-Thursday, Aug. 30, 1787
Yesterday's report told how Roger Sherman of Connecticut had invoked bitter memories of runaway inflation to carry the Convention against allowing the States to issue paper money.
A HANDFUL of die-hard delegates, in their effort to wreck the work of this Convention, failed yesterday to drive a wedge between Northern and Southern States over the power to regulate commerce.
Charles Pinckney III of South Carolina proposed that no act regulating foreign and domestic commerce be passed by Congress without the approval of two-thirds of the House of Representatives and Senate. The five Southern States lack ships and fear a monopoly of commerce by the eight Northern States. Luther Martin of Maryland supported Mr. Pinckney. Both have held nightly sessions with other disenchanted delegates to devise a strategy to frustrate approval of the New Constitution as currently drafted.
Mr. Pinckney argued that, without a two-thirds vote on all commerce and navigation acts, the five sections of the nation, each with different commercial interests, could pass ``oppressive regulations'' with a simple majority in the two houses. Sectional commercial conflict would result, he warned, because ``States pursue their interests with less scruple than individuals.''
Col. George Mason of Virginia agreed with Mr. Pinckney, making the point that the slave-owning Southern States will be a minority in both houses of the new Congress. He then asked rhetorically, ``Is it to be expected that they will deliver themselves bound hand & foot to the Eastern States, and enable them to exclaim, in the words of Cromwell on a certain occasion - `the [Lord] hath delivered them into our hands.'''
A majority of the delegates saw the proposal as a potential danger to the compromise worked out by South Carolina and Connecticut by which the South would support protection of New England trade if in return the South could keep its slaves. John Rutledge of South Carolina, the major architect of the compromise, told the delegates: ``It [does] not follow from a grant of power to regulate trade, that it [will] be abused. ... As we are laying the foundation for a great empire, we ought to take a permanent view of the subject and not look at the present moment only.''
Maj. Pierce Butler of South Carolina said he would vote against his colleague Mr. Pinckney's proposal even though the interests of the Southern States and of the Eastern States are ``as different as the interests of Russia and Turkey.''
Governor Randolph of Virginia stated he was so dismayed at the increasing deformities of the draft Constitution that he doubted he could agree to the document. ``A rejection of the motion would compleat deformity of the system,'' he observed with obvious bitterness. Nevertheless, seven states to four defeated Mr. Pinckney's proposal.
At today's session, the Convention voted to grant Congress the power to admit new States without specifying that admission is to be on an equal basis with the original 13. The future political power of new States with their poorer population has caused some delegates concern that the new national government could in the future be dominated by frontier farmers. Many Western farmers are regarded as ``wild men,'' with strange ways foreign to the older Eastern parts of the country. Today's action to admit new States, however, was apparently motivated by a greater fear of foreign powers concluding alliances with the frontier settlements to the South and the West.
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.