Hamilton Speaks

Alexander Hamilton, delegate from New York
Charles Willson Peale, 1790-1795

Independence National Historical Park

Hamilton Speaks


- Dr. William Samuel Johnson, delegate from Connecticut, in his diary

Only twice during the year did Dr. William Samuel Johnson (CT) indicate in his diary what had occurred in the Congress or the Convention. Today he followed the routine notation "In Convention" with one word, "Hamilton."

The Committee of the Whole adopted John Dickinson's proposal to alter the first article of the New Jersey Plan to replace the states right's formulation of "federal constitution" with the national phrase "government of the United States". Alexander Hamilton then rose and began a speech which lasted the rest of the day. The prodigious energy of Hamilton's six hour long speech swept aside Dickinson and his plan for a national system.

James Madison noted, "Mr. Hamilton had been hitherto silent on the business of the Convention... partly from his delicate situation with respect to his own state, to whose sentiments as expressed by his colleagues, he could by no means accede. [NY delegates Yates and Lansing opposed a national system.] The crisis …was too serious to permit any scruples whatever to prevail over the duty imposed on every man to contribute his efforts…. He was obliged to declare himself unfriendly to both plans. He was particularly opposed to that of N. Jersey, being fully convinced that no amendment of the confederation, leaving the States in possession of their sovereignty could possibly answer the purpose."

He proceeded, at length, to compare the Virginia and New Jersey plans against what he viewed as the essentials of a sound government and then proposed a plan of his own - a bicameral legislature with power to pass all laws; a House elected by the people for three years; a senate elected by electors from electoral districts to serve for life; a Governor to be chosen by the people voting in electoral districts to serve during good behavior; and state governors to be appointed by the Federal Government. Hamilton's plan forever tarred him in the view of some as a monarchist, but it had the effect of moving the Virginia Plan to the center of the spectrum.

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Tuesday, June 19, 1787
Deficiencies of the New Jersey Plan

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