Tuesday May 29, 1787

James Madison's Notes     

John Dickenson, and Elbridge Gerry, the former from Delaware, the latter from Massts. took their seats, 1

The following rules were added, on the report of Mr. Wythe, from the Committee 

Additional rules. 1

Mr. C. Pinckney moved that a Committee be appointed to superintend the minutes. 

Mr. Govr. Morris objected to it. The entry of the proceedings of the Convention belonged to the Secretary as their impartial officer. A committee might have an interest & bias in moulding the entry according to their opinions and wishes 

The motion was negatived 5 noes 4 ays. 2

Mr. Randolph then opened the main business 3

He expressed his regret, that it should fall to him, rather than those, who were of longer standing in life and political experience, to open the great subject of their mission. But, as the convention had originated from Virginia, and his colleagues supposed, that some proposition was expected from them, they had imposed this task on him. 4

He then commented on the difficulty of the crisis, and the necessity of preventing the fulfilment of the prophecies of the American downfal. 

He observed that in revising the foederal system we ought to inquire I. into the properties, which such a government ought to possess, 2. the defects of the confederation, 3. the danger of our situation &. 4. the remedy. 

1. The character of such a governme[nt] ought to secure I. against foreign invasion: 2. against dissentions between members of the Union, or seditions in particular states: 3. to p[ro]cure to the several States various blessings, of which an isolated situation was i[n]capable: 4. to be able to defend itself against incroachment: & 5. to be paramount to the state constitutions. 

2. In speaking of the defects of the confederation he professed a high respect for its authors, and considered, them as having done all that patriots could do, in the then infancy of the science, of constitutions, & of confederacies, -- when the inefficiency of requisitions was unknown -- no commercial discord had arisen among any states -- no rebellion had appeared as in Massts.-- foreign debts had not become urgent -- the havoc of paper money had not been foreseen -- treaties had not been violated -- and perhaps nothing better could be obtained from the jealousy of the states with regard to their sovereignty. 

He then proceeded to enumerate the defects: 

3. He next reviewed the danger of our situation appealed to the sense of the best friends of the U.S.-- the prospect of anarchy from the laxity of government every where; and to other considerations. 

4. He then proceeded to the remedy; the basis of which he said, must be the republican principle He proposed as conformable to his ideas the following resolutions, which he explained one by one. 

Resolutions proposed by Mr Randolph in Convention May 29, 1787.

  1. Resolved that the articles of Confederation ought to be so corrected & enlarged as to accomplish the objects proposed by their institution; namely. "common defence, security of liberty and general welfare."
  2. Resd. therefore that the rights of suffrage in the National 5 Legislature ought to be proportioned to the Quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants, as the one or the other rule may seem best in different cases.
  3. Resd. that the National Legislature ought to consist of two branches.
  4. Resd. that the members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States ... every for the term of ... ; to be of the age of ... years at least, to receive liberal stipends by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service; to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those beculiarly belonging to the functions of the first branch, during the term of service, and for the space of ... after its expiration; to be incapable of re-election for the space of ... after the expiration of their term of service, and to be subject to recall.
  5. Resold. that the members of the second branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by those of the first, out of a proper number of persons nominated by the individual Legislatures, to be of the age of ... years at least; to hold their offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independency, to receive liberal stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service; and to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch, during the term of service, and for the space of after the expiration thereof.
  6. Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of originating Acts; that the National Legislature ought to be impowered to enjoy the Legislative Rights vested in Congress by the Confederation & moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent, or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual Legislation; to negative all laws passed by the several States, contravening in the opinion of the National Legislature the articles of Union; and to call forth the force of the Union agst. any member of the Union failing to fulfill its duty under the articles thereof.
  7. Resd. that a National Executive be instituted; to be chosen by the National Legislature for the term of years, to receive punctually at stated times, a fixed compensation for the services rendered, in which no increase or diminution shall be made so as to affect the Magistracy, existing at the time of increase or diminution, and to be ineligible a second time; and that besides a general authority to execute the National laws, it ought to enjoy the Executive rights vested in Congress by the Confederation.
  8. Resd. that the Executive and a convenient number of the National Judiciary, ought to compose a council of revision with authority to examine every act of the National Legislature before it shall operate, & every act of a particular Legislature before a Negative thereon shall be final; and that the dissent of the said Council shall amount to a rejection, unless the Act of the National Legislature be again passed, or that of a particular Legislature be again negatived by ... of the members of each branch.
  9. Resd. that a National Judiciary be established to consist of one or more supreme tribunals, and of inferior tribunals to be chosen by the National Legislature, to hold their offices during good behaviour; and to receive punctually at stated times fixed compensation for their services, in which no increase or diminution shall be made so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time of such increase or diminution. that the jurisdiction of the inferior tribunals shall be to hear & determine in the first instance, and of the supreme tribunal to hear and determine in the dernier resort, all piracies & felonies on the high seas, captures from an enemy; cases in which foreigners or citizens of other States applying to such jurisdictions may be interested, or which respect the collection of the National revenue; impeachments of any National officers, and questions which may involve the national peace and harmony.
  10. Resolvd. that provision ought to be made for the admission of States lawfully arising within the limits of the United States, whether from a voluntary junction of Government & Territory or otherwise, with the consent of a number of voices in the National legislature less than the whole.
  11. Resd. that a Republican Government & the territory of each State, except in the instance of a voluntary junction of Government & territory, ought to be guaranteed by the United States to each State
  12. Resd. that provision ought to be made for the continuance of Congress and their authorities and privileges, until a given day after the reform of the articles of Union shall be adopted, and for the completion of all their engagements.
  13. Resd. that provision ought to be made for the amendment of the Articles of Union whensoever it shall seem necessary, and that the assent of the National Legislature ought not to be required thereto.
  14. Resd. that the Legislative Executive & Judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of Union
  15. Resd. that the amendments which shall be offered to the Confederation, by the Convention ought at a proper time, or times, after the approbation of Congress to be submitted to an assembly or assemblies of Representatives, recommended by the several Legislatures to be expressly chosen by the people, to consider & decide thereon.

He concluded with an exhortation, not to suffer the present opportunity of establishing general peace, harmony, happiness and liberty in the U.S. to pass away unimproved. 7

It 6 was then Resolved &c -- &c -- That the House will to-morrow resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House to consider of the State of the American Union,--and that the propositions moved by Mr. Randolph be referred to the said Committee. 

Mr. Charles Pinkney laid before the house the draught of a federal Government which he had prepared to be agreed upon between the free and independent States of America. --Mr. P. plan ordered that the same be referred to the Committee of the whole appointed to consider the State of the American Union. 


[May] 8 29. -- two additional members take their seats -- other rules added on report of Mr W. Mr Randolph on the part of the Virginia delegation opened the main business, enumerating defects of the confederation & proposed his resolutions which were referred to a Comee of the whole--copy of C. Pinkneys resolutions (journal) & note &co on them by J. M.-- resolutions referred to same Comee 

1: Copied from Journal.
2: Madison tried two other ways of expressing the result of this vote. This uncertainty as to the best form of expression may indicate that it was the first vote recorded. Vote 2 is readily identified by the records of Madison, Yates and McHenry. Journal ascribed vote 1 to the question immediately preceding, and Madison revised his record accordingly. This is probably a mistake. It is doubtful that a first tie vote would have been declared in the negative without comment or discussion (cf. last vote, Records of June 1). It would seem more probable that vote 1 corresponds to the first vote recorded by Madison on May 29.  Votes 3 and 4 evidently belong to this day's records as only eight votes were cast; on the following day, May 31, ten states were present and voted. The only clue to the identifiction of vote 3 is the failure or refusal of Delaware to vote, which might point to any of the resolutions in favor of proportional suffrage. Journal ascribes this vote to the question to postpone the resolution offered by Randolph and Madison, but it would seem to apply better to an earlier amendment of that resolution, to the effect that the rights of suffrage were to be "not according to the present system". Journal ascribes vote 4 to the first question on the following day, May 31. But as above explained, it probably belongs to May 30. It might be ascribed to the last question of the day, viz. Read's motion to postpone -- Gouverneur Morris's opposition would account for Pennsylvania's negative vote.
3: Madison originally had written: "in a long speech in which he pointed out the various defects of the federal system, the necessity of transforming it into a national efficient Government, and the extreme danger of delaying this great work, concluding with sundry propositions as the outlines of a proper form." This was struck out, and there is written: "(here insert his speech including his resolutions.)" The speech which follows is in Randolph's hand, see Madison's note at the end of the speech, and Appendix A, CCXLVII. There are slight mutilations in the MS.
4: Upon the formation of the Virginia Plan and the choice of Randolph to present it.
5:  On the term "National" see debates of June 19--20.
6: The remainder of Madison's records for this day were copied from Journal.
7:  This abstract of the Speech was furnished to J. M. by Mr. Randolph and is in his hand writing. As a report of it from him, had been relied, on, it was omitted by J. M.  The resolutions are in Madison's handwriting.
8: Memoranda by Madison, see May 14, note 10.