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When the Virginia plan, as modified in the committee of the whole, was formally taken up by the house (June 19) it had been under consideration for three weeks. Each clause was now debated anew, and another opportunity was given for discussion on every portion of the plan. Old differences reappeared. Evidently, the small-state party was not yet utterly routed; evidently long weeks of debate still remained before adjournment.

On the consideration of the first resolution, which had been adopted in committee on May 30, an interesting discussion arose. Wilson said that by a national government, he did not mean one that would swallow up the states. Hamilton again advocated the bestowal of indefinite authority on the national government: "If it were limited at all, the rivalship of the States would gradually subvert it." King declared that the states had never, properly speaking, been sovereign. "They did not possess the peculiar features of sovereignty, they could not make war, nor peace, nor alliances, nor treaties. Considering them as political Beings, they were dumb, for they could not speak to any foreign Sovereign whatever. They were deaf, for they could not hear any propositions from such Sovereign. They had not even the organs or faculties of defense or offense, for they could not of themselves raise troops, or equip vessels, for war. On the other side, if the Union of the States comprises the idea of a confederation, it comprises that also of consolidation. A Union of the States is a Union of the men composing them, from whence a national character results to the whole. ... If the States, therefore, retained some portion of their sovereignty, they had certainly divested themselves of essential portions of it."

It may be that the reader will say that King was wrong and that the states were sovereign. Possibly they were; so much depends on what the much-abused word sovereign signifies. In the development of modern metaphysics, a development applied in America to practical politics, has come the announcement that it is impossible to divide sovereignty or for a true state to be divested of "portions" of sovereignty. However that may be — for to discuss metaphysical sovereignty is to get lost in mazes of intangible argument and of more impalpable assertion — King was bent on bringing out clearly the necessity of establishing a national government and of preserving the states as real political entities - a difficult task, it is true — but on the proper working out of this middle ground, on the proper balancing of the national power and local interest, depended the success of the convention and the foundation of a new political order, which should be neither a thoroughly consolidated state on the one hand nor a mere group of states on the other.

It was at this time that the word "national" was stricken from the Randolph plan (June 20), and surely it is unnecessary to assert that the unanimous consent for such erasure was not obtained because men had given up the hope of establishing a national government; for the change was made when those in favor of the Randolph plan and opposed to the Paterson movement had won in the convention by a vote of more than two to one. Ellsworth had asked that the word be erased so that the resolution would run: "that the Government of the United States ought to consist of a supreme Legislative, Executive and Judiciary." This change, he said, would give "the proper title, "the United States." He wished the plan "to go forth as an amendment of the articles of the Confederation since under this idea the authority of the Legislatures could ratify it." Randolph, in reply, "did not object to the change of expression, but apprised the gentleman who wished for it that he did not admit it for the reasons assigned; particularly that of getting rid of a reference to the people for ratification."

When the question arose, as it did on the second of Randolph's resolutions, as to whether or not there should be two branches of the legislature, the discussion once more went to the nature of the plan. Lansing contended that the true question "was, whether the Convention would adhere to or depart from the foundation of the present Confederacy." He was answered by Mason, who did not expect, he said, that this point would be related. On two points he declared the mind of the American people was settled: first, in an attachment to republican government; and second, in an attachment to more than one branch in the legislature. Coercion of states, such as Paterson's plan contemplated, he could think of only with horror; solicitous for the establishment of a national government, he would, nevertheless, not consent to the abolition of the states. As the debate continued, it must have been apparent that the defenders of the Randolph scheme had much the advantage in argument, if not in assertion. The fear that the new government would endanger the liberties of the people and encroach upon the rights of the states was frankly met. Madison and Wilson, who had had sorry experiences as members of the impotent Congress, insisted that the real peril was gradual disorganization, because of the selfishness and petty pride of the individual states. "A Citizen of Delaware," said Madison, "was not more free than a Citizen of Virginia: nor would either be more free than a Citizen of America."

The situation was clearly seen by Johnson of Connecticut, an able, serene man of good sense, who was willing to look at the whole subject fairly and debate it without passion. The New Jersey plan, he said, preserves the states; the Virginia plan professes not to destroy them, but is "charged with such a tendency." One man alone boldly advocates the abolition of the states. "Mr. Wilson and the gentleman from Virginia," he said, "who also were adversaries of the plan of New Jersey held a different language. They wished to leave the States in possession of a considerable, though a subordinate jurisdiction." Could this arrangement be made? That was the question; evidently, that was what was troubling the Connecticut delegation. Could the power be divided between state and nation, and the plan be so carefully adjusted that the states would be secure in the portions of sovereignty they retained? Could such a division be made secure and permanent unless each state were given a "distinct and equal vote for the purpose of defending" itself "in the general Councils"? Plainly Johnson was sincerely anxious for information, and his fair-minded question seemed to indicate that, if the states should be provided with means of self-defense, Connecticut would not vote against a national government. On the motion to establish a legislature with two branches, the votes stood seven to three, with Maryland divided.

On this question, Connecticut voted with the large states, and her delegates apparently saw their role clearly: they would not oppose a good national government, but they would work for a recognition of the states. Strong men these were, with wide experience and breadth of view, and they feared that unless the states were given distinct political power they would be absorbed or lose their significance altogether under the weight of a centralized national authority. Sherman, perhaps the most influential of them all, would not be likely to yield his chief purpose; calm, deliberate, quietly argumentative, he was as persistent as pursuing fate and, if willing to yield a little here and there, it was only that he might get as much of his own way as sweet temper and plodding patience could secure.

We can pass rapidly over the debates of the next few days, for in general only matters of secondary importance were discussed. The vexed question of representation was still to be balloted upon. For, although the large-state men had as yet won decisively on every significant ballot, and might well have thought their opponents hopelessly beaten, the small-state partisans, some of them now much excited, were in no mood to give up the fight.

Near the end of June, after the convention had been in session over a month, the resolution for proportional representation, which had been adopted in the committee of the whole, came before the convention. The small-state men were now ready for a supreme effort. Martin made a long and wearisome address, contending with deep earnestness that the power of the general government ought to be kept within narrow limits, that it was meant to preserve the state governments and not to control individuals. "The cornerstone of a federal government is equality of votes." "I would rather confederate," he exclaimed, "with any single state than submit to the Virginia plan." All the discussion seemed to lead to nothing, and Franklin solemnly proposed "imploring the assistance of Heaven." "I have lived, Sir, a long time," he said, "and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God Governs in the affairs of men." He advocated the opening of the morning sessions with prayer. Some of the delegates thought that such action would arouse suspicion of dissension in the convention, and the motion was not adopted.

Men argued about the question of state sovereignty and perhaps knew in a measure what they were talking about, but they seemed for a time no nearer the solution of the controversy. For some, like Martin, contended that the states were sovereign, and others, like Madison and Wilson and Hamilton and King, did not believe that the states by separating from Great Britain became separated from one another. A bootless discussion and one that would interest us less were it not that in the days to come the question of state sovereignty and sundry meta-physical subtilties rose like a cloud of darkening locusts.

The debate continued with the fundamental problem inextricably connected with the question of representation still unsettled. Strong speeches were made. But the national party argued in vain and pointed to the dangers that all could see. Were the small states anxious for liberty? Then let them unite and not stand aloof in awe of their more powerful neighbors. If no union resulted on just principles, if the states watched one another in jealous dread, each would soon seek to render itself secure by a standing army, and America would soon be burdened by military expenses and sustained by despotic government. "Constant apprehension of war," said Madison, "has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. . . . The means of defense against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home."

The old argument was forcibly repeated by Hamilton: the small states might perhaps lose their equality, but their citizens would not thus lose their freedom. But the truth was, as Hamilton keenly said, this was "a contest for power, not for liberty." The small states were solicitous for power but were ostensibly anxious for liberty. At length, the vote came (June 29), and again the national men were in the lead. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voted in favor of proportional representation in the first branch of the legislature. Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware voted for equal representation. Maryland was divided, for the truculent Martin could not control the vote of his state.

As soon as the vote was declared, the Connecticut men demanded a decision as to the make-up of the second branch of the legislature. Ellsworth began by saying that on the whole, he was not sorry that the convention had determined to have unequal representation in the first branch of the legislature; such a decision furnished a ground "for compromise by giving the states equal representation in the second branch. He described the Union as partly federal and partly national and asked that in the make-up of the government, this substantial fact find recognition. To the notion that there was real danger of the combination of the large against the small states he still steadfastly clung. With this bold demand from the Connecticut men for equal representation in the Senate, the convention reached its most critical stage; it was "on the verge of dissolution, scarce held together by the strength of a hair."

The early days of July were full of excitement. Despite continued defeats, the small-state men were more determined than ever, for, although those desiring merely to patch up the Confederation were beaten beyond hope of recovery, and though the convention was evidently determined to establish a national government, they still hoped for recognition of the states, and in this contest were guided by real leaders. The large-state men were equally determined. Wilson hoped that men were too wise to "abandon a Country to which they were bound by so many strong and endearing ties. But should the deplored event happen, it would neither stagger his sentiments nor his duty. If the minority of the people of America refuse to coalesce with the majority on just and proper principles, if a separation must take place, it could never happen on better grounds." Some of the delegates were on the verge of losing their unsteady tempers, and Bedford, of Delaware, stepped fairly over the margin and challenged the large states to do their worst: "We have been told with a dictatorial air that this is the last moment for a fair trial in favor of a Good Government. It will be the last indeed if the propositions reported from the Committee go forth to the people. He was under no apprehensions," he declared. "The Large States dare not dissolve the Confederation. If they do the small ones will find some foreign ally of more honor and good faith, who will take them by the hand and do them justice."

Even from the meager notes of Madison, we can see something of the excitement, the feeling only half-suppressed, the grim determination of those trying days. We can imagine the hurried conferences of the different factions and the long, secret conferences of the different partisans at their lodgings. Wilson, Madison, and King made great speeches and spoke clear sense, but to little purpose. It did no good to point out the fact that there was no real antagonism of interest between the big states and the little ones, and that a government designed to counteract an imaginary danger was based on a fanciful foundation. The real antithesis lay between the north and the south, and men like Madison saw the fact and emphasized it. But the small-state men would have none of it. In some way, they succeeded in reasoning that if proportional representation were adopted in "both houses the government would be aristocratic or become so. "Are the people of the three large States more aristocratic than those of the small ones?" asked Wilson. "Whence then the danger of aristocracy from their influence? It is all a mere illusion of names. ... Is a real and fair majority, the natural hotbed of aristocracy?"

The difficulty of establishing proportional representation presented, however, one real difficulty. If the people of each state were to be given the right to elect one senator, the number of members in the second branch would be too large. Ninety or a hundred senators seemed altogether too large a number; for the delegates had in mind the small upper houses of the state legislatures or the small councils that had existed in colonial times, and they probably supposed that the Senate was to have more than merely legislative functions. To elect senators without reference to state lines also presented difficulties, and perhaps needlessly injured the self-esteem of the smallest states, like Delaware, whose impetuous representative on the floor of the convention had been asserting the sovereignty of her forty thousand souls. As a compromise, Wilson proposed a senator for every one hundred thousand inhabitants, with the proviso that each state should have at least one.

In this suggestion, some of the national party were willing to acquiesce, but it did little to soothe the feelings of the localists. King in an eloquent speech pleaded for agreement; "his feelings were more harrowed and his fears more agitated for his Country than he could express"; and this he conceived "to be the last opportunity of providing for its liberty and happiness." "When a just government founded on a fair representation of the people of America was within" reach, he was amazed that men should renounce their blessings from an attachment "to the ideal freedom and importance of States." King's fervor was wasted. "When assertion is given for proof," said Dayton, of New Jersey, an ardent statesman of twenty-six years, "and terror substituted for argument, he presumed they would have no effect however eloquently spoken. . . . He considered the system on the table as a novelty, an amphibious monster."

On July 2 the question as to the constitution of the second branch came to a vote. Hitherto on the critical questions the vote of Maryland was divided and not counted; but now, in the absence of his colleagues, Martin cast the vote of the state for equal state representation. On the other hand, the delegation from Georgia, thus far acting with the larger states, was divided; Baldwin, a Connecticut man and a graduate and former tutor of Yale College, possibly influenced by men from his native state, voted for equal representation. The states, therefore, were evenly divided — five to five; Georgia's course was uncertain, but she could no longer be counted on for the full purposes of the large-state leaders. What was to be done?

General Pinckney moved the appointment of a grand committee of a member from each state, and the proposition met with favor. "We are now at a full stop," said Sherman, "and nobody . . . meant that we should break up without doing something." Wilson and Madison strongly protested that their Congressional experience had taught them the uselessness of grand committees. Perhaps they already saw the battle going against them; certainly, fears of defeat were well founded. One would fain know the political maneuvering that preceded the election of the committee. The moment that it was chosen, the large-state party was beaten in its effort to have proportional representation in both houses; for not one of the really strong men of the nationalists was chosen. From Massachusetts came not clear-minded King, but Gerry; from Pennsylvania, not vigorous Wilson, but accommodating Franklin; from Virginia, not the broad-minded Madison, but Mason, who was now lukewarm and was to change into an avowed enemy of the Constitution he had helped to frame. On the other hand, the committee contained Ellsworth, Yates, Paterson, the irrepressible Bedford of Delaware, the obstinate Martin of Maryland, Baldwin of Georgia, by whose vote Georgia had for the moment been lost from the ranks of the large-state party, and Davie of North Carolina, who had already given signs of indecision. The eleventh member was Rutledge of South Carolina.

The work of the committee could end in nothing but a report surrendering proportional representation in the second branch. On July 5 it recommended the resolution of proportional representation for the first branch of the legislature, and that all bills for fixing salaries, or for raising or appropriating money, should originate in that branch, but that in the second branch, each state should have an equal vote.