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Constitutional Journal

By Jeffrey St. John / July 27, 1987



-Monday, July 30, 1787

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Last Friday's drafting session began with the words ``We, the people, to form a union...,'' read by Chairman ``Dictator John'' Rutledge from a constitution drawn up in 1520 by five Iroquois Indian nations.

THE Committee of Detail is reliably reported to have settled on a series of steps for drafting a new Constitution to meet its Aug. 6 deadline. The Convention imposed the deadline but otherwise gave the Committee no specific instructions.

A source close to the drafting Committee states that Chairman John Rutledge of South Carolina feels he and his four colleagues are free to make significant contributions of their own. Nonetheless, the Committee intends to incorporate elements of the resolutions that were hammered out during two months of Convention debate.

Three members of the Committee have reportedly assumed the major task of drafting the document. Gov. Edmund Randolph of Virginia is writing the first draft, following closely the resolutions offered at the start of the Convention and debated in 59 separate sessions. The Randolph draft is then to be discussed with his four colleagues, with Mr. Rutledge and James Wilson of Pennsylvania making deletions and revisions. Governor Randolph describes the overall approach to the draft Constitution:

``1.To insert essential principles only, lest the operations of government should be clogged by rendering those provisions permanent and unalterable, which ought to be accommodated to times and events.

``2.To use simple and precise language, and general propositions, according to the example of the [several] constitutions of the several states.''

It is reliably reported that the New York State Constitution of 1777, more than the other 12, is the one that Committee members seem to be relying on for guidance.

The Committee is also reported to be making extensive use of the existing Articles of Confederation. This is a surprise to some observers, since the Articles underwent a severe verbal battering in the Convention debates. They have been blamed for many of the political and economic problems that the Convention was convened to resolve.

Besides agreeing on a division of tasks for drafting the document, the Committee of Detail appears to have agreed on new names for elements of the new national government.

The national Legislature is to be called simply ``Congress.'' The first branch is to be known as ``The House of Representatives'' and the second branch simply ``The Senate.'' The Supreme Judicial Tribunal is to be called ``The Supreme Court.'' The national Executive is ``President of the United States of America'' and addressed as ``His Excellency.''

Rumors have been circulating that the Convention is considering a king to head the new government. The proposal for a single person as Executive, Governor Randolph warned in June, is the ``foetus of monarchy.'' Nevertheless, delegates' concern about the President has been eased considerably by the assumption that the first person to occupy that office will be General Washington.

Meanwhile, members of the Committee of Detail have been working day and night since the Convention recessed five days ago. One source maintains that, while the Committee clearly represents the will of the entire Convention, it is the Chairman, Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina, who is shaping the draft document's content and character.

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