The Loyal Opposition

George Mason
George Mason, delegate from Virginia

Steven Brooke Studios

The Loyal Opposition

"Colonel Mason seconded the motion [to postpone a decision on the method of ratification ] declaring that he would sooner cut off his right hand than put it to the constitution as it now stands. He wished to see some points not yet decided brought to a decision, before being compelled to give a final opinion on [ratification]."

- James Madison's Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention (August 31, 1787)

The Convention stood at its usual Sunday recess.

Debate on ratification of the Constitution in the States the previous Friday reanimated serious and differing objections to its form by Mason, Randolph, and Gouverneur Morris. Randolph wanted another convention to take up amendments proposed by the ratifying states. Morris wished for another convention. George Mason made it clear that he could not support the proposed Constitution as it stood.

Of the fifty-five delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention, thirty-nine signed the Constitution, indicating their support of its ratification. Nine others left early for one reason or another, but supported ratification.

Three - Yates, Lansing and John Francis Mercer - came to oppose the plan soon after arriving in the Convention, and left shortly thereafter.

Four delegates - Elbridge Gerry, Luther Martin, George Mason and Edmund Randolph were still attending the Convention, although each had decided they could not support the new plan.

Martin had reached this decision early, probably by June 16 and the death of the New Jersey Plan; Gerry had decided by August 21. Mason and Randolph announced their opposition August 31st.

All four, however, continued to work to improve the document. None tried to make it less acceptable and thus less likely to be ratified. Mason's conduct is an example. It was he who moved and supported ratification by nine states, when a larger number would have made the Constitution's ratification less likely.

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Monday, September 3, 1787
Separation of Powers

HOME The 225th Anniversary of the Constitution Convention

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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