Virginia and Pinckney Plans Submitted

James McHenry
James McHenry, delegate from Maryland
James Sharples Senior, 1796-1800

Independence National Historical Park

"We are beginning to enter seriously upon the business of the convention…"

-James McHenry to his wife Peggy

The Convention took two critical actions today: adopting secrecy rules and referring the Virginia and Pinckney Plans to the Committee of the Whole. Speaking for the Rules Committee, George Wythe reported, "That nothing spoken in the House be printed, or otherwise published, or communicated without leave." The secrecy rules allowed delegates to discuss, debate and change their positions without criticism in the press or by the public. Secrecy promoted the process of compromise. The details of the debates remained remarkably confidential.

Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia then opened the business of the Convention, speaking at length about the defects of the Articles of Confederation and proposing 15 resolutions. These resolutions would serve as principles on which to form a new government. Delegate Robert Yates of New York noted that Randolph "candidly confessed…that he meant a strong consolidated union, in which the idea of states should be nearly annihilated."

Charles Pinckney
Charles Pinckney
Attributed to Gilbert Stuart, ca. 1786

NPS Photograph

Charles Pinckney of South Carolina then proposed his own plan of union. Pinckney later claimed that his draft served as the basis for the final Constitution, but he could never prove this assertion.

Both the Virginia and Pinckney plans were referred to the Committee of the Whole for consideration. With this decision to refer the plans, the Convention had committed itself to creating a new plan of government, a framework completely different than the Articles of Confederation's "firm league of friendship."


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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