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 xxxvi

I. DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTION
5 April James McClurg, a member of the Council of State, was ap-
pointed.
Unbeknownst to most Virginians, George Washington-the most fa-
mous, admired, and popular man in America-also wanted to decline
his appointment to the Constitutional Convention. On 21 December
1786 Washington wrote Governor Randolph that he would not go to
the Convention. The news was not made public because Randolph,
James Madison, and other prominent Virginians hoped to persuade
Washington to change his mind. In the next few months, they wrote
to Washington entreating him to attend because his presence was in-
dispensable to the success of the Convention. Finally, on 28 March
1787 Washington wrote Governor Randolph that he would go to Phil-
adelphia (CC:10). On 11 April the Virginia Independent Chronicle an-
nounced "with peculiar satisfaction," that "our illustrious fellow citi-
zen, GEORGE WASHINGTON, Esq." had consented to attend the
Convention (CC:11). With Washington, the Virginia delegation was the
most prestigious one in the Convention, matched perhaps only by that
of Pennsylvania with Benjamin Franklin at its head.
The Virginia Delegates in the Constitutional Convention
The Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention played an
extraordinary role. The Convention, scheduled to meet on 14 May
1787, did not attain a quorum until the 25th. The lack of a quorum
was not the fault of Virginia's delegates. James Madison had arrived
in Philadelphia on 5 May; George Washington on the 13th; John Blair,
James McClurg, and George Wythe by the 15th; Randolph on the 15th;
and Mason on the evening of the 17th. The seven delegates met for
''two or three hours every day, in order to form a proper correspond-
ence of sentiments" (Mason to George Mason, Jr., 20 May, Farrand,
III, 23). In their discussions, the delegates were dependent upon and
influenced by ideas that Madison had been formulating since the spring
of 1786. These ideas are embodied in two memoranda: "Notes on
Ancient and Modern Confederacies" (April-June? 1786) and "Vices
of the Political System of the United States" (April-June 1787); and
in letters to Thomas Jefferson, 19 March 1787, Edmund Randolph, 8
April, and George Washington, 16 April (Rutland, Madison, IX, 3-24,
317-22, 345-58, 368-71, 382-87). The product of the delegates' dis-
cussions was the Virginia Resolutions which were presented to the
Convention by Governor Edmund Randolph on 29 May.
The Virginia Resolutions provided for a two-house legislature, in
which both houses were to be apportioned among the states according
to their population or to the taxes they paid to the central government.
The first house was to be elected by the people; the second by the
XXXVi.


Go up to Top of Page