The Virginia Plan (May 29)
MR. RANDOLPH expressed his regret, that it should fall to him, rather than those, who were of longer standing in life and political experience, to open the great subject of their mission. But, as the convention had originated from Virginia, and his colleagues supposed that some proposition was expected from them, they had imposed this task on him.
He then commented on the difficulty of the crisis, and the necessity of preventing the fulfillment of the prophecies of the American downfall.
He observed that in revising the federal system we ought to inquire
- into the properties, which such a government ought to possess,
- the defects of the confederation
- the danger of our situation and
- the remedy
I. The Character of such a government ought to secure:
- against foreign invasion:
- against dissentions between member of the Union, or seditions in particular states:
- to procure to the several States, various blessings, of which an isolated situation was incapable:
- to be able to defend itself against incroachment:and
- to be paramount to the state constitutions.
II. In speaking of the defects of the confederation he professed high respect for its authors, and considered them, as having done all that patriots could do, in the then infancy of the science, of constitutions, and of confederacies, when the inefficiency of requisitions was unknown~no commercial record had arisen among any states no rebellion had appeared as in Massachusetts foreign debts had not become urgent the havoc of paper money had not been foreseen~treaties had not been violated and perhaps nothing better could be obtained from the jealousy of the states with regard to their sovereignity.
He then proceeded to enumerate the defects:
- That the confederation produced no security agaInst foreign invasion; congress not being permitted to prevent a war nor to support it by their own authority. Of this he cited many examples; most of which tended to show, that they could not cause infractions of treaties or of the law of nations, to be punished: that particular states might by their conduct provoke war without control; and that neither militia nor draughts being fit for defence on such occasions, inlistments only could be successful, and these could not be executed without money.
- That the federal government
could not check the quarrels beteen states, nor a rebellion in
any, not having constitutional power nor means to mterpose
according to the exigency.
- That there were many advantages,
which the U. S. might acquire, which were not attainable under
the confederation such as a productive impost counteraction
of the commercial regulations of other nations pushing of com
merce ad libitu etc. etc.
- That the federal government could not defend itself against the incroachments from the states.
- That it was not even paramount to the state constitutions, ratified, as it was in many of the states.
IV. He then proceeded to the remedy; the basis of which he said must be the republican principle
He proposed as conformable to his ideas the following resolutions, which he explained one by one:
- Resolved that the Articles of Confederation ought to be so
corrected and enlarged as to accomplish the objects proposed by
their institution; namely, "common defense, security of liberty
and general welfare.
- Resolved therefore that the rights of suffrage in the National
legislature ought to be proportioned to the Quotas of
contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants, as the one or
the other rule may seem best in different cases.
- Resolved that the National legislature ought to consist of
- Resolved that the members of the first branch of the National
legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several
States every for the term of to be of the age
of years at least, to receive liberal stipends by which they
may be conpensated for the devotion of their time to public
service; to be ineligible to any office established by a particular
State, or under the authority of the United States, except those
peculiarly belonging to the fuctions of the first branch, during
the term of service, and for the space of after its expiration;
to be incapable of re-election for the space of after
the expiration of their term of service, and to be subject to recall
- Resolved that the members of the second branch of the
National legislature ought to be elected by those of the first, out
of a proper number of persons nominated by the individual
legislatures, to be of the age of years at least; to hold
their offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independency; to
receive liberal stipends, by which they may be compensated for
the devotion of their time to public service; and to be ineligible
to any office established by a particular State, or under the
anthority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging
to the functions of the second branch, during the term of service,
and for the space of after the expiration thereof.
- Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of
originating Acts; that the National legislature ought to be
impowered to enjoy the Legislative Rights vested in Congress by
the Confederation and 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; to negative all laws passed by the several States,
contravening in the opinion of the National legislature the articles
of Union; and to call forth the force of the Union against any
member of the Union failing to fulfill its duty under the articles
- Resolved that a National Executive be instituted; to be
chosen by the National legislature for the term of years to
receive punctually at stated times, a fixed compensation for the
services rendered, in which no increase or diminution shall be
made so as to affect the Magistracy, existing at the time of
increase or diminution, and to be ineligible a second time; and
that besides a general authority to execute the National laws, it
ought to enjoy the Executive rights vested in Congress by the
- Resolved that the Executive and a convenient number of
the National Judiciary, ought to compose a Council of revision
with authority to examine every act of the National legislature
before it shall operate, and every act of a particular legislature
before a Negative thereof shall be final; and that the dissent of
the said Council shall amount to a rejection, unless the Act of the
National legislature be again passed, or that of a particular
legislature be again negatived by of the members of each
- Resolved that a National Judiciary be established to consist
of one or more supreme tribunals, and of inferior tribunals to be
chosen by the National legislature, to hold their offices during
good behaviour; and to receive punctually at stated times fixed
compensation for their services, in which no increase or diminution
shall be made so as to affect the persons actually in office at
the time of such increase or diminution. That the jurisdiction of
the inferior tribunals sliall be to hear and determine in the first
instance, and of the supreme tribunal to hear and determine in
the [last] resort, all piracies and felonies on the high seas,
captures from an enemy; cases in which foreigners or citizens of
other States applying to such jurisdictions may be interested, or
which respect the collection of the National revenue; impeachments
of any National officers, and questions which may involve
the national peace and harmony.
- Resolved that provision ought to be made for the admission
of States lawfully arising within the limits of the United
States, whether fiom a voluntary junction of Government and
Territory or otherwise, with the consent of a number of voices in
the National legislature less than the whole.
- Resolved that a Republican Government and the territory
of each State, except in the instance of a voluntary junction of
Government and territory, ought to be guaranteed by the United
States to each State.
- Resolved that provision ought to be made for the continuance
of Congress and their authorities and privileges, until a
given day after the reform of the articles of Union shall be
adopted, and for the completion of all their engagements.
- Resolved that provision ought to be made for the amendment
of the Articles of Union whensoever it shall seem necesaary,
and that the assent of the National legislature ought not to
be required thereto.
- Resolved that the Legislative Executive and Judiciary powers
within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support
the articles of Union.
- Resolved that the amendments which shall be offered to
the Confederation, by the Convention ought at a proper time, or
times, after the approbation of Congress to be submitted to an
assembly or assemblies of Representatives, recommended by the
several legislatures to be expressly chosen by the people, to
consider and decide thereon.
He concluded with an exhortation, not to suffer the present opportunity of establishing general peace harmony, happiness and liberty in the U. S. to pass away unimproved.