Skip to comments.Journal of the Federal Convention July 9th 1787
Posted on 07/09/2011 2:50:55 AM PDT by Jacquerie
Apportionment in First House of Reps. Keep New States Down. Slaves as Men or Property.
Mr. Daniel Carroll from Maryland took his Seat.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS delivered a report from the Come. of 5 members to whom was committed the clause in the Report of the Come. consisting of a member from each State, stating the proper ratio of Representatives in the 1st. branch, to be as 1 to every 40,000 inhabitants, as follows viz
"The Committee to whom was referred the 1st. clause of the 1st. proposition reported from the grand Committee, beg leave to report
I. [FN1] that in the 1st. meeting of the Legislature the 1st. branch thereof consist of 56. members of which Number, N. Hamshire shall have 2. Massts. 7. R. Id. 1. Cont 4. N. Y. 5. N. J. 3. Pa. 8. Del. 1. Md. 4. Va. 9. N. C. 5. S. C. 5. Geo. 2.-
II. [FN1] But as the present situation of the States may probably alter as well in point of wealth as in the number of their inhabitants, that the Legislature be authorized from time to time to augment ye. number of Representatives. And in case any of the States shall hereafter be divided, or any two or more States united, or any new States created within the limits of the United States, the Legislature shall possess authority to regulate the number of Representatives in any of the foregoing cases, upon the principles of their wealth and number of inhabitants."
Mr. SHERMAN wished to know on what principles or calculations the Report was founded. It did not appear to correspond with any rule of numbers, or of any requisition hitherto adopted by Congs.
Mr. GORHAM. Some provision of this sort was necessary in the outset. The number of blacks & whites with some regard to supposed wealth was the general guide Fractions could not be observed. The Legislre. is to make alterations from time to time as justice & propriety may require. Two objections prevailed agst. the rate [FN2] of 1 member for every 40,000. inhts. The 1st. was that the Representation would soon be too numerous: the 2d. that the Westn. States who may have a different interest, might if admitted on that principle by degrees, outvote the Atlantic. Both these objections are removed. The number will be small in the first instance and may be continued so; and the Atlantic States having ye. Govt. in their own hands, may take care of their own interest, by dealing out the right of Representation in safe proportions to the Western States. These were the views of the Committee.
Mr. L MARTIN wished to know whether the Come. were guided in the ratio, by the wealth or number of inhabitants, of the States, or by [FN3] both; noting its variations from former apportionments by Congs.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS & Mr. RUTLIDGE moved to postpone the 1st. paragraph relating to the number of members to be allowed each State in the first instance, and to take up the 2d. paragraph authorizing the Legislre. to alter the number from time to time according to wealth & inhabitants. The motion was agreed to nem. con. On [FN4] Question on the 2d. paragh. taken without any debate
Masts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [FN5]
Mr. SHERMAN moved to refer the 1st. part apportioning the Representatives, to a Comme. of a member from each State.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS seconded the motion; observing that this was the only case in which such Committees were useful.
Mr. WILLIAMSON. thought it would be necessary to return to the rule of numbers, but that the Western States stood on different footing. If their property shall [FN6] be rated as high as that of the Atlantic States, then their representation ought to hold a like proportion. Otherwise if their property was not to be equally rated.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. The Report is little more than a guess. Wealth was not altogether disregarded by the Come. Where it was apparently in favor of one State, whose nos. were superior to the numbers of another, by a fraction only, a member extraordinary was allowed to the former: and so vice versa. The Committee meant little more than to bring the matter to a point for the consideration of the House.
Mr. REED asked why Georgia was allowed 2 members, when her number of inhabitants had stood below that of Delaware.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. Such is the rapidity of the population of that State, that before the plan takes effect, it will probably be entitled to 2 Representatives
Mr. RANDOLPH. disliked the report of the Come. but had been unwilling to object to it. He was apprehensive that as the number was not to be changed till the Natl. Legislature should please, a pretext would never be wanting to postpone alterations, and keep the power in the hands of those possessed of it. He was in favor of the commitmt. to a member from each State.
Mr. PATTERSON considered the proposed estimate for the future according to the Combined rule [FN7] of numbers and wealth, as too vague. For this reason N. Jersey was agst. it. He could regard negroes [FN8] slaves in no light but as property. They are no free agents, have no personal liberty, no faculty of acquiring property, but on the contrary are themselves property, & like other property entirely at the will of the Master. Has a man in Virga. a number of votes in proportion to the number of his slaves? And if Negroes are not represented in the States to which they belong, why should they be represented in the Genl. Govt. What is the true principle of Representation? It is an expedient by which an assembly of certain individls. chosen by the people is substituted in place of the inconvenient meeting of the people themselves. If such a meeting of the people was actually to take place, would the slaves vote? They would not. Why then shd. they be represented. He was also agst. such an indirect encouragemt. of the slave trade; observing that Congs. in their act relating to the change of the 8 art: of Confedn. had been ashamed to use the term "slaves" & had substituted a description.
Mr. MADISON, reminded Mr. Patterson that his doctrine of Representation which was in its principle the genuine one, must for ever silence the pretensions of the small States to an equality of votes with the large ones. They ought to vote in the same proportion in which their citizens would do, if the people of all the States were collectively met. He suggested as a proper ground of compromise, that in the first branch the States should be represented according to their number of free inhabitants; and in the 2d. which had for one of its primary objects the guardianship of property, according to the whole number, including slaves.
Mr. BUTLER urged warmly the justice & necessity of regarding wealth in the apportionment of Representation.
Mr. KING had always expected that as the Southern States are the richest, they would not league themselves with the Northn. unless some respect were paid to their superior wealth. If the latter expect those preferential distinctions in Commerce & other advantages which they will derive from the connection they must not expect to receive them without allowing some advantages in return. Eleven out of 13 of the States had agreed to consider Slaves in the apportionment of taxation; and taxation and Representation ought to go together.
On the question for committing the first paragraph of the Report to a member from each State.
Masts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. ay. [FN9] The Come. appointed were Mr. King. Mr. Sherman, Mr. Yates, Mr. Brearly, Mr. Govr. Morris, Mr. Reed, Mr. Carrol, Mr. Madison, Mr. Williamson, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Houston.
FN1 The Roman numerals "I" and "II" are omitted in the transcript.
FN2 The word "rule" is substituted in the transcript for "rate."
FN3 The word "by" is omitted in the transcript.
FN4 The word "the" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN5 In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye-9; New York, New Jersey, no-2."
FN6 The word "should" is substituted in the transcript for "shall."
FN7 The transcript uses the word "rule" in the plural.
FN8 The transcript uses the word "negroes" in the singular.
FN9 In the transcript the vote reads: u"Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virgin, North Carolina, Georgia, aye-9; New York, South Carolina, no-2."
Governeur Morris (PA) reported from the committee of five to recommend the number of representatives in the first House of Representatives. Congress would alter the number from time to time for additional states and population and wealth changes.
Northern States NH, MA, RI, CN, NY, PA, NJ, DE, 31 votes.
Southern MD, VA, NC, SC, GA, 25 votes.
Roger Sherman (CN) asked on what data the apportionment was based.
Nathaniel Gorham (MA) said numbers of blacks and whites with some regard to wealth (Slaves) were used. There were two objections to the 1:40,000 ratio. First, with rapid population growth, the number of reps would be too numerous and second, new Western states might come to dominate the original thirteen. (As I understand him, the old states would protect their majority interest despite expected Western population growth. Mr. Gorham was not alone in his apprehension. Settlers were flooding into the vast wilderness beyond the Appalachians. Without titles to the lands they occupied, they fought displaced Indians and those supported by the British and Spanish. Some settlements set up governments, and even declared independence. Mr. Gorham feared, for instance, the settlers would get the US into a war, which our government under the Articles could not support.)
Luther Martin (MD) was not clear as to the method the committee used.
Governeur Morris (PA) Motioned to postpone debate on the first clause and move to the next, which authorized the Legislature to alter the ratio from time to time according to wealth & inhabitants. The motion carried without opposition.
The second paragraph passed without debate by 9-2.
Back to the first paragraph. Roger Sherman (CN) and Governeur Morris (PA) motioned and seconded to send the question of apportionment to a committee.
Hugh Williamson (NC) was willing to mix population and wealth. It would ensure Atlantic state dominance for some time.
Governeur Morris (PA) said the numbers were intelligent guesses as to relative population and wealth.
Judge George Read (DE) asked why GA was allotted two members when its population was less than DE.
Governeur Morris (PA) noted rapid population growth in GA.
Governor Edmund Randolph feared the allotment of members would not change in order to protect the power of current states (Without a regular census for reapportionment, the Northern States would continue to dominate both houses of Congress.)
William Patterson (NJ) opposed sending the issue to committee. Slaves could only be regarded as property. Does a freeholder in VA have votes in proportion to the number of his slaves? If not, why should slaves be represented in the general government? Representatives do just that; represent people who cannot, as a matter of practicality vote for themselves. If such a meeting took place, would slaves vote?
James Madison (VA) (Who would not support equality of Senate suffrage for years to come) challenged Mr. Patterson who had inadvertently wrecked his justification for equality of equality of State suffrage in the Senate.
Pierce Butler (SC) forcefully required an allowance for wealth (Thanks to slavery, SC was thought to be the wealthiest State).
Rufus King (MA) explained that 11 of 13 states agreed to consider slaves under the rules of taxation, in order to obtain conditions favorable to trade. (He referred to a proposed but defeated 1783 amendment to the Articles of Confederation to count 3/5 of slaves for purposes of taxation. Also, the states were free to tax imports, and could theoretically conclude foreign trade deals without punitive recourse from Congress.)
By 9-2 the convention sent the question of apportionment to a committee composed of Mr. King. Mr. Sherman, Mr. Yates, Mr. Brearly, Mr. Governeur Morris (PA), Mr. Reed, Mr. Carrol, Mr. Madison, Mr. Williamson, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Houston.
(The Northern Abolitionist movement was in its initial stages. Despite some protestations, and several were from the South, all delegates knew the South would never ratify the Constitution without Slavery guarantees. Our Framers did not spend a summer in Philly to create a Utopia, but rather a practical government that thirteen republics could eventually accept.)
Constitutional Convention Ping!
It was a good thing that wealth never made it into the representation mix.
Have a good weekend!
Had state wealth been more readily quantifiable in those days, I think it would have been included. But yes, I agree it was best to base representation on population. There is no telling how long the NE States would have dominated lawmaking.
Stolen from another thread this morning:
The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories. A perfect democracy, a warm body democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction. It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens. What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it which for the majority translates as Bread and Circuses.
Bread and Circuses is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invaderthe barbarians enter Rome.
Robert A. Heinlein
The financial powers would have created more and more wealth to selected States, creating super States and slave-states.
That’s kind of what Obama is trying to do now.
Outside of wealth considerations, the nine to eleven states attending the Convention at any one time could have rigged the system to favor themselves at the expense of new states. Madison gave a speech that shamed those with such notions to change their minds.
As for our Chavez wannabee President, he did promise he would be ready to rule from day one. On that point he didn’t lie.
Can’t say I’ve read Heinlein, and I certainly can’t say I disagree either.
Aristotle regarded democracy followed by tyranny as the corrupted end states of republics.
Since history has demonstrated that which is destructive, why then . . . ?
As I have said before, I can see the flaws in the document,
but I have no valid suggestions as to how I would propose to correct them.
The founders illustrate they fully understood the flaws,
but human beings are by their nature, imperfect,
and are therefore incapable of creating perfection.
So the founders developed the “best” system they could,
but a government run by the citizens works for only as long
as the citizens remain educated and moral.
Perhaps Heinlein was right in that it is “a fatal disease with no cure.”