Topic

Theoretical/Philosophical

Theoretical/philosophical annotations relate specifically to political theory and philosophy. These comments explore such topics as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and law enforcement, and how government can be structured to bring out the best of individuals and institutions.

Elbridge Gerry supported the national executive being chosen by the state governors and it illustrates his growing concern about a powerful national government.  Gerry felt the new constitution would have to safeguard the righs of states and individuals.  He would later refuse to sign the new constitution.
Annotated by bacraig on December 05, 2014
Edmund Randolph was not happy with the passage of the Gerry Committee Report.  He felt it gave too much influence to small states than he envisioned in his plan (see passage 1378) that he presented to James Madison on July 10.  In his scheme, Randolph felt that all states can have equal votes on certain topics, rather than permanent equal representation in the Senate.
Annotated by bacraig on December 02, 2014
Edmund Randolph's Suggestion for Conciliating the Small States:

communicated by Mr. Randolph, July 10. as an accommodating proposition to small states

(This & the following paper to be in an appendix)

1. Resolvd. that in the second branch each State have one vote in the following cases,

1. in granting exclusive rights to Ports
2. in subjecting vessels or seamen of the U. States to tonnage, duties or other impositions
3. in regulating the navigation of Rivers
4. in regulating the rights to be enjoyed by citizens of one State in the other States
5. in questions arising on the guarantee of territory
6. in declaring war or taking measures for subduing a Rebellion
7. in regulating Coin
8. in establishing & regulating the post office
9. in the admission of new States into the Union
10. in establishing rules for the government of the Militia
11. in raising a regular army
12. in the appointment of the Executive
13. in fixing the seat of Government

That in all other cases the right of suffrage be proportioned according to an equitable rule of representation.

2. that for the determination of certain important questions in the 2d branch, a greater number of votes than a mere majority be requisite

3. that the people of each State ought to retain the perfect right of adopting from time to time such forms of republican Government as to them may seem best, and of making all laws not contrary to the articles of Union; subject to the supremacy of the General Government in those instances only in which that supremacy shall be expressly declared by the articles of the Union.

4. That altho' every negative given to the law of a particular State shall prevent its operation, any State may appeal to the national Judiciary against a negative; and that such negative if adjudged to be contrary to the power granted by the articles of the Union, shall be void

5. that any individual conceiving himself injured or oppressed by the partiality or injustice of a law of any particular State may resort to the National Judiciary, who may adjudge such law to be void, if found contrary to the principles of equity and justice.
Annotated by bacraig on December 01, 2014
Edmund Randolph was the first of the Virginia delegation to debate the New Jersey Plan.  His primary argument was that the existing Confederation was a failure and a large-scale reform must be attempted.
Annotated by bacraig on December 01, 2014
Benjamin Franklin and Gouverneur Morris were trying to win over the non-signers like Edmund Randolph and Elbridge Gerry by giving them some "political cover."  The delegates could sign as representatives of states, rather than individual delegates.

In the end, however, Randolph, Gerry, and George Mason did not sign.
Annotated by bacraig on November 18, 2014
The original idea was that a senator would be president of the senate.  However, this led to a couple of problems.  First, if the president could vote only during a tie, the state would be under-represented.  Second, if the president could vote at all times, the state would be over-represented as the senator would have two voting seats. 

To solve these problems, the Brearly Committee decided that the vice president would be president of the Senate. 
Annotated by bacraig on November 17, 2014
The Committee of Detail recommended that the president be at least 35 years old.  Delegates figured age brings maturity.

John Jay articulates the second reason in Federalist No. 64: "By excluding men under thirty-five from the first office, and those under thirty from the second, it confines the electors to men of whom the people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle."
Annotated by bacraig on November 11, 2014
Elbridge Gerry was the first delegate to ask for qualifications for president.>

Up to this point, qualifications were discussed only in the context of the legislature, because they would be elected by the people.  In the beginning of the convention, delegates favored the legislature choosing the president among its own membership, thus qualifications were redundant.  However, at this point of the convention, it was more likely that citizens would choose the president, so qualifications were needed.
Annotated by bacraig on November 10, 2014
In Article 6 of the Virginia Plan, it stated "that the National Legislature ought to be impowered 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." 

In response, delegates were questioning the vagueness of incompetence.  Although Edmund Randolph felt that the federal government must be stronger, he also was seeking some balance between state and federal power.  Kevin Gutzman observes, "Randolph's former certainty that the state governments were completely devoid of merit had yielded to a more refined desire to see only certain powers entrusted o the federal government, with the residue of power left to the states."
Annotated by bacraig on November 05, 2014
In this passage, Edmund Randolph felt a longer term for senators would help counter-balance the influence of the House, a more democratic institution.  Being someone who was more of a moderate, he was worried about the dangers of too much democracy.
Annotated by bacraig on November 04, 2014