George Mason’s Account of Certain Proceedings in Convention

Thomas Jefferson

Gunston hall. ex relatione G. Mason

September 30, 1792

The constn as agreed to till a fortnight before the convention rose was such a one as he wd have set his hand & heart to. 1. the presidt was to be elected for 7. years, then ineligible for 7. more. 2. rotation in the senate. 3. a vote of 2/3 in the legislature on particular subjects, & expressly on that of navign. the 3. new Engld. states were constantly with us in all questions (Rho. isld. not there, & N. York seldom) so that it was these 3. states with the 5. Southern ones against Pennsva Jersey & Delaware. with respect to the importn of slaves it was left to Congress. this disturbed the 2 Southernmost states who knew that Congress would immediately suppress the importn of slaves. those 2 states therefore struck up a bargain with the 3. N. Engld. states, if they would join to admit slaves for some years, the 2 Southernmost states wd join in changing the clause which required 2/3 of the legislature in any vote. it was done. these articles were changed accordingly, & from that moment the two S. states and the 3 Northern ones joined Pen. Jers. & Del. & made the majority 8. to 3. against us instead of 8. to 3. for us as it had been thro’ the whole Convention. under this coalition the great principles of the Constn were changed in the last days of the Convention.

Anecdote. Yates Lansing & Hamilton represented N. Y. Yates & Lansing never voted in one single instance with Ham. who was so much mortified at it that he went home. when the season for courts came on, Yates a judge & Lansing a lawyer went to attend their courts. then Ham. returned.

Anecdote. the constn as agreed at first was that amendments might be proposed either by Congr. or the legislatures a commee was appointed to digest & redraw. Gov. Morris & King were of the commee. one morng. Gov. M. moved an instrn for certain alterns (not 1/2 the members yet come in) in a hurry & without understanding it was agreed to. the Commee reported so that Congr. shd have the exclusve. power of proposg. amendmts. G. Mason observd it on the report & opposed it. King denied the constrn. Mason demonstrated it, & asked the Commee by what authority they had varied what had been agreed. G. Morris then impudently got up & said by authority of the convention & produced the blind instruction beforementd. which was unknown by 1/2 of the house & not till then understood by the other. they then restored it as it stood originally.

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