Convention History as Presented in the Musical Ch6Pt1

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

by Robert Picklesimer

CHAPTER 6, PART 1
The Smaller States

(continued from Chapter 5, Part 3)
Chapter 6, Part 1 The “Grumbletonians,” the New Jersey Plan, the term “Federalist”
Chapter 6, Part 2
The Great Compromise – Sherman’s Compromise – and the Political Wrangling to get it there
Chapter 6, Part 3
Delaware and Maryland


Chapter 6, Part 1 The “Grumbletonians,” the New Jersey Plan, the term “Federalist”

The naysayers at this Convention were actually called “Grumbletonians,” and most of these Grumbletonians were small states’ men reluctant to buy in to what were termed by the delegates “Randolph’s Resolves,” which were actually termed the “Virginia Resolves,”were actually devised and written by James Madison, but were presented by Randolph. The main opposition to the “Virginia Plan” was to the domination of the big states and to a dominating federal government. This was given voice by William Paterson when he finally arrives, representing the New Jersey delegation. In fact, we have Paterson come right out and say it: “I object.” “Object to what?” “Object to it all!” Though he had been a college friend of Madison, Paterson comes up with the “Paterson Plan,” better known as the “New Jersey Plan.” Those two plans, the “Virginia Plan” and the “New Jersey Plan,” serve as the two poles around which the two major factions of delegates gather. In our musical it is no accident that the song, “The Grumbletonians,” occurs right after Paterson’s objection. But identifying just who the Grumbletonians are is an entirely different matter.

The actual singers of the initial song are obvious: William Paterson of the small state New Jersey; Robert Yates and John Lansing, Jr., the two delegates from New York who oppose a more powerful federal government which may cut into New York’s prerogatives; John Dickinson and Gunning Bedford, Jr., from the small state of Delaware; Luther Martin, the half of the Maryland delegation that is against the new federal government; Elbridge Gerry, the Massachusetts lone dissenter to the new federal government; and finally George Mason of Virginia, who also has his doubts about surrendering too much sovereignty of the states to this new federal government. As has already been mentioned, Mason is the most conscience-driven of this lot; most of the others are driven purely by the self-interest of their states. One notable figure missing from this early song is Roger Sherman, and that is because he is leaving all of his options open, and not openly revealing his allegiance to the small states’ men. This is in keeping with his role as the ultimate deal maker in this musical. Langdon of New Hampshire, who would naturally be a small states’ man, had not yet joined the Convention.

A word or two must be said here about the term federalist. It had changing meanings. During the 1787 Convention and during the Ratification meetings and discussions immediately after the Constitutional Convention, federalists were in favor of the new national government, and the anti-federalists were against the new national government. However, within the first ten years of the new government, and partially as a reaction to the new Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson, a new political party and movement emerged, to which many subscribed, that believed that the term federalist was a limiter of the new national government. By the early 19th century, the term became almost its exact opposite, reaching the point that the federalists of 1812, in New England, believed that states could withdraw from the federal compact if they did not favor the War of 1812 and the division with England it entailed, for instance. But for the purpose of the 1787 Convention and its aftermath, federalists backed the newly formed and more powerful central government, whereas anti-federalists, mostly small states’ men, did not.

William Paterson, of New Jersey, was one of the ringleaders of the Grumbletonians. He was not in favor of the anarchistic rebellions in the various states, but being from New Jersey, had to protect the interests of his small state from the neighboring states of New York and Pennsylvania. He was the shortest of all the delegates to the Convention, and we played him as the first to stand up to the “big guys.” Others, notably Lansing from New York, had expressed some dismay at the new Virginia Resolves, but Paterson is the first one to stand right up to them in proposing the New Jersey Plan. Paterson is described by M. E. Bradford as not being an ardent anti-federalist like Lansing, Yates, and Martin, nor even a conditional anti-federalist like Mason or Gerry. He simply wanted to protect his interests as a businessman and as a representative of the state of New Jersey.

Paterson attended the College of New Jersey along with his friend, James Madison, but proves in the musical he is nobody’s stooge. He is part of the newer business class in America who achieve things by their own energy, and we have him as one of the most energetic in the play when he has something to say, and also as one of the most adverse to what were viewed as the excesses of Europe, in sexual mores, in violation of law, and even in personal dress and decorum. He is one of the primary characters, for whom I fought for, to wear a more simple outfit, nice and stylish, but no brass buttons or lace collars. He is one of the heroes of this Convention, of the young country, and especially of his state of New Jersey. He is the only representative from New Jersey in the play, as all others from his state, including Governor Livingston, followed his lead.

In 1790, as Governor himself of New Jersey, the city of Paterson was established under a charter from Hamilton’s Society for Establishing Useful Manufacture. Paterson served as Governor, Attorney General, and Senator from New Jersey, coauthored the Federal Judiciary Act of 1790, which included judicial review by the Supreme Court, and was appointed to the Supreme Court by George Washington in 1793. According to Bradford, Paterson gave lectures from the bench on the evils of “metaphysical egalitarianism, and on the real possibility that democratic excesses might produce in the population of America ‘a set of drones or of idle extravagant wretches [who] live upon the earnings of others’ by voting themselves money.” So he was no democratic populist, but, as a sensible man, he led the revolt at the 1787 Convention.

He wrote, in 1800, the Laws of the State of New Jersey, at the request of the New Jersey legislature, his most scholarly achievement, in which he defined the common laws of England still functional in his state, and how laws had been modified and continued from that base by acts of the New Jersey legislature since its beginnings in 1702.

We played Paterson as a small, feisty, courageous, younger man, and I talked the Director of the premiere into using a favorite actor of mine for just that effect.

Notes on characterization made by Lucinda Lawrence in an appendix to the script of the musical – “shortest delegate (but that detail is not essential); presented the New Jersey Plan. He, too, offers well-reasoned arguments. Though Madison’s college chum, Paterson is sufficiently independent to do what is best for New Jersey.” (to be continued)

CHAPTER 1, PART 1 How the Whole Thing Got Started
CHAPTER 1, PART 2
 How the Whole Thing Got Started
CHAPTER 1, 
PART 3
 How the Whole Thing Got Started
CHAPTER 2, PART 1 Who Didn’t Make the Cut of 55 Delegates
CHAPTER 2, PART 2 Who Didn’t Make the Cut of 55 Delegates
CHAPTER 3 Who Made the Cut
CHAPTER 4 Virginia Delegation
CHAPTER 5, PART 2 Strong Delegation from Pennsylvania
CHAPTER 5, PART 3 Strong Delegation from Pennsylvania
to be released:
CHAPTER 6, PART 2 Small States; “Grumbletonians”; New Jersey Plan; Great Compromise
CHAPTER 6, PART 3 Small States; “Grumbletonians”; New Jersey Plan; Great Compromise
CHAPTER 7 The Other Two States with Grumbletonians: Massachusetts and New York
CHAPTER 7, PART 1
The divided Massachusetts
CHAPTER 7, PART 2 
The division of New York
CHAPTER 7, PART 3
 Hamilton, before leaving the Convention
CHAPTER 7, PART 4
 Hamilton returns
CHAPTER 7, PART 5
 Robert Yates and John Lansing, Jr.
CHAPTER 8
Delegations from the South
more…


Chapter 7, Part 1
The divided Massachusetts
Chapter 7, Part 2
 The division of New York
Chapter 7, Part 3
 Hamilton, before leaving the Convention
Chapter 7, Part 4
 Hamilton returns
Chapter 7, Part 5
 Robert Yates and John Lansing, Jr.
CHAPTER 8
Delegations from the South
more…

1787 THE MUSICAL