-Thursday, June 21, 1787 Yesterday Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed equal votes for States in one house of Congress and proportional votes in the other.
THE tone and tenor of delegate debate today underwent a sharp swing from confrontation to conciliation, as both sides agreed to disagree with polite reason rather than inflammatory rhetoric.
The highly respected lawyer and religious leader, Connecticut delegate William Samuel Johnson, asked the delegates whether it were not possible for the Convention to harmonize the individuality of the States with the goals and objectives of the proposed national government. Dr. Johnson said the question was whether the advocates of the national government could demonstrate that ``individuality of the States would not be endangered'' without giving them an equal vote in the national Congress by which to defend themselves.
James Wilson of Pennsylvania, who went out of his way to express his respect for Dr. Johnson, then turned the argument on its head. ``How can the national government be secured against the states?'' he said. ``Some regulation is necessary.'' By defining and designating the powers of each, he added, no danger would come to States' rights. Besides, the Scottish-born lawyer went on, under the Virginia Plan, as it now stood, the States had the right to appoint representatives to the national Senate, providing ``an opportunity of defending their rights.''
James Madison of Virginia pointedly asked whether the State governments ever encroached on the corporate rights of their citizens. He insisted that the relationship between the States and the national government would be similar to that of States with their cities. He then went on to say:
``I could have wished that the gentleman from Connecticut had more accurately marked his objections to the Virginia plan. I apprehended the greatest danger is from the encroachment of the states on the national government. This apprehension is justly founded on the experience of the ancient confederacies, and our own is a proof of it.''
It is significant that both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Madison chose to confront the Connecticut delegation directly. That small State has come to play a leading role in the Convention, principally because of the brilliance of its three delegates. Dr. William Samuel Johnson, Oliver Ellsworth, and Roger Sherman all favor a balance between the rights of the States and the need for a new national government. Connecticut has come to command the leadership role of New England, formerly held by Massachusetts in earlier congresses.
The strategy of the small States, presumably devised by Connecticut, is to contest every element of the Virginia Plan in an effort to modify its impact. Today, for example, this correspondent has learned, the Convention voted to reduce the term for members of the House of Representatives from three to two years. The Senate term was reduced from seven to six years. This was clearly a defeat for Mr. Madison, who favored a nine-year term. He argued for longer terms for two reasons: the time elected lawmakers would need to learn the craft of government, and the distances they have to travel from their States.
Several factors contributing to the ineffectiveness of the Continental Congress are the great distances State representatives must travel, and the snail's pace of transmitting written communications to their respective Governors and legislatures.
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.