Wednesday, October 30, 2013


IN MY OTHER FORUM ON HUBPAGES, I have written a series of articles delving into a statistical study of the relationship between how the regulation of guns does or does not modify the rate at which guns are legally possessed in America and the relationship between the rate of legal gun ownership and the rate of deaths by gun, in general, and violent crime, specifically. I am not going to recreating the mathematics here; I am new at blogging and don't want to scare potential readers away, but I will offer some interesting facts and figures to help support my points.

This topic interests me due the number of needless deaths, approximately 85,600 in total and 2,568 kids since starting counting with the completion of a hub on Gabriel Giffords on 1/1/2011 and Sandy Hook Elementary on 12/14/2012, respectively until 10/31/2013 and the ease our society chooses to let these happen without significant, or even insignificant, changes to the laws regulating access to firearms.  Many of these might have been prevented with sensible gun regulations (unfortunately, Sandy Hook isn't one of them, but the Colorado Theater Massacre is).  All of the kids and most of the adults that have died from gunshots were senseless deaths and many of them happened only because many states have poor to very poor laws regulating legal gun ownership.  (Just yesterday, 10/21/2013, a toddler found a loaded gun under her father's couch in North Carolina and killed herself with it! North Carolina is tied for 9th in strictest gun regulations and has a special childrens provisions; the father is being charged with 2nd degree manslaughter.) 

What my hubs, that is what they these types of blogs are called in Hubland, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt is that 1) better, not onerous, gun regulations reduce the rate of gun ownership in a state and 2) fewer legal guns in circulation, per capita, means fewer deaths by guns, per capita.  The obvious conclusion, then, is that if those states with poor gun regulations improved them, say to the level of South Carolina, Nevada, or Utah, then fewer people would die from being shot than would otherwise be the case.

For this blog, instead of taking six parts to walk the reader through the reasons why and the statistics behind those reasons, I will cut to the bottom line; which has two parts itself, given the make-up of the current debate about it, 1) the relationship of gun ownership with violent crime and 2) the effect of regulation on gun ownership and the rate of overall deaths from those firearms.  The conclusions are: 

  1. One average, the degree a State regulates its guns, the lower the rate of legal firearm ownership per capita in that State (2)
  2. The lower the per capita rate of legal firearm ownership rate, then the lower the per capita rate of death by gun (2)
  3. The per capita rate of legal gun ownership has no statistically significant bearing on the rate of violent crime (1)
  4.  The higher the per capita rate of legal gun ownership rate, the higher the homicide rate component of violent crime. (1)
  5.  The higher the per capita rate of legal gun ownership rate, the lower robbery rate component of violent crime (1)
  6. Most guns possessed by criminals are obtained through legal means without background checks being required (1)
  7. There is a strong correlation between the rate of legal gun ownership and 1) the rate of overall suicides and 2) the rate of suicides by gun. There is not a 1 for 1 trade off between lack of access to a firearm and killing oneself by other means. (2)
Current statistics suggest more than 30,000 people, 3000 of whom are children, die each and every year of gunshot wounds, and it is currently on the increase; only a small percentage of whom are criminals or the police chasing them.  The rest are regular civilians, primarily suicides.  Facts (from the CDC):

  • Less than half, 49%, of violent crime related deaths are from firearms
  • 59% of gun deaths are from non-homicide or legal intervention causes
  • Of the 59%, 52% are suicides leaving 7% for all other causes such as accident or "undetermined reasons"
  • Only 2% are from legal intervention, mainly police, but sometimes civilians protecting themselves.
  • 39% of gun deaths are homicide related; of these only 41% were related to criminal activity ... that is only 16% of total deaths by gun! 
These statistics are presented to establish important points in the debate surrounding the regulation of firearms.  The pro-gun lobby, mainly the NRA leadership make the following arguments:

  1. The "pro-regulation" politicians and citizens want to "ban" guns altogether in contravention to the 2nd Amendment
  2. That the more legal ownership of guns there is the less violent crime there will be
  3. That if guns are banned or overly regulated, then only criminals will have guns
  4. That banning or overly regulating guns will drive up crime
  5. That making guns harder to obtain for those who have a potential for suicide will do no good, they will simply commit suicide by other means
  6. That death by guns should not be part of the conversation and is just smoke-and-mirrors being used by those who oppose guns.
Let me take these on one-by-one.  

ARGUMENT 1:The Political Goal is to Ban Guns Altogether
This is an obvious misdirection by the NRA and gun-advocates to scare the unthinking public.  While there is a certain a subset of politicians and citizens who wish firearms of one type or another (or all of them), they are living a pipe-dream.  Obtaining there objective is next to impossible in America, for exactly the reason the NRA cites, the 2nd Amendment.  The only possible way for the ban-the-gun lobby to achieve their dream is another Constitutional amendment; not a likely event.
In any case, the largest group of "anti-gun" advocates by far are those who support gun rights but believe they need to be regulated more, or in places like Arizona or Louisianna, much more.  They know, but the NRA denies, that statistics prove better gun regulations DO SAVE LIVES, lots of them; and that is what the series of six Hubs are all about, proving this statistically.  Rather than fight this group, the NRA and its members ought to be working with them to find the best set of  regulations that protect lives yet minimize the interference with firearm ownership; something the 2nd Amendment does allow.
CONCLUSION: This is a truly bogus argument.
ARGUMENT 2:  More Legal Guns = Less Violent Crime
A nice thought, and I wish it were true, but my research suggests that it isn't.  Violent crime is made up of four components: Murder and non-negligent manslaughter (criminal homicide), Robbery, Forcible Rape, and Aggravated Assault.
Before going on, I need to describe the statistical study that went into the articles posted on Hubpages. There is quite a bit of State-by-State data available (although the NRA has successfully suppressed some of it which is related to guns, they know facts will destroy their arguments) regarding gun ownership, gun regulation, and the many factors that may influence violent crime and suicide; the two main activities where firearms are used.

In my former life, I was a Cost Analyst for the Department of Defense, which, to be successful, required that we be adept in many fields; statistics being one of them.  It is this background which gave me the tools necessary to analyze the data that was available.  Granted, it wasn't a full-blown academic type study with citations and hard to understand jargon and such, but it was robust.  It also looked across more variables than did any study I found in my research.  In the Hubs, I lead the reader step-by-step on how I reached my conclusions hoping to remove all doubt as to their validity (except for those who don't believe in statistics and data).  It is the results of this analysis that I present here.

Neither Forcible Rape nor Aggravated Assault have a statistically significant relationship with rate of legal gun ownership.  While I did find a model for Forcible Rape that included gun ownership (as well as population and age factors), the result did a very poor job at explaining the variations in the data.  With Aggravated Assault, however, I found a great model based only on "Mean State Temperature" and "Average Age".  
On the other hand, gun ownership did play a significant role in Murder/Non-negligent Homicide and Robbery, just not quite what you would expect.  There are three factors which will decrease the rate of Robberies if you increase their level; 1) education, 2) wealth (as measured by % of White/Asian population, and 3) the rate of legal gun ownership.  Increasing the Urban Population, however, will increase the rate of Robberies.
On the flip-side, Murders increase as the rate of legal gun ownership goes up; to me that makes sense.  One reason is that the main source of weapons is from legal owners; another reason is the simple fact that the more weapons there are laying around the house, the more likely one will be picked up by a toddler to kill herself with (NC), or a son to steal guns from locked cabinet to kill school kids (Newtown), or for  spouses to easily kill each other (everywhere).  The bottom line is that in addition to the access to legal firearms, the other factors which increase the murder rate are: 1) decreases in wealth (as measured by % of White/Asian population, 2) decreases in the percentage of males in the population, 3) an increase in mean state temperature, and 4) larger states vs smaller states; each of these variables proved to be significant but the model as a whole barely qualifies as predictive.
Cutting to the chase then, the NRA's ( as well as the anti-gun lobby's) contention that firearm ownership somehow decreases or increases the rate of violent crime simply doesn't hold water.
CONCLUSION: This is not a bogus argument, as is Argument 1, it has logical merit; nonetheless, Argument 2 is wrong when the dust settles.
ARGUMENT 3:  More Regulations => Only Criminals Will Have Guns

Again, this argument sounds good, as a sound bite and, on the face of it, makes sense; but, when you dig a little deeper, the opposite is actually true.  I have yet to find data on where criminals procure their weapons on a state-by-state basis nor on the percentage of criminals who possess firearms in each state, so I must rely on logic and a few national facts.  Some of those facts are:

  • 38% of firearms which end up in the hands of criminals come from family, friends, or were borrowed.
  • 23% come from retail stores, gun shows, flea markets, and pawn shops
  • 33% come from some criminal activity
  • 6% are obtained from unknown sources.
Of these sources, only retail stores currently perform background checks, some better or much better than others, depending on the state.  Another fact, according to an April 2013 CNN report, is that since its inception in 1998, 2.1 million purchases of guns have been denied from background checks; this represents about 2% of all transactions.  Ironically, denying 2.1 million sales to criminals, or others who should not have firearms, is considered too small a number by the NRA rationalize this intrusion into gun rights; the NRA would rather these 2.1 million sales to have gone through and entered the criminal netherworld!!
Now, consider that criminals obtain only 15% of their guns from retail sales.  Try to imagine how many firearms would have been denied weapons if background checks were performed for the other 46% of the legal sources? How about another 6 million, it could be; is it true the NRA wants 6 million guns in the hands of criminals?  It certainly looks like it, doesn't it.
Enough numbers, now to common sense.  If all firearm sales, regardless of the source, were subject to background checks, wouldn't it follow, using just an iota of brainpower, that this would make a very serious dent in the availability of weaponry to criminals?  Fully 35% of all guns possessed by the bad guys come from being bought from family and friends (another 3% are borrowed, so I don't count that).  How likely is it that a family or friend is going to legally stick their neck out selling a gun to a criminal when they know there is a very real chance it may come back to bite them and possibly land them in jail?
So, where are criminals going to get their guns, some will turn to crime to gain possession, but many others will simply do without.  Granted, many criminals will still end up with firearms but to think burglary, drugs, or fencing, the three main sources for illegal guns can absorb the increased demand is ludicrous.  They only account for 33% right now and the NRA will try to make you believe the 6 million guns denied through legal means can somehow be found through illegal means; the math simply doesn't add up.
CONCLUSION: The NRA is Wrong, More Regulations => Less Guns in Criminal's Hands. 
ARGUMENT 4:  Banning or Overly Regulating Guns Will Drive Up Crime
There is actually truth to this argument, as was suggested in the discussion for Question 3.  It is one of those unintended bad consequences that goes with the good; sort of like the price you pay for freedom is higher crime rates.  While all crime is of concern, the one which would affect you and me the most is the increase in burglaries and thefts from those who do not secure their weapons and premises adequately enough as criminals attempt to find a new source of supply.
What won't increase and will probably decrease is the number of death by gun in violent crimes (except those where guns are the target).  The reason is simple, there will be less guns in criminal hands.
 CONCLUSION: The NRA is Right and Wrong.  There will be increases in certain types of crimes but probably decreases in others.
ARGUMENT 5:  Suicides by Gun Will Simply Become Suicides by Some Other Means
Hub# 4, More Guns = More Violent Crime and More Homicides by Gun, Is It As Simple As That? - Part 4: Regulations, is devoted in part to discussing suicides.  One topic is just this question, "Will a person who wants to kill themselves via gun, will simply turn to some other method if denied access to a weapon?"  The answer, I found, was a statistically sound conclusion that, on average, they won't; they simply won't die if a gun is not available.
What this means is that if ten people who had intended to commit suicide by gun were denied the firearm, only 4 would find another way to end their life (the numbers are for illustration only).  This was established by looking at suicide rates from all causes and guns only across all 50 states.  The evidence is very clear there is not a 1-for-1 trade-off between gun and non-gun methods of kicking the bucket.
CONCLUSION:  The NRA's assertion is false.
ARGUMENT 6:  Death by Gun Should Not be Part of the Conversation.
This hardly deserves a reply, it is so self-serving, especially when it is in reference to suicides; but, reply I will.  If you count all diseases as a single category, then death by gun, at 30,000 per year, is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States; right behind 1) disease, 2) accidents (of which some are by gun), and 3) suicides (some of which are by gun);  If you count each disease separately, then death by gun ranks 13th, according to the CDC; right between "chronic liver disease" and "essential hypertension".  
To focus solely on violent crime is the actual "smoke-and-mirrors" in this debate, since gun deaths in violent crimes constitute a small percentage of total deaths.  It is like considering only the top of the ice burg and ignoring the beast underneath the water.
CONCLUSION:  Bogus, bogus, bogus. 
There are simply no good reasons not to do a better job regulating and monitoring the ownership of firearms and every good reason to do so ... it saves lives.  Not to regulate firearms is just as idiotic as not to require people to were seatbelts when they drive, or don't drink and drive; you come to the same outcome, more deaths on the highways and byways in those examples.

There are those who object, very loudly lately, that government has no right to legislate our actions and, if fact, do nothing more than provide for the common Defense.  Well, the way I read it, the Constitution's preamble contains a few more relevant clauses than that one.  In particular, for this debate is the one that says "... promote the general Welfare ..., has particular import.  Most philosophers on benevolent governments agree that protecting its citizens from external and INTERNAL threats to their life, liberty, and property falls well within the purview of the federal government.  It seems like an easy jump in logic to think that "promote the general Welfare" includes protecting citizens from needlessly being killed by people (or themselves) who shouldn't have guns or from those who don't use or take care of their firearms properly.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

On Principle and Pragmatism Id - U.S. Constitutional Convention - May 25 - 31, 1787


The first days of the Constitutional Convention were taken up with administrative actions but them immediately got down to business.  Before the end of May 1787, decisions in the Committee of the Whole had been made on the fact their would be three branches of the gov't and two branches of the legislature.  Votes were taken on how the House was to be elected but debate on the Senate was inconclusive.

This article is a replant from my work on Hubpages who has a problem with my extensive use of quotes from our Founding Fathers as reported by Madison. The insight one can pick up from James Madison's journal is absolutely amazing, please enjoy.

FRIDAY - MAY 25, 1787

ON THIS DAY A QUORUM was reached with the following states being present: Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina,and Virginia.. Still missing were Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island (who refused to attend).
The first order of business was to elect the President of the Convention. Mr. Roger Morris (PA) nominated George Washington (VA)John Rutlidge (SC) seconded the motion; of course the vote was unanimous. The next order was to select a Convention Secretary, Maj William Jackson was chosen for this rather important position; you will find his name at the bottom of the Constitution attesting to the other signers.
The last business of the day was to form a committee to write the Conventions standing rules and orders. Col Alexander Hamilton (NY), George Wythe (VA), and Charles Pickney (SC) were selected as members.

MONDAY - MAY 28, 1787

TODAY, DELEGATES FROM Connecticut and Maryland took their seats.
One of the rules from the committee established the previous Friday required that, if requested by any delegate, the names of "yeas and nays" would be entered into the Convention's minutes. This was challenged by Mr. Rufus King (PA) noting that it would be counterproductive to having the members speak and vote freely without being held to preliminary views. Col. George Mason (VA) seconded the motion and it carried; an indication of the secrecy of the proceedings that was going to be ironclad.
The rest of the day was spent discussing the rest of the rules, and when finished, they adjourned for the day.

TUESDAY, MAY 29, 1787

IT WAS ON THIS DAY that the real work on the Constitution began and by the end of the day, two plans had been presented for the formation of the new constitution, one submitted by Mr. Charles Pinckney (SC) presented to the assembly at the end of the proceedings and properly called the "Pinckney Plan", and another, in the form of a series of resolusions by Mr. Edmund Randolph (VA), which was called the "Virginia Plan". This plan originated with James Madison (VA), but nevertheless had several authors. But first, a few more administrative matters needed to be completed, mainly dealing with the secrecy of the proceedings.
Then Mr. Edmund Randolph opened up discussions on modifying the Articles of Confederation with a recitation of why they were all there. From Madison's Journal:
"He [Randolph] then commented on the difficulty of the crisis, and the necessity of preventing the fulfilment of the prophecies of the American downfall. He observed that in revising the federal system we ought to inquire
1. 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."
Randolph began by noting that purpose of this new government they were about to create was to secure:
  1. "to be paramount to the state constitutions
  2. against foreign invasion,
  3. to procure to the several States, various blessings, of which an isolated situation was incapable.
  4. to be able to defend itself against encroachment &
  5. against dissension between members of the Union, or sedition's in particular states."
He then went on to speak about the various defects of the current confederation, leading to why it needed to be changed. Randolph started with why the confederation was in its current form by noting that, "when the inefficiency of requisitions was unknown -- no commercial discord had arisen among any states -- no rebellion had appeared as in [Massachusetts]. -- 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."
The particular defects were:
  1. because Congress was not permitted to prevent nor support war on their own authority, the confederation could not protect against foreign invasion
  2. further, that the individual states have the ability to prove a foreign conflict for all
  3. that Congress had no authority to "cause infractions of treaties or of the law of nations to be punished"
  4. that Congress could not federalize the State militias in time of emergency
  5. that Congress had no authority to raise money, without consent of the States, to conduct any of its affairs.
  6. "that the fœderal government could not check the quarrels between states, nor a rebellion in any, not having constitutional power nor means to interpose accordingly to the exigency."
  7. that the advantages to the U.S. which might accrue under a federation are unattainable under a confederation.
  8. "that the fœderal government could not defend itself against encroachments from the states."
  9. "that it was not even paramount to the state constitutions, ratified as it was in many of the states."
  10. 'He', [Randolph]. '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.'
At this point E. Randolph (VA) began entering his resolutions, which, for obvious reasons, I will paraphrase many of them:
  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. Resolved that the National Legislature will be related to either "the Quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants", whichever one seems more appropriate.
  3. Resolved "that the National Legislature ought to consist of two branches."
  4. Resolved that the people of each State should elect "the members of the first branch of the National Legislature" for a term of __ years; "to be of the age of ___ years at least", to receive just compensation; that a member may not hold any office that a given State might establish or the United States, "except those peculiarly belong to the functions of the first branch, during the term of service, and. for the space of ___ after its expiration"; that they may not be re-elected to that same office for the "space of ___ after the expiration of their term of service, and to be subject to recall."
  5. Resolved that the first branch should elect the second branch from "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 just pay; and who's ineligible to any office has the same restrictions as the first branch.
  6. Resolved "that each branch ought to possess the right of originating Acts; that the National Legislature ought to be empowered 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 against. any member of the Union failing to fulfil its duty under the articles thereof."
  7. 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. Resolved that a Council of revision, composed of the Executive and __ number of the National Judiciary, be established and given "authority to examine every act of the National Legislature before it shall operate, and every act of a particular Legislature before a Negative thereon shall be final" and considered 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. Resolved "that a National Judiciary be established to consist of one or more supreme" courts, and such "inferior tribunals to be chosen by the National Legislature", to hold their offices for and to receive just compensation. "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. Resolved that provision ought to be made to admit new States ... "with the consent of a number of voices in the National Legislature less than the whole."
  11. Resolved "that a Republican Government & the territory of each State, except in the instance of a voluntary junction of Government & territory, ought to be guarantied by the United States to each State."
  12. Resolved "that provision ought to be made for the" the Continental Congress to continue its duties "until a given day after the reform of the articles of Union shall be adopted ..."\
  13. "Resolved 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. "Resolved that the Legislative Executive & Judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of Union."
  15. Resolved that the amendments which shall be offered to the Confederation, ... after the approbation of [the Continental] Congress to be submitted to an assembly or assemblies of Representatives, ... 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.

Following the end of Randolph's speech, Charles Pinckney (SC), presented his plan, the so-called "Pinckney Plan" to the Convention. He did this in the form of a letter which laid out his ideas. While it is said this plan was rejected by the Committee of the Whole, you will quickly see, that isn't entirely true; Pinckney's plan contains the following provisions:
  1. The Government "shall consist of supreme legislative Executive & judicial Powers."
  2. "The Legislative Power shall be vested in a Congress to consist of two separate Houses" 1) the first will "be called the House of Delegates", 2) the second called "the Senate", and 3) who shall meet on the __ Day of __ in every year."
  3. The people of the several States shall choose, every __ years, "members of the House of Delegates", whose qualifications will be the same as those of the State legislatures from which they are elected; "each member shall have been a citizen of the United States for __ years"; each member "shall be of __ years of age"; each member shall be "a resident in the State he is chosen for __. "Until a census of the people shall be taken in the manner herein after mentioned, the House of Delegates shall consist of __ to be chosen from the different States in the following proportions:" [here Pinckney lists each State]; thereafter, the Legislature shall regulate the number of delegates by the number of inhabitants according to ... the rate of one for every __ thousand." Money bills ... shall originate in the house of Delegates", the Senate may not alter them. Only the House of Delegates may impeachment and shall choose it’s own officers. Vacancies shall be supplied by the executive authority of the State they represent.
  4. "The Senate shall be elected & chosen by the House of Delegates which House immediately after their meeting shall choose by ballot " — [Pinckney then lists each State with the number of Senators from each to be chosen by ballot left blank] The Senators chosen from NH, MA, RI, and CT, shall form one classThose from NY, NY, PA, and DE form a second, while those from MD, VA, NC, SC and GA form a third class. "The House of Delegates shall number these Classes one two and three" in order to "fix the times of their service by Lot" [Pinckney then provides for a place to list how long each class shall serve]; "as their times of service expire, the House of Delegates shall fill them up by elections for __ years" and then provides for vacencies from death or resignation. "Each Senator shall be — years of age at least—shall have been a Citizen of the United States 4 years before his election & shall be a resident of the State he is chosen from. The Senate shall choose its own Officers."
  5. The time and manner for holding elections will be determined by each State and the judges of the elections shall be the the House of Delegates. /Each House needs a majority to establish a Quarum; /"Freedom of Speech & Debate in the legislature shall not be impeached or Questioned in any place out of it and the Members of both Houses shall in all cases, except for Treason Felony or Breach of the Peace, be free from arrest during their attendance at Congress and in going to and returning from it."; /the Houses shall keep journals ... and neither house, without the consent of the other, shall adjourn for more than __ days ..."; /for one year after or while elected, "members of each house shall not be eligible ... of holding any office under the Union"; /each member will receive just compensation. /Bills passed by the Legislature will go to the President for signature. /If the President disapproves, the bill will be sent back to the orginating House. /If 2/3 of that House still approves of the bill, it will be sent to the other House. /If 2/3 of that House approve, the bill becomes Law. /All "bills sent to the President & not returned by him within __ days shall be laws unless the Legislature by their adjournment prevent their return in which case they shall not be laws."
  6. 1) "The Legislature of the United States shall have the power to lay & collect Taxes Duties Imposts & excises" ... [includes such Powers listed in Ariticle 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution such as a) "borrowing money", b) "establishing Post Offices and Roads", c) "raises armies and navies", d) "coin money", e) "regulate interstate Commerce", f) "control Naturalization", g) "create the lower National Courts", h) "To declare the law & Punishment of piracies & felonies at sea & of counterfeiting Coin & of all offences against the Laws of Nations", i) "to organize the Militia of the United States", j) "to provide infrastructure for the U.S. military", k) "to establish a seat of government", l) "to federalize the State militias to enforce treaties, surppress insurrections, and repel invasions", m) "No Tax shall be laid on articles exported from the States—nor capitation tax but in proportion to the Census before directed", n) "cannot grant Titles of Nobility", and finally the big one, o) "And to make all laws for carrying the foregoing into execution." (that would include what is to follow.. ---------------- 2) in addition to or substantially different from what you will find in Article 1 are fhe following: a) "To subdue a rebellion in any State on application of its legislature", b) "To appoint a Treasurer by ballot", c) "To ... provide for a national University ... ", d) "To make rules concerning Captures from an Enemy", e) "The Legislature of the United States shall have the Power to declare the Punishment of Treason which shall consist only in levying War against the United States or any of them or in adhering to their Enemies. No person shall be convicted of Treason but by the testimony of two witnesses." [this made it into Article III], f) "The proportion of direct taxation shall be regulated by the whole number of inhabitants of every description which number shall within — years after the first meeting of the Legislature & within the term of every — year after be taken in the manner to be prescribed by the legislature", g) "All Laws regulating Commerce shall require the assent of two thirds of the members present in each house— ... — [or] ... shall pass no Law on the subject of Religion, nor touching or abridging the Liberty of the Press nor shall the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus ever be suspended except in case of Rebellion or Invasion., and lastly h) "All acts made by the Legislature ... shall be the supreme Law of the land & all Judges shall be bound to consider them as such in their decisions."
7 "The Senate shall have the sole & exclusive power to declare War & to make treaties & to appoint Ambassadors & other Ministers to foreign nations & Judges of the Supreme Court.; They shall have the exclusive power to regulate the manner of deciding all disputes & controversies now subsisting or which may arise between the States respecting Jurisdiction or Territory."
8 "The Executive Power ... shall be vested in a President ... which shall be his style & his title shall be His Excellency. He shall be elected for __ years & shall be reeligible. He shall ... give information to the Legislature of the state of the Union & recommend ... measures he may think necessary—he shall a) execute all laws, b) commission all military officers; all ministers, execpt for Ambassadors, and for Judges of the Supreme Court he shall nominate, and with the consent of the Senate, appoint all other officers of the United States. c) He may conduct business with foreign nations and d) have power to grant pardons & reprieves except in impeachments. e) He shall be Commander in chief of the army & navy of the United States & of the Militia of the several States; f) he shall receive just compensation. g) Upon entering his Duties, he will take an oath, and 8) he may be removed from office by "impeachment by the house of Delegates & Conviction in the Supreme Court of Treason bribery or Corruption". h) The order of succession shall be the President of the Senate and then the Speaker of the House of Delegates.
9 "The Legislature ... shall have the Power ... to establish ... Courts of Law Equity & Admiralty [as well as the Supreme Court] ...—The Judges of the Courts shall hold their offices" for life and be paid a just compensation—The Supreme Court's jurisdiction shall [and the rest reads like Article III]. :All criminal offences (except in cases of impeachment) shall be tried in the State where they shall be committed—the trials shall be open & public & shall be by Jury."
10 "Immediately after the first census of the people of the United States the House of Delegates shall apportion the Senate by electing for each State out of the citizens resident therein one Senator for every __ members each State shall have in the House of Delegates—Each State shall be entitled to have at least one member in the Senate."
11 No State shall conduct foreign affairs or grant letters of marque & reprisal or enter into treaty or alliance or confederation with any other State of foreign nation. "—& to render these prohibitions effectual the Legislature of the United States shall have the power to revise the laws of the several States that may be supposed to infringe the Powers exclusively delegated by this Constitution to Congress & to negative & annual such as do."
12 Provisions were made for the laws of one State being applicable in every other State, ect.
13 "Full faith shall be given in each State to the acts of the Legislature & to the records & judicial Proceedings of the Courts & magistrates of every State."
14 Provides for the admission of new States
The Legislature shall have power to admit new States into the Union on the same terms with the original States provided two thirds of the members present in both Houses agree.
15 "On the application of the legislature of a State the United States shall protect it against domestic insurrection."
16 Provides for amending the Constitution with 2/3 of States and each house. "The Ratification of the conventions of — States shall be sufficient for organizing this Constitution."
It seems to me that within the first few days of the start of Convention, that between the Virginia and Randolph plans, the final form of the U.S. Constitution had been effectively outlined . With that, the session was adjourned for the day.
I hope to the reader can see how much of the original Virginia Plan made it into the eventual Constitution. Such was the vision of James Madison (VA) (and apparently Charles Pinckney (SC)) and his (their) synthesis of those brilliant minds who contributed to the body of political theory such as John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, an(d Thomas Jefferson who based many of their ideas on those attempts at democracies from the ancient Athenian and Roman governments.



AND THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF a very arduous and contentious process of creation, probably more painful than actual birth. Today began the debate on the actual structure of the most unique experiment in social and political science the world has ever known!
Delegates were still filtering in; Roger Sherman (CT) took his seat today after two other delegates wandered in the day before. Once Mr. Sherman was seated, the assembly formed themselves as a Committee of the Whole in order to debate the resolutions presented by Mr.Edmund Randolph (VA) the previous day. Without preamble, they began from the top by considering the first resolution, "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 & general welfare."
Immediately, Mr. G. Morris (PA) moved to postpone consideration of this resolution in order to consider the following three propositions:
  1. "that a Union of the States merely federal will not accomplish the objects proposed by the articles of Confederation, namely common defence, security of liberty, & genl. welfare."
  2. that no contract (such as the one establishing the current confederation) between sovereign States would ever be sufficient
  3. that the government to be established should consist of a Judiciary, Executive, and Legislative.
The motion was approved.
Soon, some criticisms were raised about the first proposition and it was agreed to begin with the last proposition to which Mr. Charles Pinckney (SC) asked "whether he [Randolph] meant to abolish the State Governts. altogether?Randolph (VA) responded that "that he meant by these general propositions merely to introduce the particular ones which explained the outlines of the system he had in view." This initial exchange between Charles Pinckney and Randolph has been repeated in various ways for the next 226 years!
What elicited this comment were the words national and supreme. Both Charles Pinckney and Eldridge Gerry (MA) wondered whether the Convention had the power to "authorize a discussion of a system founded on different principles from the federal Constitution". In rebuttal, Gov Morris, George Mason (VA), and Roger Sherman (CT) made the following points:
  1. "the distinction between a federal and nationalsupreme, Govt.; the former being a mere compact resting on the good faith of the parties; the latter having a compleat and compulsive operation. He [Morris] contended that in all Communities there must be one supreme power, and one only".
  2. [George Mason (VA)] "that the present confederation was not only deficient in not providing for coercion & punishment agst. delinquent States; but argued very cogently that punishment could not in the nature of things be executed on the States collectively, and therefore that such a Govt. was necessary as could directly operate on individuals, and would punish those only whose guilt required it.", and
  3. that "the Confederation had not given sufficient power to Congs. and that additional powers were necessary; particularly that of raising money which he [Sherman] said would involve many other powers. He admitted also that the General & particular jurisdictions ought in no case to be concurrent.
Nevertheless, Roger Sherman (CT) also seemed not to be of a mind to make too many inroads on the existing system; intimating as one reason, that it would be wrong to lose every amendment, by inserting such as would not be agreed to by the States. (It should be noted that George Mason (VA) went on to become one of the major opponents to the ratification of the Constitution as he believed it gave the central gov't too much power.) Thus went the reasoning over this critical element of how our government was to be constituted, and argument, as I said, that continues today.
The third proposition from Randolph (VA) to establish a supreme national gov't consisting of legislative, executive, and judicial branches passed that day, May 30, 1787, CT being against; MA, VA, SC, NC, and PA being for; while NY was split with Alexander Hamilton (NY) being an aye and Robert Yates (NY) (who later left the Convention and joined the opposition against the Constitution) being a nay.
IT WAS DECIDED the next order of business was to take up Randolph's second resolution, to wit: ".— that the rights of suffrage in the National 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.”; there was immediate disagreement.
  • James Madison (VA) wondered - "that the words, “or to thenumber of free inhabitants,” might occasion debates which would divert the Committee from the general question whether the principle of representation should be changed, moved that they might be struck out."
  • Rufus King (MA) observed that the quotas of contribution which would alone remain as the measure of representation, would not answer, because waving every other view of the matter, the revenue might hereafter be so collected by the General Govt. that the sums respectively drawn from the States would not appear, and would besides be continually varying.
  • Col. Hamilton (NY) moved to alter the resolution so as to read “that the rights of suffrage in the national Legislature ought to be proportioned to the number of free inhabitants.”
  • "Mr. Randolph and Mr. Madison then moved the following resolution—that the rights of suffrage in the national Legislature ought to be proportioned.”, which was amended to say “that the rights of suffrage in the national Legislature ought to be proportioned and not according to the present system”—
However, it came to pass that none of these resolutions were, at the time, satisfactory and were postponed. In the course of the debate, it was again noted the Delaware delegates were duty bound not to vote on any move that would change the current apportionment of votes contained in the Articles of Confederation. Some felt this is a severe impediment; James Madison did not. He argued thusly,
" ... that whatever reason might have existed for the equality of suffrage when the Union was a federal one among sovereign States, it must cease when a National Governmt. should be put into the place. In the former case, the acts of Congs. depended so much for their efficacy on the cooperation of the States, that these had a weight both within & without Congress, nearly in proportion to their extent and importance. In the latter case, as the acts of the Genl Govt. would take effect without the intervention of the State legislatures, a vote from a small State wd. have the same efficacy & importance as a vote from a large one, and there was the same reason for different numbers of representatives from different States, as from Counties of different extents within particular States. He suggested as an expedient for at once taking the sense of the members on this point and saving the Delaware deputies from embarrassment, that the question should be taken in Committee, and the clause on report to the House, be postponed without a question there."
This was still not quite the last of it, but eventually, the question was postponed and sent to committee. The meeting was adjourned for the day.

THURSDAY, MAY 31, 1787 

THIS DAY, THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE finally agreed on something, Randolph's third resolution - "that the National Legislature ought to consist of two branches.", although not without a small fight from Pennsylvania on behest of Benjamin Franklin, who favored a unicameral legislature. Beyond this objection, there was no debate and the resolution passed the committee.
The next resolution, the fourth, did not have the same happy fate. The first clause of this resolution called for "the members of the first branch [the House of Representatives] of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States".
"Elected by the People", something you and I take for granted; many of us, I suspect, would assume this was a no-brainer for the delegates at the Constitutional Convention. Well, it wasn't, not by a long-shot. You see, in those days, citizens were classified into a hierarchy, not one of nobility, but one of economic status. On top were the aristocrats (white, of course), most, if not all of the delegates to the Convention fell into this class. Next came your landed white males followed by male merchants. All of these people were considered to have, as I believe Jefferson said, "skin-in-the-game"; they had a vested interest in the outcome. Following these classes, bringing up the rear, were laborers, free blacks, women, and slaves, probably in that order.
In the quotes to follow, keep in mind, the "people" being referred to are only those who have "skin-in-the-game". Such was the mind-set in the 1700s. Here was what the thinking was of the various delegates at the Convention to this extremely important question - who should elect the House of Representatives?
  • Roger Sherman (CT) begins by having "opposed the election by the people, insisting that it ought to be by the State Legislatures. The people he said, immediately should have as little to do as may be about the Government. They want information and are constantly liable to be misled." [Further, they had no vested interest in the outcome]
  • Elbridge Gerry (MA) next says "The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots. In MA. it had been fully confirmed by experience that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute. One principal evil arises from the want of due provision for those employed in the administration of Government. It would seem to be a maxim of democracy to starve the public servants. [Madison] He mentioned the popular clamour in MA. for the reduction of salaries and the attack made on that of the Government. though secured by the spirit of the Constitution itself. He had he said been [Gerry] too republican heretofore: he was still however republican, but had been taught by experience the danger of the levelling spirit."
  • "Pierce Butler (SC) thought an election by the people an impracticable mode."
In response:
  • "George Mason (VA) argued strongly for an election of the larger branch by the people. It was to be the grand depository of the democratic principle of the Government. It was, so to speak, to be our House of Commons—It ought to know and sympathize with every part of the community; and ought therefore to be taken not only from different parts of the whole republic, but also from different districts of the larger members of it, which had in several instances particularly in VA., different interests and views arising from difference of produce, of habits, etc, etc. He admitted that we had been too democratic but was afraid we said. incautiously run into the opposite extreme. We ought to attend to the rights of every class of the people. He had often wondered at the indifference of the superior classes of society to this dictate of humanity and policy, considering that however affluent their circumstances, or elevated their situations, might be, the course of a few years, not only might but certainly would, distribute their posterity throughout the lowest classes of Society. Every selfish motive therefore, every family attachment, ought to recommend such a system of policy as would provide no less carefully for the rights and happiness of the lowest than of the highest orders of Citizens."
  • "James Wilson (PA) contended strenuously for drawing the most numerous branch of the Legislature immediately from the people. He was for raising the federal pyramid to a considerable altitude, and for that reason wished to give it as broad a basis as possible. No government could long subsist without the confidence of the people. In a republican Government this confidence was peculiarly essential. He also thought it wrong to increase the weight of the State Legislatures by making them the electors of the national Legislature. All interference between the general and local Governments. should be obviated as much as possible. On examination it would be found that the opposition of States to federal measures had proceeded much more from the officers of the States, than from the people at large."
  • "James Madison (VA) considered the popular election of one branch of the national Legislature as essential to every plan of free Government. He observed that in some of the States one branch of the Legislature was composed of men already removed from the people by an intervening body of electors. That if the first branch of the general legislature should be elected by the State Legislatures, the second branch elected by the first—the Executive by the second together with the first; and other appointments again made for subordinate purposes by the Executive, the people would be lost sight of altogether; and the necessary sympathy between them and their rulers and officers, too little felt. He was an advocate for the policy of refining the popular appointments by successive filtrations, but thought it might be pushed too far. He wished the expedient to be resorted to only in the appointment of the second branch of the Legislature, and in the Executive & judiciary branches of the Government. He thought too that the great fabric to be raised would be more stable and durable, if it should rest on the solid foundation of the people themselves, than if it should stand merely on the pillars of the Legislatures."
  • "James Wilson (PA) opposed both a nomination by the State Legislatures, and an election by the first branch of the national Legislature, because the second branch of the latter, ought to be independent of both. He thought both branches of the National Legislature ought to be chosen by the people, but was not prepared with a specific proposition. He suggested the mode of chusing the Senate of NY to wit of uniting several election districts for one branch, in chusing members for the other branch, as a good model."
  • "James Madison (VA) observed that such a mode would destroy the influence of the smaller States associated with larger ones in the same district; as the latter would chuse from within themselves, altho’ better men might be found in the former. The election of Senators in VA. where large and small counties were often formed into one district for the purpose, had illustrated this consequence. Local partiality, would often prefer a resident within the County or State, to a candidate of superior merit residing out of it. Less merit also in a resident would be more known throughout his own State."
  • "Roger Sherman (CT) favored an election of one member by each of the State Legislatures while Charles Pinkney (SC) moved to strike out the “nomination by the State Legislatures;” on this question."
After more debate along the same lines, a vote was taken with the following results: 6 Ayes, (MA, NY, PA, VA, GA, and NC); 2 Nays, (NJ and SC); and 2 divided, (CT and DE) - the first clause of the 4th resolution passed.
As to the remainder of the 4th resolution regarding the qualifications of the representatives, they were passed without debate.
THE NEXT RESOLUTION considered was number 5; “that the second, (or senatorial) branch of the National Legislature ought to be chosen by the first branch out of persons nominated by the State Legislatures.”
  • "Richard Spaight (NC) contended that the 2nd. branch ought to be chosen by the State Legislatures and moved an amendment to that effect, while,"
  • "Pierce Butler (SC) apprehended that the taking so many powers out of the hands of the States as was proposed, tended to destroy all that balance and security of interests among the States which it was necessary to preserve; and called on Edmund Randolph the mover of the propositions, to explain the extent of his ideas, and particularly the number of members he meant to assign to this second branch."
  • George Rand (DE), on the other hand, "observed that he had at the time of offering his propositions stated his ideas as far as the nature of general propositions required; that details made no part of the plan, and could not perhaps with propriety have been introduced. If he was to give an opinion as to the number of the second branch, he should say that it ought to be much smaller than that of the first; so small as to be exempt from the passionate proceedings to which numerous assemblies are liable. He observed that the general object was to provide a cure for the evils under which the U.S. laboured; that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy: that some check therefore was to be sought for against. this tendency of our Governments: and that a good Senate seemed most likely to answer the purpose"
In Mr. Rand's thoughts lie one of the first considerations of the need for "checks and balances" in government. Further, he substantiates the distrust most delegates had of a democratic process where democratic meant the majority rules.
[ASIDE - I think most readers also remember from high school or college that the construction of the Senate was one of the more contentious and problematic issues the Convention faced. We all know the outcome but few of us know the reasoning or arguments pro and con behind the decisions that were finally made. In presenting such material, I hope one comes to a much better understanding of why the government operates the way it does, I know I do.] The debate continued -
  • "Rufus King (MA) reminded the Committee that the choice of the second branch as proposed (by Mr. Spaight) viz. by the State Legislatures would be impracticable, unless it was to be very numerous, or the idea of proportion among the States was to be disregarded. According to this idea, there must be 80 or 100 members to entitle Delaware to the choice of one of them.—Mr. Spaight withdrew his motion."
The results of the vote were: 0 Ayes, 9 Nays (MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, VA, NC, SC, GA); 1 Divided, (DE) and the move to strike failed. Then the question to use "electing by the first branch out of nominations by the State Legislatures" was put to a vote. It to failed by a vote of 3 Ayes, (MA, VA, and SC) and 7 Nays, (CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, NC, GA)
Consequently, resolution 5 was left in limbo.
This was going to be a busy day, for the Committee took up resolution 6 from Edmund Randolph's (VA) proposal for a new government;
" [5] to negative all laws passed by the several States contravening in the opinion of the National Legislature the articles of Union[1] Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of originating Acts; [3] moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent, [2] that the National Legislature ought to be empowered to enjoy the Legislative Rights vested in Congress by the Confederation or [4] in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual Legislation; [6] and to call forth the force of the Union agst. any member of the Union failing to fulfil its duty under the articles thereof."
The first clause was adopted unanimously as was the second clause. The third clause presented more of a problem due to the word "incompetent".

Charles Pinkney (SC) and John Rutledge (SC) were worried about the vagueness of the term and wanted an enumeration of the "incompetence's". Pierce Butler (SC) asserted the Convention was taking too many powers away from the States and wondered if this was Edmund Randolph's (VA) intent. Randolph said it was not and that he was opposed to giving "indefinite" powers to the central legislature. James Madison (VA) also registered the same fears of going overboard in eroding State jurisdictions but understood the need to do something. After some debate, the vote was taken on this clause with the results being 9 Ayes, (MA, NY, VA, GA, SC, NC, DE, NJ, and PA); and one Divided, (CT).

Clauses 4 and 5 passed without debate. Clause 6, however, raised serious concerns regarding the use of federal force against one of the States, especially for James Madison. He moved this clause be postponed and it was accepted.

The Committee adjourned.


THE FIRST FOUR DAYS, MAY 25 - 28. 1787, of this historic attempt to craft a workable, enduring, flexible government designed to be approved by the infant nation's citizens in order to serve these same citizens was devoted to the mundane tasks of organizing the convention. What made this attempt unique is that while the Aritcles of Confederation was a contract between States to work together as a united States while maintaining all authority withing the State Legislatures and giving none to the central "committee" (the Continental Congress) to deal with common or national issues, this new Constitution was going to be a contract between the People of the United States and the Central government; that contract would be the Constitution of the United States which would be ratified by the citizens of each State via special Constitutional Conventions.
ON DAY FIVE, MAY 29, 1787, two plans for a future constitution were offered; the Virginia Plan, by Edmund Randolph (VA) and the Pinckney Plan, by Charles Pinckey (SC). Madison, in his journal, indicates the Pinckey Plan was essentially ignored by the Committee, but, I wonder about that. For, in reading his draft, many of the ideas, some word-for-word, appear in the final version of the U.S. Constitution.
In any case, in taking up the Virginia Plan, the problems that have long plagued a nation trying to come together in a permanent bond, but made up of peoples who developed along different paths, began to emerge. Madison, in the Federalist Papers referred to this as "factionalism". Factionalism is natural and unavoidable. Because of this, most of those who were gathered together understood factionalism couldn't be eliminated, just controlled ... hopefully. The trick was to figure out how to do it, and each delegate, of course, had his own idea.
For example, GEORGE RAND (DE) brought up the idea of "checks and balances". There was much debate about how far removed the House should be from the citizens. Further, the relationship between the central government and the state governments in this new federation came under close and fierce scrutiny with most of the propositions and/or resolutions regarding this issue being postponed for further discussion. In the end, this question was never explicitly resolved and was left for future generations to answer.
DAY SIX and SEVEN, MAY 30 - 31, 1787, BROUGHT FORTH DEBATE over the actual structure this new federal government was going to take. May 30th began with a debate about a subject we still arguing today, 306 years later, the relationship between the Federal and State governments; with Charles Pinckney (SC) asking "whether he [Edmund Randolph (VA)] meant to abolish the State Governts. altogether?"; the answer was "no", but nevertheless the result was the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution asserting that in matters determined to be in the purview of the Federal government, the Federal government reigns supreme. During the debate, consideration was given, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, on whether the wording could get passed by the people of the States. In any case, the first agreement was that the new government would expand the current single Legislature, into a supreme National government consisting of three branches, an Executive, Legislative, and a Judicial.
The next topic taken up was the apportionment of legislatures to represent the States; a very tough nut indeed. Much debate ensued over the meaning of suffrage, apportionment, and "free inhabitants". Ultimately, nothing was resolved and the issue was postponed; which ended the day. The beginning of the 31st started with an agreement that the legislature consist of two branches. Things went downhill from there when they tried to decide how the representatives of the first branch (the House) were to be elected.
Some proposed "by the People", that brought a gasp from some of the assembly. Unlike today, when this seems like a no-brainer, it wasn't then. Even though these esteemed founders were liberals, they still grew up in a conservative world who believed in a social hierarchy where certain groups of people (monied and propertied) had more rights than others (women and slaves). The belief of the day was that only those with, as Jefferson put it, skin-in-the-game, had a right to participate in the political process. Nevertheless, when all was said and done, the House would be elected by the People, at least those with skin-in-the-game.
No such luck for the second branch, the Senate; after much debate and a couple of inconclusive votes, debate was postponed. After this, the following resolutions were passed this last day of May:
  • Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of originating Acts;
  • to negative all laws passed by the several States contravening in the opinion of the National Legislature the articles of Union
  • moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent,
  • that the National Legislature ought to be empowered to enjoy the Legislative Rights vested in Congress by the Confederation or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual Legislation;
The following clause was postponed
  • and to call forth the force of the Union agst. any member of the Union failing to fulfil its duty under the articles thereof."
.With that, we move into June 1787

On Principle and Pragmatism Ie - U.S. Constitutional Convention - June 1 - 7, 1787

AUTHORS NOTE: On another site, http:\\, I write about, among other things, American political history.  I had been working on a series about the U.S. Constitution and had reached the part where I was discussing the background to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  The primary source is James Madison's notes titled The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, as published by The Constitutional Society; it is the only complete history of what took place as our Constitution was being drafted. 

As a consequence, there are a ton of wonderful quotes to draw upon to describe what went on behind the scenes and the thinking that went into why the Constitution was worded the way it was.  I don't want to paraphrase what Madison wrote, to capture the full meaning, his actual words are needed.  It is my job to wrap a cohesive and interesting story around those words, or at least try to.  The problem is, Hubpages doesn't like, and properly so, people copying from other people's works from elsewhere on the Internet.  Unfortunately, they use a meat cleaver approach and stop legitimate copying as well as the illegitimate plagiarism.  What I use is with the permission of the The Constitutional Society so long as I give them attribution; I am also giving them a link.

So, long story short, I am moving my history of the U.S. Constitution to Blogspot.  I will start with section currently being blocked by Hubpages then backfill with what I have already written before moving on past June 7, 1787.  As is my habit, I publish most long articles as I write them, editing along the way.  This may annoy some of you, but I hope most of you find this entertaining.


ON JUNE 1, 1787, MR. WILLIAM HOUSTON FROM GEORGIA took his seat. Today's work concerned the structure of the Executive branch, more specifically, 1) how many executives might there be, 2) for how long they will serve, and 3) how they might come to serve.
From James Madison's Notes, we read that on this day the committee of the whole took up Resolution 7, which read,
"that a national Executive be instituted, to be chosen by the national Legislature-for the term of ------ years &c to be ineligible thereafter, to possess the executive powers of Congress &c."
Up for discussion were the following:
  1. Whether the Executive would consist of one, two, or three members
  2. Whether the Executive would have the power to declare War and Peace
  3. Whether there ought to be a Council of Advisors attached to the Executive (something Thomas Jefferson would have opposed had he been there; he did not have a good experience with that arrangement as Governor of Virginia during the Revolution)
  4. Whether to limit the powers of the Executive to those not borne by the Legislative or Judicial (making sure the executive never encroaches on either of those two branches, and
  5. Whether the term of the Executive ought to singular or re-electable and run for three to seven years.
Of great fear among many, but surprisingly, not all, as that the executive could end up being a monarchy or worse. Mr. Pinkney (SC) for example was for a strong executive but worried that
"the Executive powers of the existing Congress might extend to peace & war &c., which would render the Executive a monarchy, of the worst kind, to wit an elective one."
Mr. Sherman (CT), on the other hand, saw the Executive branch in another light entirely. He thought
"... the Executive magistracy as nothing more than an institution for carrying the will of the Legislature into effect, that the person or persons ought to be appointed by and accountable to the Legislature only..." 
Mr. Wilson (PA) agreed with Pinkney in that he believed there ought to be a single magistrate (a single person)
"... as giving most energy dispatch and responsibility to the office..." and noting that the prerogatives of the executive were limited such that "...Some of these prerogatives were of Legislative nature. Among others that of war & peace &c. The only powers he conceived strictly Executive were those of executing the laws, and appointing officers, not appertaining to and appointed by the Legislature."
Sounding the same fear as Mr. Pinckney about the executive function devolving into a monarchy, Mr. Randolph (VA) argued forcefully for an executive made up of more than one person.
Yet another approach was from Mr. Gerry (MA) who suggested a "policy of annexing a Council to the Executive in order to give weight & inspire confidence." and that the executive also consist of multiple people.
And so it went, debating back and forth as to the authority and make-up of the executive until Mr. Wilson moved to make the structure of the Executive a single person; but, because no one could agree, this was postponed. What was agreed on, however, was the first clause of the resolution;
"that a national Executive be instituted,..."
Next James Madison (VA) proposed putting off the discussion on the number of executives for awhile until the scope of the Executive's authority is settled. Madison's opinion was that it was necessary:
"... to fix the extent of the Executive authority; that as certain powers were in their nature Executive, and must be given to that departmt. whether administered by one or more persons, a definition of their extent would assist the judgment in determining how far they might be safely entrusted to a single officer."
Consequently, he sought to modify the Resolution thusly by changing:
"that a national Executive be instituted, to be chosen by the national Legislature-for the term of ------ years &c to be ineligible thereafter, to possess the executive powers of Congress &c."
"that a national Executive be instituted, with power to carry into effect the national laws, to appoint to offices in cases not otherwise provided for, and to execute such other powers as may from time to time be delegated by the national Legislature."
 This was then modified by Gen Pinkney (SC) to read:
"that a national Executive be instituted, with power to carry into effect the national laws, to appoint to offices in cases not otherwise provided for, and to execute such other powers,not legislative nor judiciary in their nature, as may from time to time be delegated by the national Legislature."
Mr. (not General) Pinkney objected to the added words and moved to strike out "and to execute such other powers not Legislative nor Judiciary in their nature as may from time to time be delegated.". Pinkney's argument won the day and the Resolution now stands at:
"... that a national Executive be instituted, with power to carry into effect the national laws, to appoint to offices in cases not otherwise provided for by the national Legislature ... [more to come]"
Next to be considered was the method of appointment and the term of service.  First thought to be suggested was by Mr. Wilson (PA) who proposed that the Executive be elected by the People and said, 
"Experience, particularly in N. York & Massts., shewed that an election of the first magistrate by the people at large, was both a convenient & successful mode. The objects of choice in such cases must be persons whose merits have general notoriety." 
While Mr. Sherman (CT) thought the opposite, that the Legislature should appoint the Executive for, according to James Madison, Sherman believed:
"... An independence of the Executive on the supreme Legislature, was in his opinion the very essence of tyranny if there was any such thing."
Debate then turned to the term of the executive where Wilson and Sherman thought three years appropriate with an ability for reappointment.  Opposing this were Mr Pickney, Mason (VA), and Bedford (DE) who prefered a single seven year term.  By a vote of 5 to 4 with Massachusetts divided, the seven-year faction carried the day ... for the time being.

Again they picked up the mode of appointment.  Mr. Wilson repeated his belief in the efficacy of electing the executive by the People, but both Houses of the Legislature as well.  Col Mason liked Wilson's idea, but thought it impractical.  Mr. Rutledge (SC) thought the second branch of the national Legislature should elect the Executive.

With that, the Committee of the Whole adjourned for the day.