A Single Executive

Elbridge Gerry
Elbridge Gerry

James Bogle, after John Vanderlyn, 1861
Independence National Historical Park

A Single Executive

"Mr. Gerry was at a loss to discover the policy of three members for the Executive…it would be a general with three heads."

-James Madison's Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention

Resolved into the Committee of the Whole, the Convention considered Charles Pinckney's (SC) motion for a single executive. Roger Sherman (CT) agreed with the motion, if the executive would have council of advice. Robert Yates (NY) noted that Sherman argued that "Even the king of Great Britain has his privy council." Elbridge Gerry (MA) supported a single executive, rather than a three member executive which he thought would be "extremely inconvenient…particularly in military matters." The delegates agreed on a single executive, with a vote of 7 ayes, 3 no's (New York, Delaware and Maryland voted against the motion).

The Committee then considered an executive veto and agreed to give the executive a veto to an override by 2/3 of the legislatures. This would be a significant power for the single executive, and serve as a check on a strong national legislature.

The Committee also agreed that there should be a national judiciary with a supreme tribunal and one or more inferior courts.

Tuesday, June 5, 1787
Debate on the Judiciary

HOME The 225th Anniversary of the Constitution Convention

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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