Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – In the same hall, eleven years later, men are meeting to discuss the new plan of government, the Virginia Plan as it’s known. Today is the 19th, so we’re almost three weeks into the discussion over James Madison’s Virginia Plan as offered by Edmund Randolph. It’s around about this time that the New York delegation has about had it with little Jimmy Madison. They’re not very many days away from just walking out and leaving. What’s going on in late June 1787 in the Federal Convention? Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Now let’s move on to June 1787. In the same hall, eleven years later, men are meeting to discuss the new plan of government, the Virginia Plan as it’s known. Today is the 19th, so we’re almost three weeks into the discussion over James Madison’s Virginia Plan as offered by Edmund Randolph. It’s around about this time that the New York delegation has about had it with little Jimmy Madison. They’re not very many days away from just walking out and leaving. What’s going on in late June 1787 in the Federal Convention?
Kevin Gutzman: What two of the three New Yorkers are unhappy with is they think what the Philadelphia Convention had decided to do by taking up Virginia’s Resolutions was to draft a substitute for the Articles of Confederation. Since the delegates from New York, like the delegates from virtually every other state, had been instructed to do what Congress said the convention should do, which was propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation, these New Yorkers decided: We can’t participate in this. Apparently they went to the Philadelphia Convention thinking this might happen.
This is one reason why John Jay, who was one of the prominent federalists from New York, was not on the delegation from New York. The delegation was a couple anti-federalists and Alexander Hamilton. Once the, that is to say a majority of anti-federalists or people who disfavored creating a new constitution from the first, after those guys left — their names were Lansing and Yates, one of who was the chief justice of New York. After they left, Hamilton sometimes participated in the Philadelphia Convention, but he didn’t have a vote because New York’s state quorum requirement was there had to be at least two delegates in attendance before a vote could be cast by the New York delegation. That’s another bit of evidence the people had foreseen what might happen and wanted not to have their state participating in it.
Mike: And then while this is going on, there is also, amongst the Virginia delegation — you have George Mason who is sitting there going: All right, maybe I should stay so I can steer this thing in the proper direction. You have Madison, whose intention we know. We also know that George Wythe was there, although I believe he had to leave sometime in June and then come back later on.
Gutzman: What happened was his wife died so he went back to Virginia. He ended up not playing very much of a role in drafting the Constitution.
Mike: That is significant because Wythe was, by most accounts, the most prolific law instructor in all of Virginia, right?
Gutzman: Yes. He was actually America’s first law professor.
Mike: So all this is going on. And about this time, as I said, the New Yorkers have about had it with little Jimmy Madison, but someone else has about had it with little Jimmy Madison, too. This is the part of the story that I tell in The Spirit of ’76. I don’t know if the Marylanders sent their delegation thinking that a national government was afoot. If they did, then they wouldn’t have sent Luther Martin, drunk or not. Apparently on the days when he was not drunk, he was one of the fiercest opponents of the efforts to try and nationalize things or trying to bring things under a national umbrella with one size fits all and we’ll let this new government tend to all these things. Martin has a large and emerging role here. Any comment on Luther Martin?
Gutzman: Well, Martin was going to join with other small, state delegates in opposing nationalizing the central government, that is converting it from a federal one into a national one, apparently largely on two bases. Number one, being from a small state meant you didn’t want to give up the principle that the states voted each with one vote in Congress, as the Virginia Resolutions, that is what we usually call the Virginia Plan, contemplated. In other words, when Governor Randolph of Virginia presented the Virginia Plan, which now we know is mainly Madison’s handiwork, he included resolutions calling for there to be a bicameral national legislature with the lower house elected by the people and the upper house elected by the lower house, both apportioned by population. Of course, it’s predictable that people who were from smaller states wouldn’t like the idea of both houses being apportioned by population. This ended up being the chief sticking point in the Philadelphia Convention. People from small states plus New Yorkers, other than Hamilton, opposed the idea of having both houses apportioned by population. So there’s going to end up being, of course, the famous concession to the small states of having every state have two votes in the Senate.
Mike: One final point here for Professor Gutzman as we talk a little bit about some of the events of 1776 and 1787 in June of those years. In your book Virginia’s American Revolution, one of the factoids that I took away from it and learned from it was that George Washington was not the first man to be called the father of his country. As a matter of fact, George Washington would have been about 15 years later when someone would have designated him that. There was someone that was called the father of his country and he was a Virginian. Tell that story.
Gutzman: Actually, there were two Virginians I know of being called father of their country before Washington was. One was Peyton Randolph, who was Thomas Jefferson’s older cousin, who was speaker of the House of Burgesses when Jefferson first became a burgess. He also was speaker of the First Continental Congress. While being most prominent and politically powerful Virginian meant having a leading role in Congress, in those days almost automatically. Later on there was one instance in which people called Henry the father of his country. This term “father of his country” actually comes from a Roman precedent when people in the latest days of the Roman Republic or earliest days of the Roman Empire referred to August Caesar as the father of his country.
Mike: We don’t want to compare these guys to Augustus, though.
Gutzman: No, we do not, except in a positive way.
End Mike Church Show Transcript