States to negative every good system of government.” The Virginia representatives, fearing that such an effort would beget fatal altercations, did not favor the project, but proposed that the smaller states should be prevailed on in the course of the debates to yield their equality. This was the beginning of the large-state or national party of the convention.
On May 25 enough states were represented to allow the organization of the convention. Washington was unanimously chosen president. It was
1 Rowland, George Mason, II., » Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 7, n.
determined that the discussions should be carried on in profound secrecy, and that nothing spoken in the house should be printed or otherwise made public without permission. We are, therefore, dependent for our knowledge of those immortal debates in part on the formal journal; in part on the occasional letters that were sent by the delegates to their friends; in part on the hasty notes that were written down by Yates, King, and a few other delegates; but chiefly on the careful reports prepared by the methodical Madison. Knowing the importance of the assembly, Madison took a seat near the front, listened with attention to the speeches, and laboriously wrote down brief and luminous condensations of them.
The delegates from Virginia, doubtless again guided by Madison's indefatigable temper, met daily before the convention assembled,' and drew up a plan of a constitution, which was introduced by Randolph on May 29. In an able speech he spoke of the defects of the Confederation, the prospect of anarchy, and the remedy in the establishment of effective government which could defend itself against encroachment and be superior to the state constitutions. The Virginia resolutions deserve careful consideration because they were taken as the basis of the convention's work, and formed the foundation of the new Constitution.
They declared that the Articles of Confederation should be corrected and enlarged, and that to accomplish that object the right of suffrage in the national legislature should be proportioned either to the quotas of contribution or to the number of free inhabitants; that there should be a legislature of two branches, the members of the first branch to be chosen by the people of the several states and to be ineligible to office under either the United States or any state during their term of service. The members of the second branch were to be elected by those of the first, and were likewise to be ineligible to office under either the United States or any state. Each branch was to have the right to originate bills. The national legislature was to have all the powers vested in the Congress of the Confederation, and in addition other powers which the states were incompetent to exercise. A national executive was to be established, and a national judiciary with a limited jurisdiction including the right to try suits in which foreigners were interested, which concerned the national reyenue, or which involved the “national peace and harmony,” as well as all cases of impeachment. Provision was made for the admission of new states, for the guaranty of a republican government to the states, for amendment "of the Articles of Union." It was expressly provided also that the alterations proposed to the existing Confederation should be submitted to state constituent assemblies or conventions expressly chosen to consider them in the various states.
1 Rowland, George Mason, II., 101. • Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 15.