Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Constitutional Journal

-Monday, July 16, 1787

On Friday the Convention unanimously rejected wealth as a basis for representation in the proposed national Legislature.

About these ads

A SINGLE State saved this Convention today from the reefs of political shipwreck.

By a 5-4 vote, with one State divided, delegates gave final approval to a bitterly debated compromise plan. The compromise gives each State an equal vote in the proposed Senate (upper house or second branch) and proportional representation in the proposed House of Representatives (lower house or first branch). Until today's vote, the Convention has been like a boat floating motionless in midstream, its strongest oarsmen on both sides pulling toward opposite shores.

Today's vote signals a victory for the small States. If the compromise had been defeated, most observers believe, the small-State delegates would have walked out and gone home for good.

North Carolina's vote for the compromise spelled the difference between victory and defeat - between permanent dissolution of this Convention and its continuance. Massachusetts, as the divided large State, was neutralized, thus sinking for good the hopes of large State leaders who worked to defeat equality of voting in the Senate.

James Madison of Virginia is reported in a state of shock over the vote, scornfully believing that today's Convention vote was a surrender rather than a compromise.

Virginia Gov. Edmund Randolph inflamed emotions on both sides at today's session. He proposed that the Convention adjourn so ``the large States might consider the steps proper to be taken in the present solemn crisis ... and that the small States might also deliberate on the means of conciliation.''

Quick as a hunting hound after a hare, William Paterson of New Jersey made a proposal that stunned the entire Convention:

About these ads

``[That] it [is] high time for the Convention to adjourn, that the rule of secrecy ought to be rescinded, and that our Constituents should be consulted. No conciliation could be admissible on the part of the smaller States on any other ground than that of an equality of votes in the 2d. [second] branch....''

Governor Randolph nervously protested he was misunderstood; he did not mean permanent adjournment but only until tomorrow so another compromise plan he had drafted could be studied. Shrewdly and to the point, John Rutledge of South Carolina said that all the large States had to do ``was to decide whether they would yield or not....''

With these words, the Convention voted to adjourn until tomorrow.

One observer believes that Mr. Paterson's motion to adjourn and to end the secrecy rule was a final counterattack to prevent the large States from browbeating the smaller States into giving up the victory they had won today. Every delegate knows that, had they rescinded the secrecy rule and agreed to consult their constituents back home, the Convention would be shattered into so many pieces that they would be impossible to put back together.

As Delaware's silent delegate Jacob Broom told the Convention today: ``Such a measure ... would be fatal.''

These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.