Constitutional Crisis: Week 3

This week the convention discovered its first error in the procedures. They realized that asking the chair to also be the scribe (secretary) was asking too much, so they split those tasks, as I expected they would eventually do. Now the chair appoints the scribe, who becomes the chair in the succeeding session and appoints a scribe who becomes the next chair and so on. There was considerable concern about preventing the passing back and forth of the chair between the same people, so a rule was added that the chair could not appoint the previous chair as scribe. I had thought–and hinted to a couple of delegates–that they’d find rotating the chair to be inefficient, but they seem far more concerned about someone dominating the convention. I find that interesting and legitimate, and it reminds me that George Washington spoke almost not at all during the American constitutional convention, making no effort to dominate or direct the outcome, but just keeping the meeting in order by force of his very presence.

Huron appeared for the first time in the second session of the week. I dealt with this as just an issue of political delays in Huron politics. In reality the student’s father died unexpectedly during the first week of classes, which is a tough situation.

Resolution of Inter-State Disputes
I learned that in the session conducted during my absence, several states had made an informal agreement for a Midwest Trade Association, for the purpose of free trade and economic assistance among their states. They have not formalized it because they are waiting to see where the convention goes on trade issues. They also began using it as a political tool. Ulsterland desperately wanted in, but the other states were keeping her out until she helped resolve the civil war in neighboring Champlain.

Ulsterland was also locked in a ferocious territorial dispute with Queenland over land with access to iron ore. Despite Ulsterland’s attempts at creating a fair division of the territory Queenland was refusing to budge, almost bringing Ulsterland to tears. She mastered herself, consulted with me, and shifted tactics, bringing in issues with other states, and tying them all together in one mega-agreement involving, I think, 5 states. This included:

  1. Ulsterland and three other states providing assistance to Champlain in its civil war,
  2. Ulsterland and Queenland agreeing to a 45/55 split of the disputed territory;
  3. Queenland allowing Hanover access to Chesapeake Bay ports,
  4. Multiple-state assistance to Ulsterland for rebuilding New York harbor,
  5. Ulsterland’s entry into the Midwest Trade Agreement.

Notably, one of the states providing military assistance—Allegheny—is not immediately adjacent to either Champlain or Ulsterland, but strongly wants a union and was willing to provide assistance to settle this dispute in order to move forward. They haven’t produced a final written agreement on this yet, so I don’t have all the details, and it may still be tentative.

With Huron’s appearance at the convention, one territorial dispute remains, the isthmus near Niagara Falls, taken by Allegheny for power generation when the governments of Ontario and Canada collapsed, and which Huron wants returned. Otherwise, all inter-state conflicts have, I think, been resolved, and so the convention began to move onto government formation.

Meeting of the Whole
As they convened into a meeting of the whole, instead of the small caucuses, it was proposed that they create a central government. Discussion ensued about whether it should be federal or unitary, with one state advocating for a confederacy without a true central government. The convention resolved 9-1 to have a central government, but without at this time specifying its federal v. unitary nature.

In the second session of the week the convention heard a motion for a bicameral legislature, which was immediately countered with a proposal for a unicameral legislature, which was followed by a call for an asymmetric bicameral legislature (UK/Canadian style, upper house with little power). The delegates are playing their roles well, pursuing the preferences of their states as I defined them.

The legislative discussion was temporarily sidetracked by a confused and confusing discussion of the executive, with a proposal for an executive council, but that was dropped and they returned to discussing the legislature. Unsurprisingly they almost immediately began gravitating toward a Connecticut Compromise, as they realized the disparity in population between the states (the most populous has 55 times the population as the least populous).

There was discussion of what to name the legislative chambers, and a delegate who’s proud of her Celtic heritage proposed one be named the Seanad (pronounced seh nahd’); this was approved unanimously. The other chamber was named the House, after a moment of silliness in which two students proposed something like “Operation Red” and I hoped my glaring around the classroom was noticed.

Representation in the House was set at 3 representatives per state up to 300,000 population, and 1 per each additional 100,000. The phrasing was initially unclear, leaving open the possibility that it meant a minimum of 3, but also only 1 per 100,000 (so that a state with <100,000 might have 3, but upon growing to 100,000 in size might drop to 1 representative). That confusing wording was caught, and the language was clarified. The length of terms in the House was set to 6 years, with half to be elected every 3 years. It was also motioned and approved that in the first session members would draw lots to see who got an initial 3 year term and who began with a full 6 year term. This is what was done in the U.S., where in the first session of Congress, Senate members drew lots to see who got 2 year, 4 year, or a full 6 year term to start. It’s a fairly obvious solution, but I’m pleased they immediately recognized the need and moved to resolve it. Issues left unfinished were how to replace members who die in office, how to select members of the Seanad and how many each state will have (one proposal was that a state’s senior members of the House would move to the Seanad) and the briefly raised issue of the nature of the executive.

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18 thoughts on “Constitutional Crisis: Week 3

  1. Looks like I’ll be losing my prediction for a unicameral legislature. The differences in population between the component states, and the experience of the 1783 Framers, does lend itself nicely to a Connecticut compromise.

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  2. “Representation in the House was set at 3 representatives per state up to 300,000 population, and 1 per each additional 100,000.”

    No shift in the proportion at large population? I’m not sure I see how that’s following the lines of the Connecticut compromise. Are they planning to deal with the issue in designing the upper house? On the other hand, I may just be misremembering the scales. If 300k is fairly large, this is a pretty good compromise (on that note, would you mind linking to the infopacket on these posts?).

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    • Conn compromise was 2 chambers, 1 equal rep, 1 proportional, right? And that’s essentially what they did here. I’m not quite following your first sentence/question, so that may not answer you.

      The state briefs and the map are linked in this post,

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      • Thanks, I had lost track of those. Looking over the numbers, it does seem like representative s were apportioned decently, though there are a lot of them (146). It’s also worth noting that the top two states (Huron and Allegheny) each have more representation than the bottom 7 put together, but the same is, of course, also true of their population. The question was based on my failing to remember what 100,000 people looked like in proportion to the population of a typical state.

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      • I’m not positive they’re done dealing with that issue, although they seemed to think they were.

        I was also hoping one of the small states would flat out lie about their population, since that was proprietary information unless they decided to share it. They all opted to be honest, though, which was probably a good choice since–unrealistically–they have a piece of paper that specifies their population, and it would look suspicious if they refused to prove their population to other delegates. It’s probably a bit early in the game to get a reputation for dishonesty.

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      • I’m not sure, but I doubt it. Mostly, I think it would be hard to do, because I’d have to reprint the document, and if the delegates are demanding to see a person’s state brief right then and there, that’d be hard to do surreptitiously. I also worry about the students seeing me as taking sides or rigging the game. At least this first time around, I want to play the role of trustworthy consultant.

        I don’t think it necessarily would be wrong, though.

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      • Sure, if the two houses are equally powerful. But there seems to be some movement among the delegates for a weak upper house, so power in the lower house strikes me as more important. (unless I’m misunderstanding things and the houses are in fact equally powerful)

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  3. I’m a little bit sad, but not really surprised, to see it work out that way. Since so much of the population disparity is for temporary zombie-related reasons, I’d have liked to see the non-proportionality in the seanad have some kind of sunset clause.

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  4. I’m still holding out for a split. Come on! You want to engage in commerce with people 500 miles away. You don’t want them voting on your rainwater retention rights!

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  5. I’m suspicious that the form of government they end up choosing is still something very much like the united state’s one. Why didn’t they go for a simpler unicameral parliamentary system?

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    • A. I gave them sufficient differences in population to make a unicameral legislature a difficult sell.

      B. Some state briefs insist upon a preference for unicameralism, others insist on bicameralism.

      In other words, my setup gives a push in that direction.

      C. It’s hard to take folks out of their culture. But probably A and B mostly.

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