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Evidently the Virginia plan was not a mere “temporizing expedient.” It contemplated the establishment of a national government and the formation of a real constitution. Apparently the new government was to have powers of legislation and not merely of recommendation. There was, moreover, some provision for the maintenance of authority, a remedy offered for the old difficulty. The plan provided that the officials of every state should “be bound by oath to support the articles of Union”; that the national legislature should have power to call forth the militia against any member “failing to fulfil its duty”; and that it should likewise be empowered to negative all laws contravening in its opinion the Articles of Union. Such was the remedy offered-the moral obligation of an oath, the force of neighboring states, the veto in the hands of the central government. Something better than this must be discovered before the convention solved its most trying problem.
When Randolph had finished, Charles Pinckney introduced a plan? of his own, confessing that it was based on the same principles as Randolph's.? It also proposed a legislature of two branches, executive and judicial departments, and a negative on the acts of the states. This plan was not discussed in detail before the convention, but it had considerable influence in determining the contents of the Con
· Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 22.
stitution. It should be noticed that the plan commonly printed in the Journal of the convention and in Madison's notes is not the real plan Pinckney presented; as it stands in the Journal it has deceived thousands of persons, who have been struck with the remarkable resemblance between the plan there printed and the finished Constitution, a resemblance accounted for by the fact that when the Journal was being printed, in 1818, Pinckney sent in as a copy of his plan, not his original propositions at all, but a paper which marked an advanced stage of the convention's work.
The fundamental proposition presented to the convention by the Virginia plan was next put forward sharply in a series of resolutions which were offered by Randolph on the suggestion of Gouverneur Morris: the eager young statesman from Pennsylvania could not wait for any gradual elaboration of a plan or principle of government. These resolutions showed clearly the intent of the leaders of the large-state party:(1) “ that a union of the States merely federal will not accomplish the objects proposed by the articles of Confederation”; (2) “that no treaty or treaties among the whole or part of the States, as individual Sovereignties, would be sufficient”; (3) “that a national Government ought to
1 Amer. Hist. Review, IX., 736.
Elliot, Debates I., 145; Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 23; Journal of the Constitutional Convention (Scott's ed.), 64.
* Amer. Hist. Assoc., Report, 1902, I., 112.
be established consisting of a supreme Legislative, Executive and Judiciary." Of these resolutions the first two were passed by without much discussion. The third, which went to the gist of the question before the convention, was agreed to, New York being divided and Connecticut voting no.
Morris, in the course of the debate, explained the distinction between a federal and a national or supreme government, “the former being a mere compact resting on the good faith of the parties; the latter having a compleat and compulsive operation." Mason declared the Confederation deficient in not providing for coercion and punishment against delinquent states, but argued cogently that punishment could not in the nature of things be visited on states, and that consequently a government was needed that could directly operate on men and punish only those whose guilt required it. There was thus brought clearly before the convention the cardinal and central proposition of the Virginia members which the men of national enthusiasm in the convention were hastening to support-a government over men, a rejection of the old theory of states united in a perpetual league of inefficient friendship. By the adoption of this resolution the convention in reality set upon the work, not of patching up the old Confederation, but, by a peaceful revolution, of putting aside the old impotent system altogether.
1 Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 37.
; Ibid., 39.
In the resolution thus first adopted as the expression of the general intention of the convention, the word "national" was used, as in other resolutions of the Virginia plan. Later in the history of the convention this word was stricken out wherever it appeared, and from this fact it has been plausibly argued that the framers of the Constitution abandoned their intention of establishing a national government. The elision of the word had, in fact, no such significance, for the resolution to omit the word was unanimously adopted at a time (June 20) when the men desiring a national government were in control of the convention; the reason alleged for the omission was not that the purpose of establishing a national government was given up; the men chiefly desiring a national government were evidently not intent on the word, if their object was accomplished; the word was used and the fact dwelt on in debate after the omission of the word from the resolutions. In short, the erasure is of no significance except for the fact that in years to come it gave some ground for argument and assertion.
When the proposition for the establishment of proportional representation came up, Madison explained that while there might have been reason for
equality of suffrage when the Union was a federal one among sovereign States," ' there was no sense in continuing that method of representation when a national government was established. But this line
1 Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 44.
of argument was not quite satisfactory to some of the delegates: Delaware had willingly enough voted for a national government, but when it came to voting for proportional representation, that was another matter; she did not intend to yield her equal share of political influence. The delegates from that state reminded the convention that they were restrained by their commission from assenting to any change in the rule of suffrage, and, if such a change were insisted on, might feel bound to leave and go home. Morris was not unwilling to force a decision on the question in spite of Delaware's protest; but the question was at length postponed
Thus began the controversy over proportional representation, the bitter controversy of the convention. It was not new. It had its roots in the envy and local jealousies that had for ten years and more been showing themselves as the bane of continental politics. When the question as to the manner of voting under the Articles of Confederation was under consideration, there had been the same difference of opinion, and the little states had maintained their right to an equal share in the suffrage. The landless states, like Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware, had in the past feared the strength of their bigger neighbors, and this same unreasonable but natural fear, aided by a zeal for the maintenance
1 Madison, Writings (Hunt's ed.), III., 43. * Elliot, Debates, I., 74, 75.