As James Madison leaves New York City to stand for election to the Virginia Ratification Convention, he is troubled. Overall, the nation is moving towards Ratification, but major hurdles remain, including New York, Maryland and of course, his home State of Virginia. If Virginia and New York reject ratification, the entire enterprise could be placed in doubt.
In Virginia, he finds the distasteful process of just getting elected to the Convention an annoyance. And if he gets elected, he will face off against the man who many believe is the greatest orator of all time, Patrick Henry.
Henry has made it clear that he will not support ratification. Or maybe he will? This is the real issue in Virginia, the three positions taken by the various partisan sides.
First are the Federalists, led by Madison. They support ratification as is. Next come the slightly-anti-Federalists, led by such men as Randolph and Mason, who will support ratification IF, and that is a big IF, they can get amendments included which they believe will safeguard individual rights.
Thirdly, there is Kentucky. Currently it is part of Virginia. Madison has been fighting a loosing battle in Congress for the last two years to make her a State in her own right, but the inertial resistance has led many in Kentucky and around the South in general to believe that the proposed Constitution is little more than a Northern power grab.
And overarching it all is Patrick Henry. There are rumors that he has his own ideas about what Virginia should do. Nobody is certain, but the evidence seems to lead to the conclusion that he would not be displeased if Virginia fails to ratify. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and Madison has to find a way to extinguish Henry’s opposition…
Virginia – Part 1
Of all the states that – even for a fleeting moment – thought that they might be able to go their own way and reject the Constitution, Virginia is probably the only one that realistically had a chance of success. But Virginia is also the center of The Enlightenment in America; and it is her leaders who have the nations confidence. So much so, that James Madison almost won’t make it home in time to be elected to the Virginia Convention, because he is busy conducting the Nations business which is entrusted to Virginia.
It is here that the most eloquent Anti-federalist of all, Patrick Henry, will probably join forces with George Mason, a man who attended the Philadelphia Convention but refused to sign the final document. Together, they look to face down the Federalists. If they succeed, Virginia will not ratify and it will be likely that other States remaining to consider the Constitution will follow her example.
Patrick Henry will take the lead. He has a long history of being a defender of individual, particularly religious conscience, and States rights. He has opposed Madison and Jefferson before; this time he means to pull out all of the stops to prevent what he sees as a usurpation of power from the people. Mason has become surprisingly (one might say, Samuel Adamsish) passive. Madison, having just made the convention, faces the most important task of his life…