Skip to comments.Journal of the Federal Convention July 5th 1787
Posted on 07/05/2011 2:50:29 AM PDT by Jacquerie
Committee Report. First Proposition Postponed. Madison Speech. High Emotion. Morris Speech. Bedford Speech. Dissolution and Foreign Influence. Proportional Representation by Taxes Remitted.
Mr. GERRY delivered in from the Committee appointed on Monday last the following Report.
"The Committee to whom was referred the 8th. Resol. of the Report from the Committee of the whole House, and so much of the 7th. as has not been decided on, submit the following Report: That the subsequent propositions be recommended to the Convention on condition that both shall be generally adopted.
1. That in the 1st. branch of the Legislature each of the States now in the Union shall be allowed 1 member for every 40,000 inhabitants of the description reported in the 7th. Resolution of the Come. of the whole House: that each State not containing that number shall be allowed 1 member: that all bills for raising or appropriating money, and for fixing the Salaries of the officers of the Governt. of the U. States shall originate in the 1st. branch of the Legislature, and shall not be altered or amended by the 2d. branch: and that no money shall be drawn from the public Treasury. but in pursuance of appropriations to be orginated in the 1st. branch"
2. That in the 2d. branch each State shall have an equal vote." [FN1]
Mr. GHORUM observed that as the report consisted of propositions mutually conditional he wished to hear some explanations touching the grounds on which the conditions were estimated.
Mr. GERRY. The Committee were of different opinions as well as the Deputations from which the Come. were taken, and agreed to the Report merely in order that some ground of accomodation might be proposed. Those opposed to the equality of votes have only assented conditionally; and if the other side do not generally agree will not be under any obligation to support the Report.
Mr. WILSON thought the Committee had exceeded their powers.
Mr. MARTIN was for taking the question on the whole report.
Mr. WILSON was for a division of the question: otherwise it wd. be a leap in the dark.
Mr. MADISON. could not regard the exclusive [FN3] privilege of originating money bills as any concession on the side of the small States. Experience proved that it had no effect. If seven States in the upper branch wished a bill to be originated, they might surely find some member from some of the same States in the lower branch who would originate it. The restriction as to amendments was of as little consequence. Amendments could be handed privately by the Senate to members in the other house. Bills could be negatived that they might be sent up in the desired shape. If the Senate should yield to the obstinacy of the 1st. branch the use of that body as a check would be lost. If the 1st. branch should yield to that of the Senate, the privilege would be nugatory. Experience had also shewn both in G. B. and the States having a similar regulation that it was a source of frequent & obstinate altercations. These considerations had produced a rejection of a like motion on a former occasion when judged by its own merits. It could not therefore be deemed any concession on the present, and left in force all the objections which had prevailed agst. allowing each State an equal voice.
He conceived that the Convention was reduced to the alternative of either departing from justice in order to conciliate the smaller States, and the minority of the people of the U. S. or of displeasing these by justly gratifying the larger States and the majority of the people. He could not himself hesitate as to the option he ought to make. The Convention with justice & the majority of the people on their side, had nothing to fear. With injustice and the minority on their side they had every thing to fear. It was in vain to purchase concord in the Convention on terms which would perpetuate discord among their Constituents. The Convention ought to pursue a plan which would bear the test of examination, which would be espoused & supported by the enlightened and impartial part of America, & which they could themselves vindicate and urge. It should be considered that altho' at first many may judge of the system recommended, by their opinion of the Convention, yet finally all will judge of the Convention by the System. The merits of the System alone can finally & effectually obtain the public suffrage. He was not apprehensive that the people of the small States would obstinately refuse to accede to a Govt. founded on just principles, and promising them substantial protection.
He could not suspect that Delaware would brave the consequences of seeking her fortunes apart from the other States, rather than submit to such a Govt. much less could he suspect that she would pursue the rash policy of courting foreign support, which the warmth of one of her representatives [Mr. Bedford] had suggested, or if she shd. that any foreign nation wd. be so rash as to hearken to the overture. As little could he suspect that the people of N. Jersey notwithstanding the decided tone of the gentlemen from that State, would choose rather to stand on their own legs, and bid defiance to events, than to acquiesce under an establishment founded on principles the justice of which they could not dispute, and absolutely necessary to redeem them from the exactions levied on them by the commerce of the neighbouring States. A review of other States would prove that there was as little reason to apprehend an inflexible opposition elsewhere. Harmony in the Convention was no doubt much to be desired. Satisfaction to all the States, in the first instance still more so. But if the principal States comprehending a majority of the people of the U. S. should concur in a just & judicious plan, he had the firmest hopes, that all the other States would by degrees accede to it. Mr. BUTLER said he could not let down his idea of the people, of America so far as to believe they would from mere respect to the Convention adopt a plan evidently unjust. He did not consider the privilege concerning money bills as of any consequence. He urged that the 2d. branch ought to represent the States according to their property.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. thought the form as well as the matter of the Report objectionable. It seemed in the first place to render amendments impracticable. In the next place, it seemed to involve a pledge to agree to the 2d. part if the 1st. shd. be agreed to. He conceived the whole aspect of it to be wrong.
He came here as a Representative of America; he flattered himself he came here in some degree as a Representative of the whole human race; for the whole human race will be affected by the proceedings of this Convention. He wished gentlemen to extend their views beyond the present moment of time; beyond the narrow limits of place from which they derive their political origin. If he were to believe some things which he had heard, he should suppose that we were assembled to truck and bargain for our particular States. He can-not descend to think that any gentlemen are really actuated by these views. We must look forward to the effects of what we do. These alone ought to guide us. Much has been said of the sentiments of the people. They were unknown. They could not be known. All that we can infer is that if the plan we recommend be reasonable & right; all who have reasonable minds and sound intentions will embrace it, notwithstanding what had been said by some gentlemen.
Let us suppose that the larger States shall agree; and that the smaller refuse: and let us trace the consequences. The opponents of the system in the smaller States will no doubt make a party, and a noise for a time, but the ties of interest, of kindred & of common habits which connect them with the other States will be too strong to be easily broken. In N. Jersey particularly he was sure a great many would follow the sentiments of Pena. & N. York. This Country must be united. If persuasion does not unite it, the sword will. He begged that [FN4] this consideration might have its due weight. The scenes of horror attending civil commotion can not be described, and the conclusion of them will be worse than the term of their continuance. The stronger party will then make traytors of the weaker; and the Gallows & Halter will finish the work of the sword. How far foreign powers would be ready to take part in the confusions he would not say. Threats that they will be invited have it seems been thrown out. He drew the melancholy picture of foreign intrusions as exhibited in the History of Germany, & urged it as a standing lesson to other nations. He trusted that the Gentlemen who may have hazarded such expressions, did not entertain them till they reached their own lips.
But returning to the Report he could not think it in any respect calculated for the public good. As the 2d. branch is now constituted, there will be constant disputes & appeals to the States which will undermine the Genl. Government & controul & annihilate the 1st. branch. Suppose that the delegates from Massts. & Rho 1. in the Upper House disagree, and that the former are outvoted. What Results? they will immediately declare that their State will not abide by the decision, and make such representations as will produce that effect. The same may happen as to Virga. & other States. Of what avail then will be what is on paper. State attachments, and State importance have been the bane of this Country. We can not annihilate; but we may perhaps take out the teeth of the serpents. He wished our ideas to be enlarged to the true interest of man, instead of being circumscribed within the narrow compass of a particular Spot. And after all how little can be the motive yielded by selfishness for such a policy. Who can say whether he himself, much less whether his children, will the next year be an inhabitant of this or that State.
Mr. BEDFORD. He found that what he had said as to the small States being taken by the hand, had been misunderstood; and he rose to explain. He did not mean that the small States would court the aid & interposition of foreign powers. He meant that they would not consider the federal compact as dissolved untill it should be so by the Acts of the large States. In this case The consequence of the breach of faith on their part, and the readiness of the small States to fulfill their engagements, would be that foreign Nations having demands on this Country would find it their interest to take the small States by the hand, in order to do themselves justice. This was what he meant. But no man can foresee to what extremities the small States may be driven by oppression. He observed also in apology that some allowance ought to be made for the habits of his profession in which warmth was natural & sometimes necessary.
But is there not an apology in what was said by [Mr. Govr. Morris] that the sword is to unite: by Mr. Ghorum that Delaware must be annexed to Penna. and N. Jersey divided between Pena. and N. York. To hear such language without emotion, would be to renounce the feelings of a man and the duty of a Citizen-As to the propositions of the Committee, the lesser States have thought it necessary to have a security somewhere. This has been thought necessary for the Executive Magistrate of the proposed Govt. who has a sort of negative on the laws; and is it not of more importance that the States should be protected, than that the Executive branch of the Govt. shd. be protected. In order to obtain this, the smaller States have conceded as to the constitution of the first branch, and as to money bills. If they be not gratified by correspondent concessions as to the 2d. branch is it to be supposed they will ever accede to the plan; and what will be the consequence if nothing should be done! The condition of the U. States requires that something should be immediately done. It will be better that a defective plan should be adopted, than that none should be recommended. He saw no reason why defects might not be supplied by meetings 10, 15, or 20 years hence.
Mr. ELSEWORTH said he had not attended the proceedings of the Committee, but was ready to accede to the compromise they had reported. Some compromise was necessary; and he saw none more convenient or reasonable.
Mr. WILLIAMSON hoped that the expressions of individuals would not be taken for the sense of their colleagues, much less of their States which was not & could not be known. He hoped also that the meaning of those expressions would not be misconstrued or exaggerated. He did not conceive that [Mr. Govr. Morris] meant that the sword ought to be drawn agst. the smaller States. He only pointed out the probable consequences of anarchy in the U. S. A similar exposition ought to be given of the expressions [of Mr. Ghorum]. He was ready to hear the Report discussed; but thought the propositions contained in it, the most objectionable of any he had yet heard.
Mr. PATTERSON said that he had when the Report was agreed to in the Come. reserved to himself the right of freely discussing it. He acknowledged that the warmth complained of was improper; but he thought the Sword & the Gallows as [FN5] little calculated to produce conviction. He complained of the manner in which Mr. M- & Mr. Govr. Morris had treated the small States.
Mr. GERRY. Tho' he had assented to the Report in the Committee, he had very material objections to it. We were however in a peculiar situation. We were neither the same Nation nor different Nations. We ought not therefore to pursue the one or the other of these ideas too closely. If no compromise should take place what will be the consequence. A secession he foresaw would take place; for some gentlemen seem decided on it; two different plans will be proposed; and the result no man could foresee. If we do not come to some agreement among ourselves some foreign sword will probably do the work for us.
Mr. MASON. The Report was meant not as specific propositions to be adopted; but merely as a general ground of accomodation. There must be some accomodation on this point, or we shall make little further progress in the work. Accomodation was the object of the House in the appointment of the Committee; and of the Committee in the Report they had made. And however liable the Report might be to objections, he thought it preferable to an appeal to the world by the different sides, as had been talked of by some Gentlemen. It could not be more inconvenient to any gentleman to remain absent from his private affairs, than it was for him: but he would bury his bones in this City rather than expose his Country to the Consequences of a dissolution of the Convention without any thing being done.
The 1st. proposition in the report for fixing the representation in the 1st. branch, one member for every 40,000 inhabitants, being taken up.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS objected to that scale of apportionment. He thought property ought to be taken into the estimate as well as the number of inhabitants. Life & liberty were generally said to be of more value, than property. An accurate view of the matter would nevertheless prove that property was the main object of Society. The savage State was more favorable to liberty than the Civilized; and sufficiently so to life. It was preferred by all men who had not acquired a taste for property; it was only renounced for the sake of property which could only be secured by the restraints of regular Government. These ideas might appear to some new, but they were nevertheless just. If property then was the main object of Govt. certainly it ought to be one measure of the influence due to those who were to be affected by the Governmt. He looked forward also to that range of New States which wd. soon be formed in the West. He thought the rule of representation ought to be so fixed as to secure to the Atlantic States a prevalence in the National Councils. The new States will know less of the public interest than these, will have an interest in many respects different, in particular will be little scrupulous of involving the Community in wars the burdens & operations of which would fall chiefly on the maritime States. Provision ought therefore to be made to prevent the maritime States from being hereafter outvoted by them. He thought this might be easily done by irrevocably fixing the number of representatives which the Atlantic States should respectively have, and the number which each new State will have. This wd. not be unjust, as the Western settlers wd. previously know the conditions on which they were to possess their lands. It would be politic as it would recommend the plan to the present as well as future interest of the States which must decide the fate of it.
Mr. RUTLIDGE. The gentleman last up had spoken some of his sentiments precisely. Property was certainly the principal object of Society. If numbers should be made the rule of representation, the Atlantic States will [FN6] be subjected to the Western. He moved that the first proposition in the report be postponed in order to take up the following viz "that the suffrages of the several States be regulated and proportioned according to the sums to be paid towards the general revenue by the inhabitants of each State respectively. that an apportionment of suffrages, according to the ratio aforesaid shall be made and regulated at the end of ---- years from the 1st. meeting of the Legislature of the U. S. and at the end of every ---- years but that for the present, and until the period above mentioned, the suffrages shall be for N. Hampshire ---- [FN7] Massachts. ---- &c.-
Col. MASON said the case of new States was not unnoticed in the Committee; but it was thought and he was himself decidedly of opinion that if they made a part of the Union, they ought to be subject to no unfavorable discriminations. Obvious considerations required it.
Mr. RANDOLPH concurred with Col. [FN8] Mason.
On [FN9] Question on Mr. Rutlidges motion.
Masts. no. Cont. no. N. Y. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Maryd. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. not on floor. [FN10]
FN1 This report was founded on a motion in the Committee made by Dr Franklin. It was barely acquiesced in by the members from the State opposed to an equality of votes in the 2d branch and was evidently considered by the members on the other side, as a gaining of their point. A motion was made by Mr Sherman [he [FN2] acted in place of Mr Elseworth who was kept away by indisposition.] In the Committee to the following effect "that each State should have an equal vote in the 2d branch; provided that no decision therein should prevail unless the majority of States concurring should also comprize a majority of the inhabitants of the U. States." This motion was not much deliberated on nor approved in the Committee. A similar proviso had been proposed in the debates on the articles of Confederation in 1777, to the articles giving certain powers to "nine States." See Journals of Congs for 1777, p. 462.
FN2 The word "who" is substituted in the transcript for "he."
FN3 The word "exclusive" is omitted in the transcript.
FN4 The word "that" is omitted in the transcript.
FN5 The word "as" is crossed out in the transcript.
FN6 The word "would" is substituted in the transcript for "will."
FN7 The word "for" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN8 The word "Mr." is substituted in the transcript for "Col."
FN9 The word "the" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN10 In the transcript the vote reads: "South Carolina, aye-I; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, no-9; Georgia not on the floor."
(Notice the 1:40,000 ratio was for states, now in the Union. Later on, a few delegates will have no problem admitting new States on a less than equal basis.)
Nathaniel Gorham (MA) inquired as to the basis of the recommendations.
Elbridge Gerry (MA) so much as stated it was grounds for compromise. Committee members were not bound to support it.
James Wilson (PA) thought the committee exceeded its authority.(This was an excuse? Was it to disrupt, delay what he feared, acceptance of the resolution?)
Luther Martin (MD) wished to vote on the entire resolution. (Small States had to enjoy the wind at their backs.)
James Wilson (PA) used, leap in the dark irt voting on the entire resolution, rather than by clause.
James Madison (VA), supporter of proportional representation in both Houses, threw the bait of money bills back at the Small States. While in theory it would prevent a consortium of Small States from voting for expenditures that would fall primarily on the Large States, it was in actuality no concession at all.
(Remember, in earlier debate, the Small States agreed with the logic of proportional representation in both Houses. Despite the recent tea leaves, I think Mr. Madison was surprised at the committee report.) He drew an either/or picture of justice on one side, and raw political conciliation on the other. Justice had nothing to fear, injustice had everything to fear. (As had been expressed by IIRC, Madison and certainly others, there was doubt that a mixture of federal and national features could work. Madison was not alone in fearing the introduction of the rot of the confederacy, the role of the states being reinserted into a fresh political system.) The proposed system, he said, would not stand up to examination by the people. He did not believe the people of the small states would reject the system he espoused, proportional representation.
(Mr. Madison was willing to call the bluff of the small states. He did not believe they would risk disunion, nor go to bed with foreign nations over this issue.) For NJ, Mr. Madison made a special plea. Why should the state accept further degradation from the import taxes they paid to NY and PA? In closing he saw acceptance by the principal states, (Meaning PA, MA, VA) in majoritarian rule as prelude to eventual approval by the Small States. He was definitely willing to risk all for his revolutionary principles.
Pierce Butler (SC) did not think the people would acquiesce, despite the confidence the people placed in their respected delegates, to an unjust system proposed by the committee. He returned to an earlier line of reasoning in which proportional representation by wealth determined Senatorial suffrage.
Governeur Morris (PA), who had previously made a special plea for an aristocratic House of Lords type of Senate, objected to the form and matter of the report. It made amendments impossible and made the second part inevitable if the first part passed. (Not sure I understand this.)
Mr. Morris appealed to fellow delegates to place themselves above narrow local interests. He was an American. The rest of the world would be affected by their Convention. (This is the first grand appeal to patriotism expressed at the convention. They knew what they were doing would have long term consequences for America and the world. Note that this comes from one who promoted an aristocratic form. I refuse to attribute ulterior motives to Morris, Hamilton or any other attendee.)
He prophesied the small states via reason or violence would eventually join a Union on the terms of the large states. If reason would not suffice, he painted a gruesome picture of conquest, foreign intrigue and executions. (His predictions only elaborated on the implied threats of the smaller states.) Equal state suffrage in the Senate would not serve the public good.
(Mr. Morris gave us a clear picture of the fear of once again including the States in the larger government.) He foresaw similar problems as existed under the Articles; states, on the basis of their dissenting delegations, refused to obey duly passed law. Narrow state interests were the bane of the country. It was necessary to pull out the teeth of the serpents. Mr. Morris closed with an appeal to a larger scope of virtues.
Gunning Bedford (DE) (backstroked big-time) explained his by the hand comment regarding foreign powers to mean that Small States would not court foreign aid. (The I was taken out of context excuse is apparently an old one.) Still, no one could foresee to what measures the small states may resort to if driven by oppression. He apologized for his earlier, heated discourse.
Mr. Bedford then turned tables on Mr. Morris. He was amazed at the coolness with which Mr. Morris appealed to the sword as well as Mr. Gorhams prediction of DE and NJ being annexed by PA and PA/NY respectively. (The large states certainly affirmed the fears of the smaller.) The Small States gave away as much as they reasonably could; popular election in the first branch in which money bills would originate. Without concessions as to the Senate, the Convention would fail, yet the Articles must be ditched at all costs. Even if the new plan proved to be defective, it would be better to accept it than to do nothing. Defects can be corrected in the years to come.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN), who was on the committee of 2 July did not attend the meeting. He acceded to the compromise.
Hugh Williamson (NC) did not think Mr. Morris meant PA, NY would conquer DE and NJ, (Sure.) but only that anarchy would result.
William Patterson (NJ) had little to say (Things were going in his direction.) other than that things had become heated and he protested the harsh words of Mr. Madison and Mr. Morris.
Elbridge Gerry (MA) objected to the compromise he felt necessary to support. Still, the alternative was too horrible. The sword, and possibly a foreign one, would be raised otherwise.
George Mason (VA) apparently attempted to reduce the ambient temperature. The report was not a recommendation but a proffered accommodation. He would rather be tending to his business, but could not leave until the Convention came up with a plan. (I need to closely follow Mr. Mason. He was obviously supportive at this point to the evolving Constitution, but would later refuse to sign the finished document. He became a vociferous opponent second only to Patrick Henry at the VA Ratifying Convention.)
The first portion of the report, one Representative per 40,000 was taken up.
Governeur Morris (PA) favored representation based on property. (Mr. Morris was, if nothing else, a consistent aristocrat.) He looked forward to admitting new states (They would be admitted poor, and undoubtedly kept poor if he got his way.) and a design that would keep the New England (referred to as Eastern or Atlantic states back then) states in a position of dominance. He justified this by contending that the inhabitants would be rubes and likely to get the rest of the country into wars, which the current states would have to pay for. The rule for representation should be fixed now, to give the current states a permanent advantage.
John Rutlidge (SC) agreed with Mr. Morris. He moved to postpone a vote on the committee report in order to consider legislative suffrage based on revenue flow from each state into the national treasury.
George Mason (VA) opposed new state discrimination.
Mr. Rutlidges motion failed 8-1.
Constitutional Convention Ping!
“This Country must be united. If persuasion does not unite it, the sword will.”
Immediately made me think of the 1860’s!
My second thought is how
all of their planning, reasoning, debating, conferencing, compromising, and other efforts
to establish the 3 branches and “fair” representation and division of powers, and checks and balances on that power
were upended with the passage of the 17th amendment.
Is there any doubt some federal judge later on would have given women the right to vote, or would have declared poll taxes unconstitutional, absent the pertinent amendments?
If the people/states wanted Congress to regulate anything that could AFFECT Commerce, why not push for an amendment? Answer: The Left knew it would not pass, which is another reason to call the BS flag on Wickard.
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