-Tuesday, July 24, 1787
Yesterday Charles Cotesworth Pinckney warned that his State would vote against any final constitutional document if it did not provide security against emancipation of the slaves.
THE shaping of a draft Constitution was placed today in the hands of five delegates, elected as a Committee of Detail to draw up a document ``comfortable to the Resolutions passed by the Convention.''
The Committee of Detail reflects the sectional composition of this Convention:
Two from the North, one from the Middle States, and two from the South.
John Rutledge of South Carolina was the unanimous choice of the Convention as committee chairman. The 47-year-old lawyer and jurist is described as the ``foremost statesman'' south of Virginia. According to one observer, Mr. Rutledge is a practical politician, yet holds a vision for both the present and the future.
His selection today as chairman of the committee that will draft the new Constitution comes only one day after his South Carolina colleague, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, issued a warning. He told the Convention yesterday that his State would vote against any report of the Committee of Detail if it did not contain security for the Southern States against emancipation of their slaves and taxes on State exports.
The ease with which delegates elected the Committee of Detail is in sharp contrast with the struggle they had in deciding the mode of election of a national Executive. The debate became so complex and confusing that Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts suggested the issue be turned over to the newly elected Committee of Detail. ``Perhaps they will be able to hit on something that may unite the various opinions which have been thrown out,'' observed the frustrated Mr. Gerry.
Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania summarized the conflict at today's Convention session with this statement:
``If a good organization of the Execu[tive] should not be provided [I doubt] whether we should not have something worse than a limited Monarchy. ... It is [the] most difficult of all rightly to balance the Executive. Make him too weak: the Legislature will usurp his power[.] Make him too strong. He will usurp on the Legislature.''
A Convention majority did change its mind today and tentatively restored the right of the national Congress to elect the Executive, rather than the State legislatures via a system of electors. James Wilson of Pennsylvania suggested that 15 members of Congress elect the Executive by a lottery. ``We ought to be governed by reason, not by chance,'' snorted Rufus King of Massachusetts, suggesting in turn that the entire issue be postponed. So it was, the delegates exhausted by today's session of chasing the Executive and getting nowhere.
Despite today's stalemate, delegates are reported impatient to begin soon a 10-day recess so the Committee of Detail can get on with its mandate to hammer out a working document.
Reports are that Gen. George Washington is confident the Convention will succeed at what it set out to achieve. Apparently his mind is at ease, for he wrote a long letter today to his nephew George Augustine Washington, instructing him what crops needed special attention at Mount Vernon.
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.