Constitutional Journal

-Friday, July 13, 1787

Yesterday the Convention approved legislative representation based on free white population and three-fifths of slave population.

WEALTH as the basis for representation was unanimously rejected today by a Convention composed of a majority of wealthy delegates.

Gov. Edmund Randolph of Virginia opened today's session by proposing that the word ``wealth'' be deleted from a July 9th resolution approving population and wealth as the basis for representation.

Immediately Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania objected. Rising population in the South and the growth of new States in the West, he argued, would overwhelm the Northern and Middle States and bring on a war with Imperial Spain for control of the Mississippi.

Mr. Morris, clearly threatening to side with the small States, then warned that some Northern States, to protect themselves against Virginia and other large Southern States, might be forced to vote for the ``vicious principle of equality'' in the upper house.

His threat is an indication that a few large States are weakening in their opposition to the small States' demand for equality of voting in the upper house, which has deadlocked the Convention. Mr. Morris's threat also confirms that the divisions have shifted from small versus large States to a struggle between Northern and Southern States.

One observer believes that a speech by James Wilson of Pennsylvania today effectively rebutted Mr. Morris and produced the unanimous Convention (Maryland was divided) vote to strike wealth as the basis of representation.

The Scottish-born lawyer squinted through his rounded spectacles at the Convention and said he did not harbor the same fears as his fellow Pennsylvanian Mr. Morris. The majority should rule, he said, and to fear the growth of population is to commit the same fatal error of the British - who feared population growth in their Colonies only to end up losing them. Mr. Wilson then went on:

``[I] ... could not agree that property was the sole or the primary object of Governt. & Society. The cultivation & improvement of the human mind was the most noble object. With respect to this object, as well as to other personal rights, numbers were surely the natural & precise measure of Representation....''

Concern about the future role of new States in the West was given perhaps historic significance by news today from New York. Sources have informed this correspondent that the Continental Congress in New York has approved what is termed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The act arranges for admission of new States in the West on the basis of equality with the existing 13 States, provides for a Bill of Rights, and prohibits slavery. Eight States approved the measure, ironically four of them from the slaveholding South.

The Northwest Ordinance, which prohibits slavery, is a contrast to the debate here in Philadelphia about whether slaves should be considered property or a fraction of free whites when computing representation in the new Legislature. But as South Carolina's Pierce Butler told the delegates today:

``The security the Southn. States want is that their negroes may not be taken from them which some gentlemen within or without ... have a very good mind to do.''

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

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK