Skip to comments.Journal of the Federal Convention July 7th 1787
Posted on 07/07/2011 2:39:02 AM PDT by Jacquerie
Second Branch Suffrage. What of Enumerated Powers? G. Morris Speech.
[FN1] "Shall the clause allowing each State one vote in the 2d. branch, stand as part of the Report"? being taken up
Mr. GERRY. This is the critical question. He had rather agree to it than have no accomodation. A Governt. short of a proper national plan, if generally acceptable, would be preferable to a proper one which if it could be carried at all, would operate on discontented States. He thought it would be best to suspend the [FN2] question till the Comme. yesterday appointed, [FN3] should make report.
Mr. SHERMAN Supposed that it was the wish of every one that some Genl. Govt. should be established. An equal vote in the 2d. branch would, he thought, be most likely to give it the necessary vigor. The small States have more vigor in their Govts. than the large ones, the more influence therefore the large ones have, the weaker will be the Govt. In the large States it will be most difficult to collect the real & fair sense of the people. Fallacy & undue influence will be practiced with most success: and improper men will most easily get into office. If they vote by States in the 2d. branch, and each State has an equal vote, there must be always a majority of States as well as a majority of the people on the side of public measures, & the Govt. will have decision and efficacy. If this be not the case in the 2d. branch there may be a majority of the [FN4] States agst. public measures, and the difficulty of compelling them to abide by the public determination, will render the Government feebler than it has ever yet been.
Mr. WILSON was not deficient in a conciliating temper, but firmness was sometimes a duty of higher obligation. Conciliation was also misapplied in this instance. It was pursued here rather among the Representatives, than among the Constituents; and it wd. be of little consequence, if not established among the latter; and there could be little hope of its being established among them if the foundation should not be laid in justice and right. On [FN5] Question shall the words stand as part of the Report?
Massts. divd. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. divd. [FN6] [Note. Several votes were given here in the affirmative or were divd. because another final question was to be taken on the whole report.]
Mr. GERRY thought it would be proper to proceed to enumerate & define the powers to be vested in the Genl. Govt. before a question on the report should be taken, as to the rule of representation in the 2d. branch.
Mr. MADISON, observed that it wd. be impossible to say what powers could be safely & properly vested in the Govt. before it was known, in what manner the States were to be represented in it. He was apprehensive that if a just representation were not the basis of the Govt. it would happen, as it did when the Articles of Confederation were depending, that every effectual prerogative would be withdrawn or withheld, and the New Govt. wd. be rendered as impotent and as shortlived as the old.
Mr. PATTERSON would not decide whether the privilege concerning money bills were a valuable consideration or not: But he considered the mode & rule of representation in the 1st. branch as fully so. and that after the establishment of that point, the small States would never be able to defend themselves without an equality of votes in the 2d. branch. There was no other ground of accomodation. His resolution was fixt. He would meet the large States on that Ground and no other. For himself he should vote agst. the Report, because it yielded too much.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. He had no resolution unalterably fixed except to do what should finally appear to him right. He was agst. the Report because it maintained the improper Constitution of the 2d. branch. It made it another Congress, a mere whisp of straw. It had been sd. [by Mr. Gerry] that the new Governt. would be partly national, partly federal; that it ought in the first quality to protect individuals; in the second, the States. But in what quality was it to protect the aggregate interest of the whole. Among the many provisions which had been urged, he had seen none for supporting the dignity and splendor of the American Empire. It had been one of our greatest misfortunes that the great objects of the nation had been sacrificed constantly to local views; in like manner as the general interests of States had been sacrificed to those of the Counties. What is to be the check in the Senate? none; unless it be to keep the majority of the people from injuring particular States. But particular States ought to be injured for the sake of a majority of the people, in case their conduct should deserve it. Suppose they should insist on claims evidently unjust, and pursue them in a manner detrimental to the whole body. Suppose they should give themselves up to foreign influence. Ought they to be protected in such cases. They were originally nothing more than colonial corporations.
On the declaration of Independence, a Governmt. was to be formed. The small States aware of the necessity of preventing anarchy, and taking advantage of the moment, extorted from the large ones an equality of votes. Standing now on that ground, they demand under the new system greater rights as men, than their fellow Citizens of the large States. The proper answer to them is that the same necessity of which they formerly took advantage, does not now exist, and that the large States are at liberty now to consider what is right, rather than what may be expedient. We must have an efficient Govt. and if there be an efficiency in the local Govts. the former is impossible. Germany alone proves it. Notwithstanding their common diet, notwithstanding the great prerogatives of the Emperor as head of the Empire, and his vast resources, as sovereign of his particular dominions, no union is maintained: foreign influence disturbs every internal operation, & there is no energy whatever in the general Governmt. Whence does this proceed? From the energy of the local authorities; from its being considered of more consequence to support the Prince of Hesse, than the Happiness of the people of Germany. Do Gentlemen wish this to be ye case here. Good God, Sir, is it possible they can so delude themselves.
What if all the Charters & Constitutions of the States were thrown into the fire, and all their demagogues into the ocean. What would it be to the happiness of America.
And will not this be the case here if we pursue the train in wch. the business lies. We shall establish an Aulic Council without an Emperor to execute its decrees. The same circumstances which unite the people here, unite them in Germany. They have there a common language, a common law, common usages and manners, and a common interest in being united; yet their local jurisdictions destroy every tie. The case was the same in the Grecian States. The United Netherlands are at this time torn in factions. With these examples before our eyes shall we form establishments which must necessarily produce the same effects. It is of no consequence from what districts the 2d. branch shall be drawn, if it be so constituted as to yield an asylum agst. these evils. As it is now constituted he must be agst. its being drawn from the States in equal portions. But shall he was [FN7] ready to join in devising such an amendment of the plan, as will be most likely to secure our liberty & happiness.
Mr. SHERMAN & Mr. ELSEWORTH moved to postpone the Question on the Report from the Committee of a member from each State, in order to wait for the Report from the Come. of 5 last appointed.
Masts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. Maryland ay. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [FN8]
FN1 The words "The question" are here inserted in the transcript.
FN2 The word "this" is substituted in the transcript for "the."
FN3 The words "yesterday appointed" are transposed to read "appointed yesterday" in the transcript.
FN4 The word "the" is omitted in the transcript.
FN5 The word "the" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN6 In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, aye-6; Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, no-3; Massachusetts, Georgia, divided."
FN7 The words "shall be" are substituted in the transcript for "shall he was."
FN8 In the transcript the vote reads: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, aye-6; New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-5."
Elbridge Gerry (MA) would accept the clause. It was better to accommodate the small states than have them discontented in the new union.
Roger Sherman (CN) accepted the clause too. Almost all of the delegates wished to form a general government. There will be more vigor in the Congress with an equal state franchise in the Senate. In national decisions it would serve well to have not only a majority of the people, but a majority of the states agree as well. If they are not given fair representation there will be resistance to national directives.
James Wilson (PA) did not think accommodation with representatives rather than the constituents promoted what was right.
The motion, "Shall the clause allowing each State one vote in the 2d. branch, stand as part of the Report" passed 6-3-2. (Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, aye-6; Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, no-3; Massachusetts, Georgia, divided.)
(Two states changed their stance on equal state suffrage in the Senate from the 2 July vote. MA went from no to divided and NC reversed no to yes. The tide had turned in favor of the small and north/eastern states. There is a back-story to the voting changes involving the Confederate Congress, Land Speculation, Slavery and Taxes which I hope to address soon in a separate vanity.)
Elbridge Gerry (MA) brought up an excellent point. Define the powers of the general government before deciding suffrage in the second branch.
James Madison (VA) saw the opposite to be the case. It was improper to define powers before knowing what level of participation the states would have. His feared if states had as much influence in the new system as in the old, the new government would be deprived of necessary powers and the new would be as impotent as the old.
William Patterson (NJ) incredibly, if I read him correctly, would vote against the committee report because it prevented the Senate from amending money bills. (Patterson led the small state charge early in the convention. Large state delegates disagreed on the practical advantage of restricting money bills to the House of Reps)
Governeur Morris (PA) (Was nothing if not persistent) The House of Reps would protect the people, as the Senate would the states; what about the interests of the whole, of the nation? (Recall that Mr. Morris advocated a Senate of life term aristocrats on the British House of Lords model) A Senate with equal state suffrage would render the Congress as impotent as the Confederation Congress. The only purpose of the Senate could be to check the people from injuring the states.
To Mr. Morris, the single reason states were afforded equal representation in the Confederate Congress was the difficulty of the times. They extorted this from the large states. Their people were afforded greater rights than others. Why should that mistake be repeated?
(Should anyone doubt the level of frustration Mr. Morris and others had with the states under the Articles?)
Mr. Morris: What if all the Charters & Constitutions of the States were thrown into the fire, and all their demagogues into the ocean. What would it be to the happiness of America?
(Today we see the states as possibly the last bulwark prior to revolution against a tyrannical national government. It is important to not impose this view upon the Framers era)
Roger Sherman (CN) and Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) moved and seconded to postpone the consideration of the report from the grand Committee until the special Committee report which passed in the affirmative by 6-5.
Constitutional Convention Ping!
A very good read. T’anks. I especially agree with your editorial note on Morris— What is all the charters and constitutions of the States.... I agree today it is the States that (sometimes) provide (some protection ) against a tyranical national Govt. My observation of Colorado is too often the Centenial State is beat down by the very tyrants we ought resist.
We are likewise afflicted with paper money, too much democracy, and a mountain of debt that cannot be paid off under our present form of government, if at all.
The horrible downside is that unlike 1787, where our Framers had the solutions at hand, we in 2011 do not.
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