-Wednesday, July 4, 1787
Yesterday, during a Convention recess, the Grand Committee reached a compromise to break the deadlock between large and small States.
PHILADELPHIA worked itself into a state of patriotic exhaustion today in celebrating the 11th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Pealing church bells, 13-gun artillery salutes, and marching fife-and-drum bands accompanied residents' 13 toasts to the future health of the still-to-be united States of America.
Toasts were also offered to ``The Grand Convention'' and its delegates. ``May they form a Constitution for an eternal Republic.'' After a parade to the State House - where the Declaration was first proclaimed in 1776 - Gen. George Washington led most Convention delegates to the Reformed Calvinist Lutheran Church. Sitting silently and solemnly in the packed church, General Washington heard James Campbell preach a sermon aimed, in part, at the Convention delegates.
``Methinks, I already see the stately fabric of a free and vigorous Government rising out of the wisdom of the Federal Convention,'' Mr. Campbell said in part.
General Washington and other delegates must have been relieved that no hint of the crisis facing the Convention had leaked out to the public and the press. Both continue to expect great things of the Grand Convention, blissfully ignorant of the bitter and stormy debates of the last few weeks.
Today's July Fourth celebration, here in Philadelphia and elsewhere, has been the occasion for countless public speeches extolling in extravagant terms the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and Signer of the document, offered a detailed assessment of the events since 1776. He then went on:
``There is nothing more common than to confound the terms of the `American Revolution' with those of the `late American war.' The American war is over: But this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed.''
However, Dr. Rush's view - that this Convention is the continuation of what was begun with the Declaration 11 years ago - is contradicted by two other Signers. During the last five weeks, delegates Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts have argued that the Convention was authorized only to revise the existing Articles of Confederation. Both Mr. Sherman and Mr. Gerry signed the Articles, and both are convinced that the States they represent are the political expression of the Declaration. The proposed national government now being debated at this Convention, and favored by Dr. Rush, is viewed by States'-rights delegates like Mr. Sherman and Mr. Gerry as a departure from the Declaration that created the States and the Articles of Confederation.
It is on this fundamental issue of taking power away from the States and giving it to a new and powerful central government that this Convention now finds itself foundering in a sea of angry and bitter debate. But to most Americans caught up in today's July Fourth celebrations, their freedom is a seamless fabric. The events of 1776 and 1787 are, for them, from the same bolt of patriotic cloth. As the Pennsylvania Gazette wrote in the form of a toast today: ``The members of the present Convention - may they do as much towards the support of our independence as their virtuous President did towards its establishment.''
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.