They recommended the appointment of commissioners from all the States, “to meet at Philadelphia, on the second Monday of May next . . . .”
Continuing The Constitutional Convention of the United States,
our selection from Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States by Joseph Story published in 1833. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in 1.5 easy 5 minute installments.
Joseph Story (1779-1845) was a Supreme Court Justice for 34 years.
Previously in The Constitutional Convention of the United States.
First we conclude Andrew Young.
In Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York the new Constitution encountered a most formidable opposition, which rendered its adoption by these States for a time extremely doubtful. In their conventions were men on both sides who had been members of the national convention, associated with others of distinguished abilities. In Massachusetts there were several adverse influences which would probably have defeated the ratification in that State had it not been accompanied by certain proposed amendments to be submitted by Congress to the several States for ratification. The adoption of these by the convention gained for the Constitution the support of Hancock and Samuel Adams; and the question on ratification was carried by one hundred eighty-seven against one hundred sixty-eight.
In the Virginia convention the Constitution was opposed by Patrick Henry, James Monroe, and George Mason, the last of whom had been one of the delegates to the constitutional convention. On the other side were John Marshall, Edmund Pendleton, James Madison, George Wythe, and Edmund Randolph, the three last also having been members of the national convention. Randolph had refused to sign the Constitution, but had since become one of its warmest advocates. In the convention of this State, also, the ratification was aided by the adoption of a bill of rights and certain proposed amendments, and was carried, eighty-eight yeas against eighty nays.
In the convention of New York the opposition embraced a majority of its members, among whom were Yates and Lansing, members of the general convention, and George Clinton. The principal advocates of the Constitution were John Jay, Robert R. Livingston, and Alexander Hamilton. Strong efforts were made for a conditional ratification, which were successfully opposed, though not without the previous adoption of a bill of rights and numerous amendments. With these, the absolute ratification was carried, thirty-one to twenty-nine.
The ratification of North Carolina was not received by Congress until January, 1790; and that of Rhode Island not until June of the same year.
After the ratification of New Hampshire had been received by Congress, the ratifications of the nine States were referred to a committee, who, on July 14, 1788, reported a resolution for carrying the new government into operation. The passage of the resolution, owing to the difficulty of agreeing upon the place for the meeting of the first Congress, was delayed until September 13th. The first Wednesday in January, 1789, was appointed for choosing electors of President, and the first Wednesday in February for the electors to meet in their respective States to vote for President and Vice-President; and the first Wednesday, March 4th, as the time, and New York as the place, to commence proceedings under the new Constitution.
Commissioners were appointed by the Legislatures of Virginia and Maryland, early in 1785, to form a compact relative to the navigation of the Potomac and Pocomoke rivers and Chesapeake Bay. The commissioners, having met in March in that year, felt the want of more enlarged powers, and particularly of powers to provide for a local naval force, and a tariff of duties upon imports. Upon receiving their recommendation, the Legislature of Virginia passed a resolution for laying the subject of a tariff before all the States composing the Union. Soon afterward, in January, 1786, the Legislature adopted another resolution, appointing commissioners, “who were to meet such as might be appointed by the other States in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative situation and trade of the States; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial relations may be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony; and to report to the several States such an act, relative to this great object, as, when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress assembled to provide for the same.”
These resolutions were communicated to the States, and a convention of commissioners from five States only, viz., New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia, met at Annapolis in September, 1786. After discussing the subject, they deemed more ample powers necessary, and, as well from this consideration as because a small number only of the States was represented, they agreed to come to no decision, but to frame a report to be laid before the several States, as well as before Congress. In this report they recommended the appointment of commissioners from all the States, “to meet at Philadelphia, on the second Monday of May next, to take into consideration the situation of the United States; to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union; and to report such an act for that purpose to the United States in Congress assembled as, when agreed to by them, and afterward confirmed by the legislature of every State, will effectually provide for the same.”
On receiving this report the Legislature of Virginia passed an act for the appointment of delegates to meet such as might be appointed by other States, at Philadelphia. The report was also received in Congress, but no step was taken until the Legislature of New York instructed its delegation in Congress to move a resolution recommending to the several States to appoint deputies to meet in convention for the purpose of revising and proposing amendments to the Federal Constitution. On February 21, 1787, a resolution was accordingly moved and carried in Congress recommending a convention to meet in Philadelphia, on the second Monday of May ensuing, “For the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures, such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union.” The alarming insurrection then existing in Massachusetts, without doubt, had no small share in producing this result. The report of Congress on that subject at once demonstrates their fears and their political weakness.
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