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EXTERIOR MOUNT VERNON PLANTATION - DAWN
GEORGE WASHINGTON comes out of the house with MARTHA WASHINGTON, kisses her, and gets in his carriage which has been prepared for a journey by his servants. The carriage leaves, as Martha waves goodby.
EXT. CHESTNUT STREET IN PHILADELPHIA - DAY
PHILADELPHIA, MAY 1787
Washington's carriage is accompanied by an escort of the City Light Horse and several mounted citizens. Church bells are ringing, and many people have lined the street to greet the famous hero.
INT. FRANKLIN'S HOUSE IN PHILADELPHIA - DAY
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, now 81 years old and suffering from gout, is showing Washington some of his inventions.
It smoothes your clothes;
no ironing is needed.
That is very clever.
Another one of my inventions.
I should think you would find
my duplicating machine
most useful for copying letters.
This machine exhibits the circulation of blood.
Remarkable, but I don't want to keep you
on your feet too long with your gout.
Shall we sit down in your rocking chairs to talk?
Certainly, this room is often used for meetings
of the American Philosophical Society
and sometimes the Executive Council of Pennsylvania.
You know they re-elected me President twice.
In the last election there was
only one vote against me---my own.
Pennsylvanians have eaten my flesh
and seem resolved now to pick my bones.
They sit down.
You and I know
how arduous public service can be,
but when our country needs us,
what else can we do?
Because the state of New York will not agree,
the Congress can not even get an import tax
so that we could begin paying off the national debt.
If the federal government is not strengthened,
we shall have thirteen nations instead of one.
Certainly we face a crisis now, but I think
we are on the right road of improvement,
for we are making experiments.
I am so glad that you finally decided
to attend this Convention.
Several months ago I wrote the Cincinnati
that I could not attend
their Philadelphia meeting in May.
How was I to know
that this Convention would be called
for the same month in the same city?
Some, particularly Thomas Jefferson,
thought the Cincinnati Order
could be very dangerous
as the beginning of an aristocracy in this country.
That was not our intention,
but rather it was a way of keeping the fellowship
of officers who served in the War for Independence.
I recommended that the order be changed
so that it was absolutely not hereditary
nor would there be honorary members;
no money would be used for political purposes,
and I asked that no general meetings be held
but only meetings in each state.
All of my recommendations were approved
except the one about general meetings.
Anyway you are here,
and like me, you have not allowed
minor ailments to hold you back.
If it wasn't for your Potomac canal project
this convention might never have been called.
Making a waterway to the west has been my dream,
and we met at Mount Vernon to bring together
officials of Virginia and Maryland.
Then there was the meeting
on commerce at Annapolis.
Yes, but it was disappointing to hear
that only five states were represented there.
You Virginians know how to stir things up.
The rebellion of Daniel Shays in Massachusetts
may have aroused more men of good conscience
to see the need for major constitutional reforms.
Otherwise what a triumph it would be
for our enemies and the advocates of despotism
to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves
and that systems founded
on the basis of equal liberty
are merely ideal and fallacious.
Would to God that we may take
wise measures in time to avert the consequences
we have reason to apprehend.
Let us hope all the states send delegates here.
I will drink to that,
if you will share some porter with me.
Thank you, Dr. Franklin, I will.
Where are you staying
while you are in Philadelphia?
Robert Morris has invited me into his home.
There is no more elegant place than that.
EXT. PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE - 10 A.M.
Washington's carriage pulls up in front, and Washington, JAMES MADISON, GEORGE WYTHE, JOHN BLAIR, and ROBERT MORRIS get out and go into the State House. As the carriage pulls away, two trusted convicts carry the sedan chair of Franklin into the building.
INT. EAST ROOM OF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE - 10 A.M.
The East Room is where the Continental Congress met and declared independence. A bar with a gate divides off the official chamber of delegates. On the wall is a board with thirteen placards with the name of each state so that they can be slid to the left for a yes vote and to the right for a no vote. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, JAMES WILSON, THOMAS FITZSIMONS and Robert Morris of Pennsylvania lead the Virginia delegation of Washington, Madison, Wythe, and Blair into the chamber. Following them is the sedan chair of Franklin.
As signers of the Declaration of Independence
along with Dr. Franklin, Mr. Wilson and myself,
I am sure that Mr. Wythe knows this hall well.
I see that Virginia is well represented,
and our Pennsylvanian delegation is present.
Two states is hardly a quorum.
Don't we need at least seven for an official session?
Yes, seven, a majority, would be enough to begin.
Spring rain has made a mess of the roads.
It could be several days before more delegates arrive.
That does not mean
we cannot have informal discussions
and get to know each other better.
This social familiarity was of great value to us
back in seventeen seventy-four and five.
That is true;
private conversations can be helpful.
It is probable that
no plan we propose will be adopted.
Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained.
If, to please the people,
we offer what we ourselves disapprove,
how can we afterwards defend our work?
Let us raise a standard to which
the wise and the honest can repair.
The event is in the hand of God.
Shall our two delegations
meet daily at three then?
Everyone nods their heads or shows tacit agreement.
Till three o'clock then.
As the Pennsylvanians go out, Madison speaks to his fellow Virginians.
I think it would be good
if our Virginia delegation
could meet each morning at ten to work on a plan
that we could then present to the convention.
I have several ideas sketched out already.
We might as well use our time well.
Yes, that is agreeable.
EXT. PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE - RAINY DAY
Washington's carriage pulls up, and Washington and Robert Morris get out and go into the building. Many other delegates are also arriving in the rain.
INT. EAST ROOM - RAINY DAY
Twenty-nine delegates are in the chamber including now ROBERT YATES and ALEXANDER HAMILTON of New York; RUFUS KING of Massachusetts; DAVID BREARLEY, WILLIAM HOUSTON, and WILLIAM PATERSON of New Jersey; GEORGE READ, RICHARD BASSETT, and JACOB BROOM of Delaware; EDMUND RANDOLPH, GEORGE MASON and JAMES MCCLURG of Virginia; ALEXANDER MARTIN, WILLIAM DAVIE, RICHARD SPAIGHT, and HUGH WILLIAMSON of North Carolina; JOHN RUTLEDGE, CHARLES PINCKNEY, CHARLES COTESWORTH PINCKNEY, and PIERCE BUTLER of South Carolina; and WILLIAM FEW of Georgia.
Having a quorum of seven states present today,
on behalf of Dr. Franklin,
President of Pennsylvania,
who is ill and could not be here,
I propose a President be elected by ballot.
Hearing no objection,
I nominate George Washington.
I second the nomination,
and I am confident that the choice will be unanimous.
In view of Mr. Washington's presence in the hall
I do not think there should be any discussion.
Are there are any other nominations?
Then each state will mark its ballot.
Robert Morris and Rutledge lead Washington up to the President's chair.
George Washington has been unanimously elected
President of this Convention.
Washington sits on the raised dais in a chair, on the high back of which is carved and gilded a sun on the horizon.
I thank you for this honor you confer upon me,
and I remind you
of the novelty of our circumstances.
I regret my want of qualifications for this post
and ask your indulgence
for the errors I may commit,
as they will be unintentional due to
my lack of experience in parliamentary procedures.
With the help of God I shall do my best.
What would be the first order of business?
The Delegation from Delaware is thus enjoined
against changing the article in the Confederation
establishing an equality of votes among the States.
Pennsylvania suggests that
each delegate have a vote
and that the number of delegates from each state
should be apportioned by their population.
what is the Rules Committee's report?
By the rules agreed upon,
seven states form a quorum;
all decisions shall be made by majority vote
of the states fully represented.
That no copy be taken of any entry on the journal
during the sitting of the House without leave.
That members only be permitted
to inspect the journal.
That nothing spoken in the House
be printed or otherwise published
or communicated without leave.
In order to preserve this secrecy from eavesdroppers
I suggest the windows be closed during our sessions.
It may get hot later in the afternoons,
but at least it will keep the flies out.
Additional delegates now are NATHANIEL GORHAM, CALEB STRONG, and ELBRIDGE GERRY of Massachusetts, OLIVER ELLSWORTH of Connecticut, GUNNING BEDFORD and JOHN DICKINSON of Delaware, JAMES MCHENRY of Maryland, and GEORGE CLYMER, THOMAS MIFFLIN, and JARED INGERSOLL of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Randolph of Virginia.
Thank you, Mr. President.
I regret that I am young
and less experienced than most of you,
but as this convention originated from Virginia,
some proposition seems to be expected from me.
In revising the federal system we ought to inquire
into the characteristics of such a government
so that it may be secure against foreign invasion,
against dissensions between members of the Union
or seditions in particular states;
to procure to the several States various blessings,
of which an isolated situation was incapable;
to be able to defend itself against encroachment;
and to be paramount to the state constitutions.
The failure to achieve these objectives
shows the defects of the confederation.
The prospect of anarchy
from the laxity of government
everywhere reveals the danger of our situation.
The remedy must be by the republican principle.
Thus I propose the following resolutions:
The Articles of Confederation
ought to be so corrected
as to accomplish its objects, namely
common defense, security of liberty,
and general welfare.
The rights of suffrage in the National Legislature
ought to be proportioned
to the Quotas of the contribution
or to the number of free inhabitants.
This Legislature ought to consist of two branches,
members of the first branch elected by the people
and members of the second
elected by those in the first.
Each branch ought to have the right
to originate Acts and to legislate in all cases
in which the separate States are incompetent,
to negative all laws passed by the several States,
and to call forth the force of the Union
against any member failing to fulfill its duty.
A National Executive is to be instituted
and chosen by the National Legislature
with a general authority
to execute the National laws.
A Council of revision
from the Executive and Judiciary
ought to examine every act of the Legislature.
A National Judiciary is to be established
with a supreme tribunal
and other tribunals as needed.
Provision ought to be made
for the admission of States.
A republican government
and the territory of each State
ought to be guaranteed
by the United States to each state.
Provision ought to be made
for Congress to continue
until after the reform of the articles of Union.
Provision ought to be made
for the amendment of the Articles of Union
the assent of the National Legislature.
The Legislative, Executive and Judiciary powers
within the several States ought to be bound by oath
to support the articles of Union.
Amendments offered to the Confederation
by this Convention after the approbation of Congress
are to be submitted to assemblies
chosen by the people
to consider and decide thereon.
I conclude by urging you not to let this opportunity
of establishing general peace, harmony, happiness
and liberty in the United States to pass unimproved.
ROGER SHERMAN of Connecticut has joined this session of the convention.
I now give the gavel
to Mr. Gorham of Massachusetts,
who as chairman for the Committee of the Whole,
will preside over the debate of the Virginia Plan.
Washington takes a seat with the Virginia delegation, as Gorham replaces him in the presiding chair.
The Chairman recognizes Mr. Randolph of Virginia.
At Gouverneur Morris's suggestion I move
that we first consider the resolution that
a national Government ought to be established
consisting of a supreme Legislative,
Executive and Judiciary.
Mr. Chairman, I second the motion.
Is there any objection to this motion?
Hearing none, it is carried unanimously.
Does Mr. Randolph's plan mean that
State Governments would be abolished altogether?
Heretofore I have opposed
granting powers to Congress,
because the whole power was vested in one body.
The distribution of powers proposed changes the case,
which will induce me to go great lengths.
C. C. PINCKNEY
I doubt whether Congress has authorized us
to discuss a system founded on principles
different from the Confederation.
A federal government is a mere compact
resting on the good faith of the parties,
but a national and supreme government
has a complete and compulsive operation.
In all communities there must be
one supreme power, and one only.
The present Confederation is deficient
in not providing for coercion
and punishment against delinquent States.
Punishment cannot in the nature of things
be executed on the States collectively short of war.
Government is needed
to operate directly on individuals
that will punish only those whose guilt requires it.
The Confederation has not given
sufficient power to Congress,
and additional powers are necessary,
particularly that of raising money.
Mr. Chairman, I move the question,
that a national government ought to be established
consisting of a supreme Legislative,
Executive and Judiciary.
The voting board shows Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina on the left for yes; New York in the middle for divided; and Connecticut on the right for no. The names of the other States have been removed from the board.
The vote is: Ayes six, noes one, divided one.
The resolution is approved.
Mr. Madison of Virginia.
I move Mr. Randolph's second resolution,
that the equality of suffrage
established by the Articles of Confederation
ought not to prevail in the national Legislature,
and that an equitable ratio of representation
ought to be substituted.
Mr. Chairman, I second the motion.
This motion is generally acclaimed.
If there is no objection---
Mr. Chairman, I move that the whole clause
relating to representation be postponed.
I remind the Committee that
the deputies from Delaware
are restrained by our commission
from assenting to any change of the rule of suffrage.
If such a change were to be fixed upon,
it might become our duty
to retire from the Convention.
So early a proof of discord in the Convention
as the secession of a State would be regretted;
however this change is fundamental.
In the federal Union acts of Congress
depended on the cooperation of the States,
but the acts of a National Government
would take effect
without the intervention of the State legislatures.
A vote from a small State
would have the same efficacy
as a vote from a large one, which is unfair.
The resolution to postpone is approved.
I believe though, we have made progress.
The Committee is adjourned
until ten o'clock tomorrow.
WILLIAM PIERCE of Georgia has taken his seat, and Georgia has been added to the voting board.
Despite Dr. Franklin's partiality to a single House,
the resolution "that a national legislature
ought to consist of two branches"
has been approved.
The next item for debate is "that the members
of the first branch of the National Legislature
ought to be elected
by the people of the several States."
I oppose the election by the people.
It ought to be by the State Legislatures.
The people should have little to do with Government.
They lack information and are constantly misled.
The evils we experienced in Massachusetts
flowed from the excess of democracy.
I am still republican, but I have learned
to be wary of the leveling spirit.
I believe election of the larger branch by the people
is essential as the grand depository of democracy.
Like the House of Commons it ought to know
and sympathize with every part of the community
and thus should come from different districts.
I strongly agree with Mr. Mason and am for
raising the federal pyramid to a lofty altitude,
and for that reason wish to give it a broad base.
No government can long subsist
without the confidence of the people.
I think it wrong to increase
the weight of the State Legislatures;
their ability to interfere should be obviated.
Popular election is essential to free Government.
If the first branch is elected by State Legislatures,
the second branch elected by the first,
the Executive elected by both of these,
and other appointments made by the Executive,
the people will be lost sight of altogether,
and the necessary sympathy between them
and their rulers and officers too little felt.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia voting yes; New Jersey and South Carolina voting no; and Connecticut and Delaware divided.
The resolution is approved.
The next is "that the second or senatorial branch
ought to be chosen by the first branch
out of persons nominated by the State Legislatures."
I say the second branch of the Legislature
ought to be chosen by the State Legislatures,
and I move the resolution be amended to that effect.
I would like to ask Mr. Randolph
why so many powers
are being taken out of the hands of the States.
How many members would be in the second branch?
It ought to be much smaller than the first,
as to be exempt from the passions of the numerous.
A good Senate would be a check on the evils
arising from the turbulence
and follies of democracy.
I think the second branch ought to be independent
of both the first branch and the State Legislatures.
Both branches ought to be chosen by the people,
but I have no specific proposal.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Virginia and South Carolina voting yes; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina and Georgia voting no.
The Resolution for electing the second branch
out of the nominations of the State Legislatures
is not approved.
WILLIAM HOUSTON of Georgia has taken his seat.
The seventh Resolution is
"that a national Executive be instituted,
to be chosen by the national Legislature
for a term of blank years."
C. C. PINCKNEY
I fear a vigorous Executive
extending to war and peace,
which would render the Executive a monarchy,
of the worst kind, to wit an elective one.
I move that the Executive consist of a single person.
I second the motion.
There being no more debate,
shall I put the question?
I think this is of great importance.
I wish delegates would deliver their sentiments on it
before the question is put.
A single man would feel the greatest responsibility
and administer public affairs the best.
The Executive magistracy is
nothing more than a means
for carrying the will of the Legislature into effect;
therefore he or they ought to be appointed by
and be accountable to the Legislature only.
I prefer a single magistrate,
as giving most energy,
dispatch and responsibility to the office.
I oppose a unity in the Executive magistracy,
for he would be the foetus of monarchy.
The Executive ought to be independent,
and therefore in order to support that independency
it ought to consist of more than one.
I think that unity in the Executive
would be the best safeguard against tyranny,
and in theory I am for an election by the people.
From districts people could vote for electors.
Yes, I oppose election by the national legislature,
because there would be constant intrigue for it.
The next morning WILLIAM JOHNSON of Connecticut, DANIEL OF ST. THOMAS JENIFER of Maryland, and JOHN LANSING of New York have taken their seats. Maryland has been added to the voting board.
Dr. Franklin has asked me to convey his thoughts:
He believes the Executive should serve gratuitously
except for necessary expenses
in order to avoid
uniting the passions of ambition and avarice.
Mr. Washington refused a salary
as commander in chief.
I second the idea and would like to see it proposed.
Some mode of displacing an unfit magistrate
is rendered indispensable
by the fallibility of those who choose
as well as by the corruptibility of the man chosen.
I oppose decidedly making the Executive
the mere creature of the Legislature
as a violation of the fundamentals
of good government.
This business is so important
that no man ought to be silent.
The Legislative, Executive and Judiciary departments
ought to be made as independent as possible.
I consider limited monarchy
one of the best governments,
but the spirit of our times forbids that experiment.
One remedy is the lucky division into States.
As to representation in the national Legislature
affecting the sizes of States,
it must probably end in mutual concession.
I hope that each State will retain an equal voice
in at least one branch of the national Legislature,
and I suppose the sums paid by each State
would form a better ratio for the other branch
than the number of inhabitants
or amount of property.
Mr. Rutledge and I move
the Executive be one person.
The reasons are so obvious and conclusive
that no member could oppose this motion.
I oppose it most earnestly, sirs.
The people are adverse
to the very semblance of monarchy.
Unity is unnecessary,
and plurality is equally competent.
Three members could be drawn
from different regions.
One man would be responsible to the whole,
but three would struggle against each other.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; New York, Delaware, and Maryland voting no.
The question for a single Executive is agreed to.
I move that the Executive alone
be given revisionary control on the laws
unless overruled by two-thirds of each branch.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; Connecticut and Delaware voting no.
The motion is passed.
The motions to establish a National Judiciary
and inferior tribunals have both been approved.
We are adjourned until tomorrow.
WILLIAM LIVINGSTON of New Jersey has taken his seat. McHenry and Wythe have left.
I move that the first branch
of the National Legislature be elected
by the State Legislatures and not by the people.
In Massachusetts the worst men
get into the Legislature.
Several members have lately
been convicted of crimes.
Men of indigence, ignorance
and baseness spare no pains,
however dirty to carry their point against men
who are superior to the artifices practiced.
Government ought to possess not only the force
but also the mind or sense of the people at large.
Representation is necessary only because
it is impossible for the people to act collectively.
I think the objects of the Union are few:
one: defense against foreign danger;
two: against internal disputes and resort to force;
three: treaties with foreign nations;
and four: regulating foreign commerce
and drawing revenue from it.
All other matters civil and criminal
would be much better in the hands of the States.
Under the existing Confederacy,
Congress represents the States,
not the people of the States;
their acts operate on the States,
not on individuals.
The case will be changed
in the new plan of government.
The people will be represented;
they ought therefore to choose the Representatives.
To the objects mentioned
by the member from Connecticut
I differ in adding the necessity of providing
more effectually for the security of private rights
and the steady dispensation of Justice.
There have always been factions and interests.
The only remedy is to enlarge the sphere
and thereby divide the community
into so great a number of interests and parties,
that a majority will not be able
to have a common interest separate from
that of the whole or of the minority.
It is essential that one branch of the Legislature
should be drawn immediately from the people,
and as expedient that the other
should be chosen by the Legislatures of the States.
The voting board shows: Connecticut, New Jersey, and South Carolina voting yes; Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia voting no.
The question for electing the first branch
by the State Legislatures has failed.
I move that the members of the second branch
ought to be chosen by the individual Legislatures.
Mr. Chairman, I second the motion,
for the particular States would thus
be interested in supporting
the national Government,
and a due harmony between them
would be maintained.
They ought to have separate jurisdictions
but a mutual interest in supporting each other.
A national Government
ought to flow from the people.
If one branch is chosen by the Legislatures
and the other by the people,
dissensions will arise.
I wish the Senate to be elected by the people as well.
The preservation of the States is indispensable.
The collision between different authorities
should be wished for in order to check each other.
To abolish the States altogether would be ruinous.
Let our Government be like that of the solar system.
Let the general Government be like the sun
and the States the planets, repelled yet attracted,
and the whole moving regularly and harmoniously
in their several orbits.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; New Jersey not voting.
Mr. Dickinson's motion
for appointment to the Senate
by the State Legislatures
is carried unanimously.
I move that the National Legislature
should have authority to negative all laws
which they should judge to be improper.
Such universal power is needed
to render it effectual;
the States must be kept subordinate to the nation.
I second the motion
to negative State legislative acts.
Experience has evinced
a constant tendency in the States
to encroach on the federal authority,
to violate national treaties,
to infringe the rights and interests of each other,
to oppress the weaker party
within their jurisdictions.
The negative would render
the use of force unnecessary
and could control
the centrifugal tendency of the States,
which otherwise fly out of their proper orbits
and destroy the order and harmony
of the political system.
I am against giving a power that might restrain
the States from regulating their internal police.
The cases in which the negative
ought to be exercised might be defined.
Abuses of power over the individual person
may happen as well as over the individual States.
Federal liberty is to States
what civil liberty is to private individuals.
In the first Congress we realized
we are now one nation of brethren.
We must bury all local interests and distinctions.
This language continued for some time,
but the tables at length began to turn.
No sooner were the State Governments formed
than their jealousy and ambition
began to display themselves.
Review the progress of
the Articles of Confederation through Congress
and compare the first and last drafts.
To correct its vices
is the business of this convention.
One of its vices is the want of an effectual control
in the whole over its parts.
What danger is there that the whole
will unnecessarily sacrifice a part?
But reverse the case
and leave the whole at the mercy of each part,
and will not the general interest
be continually sacrificed to local interests?
Strip the small states
of their equal right of suffrage
and Delaware would have
one-ninetieth for its share,
while Pennsylvania and Virginia
would possess one-third.
Will not these large States crush the small ones?
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia voting yes; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting no; Delaware divided.
extending the negative power to all cases
as proposed by Mr. Pinckney and Mr. Madison
LUTHER MARTIN of Maryland has taken his seat.
I move that the Committee resume
the clause relating to the rule of suffrage
in the National Legislature.
I second that motion.
When the proposition for destroying
the equality of votes came forward,
I was astonished and alarmed.
Is it fair, it will be asked,
that Georgia should have
an equal vote with Virginia?
I will not say it is.
What is the remedy then?
that a map of the United States be spread out,
that all existing boundaries be erased,
and that a new partition of the whole
be made into thirteen equal parts.
The proposition for a proportional representation
strikes at the existence of the lesser States.
This Convention was formed by an act of Congress
to amend the Articles of Confederation.
We have no power to go beyond the federal scheme,
and, if we had, the people are not ripe for any other.
We must follow the people;
the people will not follow us.
Mr. Wilson hinted that the large States
might be reduced to confederating among themselves
by a refusal of the others to concur.
Let them unite if they please,
but let them remember that they have no authority
to compel the others to unite.
New Jersey will never confederate on this plan.
She would be swallowed up.
I would rather submit to a monarch, to a despot.
Since all authority is derived from the people,
equal numbers of people ought to have
an equal number of representatives.
This was improperly violated in the Confederation,
owing to the urgent circumstances of the time.
If the small States will not confederate on this plan,
Pennsylvania and, I presume, some other States
will not confederate on any other.
Shall the question be put?
since so much depends on this question,
I hope that it might be postponed until tomorrow.
If there is no objection,
the committee is adjourned.
ABRAHAM BALDWIN of Georgia has taken his seat.
I propose that the proportion of suffrage
in the first branch should be according to
the respective numbers of free inhabitants;
and that in the second branch or Senate,
each State should have one vote and no more.
The proportion of suffrage in the first branch
should be according to the contributions.
I agree; for money is power.
I move that the right of suffrage
in the first branch of the national Legislature
ought not to be according to the rule
established in the Articles of Confederation,
but according to some equitable ratio of representation.
I second it.
Are we ready now for the question?
I have thrown some ideas on paper,
which Mr. Wilson will read to the Committee.
"It has given me great pleasure to observe that
till this point of representation came before us,
our debates were carried on with great coolness.
We are sent here to consult, not to contend.
Declarations of fixed opinion
determined never to change
neither enlighten nor convince us.
Anger on one side naturally begets it on the other
and tends to augment discord and division,
wherein harmony and Union
are extremely necessary
to give weight to our councils
and render them effectual
in promoting and securing the common good.
I think decisions should be
by a majority of members
rather than by a majority of States."
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; New York, New Jersey, and Delaware voting no; Maryland divided.
The motion for proportional representation is passed.
I move the question be taken that
each State should have one vote in the second branch;
for everything depends on this,
since the smaller States will never agree otherwise.
The voting board shows: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland voting yes; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting no.
The question is defeated.
I move that the right of suffrage in the second branch
ought to be according to the same rule as in the first.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland voting no.
The question for making the ratio of representation
the same in the second as in the first branch
is passed six to five.
The Committee of the Whole now rises
to make its report on Mr. Randolph's propositions.
A copy of the resolutions approved has been printed
for every member of this Convention.
Washington has resumed the Presidential chair and has recognized Paterson.
several deputations, especially New Jersey,
request time to contemplate the plan
reported from the Committee of the Whole
and to prepare another purely federal,
which we hope would be ready by tomorrow,
to lay before the Convention.
If there is no objection, the Convention adjourns.
This is the plan we wish to substitute
in place of the one proposed by Mr. Randolph.
So that copies of this new plan may be made
we shall adjourn until tomorrow
at which time we will meet
as a Committee of the whole.
The plan of Mr. Paterson from New Jersey
sustains the sovereignty of the respective States;
that of Mr. Randolph from Virginia destroys it.
I have two objections to the latter:
the want of power in this Convention to propose it
and the improbability of its being adopted.
My plan is in accord
with the powers of the Convention
and with the sentiments of the people.
If the Confederacy is radically wrong,
let us return to our States and obtain larger powers,
not assume them of ourselves.
It seems to me the whole thing comes to this:
Give New Jersey an equal vote,
and she will dismiss her scruples
and concur in the National system.
When the salvation of the Republic is at stake,
it would be treason to our trust
not to propose what we find necessary.
I am obliged to declare myself
unfriendly to both plans,
but particularly the one from New Jersey.
I conceive a federal Government to mean
an association of independent communities into one.
The States sent us here
to provide for the exigencies of the Union.
The great question is what provision shall we make
for the happiness of our country?
How then are all these evils to be avoided?
Only a complete sovereignty
in the general Government
will turn aside all the strong principles and passions.
Let one branch of the Legislature
hold their places for life
or at least during good behavior.
Let the executive also be for life.
These statements bring a negative response of groans and complaints. Hamilton pauses for a drink of water, as Randolph and Washington talk aside to each other.
Is Hamilton going to speak all day?
It looks as though he will.
He has been at it for five hours already,
and he is just beginning to explain his plan.
Madison is speaking the next morning.
Mr. Paterson's plan is intended
to preserve the Union
and to provide a government
that will remedy the evils
felt by the States both united and individually;
but does it promise satisfaction in these respects?
Will it prevent violations of the law of nations
and treaties which if not prevented
must involve us in the calamities of foreign wars?
Will it prevent encroachments on the federal authority?
Will it prevent trespasses of the States on each other?
Will it secure the internal tranquillity of the States?
Will it secure a good internal legislation
and administration to the particular States?
Will it secure the Union against
the influence of foreign powers over its members?
Will it help small States pay for their delegations?
Finally I beg you to consider the situation in case
their pertinacious adherence to an inadmissible plan
should prevent the adoption of any plan.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware voting no; Maryland divided.
The Committee has voted to re-report
the propositions of Mr. Randolph without alteration.
The Committee of the Whole rises.
Gorham bangs the gavel and steps down from the presiding chair. Washington stands up.
Gentlemen, I am sorry to find that
some Member of this Body has been so neglectful
to the secrets of the Convention
as to drop in the State House
a copy of the proceedings,
which by accident was picked up
and delivered to me this morning by Mr. Mifflin.
I must entreat gentlemen to be more careful,
lest our transactions get into the newspapers
and disturb the public repose
by premature speculations.
I know not whose paper it is, but there it is;
let him who owns it, take it.
Washington bows, picks up his hat, and leaves the room with a dignity so severe that the members are alarmed. Some of them self-consciously pass by the paper to see if they recognize it, but no one touches it.
INT. EAST ROOM OF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATEHOUSE - DAY
WILLIAM BLOUNT of North Carolina has taken his seat, and Washington is presiding over the convention.
I move that in the resolutions
the words "national government" be replaced
with the words "Government of the United States."
I second it.
If there is no objection, it is so ordered.
JONATHAN DAYTON of New Jersey has taken his seat. The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; Pennsylvania and Virginia voting no.
On the question
that the members of the second branch
be chosen by the state Legislatures,
the vote is Ayes nine, Noes two.
The Convention will now consider the length of terms
for the members of the second branch.
I move to fill the blank with six years,
one-third of the members
to go out every second year.
In framing a system which we wish to last for ages,
we should not lose sight of the changes
which ages will produce.
An increase of population will of necessity
increase the proportion of those
who will labor under all the hardships of life
and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution
of its blessings.
Government is instituted
for those who live under it.
It ought therefore to be so constituted
as not to be dangerous to their liberties.
The more permanency it has
the worse if it be a bad Government.
Frequent elections are necessary
to preserve the good behavior of rulers.
They also tend to give
permanency to the Government
by preserving that good behavior,
because it ensures their re-election.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina voting yes; New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Georgia voting no.
The question for six years,
one-third to go out biennially is passed.
Having postponed defining the powers of Congress
we take up the rules of suffrage in the two branches.
Why are counties of the same states
represented in proportion to their numbers?
Is it because the representatives
are chosen by the people themselves?
So will the representatives in the National Legislature.
Is a combination of the large states to be dreaded?
This must arise from some interest common to
Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
The staple of Massachusetts is fish,
of Pennsylvania flour, of Virginia tobacco.
Is a combination to be apprehended
from the mere circumstance of equality of size?
Experience suggests no such danger,
but rather rivalry is more frequent than coalition.
Are the large States singly
formidable to their smaller neighbors?
On this supposition the latter ought to wish for
such a general Government as will operate
with equal energy on the former as on themselves.
The more lax the band,
the more liberty the larger will have
to avail themselves of their superior force.
the small progress we have made
after continual reasonings with each other
is methinks a melancholy proof
of the imperfection of the human understanding.
We have gone back to ancient history
for models of government
in Republics no longer existing,
and we have viewed the modern States of Europe,
but find none of their Constitutions
suitable to our circumstances.
How is it, Sir, that we have not hitherto
once thought of humbly applying
to the Father of lights
to illuminate our understandings?
In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain,
when we were sensible of danger
we had daily prayer in this room
for divine protection.
Our prayers, Sir, were heard,
and they were graciously answered.
All of us who were engaged in the struggle
must have observed frequent instances
of a superintending providence in our favor.
To that kind providence
we owe this happy opportunity
of consulting in peace on the means
of establishing our future national felicity.
And have we now forgotten that powerful friend?
Or do we imagine that
we no longer need his assistance?
I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live,
the more convincing proofs I see of this truth---
that God governs in the affairs of men.
If a sparrow cannot fall
to the ground without his notice,
is it probable that an empire
can rise without his aid?
We have been assured, Sir,
in the sacred writings,
that "except the Lord build the House
they labor in vain that build it."
I firmly believe this;
and I also believe that without his concurring aid
we shall succeed in this political building
no better than the builders of Babel:
We shall be divided
by our little partial local interests;
our projects will be confounded,
and we ourselves shall become a reproach
and bye word down to future ages.
And what is worse, mankind may hereafter
from this unfortunate instance,
despair of establishing Governments
by Human wisdom
and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth
prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven
and its blessings on our deliberations
be held in this Assembly every morning
before we proceed to business,
and that one or more of the Clergy of this City
be requested to officiate in that Service.
As in some respects the States are
to be considered in their political capacity,
and in others as districts of individual citizens,
the two ideas embraced on different sides,
instead of being opposed to each other,
ought to be combined;
so that in one branch
the people ought to be represented,
and in the other the States.
As States are a collection of individual men,
which ought we to respect most,
the rights of the people composing them
or the artificial state
resulting from the composition?
Nothing could be more preposterous or absurd
than to sacrifice the former to the latter.
It has been said that
if the smaller States renounce their equality,
they renounce at the same time their liberty.
The truth is it is a contest for power,
not for liberty.
Will the men composing the small States
be less free than those composing the larger?
The State of Delaware having 40,000 souls
will lose power,
if she has one-tenth only of the votes
allowed to Pennsylvania having 400,000.
But will the people of Delaware be less free,
if each citizen has an equal vote
with each citizen of Pennsylvania?
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware voting no; and Maryland divided.
The motion that
the rule of suffrage in the first branch
ought not to be according to that
established by the Articles of Confederation
is passed six to four with Maryland divided.
I move that the rule of suffrage
in the second branch be the same as that
established by the Articles of Confederation.
On the whole I am not sorry
that the vote just passed has determined
against this rule in the first branch,
but I hope it will become
a ground of compromise
with regard to the second branch.
We are partly national and partly federal.
The proportional representation in the first branch
is conformable to the national principle
and would secure the larger States against the small.
An equality of voices in the second branch
is conformable to the federal principle
and will secure the small States against the large.
I trust that on this middle ground
a compromise will take place.
Wherever there is danger of attack
there ought to be a constitutional power of defense.
But the States are divided into different interests
not by difference in size,
but by other circumstances;
the most material of which
results partly from climate,
but principally from their having
or not having slaves.
These two causes concur
between the Northern and Southern,
and if any defensive power is necessary,
it ought to be mutually given to these two interests.
Thus instead of computing slaves in the ratio of 5 to 3,
States in one branch could be represented
according to the number of free inhabitants only;
and in the other according to the whole number,
counting the slaves as if free.
The diversity of opinions turns on two points.
If a proportional representation takes place,
the small States say their liberties will be in danger.
If an equality of votes is to be in its place,
the large States contend their money will be in danger.
When a broad table is to be made,
and the edges of planks do not fit,
the artist takes a little from both
and makes a good joint.
In like manner here
both sides must part with something
so that they may join
in some accommodating proposition.
Thus I propose equality of representation for States
in the upper house for certain questions,
and in proportion to money contributions on others.
There is no middle way
between a perfect consolidation
and a mere confederacy of the States.
If political societies possess ambition, avarice,
and all the other passions
which render them formidable to each other,
ought we not to view them in this light here?
Look at the votes.
Are not the large States evidently seeking
to aggrandize themselves
at the expense of the small?
The large States insist that
increasing the power of the general government
will be for the good of the whole
and that they will not injure the lesser States.
I do not, gentlemen, trust you.
If you possess the power,
the abuse of it could not be checked;
and what then would prevent you
from exercising it to our destruction?
We have been told that this is the last moment
for a fair trial in favor of a good Government.
I am under no apprehensions.
The large States dare not
dissolve the Confederation.
If they do, sooner than be ruined,
there are foreign powers
who will take us by the hand.
I say this not to threaten or intimidate,
but that we should reflect seriously before we act.
The voting board shows: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland voting yes; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina voting no; and Georgia divided.
For allowing each State
one vote in the second branch
the vote is five to five with Georgia divided.
C. C. PINCKNEY
Some compromise seems to be necessary.
Therefore I propose that a committee
consisting of a member from each State
should be elected to devise and report a compromise.
The Committee recommends that
two propositions be adopted:
First: that in the first branch of the Legislature
each of the States now in the Union
shall be allowed one member
for every 40,000 inhabitants
and that all bills for raising or appropriating money
shall originate in the first branch of the Legislature
and shall not be altered
or amended by the second branch.
Second: that in the second branch
each State shall have an equal vote.
I cannot regard the exclusive privilege
of originating money bills as any concession.
Experience proves that it has no effect.
Some member in the lower branch
could surely be found to originate a bill
desired by States in the upper branch.
I come here as a Representative of America;
I flatter myself I come here in some degree
as a Representative of the whole human race;
for the whole human race will be affected
by the proceedings of this Convention.
Much has been said of the sentiments of the people.
They are unknown.
They cannot be known.
All that we can infer is that
if the plan we recommend be reasonable and right,
all who have reasonable minds and sound intentions
will embrace it.
If no compromise should take place
what will be the consequence?
I foresee that a secession would take place;
for some gentlemen seem decided on it.
If we do not come to some agreement among ourselves,
some foreign sword will probably do the work for us.
DANIEL CARROLL of Maryland has taken his seat.
The committee appointed yesterday reports that
the General Legislature should be represented
by sixty-five members in the following proportions,
to wit: New Hampshire three, Massachusetts eight,
Rhode Island one, Connecticut five, New York six,
New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one,
Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five,
South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina voting yes; South Carolina and Georgia voting no.
The apportionment recommended
by the last committee
is passed in the affirmative, nine votes to two.
I think that blacks should be included
in the rule of Representation
equally with the whites
and for that purpose move that
the words "three-fifths" be struck out.
The voting board shows: Delaware, South Carolina and Georgia voting yes; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina voting no. New York has been removed from the voting board, because its delegates have gone home, although Hamilton will return later.
Mr. Butler's motion for considering blacks
as equal to whites in the apportionment is defeated.
The voting board shows: Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; New Jersey and Delaware voting no; Massachusetts and South Carolina divided.
The motion proportioning
representation to direct taxation
and both to the white
and three-fifths of black inhabitants,
and requiring a census within six years
and within every ten years afterwards is passed.
The voting board shows: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; Delaware divided.
The motion to strike out wealth
as a rule of representation
is passed unanimously.
The voting board shows: Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and North Carolina voting yes; Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia voting no; Massachusetts divided.
The motion for agreeing
to the whole Report as amended
and including the equality of votes
in the second branch
is passed in the affirmative, five votes to four.
I move that the Legislative acts of the United States
and all Treaties made and ratified
under the authority of the United States
shall be the supreme law of the respective States
and that the Judiciaries of the several States
shall be bound thereby in their decisions.
Is there any discussion?
Are there any objections?
Hearing none, the resolution is adopted.
The ninth Resolution is that the National Executive
shall consist of a single person.
If there is no debate and no objection,
the resolution is adopted.
I suggest that the Judges
be appointed by the Executive
with the advice and consent of the second branch.
I move that a Republican form of Government
shall be guaranteed to each State
and that each State shall be protected
against foreign and domestic violence.
Resolution ten giving the Executive a qualified veto
is agreed to without objection.
JOHN LANGDON and NICHOLAS GILMAN of New Hampshire have taken their seats at last, enabling New Hampshire to be added to the voting board.
I consider the difference between a system
founded by Legislatures only
and one founded by the people
to be the true difference
between a league or treaty and a Constitution.
The moral obligation may be the same,
but the political operation is different.
A law violating a treaty
might be respected by Judges
as a law, although an unwise or perfidious one;
whereas a law violating a constitution
established by the people themselves
would be considered by the Judges as null and void.
Thus those wishing to establish a Constitution
are in favor of State Conventions of the people
in preference to the Legislatures of the States
for examining and adopting it.
The voting board shows: Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland voting yes; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting no.
The motion to refer the plan
to the Legislatures of the States is defeated.
I move that the proceedings of this Convention
for the establishment of a National Government
be referred to a Committee to prepare and report
a Constitution conformable thereto.
C. C. PINCKNEY
I respectfully remind the Convention
that if the Committee should fail
to insert some security to the Southern States
against the emancipation of slaves
and taxes on exports,
I should be bound
by duty to my State of South Carolina
to vote against their Report.
It seems to have been imagined by some
that the returning to the mass of the people
is degrading to a President.
This I think is contrary to republican principles.
In free Governments the rulers are the servants,
and the people their superiors and sovereigns.
For the former therefore to return among the latter
is not to degrade them but to promote them.
The proceedings are referred unanimously
to the Committee of detail,
and the Convention adjourns
until Monday, August sixth.
EXT. NEAR TROUT CREEK - DAY
Washington bids goodby to Gouverneur Morris who is getting ready to fish in the stream.
I will leave you to the trout, Gouverneur Morris.
I want to ride over to Valley Forge
and look around.
Gouverneur Morris waves goodby, and Washington mounts a horse.
EXT. VALLEY FORGE - DAY
Washington rides around the moldering fortifications and camps in the woods, reflecting on his experiences there ten years before.
INT. EAST ROOM OF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE - DAY
JOHN FRANCIS MERCER of Maryland has taken his seat.
I dislike everything that tends to debase
the spirit of the common people.
If honesty is often the companion of wealth,
and if poverty is exposed to peculiar temptation,
it is not less true that the possession of property
increases the desire for more property.
Some of the greatest rogues
I was ever acquainted with
were the richest rogues.
This Constitution will be much read in Europe,
and if it should betray a great partiality to the rich,
it will not only hurt us in the esteem
of the most liberal and enlightened men there,
but also discourage the common people
from removing to this Country.
I propose an amendment
so as to allow a prohibition
or tax on the importation of slaves
for three reasons.
One: as five slaves are to be
counted as three free men
in the apportionment of Representatives,
such a clause would encourage this traffic.
Two: slaves weaken one part of the Union
which the other parts are bound to protect;
thus the privilege of importing them is unreasonable.
Three: it is inconsistent with the revolution
and dishonorable to the American character
to have such a feature in the Constitution.
I do not see how the importation of slaves
could be encouraged by this section.
I am not apprehensive of insurrections
and will readily exempt
other States from the obligation
to protect the Southern States against them.
Religion and humanity
have nothing to do with this issue.
Interest alone is the governing principle with nations.
I observe that the abolition of Slavery
seems to be going on in the United States
and that the good sense of the several States
will probably by degrees complete it.
The evil of having slaves
was experienced in the late war.
Slavery discourages arts and manufactures.
The poor despise labor when performed by slaves.
They prevent the immigration of Whites,
who really enrich and strengthen the Country.
They produce the most pernicious effect on manners.
Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant.
They bring the judgment of heaven on a Country.
As nations cannot be rewarded or punished
in the next world, they must be in this.
By an inevitable chain of causes and effects
providence punishes national sins
by national calamities.
I lament that some of our Eastern brethren
have from a lust for gain
embarked in this nefarious traffic.
I hold it essential that
the General Government should have power
to prevent the increase of slavery.
South Carolina and Georgia
cannot do without slaves;
in the sickly rice swamps
foreign imports are necessary.
Importation of slaves
is for the interest of the Union.
The more slaves, the more produce
to employ the carrying trade.
Why should the import tax exempt slaves alone?
I consider it inadmissible
on every principle of honor and safety
that the importation of slaves should be authorized
to the States by the Constitution.
Both England and France exclude slaves.
If the Convention thinks that
North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia
will ever agree to the plan,
unless their right to import slaves be untouched,
the expectation is vain.
The people of those States
will never be such fools
as to give up so important an interest.
The voting board shows: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting yes; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia voting no.
The motion that the importation of such persons
shall not be prohibited by the Legislature
prior to the year eighteen hundred and eight,
but a tax may be imposed on such migration
is passed in the affirmative, seven votes to four.
With no objection
Section four is amended to read:
"The trial of all crimes
(except in cases of impeachment)
shall be by jury."
The Committee of style reports a digest of the plan,
of which printed copies are ordered
to be furnished to the members.
We have also a letter to Congress
to accompany the plan.
This is the latest draft:
"We the people of the United States,
in order to form a more perfect union,
to establish justice,
insure domestic tranquillity,
provide for the common defense,
promote the general welfare,
and secure the blessings of liberty
to ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution
for the United States of America.
"Article One. Section one.
All legislative powers herein granted
shall be vested in a Congress of the United States,
which shall consist of a Senate
and House of Representatives."
The ratification of the conventions of nine States,
shall be sufficient
for the establishment of this constitution
between the States so ratifying them."
I wish the plan had been prefaced
with a Bill of Rights.
It would give great quiet to the people;
and with the aid of the State declarations,
a bill might be prepared in a few hours.
The State Declarations of Rights
are not repealed by this Constitution,
and being in force are sufficient.
The Laws of the United States are to be
paramount to State Bills of Rights.
The voting board shows: no states voting yes; New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting no.
The motion for a committee
to prepare a Bill of Rights
is defeated unanimously.
Mr. Randolph's proposal to submit this Constitution
to another general Convention for revision
is defeated unanimously.
On the question to agree to the Constitution,
all the States say aye.
It is ordered that the Constitution be engrossed.
The engrossed Constitution having been read---
yes, Dr. Franklin.
Franklin has stood up with a speech in his hand, which he gives to Wilson.
before we sign the Constitution,
I have composed this speech,
which Mr. Wilson will read.
I confess that
there are several parts of this constitution
which I do not at present approve,
but I am not sure that
I shall never approve them:
For having lived long,
I have experienced many instances
of being obliged by better information,
or fuller consideration,
to change opinions even on important subjects,
which I once thought right,
but found to be otherwise.
Thus the older I grow the more apt I am
to doubt my own judgment
and to pay more respect
to the judgment of others.
Most men, like most religions,
think themselves in possession of all truth.
Few express it so naturally
as a certain French lady,
who in a dispute with her sister,
said, "I don't know how it happens, Sister,
but I meet with nobody but myself,
that's always in the right."
So I agree to this Constitution with all its faults,
because I think a general Government
necessary for us,
and there is no form of Government
that may not be a blessing to the people
if well administered.
I doubt whether any other Convention
may be able to make a better Constitution;
for when you assemble men,
you inevitably assemble
all their prejudices, passions, errors of opinion,
their local interests and selfish views.
It therefore astonishes me, Sir,
to find this system
approaching so near to perfection as it does;
and I think it will astonish our enemies,
who are waiting with confidence to hear
that our councils are confounded
like those of the builders of Babel,
and that our States are on the point of separation,
only to meet hereafter to cut one another's throats.
Thus, I consent, Sir, to this Constitution,
because I expect no better,
and because I am not sure that it is not the best.
The opinions I have had of its errors,
I sacrifice to the public good.
I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad.
Within these walls they were born,
and here they shall die.
If every one of us
in returning to our constituents
were to report our objections
and endeavor to gain partisans in support of them,
we might lose all the advantages in our favor
from our real or apparent unanimity.
Much of the strength
and efficiency of any Government
in procuring and securing happiness to the people,
depends on opinion,
on the general opinion
of the goodness of the Government,
as well as the wisdom and integrity of the Governors.
I hope therefore for our own sakes and for posterity,
that we shall act heartily and unanimously
in recommending this Constitution.
So I wish that every member of the Convention
who may still have objections to it,
will with me doubt a little of his own infallibility,
and to make manifest our unanimity,
put his name to this instrument."
Mr. President, I move that
the Constitution be signed by the members
and offer the following convenient form:
"Done in Convention by the unanimous consent
of the States present
on the 17th of September, etcetera."
If it is not too late, I would wish,
in order to lessen objections to the Constitution,
that the clause declaring
"the number of Representatives
shall not exceed one for every forty thousand"
which has produced so much discussion,
may yet be reconsidered in order to
strike out 40,000 and insert "thirty thousand."
Although my situation as President
has hitherto restrained me
from offering my sentiments
on questions before the Convention,
I cannot forbear expressing my wish
that the alteration proposed may take place.
It is much to be desired
that the objections to the plan recommended
may be made as few as possible.
The smallness of the proportion of Representatives
has been considered
by many members of the Convention
an insufficient security for the rights
and interests of the people.
I acknowledge this myself, and,
late as the present moment is
for admitting amendments,
I think this of so much consequence
that it would give much satisfaction
to see it adopted.
Is there any opposition
to the proposition of Mr. Gorham?
Then it is agreed to unanimously.
In spite of Dr. Franklin's sentiments,
I must apologize for refusing to sign.
It does not mean that
I will oppose the Constitution,
but I must keep myself free
to be governed by my duty.
I am anxious that every member should sign.
No man's ideas are more remote
from the plan than mine,
but is it possible to deliberate
between anarchy and convulsion on one side
and the chance of good to be expected
from the plan on the other?
Washington approaches the table and is the first to sign the document. He is followed by John Langdon and Nicholas Gilman of New Hampshire; Nathaniel Gorham and Rufus King of Massachusetts; William Samuel Johnson and Roger Sherman of Connecticut; Alexander Hamilton of New York; William Livingston, David Brearley, William Paterson, and Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey; Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Thomas FitzSimons, Jared Ingersoll, James Wilson, and Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania; George Read (signs for himself and for John Dickinson), Gunning Bedford, Richard Bassett, and Jacob Broom of Delaware; James McHenry, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, and Dan Carroll of Maryland; John Blair and James Madison of Virginia; William Blount, Richard Dobbs Spaight, and Hugh Williamson of North Carolina; John Rutledge, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, and Pierce Butler of South Carolina; and William Few and Abraham Baldwin of Georgia. Still present at the Convention but not signing are Randolph, Mason, and Gerry. After Franklin has signed, he speaks to some of the Pennsylvania delegates standing around him, as they look at the Presidential chair.
You know that painters have found it difficult
to distinguish in their art
a rising from a setting sun.
I have often in the course of the Sessions,
in the vicissitudes of my hopes
and fears as to its issue,
looked at that sun behind the President
without being able to tell
whether it was rising or setting.
But now at length I have the happiness to know
that it is a rising and not a setting sun.
--end of the eighth episode in a series on GEORGE WASHINGTON--
This screenplay has been published in the book GEORGE WASHINGTON: A Dramatic Series. For ordering information, please click here.
A War Breaks Out
General Braddock's Defeat
Fight for Independence
Maintaining an Army
On to Victory