University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Carlson, Marybeth (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Virginia (1)
8 (1988)

Introduction,   pp. xxiii-xxxix


Page xxxviii

I. DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTION
ident than in his many contributions to The Federalist and his speeches
in the Virginia Convention. (For the authorship and impact of The
Federalist, first published in New York City, see CC:201. See also "The
Republication of The Federalist in Virginia," 28 November 1787-9
January 1788, I below.)
If James Madison believed that the Convention had not granted
sufficient powers to the new central government, Edmund Randolph
and George Mason thought that it had gone too far. Randolph intro-
duced and spoke on behalf of the Virginia Resolutions on 29 May.
The next day he proposed resolutions declaring that "a union of the
States merely federal" was inadequate and calling for a "national Gov-
ernment ... consisting of a supreme Legislative, Executive & Judiciary"
(Farrand, I, 33). In the succeeding debates, he continued to support
a "national Government," although he objected to certain provisions
of the draft constitution that did not sufficiently protect the liberties
of the people or the interests of Virginia. Thus on 29 August, Ran-
dolph expressed doubts that he could support the Constitution. Two
days later he advocated the idea that state conventions be permitted
to propose amendments that would be submitted to a second consti-
tutional convention. He renewed his proposal on 10 September after
detailing his objections to the Constitution, and again on 15 Septem-
ber, when he announced that, if his proposal were not adopted, it
would "be impossible for him" to sign the Constitution. After the
Convention defeated his motion, Randolph refused to sign the Con-
stitution, though he said that "he did not mean by this refusal to decide
that he should oppose the Constitution without doors." (See "George
Mason and Edmund Randolph in the Constitutional Convention," 12-
15 September, I below.)
Before the Convention attained a quorum, George Mason wrote his
son, describing the general principles that would be incorporated in
the Virginia Resolutions, and anticipating great difficulty in achieving
a strong national government while reserving sufficient power to the
states. Mason believed, however, that "with a proper degree of cool-
ness, liberality and candor (very rare commodities by the bye), I doubt
not but it may be effected" (to George Mason, Jr., 20 May, Farrand,
III, 23).
During most of the debates, Mason supported a strong central gov-
ernment, although, like Randolph, he insisted that the liberties of the
people be safeguarded and that the interests of Virginia be protected.
On 12 September he offered to second a motion for a bill of rights,
which "would give great quiet to the people." Since the texts of the
declarations of rights of the states were available, Mason thought that
a bill of rights "might be prepared in a few hours." After Mason spoke,
xxxviii


Go up to Top of Page