When the Delegates return after the Independence Day Holiday, the compromise hammered out on July 3rd is quickly dismembered and left for dead. There seems to be no recourse. Robert Yates gives up and leaves. Insults and arguments fly about the chamber as men who normally hold their passions in check, find themselves at loggerheads and without any obvious way to move forward.
It is hard for us to understand the helplessness of the situation. And anyone who says that they would have done it differently in 1787, is either ignorant of the situation or lying about it.
Gouverneur Morris declares that they must unite. If persuasion will not work, then the sword will. Others are furious that he would think to suggest that Americans would revolt.
At the height of passions, George Mason of Virginia rises to speak. He has as much, if not more than anyone else to lose by being here in Philadelphia. But he speaks calmness and makes a promise to the delegates.
As the first couple of weeks of the Convention drone on, the debates become very heated. Perhaps best described as “frank, bordering on direct.” The small States, led by New Jersey’s Attorney General William Paterson, attack the idea of proportional representation as destructive to them.
It is now that we discover that the great debates of our time, are the same debates of the Convention. Is it to be “One Man=One Vote?” Or will each State have equal representation in the proposed government?
When it seems that there is an impasse, it is James Wilson of Pennsylvania, along with South Carolina’s Pickney and Rutledge, who hammer out the compromise which so many have proclaimed a “Faustian Bargain,” the 3/5th’s Compromise.
The Philadelphia Convention – Part 1
Today, May 14th is the 228th Anniversary of the Date set for the Constitutional Convention to begin in Philadelphia.
The American Democracy, founded on the ideas of the God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, was now on trial before the entire world. Anxious empires awaited the outcome of the Convention with their eyes on what would be left to take, should the Americans fail to restore good government and end up going their separate ways. The Philadelphia convention did not get off to a prompt start, as heavy rains had turned every road into the city to rivers of mud. By the assigned starting date, only eight delegates had arrived. It was an inauspicious beginning to the last ditch attempt to save the United States of America.
Today we begin our look at the Convention itself. For the next few months, we will take a look at what happened at the Convention in the previous week. What was debated, discussed? We will meet the fifty-five men who wrote our Constitution, starting with one Daniel of St. Thomas Jennifer of Delaware.