-Wednesday, June 20, 1787 Yesterday John Lansing of New York said that beleaguered States'-righters may seek to win compromise by deadlocking the Convention.
A GROWING concern is coursing through this Convention that a dangerous impasse is developing. If not broken by compromise, it could lead to the breakup of the political conclave.
Connecticut's Oliver Ellsworth, a 37-year-old State Superior Court Judge, issued a warning during today's session. Mr. Ellsworth said it would be ``highly dangerous'' not to consider the Articles of Confederation still in effect, and he insisted that any plan sent to the States must be as proposed amendments to the Articles. Mr. Ellsworth appeared unmoved by the defeat yesterday of the New Jersey Plan, which scuttled any hope of the small States that this Convention would settle for amending the Articles.
In an apparent effort to soften the blow of yesterday's defeat, the Convention today agreed to a motion by Mr. Ellsworth that the word ``national'' be dropped from the Virginia Plan. In its place, ``the United States'' is to be used to describe the proposed national government. The words ``united States'' appear in the Articles of Confederation, but the change in the Virginia Plan does nothing to alter the national nature of that proposal, which is opposed by Mr. Ellsworth and others. The change is a compromise in style, not in substance.
Roger Sherman of Connecticut suggested a way out of the current impasse when he renewed his proposal that representation in the proposed national Congress be split. The lower house would have proportional representation as demanded by the nationalists, while in the upper house each State would have an equal vote. Then, alluding to the equality of votes in the Continental Congress, Mr. Sherman went on to point out that during the War of Independence the single-branch Continental Congress carried the States through the conflict. He noted:
``We were crowned with success. We closed the war, performing all the functions of a good government, by making a beneficial peace. But the great difficulty now is, how shall we pay the public debt incurred during that war. The unwillingness of the states to comply with the requisition of congress, has embarrassed us greatly.''
James Wilson of Pennsylvania rejected Mr. Sherman's argument, insisting that it was not the Continental Congress that carried the country to success during the war but other causes. Mr. Wilson then skillfully drew silent Gen. George Washington into the debate. ``That powers were wanting, you, Mr. President, must have felt,'' Mr. Wilson said, turning to the General. Every delegate is aware of the endless frustrations General Washington endured at the hands of the feeble and quarrelsome Continental Congress during the War of Independence.
Col. George Mason of Virginia sought to calm the political passions of both sides with words counseling conciliation. ``If we mean the good of the whole, ... our good sense upon reflection, will prevent us from spreading our discontent further,'' he said. Nevertheless, Colonel Mason demonstrated some discontent of his own that may have disturbed his fellow Virginia delegates. He was worried, he said, that too much power was being proposed for the new national government. ``I will never consent to destroy state governments,'' he warned.
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.