Constitutional Journal

-Thursday, Aug. 2, 1787

Yesterday the Pennsylvania Herald attacked Gov. George Clinton of New York for his alleged criticism of the Convention and its goal of forming a national government.

THE Committee of Detail is reported today to have included in its draft of a new Constitution a provision that would make future American presidents virtual military dictators in time of war.

Committee Chairman John Rutledge is said to be the author of the provision, which was not granted by the full Convention in its weeks of debate on the powers of the President. Such a provision was also not contained in the initial draft Constitution prepared by Committee member Gov. Edmund Randolph of Virginia. Mr. Rutledge is reported to have crossed out limited authority over the militia, contained in Governor Randolph's draft, and written in complete military authority for the President in time of war.

One observer believes the former Governor of South Carolina based this on his own experience during the War of Independence, when he had the responsibility of defending his State militarily but lacked full authority to do so.

The issue of the role of the military is certain to arise when the Convention reconvenes from its current 10-day recess. The most likely delegate to raise objections is Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. During the July 25 session, this correspondent has learned, Mr. Gerry warned the Convention that a danger of manipulation of free elections existed from the Society of the Cincinnati. The organization is composed of retired military officers who served under General Washington.

Just today a friend of Mr. Gerry's accused the Society of the Cincinnati and the Convention of conspiring to create a standing army for the purpose of imposing a military and political aristocracy on the country. Mrs. Mercy Warren says in a letter today that the fruits of freedom won in the American Revolution are imperiled by ambitious men with a passion for power rather than liberty. She writes:

``It is difficult to calculate the consequences of current appearances; the spirit of intrigue is matured in this country. ... A sample of this truth may be exhibited in the future establishments of America, and the systems of policy that may be adopted by the busy [geniuses] now plodding over untrodden ground, and who are more engaged in the fabrication of a strong Government than attentive to the ease, freedom and equal rights of man.''

Although Mrs. Warren is a woman, and cannot vote, her views carry considerable influence beyond her native New England. Besides being the sister of the famous Revolutionary orator James Otis, she is a writer of some renown, and the first historian of the American Revolution. Mrs. Warren is admired and her opinions are held in high regard by almost all of the American Revolutionary leaders, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Gen. George Washington. Her critical views of this Convention count.

She is highly critical, for example, of General Washington for leaving retirement and accepting the role of President of the Convention. Mrs. Warren fears his prestige will allow his former officers to impose a military aristocracy on the country at the expense of personal freedom. She also accuses General Washington of restlessness in retirement and missing the applause of the public, unable to ``become a calm and disinterested spectator on the transactions of statemen and politicians....''

These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.

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