4000bce - 399
400 - 1399
1400 - 1499
1500 - 1599
1600 - 1699
1700 - 1799
1800 - 1899
1900 - 1999
Major William Pierce
On the 30th May Govr. Randolph brought forward the principles of a federal Government. The idea suggested was, a national Government to consist of three branches. Agreed. (2) The Legislature to consist of two branches.
Resolved that the first branch of the Legislature ought to be elected by the People of the several States. (3)
A debate arose on this point.
Mr. Sherman thought the State Legislatures were better qualified to elect the Members than the people were.
Mr. Gerry was of the same opinion.
Mr. Mason was of the opinion that the appointment of the Legislature coming from the people would make the representation actual, but if it came from the State Legislatures it will be only virtual.
Mr. Wilson thought that one branch of the Legislature ought to be drawn from the people, because on the great foundation of the people all Government ought to rest. He would wish to see the new Constitution established on a broad basis, and rise like a pyramid to a respectable point.
Mr. Maddison was of the opinion that the appointment of the Members to the first branch of the national Legislature ought to be made by the people for two reasons,-one was that it would inspire confidence, and the other that it would induce the Government to sympathize with the people.
Mr. Gerry was of opinion that the representation would not be equally good if the people chose them, as if the appointment was made by the State Legislatures. He also touched on the principles of liberal support, and reprobated that idea of oeconomy in the different States that has been so injuriously practised.
Mr. Strong would agree to the principle, provided it would undergo a certain modification, but pointed out nothing.
Mr. Butler was opposed to the appointment by the people, because the State Legislatures he thought better calculated to make choice of such Members as would best answer the purpose.
Mr. Spaight thought it necessary previous to the decision on this point that the mode of appointing the Senate should be pointed out. He therefore moved that the second branch of the Legislature should be appointed by the State Legislatures.
Mr. King observed that the Question called for was premature, and out of order,-that unless we go on regularly from one principle to the other we shall draw out our proceedings to an endless length.
Mr. Butler called on Govr. Randolph to point out the number of Men necessary for the Senate, for on a knowledge of that will depend his opinion of the style and manner of appointing the first branch.
Mr. Randolph said he could not then point out the exact number of Members for the Senate, but he would observe that they ought to be less than the House of Commons. He was for offering such a check as to keep up the balance, and to restrain, if possible, the fury of democracy. He thought it would be impossible for the State Legislatures to appoint the Senators, because it would not produce the check intended. The first branch of the foederal Legislature should have the appointment of the Senators, and then the check would be compleat.
Butler said that until the number of the Senate could be known it would be impossible for him to give a vote on it.
Mr. Wilson was of opinion that the appointment of the 2d branch ought to be made by the people provided the mode of election is as he would have it, and that is to divide the union into districts from which the Senators should be chosen. He hopes that a foederal Government may be established that will insure freedom and yet be vigorous.
Mr. Maddison thinks the mode pointed out in the original propositions the best.
Mr. Butler moved to have the proposition relating to the first branch postponed, in order to take up another,-which was that the second branch of the Legislature consist of blank.
Mr. King objected to the postponement for the reasons which he had offered before.
Mr. Sherman was of opinion that if the Senate was to be appointed by the first branch and out of that Body that it would make them too dependent, and thereby destroy the end for which the Senate ought to be appointed.
Mr. Mason was of opinion that it would be highly improper to draw the Senate out of the first branch; that it would occasion vacancies which would cost much time, trouble, and expence to have filled up,-besides which it would make the Members too dependent on the first branch.
Mr. Chs. Pinckney said he meant to propose to divide the Continent into four Divisions, out of which a certain number of persons shd. be nominated, and out of that nomination to appoint a Senate.
I was myself of opinion that it would be right first to know how the Senate should be appointed, because it would determine many Gentlemen how to vote for the choice of Members for the first branch,-it appeared clear to me that unless we established a Government that should carry at least some of its principles into the mass of the people, we might as well depend upon the present confederation. If the influence of the States is not lost in some part of the new Government we never shall have any thing like a national institution. But in my opinion it will be right to shew the sovereignty of the State in one branch of the Legislature, and that should be in the Senate.
On the proposition in the words following-"to legislate in all cases where the different States shall prove incompetent." (4)
Mr. Sherman was of opinion that it would be too indifinitely expressed,-and yet it would be hard to define all the powers by detail. It appeared to him that it would be improper for the national Legislature to negative all the Laws that were connected with the States themselves.
Mr. Maddison said it was necessary to adopt some general principles on which we should act,-that we were wandering from one thing to another without seeming to be settled in any one principle.
Mr. Wythe observed that it would be right to establish general principles before we go into detail, or very shortly Gentlemen would find themselves in confusion, and would be obliged to have recurrence to the point from whence they sat out.
Mr. King was of opinion that the principles ought first to be established before we proceed to the framing of the Act. He apprehends that the principles only go so far as to embrace all the power that is given up by the people to the Legislature, and to the foederal Government, but no farther.
Mr. Randolph was of opinion that it would be impossible to define the powers and the length to which the federal Legislature ought to extend just at this time.
Mr. Wilson observed that it would be impossible to enumerate the powers which the federal Legislature ought to have.
Mr. Maddison said he had brought with him a strong prepossession for the defining of the limits and powers of the federal Legislature, but he brought with him some doubts about the practicability of doing it: -at present he was convinced it could not be done.
ON THE EXECUTIVE POWER (5)
Mr. Wilson said the great qualities in the several parts of the Executive are vigor and dispatch. Making peace and war are generally determined by Writers on the Laws of Nations to be legislative powers.
Mr. Maddison was of opinion that an Executive formed of one Man would answer the purpose when aided by a Council, who should have the right to advise and record their proceedings, but not to control his authority.
Mr. Gerry was of opinion that a Council ought to be the medium through which the feelings of the people ought to be communicated to the Executive.
Mr. Randolph advanced a variety of arguments opposed to a unity of the Executive, and doubted whether even a Council would be sufficient to check the improper views of an ambitious Man. A unity of the Executive he observed would savor too much of a monarchy.
Mr. Wilson said that in his opinion so far from a unity of the Executive tending to progress towards a monarchy it would be the circumstance to prevent it. A plurality in the Executive of Government would probably produce a tyranny as bad as the thirty Tyrants of Athens, or as the Decemvirs of Rome.
A confederated republic joins the happiest kind of Government with the most certain security to liberty.
Every Government has certain moral and physical qualities engrafted in their very nature,-one operates on the sentiments of men, the other on their fears.
Mr. Dickinson was of opinion that the powers of the Executive ought to be defined before we say in whom the power shall vest.
Mr. Bedford (6) said he was for appointing the Executive Officer for three years, and that he should be eligible for nine years only.
Mr. Maddison observed that to prevent a Man from holding an Office longer than he ought, he may for mal-practice be impeached and removed; -he is not for any ineligibility.
Mr. Charles Pinckney was of opinion (7) that the election of the Executive ought to be by the national Legislature, that then respect will be paid to that character best qualified to fill the Executive de artment of Government.
Mr. Wilson proposed that the U. States should be divided into districts, each of which should elect a certain number of persons, who should have the appointment of the Executive.
Mr. Gerry observed that if the appointment of the Executive should be made by the national Legislature, it would be done in such a way as to prevent intrigue. If the States are divided into districts, there will be too much inconvenience in nominating the Electors.
Mr. Wm'son (8) observed that if the Electors were to chuse the Executive it would be attended with considerable expence and trouble; whereas the appointment made by the Legislature would be easy, and in his opinion, the least liable to objection.
On the subject of salary to the Executive Dr. Franklin arose and produced a written Speech. (9) It was, on account of his age, read by Mr. Wilson, in which was advanced an opinion that no salaries should be allowed the public Officers, but that their necessary expences should be defrayed. This would make Men, he said, more desirous of obtaining the Esteem of their Country-men,- than avaricious or eager, in the pursuit of wealth.
Mr. Dickinson moved (10) that the Executive should be removed at the request of a majority of the State Legislatures.
No Government can produce such good consequences as a limitted monarchy, especially such as the English Constitution.
The application of the several Legislatures brings with it no force to the national Legislature.
Mr. Maddison said it was far from being his wish that every executive Officer should remain in Office, without being amenable to some Body for his conduct.
Mr. Randolph (11) was for appointing three Persons, from three districts of the Union, to compose the Executive. A single Person may be considered the foetus of a Monarchy.
Mr. Butler was of opinion that a unity of the Executive would be necessary in order to promote dispatch; -that a plurality of Persons would never do. When he was in Holland the States general were obliged to give up their power to a French Man to direct their military operations.
Mr. Wilson (12) said that all the Constitutions of America from New Hampshire to Georgia have their Executive in a single Person. A single Person will produce vigor and activity. Suppose the Executive to be in the hands of a number they will probably be divided in opinion.
It was proposed that the Judicial should be joined with the Executive to revise the Laws. (13)
Mr. King was of opinion that the Judicial ought not to join in the negative of a Law, because the Judges will have the expounding of those Laws when they come before them; and they will no doubt stop the operation of such as shall appear repugnant to the constitution.
Dr. Franklin thinks it would be improper to put it in the power of any Man to negative a Law passed by the Legislature because it would give him the controul of the Legislature; and mentioned the influence of the British King, and the influence which a Governor of Pennsylvania once had in arresting (for the consideration of an encrease of salary) the power out of the hands of the Legislature.
Mr. Maddison was of opinion (14) that no Man would be so daring as to place a veto on a Law that that had passed with the assent of the Legislature.
Mr. Butler observed that power was always encreasing on the part of the Executive. When he voted for a single Person to hold the Executive power he did it that Government be expeditiously executed, and not that it should be clogged.
Mr. Bedford was of opinion that no check was necessary on a Legislature composed as the national Legislature would be, with two branches,-an upper and a lower House.
Mr. Mason was of opinion that it would be so dangerous for the Executive in a single Person to negative a Law that the People will not accept of it. He asked if Gentlemen had ever reflected on that awful period of time between the passing and final adoption of this constitution; -what alarm might possibly take place in the public mind.
Mr. Maddison in a very able and ingenious Speech, (15) ran through the whole Scheme of the Government,-pointed out all the beauties and defects of ancient Republics; compared their situation with ours wherever it appeared to bear any anology, and proved that the only way to make a Government answer all the end of its institution was to collect the wisdom of its several parts in aid of each other whenever it was necessary. Hence the propriety of incorporating the Judicial with the Executive in the revision of the Laws. He was of opinion that by joining the Judges with Supreme Executive Magistrate would be strictly proper, and would by no means interfere with that indepence so much to be approved and distinguished in the several departments.
Mr. Dickinson could not agree with Gentlemen in blending the national Judicial with the Executive, because the one is the expounder, and the other the Executor of the Laws.
Mr. Rutledge was of opinion that it would be right to make the adjudications of the State Judges, appealable to the national Judicial.
Mr. Maddison was for appointing the Judges by the Senate.
Mr. Hamilton suggested the idea of the Executive's appointing or nominating the Judges to the Senate which should have the right of rejecting or approving.
Mr. Butler was of opinion (16) that the alteration of the confederation ought not to be confirmed by the different Legislatures because they have sworne to support the Government under which they act, and therefore that Deputies should be chosen by the People for the purpose of ratifying it.
Mr. King thought that the Convention would be under the necessity of referring the amendments to the different Legislatures, because one of the Articles of the confederation expressly make it necessary.
As the word perpetual in the Articles of confederation gave occasion for several Members to insist upon the main principles of the confederacy, i e that the several States should meet in the general Council on a footing of compleat equality each claiming the right of sovereignty, Mr. Butler observed that the word perpetual in the confederation meant only the constant existence of our Union, and not the particular words which compose the Articles of the union.
Some general discussions came on.-Mr. Charles Pinckney said (17) he was for appointing the first branch of the Legislature by the State Legislatures, and that the rule for appointing it ought to be by the contributions made by the different States.
Mr. Wilson was of opinion that the Judicial, Legislative and Executive departments ought to be commensurate.
Mr. Cotesworth Pinckney was of opinion that the State Legislatures ought to appoint the 1st branch of the national Legislature; -that the election cannot be made from the People in South Carolina. If the people choose it will have a tendency to destroy the foundation of the State Governments.
Mr. Maddison observed that Gentlemen reasoned very clear on most points under discussion, but they drew different conclusions. What is the reason? Because they reason from different principles. The primary objects of civil society are the security of property and public safety.
1 Text and footnotes reprinted from The American Historical Review, vol. III., (1898), pp. 317-334. Governor Randolph brought forward the principles suggested by the Virginia delegation, on May 29; Documentary History, I. 55, Madison Papers (Gilpin) 728-735; Yates, in Elliot 1836, I. 390, 391. Major Pierce took his seat on May 31; Doc. Hist. I. 56.
2 May 30. Doc. Hist., I. 200; Madison Pabers, 749; Yates in Elliot, I. 392.
3 May 31. Doc. Hist., I. 201, 202; Elliot, I. 392, 393. The debate which here follows is reported in the Madison Papers, 753-759, in which however the remarks of Strong, the first and second speeches of King, the third and fourth of Butler, and the final remarks of Mason, are omitted. The final remarks of Sherman are here given at greater length.
4 Doc. Hist., I. 202. The debate on this question is presented in the Madison Papers, 760-761, but none of the remarks here reported are to be found there, save the second speech of Madison.
5 June I. Doc. Hist. I, 203, 204. An ampler report of this debate is given in the Madison Papers, 762-764 where however the first remarks of Madison here given and those of Dickinson are omitted; but they are summarized in King's notes, Life and Correspondence, I, 588, 589.
6 The question was now on the duration of the term of the executive. Doc. Hist., I. 204; Madison Papers 766, 767, with omission of the remarks of Madison here reported.
7 June 2. The question was now on the mode of appointing the executive; Doc. Hist, I. 295. The following debate, except the remarks of Charles Pinckney, is to be found in the Madison Papers, 768-770.
8 Hugh Williamson of North Carolina.
9 Doc. Hist., I. 206. The text of Dr. Franklin's speech is given in the Madison Papers, 771-775.
10 Doc. Hist., I. 206, 207. Excepting Madison's own remarks, the ensuing debate reported in the Madison Papers, 776-778.
11 The question was now on the motion that the exceutive consist of a single person. Doc. Hist., I, 207, 208; Madison Papers, 779-782.
12 June 4.
13 Doc. Hist., I, 208, 209. The notes which follow relate to the debate on this proposition and on that for a veto by the executive; Madison Papers, 784- 789, where, however, King's interesting remark about the judiciary holding statutes void does not appear.
14 It appears that this passage was animadverted upon when these notes were printed in the Savannah Georgian in 1828. In Madison's letter to Tefft, cited above, p. 310, speaking of the numbers of that news paper which he had once received, he says, "They were probably sent on account of a marginal suggestion of inconsistency between language held by me in the Convention with regard to the Executive veto, and the use made of the power by myself, when in the Executive Administration. The inconsistency is done away by the distinction, not adverted to, between an absolute veto, to which the language was applied, and the qualified veto which was exercised" (Writings, IV. 139). The marginal note in the newspaper reads: "This same Mr. Madison did so when President. Eds. Geo."
15 June 6. If Madison's report is right, it would appear that Pierce has here fused two speeches made by Madison on that day, one on the election of the first branch by the legislatures, the other on the association of the judiciary in the revisal of the laws, a question postponed from June 4. Doc. Hist., I. 214; Madison Papers, 804-806, 809-811. Dickinson's remarks, which here follow, relate to this latter question; King, I. 592. But those of Rutledge and Madison which succeed were, according to the Madison Papers, 792-793, made on June 5 in the debate on the election of the judiciary. Hamilton's remarks are not given there.
16 The following remarks were apparently made in the debate of June 5 on the fifteenth Virginia resolution, that relating to ratification. Doc. Hist., I. 212; Madison Papers, 797, 798 (Butler's second speech being omitted).
17 June 6. Doc. Hist., I. 213; Madison Papers, 800. Wilson, ibid., 801, 802 C. C. Pinckney, ibid., 808. The concluding remarks of Madison I do not identify.
From New Hampshire.
Jno. Langdon Esqr. and Nichs. Gilman Esquire.
Mr. Langdon is a Man of considerable fortune, possesses a liberal mind, and a good plain understanding. -about 40 years old. (1)
Mr. Gilman is modest, genteel, and sensible. There is nothing brilliant or striking in his character, but there is something respectable and worthy in the Man. -about 30 years of age.
Rufus King, Natl. Gorham, Gerry and Jno. Strong (2) Esquires.
Mr. King is a Man much distinguished for his eloquence and great parliamentary talents. He was educated in Massachusetts, and is said to have good classical as well as legal knowledge. He has served for three years in the Congress of the United States with great and deserved applause, and is at this time high in the confidence and approbation of his Country-men. This Gentleman is about thirty three years of age, about five feet ten Inches high, well formed, an handsome face, with a strong expressive Eye, and a sweet high toned voice. In his public speaking there is something peculiarly strong and rich in his expression, clear, and convincing in his arguments, rapid and irresistible at times in his eloquence but he is not always equal. His action is natural, swimming, and graceful, but there is a rudeness of manner sometimes accompanying it. But take him tout en semble, he may with propriety be ranked among the Luminaries of the present Age.
Mr. Gorham is a Merchant in Boston, high in reputation, and much in the esteem of his Country-men. He is a Man of very good sense, but not much improved in his education. He is eloquent and easy in public debate, but has nothing fashionable or elegant in his style; -all he aims at is to convince, and where he fails it never is from his auditory not understanding him, for no Man is more perspicuous and full. He has been President of Congress, and three years a Member of that Body. Mr. Gorham is about 46 years of age, rather lusty, and has an agreable and pleasing manner.
Mr. Gerry's character is marked for integrity and perseverance. He is a hesitating and laborious speaker; -possesses a great degree of confidence and goes extensively into all subjects that he speaks on, without respect to elegance or flower of diction. He is connected and sometimes clear in his arguments, conceives well, and cherishes as his first virtue, a love for his Country. Mr. Gerry is very much of a Gentleman in his principles and manners; -he has been engaged in the ercantile line and is a Man of property. He is about 37 years of age.
Mr. Strong is a Lawyer of some eminence,-he has received a liberal education, and has good connections to recommend him. As a Speaker he is feeble, and without confidence. This Gentn. is about thirty five years of age, and greatly in the esteem of his Colleagues.
Saml. Johnson, Roger Sherman, and W. Elsworth (3) Esquires.
Dr. Johnson is a character much celebrated for his legal knowledge; he is said to be one of the first classics in America, and certainly possesses a very strong and enlightened understanding.
As an Orator in my opinion, there is nothing in him that warrants the high reputation which he has for public speaking. There is something in the tone of his voice not pleasing to the Ear,-but he is eloquent and clear,-always abounding with information and instruction. He was once employed as an Agent for the State of Connecticut to state her claims to certain landed territory before the British House of Commons; this Office he discharged with so much dignity, and made such an ingenious display of his powers, that he laid the foundation of a reputation which will probably last much longer than his own life. Dr. Johnson is about sixty years of age, possesses the manners of a Gentleman, and engages the Hearts of Men by the sweetness of his temper, and that affectionate style of address with which he accosts his acquaintance.
Mr. Sherman exhibits the oddest shaped character I ever remember to have met with. He is awkward, un-meaning, and unaccountably strange in his manner. But in his train of thinking there is something regular, deep, and comprehensive; yet the oddity of his address, the vulgarisms that accompany his public speaking, and that strange new England cant which runs through his public as well as his private speaking make everything that is connected with him grotesque and laughable; -and yet he deserves infinite praise,-no Man has a better Heart or a clearer Head. If he cannot embellish he can furnish thoughts that are wise and useful. He is an able politician, and extremely artful in accomplishing any particular object; -it is remarked that he seldom fails. I am told he sits on the Bench in Connecticut, and is very correct in the discharge of his Judicial functions. In the early part of his life he was a Shoe-maker; -but despising the lowness of his condition, he turned Almanack maker, and so progressed upwards to a Judge. He has been several years a Member of Congress, and discharged the duties of his Office with honor and credit to himself, and advantage to the State he represented. He is about 60.
Mr. Elsworth is a Judge of the Supreme Court in Connecticut; -he is a Gentleman of a clear, deep, and copious understanding; eloquent, and connected in public debate; and always attentive to his duty. He is very happy in a reply, and choice in selecting such parts of his adversary's arguments as he finds make the strongest impressions,-in order to take off the force of them, so as to admit the power of his own. Mr. Elsworth is about 37 years of age, a Man much respected for his integrity, and venerated for his abilities.
From New York.
Alexander Hamilton, Robert Yates, and W. Lansing (4) Esquires.
Colo. Hamilton is deservedly celebrated for his talents. He is a practitioner of the Law, and reputed to be a finished Scholar. To a clear and strong judgment he unites the ornaments of fancy, and whilst he is able, convincing, and engaging in his eloquence the Heart and Head sympathize in approving him. Yet there is something too feeble in his voice to be equal to the strains of oratory; -it is my opinion that he is rather a convincing Speaker, that [than) a blazing Orator. Colo. Hamilton requires time to think,-he enquires into every part of his subject with the searchings of phylosophy, and when he comes forward he comes highly charged with interesting matter, there is no skimming over the surface of a subject with him, he must sink to the bottom to see what foundation it rests on.-His language is not always equal, sometimes didactic like Bolingbroke's, at others light and tripping like Stern's. His eloquence is not so defusive as to trifle with the senses, but he rambles just enough to strike and keep up the attention. He is about 33 years old, of small stature, and lean. His manners are tinctured with stifess, and sometimes with a degree of vanity that is highly disagreable.
Mr. Yates is said to be an able Judge. He is a Man of great legal abilities, but not distinguished as an Orator. Some of his Enemies say he is an anti- federal Man, but I discovered no such disposition in him. He is about 45 years old, and enjoys a great share of health.
Mr. Lansing is a practicing Attorney at Albany, and Mayor of that Corporation. He has a hisitation in his speech, that will prevent his being an Orator of any eminence; -his legal knowledge I am told is not extensive, nor his education a good one. He is however a Man of good sense, plain in his manners, and sincere in his friendships. He is about 32 years of age.
From New Jersey.
Wm. Livingston, David Brearly, Wm. Patterson, and Jonn. Dayton, Esquires. (5)
Governor Livingston is confessedly a Man of the first rate talents, but he appears to me rather to indulge a sportiveness of wit, than a strength of thinking. He is however equal to anything, from the extensiveness of his education and genius. His writings teem with satyr and a neatness of style. But he is no Orator, and seems little acquainted with the guiles of policy. He is about 60 years old, and remarkably healthy.
Mr. Brearly is a man of good, rather than of brilliant parts. He is a Judge of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and is very much in the esteem of the people. As an Orator he has little to boast of, but as a Man he has every virtue to recommend him. Mr. Brearly is about 40 years of age.
Mr. Patterson is one of those kind of Men whose powers break in upon you, and create wonder and astonishment. He is a Man of great modesty, with looks that bespeak talents of no great extent,-but he is a Classic, a Lawyer, and an Orator; -and of a disposition so favorable to his advancement that every one seemed ready to exalt him with their praises. He is very happy in the choice of time and manner of engaging in a debate, and never speaks but when he understands his subject well. This Gentleman is about 34 ys. of age, of a very low stature.
Capt. Dayton is a young Gentleman of talents, with ambition to exert them. He possesses a good education and some reading; he speaks well, and seems desirous of improving himself in Oratory. There is an impetuosity in his temper that is injurious to him; but there is an honest rectitude about him that makes him a valuable Member of Society, and secures to him the esteem of all good Men. He is about 30 years old, served with me as a Brother Aid to General Sullivan in the Western expedition of '79.
Benja. Franklin, Thos. Mifflin, Robt. Morris, Geo. Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimons, Jared Ingersol, James Wilson, Governeur Morris.
Dr. Franklin is well known to be the greatest phylosopher of the present age; -all the operations of nature he seems to understand,-the very heavens obey him, and the Clouds yield up their Lightning to be imprisoned in his rod. But what claim he has to the politician, posterity must determine. It is certain that he does not shine much in public Council,-he is no Speaker, nor does he seem to let politics engage his attention. He is, however, a most extraordinary Man, and tells a story in a style more engaging than anything I ever heard. Let his Biographer finish his character. He is 82 years old, and possesses an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age.
General Mifflin is well known for the activity of his mind, and the brilliancy of his parts. He is well informed and a graceful Speaker. The General is about 40 years of age, and a very handsome man.
Robert Morris is a merchant of great eminence and wealth; an able Financier, and a worthy Patriot. He has an understanding equal to any public object, and possesses an energy of mind that few Men can boast of. Although he is not learned, yet he is as great as those who are. I am told that when he speaks in the Assembly of Pennsylvania, that he bears down all before him. What could have been his reason for not Speaking in the Convention I know not,-but he never once spoke on any point. This Gentleman is about 50 years old.
Mr. Clymer is a lawyer of some abilities;-he is a respectable Man, and much esteemed. Mr. Clymer is about 40 years old.
Mr. Fitzsimons is a Merchant of considerable talents, and speaks very well I am told, in the Legislature of Pennsylvania. He is about 40 years old.
Mr. Ingersol is very able Attorney, and possesses a clear legal understanding. He is well aducated in the Classic's, and is a Man of very extensive reading. Mr. Ingersol speaks well, and comprehends his subject fully. There is a modesty in his character that keeps him back. He is about 36 years old.
Mr. Wilson ranks among the foremost in legal and political knowledge. He has joined to a fine genius all that can set him off and show him to advantage. He is well acquainted with Man, and understands all the passions that influence him. Government seems to have been his peculiar Study, all the political institutions of the World he knows in detail, and can trace the causes and effects of every revolution from the earliest stages of the Grecian commonwealth down to the present time. No man is more clear, copious, and comprehensive than Mr. Wilson, yet he is no great Orator. He draws the attention not by the charm of his eloquence, but by the force of his reasoning. He is about 45 years old.
Mr. Governeur Morris is one of those Genius's in whom every species of talents combine to render him conspicuous and flourishing in public debate:-He winds tharough all the mazes of rhetoric, and throws around him such a glare that he charms, captivates, and leads away the senses of all who hear him. With an infinite streach of fancy he brings to view things when he is engaged in deep argumentation, that render all the labor of reasoning easy and pleasing. But with all these powers he is fickle and inconstant,-never pursuing one train of thinking,-nor ever regular. He has gone through a very extensive course of reading, and is acquainted with all the sciences. No Man has more wit,-nor can any one engage the attention more than Mr. Morris. He was bred to the Law, but I am told he disliked the profession, and turned Merchant. He is engaged in some great mercantile matters with his namesake Mr. Robt. Morris. This Gentleman is about 38 years old, he has been unfortunate in losing one of his Legs, and getting all the flesh taken off his right arm by a scald, when a youth.
Jno. Dickinson, Gunning Bedford, Geo: Read, Richd. Bassett, and Jacob Broom Esquires.
Mr. Dickinson has been famed through all America, for his Farmers Letters; he is a Scholar, and said to be a Man of very extensive information. When I saw him in the Convention I was induced to pay the greatest attention to him whenever he spoke. I had often heard that he was a great Orator, but I found him an indifferent Speaker. With an affected air of wisdom he labors to produce a trifle,-his language is irregular and incorrect,-his flourishes, (for he sometimes attempts them), are like expiring flames, they just shew themselves and go out; -no traces of them are left on the mind to chear or animate it. He is, however, a good writer and will be ever considered one of the most important characters in the United States. He is about 55 years old, and was bred a Quaker.
Mr. Bedford was educated for the Bar, and in his profession I am told, has merit. He is a bold and nervous Speaker, and has a very commanding and striking manner; -but he is warm and impetuous in his temper, and precipitate in his judgment. Mr. Bedford is about 32 years old, and very corpulant.
Mr. Read is a Lawyer and a Judge; -his legal abilities are said to be very great, but his powers of Oratory are fatiguing and tiresome to the last degree; -his voice is feeble, and his articulation so bad that few can have patience to attend to him. He is a very good Man, and bears an amiable character with those who know him. Mr. Read is about 50, of a low stature, and a weak constitution.
Mr. Bassett is a religious enthusiast, lately turned Methodist, and serves his Country because it is the will of the people that he should do so. He is a Man of plain sense, and has modesty enough to hold his Tongue. He is a Gentlemanly Man, and is in high estimation among the Methodists. Mr. Bassett is about 36 years old.
Mr. Broom is a plain good Man, with some abilities, but nothing to render him conspicuous. He is silent in public, but chearful and conversable in private. He is about 35 years old.
Luther Martin, Jas. McHenry, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, and Daniel Carrol Esquires. (6)
Mr. Martin was educated for the Bar, and is Attorney general for the State of Maryland. This Gentleman possesses a good deal of information, but he has a very bad delivery, and so extremely prolix, that he never speaks without tiring the patience of all who hear him. He is about 34 years of age.
Mr. Mc. Henry was bred a physician, but he afterwards turned Soldier and acted as Aid to Genl. Washington and the Marquis de la Fayette. He is a Man of specious talents, with nothing of genious to improve them. As a politician there is nothing remarkable in him, nor has he any of the graces of the Orator. He is however, a very respectable young Gentleman, and deserves the honor which his Country has bestowed on him. Mr. Mc. Henry is about 32 years of age.
Mr. Jenifer is a Gentleman of fortune in Maryland; -he is always in good humour, and never fails to make his company pleased with him. He sits silent in the Senate, and seems to be conscious that he is no politician. From his long continuance in single life, no doubt but he has made the vow of celibacy. He speaks warmly of the Ladies notwithstanding. Mr. Jenifer is about 55 years of Age, and once served as an Aid de Camp to Major Genl. Lee.
Mr. Carrol is a Man of large fortune, and influence in his State. He possesses plain good sense, and is in the full confidence of his Countrymen. This Gentleman is about years of age.
Genl. Geo: Washington, Geo: Wythe, Geo: Mason, Jas. Maddison junr. Jno. Blair, Edmd. Randolph, and James Mc. Lurg.
Genl. Washington is well known as the Commander in chief of the late American Army. Having conducted these States to independence and peace, he now appears to assist in framing a Government to make the People happy. Like Gustavus Vasa, he may be said to be the deliverer of his Country; -like Peter the great he appears as the politician and the States-man; and like Cincinnatus he returned to his farm perfectly contented with being only a plain Citizen, after enjoying the highest honor of the Confederacy,-and now only seeks for the approbation of his Countrymen by being virtuous and useful. The General was conducted to the Chair as President of the Convention by the unanimous voice of its Members. He is in the 52d. year of his age.
Mr. Wythe is the famous Professor of Law at the University of William and Mary. He is confessedly one of the most learned legal Characters of the present age. From his close attention to the study of general learning he has acquired a compleat knowledge of the dead languages and all the sciences. He is remarked for his examplary life, and universally esteemed for his good principles. No Man it is said understands the history of Government better than Mr. Wythe,-nor any one who understands the fluctuating condition to which all societies are liable better than he does, yet from his too favorable opinion of Men, he is no great politician. He is a neat and pleasing Speaker, and a most correct and able Writer. Mr. Wythe is about 55 years of age.
Mr. Mason is a Gentleman of remarkable strong powers, and possesses a clear and copious understanding. He is able and convincing in debate, steady and firm in his principles, and undoubtedly one of the best politicians in America. Mr. Mason is about 60 years old, with a fine strong constitution.
Mr. Maddison is a character who has long been in public life; and what is very remarkable every Person seems to acknowledge his greatness. He blends together the profound politician, with the Scholar. In the management of every great question he evidently took the lead in the Convention, and tho' he cannot be called an Orator, he is a most agreable, eloquent, and convincing Speaker. From a spirit of industry and application which he possesses in a most eminent degree, he always comes forward the best informed Man of any point in debate. The affairs of the United States, he perhaps, has the most correct knowledge of, of any Man in the Union. He has been twice a Member of Congress, and was always thought one of the ablest Members that ever sat in that Council. Mr. Maddison is about 37 years of age, a Gentleman of great modesty,-with a remarkable sweet temper. He is easy and unreserved among his acquaintance, and has a most agreable style of conversation.
Mr. Blair is one of the most respectable Men in Virginia, both on account of his Family as well as fortune. He is one of the Judges of the Supreme Court in Virginia, and acknowledged to have a very extensive knowledge of the Laws. Mr. Blair is however, no Orator, but his good sense, and most excellent principles, compensate for other deficiencies. He is about 50 years of age.
Mr. Randolph is Governor of Virginia,-a young Gentleman in whom unite all the accomplishments of the Scholar, and the Statesman. He came forward with the postulata, or first principles, on which the Convention acted, and he supported them with a force of eloquence and reasoning that did him great honor. He has a most harmonious voice, a fine person and striking manners.
Mr. Randolph is about 32 years of age.
Mr. Mc. Lurg is a learned physician, but having never appeared before in public life his character as a politician is not sufficiently known. He attempted once or twice to speak, but with no great success. It is certain that he has a foundation of learning, on which, if he pleases, he may erect a character of high renown. The Doctor is about 38 years of age, a Gentleman of great respectability, and of a fair and unblemished character.
Wm. Blount, Richd. Dobbs Spaight, Hugh Williamson, Wm. Davey, and Jno. Martin (7) Esquires.
Mr. Blount is a character strongly marked for integrity and honor. He has been twice a Member of Congress, and in that office discharged his duty with ability and faithfulness. He is no Speaker, nor does he possess any of those talents that make Men shine; -he is plain, honest, and sincere. Mr. Blount is about 36 years of age.
Mr. Spaight is a worthy Man, of some abilities, and fortune. Without possessing a Genius to render him briliant, he is able to discharge any public trust that his Country may repose in him. He is about 31 years of age.
Mr. Williamson is a Gentleman of education and talents. He enters freely into public debate from his close attention to most subjects, but he is no Orator. There is a great degree of good humour and pleasantry in his character; and in his manners there is a strong trait of the Gentleman. He is about 48 years of age.
Mr. Davey is a Lawyer of some eminence in his State. He is said to have a good classical education, and is a Gentleman of considerable literary talents. He was silent in the Convention, (8) but his opinion was always respected. Mr. Davy is about 30 years of age.
Mr. Martin was lately Governor of North Carolina, which office he filled with credit. He is a Man of sense, and undoubtedly is a good politician, but he is not formed to shine in public debate, being no Speaker. Mr. Martin was once a Colonel in the American Army, but proved unfit for the field. He is about 40 years of age.
Jno. Rutledge, Chs. Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, and Pierce Butler Esquires.
Mr. Rutledge is one of those characters who was highly mounted at the commencement of the late revolution; -his reputation in the first Congress gave him a distinguished rank among the American Worthies. He was bred to the Law, and now acts as one of the Chancellors of South Carolina. This Gentleman is much famed in his own State as an Orator, but in my opinion he is too rapid in his public speaking to be denominated an agreeable Orator. He is undoubtedly a man of abilities, and a Gentleman of distinction and fortune. Mr. Rutledge was once Governor of South Carolina. He is about 48 years of age.
Mr. Chs. Cotesworth Pinckney is a Gentleman of Family and fortune in his own State. He has received the advantage of a liberal education, and possesses a very extensive degree of legal knowledge. When warm in a debate he sometimes speaks well,-but he is generally considered an indifferent Orator. Mr. Pinckney was an Officer of high rank in the American Army, and served with great reputation through the War. He is now about 40 years of age.
Mr. Charles Pinckney is a young Gentleman of the most promising talents. He is, altho' only 24 ys. of age, in possession of a very great variety of knowledge. Government, Law, History and Phylosophy are his favorite studies, but he is intimately acquainted with every species of polite learning, and has a spirit of application and industry beyond most men. He speaks with great neatness and perspicuity, and treats every subject as fully, without running into prolixity, as it requires. He has been a member of Congress, and served in that Body with ability and eclat.
Mr. Butler is a character much respected for the many excellent virtues which he possesses. But as a politician or an Orator, he has no pretentions to either. He is a Gentleman of fortune, and takes rank among the first in South Carolina. He has been appointed to Congress, and is now a Member of the Legislature of South Carolina. Mr. Butler is about 40 years of age; an Irishman by birth.
Wm. Few, Abraham Baldwin, Wm. Pierce, and Wm. Houstoun Esqrs.
Mr. Few possesses a strong natural Genius, and from application has acquired some knowledge of legal matters; -he practises at the bar of Georgia, and speaks tolerably well in the Legislature. He has been twice a Member of Congress, and served in that capacity with fidelity to his State, and honor to himself. Mr. Few is about 35 years of age.
Mr. Baldwin is a Gentleman of superior abilities, and joins in a public debate with great art and eloquence. Having laid the foundation of a compleat classical education at Harvard College, he pursues every other study with ease. He is well acquainted with Books and Characters, and has an accomodating turn of mind, which enables him to gain the confidence of Men, and to understand them. He is a practising Attorney in Georgia, and has been twice a Member of Congress. Mr. Baldwin is about 38 years of age.
Mr. Houstoun is an Attorney at Law, and has been Member of Congress for the State of Georgia. He is a Gentleman of Family, and was educated in England. As to his legal or political knowledge he has very little to boast of. Nature seems to have done more for his corporeal than mental powers. His Person is striking, but his mind very little improved with useful or elegant knowledge. He has none of the talents requisite for the Orator, but in public debate is confused and irregular. Mr. Houstoun is about 30 years of age of an amiable and sweet temper, and of good and honorable principles.
My own character I shall not attempt to draw, but leave those who may choose to speculate on it, to consider it in any light that their fancy or imagination may depict. I am conscious of having discharged my duty as a Soldier through the course of the late revolution with honor and propriety; and my services in Congress and the Convention were bestowed with the best intention towards the interest of Georgia, and towards the general welfare of the Confederacy. I possess ambition, and it was that, and the flattering opinion which some of my Friends had of me, that gave me a seat in the wisest Council in the World, and furnished me with an opportunity of giving these short Sketches of the Characters who composed it.
1 Pierce's statements of age, throughout the paper, are only approximately correct.
2 Caleb Strong.
3 Oliver Ellsworth.
4 John Lansing.
5 W. C. Houstoun omitted.
6 James Francis Mercer omitted.
7 Alexander Martin.
8 Not absolutely; see Madison Papers, 1007, 1039, 1081, 1154, 1191.
Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States.
Government Printing Office, 1927.
House Document No. 398.
Selected, Arranged and Indexed by Charles C. Tansill