Skip to comments.Journal of the Federal Convention July 14th 1787
Posted on 07/14/2011 3:01:43 AM PDT by Jacquerie
Domination of New States. Dissolution. Equality of Senatorial State Suffrage. Rufus King Speech. National vs. Federal.
Mr. L. MARTIN called for the question on the whole report, including the parts relating to the origination of money bills, and the equality of votes in the 2d. branch.
Mr. GERRY. wished before the question should be put, that the attention of the House might be turned to the dangers apprehended from Western States. He was for admitting them on liberal terms, but not for putting ourselves into their hands. They will if they acquire power like all men, abuse it. They will oppress commerce, and drain our wealth into the Western Country. To guard agst. these consequences, he thought it necessary to limit the number of new States to be admitted into the Union, in such a manner, that they should never be able to outnumber the Atlantic States. He accordingly moved "that in order to secure the liberties of the States already confederated, the number of Representatives in the 1st. branch, of the States which shall hereafter be established, shall never exceed in number, the Representatives from such of the States as shall accede to this confederation.
Mr. KING. seconded the motion.
Mr. SHERMAN, thought there was no probability that the number of future States would exceed that of the Existing States. If the event should ever happen, it was too remote to be taken into consideration at this time. Besides We are providing for our posterity, for our children & our grand Children, who would be as likely to be citizens of new Western States, as of the old States. On this consideration alone, we ought to make no such discrimination as was proposed by the motion.
Mr. GERRY. If some of our children should remove, others will stay behind, and he thought it incumbent on us to provide for their interests. There was a rage for emigration from the Eastern States to the Western Country, and he did not wish those remaining behind to be at the mercy of the Emigrants. Besides foreigners are resorting to that country, and it is uncertain what turn things may take there.-On the question for agreeing to the Motion of Mr. Gerry, it passed in the negative.
Mas.ay. Cont.ay. N.J.no. Pa.divd. Del:ay. Md.ay. Va.no. N.C.no. S.C.no. Geo.no. [FN1]
Mr. RUTLIDGE proposed to reconsider the two propositions touching the originating of money bills in the first & the equality of votes in the second branch.
Mr. SHERMAN was for the question on the whole at once. It was he said a conciliatory plan, it had been considered in all its parts, a great deal of time had been spent on [FN2] it, and if any part should now be altered, it would be necessary to go over the whole ground again.
Mr. L. MARTIN urged the question on the whole. He did not like many parts of it. He did not like having two branches, nor the inequality of votes in the 1st. branch. He was willing however to make trial of the plan, rather than do nothing.
Mr. WILSON traced the progress of the report through its several stages, remarking yt. when on the question concerning an equality of votes, the House was divided, our Constituents had they voted as their representatives did, would have stood as 2/3 agst. the equality, and 1/3 only in favor of it. This fact would ere long be known, and it will [FN3] appear that this fundamental point has been carried by 1/3 agst. 2/3 . What hopes will our Constituents entertain when they find that the essential principles of justice have been violated in the outset of the Governmt. As to the privilege of originating money bills, it was not considered by any as of much moment, and by many as improper in itself. He hoped both clauses wd. be reconsidered. The equality of votes was a point of such critical importance, that every opportunity ought to be allowed, for discussing and collecting the mind of the Convention on [FN4] it.
Mr. L. MARTIN denies that there were 2/3 agst. the equality of votes. The States that please to call themselves large, are the weakest in the Union. Look at Masts. Look at Virga. Are they efficient States? He was for letting a separation take place if they desired it. He had rather there should be two Confederacies, than one founded on any other principle than an equality of votes in the 2d. branch at least.
Mr. WILSON was not surprised that those who say that a minority is [FN5] more than the [FN6] majority should say that [FN7] the minority is stronger than the majority. He supposed the next assertion will be that they are richer also; though he hardly expected it would be persisted in when the States shall be called on for taxes & troops-
Mr. GERRY. also animadverted on Mr. L. Martins remarks on the weakness of Masts. He favored the reconsideration with a view not of destroying the equality of votes; but of providing that the States should vote per capita, which he said would prevent the delays & inconveniences that had been experienced in Congs. and would give a national aspect & Spirit to the management of business. He did not approve of a reconsideration of the clause relating to money bills. It was of great consequence. It was the corner stone of the accomodation. If any member of the Convention had the exclusive privilege of making propositions, would any one say that it would give him no advantage over other members. The Report was not altogether to his mind. But he would agree to it as it stood rather than throw it out altogether.
The reconsideration being tacitly agreed to.
Mr. PINKNEY moved that instead of an equality of votes, the States should be represented in the 2d. branch as follows: N. H. by. 2. members. Mas. 4. R. I. 1. Cont. 3. N.Y. 3. N.J. 2. Pa. 4. Del I. Md. 3. Virga.5. N.C.3. S.C.3. Geo. 2.making in the whole 36. Mr. WILSON seconds the motion
Mr. DAYTON. The smaller States can never give up their equality. For himself he would in no event yield that security for their rights.
Mr. SHERMAN urged the equality of votes not so much as a security for the small States; as for the State Govts. which could not be preserved unless they were represented & had a negative in the Genl. Government. He had no objection to the members in the 2d. b. voting per capita, as had been suggested by [Mr. Gerry]
Mr. MADISON concurred in this motion of Mr. Pinkney as a reasonable compromise.
Mr. GERRY said he should like the motion, but could see no hope of success. An accomodation must take place, and it was apparent from what had been seen that it could not do so on the ground of the motion. He was utterly against a partial confederacy, leaving other States to accede or not accede; as had been intimated.
Mr. KING said it was always with regret that he differed from his colleagues, but it was his duty to differ from [Mr. Gerry] on this occasion. He considered the proposed Government as substantially and formally, a General and National Government over the people of America. There never will be a case in which it will act as a federal Government on the States and not on the individual Citizens. And is it not a clear principle that in a free Govt. those who are to be the objects of a Govt. ought to influence the operations of it? What reason can be assigned why the same rule of representation sd.. not prevail in the 2d. branch [FN8] as in the 1st.? He could conceive none. On the contrary, every view of the subject that presented itself, seemed to require it. Two objections had been raised agst. it: drawn 1. [FN9] from the terms of the existing compact 2. [FN9] from a supposed danger to the smaller States.-As to the first objection he thought it inapplicable. According to the existing confederation, the rule by which the public burdens is to be apportioned is fixed, and must be pursued. In the proposed Govermt. it can not be fixed, because indirect taxation is to be substituted. The Legislature therefore will have full discretion to impose taxes in such modes & proportions as they may judge expedient.
As to the 2d. objection, he thought it of as little weight. The Genl. Governt. can never wish to intrude on the State Governts. There could be no temptation. None had been pointed out. In order to prevent the interference of measures which seemed most likely to happen, he would have no objection to throwing all the State debts into the federal debt, making one aggregate debt of about 70,000,000 of dollars, and leaving it to be discharged by the Genl. Govt.-According to the idea of securing the State Govts. there ought to be three distinct legislative branches. The 2d. was admitted to be necessary, and was actually meant, to check the 1st. branch, to give more wisdom, system, & stability to the Govt. and ought clearly as it was to operate on the people to be proportioned to them.
For the third purpose of securing the States, there ought then to be a 3d. branch, representing the States as such, and guarding by equal votes their rights & dignities. He would not pretend to be as thoroughly acquainted with his immediate Constituents as his colleagues, but it was his firm belief that Masts. would never be prevailed on to yield to an equality of votes. In N. York (he was sorry to be obliged to say any thing relative to that State in the absence of its representatives, but the occasion required, it), in N. York he had seen that the most powerful argument used by the considerate opponents to the grant of the Impost to Congress, was pointed agst. the viccious constitution of Congs. with regard to representation & suffrage. He was sure that no Govt. could [FN10] last that was not founded on just principles. He prefer'd the doing of nothing, to an allowance of an equal vote to all the States. It would be better he thought to submit to a little more confusion & convulsion, than to submit to such an evil. It was difficult to say what the views of different Gentlemen might be. Perhaps there might be some who thought no Governmt. co-extensive with the U. States could be established with a hope of its answering the purpose. Perhaps there might be other fixed opinions incompatible with the object we were [FN11] pursuing. If there were, he thought it but candid that Gentlemen would [FN12] speak out that we might understand one another.
Mr. STRONG. The Convention had been much divided in opinion. In order to avoid the consequences of it, an accomodation had been proposed. A committee had been appointed: and though some of the members of it were averse to an equality of votes, a Report has [FN13] been made in favor of it. It is agreed on all hands that Congress are nearly at an end. If no Accomodation takes place, the Union itself must soon be dissolved. It has been suggested that if we can not come to any general agreement, the principal States may form & recommend a scheme of Government. But will the small States in that case ever accede [FN14] it. Is it probable that the large States themselves will under such circumstances embrace and ratify it. He thought the small States had made a considerable concession in the article of money bills; and that they might naturally expect some concessions on the other side. From this view of the matter he was compelled to give his vote for the Report taken all together.
Mr. MADISON expressed his apprehensions that if the proper foundation of Govenmt-was destroyed, by substituting an equality in place of a proportional Representation, no proper superstructure would be raised. If the small States really wish for a Government armed with the powers necessary to secure their liberties, and to enforce obedience on the larger members as well as on [FN15] themselves he could not help thinking them extremely mistaken in their [FN16] means. He reminded them of the consequences of laying the existing confederation [FN17] on improper principles. All the principal parties to its compilation, joined immediately in mutilating & fettering the Governmt. in such a manner that it has disappointed every hope placed on it.
He appealed to the doctrine & arguments used by themselves on a former occasion. It had been very properly observed by [Mr. Patterson] that Representation was an expedient by which the meeting of the people themselves was rendered unnecessary; and that the representatives ought therefore to bear a proportion to the votes which their constituents if convened, would respectively have. Was not this remark as applicable to one branch of the Representation as to the other? But it had been said that the Governt. would in its operation be partly federal, partly national; that altho' in the latter respect the Representatives of the people ought to be in proportion to the people: yet in the former it ought to be according to the number of States. If there was any solidity in this distinction he was ready to abide by it, if there was none it ought to be abandoned. In all cases where the Genl. Government. is to act on the people, let the people be represented and the votes be proportional. In all cases where the Governt. is to act on the States as such, in like manner as Congs. now act on them, let the States be represented & the votes be equal. This was the true ground of compromise if there was any ground at all. But he denied that there was any ground.
He called for a single instance in which the Genl. Govt. was not to operate on the people individually. The practicability of making laws, with coercive sanctions, for the States as Political bodies, had been exploded on all hands. He observed that the people of the large States would in some way or other secure to themselves a weight proportioned to the importance accruing from their superior numbers. If they could not effect it by a proportional representation in the Govt. they would probably accede to no Govt. which did not in [FN18] great measure depend for its efficacy on their voluntary cooperation; in which case they would indirectly secure their object. The existing confederacy proved that where the Acts of the Genl. Govt. were to be executed by the particular Govts. the latter had a weight in proportion to their importance. No one would say that either in Congs. or out of Congs. Delaware had equal weight with Pensylva. If the latter was to supply ten times as much money as the former, and no compulsion could be used, it was of ten times more importance, that she should voluntarily furnish the supply. In the Dutch confederacy the votes of the Provinces were equal. But Holland which supplies about half the money, governs [FN19] the whole republic.
He enumerated the objections agst. an equality of votes in the 2d. branch, notwithstanding the proportional representation in the first. 1. the minority could negative the will of the majority of the people. 2. they could extort measures by making them a condition of their assent to other necessary measures. 3. they could obtrude measures on the majority by virtue of the peculiar powers which would be vested in the Senate. 4. the evil instead of being cured by time, would increase with every new State that should be admitted, as they must all be admitted on the principle of equality. 5. the perpetuity it would give to the preponderance of the Northn. agst. the Southn. Scale was a serious consideration. It seemed now to be pretty well understood that the real difference of interests lay, not between the large & small but between the N. & Southn States. The institution of slavery & its consequences formed the line of discrimination. There were 5 States on the South, [FN20] 8 on the Northn. side of this line. Should a proportl. representation take place it was true, the N. side [FN21] would still outnumber the other; but not in the same degree, at this time; and every day would tend towards an equilibrium.
Mr. WILSON would add a few words only. If equality in the 2d. branch was an error that time would correct, he should be less anxious to exclude it being sensible that perfection was unattainable in any plan; but being a fundamental and a perpetual error, it ought by all means to be avoided. A vice in the Representation, like an error in the first concoction, must be followed by disease, convulsions, and finally death itself. The justice of the general principle of proportional representation has not in argument at least been yet contradicted. But it is said that a departure from it so far as to give the States an equal vote in one branch of the Legislature is essential to their preservation. He had considered this position maturely, but could not see its application. That the States ought to be preserved he admitted. But does it follow that an equality of votes is necessary for the purpose? Is there any reason to suppose that if their preservation should depend more on the large than on the small States the security of the States agst. the Genl. Government would be diminished? Are the large States less attached to their existence, more likely to commit suicide, than the small? An equal vote then is not necessary as far as he can conceive: and is liable among other objections to this insuperable one: The great fault of the existing confederacy is its inactivity.
It has never been a complaint agst. Congs. that they governed overmuch. The complaint has been that they have governed too little. To remedy this defect we were sent here. Shall we effect the cure by establishing an equality of votes as is proposed? no: this very equality carries us directly to Congress: to the system which it is our duty to rectify. The small States cannot indeed act, by virtue of this equality, but they may controul the Govt. as they have done in Congs. This very measure is here prosecuted by a minority of the people of America. Is then the object of the Convention likely to be accomplished in this way? Will not our Constituents say? we sent you to form an efficient Govt. and you have given us one more complex indeed, but having all the weakness of the former Governt. He was anxious for uniting all the States under one Governt. He knew there were some respectable men who preferred three confederacies, united by offensive & defensive alliances. Many things may be plausibly said, some things may be justly said, in favor of such a project. He could not however concur in it himself; but he thought nothing so pernicious as bad first principles.
Mr. ELSEWORTH asked two questions one of Mr. Wilson, whether he had ever seen a good measure fail in Congs. for want of a majority of States in its favor? He had himself never known such an instance: the other of Mr. Madison whether a negative lodged with the majority of the States even the smallest, could be more dangerous than the qualified negative proposed to be lodged in a single Executive Magistrate, who must be taken from some one State?
Mr. SHERMAN, signified that his expectation was that the Genl. Legislature would in some cases act on the federal principle, of requiring quotas. But he thought it ought to be empowered to carry their own plans into execution, if the States should fail to supply their respective quotas.
On the question for agreeing to Mr. Pinkney's motion for allowing N. H. 2. Mas. 4. &c-it passed in the negative Mas. no. Mr. King ay. Mr. Ghorum absent. cont. no. N.J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. ay Geo. no. [FN22]
FN1 In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, aye-4; New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-5; Pennsylvania, divided."
FN2 The word "upon" is substituted in the transcript for "on."
FN3 The word "would" is substituted in the transcript for "will."
FN4 The word "upon" is substituted in the transcript for "on."
FN5 The word "does" is substituted in the transcript for "is."
FN6 The word "a" is substituted in the transcript for "the."
FN7 The word "that" is omitted in the transcript.
FN8 In the transcript the word "branch" is transposed, making the phrase read: "second, as in the first, branch."
FN9 The figures "1" and "2" are changed to "first" and "Secondly" in the transcript.
FN10 The word "would" is substituted in the transcript for "could."
FN11 The word "are" is substituted in the transcript for "were."
FN12 The word "should" is substituted in the transcript for "would."
FN13 The word "had" is substituted in the transcript for "has."
FN14 The word "to" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN15 The word "on" is omitted in the transcript.
FN16 The word "the" is substituted in the transcript for "their."
FN17 The transcript italicizes the words "existing confederation."
FN18 The word "a" is here inserted in the transcript.
FN19 The word "governed" is substituted in the transcript for "governs."
FN20 The word "Southern" is substituted in the transcript for "South."
FN21 The word "side" is omitted in the transcript.
FN22 In the transcript the vote reads: "Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, aye-4; Massachusetts, [Mr. King, aye, Mr. Gorham, absent], Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina, Georgia, no-6."
Elbridge Gerry (MA) wished, before the question was put, to keep the Atlantic States politically superior to new states. Limit their number and power. He motioned to limit their representatives to something less than those proposed for the existing states.
Rufus King (MA) seconded Mr. Gerry.
Roger Sherman (CN) doubted new states would ever outnumber the existing states. He would not support discrimination because his children would perhaps be citizens of new States.
Elbridge Gerry (MA) wished to protect those who stayed behind. Consider also the questionable foreigners immigrating westward.
On the motion, ( That to secure the liberties of the States already confederated, the number of representatives in the first branch from the States which shall hereafter be established, shall never exceed the representatives from such of the thirteen United States as shall accede to this Confederation.) it failed 5-4-1. (Whew, that was close.)
John Rutlidge (SC) brought the Convention back to money bills and suffrage.
Roger Sherman (CN) perhaps spoke for many. (Fatigue with the slow proceedings) Vote on the whole question; all portions had been considered. To alter any portion would require reconsideration of all parts.
Luther Martin (MD) agreed. Take on the whole question. He didnt like much of the plan, the two legislative branches, or proportional representation in the first branch. Lets make a go of the plan, it beat doing nothing.
James Wilson (PA) viewed equal State suffrage in the Senate as a violation of the essential principles of justice. He hoped the Senate vote issue would be debated further.
Luther Martin (MD) reflected the high temperature of the Convention. Equal State suffrage in the Senate was essential. He would rather split the states into two confederacies than submit to large state dominance.
James Wilson (PA) sarcastically refuted Mr. Martin. (MD was the last state to ratify the Articles of Confederation in March 1781, only a few months before Yorktown. IIRC, their delay was due to demands that VA, PA relinquish territorial claims stretching to the Pacific Ocean)
Elbridge Gerry (MA) did not wish to change the equality of Senate votes, but offered per capita voting. (He meant for instance, two Senators per state who would vote individually and not as a State as was done under the Articles)
Charles Pinckney (SC) offered a modified Senate plan. It was a middle ground between equality of states and full proportional representation as in the House.
James Wilson (PA) seconded. (A couple scholars opine that if this plan had been put about two weeks earlier, we could have a Senate where the largest population States had five Senators, scaling down to the smallest with one. So, with each census both houses of Congress would experience reapportionment. )
Jonathan Dayton (NJ) would have none of it.
Roger Sherman (CN) described equal Senate suffrage as protection for small state government, not the States themselves. (Recall discussion to do away with states altogether)
James Madison (VA) supported the compromise.
Elbridge Gerry (MA) favored the motion but would not risk secession. He supported the accommodation to small states.
Rufus King (MA) parted ways with his colleague. (Good reading here) He described the government as national. It will act on the people, not the states. It will not be federal. Since the government will act on the people and not the states, why should the states be represented at all? Two reasons were raised. First, equal state suffrage existed under the Articles because of the terms of taxation. (Land value was the basis; taxes were to be collected and remitted by the states to Congress. In theory, that is) Under the new system, taxes would be indirect, such as imposts and excises which eliminated the necessity for state representation.
Second, why would the national government interfere? With the increase in tax authority, he would have the national government assume state revolutionary war debts. (This issue would play big in State conventions leading to ratification. By assuming the States war debt, which could not be done under the Articles, the States could repeal onerous real estate and other taxes.)
Mr. King proffered a third legislative branch, which would protect state interests. (This thoroughly contradicted much of what he just explained) His state would never accept equal state suffrage in the Senate. He claimed that NY (whose delegates were absent) opposed an impost amendment to the Articles because of equal state suffrage in Congress. (Not sure I understand his point at all) No government could last on the basis of unjust principles. He preferred the Confederation to accepting a Constitution with equal state suffrage. Confusion and convulsion v. evil.
Caleb Strong (MA) summarized the events around the Senate debate. Confederate Congresses were at an end. Absent accommodation, the Confederacy was a goner. He thought the concession on money bills was adequate and would support the whole report. (Here is another large State delegate in support of equal Senate suffrage.)
James Madison (VA) repeated his analysis that only proportional Senate representation would provide a sound basis for the government. The Confederation was laid upon unsound principles and the effect was felt immediately as States promptly ignored much of what their delegates in Congress ratified.
Mr. Madison reminded the Convention of Mr. Pattersons speech on representation. In it, he rightly said the only reason for representatives was because the people could not possibly meet to decide issues themselves. Why should this principle of representation not apply to both legislative branches? (Hmm, Mr. Madison never supported direct democracy) Under the Confederacy, the States were represented because the government acted on the States. There was no reason for state representation when the government did not act on the states. There was no ground for compromise. Experience under the Articles proved the government had no coercive power over the states.
There were other problems with equal state suffrage in the Senate. A majority of small state senators could deny the will of the majority of the people. They could extort measures. And finally, it would give the Northern States a permanent majority. Slave and non-slave states were the two emerging interests, not large and small.
James Wilson (PA) would support the compromise if the error (unequal regional representation) could eventually correct itself. Since it will not, he will not. Comparing it to a virus at inception, sickness and early death were certain. (I ask Civil War Freepers to elaborate on this one, the role of the Senate in the years leading to secession. Did equality of state suffrage negatively affect events?) No one disputed the justice of proportional representation. He disputed the necessity of equal suffrage to small state survival.
The great fault of the Confederacy is its inactivity. Congress could do very little. A Senate as proposed will burden the new government as it did the old. Small states could carry nothing but block everything. This was no way to do their duty, to correct Confederation deficiencies. He knew of respectable men who supported three Confederacies. Mr. Wilson was not one of them.
Judge Oliver Ellsworth (CN) asked Mr. Wilson if he ever saw a good measure fail to achieve a majority in Congress. He could not think of one. To Mr. Madison, he queried if a negative on bills by a majority of the lesser states was more dangerous than the veto power to be given to the Executive.
Roger Sherman (CN) expected some quota/requisition powers to be granted, along with the means to collect them. (An army of armed tax collectors to collect goods by force was not a good idea)
The motion to seek a middle ground of Senatorial representation as sought by Mr. Pinckney, failed 6-4.
(Once again a Sunday intervened and allowed tempers to cool. Monday the 16th will be a momentous day.)
Constitutional Convention Ping!
“He considered the proposed Government as substantially and formally, a General and National Government over the people of America. There never will be a case in which it will act as a federal Government on the States and not on the individual Citizens.”
Yes, that line jumped out at me, too, as well as these:
“They will, if they acquire power, like all men, abuse it.”
“According to the existing confederation, the rule by which the public burdens is to be apportioned is fixed, and must be pursued.
In the proposed Government, it can not be fixed, because indirect taxation is to be substituted.
The Legislature therefore will have full discretion to impose taxes in such modes & proportions as they may judge expedient.”
“The General Government can never wish to intrude on the State Governments. There could be no temptation. None had been pointed out.”
“The great fault of the existing confederacy is its inactivity.
It has never been a complaint against Congress that they governed overmuch. The complaint has been that they have governed too little.
To remedy this defect we were sent here.
Shall we effect the cure by establishing an equality of votes as is proposed? No, this very equality carries us directly to Congress: to the system which it is our duty to rectify.”
They certainly fixed that problem!
I think taxation based on proportional representation wold have been the better fix.
Can you imagine today, if each representative district were held accountable for 1/435th of the federal budget?
The original House size of 65 representatives had each member representing about 30,000 people.
The current House size of 435 seats has each member representing about 700,000 people.
In 1790, “the balance” between the House and Senate was
26 Senators to represent the interest of “the States”
vs. 65 Representatives of “the People”.
A ratio of about 1:2.
Today, there are 100 Senators and 435 Representatives; a ratio of about 1:4.
Over time, the population and the interests of “the People” overwhelmed the interests of “the States”.
That (plus the stupid 17th amendment) have destroyed whatever “balance” there ever was.
That’s an interesting idea. I don’t see why they couldn’t have added some enforcement to the old requisition system and made it work without direct national taxation.
Interesting. I hadn’t considered the ratio of house to senate (people to states).
If the federal budget was proportioned to each House district,
consider how the States would need to draw their district lines.
To have to draw district lines that had both
an “even” distribution of population...
and an “even” distribution of wealth...
I’m not sure it could be done.
(...not to even mention as to how one should define “wealth”.)
What sort of enforcement would you have recommended?
Outside of wars, for 120 years, the government lived off excises and imposts, just as the federalists predicted.
lol...that's a mighty large exception there.
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