Convention History as Presented in the Musical Ch2Pt2

History of the 1787 Constitutional Convention as Presented in
1787 the Musical
We Wrote the Constitution

by Robert Picklesimer


Who Didn’t Make the Cut: of the 55 Delegates who attended the Convention,
which delegates were still absolutely not needed, and which delegates
were still important figures, but needed to be cut for expediency

(continued from Chapter 2, Part 1)
Chapter 2, Part 2 
Livingston of New Jersey I had originally considered because of his prestige, but Paterson said all that was necessary for New Jersey, and William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut had as his only importance the chairing of the final Committee on Style, which finalized the Constitution as we know it, but neither of these men made even the first cut.

Likewise for Richard Dobbs Spaight and Hugh Williamson of North Carolina, who were most outspoken advocates of the Southern causes and supported the compromise of equal votes in the Senate for the small states if the South could keep their slavery and 3/5ths representation in the House for slaves. William Blount was the most interesting NC delegate in being sort of a screw-up, first in being chronically late, later moving to Tennessee, and finally being expelled from the U.S Senate due to ill-advised speculation in western lands and other associations with a disgraced Aaron Burr. Blount stayed as a basically comic figure and the other two didn’t even make the cut of the first draft.

The first to go after the first draft was William Leigh Pierce of Georgia. Originally he came in with Abraham Baldwin of Georgia, but then Pierce didn’t really do anything else, and it was Baldwin’s Yankee ties that helped Sherman’s Compromise. So Baldwin was essential, Pierce was not. In any expansive version of this play, Pierce’s descriptions of the various delegates is very interesting, but he is not important to the proceedings of the Convention.

Additionally, Pierce Butler of South Carolina had a very interesting and suave personality, as well as some important things to say at the Convention, but Pierce of Georgia and Pierce Butler of South Carolina were confusing. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, as the old Southern curmudgeon from South Carolina, was also quite interesting, but the aristocratic young Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, with his famous speech, “We are like no other people the world has ever seen,” could easily take over for Pierce Butler, and Dictator John Rutledge could easily take over for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Since both the older Pinckney and younger Butler could be replaced, they, too, were cut after the first draft, effectively cutting the South Carolina delegation by half, while keeping the SC dynamic intact.

Then, as we were developing the play, it became clear that we still had too many delegates on the stage, so, reluctantly we gave up Caleb Strong, who originally had been the defender (not Rufus King) of Jason Parmenter, and his presence had made for a perfect balance in Massachusetts of 2 versus 2, but otherwise he did nothing much in the Convention. Finding other ways to get a divided Massachusetts without him, we were able to give up Strong, but not until well into the development of the play. Likewise, Robert Morris, whose scene inviting George Washington to his house was amusing, but, who otherwise did nothing notable at the Convention, was given up when we realized he was not essential.

Two remaining delegates made it into the finalized script for our premiere production: George Read of Delaware, and Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut. Read actually attended the Annapolis Convention of 1786 (and not George Mason as we have it in the script), he signed both the Declaration and Articles, and he was the companion and helpmeet for fellow Old Patriot, John Dickinson. When we found it difficult to cast a suitable barbershopper as Read, we gave most of his lines to fellow delegate Gunning Bedford, Jr. of Delaware, and we covered his essential music lines by working in George Mason, actually penciling in those changes to the working script for the premiere. But we hated to lose this line of continuity from 1776 in which Read and Dickinson both feature prominently.

And, finally, for Oliver Ellsworth, we liked the dynamic of him being the young mouthpiece for Roger Sherman, his being the first to name us “The United States of America,” his later efforts to bring in Rhode Island for Ratification, and, as well, his later service as Supreme Court Justice. But once we cut back on Ratification (a quicker patter song now, after the premiere), his importance was diminished. Besides, the dynamic of his doing Sherman’s motions never came off well in the premiere. Why couldn’t Sherman make his own motions and objections? Once we gave his naming of the country to someone else (Rufus King), and gave his musical lines elsewhere – and since he affected no votes nor conflicts, being always with Sherman – then it was clear that Ellsworth could also go.

These notes are included only for historical reference, in case someone or some students want to delve deeper into the history of this Convention, then wonder why we did what we did in selecting our delegates (a musical can only survive just so many people onstage), or if someday a video representation of this musical is desired, and they want to be a little more historically accurate, they can see who we gave up last and would have rather retained, and in what, and who it would be nice to include if only briefly for their historical or other name recognition. (continue CHAPTER 3)

CHAPTER 1, PART 1 How the Whole Thing Got Started
 How the Whole Thing Got Started
 How the Whole Thing Got Started
CHAPTER 2, PART 1 Who Didn’t Make the Cut of 55 Delegates
CHAPTER 3 Who Made the Cut
to be released:
Virginia Delegation
CHAPTER 5 The Strong Delegation from Pennsylvania
CHAPTER 6 Small States; “Grumbletonians”; New Jersey Plan; Great Compromise
CHAPTER 7 The Other Two States with Grumbletonians
CHAPTER 8 Delegations from the South