Booknotes: Linking the Histories of Slavery
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counseled Mason to watch carefully so “the foes of union, order, and good government” did not “prevent our acceptance of the good part of the plan proposed.” After extensive reflection, he proposed that Virginia should ratify the Constitution but demand “such amendments as can be agreed upon” as statements of “their undoubted rights and liberties which they mean not to part with.” The amendments would be proposed and adopted using the procedures under Article V. However, if the amendments still had not been enacted two years after the new government began, Virginia would “be considered as disengaged from this ratification.”
That “friendly and reasonable” method, Lee said, would allow the new Congress to amend the Constitution “without risking the convulsion of new conventions,” gratify critics of the Constitution and also those Federalists who thought amendments were needed, harmonize the undetermined stated, and quiet the “formidable minorities” in states that had already ratified. Lee recommended his plan for Mason's “serious and patriotic attention.”
Wythe then moved his main resolution: that, in the opinion of the committee of the whole, the Constitution should be ratified, and that the convention should recommend amendments to the first federal Congress. He perhaps asked that another committee draw up those amendments. According to Patrick Henry, the text of Wythe's motion, - which [David] Robertson did not include in his Debates [and Other Proceedings of the Convention of Virginia] – also said that Virginia's ratification would “cease to be obligatory” if the amendments the convention proposed were not enacted. If so, his motion had some similarity to what Richard Henry Lee had recommended to Mason in early May.