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Charles Pinckney's Plan


The Constitutional Convention was tasked with proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation which would make it a more workable plan for national government. James Madison, largely regarded as the Father of the Constitution, came to the Convention with a list of changes he wanted to see discussed and implemented, a list that came to be known as the Virginia Plan. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina had also given the state of the government and the confederation much thought, and he also came to the Convention with a list of changes and talking points.

Madison, who took copious notes at the Convention, noted that Pinckney placed a plan before the Convention on May 29, 1787, but he did not include any details of the plan in his notes. In the early 20th century, however, during a review of the papers of delegate James Wilson, a copy of Pinckney's plan was found.

Also of interest are the New Jersey Plan and the British Plan.

The following text was taken from the Avalon Project's reproduction of Pinckney's plan as printed by the Government Printing Office in 1927. The text is largely unaltered as presented here, but spelling has been corrected and abbreviations have been expanded.

1. A Confederation between the free and independent States of New Hampshire, etc., is hereby solemnly made uniting them together under one general superintending Government for their common Benefit and for their Defense and Security against all Designs and Leagues that may be injurious to their Interests and against all Forc[e] [or "Foes"] and Attacks offered to or made upon them or any of them. [1]

2. The Stile [2]

3. Mutual Intercourse - Community of Privileges - Surrender of Criminals - Faith to Proceedings etc.

4. Two Branches of the Legislature - Senate and House of Delegates - together the United States in Congress assembled. [3]

House of Delegates to consist of one Member for every thousand Inhabitants 3/5 of Blacks included. [4]

Senate to be elected from four Districts - to serve by Rotation of four years - to be elected by the House of Delegates either from among themselves or the People at large. [5]

5. The Senate and House of Delegates shall by joint Ballot annually choose the President of the United States from among themselves or the People at large. In the President the executive authority of the United States shall be vested. His Powers and Duties - He shall have a Right to advise with the Heads of the different Departments as his Council. [6]

6. Council of Revision, consisting of the President, Secretary for foreign Affairs, Secretary of War, Heads of the Departments of Treasury and Admiralty or any two of them together with the President. [7]

7. The Members of Senate and House of Delegates shall each have one Vote, and shall be paid out of the common Treasury. [8]

8. The Time of the Election of the Members of the House of Delegates and of the Meeting of United States in Congress assembled.

9. No State to make Treaties - lay interfering Duties - keep a naval or land Force Militia excepted to be disciplined etc. according to the Regulations of the United States. [9]

10. Each State retains its Rights not expressly delegated - But no Bill of the Legislature of any State shall become a law till it shall have been laid before Senate and House of Delegates in Congress assembled and received their Approbation. [10]

11. The exclusive Power of Senate and House of Delegates in Congress Assembled.

12. The Senate and House of Delegates in Congress assembled shall have exclusive Power of regulating trade and levying Imposts - Each State may lay Embargoes in Times of Scarcity. [11]

13. The Senate and House of Delegates in Congress assembled shall have exclusive Power of establishing Post-Offices. [12]

14. Senate and House of Delegates in Congress assembled shall be the last Resort on Appeal in Disputes between two or more States; which Authority shall be exercised in the following Manner etc. [13]

15. Senate and House of Delegates in Congress assembled shall institute offices and appoint officers for the Departments of foreign Affairs, War, Treasury and Admiralty. [14]

They shall have the exclusive Power of declaring what shall be Treason and Misprision of Treason against United States [15] - and of instituting a federal judicial Court, to which an Appeal shall be allowed from the judicial Courts of the several States in all Causes wherein Questions shall arise on the Construction of Treaties made by United States - or on the Laws of Nations - or on the Regulations of United States concerning Trade and Revenue - or wherein United States shall be a Party - The Court shall consist of Judges to be appointed during good Behavior - Senate and House of Delegates in Congress assembled shall have the exclusive Right of instituting in each State a Court of Admiralty and appointing the Judges etc of the same for all maritime Causes which may arise therein respectively. [16]

16. Senate and House of Delegates in Congress Assembled shall have the exclusive Right of coining Money - regulating its Alloy and Value - fixing the Standard of Weights and Measures throughout the United States. [17]

17. Points in which the Assent of more than a bare Majority shall be necessary.

18. Impeachments shall be by the House of Delegates before the Senate and the Judges of the Federal judicial Court. [18]

19. Senate and House of Delegates in Congress assembled shall regulate the Militia through the United States. [19]

20. Means of enforcing and compelling the Payment of the Quota of each State.

21. Manner and Conditions of admitting new States.

22. Power of dividing, annexing, and consolidating States, on the Consent and Petition of such States. [20]

23. The assent of the Legislature of States shall be sufficient to invest future additional Powers in the United States in Congress assembled and shall bind the whole Confederacy. [21]

24. The Articles of Confederation shall be inviolably observed, and the Union shall be perpetual: unless altered as before directed. [22]

25. The said States of New Hampshire, etc., guarantee mutually each other and their Rights against all other Powers and against all Rebellion, etc.


1. Contrast this with the Preamble of the final draft and that of the August 6 draft.

2. The Articles of Confederation, the August 6 draft, and the Pinckney Plan all concerned themselves with the "Stile" of the nation. By the time the September 12 draft was completed, though, this was considered superfluous and was dropped.

3. Pinckney's Plan envisioned a bicameral legislature like the Virginia Plan. He named the upper house as it would eventually be, though the details of his Senate are very different from the final version.

4. Pinckney's House of Delegates was certainly ambitious - with one delegate for each thousand persons. Today, it would have over three hundred thousand delegates. Pinckney's plan is the first appearance of the three-fifths ratio for slaves, adopted from discussions in Congress and eventually adopted in the final draft in Article 1, Section 2.

5. Pinckney's four district plan for the Senate is interesting, but considering the conflicting interests of even neighboring states, it seems like such a scheme would have been difficult to implement.

6. Like all the plans, Pinckney wanted a separate executive, a President. Interestingly, the President could be from the membership of Congress, like a British Prime Minister, or from among the people. Pinckney demurred in listing the President's powers, but his role on the Council of Revision is reflected in his eventual power of veto (see Article 1, Section 7.

7. Pinckney's plan not only allowed for a cabinet, but listed some of the departments, all of which (State, War, Treasury) would be created by Congress for President Washington. The power of the Council of Revision is seen in the Presidential veto and the implied power of judicial review.

8. Pinckney's plan to have one vote for each member of Congress was unique at the time, and eventually found its way into the final draft, implicitly for the House at Article 1, Section 2, and explicitly for the Senate at Section 3.

9. Each of these powers was eventually denied of the states in Article 1, Section 10.

10. The ability of the Congress to review and reject state laws was also found in the Virginia Plan, but did not make it into the final draft.

11. The power to levying duties regulating trade was eventually given to the Congress in Article 1, Section 8.

12. The power to establish post offices was eventually given to the Congress in Article 1, Section 8.

13. The final draft gave the power to settle disputes between states to the Supreme Court rather than the Congress (see Article 3, Section 2).

14. Interestingly, the executive was not permitted to choose his own cabinet under Pinckney's Plan. The final draft, at Article 2, Section 2, gave that power to the President, though with the "advice and consent" of the Senate.

15. Rather than let Congress set the definition of treason, the final draft defines it specifically at Article 3, Section 3.

16. Pinckney planned a judicial branch, a vision shared by all the other plans. Some of the details of the original jurisdiction of his federal court were eventually transferred to the Supreme Court (see Article 3, Section 2).

17. More powers of Congress that found their place in Article 1, Section 8.

18. Pinckney's order of impeachment mirrors that in the final draft, found in Article 1, Section 2 and Section 3. In the final draft, when the President is under impeachment, the Chief Justice presides.

19. Another power of Congress that found its place in Article 1, Section 8.

20. Sections 21 and 22 of Pinckney's Plan are mirrored in the final draft at Article 4, Section 3.

21. This undeveloped idea hints at the amendment article, Article 5.

22. The perpetuity clause reflects a similar one in the Articles of Confederation, only hinted at in the final draft with its "more perfect union" clause. This section also includes a truncated idea for a supremacy clause, as found in Article 6.

URL: //www.usconstitution.net/plan_pinck.html

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