Skip to comments.Journal of the Federal Convention June 27th 1787
Posted on 06/27/2011 2:33:50 AM PDT by Jacquerie
Mr. RUTLIDGE moved to postpone the 6th Resolution, defining the powers of Congs. in order to take up the 7 & 8 which involved the most fundamental points; the rules of suffrage in the 2 branches which was agreed to nem. con.
A question being proposed on Resol: 7 [FN1]: declaring that the suffrage in the first branch sd. be according to an equitable ratio.
Mr. L. MARTIN contended at great length and with great eagerness that the General Govt. was meant merely to preserve the State Governts.: not to govern individuals: that its powers ought to be kept within narrow limits; that if too little power was given to it, more might be added; but that if too much, it could never be resumed: that individuals as such have little to do but with their own States; that the Genl. Govt. has no more to apprehend from the States composing the Union, while it pursues proper measures, that [FN2] a Govt. over individuals has to apprehend from its subjects: that to resort to the Citizens at large for their sanction to a new Governt. will be throwing them back into a State of Nature: that the dissolution of the State Govts. is involved in the nature of the process: that the people have no right to do this without the consent of those to whom they have delegated their power for State purposes: through their tongue only they can speak, through their ears, only, can hear: that the States have shewn a good disposition to comply with the Acts, of Congs. weak, contemptibly weak as that body has been; and have failed through inability alone to comply: that the heaviness of the private debts, and the waste of property during the war, were the chief causes of this inability: that he did not conceive the instances mentioned by Mr. Madison of compacts between Va. & Md. between Pa. & N. J. or of troops raised by Massts. for defence against the Rebels, to be violations of the articles of confederation
That an equal vote in each State was essential to the federal idea, and was founded in justice & freedom, not merely in policy: that tho' the States may give up this right of sovereignty, yet they had not, and ought not: that the States like individuals were in a State of nature equally sovereign & free. In order to prove that individuals in a State of nature are equally free & independent he read passages from Locke, Vattel, Lord Summers- Priestly. To prove that the case is the same with States till they surrender their equal sovereignty, he read other passages in Locke & Vattel, and also Rutherford: that the States being equal cannot treat or confederate so as to give up an equality of votes without giving up their liberty.
That the propositions on the table were a system of slavery for ten States: that as Va. Masts. & Pa. have 42/90 of the votes they can do as they please without a miraculous Union of the other ten: that they will have nothing to do, but to gain over one of the ten to make them compleat masters of the rest: that they can then appoint an Execute. & Judiciary & legislate [FN3] for them as they please: that there was & would continue a natural predilection & partiality in men for their own States; that the States, particularly the smaller, would never allow a negative to be exercised over their laws: that no State in ratifying the Confederation had objected to the equality of votes; that the complaints at present run not agst. this equality but the want of power; that 16 members from Va. would be more likely to act in concert than a like number formed of members from different States; that instead of a junction of the small States as a remedy, he thought a division of the large States would be more eligible.-This was the substance of a speech which was continued more than three hours. He was too much exhausted he said to finish his remarks, and reminded the House that he should tomorrow, resume them
FN1 The words "the seventh Resolution" are substituted in the transcript for "Resol; 7."
FN2 The word "than" is substituted in the transcript for "that."
FN3 The word "legislature" is substituted in the transcript for "legislate."
#7. Resolved. that the right of suffrage in the first branch of the national Legislature ought not to be according to the rule established in the articles of confederation: but according to some equitable ratio of representation- namely, in proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex, and condition including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians, not paying taxes in each State.
#8. Resolved that the right of suffrage in the 2d. branch of the National Legislature ought to be according to the rule established for the first.
On the question of an equitable ratio to be used in the House of Representatives:
According to Mr. Madison, Luther Martin (MD), the State Attorney General, gave a well prepared and powerful speech attacking the path of the convention. It would last three hours and be completed the next day. According to Robert Yates, his arguments were diffuse, and in many instances desultory, it was not possible to trace him through the whole, or to methodize his ideas into a systematic or argumentative arrangement.
(In other words, when it appeared the Convention was ready for debate on proportional representation in the House and equality of State suffrage in the Senate, it got instead a day of Luther Martin. The tea leaves the past few days indicated the Large State bloc against equal State suffrage in the Senate was weakening, while the small States had long indicated their willingness to accept proportional representation in the House as a compromise. The delay thanks to Mr. Martin almost sank the Convention.)
Mr. Martin continued. The general government was to preserve state governments; it should not act on individuals; limit the powers, for more can be granted later but power cannot be retrieved; the general government had little to fear from the states; do not seek approval of the people; the states will be dissolved; the convention does not have legitimate power to do what it is doing anyway.
The states complied when capable with acts of Congress. Debt and destruction during the war were primary reasons for noncompliance. Side treaties between VA/MD and PA/NJ, troops raised by MA for defense against insurrection were not violations of the Articles of Confederation. An equal vote by states was essential, founded in justice and freedom. States, like individuals were in a state of nature and equally sovereign and free. He quoted from philosophers to support his argument.
His point was that sovereign states could delegate their equality, but equality could not be taken away from them. It was a fundamental violation of the sovereign states to be left out of ratification deliberations.
Under the proposed Constitution, ten states would become slaves of VA, MA, PA. The large three would control the legislative, executive and judicial branches and be masters over the ten smaller states.
No way, no how would the states large or small permit a Congressional veto of their laws.
(Luther Martin was a skilled courtroom lawyer. One of my references cited Max Farrand as to Mr. Martin being little more than a placeman for Samuel Chase, who nominated Mr. Martin for Attorney General and delegate to the Convention. Whatever the case, Mr. Martins purpose appeared to be to obstruct and oppose progress toward a republic. He was also a fervent States rights advocate who viewed them, not the people, as sovereign. States were as equal in the civil system as people were among themselves. They should thus have equal votes. The people granted certain powers to State governments that could not be taken back. His passionate speech may have swayed the typical jury, but his listeners were anything but typical. It was a harangue that ill served the Small State cause.)
Constitutional Convention Ping!
Wow. That's politics, isn't it?
After reading this, I tried to imagine a person who I would be willing to listen to for three hours. Ann Coulter? Sarah Palin? Maybe. If I had to listen to Obama for three hours I would end up with psychological problems, but not as bad as his or his followers.
I gather that the pubs had a robust business after the convention adjourned that day.
Something of a game of chicken went on. The Large State supporters of proportional representation in the Senate knew DE, NJ, MD would likely walk out of the Convention rather than submit. They stuck to their position as long as they could.
Speaking of taverns, it is remarkable how they kept to their oaths of secrecy. Very little of the proceedings leaked to the press. These were honorable men.