-Wednesday, July 25, 1787
Yesterday Gen. George Washington was reported to be so much at ease over the outcome of the Convention that he wrote to his nephew with instructions about crops needing attention at Mount Vernon.
FEAR that a future national Executive might fall under foreign influence contributed to the delegates' failure at the Convention today to agree on how the Executive should be elected.
James Madison of Virginia, in a lengthy speech, sought to resolve the stalemate and failed. Mr. Madison issued a grim warning that the ministers of foreign powers would make use of every opportunity to intrigue and meddle in the election of a national Executive.
A system of electors chosen by the people, he argued, was one way to minimize the danger. He pressed his argument further:
``Limited as the powers of the Executive are, it will be an object of great moment with the great rival powers of Europe who have American possessions, to have at the head of our Governmt. a man attached to their respective politics & interests. No pains, nor perhaps expence, will be spared, to gain from the Legislature an appointmt. favorable to their wishes.''
Col. George Mason of Virginia said that, while he concurred that there was a ``great danger of foreign influence,'' he favored election of the Executive by the national Legislature.
Pierce Butler of South Carolina said the two great evils of cabal at home and of influence from abroad could not be avoided if Colonel Mason's proposal were adopted. He favored election of the national Executive by electors chosen by the States.
``The Govt. should not be made so complex & unwieldy as to disgust the States,'' the South Carolinian warned. ``This would be the case if the election shd [should] be referred to the people.''
Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania said election by the people was the best mode to avoid past evils. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts replied that the idea of popular election of the Executive was ``radically vicious'' and the ignorance of the people would provide a small group of men the means to manipulate the election by ``throwing such power into their hands.''
Fear of foreign influence has concerned not only Convention delegates. Just today John Jay, the Foreign Secretary of the Confederation, wrote a letter from New York to Convention President George Washington - a copy obtained by this correspondent. Secretary Jay urged the Convention to provide that foreigners not be allowed to serve in the new national government. He also urged that the Convention ``declare expressly that the Command in chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.''
Every Convention delegate fears any future moves by European powers, specifically in the vast unsettled wilderness to the west. It is an issue that has surfaced in Convention debates and is likely to produce bitter delegate disputes in future sessions. Potential profits from Western land speculation and the politics of population growth provide an explosive combination at this Convention.
Just this week the French envoy in New York is reported to have told his superiors, in a secret diplomatic dispatch to Paris, that the Western wilderness ``contains enough land to pay the whole domestic debt of the United States.''
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.