Constitutional Journal

-Monday, July 2, 1787

Last Friday despair was rejected by Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, though compromise once more eluded the delegates.

THIS Convention stood dangerously poised today astride a great fissure of disagreement that split it right down the middle when the 11 States present cast their votes for or against equality of voting in the proposed national Senate.

Five small States voted for the measure proposed earlier by Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, and five States voted no. The 11th State, Georgia, was divided because Maj. William Pierce was in New York preparing to fight a duel, and William Few was attending sessions of the Continental Congress. Georgia's two remaining delegates at the session today split their vote. Abraham Baldwin, formerly of Connecticut, voted for equality of representation in support of the small States out of the belief that if the measure failed they would walk out of the Convention.

Maryland would also have been divided, rather than united casting its vote with the small States, had delegate Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer arrived for the day's session before the vote took place. His out-of-breath and apologetic late arrival prompted Rufus King of Massachusetts to demand the vote be taken again. This is clearly against Convention rules. The five-to-five deadlock vote stood for no decision, to the despair of some and to the relief of others.

South Carolina's Charles Cotesworth Pinckney suggested the formation of a committee composed of one delegate from each State to work out a compromise. Roger Sherman of Connecticut summed up the stalemate by saying that the Convention had come to a full stop. ``It seems we have got to a point, that we cannot move one way or the other. Such a committee is necessary to set us right,'' he added.

James Madison of Virginia was disturbed by the proposal. He told the Convention:

``I have observed that committees only delay business; and if you appoint one from each state, we shall have in it the whole force of state prejudices. The motion of the gentleman from South Carolina can be as well decided here as in committee.''

Mr. Madison's worst fears were confirmed when the Convention voted to create the committee. The 11 delegates elected clearly demonstrate that it has been ``loaded'' in favor of the compromises supported by the small States, to the dismay of Mr. Madison and James Wilson of Pennsylvania. One observer points out that stacking the committee was the work of cooler heads. The large States could have won today by the thin vote of one, but only at the price of small-State hostility to the overall plan for a new national government.

A majority of delegates now know the small States will not surrender. They also know that, despite his unpopularity, Luther Martin of Maryland is correct when he concludes that the Convention is on ``the verge of dissolution, scarce held together by the strength of a hair.''

A sign of relief swept through the Convention when the delegates voted to adjourn to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday.

As they filed out of the State House today, perhaps the words of Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts haunted their thoughts. He warned the delegates: ``Something must be done, or we shall disappoint not only America, but the whole world.''

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