The Constitutional COnvention of 1787

Essay by badboy4lyf102 January 2005

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The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was attended by more alumni of Princeton than any other American or British institution. Representing their states were nine men who had studied under Presidents Burr, Finley, and Witherspoon:

Alexander Martin 1756 (North Carolina)

William Paterson 1763 (New Jersey)

Oliver Ellsworth 1766 (Connecticut)

Luther Martin 1766 (Maryland)

William C. Houston 1768 (New Jersey)

Gunning Bedford, Jr. 1771 (Delaware)

James Madison 1771 (Virginia)

William R. Davie 1776 (North Carolina)

Jonathan Dayton 1776 (New Jersey)

Five of the college alumni at the convention had attended William and Mary, five Yale,* three Harvard, three Columbia, two the University of Pennsylvania, one Oxford, one Glasgow, and one had studied at three universities in Scotland. (Twenty-five of the fifty-five members of the convention, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, had not attended college. ) The large number of graduates of Nassau Hall at the convention reflected the wide geographic distribution of its graduates generally.

Princeton's alumni were delegates from six states, while Yale (which stood next in this respect) were from four, and all of Harvard's were from Massachusetts. Three of the Princetonians represented New Jersey, two North Carolina, and one each Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

Outstanding in the New Jersey delegation was William Paterson, described by William Pierce (a Georgia delegate whose notes include interesting character sketches of convention members) as a man of great modesty who always picked the right time and the right way to enter a debate and never spoke ``but when he [understood] his subject well.''+

William Churchill Houston, previously professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Princeton, was, at the time of the convention, clerk of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Jonathan Dayton, son of a storekeeper in Elizabethtown, had served with distinction in the Revolution, and, at twenty-six, was the convention's...