Pinckney's Draft of the Constitution (II)
Bill Long 9/29/07
One comment might be helpful before giving you the words from Wilson's notebooks. Charles Pinckney, though only 29 at the time of the Constitutional Convention in May 1787, had already written significant essays on the need to modify the Articles of Confederation, and he had chaired a Confederation Congress committee in 1786 which resulted in seven proposed additions to the Articles of Confederation. These changes were never adopted, but they demonstrate that Pinckney had devoted considerable attention for several years to the nature of government in this new nation.
Let's turn, then to the Wilson notes and the words isolated by Prof. Jameson to be derived from the "Pinckney Draft," submitted to the Constitutional Convention on May 29, 1787 and then referred to the Committee of Detail on July 24 of the same year.
"The Legislature shall consist of two distinct Branches-a Senate and a House of Delegates, each of which shall have a Negative on the other, and shall be stiled the U.S. in Congress assembled.
Each House shall appoint its own Speaker and other Officers, and settle its own Rules of Proceeding; but neither the Senate nor H.D. shall have the Power to adjourn for more than ___ Days, without the Consent of both.
There shall be a President, in which the Ex. Authority of the US shall be vested. It shall be his Duty to inform the Legislature of the Condition of the US so far as may respect his Department--to recomment Matters to their Consideration--to correspond with the Executives of the several States--to attend to the Execution of the Laws of the US--to transact Affars with the Officers of Government, civil and military--to expedite all such Measures as may be resolved on by the Legislature--to inspect the Departments of foreign Affairs--War--Treasury--Admiralty--to reside where the Legislature shall sit--to commission all Officers, and keep the Great Seal of the US. He shall, by Virtue of his Office, be Commander in Chief of the Land Forces of US and Admiral of their Navy--He shall have Power to convene the Legislature on extraordinary Occasions--to prorogue them, provided such Prorogation shall not exceed ___ Days in the Space of any ___. He may suspend Officers, civil and military.
The Legislature of US shall have the exclusive Power--of raising a military Land Force--of equipping a Navy--of rating and causing public Taxes to be levied--of regulating the Trade of the several States as well with foreign Nations as with each other--of levying Duties upon Imports and Exports--of establishing Post-Offices and raising a Revenue from them--of regulating Indian Affairs--of coining Money--fixing the Standard of Weights and Measures--of determining in what Species of Money the public Treasury shall be supplied.
The foederal judicial Court shall try Officers of the US for all Crimes etc. in their Offices.
The Legislature of US shall have the exclusive Right of instituting in each State a Court of Admiralty for hearing and determining maritime Causes.
The Power of impeaching shall be vested in the HD. The Senators and Judges of the foederal Court, be a Court for trying Impeachments.
The Legislature of US shall possess the exclusive Right of establishing the Government and Discipline of the Militia etc. and of ordering the Militia of any State to any Place within US."
We learn from an article in the American Historical Review from 1904, entitled "Sketch of Pinckney's Plan for a Constitution, 1787," that Wilson not only had one but two documents in which he seemed to have recorded excerpts from the Pinckney Draft. This 1904 article then gives about a dozen other clauses that the author thinks originated from Pinckney.
We cannot say for sure at this late date precisely who originated most of the clauses of the Constitution. Most scholars today consider Pinckney to have contributed "details" rather than principles and significant wording to the Constitution. And, to be sure, it is hard to know who originated some of the clauses which contained thoughts that probably had been "in the air" for decades. In any case, I bring this material to you to re-open the question for all who are interested in the ideas behind the Constitution that there was considerable debate and numerous choices that could have been made by the delegates. By reliving these choices, we become enriched and deepened in our own understanding of political philosophy and practice.
My final essay on Pinckney will be an autobiographical meditation which then attempts ot ask some questions about "constitution-making" in 1787.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long