-Wednesday, June 27, 1787 Yesterday James Madison of Virginia argued for a nine-year Senate term to check the power of the poor represented in the House.
DISMAY, disgust, and despair overwhelmed the Convention today after Luther Martin of Maryland exhausted himself and the delegates in a three-hour heated harangue on States' rights.
According to one delegate friendly to his cause, he ``exhausted the politeness of the Convention'' by a speech calculated to induce sleep. The 39-year-old Maryland attorney general, careless in both dress and speech, chose the hottest day since the Convention began to lecture the delegates on the rights of free men and of free States.
At least two delegates reported that Mr. Martin's speech wandered so much that it was difficult to follow, let alone record. Several observers suggested to this correspondent that Mr. Martin has a drinking problem, in an era of heavy-drinking men. One, however, maintains that ``his mighty drinking'' problem does not affect his performance as a lawyer and that his memory is phenomenal.
The Maryland attorney general told the delegates that it was the duty of any general government to protect the State governments, and its powers ought to be kept within narrow limits. He said:
``We are proceeding in forming this government as if there were no State governments at all.... The cornerstone of a federal government is equality of votes. States may surrender this right; but if they do, their liberties are lost.''
Mr. Martin, drunk or sober, has stated in a few words the central issue that has caused the delegates to reach their current impasse. Since June 11, when the Convention voted to have the proposed national House and Senate seats determined by population, the Southern States have demanded that each State have one equal vote in the Senate.
Mr. Martin said today what others from the small States have been saying for almost two weeks. Namely, a national House and Senate based on population would give Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts combined political power to outvote the less populous 10 smaller States.
``I would not trust a government organized upon the reported plan, for all the slaves of Carolina or the horses and oxen of Massachusetts,'' Mr. Martin declared.
The hostile reception Mr. Martin received from both sides may be due less to what he said than to the inflammatory method he used to make his case. William Pierce of Georgia reported that the Maryland attorney general has a great deal of information but a bad delivery, combined with a wordy speaking style. ``He never speaks without tiring the patience of all who hear him,'' according to Mr. Pierce.
The most hostile reaction to Mr. Martin came from his small-State ally, Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut. He, along with Roger Sherman, has been working quietly and patiently these past two weeks with a skillful strategy of pressure to effect a compromise with the large States.
Mr. Martin's performance on behalf of the small States may have harmed their cause and reinforced the view held by large-State delegates like General Washington that advocates of States' rights are demagogues.
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.