- Tuesday, May 29, 1787 Last Friday Gen. George Washington accepted the presidency of the Convention with the words ``The event is in the hand of God.''
A WARNING that war and anarchy confront America was issued today by the Governor of Virginia. Thirty-three-year-old Edmund Randolph outlined in a four-hour Convention speech his reasons for fearing an armed conflict unless the current Articles of Confederation are completely scrapped, this correspondent has learned. The handsome, portly, six-foot Virginia Governor claimed ``the confederation is incompetent to [achieve] any one object for which it was instituted.''
He also charged that the Confederation has failed since 1781 to ensure against foreign invasion and has proven powerless to promote domestic unity, security, and prosperity. His large brown eyes rolled and flashed as he spoke. At one point he said:
``Let us not be afraid to view with a steady eye the perils with which we are surrounded. Look at the public countenance from New Hampshire to Georgia. Are we not on the eve of war, which is only prevented by the hopes from this convention.''
The Virginia Governor, descended from a landed dynastic family, allegedly said the ``chief danger'' the country faced was from too much democracy in some State constitutions, which placed too much power in the hands of the people, thus producing a legislative tyranny. Fresh in the minds of the delegates were outbreaks of violence over the last year in Massachusetts when debt-ridden farmers mounted an abortive siege of the State courts to prevent judicial collection of their debts.
A source revealed that a letter to General Washington sent today by Gen. Henry Knox reports that Massachusetts still seethes with hostile insurgents. The rotund former artillery officer of General Washington's army blames ``the imbecilities of the State & general constitutions'' for creating the mobs. ``I have no hope of a free government but from the convention,'' General Knox writes.
Governor Randolph, who helped draft Virginia's Constitution of 1776, presented a 15-point plan, or ``corrections,'' to avoid the peril of war which he predicts. It appears to be a broad blueprint for a strong central government in a republican form. It calls for national executive, legislative, and judicial branches with sweeping powers unprecedented in their scope. Such a proposed national government must be considered revolutionary. The plan appears to propose sweeping away entirely the Articles of Confederation.
The Convention seems prepared to proceed on the basis of the Virginia Plan, which it has ordered printed for the delegates' consideration. Governor Randolph was careful not to claim authorship, since the 15-point proposal is reported to be by James Madison, who lacks Mr. Randolph's public position and command of language. It was sound political strategy to have a State governor put forth a radical plan that proposes to dissolve or dilute the power of the States.
Col. Alexander Hamilton of New York, who has worked closely with Mr. Madison to bring this Convention into being, allegedly put today's dramatic proceedings into perspective. He said the Randolph proposals raise the question of whether the country was to have one government, or 13 separate State governments linked only by treaty for common defense and the conduct of commerce.
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.
The total number of delegates who served at the Constitutional Convention was 55. There was no Rhode Island delegation. Of the 55, not all were in Philadelphia during the entire summer. Some arrived late (New Hampshire's delegation, for instance), others left early, a few stayed only briefly, some were temporarily absent for business or personal reasons, a few were serving simultaneously in the Continental Congress. When the United States Constitution was finally adopted, the state delegations unanimously voted their approval, and 38 delegates present that final day signed the document (with George Read authorized to sign for ailing John Dickinson and thus bringing the total signatures to 39). Three delegates refused to sign.
The delegates are listed below, an asterisk indicating those who were not present for the signing on Sept. 17. The three who were present but refused to sign are in italics. NEW HAMPSHIRE
Nicholas Gilman MASSACHUSETTS
Nathaniel Gorham CONNECTICUT
William Samuel Johnson
Oliver Ellsworth* NEW YORK
John Lansing Jr.*
Robert Yates* NEW JERSEY
William Paterson (Patterson)
David Brearly (Brearley)
William Churchill Houston* PENNSYLVANIA
Thomas FitzSimmons (Fitzsimons, FitzSimons)
Jared Ingersoll DELAWARE
John Dickinson (authorized signature
by George Read)
Richard Bassett (Basset)
Gunning Bedford Jr.
Jacob Broom MARYLAND
John Francis Mercer*
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer VIRGINIA
Edmund Jennings Randolph
James Blair Jr.
George Wythe* NORTH CAROLINA
William Richardson Davie*
Richard Dobbs Spaight Jr. SOUTH CAROLINA
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Charles Pinckney III GEORGIA
William Leigh Pierce*