June 1, 1787
The delegates discussed the role of the Executive branch of the new government. The delegates decided on a seven year term but did not decide how the person(s) should be chosen. Some wanted the Executive appointed by the legislature and others wanted a popular vote to decide.
As the day before, delegates used the British experience as a caution against making their mistakes:
Mr. WILSON preferred a single magistrate, as giving most energy, dispatch, and responsibility, to the office. He did not consider the prerogatives of the British monarch as a proper guide in defining the executive powers. Some of these prerogatives were of a legislative nature; among others, that of war and peace, &c. The only powers he considered strictly executive were those of executing the laws, and appointing officers, not appertaining to, and appointed by, the legislature.
Mr. RANDOLPH strenuously opposed an unity in the executive magistracy. He regarded it as the fœtus of monarchy. We had, he said, no motive to be governed by the British government as our prototype. He did not mean, however, to throw censure on that excellent fabric. If we were in a situation to copy it, he did not know that he should be opposed to it; but the fixed genius of the people of America required a different form of government. He could not see why the great requisites for the executive department, vigor, despatch, and responsibility, could not be found in three men, as well as in one man. The executive ought to be independent. It ought, therefore, in order to support its independence, to consist of more than one.
Mr. WILSON said, that unity in the Executive, instead of being the fœtus of monarchy, would be the best safeguard against tyranny. He repeated, that he was not governed by the British model, which was inapplicable to the situation of this country; the extent of which was so great, and the manners so republican, that nothing but a great confederated republic would do for it.
Wilson favored an election by the people as was the case for choosing a governor in New York and Massachusetts. In Ferrand’s compilation, Pierce quotes Wilson using Athens and Rome as negative examples.
Mr. Wilson said that in his opinion so far from a unity of the Executive tending to progress towards a monarchy it would be the circumstance to prevent it. A plurality in the Executive of Government would probably produce a tyranny as bad as the thirty Tyrants of Athens, or as the Decemvirs of Rome.
What did not come up was Moses or Exodus 18.