Amendments and Ratification

Edmund Randolph, delegate from Virginia

The New York Public Library.

Amendments and Ratification

"[Randolph] had from the beginning, he said, been convinced that radical changes in the system of the Union were necessary. Under this conviction he had brought forward a set of republican propositions as the basis and outline of a reform. These Republican propositions had, however, much to his regret, been widely, and in his opinion, irreconcilably departed from - …"

- James Madison in his Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention

The Convention began its final week with Gerry's motion to reconsider the amending process, and particularly that provision whereby Congress could call a Convention to amend the Constitution by request of two-thirds of the states. After debate, the Convention voted to retain the provision, DE no, NH divided.

Gerry then moved to reconsider the provisions for ratifying. He wanted to reinsert the requirement for Congress to approve the document. Hamilton (NY) agreed, and proposed that each State legislature should also vote on whether to accept ratification by only nine states. Gorham (MA) objected to the latter. Fitzsimmons (PA) observed that Congressional approval had been deleted to avoid the embarrassment of asking Congress to violate its own charter.

Randolph (VA) stated if Congress did not approve the Constitution before sending it to the states he would oppose the entire plan. Wilson (PA) and King (MA) opposed reconsideration. Sherman (CT) endorsed the method proposed but wanted it taken out of the Constitution and placed in a transmittal letter. Eventually the clause was approved without change.

Later Randolph spelled out his objections to the constitutional draft: the Senate trial of impeachments; requiring 3/4 instead of 2/3 to override a veto; the small number of Representatives; the lack of limits on a standing army; "the general clause concerning necessary and proper laws"; the lack of limits on navigation acts; the authority to intervene in state civil disturbance on the request of the state executive; the lack of a clear boundary between the National and State legislatures and judiciaries; the unqualified power of the President to pardon treasons; and the lack of some limit on the Legislature when determining its own salary.

In the end, he did support the Constitution in the Virginia Ratifying Convention - his support was crucial to ratification by his state, but he was thereafter seen as a vacillator.

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Tuesday, September 11, 1787
The Committee of Style and Arrangement

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Last updated: February 26, 2015

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