the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Borrowing from jays language in the new york

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of what he wanted on the highly controversial issue of an executive veto over state legislations. Borrowing from Jay’s language in the New York constitution, the Virginia Plan vested veto power over state legislation in an executive council that included federal judges. But the crucial principle was uncompromisingly clear: sovereignty was to be shifted from the state to the federal level. 22 For all defenders of the status quo, the Virginia Plan represented a second coup. The first coup, as they saw it, was the calling of the Constitutional Convention itself, which represented a hijacking of the ongoing debate about the Articles by an organized minority of alarmists, who had somehow recruited Washington to lend legitimacy to their dubious cause. Now the Virginia Plan represented a capture of the convention itself by imposing a national agenda as the basis for the looming debates. No one on the moderate side of the argument had come up with equivalently clear alternatives, so the Virginia Plan commanded the field by default. This tactical victory was sealed on May 30, when a majority of the delegates endorsed the resolution, proposed by Gouverneur Morris, “for a national government… consisting of a supreme legislature, executive, and judiciary.” The national agenda was now firmly in the
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saddle, and Washington, as everyone expected, after a pro forma nomination by Robert Morris—his only public utterance at the convention—stepped forward to chair the convention. Madison could hardly have hoped for more. 23 Indeed, the majority vote on the core plank of the Virginia Plan was really another coup of sorts, since only seven states were present for the vote—none of the New England states had yet arrived—and based on subsequent voting patterns of the absent delegations, it seems unlikely that the Morris resolution would have garnered a majority if all the delegates had been in attendance. For that matter, there was never a moment during the entire summer when all fifty-five delegates were present. Given our sense that this was almost assuredly the most consequential conclave in American history, it strains credibility to realize that the Constitutional Convention was an ever-shifting, highly transitory body of men with different degrees of commitment to the enterprise. One of the intangible advantages the nationalists enjoyed in this swirling context was that, thanks largely to Madison, they were better organized and—though this is impossible to prove—more invested in the outcome. 24 But neither superior organization nor greater commitment was likely to translate into an assured victory for the nationalists. On the second day of the convention a procedural motion was made, without fanfare or opposition, that the one-state-one-vote principle enshrined in the Articles would continue to apply in the convention. This was a huge decision, for it meant that Delaware, with only 60,000 residents, enjoyed equal political status with Virginia, at 750,000. As a result, the small states, which depending on how you counted enjoyed a roughly two-to-one advantage over the large states, could block any national initiative.
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