Was there a runaway convention?
By Jerald Taylor
One objection to a convention of states, which I consider to be false, is that the original constitutional convention exceeded its authority. I intend to demonstrate that is patently false. Why honor and uphold the constitution if it was the product of a hijacked convention? Would George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Charles Pinkney and John Rutledge have agreed to something as unseemly as disobedience to the charge of office from the State to whom they owed allegience?
First – The call of the Confederation Congress Everything not in brackets is quoted from records of the congress or the convention.
The report of a grand comee consisting of Mr Dane Mr Varnum Mr S. M. Mitchell Mr Smith Mr Cadwallader Mr Irwine Mr N. Mitchell Mr Forrest MrGrayson Mr Blount Mr Bull & Mr Few, to whom was referred a letter of I4 Septr 1786 from J. Dickinson written at the request of Commissioners from the States of Virginia Delaware Pensylvania New Jersey & New York assembled at the City of Annapolis together with a copy of the report of the said commissioners to the legislatures of the States by whom they were appointed, being an order of the day was called up & which is contained in the following resolution viz
“Congress having had under consideration the letter of John Dickinson esqr chairman of the Commissioners who assembled at Annapolis during the last year also the proceedings of the said commissioners and entirely coinciding with them as to the inefficiency of the federal government and the necessity of devising such farther provisions as shall render the same adequate to the exigencies of the Union do strongly recommend to the different legislatures to send forward delegates to meet the proposed convention on the second Monday in May next at the city of Philadelphia ”
The delegates for the state of New York thereupon laid before Congress Instructions which they had received from their constituents, & in pursuance of the said instructions moved to postpone the farther consideration of the report in order to take up the following proposition to wit
” That it be recommended to the States composing the Union that a convention of representatives from the said States respectively be held at on for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the United States of America and reporting to the United States in Congress assembled and to the States respectively such alterations and amendments of the said Articles of Confederation as the representatives met in such convention shall judge proper and necessary to render them adequate to the preservation and support of the Union ”
[ This vote failed. ]
A motion was then made by the delegates for Massachusetts to postpone the farther consideration of the report in order to take into consideration a motion which they read in their place, this being agreed to, the motion of the delegates for Massachusetts as taken up and being amended was agreed to as follows
Whereas there is provision in the Articles of Confederation & perpetual Union for making alterations therein by the assent of a Congress of the United States and of the legislatures of the several States; And whereas experience hath evinced that there are defects in the present Confederation, as a mean to remedy which several of the States and particularly the State of New York by express instructions to their delegates in Congress have suggested a convention for the purposes expressed in the following resolution and such convention appearing to be the most probable mean of establishing in these states a firm national government.
Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several states be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government & the preservation of the Union.
[ Note that the Confederation Congress resolved that it was their opinion the states should send delegates for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and report to the congress and the states the alterations and provisions they agreed upon. They left it to the States to send delegates. The clear intent was the document must be what they did not have – an adequate form of government which could preserve the union. Their greatest sin was to offer the states a completed project rather than a smorgasbord. They were also requested to render the document adequate to the preservation and support of the Union. They rightly concluded a lesser document would not do the job. Note also that the States and not the Congress, which represented the States gave instructions to the representatives.]
[ The following are extracted from the report of the 1787 Convention to the Confederation Congress. All of the States had to accept the first resolution in order for the process to be valid. Rhode Island’s legislature chose to put the Constitution to a vote of the people, thereby establishing a convention of the whole populace. Although they voted down the Constitution, this act accepted the process. ]
Resolved, That the preceding Constitution be laid before the United States in Congress assembled, and that it is the opinion of this Convention, that it should afterwards be submitted to a Convention of Delegates, chosen in each State by the People thereof, under the recommendation of its Legislature, for their assent and ratification; and that each Convention assenting to, and ratifying the same, should give Notice thereof to the United States in Congress assembled.
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Convention, that as soon as the Conventions of nine States shall have ratified this Constitution, the United States in Congress assembled should fix a day on which Electors should be appointed by the States which shall have ratified the same, and a day on which the Electors should assemble to vote for the President, and the time and place for commencing proceedings under this Constitution. That after such publication the Electors should be appointed, and the Senators and Representatives elected: That the Electors should meet on the day fixed for the Election of the President, and should transmit their votes certified, signed, sealed and directed, as the Constitution requires, to the Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled, that the Senators and Representatives should convene at the time and place assigned; that the Senators should appoint a President of the Senate, for the sole purpose of receiving, opening and counting the votes for President; and, that after he shall be chosen, the Congress, together with the President, should, without delay, proceed to execute this Constitution.
Resolution of Congress of September 28, 1787, Submitting the Constitution to the Several States.
Friday Sept. 28. 1787.
Congress assembled present Newhampshire Massachusetts Connecticut New York New Jersey Pensylvania. Delaware Virginia North Carolina South Carolina and Georgia and from Maryland Mr Ross
Congress having received the report of the Convention lately assembled in Philadelphia
Resolved Unanimously that the said Report with the resolutions and letter accompanying the same be transmitted to the several legislatures in Order to be submitted to a convention of Delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof in conformity to the resolves of the Convention made and provided in that case.
[ Note that the Congress did not reject the report or object to any part of the resolutions, and every state ultimately ratified the constitution. The simple truth is the delegates followed the instructions to render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union. The product of their work has passed the test of time. ]