Imágenes de páginas

175. The National Party. According to the resolution of Congress, the sole purpose of the Convention was to propose such a revision of the Articles of Confederation as should render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union. But as the Virginia and Maryland commissioners at Alexandria had found it impossible for those States alone to regulate the navigation of their common waters ; and as the Annapolis Convention had found it impossible for all the States to regulate trade separate and apart from other important matters, so now some delegates believed that no mere revision of the Articles would be adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union, and held that a new constitution based on new principles was necessary. They therefore proposed a National System, comprehending these ideas: A government emanating directly from the people; proportional representation; three branches and a bicameral legislature, and ample powers exercised by National officers. These men were called the National party, the Thorough-revision party, and the Large-state party.

176. The State Party.Some delegates opposed all these ideas; others opposed the first two, and particularly proportional representation. These all favored what they called “a State System,” the central idea of which was an equal suffrage in Congress. Some of them, however, were quite williug that the framework of the government should be altered, if only the States should have equal power in it. This second group was called the State, the Small-state, and the Slight-revision party.

177. The Fundamental Question.-The fundamental question was, the National idea or the State idea. National men said it was un-republican for the 37,000 people of Delaware to have the same weight in the Union as the half million of Virginia. State men replied that the Union was a confederation, that a confederation assumed sovereignty in its members, and that sovereignty implied equality. The first rejoined that they favored a National system; and then the second responded that they would never consent to such a system. Mr. Patterson declared that, with proportional suffrage, the large States would swallow the small ones; Dr. Franklin replied that the large States neither would nor could combine to swallow the small ones, and that with equal suffrage it was as much in the power of the small States to swallow the large ones. The small States did not care so much about the powers of the National Government, or even its framework, as they did about the absorption of those powers by the large States, which they declared a proportional suffrage would make inevitable. Hence, the contention was not so much about powers as about the hands that the powers should fall into. The fact that an equal vote had been the rule since the Union began, gave the State party a decided advantage. With this question two others were affiliated, viz., the representation of property and supplies for the treasury.

178. Representation of Property. – Some men thought the government should also be based, in part at least, upon wealth. Property, they said, had rights as well as persons. The British House of Commons rested to a great extent on this basis. Some of those who took this view thought suffrage in Congress should be in proportion to contributions to the National treasury ; others, that it should be in proportion to the wealth of the States.

179. Supplies for the Treasury.-It was generally agreed that Congress should have power to levy customsduties. But it was supposed that these would be insufficient; that direct taxes, or requisitions on the States, would be necessary; and so the question arose how these taxes should be apportioned. Should the apportionment be according to the population of the States? or according to property? or be equal? And if according to population, should the rule be the white population, the free population, or the total population ? State men were not in favor of an equal tax; while National men naturally asked why the tax should not be equal as well as the vote. These questions were not new; they had vexed Congress when framing the Articles of Confederation.

180. Framework of the Government.--This issue, as already stated, related to the model, or construction, of the Government considered as a machine. It was proposed that the Government should consist of a legislature alone, and this of but one house. This was merely retaining the old framework. Another proposition was, a government of three independent branches, and a congress of two houses. Besides these principal questions there were many minor ones that fall into the same group, as : How shall the President and Vice-President be chosen ? What shall be their duties? and, How shall the Judiciary be organized ?

181. Powers of the Government. -At one extreme of the Convention stood a few men who desired as much as possible to centralize powers, and to leave the States a minimum ; at the other extreme, a larger number who did not favor giving the Union any considerable increase of powers; between the two extremes stood a third class who were desirous of materially strengthening the Government, but by no means agreeing among themselves concerning details. Two of the questions at issue will be stated.

182. Control of Commerce. While the evils resulting from State control of commerce were universally felt, and were also the main cause of the Convention's being called, still the delegates were far from being a unit when they came to deal with the subject. New Jersey had proposed when the Articles were framed to give Congress power over foreign trade. The Northern States, which owned most of the shipping and carried on most of the commerce, were now generally anxious to have the control of commerce put into the hands of Congress; the Southern States, which were interested in a few principal agricultural staples, -as Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware in tobacco, North Carolina in ship-stores, South Carolina in rice, and Georgia in indigo-shrank from this conclusion,

[ocr errors]

They said Congress could then destroy their prosperity by putting export duties on their staple products.

183. Slavery in the Convention.-Slavery gave no little trouble. It existed by State authority; the Convention proposed to leave it to State regulation, but it was necessary to adjust the Government of the Union to the institution. It presented two stubborn questions. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia wanted their slaves counted in apportioning voting power in Congress, but did not want them counted in apportioning taxes ; while many of the delegates from other States wanted to have slaves taxed, but did not want to have them represented. Then the three Southern States were also determined that the .

importation of negroes should not be interfered with, • which was obnoxious to other States.

184. Conflict of Interests.—Thus were the delegates divided in opinion. Thus was the Convention cut through and through by lines that crossed one another at all angles. Seldom has a deliberative assembly been compelled to deal with elements so blended and confusing. But, after all, the hope of the Convention, and of the country, lay in this very confusion. The Large-state and Small-state parties both dissolved the moment the fundamental question of constituting the government was disposed of, and the secondary question of powers. was taken up. Moreover, all the questions did not demand an answer on any one day; had they done so, the Convention must have ended in failure.

185. The Virginia Plan.-On May 29 Governor Randolph presented to the Convention a series of fifteen resolutions that are known as the Virginia plan. The same day ? Charles Pinckney, of South Carolina, also presented a plan. These plans were considered in Committee of the whole

1 It is well known to historical scholars that the so-called “Pinckney plan” as found in Elliot, Vol. I., P. 129, is a document of no authority. It was evidently filled in by Mr. Pinckney as the Convention proceeded. See The Madison Papers, Vol. III., Appendix 2, and The Writings of James Madison, Vol. IV., pp. 172, 173 181, 182, 338, 339, 378, 379.

until June 13, when the first one, somewhat amended and expanded, was favorably reported to the Convention. This plan embodied the National theory in its strongest form. The Legislative branch should consist of two houses, the first elected by the people of the States for three years, the second by the State Legislatures for seven years; the Executive should be chosen by the two houses of the National Legislature; the Judiciary, by the second house. The representation in each House should be according to the respective population of the States, or their quotas of contribution. This rule would have given the States of Massachusetts and Virginia twenty-six Representatives in a House of sixty-six, and thirteen Senators in a Senate of twenty-eight.

186. The Jersey Plan.-On June 15 Mr. Patterson, of New Jersey, as the spokesman of the small States, presented the alternative scheme, in eleven resolutions. This plan made no change in the basis of the Government; it left Congress a single body, with an equal representation elected by the States. It provided a Federal Executive to be appointed by Congress, and a Judiciary to be appointed by the Executive. This plan was much more definite and full with regard to powers than the one introduced by Mr. Randolph. But it must be remembered that the two statesmen were looking mainly at two different things : Randolph, at organizing a new government; Patterson, at strengthening an old one.

187. Reaffirmation of the Virginia Plan.-The Randolph, Pinckney, and Patterson plans were now sent to the Committee of the Whole, that the new one might be discussed. The Committee reported, June 19, that it did not agree to the Patterson propositions, and again affirmed the Virginia plan. This action thoroughly alarmed the Smallstate men and came near upsetting the Convention. The Large-state men were now at liberty to go on and frame a constitution, if they could hold together; but they knew perfectly well that any constitution approved by a vote of

« AnteriorContinuar »