(Click here for the Constitution as submitted by the Committee of Style. Scroll down about halfway. Somewhat above that is the Cover Letter.)
Hugh Williamson motioned and Roger Sherman seconded to lower the threshold of veto override to two thirds from three fourths. The larger amount would give too much power to the President and a minority of Congress.
Governeur Morris disagreed. Distant States may not always be represented and deserve the protection afforded by three fourths. Besides, the experience of NY demonstrated that more laws are detrimental compared to fewer laws.
Alexander Hamilton (NY) described popular objects that were not defeated when they should have with a two thirds provision.
Elbridge Gerry viewed three fourths override as placing too much power in the hands of too few. Presidential vetoes were primarily to protect the Executive Branch, not the general interest. Expect designing men to collude with the President for appointments and thwart proper laws if the three fourths rule is ratified.
Hugh Williamson feared it would be too difficult for the Executive to repeal bad laws with a three fourths override requirement.
George Mason leaned toward the two thirds requirement if for nothing else, to make repeal of laws not too difficult.
Governeur Morris focused on the need for stability of laws.
Charles Pinckney repeated the warning of Presidential/Congressional cabal with a three fourths requirement.
James Madison reminded the delegates that the three fourths ratio was set when the President was to be appointed by Congress to serve a single seven year term. Now, the people will elect him for four year terms. The Executive veto was designed to defend both the Executive Branch and the rights of the people. It was not new, for it existed in the States but in a weak form. He therefore supported the existing three fourths clause.
The motion to replace three fourths with two thirds passed 6-4-1.
Hugh Williamson once again brought up the lack of a guarantee of juries in civil trials.
Nathaniel Gorham would leave the matter with Congress as law, not the Constitution.
Elbridge Gerry viewed juries as the best defense against corrupt judges. Such a clause should be in the Constitution.
George Mason would make a general statement regarding juries in the Constitution. He also supported a Bill of Rights. It would go a long way to quell expected resistance at State Ratifying Conventions. (This was actually more of a warning than a request. Mr. Mason would not sign the Constitution and was second only to Patrick Henry in opposition next year in VA)
Elbridge Gerry motioned and Mr. Mason seconded a Committee to consider a Bill of Rights.
Roger Sherman supported securing the peoples rights where requisite. However, State declarations of rights were not repealed by the Constitution and would be sufficient.
George Mason reminded Mr. Sherman the Laws of the U.S. would be paramount to State Constitutions.
The motion to commit a Bill of Rights failed 10-0. (What happened here? We are woefully less informed for the lack of a professional court recorder. I am in disbelief there was so little debate around the issue.)
George Mason motioned to reconsider the 13th Article, No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay imposts or duties on imports or exports . . . He wished to add, provided nothing herein contained shall be construed to restrain any State from laying duties upon exports for the sole purpose of defraying the charges of inspecting, packing, storing and indemnifying the losses, in keeping the commodities in the care of public officers, before exportation." (These Southerners knew how to look out for themselves.)
James Madison seconded and Mr. Morris concurred. It was a harmless amendment and was suited to the object.
Jonathan Dayton (NJ) feared the clause would allow PA to tax NJ under pretense of inspection duties. (Recall that NJ and NC paid heavy taxes on goods imported from other States under the Confederacy)
Nathaniel Gorham (MA) and John Langdon (NH) warned the clause would be abused.
James Madison viewed the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as adequate redress. This was the only avenue against injurious acts from the States as opposed to his rejected idea of Congressional negative over State Laws.
Thomas Fitzsimmons (PA) said that incidental duties on flour and tobacco have never been considered duties on exports.
John Dickinson (DE) motioned and Pierce Butler (SC) seconded Congressional approval of all inspection duties because, rest assured, NH, DE, NJ and other States will be oppressed by their neighbors.
The Convention adjourned before taking the question.
George Mason, principal author of the VA Bill of Rights, wished to add a similar Bill to the Constitution. His request was soundly defeated; not even his fellow VA delegates agreed. Why?
Roger Sherman pointed out that States already had Bills of Rights, and being in force were sufficient. Not so, Mr. Mason shot back, for the Constitution and laws of the federal government would be paramount. Shermans point was that held by the convention; why for instance declare that liberty of the press should be inviolable when Congressional power did not extend to the press?
Madisons notes on the subject ended there and a quick vote was taken. Absent further discussion at the Convention, historians attributed several reasons for opposition based on subsequent debate from State Ratifying Conventions.
In no particular order, slavery comes to mind. While on the downswing in Northern States, their people did not particularly like free blacks either, and denied them citizenship rights. The four Southernmost States of course depended on the institution, and while VA could get away with ignoring human bondage in its Declaration of Rights, it was something else for a national charter to brazenly contradict itself.
Next was fear of government usurpation of rights not enumerated, for it is impossible to list all of our God given rights. In recent times we have seen this occur. The Ninth Amendment, which plainly exists to secure our un-enumerated rights, has been ignored to the point of irrelevancy.
Finally, it is thought Mr. Mason, who would not sign the Constitution and actively oppose it at the VA Ratifying Convention, may have purposely attempted to scuttle it. At this late stage, the Constitution represented a bundle of careful compromises that could be upset in the course of long debate over a Bill of Rights.