Constitutional Journal

-Thursday, June 14, 1787 Yesterday came new warnings of opposition to a growing acceptance of the so-called Virginia Plan for national government.

WILLIAM Paterson of New Jersey turned up the political heat inside the Convention hall today, matching the growing hot weather outside the State House here in Philadelphia.

The diminutive Mr. Paterson was first on his feet today, proposing and receiving postponement of a vote on the Virginia Plan for a new national government. Mr. Paterson told the delegates that New Jersey and other small States wanted time to study the 19-point proposal of the large-State nationalists and to put forth a plan ``materially different from the system now under consideration.''

The large States have dominated the debate, and now it is the turn of the small States, being increasingly unhappy with the implications of the Virginia Plan, to present a counterproposal. Virginia's Edmund Randolph immediately seconded the motion, and the Convention unanimously concurred, for the large States do not intend to ram through a plan, and the Convention rules calling for a debate will be followed.

A source close to the Convention has concluded that today's development means that every delegate here is aware that a new chapter may have opened in the deliberations of this political conclave. The proposed national government has filled the small States with fear, some being reported ``aghast'' at the powers that such advocates as James Madison would confer on a national government.

Delegates from New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and Maryland oppose the new national government because it is a radical, if not revolutionary, departure from the current Articles of Confederation. Other States, such as Delaware, oppose the new government unless it guarantees the principle of equal representation of the States in the proposed national Congress.

John Dickinson of Delaware castigated Mr. Madison for misjudging the mood of the small States:

``You see the consequence of pushing things too far. Some of the members from the small States wish for two branches in the General Legislature, and are friends to a good National Government; but we would sooner submit to a foreign power, than submit to be deprived of an equality of suffrage, in both branches of the legislature, and thereby be thrown under the domination of the large States.''

There is an irony in Mr. Dickinson's angry words. Only 12 days ago he is reliably reported to have told Benjamin Rush, a prominent Philadelphia physician, that the Convention delegates ``are all united in their objects'' and that he expected they ``will be equally united in the means of attaining them.''

Mr. Madison also appears guilty of overoptimism. In a letter written eight days ago to Thomas Jefferson in Paris, a copy obtained by this correspondent, Mr. Madison said: ``It is possible that caprice if no other motive may yet produce a unanimity of the States in this experiment.''

This Convention has now agreed to consider not one but two plans for a new national government. But a third plan put forth by South Carolina's Charles Pinckney III was presented more than two weeks ago and has been ignored by the Convention. The agreement of the delegates today to consider a plan by Mr. Paterson has reportedly made Mr. Pinckney upset with everyone, whether from a small or a large State.

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

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Constitutional Journal
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today