Nature and Number – June 1

After reading resolution 7 of the plan calling for the establishment of a national executive branch of government the debate began. The resolution reads as follows:

7. Resd. that a National Executive be instituted; to be chosen by the National Legislature for the term of _____ years, to receive punctually at stated times, a fixed compensation for the services rendered, in which no increase or diminution shall be made so as to affect the Magistracy, existing at the time of increase or diminution, and to be ineligible a second time; and that besides a general authority to execute the National laws, it ought to enjoy the Executive rights vested in Congress by the Confederation.

Nature of Executive

Mr. Pinkney wanted a strong executive but feared that giving the executive control over war and peace would turn the executive into a monarchy (the worst kind—an elected monarchy).

Number of Executives

Mr. Wilson moved that the executive be one individual.

Mr. Rutlidge was in favor of a single executive but opposed to giving the executive power over war and peace.

Nature of Executive

Mr. Sherman said that the executive was only responsible to carry out the will of the legislature. For that reason, the person or persons ought to be appointed by the legislature and only accountable to them. He also suggested that the legislature should decide from time to time, how many to appoint as well as whom to appoint.

Number of Executives

Mr. Wilson preferred a single executive. The executive should have no legislative power.

Mr. Gerry thought that a council should be appointed to assist the executive.

Mr. Randolph did not want one executive. He preferred three.

Mr. Wilson said that having a single executive would not lead to a monarchy, but would be the best safeguard against tyranny. He said that the British model did not apply to this country. Only a great confederated republic would work for our situation.

The committee of the whole decided to postpone a vote on Mr. Wilson’s motion for a single executive. They agreed on the phrase “that a National Executive be instituted.”

Nature of Executive

Mr. Madison thought it would be appropriate to decide on the executive authority and the nature of the powers to be granted to the executive before deciding whether to have one or more individuals in the position.

Mr. Pinkney moved to strike out “and to execute such other powers not Legislative nor Judiciary in the nature as may from time to time be delegated.” as being unnecessary.

Mr. Madison did not know that the words were absolutely necessary but thought they might prevent doubts and misconstructions.

VOTE – on this motion


Mr. Pinkney’s motion passed. The words were struck out.


– A single Executive suggested