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Constitutional Journal

By Jeffrey St. John / June 30, 1987



-Tuesday, July 3, 1787

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Yesterday Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina successfully proposed formation of a committee to seek compromise.

PLAYING the part of Constitutional carpenter, Dr. Benjamin Franklin proposed, and the Grand Committee of Eleven States tentatively approved today, a compromise to break the bitter deadlock between the small and the large States. The Grand Committee - composed of one delegate from each State - was elected yesterday and met today while the Convention is in recess to prepare for the July 4th Independence holiday.

The 81-year-old Dr. Franklin proposed the compromise in these words:

``If a proportional representation takes place, the small States contend that their liberties will be in danger. If an equality of votes is to be put in its place, the large States say their money will be in danger. When a broad table is to be made, and the edges [of planks do not fit], the artist takes a little from both, and makes a good joint.''

Dr. Franklin's compromise is not new, except for one key provision. Essentially it is the same proposal put forth repeatedly by Connecticut. The Committee agreed that the makeup of the lower house would be based on population, and in the upper house each State would have an equal vote. In return for this concession to the small States, however, the lower house would be vested with exclusive power over originating taxes and appropriations.

The compromise hammered out today is regarded as a victory by the small States, who fear domination by the large States of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Thus, it is expected that when the Committee report is debated in full Convention James Madison of Virginia and James Wilson of Pennsylvania are likely to voice vigorous objections. Pennsylvania's Gouverneur Morris is also expected to attack today's Grand Committee compromise.

Mr. Morris, who has been absent from the Convention almost a month on business matters, was quoted by one observer as saying that everyone, including General Washington, is despondent in the belief that the Convention is about to dissolve into failure.

General Washington went for a horseback ride today and later sat for his portrait by the artist Charles Willson Peale. One observer reports that while Mr. Peale and his sons worked at easel and sketch pads, with the smell of linseed oil and paint pigments mixing with the hot summer air, the General had time to mull over in his mind the crisis confronting the Convention.

General Washington's despair may have been deepened by the departure four days ago of Col. Alexander Hamilton. ``I am sorry you went away - I wish you were back,'' he is reported to have written to his former military aide.

The General has looked on Colonel Hamilton almost as an adopted son. This correspondent has learned that Colonel Hamilton, in a letter today to General Washington, expressed the view that a golden opportunity to rescue the country from its current crisis may be lost if the Convention fails.

General Washington may be wounded by such words. Here he sits in Philadelphia, beset by crisis, while Colonel Hamilton has departed the political battlefield. The General may wonder whether such conduct in 1776 would have allowed the 13 States to celebrate tomorrow the 11th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

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