The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787
The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787, commonly known as Elliot's Debates, is a collection of the debates and proceedings of the different states on the ratification of the United States Constitution. George Wythe was one of the delegates who attended the Virginia Convention of 1788 on the ratification of the United States Constitution. This collection by Jonathan Elliot was directed to be published by resolutions from both the federal House of Representatives and the federal Senate. Many persons of the time, including ones who are recorded in this collection, considered this collection invaluable to reflect on the various views on the United States Constitution. The excerpt below is from debates and proceedings that took place in the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788. The day before the Virginia Convention ratified the United States Constitution, George Wythe brought forth a resolution for ratification. In the resolution, he explains his view on the current state of the Constitution and the need for amendments.
Excerpt from Volume III
Mr. Wythe arose, and addressed the chairman; but he spoke so very low that his speech could not be fully comprehended. He took a cursory view of the situation of the United States previous to the late war, their resistance to the oppression of Great Britain, and the glorious conclusion and issue of that arduous conflict. To perpetuate the blessings of freedom, happiness, and independence, he demonstrated the necessity of a firm, indissoluble union of the states. He expatiated on the defects and inadequacy of the Confederation, and the consequent misfortunes
suffered by the people. He pointed out the impossibility of securing liberty without society, the impracticability of acting personally, and the inevitable necessity of delegating power to agents. He then recurred to the system under consideration. He admitted its imperfection, and the propriety of some amendments. But the excellency of many parts of it could not be denied by its warmest opponents. He thought that experience was the best guide, and could alone develop its consequences. Most of the improvements that had been made in the science of government, and other sciences, were the result of experience. He referred it to the advocates for amendments, whether, if they were indulged with any alterations they pleased, there might not still be a necessity of alteration.
He then proceeded to the consideration of the question of previous or subsequent amendments. The critical situation of America, the extreme danger of dissolving the Union, rendered it necessary to adopt the latter alternative. He saw no danger from this. It appeared to him, most clearly, that any amendments which might be thought necessary would be easily obtained after ratification, in the manner proposed by the Constitution, as amendments were desired by all the states, and had already been proposed by the several states. He then proposed that the committee should ratify the Constitution, and that whatsoever amendments might be deemed necessary should be recommended to the consideration of the Congress which should first assemble under the Constitution, to be acted upon according to the mode prescribed therein.
- Elliot, Jonathan. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1836.
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