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Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, vol. 3 [1911]

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Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, ed. Max Farrand (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911). Vol. 3.

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About this Title:

Volume 3 contains numerous supplementary records, the Virginia and other plans, and an index by clauses of the US Constitution. The records of the Federal Convention which was held in Philadelphia between May and September 1787. The sessions were secret but the proceedings were reconstructed from notes kept by the official secretary and some participants, most notably James Madison.

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The text is in the public domain.

Fair use statement:

This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
Volume III
Edition: current; Page: [ii]
EDITED BY MAX FARRAND professor of history in yale university
Volume III
Edition: current; Page: [iii]

Copyright, 1911, by Yale University Press

The Plimpton Press Norwood Mass. U.S.A.

Edition: current; Page: [1]


Edition: current; Page: [2] Edition: current; Page: [3]


  • I Resolution of Congress, February 21, 1787.
  • II Governor to Naval Officers of North Carolina, March 1,
  • III Otto to Montmorin, April 10,
  • IV Caswell to Martin, April 11,
  • V Resolution of Congress, April 23,
  • VI Jackson to Washington, April 24,
  • VIa Ingersoll to Johnson, April 28,
  • VII Several Gentlemen of Rhode Island to Chairman of Convention, May 11,
  • VIII Washington’s Diary, May 14-15,
  • IX Madison to Jefferson, May 15,
  • X Washington’s Diary, May 16-17,
  • XI Franklin to Price, May 18,
  • XII Franklin to Jordan, May 18,
  • XIII Washington’s Diary, May 18-19,
  • XIIIa Pennsylvania Journal, May 19,
  • XIV Washington to Lee, May 20,
  • XV Mason to his Son, May 20,
  • XVI Mason to Lee, May 21,
  • XVII Read to Dickinson, May 21,
  • XVIII Washington’s Diary, May 21-24,
  • XIX Grayson to Madison, May 24,
  • XIXa King to Wadsworth, May 24,
  • XX Washington’s Diary, May 25,
  • XXI Madison to Pendleton, May 27,
  • XXII Madison to his Father, May 27,
  • XXIII Mason to his Son, May 27,
  • XXIV Randolph to Randolph, May 27,
  • XXV Washington’s Diary, May 28,
  • XXVI Blount to Caswell, May 28,
  • XXVII Grayson to Monroe, May 29,
  • XXVIII Knox to Washington, May 29,
  • XXIX Davie to Iredell, May 30,
  • XXX Washington to Jefferson, May 30,
  • XXXI Washington’s Diary, May 30-June 1,Edition: current; Page: [4]
  • XXXII Mason to his Son, June 1, 1787.
  • XXXIII Washington’s Diary, June 2,
  • XXXIV Rush to Price, June 2,
  • XXXV Wadsworth to King, June 3,
  • XXXVa Washington’s Diary, June 4,
  • XXXVI Washington to La Fayette, June 6,
  • XXXVII Madison to Jefferson, June 6,
  • XXXVIII Randolph to Randolph, June 6,
  • XXXVIIIa Madison to Short, June 6,
  • XXXIX Brearley to Dayton, June 9,
  • XL Carrington to Jefferson, June 9,
  • XLI Otto to Montmorin, June 10,
  • XLII Gerry to Monroe, June 11,
  • XLIII Spaight to Caswell, June 12,
  • XLIV North Carolina Delegates to Caswell, June 14,
  • XLV Varnum to Washington, June 18,
  • XLVI Dane to King, June 19,
  • XLVII Randolph to Randolph, June 21,
  • XLVIII Morris to his Sons, June 25,
  • XLIX Johnson to his Son, June 27,
  • L Mason to Randolph, June 30,
  • LI Washington to Stuart, July 1,
  • LII Governor to North Carolina Delegates, July 1,
  • LIII Bond to Carmarthen, July 2,
  • LIIIa Washington’s Diary, July 2,
  • LIV Hamilton to Washington, July 3,
  • LV Spaight to Iredell, July 3,
  • LVI Dane to King, July 5,
  • LVII Williamson to Iredell, July 8,
  • LVIII Randolph’s Suggestion for Conciliating Small States, July 10,
  • LIX Washington to Hamilton, July 10,
  • LX Blount to Caswell, July 10,
  • LXI Randolph to Randolph, July 12,
  • LXII Manasseh Cutler: Journal, July 13,
  • LXIII Wythe to —, July 16,
  • LXIV Davie to Iredell, July 17,
  • LXV Madison to Jefferson, July 18,
  • LXVa Pennsylvania Packet, July 19,
  • LXVI Williamson to Iredell, July 22,
  • LXVII Franklin to Jones, July 22,
  • LXVIII Jay to Washington, July 25,
  • LXIX Otto to Montmorin, July 25,Edition: current; Page: [5]
  • LXX Caswell to Spaight, July 26, 1787.
  • LXXI Hamilton to Auldjo, July 26,
  • LXXII Martin to Caswell, July 27,
  • LXXIII Washington’s Diary, July 27,
  • LXXIV Monroe to Jefferson, July 27,
  • LXXV Madison to his Father, July 28,
  • LXXVI Gilman to Gilman, July 31,
  • LXXVIa Butler to Butler, August 1,
  • LXXVII McClurg to Madison, August 5,
  • LXXVIII Washington’s Diary, August 6,
  • LXXIX Davie to Iredell, August 6,
  • LXXX North Carolina Delegates to Governor, August 7,
  • LXXXI Spaight to Iredell, August 12,
  • LXXXII Madison to his Father, August 12,
  • LXXXIII Gerry to Warren, August 13,
  • LXXXIIIa Pennsylvania Herald, August 15,
  • LXXXIV Washington to LaFayette, August 15,
  • LXXXV Washington to Knox, August 19,
  • LXXXVI Hamilton to King, August 20,
  • LXXXVII Williamson to Caswell, August 20,
  • LXXXVIII Blount to Caswell, August 20,
  • LXXXIX Martin to Caswell, August 20,
  • XC Brearley to Paterson, August 21,
  • XCI McClurg to Madison, August 22,
  • XCII Pennsylvania Journal, August 22,
  • XCIII Randolph to Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, August 22,
  • XCIV Davie to Caswell, August 23,
  • XCIVa Pennsylvania Packet, August 23,
  • XCV Stiles’s Diary, August 27,
  • XCVI Hamilton to King, August 28,
  • XCVII Gorham to Strong, August 29,
  • XCVIII Jefferson to Adams, August 30,
  • XCIX Washington to Jay, September 2,
  • C Randolph to Randolph, September 2,
  • CI Madison to his Father, September 4,
  • CII Collins to St. Clair, September 4,
  • CIII Madison to Jefferson, September 6,
  • CIV Phillips to the Convention, September 7,
  • CV Dayton to Dayton, September 9,
  • CVI Jones to Madison, September 13,
  • CVII Sydney to Lord Dorchester, September 14,
  • CVIII Dickinson to Read, September 15,Edition: current; Page: [6]
  • CIX Washington’s Diary, September 15, 1787.
  • CX Washington’s Diary, September 17,
  • CXI Jackson to Washington, September 17,
  • CXIa Pennsylvania Herald, September 18,
  • CXII Gilman to Sullivan, September 18,
  • CXIII Gilman to Gilman, September 18,
  • CXIV Randolph to Randolph, September 18,
  • CXV North Carolina Delegates to Governor, September 18,
  • CXVI McHenry: Anecdotes.
  • CXVII Anecdote: Morris and Washington.
  • CXVIII Pierce: Anecdote.
  • CXIX Pierce: Character Sketches of Delegates.
  • CXX Franklin to Mrs. Mecom, September 20,
  • CXXI Madison to Pendleton, September 20,
  • CXXII Carrington to Madison, September 23,
  • CXXIII Sherman and Ellsworth to Governor of Connecticut, September 26,
  • CXXIV Pierce to Tucker, September 28,
  • CXXV Wilson: Address to Citizens of Philadelphia, October 6,
  • CXXVI Mason to Washington, October 7,
  • CXXVIa Butler to Butler, October 8,
  • CXXVII Washington to Humphreys, October 10,
  • CXXVIII Letter to Jefferson, October 11,
  • CXXIX Pinckney: Observations on Plan of Government.
  • CXXX Madison to Washington, October 14,
  • CXXXI Randolph to Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, October 16,
  • CXXXII Washington to Stuart, October 17,
  • CXXXIII Gerry to Massachusetts Legislature, October 18,
  • CXXXIV Madison to Washington, October 18,
  • CXXXV Washington to Madison, October 22,
  • CXXXVI Franklin to Grand, October 22,
  • CXXXVII Madison to Jefferson, October 24,
  • CXXXVIIa Madison to Short, October 24,
  • CXXXVIII Madison to Pendleton, October 28,
  • CXXXIX Ellsworth: A Landholder. (November 5,)
  • CXL Washington to Mrs. Graham, November 16,
  • CXLI Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, November 23,
  • CXLII Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, November 24,
  • CXLIII Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, November 26,
  • CXLIV Ellsworth: The Landholder. (November 26,)Edition: current; Page: [7]
  • CXLV Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, November 28, 1787.
  • CXLVI Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, November 28,
  • CXLVIa McHenry before Maryland House of Delegates, November 29,
  • CXLVIb Martin before Maryland House of Delegates, November 29,
  • CXLVII Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, November 30,
  • CXLVIII Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, December 3,
  • CXLIX Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, December 4,
  • CL Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, December 7,
  • CLI Ellsworth: The Landholder. (December 10,)
  • CLII Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, December 11,
  • CLIII Wilson in Pennsylvania Convention, December 11,
  • CLIV Ellsworth: The Landholder. (December 17,)
  • CLV Madison to Washington, December 20,
  • CLVI Stiles’s Diary, December 21,
  • CLVII Ellsworth: The Landholder. December 24,
  • CLVIII Martin’s Genuine Information, December 28,
  • CLIX Otto to Montmorin. Character Sketches.
  • CLX Williamson: On New Plan of Government, 1788.
  • CLXI Hamilton: The Federalist, No. XXXIII. (January 3,)
  • CLXII Gerry: Reply to A Landholder, I. (January 5,)
  • CLXIII Ellsworth in Connecticut Convention, January 7,
  • CLXIV Washington to Randolph, January 8,
  • CLXV R. Morris to a Friend, January,
  • CLXVI Madison: The Federalist, No. XXXVII. (January 11,)
  • CLXVII Yates and Lansing to Governor of New York.
  • CLXVIII Strong in Massachusetts Convention, January 15,
  • CLXIX Strong in Massachusetts Convention, January 16,
  • CLXX Debate in South Carolina Legislature, January 16,
  • CLXXI C. C. Pinckney in South Carolina House of Representatives, January 17,
  • CLXXII King in Massachusetts Convention, January 17,
  • CLXXIII C. C. Pinckney in South Carolina House of Representatives, January 18,
  • CLXXIV Madison: The Federalist, No. XL. (January 18,)
  • CLXXV Martin’s Defense of Gerry. January 18,
  • CLXXVI Strong in Massachusetts Convention, January 18,
  • CLXXVII Proceedings in Massachusetts Convention, January 19,
  • CLXXVIII King and Strong in Massachusetts Convention, January 19,
  • CLXXIX Belknap to Hazard, January 20,
  • CLXXX Lincoln to Washington, January 20,Edition: current; Page: [8]
  • CLXXXI Gerry to Vice President of Massachusetts Convention, January 21, 1788.
  • CLXXXII King in Massachusetts Convention, January 21,
  • CLXXXIII King in Massachusetts Convention, January 24,
  • CLXXXIV King in Massachusetts Convention, January 28,
  • CLXXXV L. Martin to Deye, January 29,
  • CLXXXVI Washington to La Fayette, February 7,
  • CLXXXVII Franklin to Le Veillard, February 17,
  • CLXXXVIII Madison: The Federalist, No. LXII.
  • CLXXXIX Ellsworth: The Landholder, X. (February 29,)
  • CXC Martin’s Reply to The Landholder, March 3,
  • CXCI Martin’s Reply to The Landholder, March 14,
  • CXCII Martin’s Reply to The Landholder, March 19,
  • CXCIII Martin’s Letter to the Citizens of Maryland, March 25,
  • CXCIV Nicholas to Madison, April 5,
  • CXCV Franklin to Editor of Federal Gazette, April 8,
  • CXCVI Madison to Randolph, April 10,
  • CXCVII Franklin to LeVeillard, April 22,
  • CXCVIII Washington to La Fayette, April 28,
  • CXCIX Gerry: Reply to a Landholder, II, April 30,
  • CC Pinckney: Letter in State Gazette of South Carolina, May 2,
  • CCa Butler to Butler, May 5,
  • CCI Dickinson: Letters of Fabius, May,
  • CCII Mason to Jefferson, May 26,
  • CCIII Carroll to Madison, May 28,
  • CCIV Williamson to Madison, June 2,
  • CCV Randolph in Virginia Convention, June 4,
  • CCVI Randolph in Virginia Convention, June 6,
  • CCVII Randolph in Virginia Convention, June 7,
  • CCVIII Randolph in Virginia Convention, June 10,
  • CCIX Madison in Virginia Convention, June 12,
  • CCX Debate in Virginia Convention, June 14,
  • CCXI Daniel Carroll: Notes and Correspondence.
  • CCXII Debate in Virginia Convention, June 17,
  • CCXIII Madison in Virginia Convention, June 18,
  • CCXIV Debate in Virginia Convention, June 19,
  • CCXV Madison in Virginia Convention, June 20,
  • CCXVI Hamilton in New York Convention, June 20,
  • CCXVII Debate in Virginia Convention, June 21,
  • CCXVIII Debate in New York Convention, June 23,Edition: current; Page: [9]
  • CCXIX Debate in New York Convention, June 24, 1788.
  • CCXX Randolph in Virginia Convention, June 25,
  • CCXXI Debate in New York Convention, June 28,
  • CCXXII Smith in New York Convention, July 4,
  • CCXXIII Cutting to Jefferson, July 11,
  • CCXXIV Washington to Newenham, July 20,
  • CCXXV Debate in North Carolina Convention, July 24,
  • CCXXVI Davie in North Carolina Convention, July 25,
  • CCXXVII Debate in North Carolina Convention, July 26,
  • CCXXVIII Debate in North Carolina Convention, July 28,
  • CCXXIX Davie in North Carolina Convention, July 29,
  • CCXXX Spaight in North Carolina Convention, July 30,
  • CCXXXI Lansing and Yates to Smith, October 3,
  • CCXXXII Madison to Mazzei, October 8,
  • CCXXXIII Dorchester to Sydney, October 14,
  • CCXXXIV Franklin to LaRochefoucauld, October 22,
  • CCXXXV Madison to Turberville, November 2,
  • CCXXXVI Sherman: Citizen of New Haven, December 4,
  • CCXXXVII Pinckney to King, January 26, 1789.
  • CCXXXVIII Pinckney to Madison, March 28,
  • CCXXXIX Madison in House of Representatives, May 13,
  • CCXL Madison in House of Representatives, May 15,
  • CCXLI Debate in House of Representatives, May 19,
  • CCXLII Debate in House of Representatives, June 8,
  • CCXLIII Sherman in House of Representatives, June 18,
  • CCXLIV Baldwin in House of Representatives, June 19,
  • CCXLV Sherman to Adams, July 20,
  • CCXLVI Sherman in House of Representatives, August 14,
  • CCXLVII Madison to Randolph, August 21,
  • CCXLVIII Sherman in House of Representatives, August 21,
  • CCXLIX Washington and Jefferson: Anecdote.
  • CCL Sherman in House of Representatives February 3, 1790.
  • CCLI Baldwin in House of Representatives, February 12,
  • CCLII Gerry in House of Representatives, February 25,
  • CCLIII Coxe to Madison, March 31,
  • CCLIV Madison in House of Representatives, April 22,
  • CCLV Sherman in House of Representatives, May 3,
  • CCLVI Sherman in House of Representatives, May 25,
  • CCLVII Madison in House of Representatives, February 2, 1791.
  • CCLVIII Gerry in House of Representatives, February 7,
  • CCLIX Jefferson: On the National Bank, February 15,Edition: current; Page: [10]
  • CCLX Hamilton: On the National Bank, February 23, 1791.
  • CCLXI Baldwin in House of Representatives, November 10,
  • CCLXII Gerry in House of Representatives, November 21,
  • CCLXIII Dayton in House of Representatives, December 22,
  • CCLXIV Williamson in House of Representatives, January 24, 1792,
  • CCLXV Williamson in House of Representatives, February 3,
  • CCLXVI Madison in House of Representatives, February 6,
  • CCLXVII Jefferson: Anas, April 9,
  • CCLXVIII Hamilton to Carrington, May 26,
  • CCLXIX Mason’s Account of Certain Proceedings in Convention, September 30,
  • CCLXX Hamilton: Reply to Anonymous Charges.
  • CCLXXI Anonymous Letter to Hamilton, August 30, 1793.
  • CCLXXII Baldwin in House of Representatives, March 14, 1796.
  • CCLXXIII Secretary of State received Convention Papers from Washington, March 19,
  • CCLXXIV Washington: Message to House of Representatives, March 30,
  • CCLXXV Madison to Jefferson, April 4,
  • CCLXXVI Madison in House of Representatives, April 6,
  • CCLXXVII Findley in House of Representatives, January 23, 1798.
  • CCLXXVIII Baldwin: Incident in House of Representatives, March 11,
  • CCLXXIX Pinckney in House of Representatives, May 10,
  • CCLXXX Debate in House of Representatives, June 16-20,
  • CCLXXXI Gallatin in House of Representatives, June 19,
  • CCLXXXII Baldwin in House of Representatives, January 11, 1799.
  • CCLXXXIII Baldwin in House of Representatives, January 15,
  • CCLXXXIV Madison to Jefferson, February 8,
  • CCLXXXV Morris: Oration upon Washington.
  • CCLXXXVI Debate in United States Senate, January 23, 1800.
  • CCLXXXVII Pinckney in United States Senate, March 5,
  • CCLXXXVIII Pinckney in United States Senate, March 28,
  • CCLXXXIX Morris in United States Senate, January 8, 1802.Edition: current; Page: [11]
  • CCXC Morris in United States Senate, January 14, 1802.
  • CCXCI Morris to President of New York Senate, December 25,
  • CCXCII Hamilton’s Proposals in Federal Convention.
  • CCXCIII Wood to Bancroft, March 6, 1880 (1802).
  • CCXCIV Pickering to Hamilton, April 5, 1803.
  • CCXCV Hamilton to Pickering, September 16,
  • CCXCVI Pickering to Hamilton, October 18,
  • CCXCVII Dayton in United States Senate, October 24,
  • CCXCVIII King to Pickering, November 4,
  • CCXCIX Butler in United States Senate, November 23,
  • CCC Dayton in United States Senate, November 24,
  • CCCI Morris to Livingston, November 25,
  • CCCII Dayton in United States Senate, November 29,
  • CCCIII Debate in United States Senate, December 2,
  • CCCIV Morris to Livingston, December 4,
  • CCCV Morris to Morris, December 10,
  • CCCVI Impeachment of Chase, February 23-25, 1804.
  • CCCVII Dayton in United States Senate, March 19,
  • CCCVIII Madison to Webster, October 12,
  • CCCIX Governor Lewis to —,
  • CCCX Genet: Letter to Electors, 1808.
  • CCCXI Madison to Jefferson, July 17, 1810.
  • CCCXII Eppes to Madison, November 1,
  • CCCXIII Morris to Walsh, February 5, 1811.
  • CCCXIV Morris to Pickering, December 22, 1814.
  • CCCXV Morris to Kent, January 12, 1815.
  • CCCXVI Jefferson to Adams, August 10,
  • CCCXVII Morris to Wells, February 24,
  • CCCXVIII King in United States Senate, March 20, 1816.
  • CCCXIX William Few: Autobiography.
  • CCCXX Madison to Adams, December 23, 1817.
  • CCCXXI Madison to Monroe, December 27,
  • CCCXXII King in United States Senate, January 12, 1818.
  • CCCXXIII Resolution of Congress, March 27,
  • CCCXXIV Madison to Adams, November 2,
  • CCCXXV Adams: Memoirs, November 19,
  • CCCXXVI Pinckney to Adams, December 30,
  • CCCXXVII King in United States Senate, March, 1819.
  • CCCXXVIII Adams: Memoirs, May 13-June 2,
  • CCCXXIX Madison to Adams, June 7,
  • CCCXXX Madison to Adams, June 27,
  • CCCXXXI Madison to Roane, September 2,Edition: current; Page: [12]
  • CCCXXXII Madison to Walsh, November 27, 1819.
  • CCCXXXIII Madison to Walsh, January 11, 1820.
  • CCCXXXIV Lowrie in United States Senate, January 20,
  • CCCXXXV Madison to Monroe, February 10,
  • CCCXXXVI Pinckney in House of Representatives, February 14,
  • CCCXXXVII Madison to Adams, June 13,
  • CCCXXXVIII Pinckney in House of Representatives, February 13, 1821.
  • CCCXXXIX Madison to Gales, August 26,
  • CCCXL Madison to Ritchie, September 15,
  • CCCXLI Madison to Jackson, December 27,
  • CCCXLII Madison: Note to Speech on Right of Suffrage.
  • CCCXLIII Madison: General Remarks on Convention.
  • CCCXLIV Adams: Memoirs, January 9-11, 1823.
  • CCCXLV Madison to Hay, August 23,
  • CCCXLVI King to King, September 29,
  • CCCXLVII Madison to Jefferson, January 14, 1824.
  • CCCXLVIII King in United States Senate, March 18,
  • CCCXLIX King to King, March 23,
  • CCCL Madison to Livingston, April 17,
  • CCCLI Madison to Lee, June 25,
  • CCCLII Madison to Lee, January 14, 1825.
  • CCCLIII Cobb in United States Senate, February 23,
  • CCCLIV Benton on King’s Retiring from Senate.
  • CCCLV Steele: Anecdote of Convention, September,
  • CCCLVI Madison to Stevenson, March 25, 1826.
  • CCCLVII Madison to Cooper, December 26,
  • CCCLVIII Madison to Smith, February 2, 1827.
  • CCCLIX Madison to Everett, June 3, 1827.
  • CCCLX Pickering to Jackson, September 2,
  • CCCLXI Madison to Mason, December 29,
  • CCCLXII Pitkin: On Signing the Constitution, 1828.
  • CCCLXIII Madison to Van Buren, May 13,
  • CCCLXIV Madison to Cabell, September 18,
  • CCCLXV Madison to Cabell, February 2, 1829.
  • CCCLXVI Madison to Cabell, February 13,
  • CCCLXVII Sparks: Journal, April 19-May 4, 1830.
  • CCCLXVIII Adams: Memoirs, May 4,
  • CCCLXIX Sparks to Madison, May 5,
  • CCCLXX Madison to Hurlbert, May,
  • CCCLXXI Madison to Hillhouse, May,
  • CCCLXXII Madison to Stevenson, November 27,Edition: current; Page: [13]
  • CCCLXXIII Madison to Teft, December 3, 1830.
  • CCCLXXIV Madison to Chapman, January 6, 1831.
  • CCCLXXV Madison to Ingersoll, February 2,
  • CCCLXXVI Madison to Sedgewick, February 12,
  • CCCLXXVII Madison to Robertson, March 27,
  • CCCLXXVIII Sparks to Madison, March 30,
  • CCCLXXIX Madison to Sparks, April 8,
  • CCCLXXX Madison to Paulding, April,
  • CCCLXXXI Madison to Paulding, April,
  • CCCLXXXII Madison to Paulding, June 6,
  • CCCLXXXIII Madison to Sparks, June 27,
  • CCCLXXXIV Madison to Paulding, June 27,
  • CCCLXXXV Madison on Pinckney Plan.
  • CCCLXXXVI Sparks to Madison, November 14,
  • CCCLXXXVII Madison to Sparks, November 25,
  • CCCLXXXVIII Madison to Trist, December,
  • CCCLXXXIX Madison to Austin, February 6, 1832.
  • CCCXC Madison to Davis,
  • CCCXCI Madison to Rives, October 21, 1833.
  • CCCXCII Madison to Tyler,
  • CCCXCIII Madison to Grimke, January 6, 1834.
  • CCCXCIV Madison to Cogswell, March 10,
  • CCCXCV Trist: Memoranda, September 27,
  • CCCXCVI Madison to Coles, October 15,
  • CCCXCVII Madison to Duer, June 15, 1835.
  • CCCXCVIII Madison on Nullification, 1835-6.
  • CCCXCIX Madison to Wood, February 27,
  • CCCC Madison to —, March,
  • CCCCI Madison: Preface to Debates.
  • Supplement
  • CCCCII Johnson’s Diary, June 1-September 18, 1787.
  • CCCCIII Dickinson: Extract from letter.
1787, February 21

Resolution of Congress.1

Whereas there is provision in the Articles of Confederation & perpetual Union for making alterations therein by the Assent of a Congress of the United States and of the legislatures of the several States; And whereas experience hath evinced that there are defects in the present Confederation, as a mean to remedy which several Edition: current; Page: [14] of the States and particularly the State of New York by express instructions to their delegates in Congress have suggested a convention for the purposes expressed in the following resolution and such Convention appearing to be the most probable mean of establishing in these states a firm national government

Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several states be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government & the preservation of the Union

Richard Caswell
Caswell, Richard
1st March, 1787

The Governor of North Carolina [Richard Caswell] to the Naval Officers of the Ports of that State.1



I find it absolutely necessary for the advantage of the State to require that you do without delay furnish me with an attested Accot. in your official capacity as Naval Officer of Port Brunswick of each & very article exported from your port in the years 1785 & 1786. I mean the amot. of each article, each year, of the growth and manufacture of this State, and if possible the no. and class of vessels that is ships, sloops, schooners, &c., with the nation to which each certain no. belongs.

Indeed three Copies will be necessary, one to be laid before Congress, one before the Convention of Deputies proposed to be held at Philadelphia the first of May next, and one to lodge with the Executive for the information of the General Assembly. Pray do not fail in furnishing me as speedily as possible otherwise it will be too late to transmit the Copy to the Convention. Any expence attending this measure must be charged to the public.

(Governor Caswell to John Walker, James Coor, Wm. Brown, M. Payne and Jno. Humphries.)

Edition: current; Page: [15]
10 avril, 1787
New York

Mr. Otto, chargé d’affaires de France, au Secrétaire d’Etat des Affaires Etrangères, comte de Montmorin.1

No. 85.


Délégués de la pluspart des Etats nommés pour convenir d’un nouveau système de gouvernement.L’insuffisance de la confédération actuelle et la nécessité absolue de la refondre entièrement sont si bien senties, que la plupart des Etats ont nommé sans délai des délégués chargés de s’assembler à Philadelphie pour convenir d’un nouveau système de gouvernement moins défectueux et moins précaire que celui qui existe dans ce moment ci, ou plutôt qu devroit exister.Le Congrès n’est qu’un phantome de souveraineté. Le Congrès n’est réellement qu’un phantome de souveraineté destitué de pouvoirs, d’énergie et de considération, et l’édifice qu’il doit supporter tombe en ruine. Cette assemblée,Résolution cijointe du Congrès pour suggérer l’idée d’une nouvelle Convention générale. craignant de perdre le peu d’éclat qui lui reste, a du moins voulu avoir l’air de suggérer l’idée d’un nouvelle Convention générale; c’est dans ce but qu’elle a publié la résolution ci jointe.2 Le Rhodeisland est jusqu’ici le seul Etat qui ait positivement refusé d’envoyer des délégués a Philadelphie;Le Rhode-Island est le seul Etat qui ait refusé d’envoyer à Philadelphie des délégués pour cet objet. cette conduite, jointe à plusieurs autres mesures également malhonêtes et imprudentes l’ont rendu complètement méprisable en Amérique. Les papiers publics sont remplis de sarcasmes contre cette petite République, et malhereusement elle paraît mériter tout le mal qu’on en dit.Cet Etat est méprisé en Amérique.

Membres les plus distingués qui doivent composer cette assemblée à Philadelphie pour régler la nouvelle Convention générale, qui est devenue d’une nécessité indispensable.Si tous les délégués nommés pour cette Convention de Philadelphie y assistent, on n’aura jamais vu, même en Europe, une assemblée plus respectable par les talens, les connoissances, le désintéressement et le patriotisme de ceux qui la composeront. Le gal. Washington, le Dr. Franklin et un grand nombre d’autres personnages distingués, quoique moins connus en Europe, y sont appellés. On ne sauroit douter que les intérêts Edition: current; Page: [16] de la confédération n’y soient plus solidement discutés qu’ils ne l’ont jamais été. Une triste expérience de plusieurs années ne prouve que trop qu’il est impossible que les choses restent sur le pied actuel. Pendant la guerre, le Congrès empruntait, pour ainsi dire, sa force des armées angloises, qui infestoient les Etats de toutes parts; le papier monnoye qu’il pouvoit créer à l’infini, les subsides de la France, l’énthousiasme et le patriotisme des individus, les confiscations, des troupes nombreuses lui donnoient une importance qui s’est évanouie au moment de la paix. Il s’agit donc d’adopter un nouveau plan de confédération, de donner au Congrès des pouvoirs coercitifs, des impôts considérables, une armée, le droit de régler exclusivement le commerce de tous les Etats. Mais cette nouvelle assemblée n’a elle-même que le pouvoir de proposer. Les Etats voudront-ils se laisser dépouiller d’une partie de leur souveraineté? Voudront-ils consentir à n’être plus que des provinces d’un grand Empire? La majorité des Etats pourra-t-elle faire la loi à ceux qui ne voudront pas sacrifier leur indépendance actuelle? C’est ce dont on a lieu de douter; mais je dois m’attacher, Monseigneur, à vous présenter des faits et non des conjectures.

Je ne puis cependant m’empêcher de vous observer que, quoique cette nouvelle Convention soit l’unique moyen de réunir les membres épars de la Confédération, les Américains les plus instruits sont bien loin de le regarder comme suffisant. Il règne dans la formation de ces Etats un vice radical qui s’opposera toujours à une union parfaite, c’est que les Etats n’ont réellement aucun intérêt pressant d’être sous un seul chef. Leur politique, qui se borne à leurs speculations com[m]erciales, leur inspire même réciproquement de l’aversion et de la jalousie, passions qui se trouvoient absorbées pendant la guerre par l’enthousaiasme de la liberté et de l’indépendance, mais qui com[m]encent à reprendre toute leur force. Ces républicains n’ont Edition: current; Page: [17] plus de Philippe à leurs portes, et, comme ils ont secoué le joug de l’Angleterre pour ne pas payer des taxes, ils portent avec impatience celui d’un Congrès, qui ne peut que les charger d’impôts sans leur offrir aucune protection contre des ennemis qui n’existent plus. La confédération n’est réellement soutenue que par le parti aristocratique et ce parti s’affoiblit tous les jours. Les Cincinnati et tous les créanciers publics se trouvent dans cette classe, mais à mesure qu’ils sont ruinés par les intrigues du parti opposé ou par l’épuisement du trésor continental, ils deviennent plébéiens pour obtenir des places de confiance ou du moins pour avoir de quoi vivre, d’autres vont porter dans les districts occidentaux leur industrie et les foibles débris de leur fortune; un petit nombre d’entre eux passe en Angleterre.

Je suis avec un profond respect, Monseigneur, votre très humble et très obéissant serviteur,

Richard Caswell
Caswell, Richard
April 11, 1787
Alexander Martin
Martin, Alexander

Richard Caswell to Alexander Martin.1

Mr. Speight thinks the allowance not sufficient as ’tis probable the Convention may sit longer than we at first apprehended & as we are to acc’t he thinks with me, that ’tis best to draw one months further allowance,2 least we should be stinted as he was at Congress & obliged to run in debt. I have therefore enclosed you a Warrant for one months further allowance & as I presume you will not set out as soon as you mentioned you may have time to collect it.

April 23. 1787

Resolution of Congress.3

On motion of Mr Carrington seconded by Mr Johnson Resolved That the priviledge of sending & receiving letters and packets free of postage be extended to the members of the Convention to be held in Philadelphia on the second Monday in May next in the same manner as is allowed to the members of Congress. —

Edition: current; Page: [18]
William Jackson
Jackson, William
24th. Aprl 1787
George Washington
Washington, George

William Jackson to George Washington.1

W. Jackson to His Excellency General Washington Mount-Vernon

Flattered by the opinions of some of my friends, who have expressed a wish that I would offer myself a Candidate for the Office of Secretary to the fœderal Covention — I presume to communicate to you my intention — and to request (so far as you shall deem it consonant with the more important interests of the Public) your influence in procuring me the honor of that appointment.

To say more on this subject would be to offend against that generous friendship, which I am persuaded, if held compatible with the service of our Country, will prompt an active goodness in my favor.

[Endorsed:] From W. Jackson Esqr recd. 24th. Aprl 1787

Jared Ingersoll
Ingersoll, Jared
April 28th. 1787
William Samuel Johnson
Johnson, William Samuel

Jared Ingersoll to William Samuel Johnson.2

Major Jackson this moment called on me and expressed his willingness to serve the proposed Convention in the Character of Secretary and requested I would do him the favor to write you a line upon the Subject as it is the expectation as well as wish of people here that you may be among the Delegates from Connecticut.

I comply with the Desire of Major Jackson as I find a strange Idea is prevalent that a prior application of some sort forms a preferable Title and least some other person [sho]uld be able to anticipate him. . . .

P. S. In my haste I forgot to mention that some of your brethren in Congress, Col. Lee in particular can give you full information as to the Character of Major Jackson.

May 11. 1787

Several Gentlemen of Rhode Island to the Chairman of the General Convention.3


Since the Legislature of this State have finally declined sending Delegates to Meet you in Convention for the purposes mentioned in the Resolve of Congress of the 21st February 1787. the Merchants Edition: current; Page: [19] Tradesmen and others of this place, deeply affected with the evils of the present unhappy times, have thought proper to Communicate in writing their approbation of your Meeting, And their regret that it will fall short of a Compleat Representation of the Federal Union. —

The failure of this State was Owing to the Nonconcurrence of the Upper House of Assembly with a Vote passed in the Lower House, for appointing Delegates to attend the said Convention, at thier Session holden at Newport on the first Wednesday of the present Month. —

It is the general Opinion here and we believe of the well informed throughout this State, that full power for the Regulation of the Commerce of the United States, both Foreign & Domestick ought to be vested in the National Council.

And that Effectual Arrangements should also be made for giving Operation to the present powers of Congress in thier Requisitions upon the States for National purposes. —

As the Object of this Letter is chiefly to prevent any impressions unfavorable to the Commercial Interest of this State, from taking place in our Sister States from the Circumstance of our being unrepresented in the present National Convention, we shall not presume to enter into any detail of the objects we hope your deliberations will embrace and provide for being convinced they will be such as have a tendency to strengthen the Union, promote Commerce, increase the power & Establish the Credit of the United States.

The result of your deliberations tending to these desireable purposes we still hope may finally be Approved and Adopted by this State, for which we pledge our Influence and best exertions. —

In behalf of the Merchants, Tradesmen &c

We have the Honour to be with perfect Consideration & Respect
Your most Obedient &
Most Humble Servant’s
JOHN BROWN Jabez BOWEN }comtee

The Honble the Chairman of the General Convention


[Endorsed:] No 5. Letter from several Gentlemen of Rhode Edition: current; Page: [20] Island addressed to the honorable the Chairman of the General Convention signed in behalf of the Merchants, Tradesmen &ca

read on Monday May 28. 1787. — Ordered to lye on the table for farther consideration

George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.1

Monday, [May] 14. — This being the day appointed for the meeting of the Convention such members of it as were in town assembled at the State House, where it was found that two States only were represented, viz., Virginia and Pennsylvania. Agreed to meet again to-morrow at 11 o’clock. . . .

Tuesday, 15. — Repaired to the State Ho. at the hour appointed No more States represented, tho there were members (but not sufficient to form a quorum) from two or three others, viz., No. Carolina and Delaware, as also Jersey. Govr Randolph. of Virginia, came in to-day.

James Madison
Madison, James
May 15th. 1787
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson.2

Monday last was the day for the meeting of the Convention. The number as yet assembled is but small. Among the few is Genl Washington who arrived on sunday evening amidst the acclamations of the people, as well as more sober marks of the affection and veneration which continues to be felt for his character. The Governor Messrs. Wythe & Blair, and Docr. McClurg are also here. Col. Mason is to be here in a day or two. There is a prospect of a pretty full meeting on the whole, though there is less punctuality in the outset than was to be wished. Of this the late bad weather has been the principal cause. I mention these circumstances because it is possible, this may reach you before you hear from me through any other channel, and I add no others because it is merely possible.

George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.1

Wednesday, [May] 16. — Only two States represented. Agreed to meet at — o’clock. Doctr McClurg, of Virginia, came in. Dined at Doctr Franklin’s. . . .

Thursday, 17. — Mr. [Charles] Pinkney, of So. Carolina, coming in from New York, and Mr. Rutledge being here before, formed a representation from that State. Colonel Mason getting in this Edition: current; Page: [21] evening from Virginia, completed the whole number of this State in the delegation.

Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
May 18, 1787
Richard Price
Price, Richard

Benjamin Franklin to Richard Price.1

We have now meeting here a Convention of the principal people in the several States, for the purpose of revising the federal Constitution, and proposing such amendments as shall be thoroughly necessary. It is a most important business, and I hope will be attended with success.

Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
May 18, 1787
Thomas Jordan
Jordan, Thomas

Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Jordan.2

I received your very kind letter of February 27th, together with the cask of porter you have been so good as to send me. We have here at present what the French call une assemblée des notables a convention composed of some of the principal people from the several States of our confederation. They did me the honor of dining with me last Wednesday,3 when the cask was broached, and its contents met with the most cordial reception and universal approbation. In short, the company agreed unanimously, that it was the best porter they had ever tasted.

George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.4

Friday, [May] 18. — The State of New York was represented. . . .

Saturday, 19. — No more States represented. Agreed to meet at 1 o’clock on Monday.

May 19, 1787

Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser.5

A return of the Delegates appointed to the Foederal Convention: — The names of those who have already arrived in this City, are printed in Italic.

Edition: current; Page: [22]

New Hampshire. John Langdon, John Sparhawk, Pierce Long.

Massachusetts. Francis Dana, Elbridge Gerry, Nathan Gorham, Rufus King, Caleb Strong.

Connecticut. Their legislature were to meet in the beginning of this month, at which time it is supposed their delegates would be appointed.

Rhode Island. Has not made any appointment as yet.

New York. Robert Yates, Alexander Hamilton, John Lansing.

New Jersey. David Brearly, William Churchill Houston, William Patterson, John Neilson.

Pennsylvania. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, Thomas Fitzimmons, George Clymer, Jared Ingersol, James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris.

Delaware. John Dickinson, George Reed, Gunning Bedford, Richard Basset, Jacob Broome.

Maryland. Robert Hanson Harrison, Charles Carroll, of Carrolton, James McHenry.

Virginia. George Washington, Peyton Randolph, John Blair, James Maddison, George Mason, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee.

North Carolina. Alexander Martin, Willis Jones, Richard Dobbs Spaight, William Richardson Davie, William Blunt.

South Carolina. John Rutledge, Charles Caterworth Pinckney, Henry Laurens, Charles Pinckney, Pierce Butler.

Georgia. William Few, Abraham Baldwin, George Walton, William Pierce, William Houston, Nathaniel Pendelton.

George Washington
Washington, George
May 20th, 1787
Arthur Lee
Lee, Arthur

George Washington to Arthur Lee.1

My rheumatic complaint having very much abated . . . I have yielded to what appeared to be the wishes of many of my friends, and am now here as a delegate to the convention. Not more than four states were represented yesterday. If any have come in since, it is unknown to me. These delays greatly impede public measures, and serve to sour the temper of the punctual members, who do not like to idle away their time.

George Mason
Mason, George
May 20th, 1787
George Mason, Jr.
Mason, George Jr.

George Mason to George Mason, Jr.2

Upon our arrival here on Thursday evening, seventeenth May, I found only the States of Virginia and Pennsylvania fully represented; Edition: current; Page: [23] and there are at this time only five — New York, the two Carolinas, and the two before mentioned. All the States, Rhode Island excepted, have made their appointments; but the members drop in slowly; some of the deputies from the Eastern States are here, but none of them have yet a sufficient representation, and it will probably be several days before the Convention will be authorized to proceed to business. The expectations and hopes of all the Union centre in this Convention. God grant that we may be able to concert effectual means of preserving our country from the evils which threaten us.

The Virginia deputies (who are all here) meet and confer together two or three hours every day, in order to form a proper correspondence of sentiments; and for form’s sake, to see what new deputies are arrived, and to grow into some acquaintance with each other, we regularly meet every day at three o’clock. These and some occasional conversations with the deputies of different States, and with some of the general officers of the late army (who are here upon a general meeting of the Cincinnati), are the only opportunities I have hitherto had of forming any opinion upon the great subject of our mission, and, consequently, a very imperfect and indecisive one. Yet, upon the great principles of it, I have reason to hope there will be greater unanimity and less opposition, except from the little States, than was at first apprehended. The most prevalent idea in the principal States seems to be a total alteration of the present federal system, and substituting a great national council or parliament, consisting of two branches of the legislature, founded upon the principles of equal proportionate representation, with full legislative powers upon all the subjects of the Union; and an executive: and to make the several State legislatures subordinate to the national, by giving the latter the power of a negative upon all such laws as they shall judge contrary to the interest of the federal Union. It is easy to foresee that there will be much difficulty in organizing a government upon this great scale, and at the same time reserving to the State legislatures a sufficient portion of power for promoting and securing the prosperity and happiness of their respective citizens; yet with a proper degree of coolness, liberality and candor (very rare commodities by the bye), I doubt not but it may be effected. There are among a variety some very eccentric opinions upon this great subject; and what is a very extraordinary phenomenon, we are likely to find the republicans, on this occasion, issue from the Southern and Middle States, and the anti-republicans from the Eastern; however extraordinary this may at first seem, it may, I think be accounted for from a very common and natural impulse Edition: current; Page: [24] of the human mind. Men disappointed in expectations too hastily and sanguinely formed, tired and disgusted with the unexpected evils they have experienced, and anxious to remove them as far as possible, are very apt to run into the opposite extreme; and the people of the Eastern States, setting out with more republican principles, have consequently been more disappointed than we have been.

We found travelling very expensive — from eight to nine dollars per day. In this city the living is cheap. We are at the old Indian Queen in Fourth Street, where we are very well accommodated, have a good room to ourselves, and are charged only twenty-five Pennsylvania currency per day, including our servants and horses, exclusive of club in liquors and extra charges; so that I hope I shall be able to defray my expenses with my public allowance, and more than that I do not wish.

George Mason
Mason, George
May 21, 1787
Arthur Lee
Lee, Arthur

George Mason to Arthur Lee.1

I arrived in this city on Thursday evening last, but found so few of the deputies here from the several States that I am unable to form any certain opinion on the subject of our mission. The most prevalent idea I think at present is a total change of the federal system, and instituting a great national council or parliament upon the principles of equal, proportionate representation, consisting of two branches of the legislature invested with full legislative powers upon the objects of the Union; and to make the State legislatures subordinate to the national by giving to the latter a negative upon all such laws as they judge contrary to the principles and interest of the Union; to establish also a national executive, and a judiciary system with cognizance of all such matters as depend upon the law of nations, and such other objects as the local courts of justice may be inadequate to. . . .

I have received your favor by Major Jackson; nothing that I have heard has yet been mentioned upon this subject among the deputies now here; though I understand there are several candidates, which I am surprised at, as the office will be of so short duration, and merely honorary, or possibly introductory to something more substantial.

George Read
Read, George
May 21st, 1787
John Dickinson
Dickinson, John

George Read to John Dickinson.2

It was rather unlucky that you had not given me a hint of your Edition: current; Page: [25] wish to be in a lodging-house at an earlier day. Mrs. House’s,1 where I am, is very crowded, and the room I am presently in so small as not to admit of a second bed. That which I had heretofore, on my return from New York, was asked for Governor Randolph, it being then expected he would have brought his lady with him, which he did not, but she is expected to follow some time hence.

I have not seen Mr. Bassett, being from my lodgings when he called last evening. He stopt at the Indian Queen, where Mr. Mason, of Virginia, stays, the last of their seven deputies who came in. We have now a quorum from six States, to wit: South and North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York, and single deputies from three others, — Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, — whose additional ones are hourly expected, and also the Connecticut deputies, who have been appointed, within the last ten days, by the Legislature there. We have no particular accounts from New Hampshire, other than that the delegates to Congress were appointed deputies to this convention. Maryland you may probably have heard more certain accounts of than we who are here. Rhode Island hath made no appointment as yet.

The gentlemen who came here early, particularly Virginia, that had a quorum on the first day, express much uneasiness at the backwardness of individuals in giving attendance. It is meant to organize the body as soon as seven States’ quorums attend. I wish you were here.

I am in possession of a copied draft of a Federal system intended to be proposed, if something nearly similar shall not precede it. Some of its principal features are taken from the New York system of government. A house of delegates and senate for a general legislature, as to the great business of the Union. The first of them to be chosen by the Legislature of each State, in proportion to its number of white inhabitants, and three-fifths of all others, fixing a number for sending each representative. The second, to wit, the senate, to be elected by the delegates so returned, either from themselves or the people at large, in four great districts, into which the United States are to be divided for the purpose of forming this senate from, which, when so formed, is to be divided into four classes for the purpose of an annual rotation of a fourth of the members. A president having only executive powers for seven years. By this plan our State may have a representation in the House of Delegates of one member in eighty. I suspect it to be of importance to the small States that their deputies should keep a strict watch Edition: current; Page: [26] upon the movements and propositions from the larger States, who will probably combine to swallow up the smaller ones by addition, division, or impoverishment; and, if you have any wish to assist in guarding against such attempts, you will be speedy in your attendance.

George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.1

Monday, [May] 21. — Delaware State was represented. . . .

Tuesday, 22. — North Carolina represented. . . .

Wednesday, 23. — No more States represented. . . .

Thursday, 24. — No more States represented.

William Grayson
Grayson, William
24th. May 1787
James Madison
Madison, James

William Grayson to James Madison.2

Entre nous. I believe the Eastern people have taken ground they will not depart from respecting the Convention. — One legislature composed of a lower-house tri ennially elected and an Executive & Senate for a good number of years. — I shall see Gerry & Johnson, as they pass & may perhaps give you a hint.

Rufus King
King, Rufus
24 May 87
Jeremiah Wadsworth
Wadsworth, Jeremiah

Rufus King to Jeremiah Wadsworth.3

New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania Virginia North and South Carolina, are represented by a Quorum or the whole of their Delegates — New Jersey will probably be represented Tomorrow. Should this be the Case the Convention will be able to appoint their President and Secretary. General Washington will be placed in the Chair, and Temple Franklin or Majr. Jackson will be Secretary — Georgia and Maryland will be represented in three or four Days — I am mortified that I alone am from New England — the Backwardness may prove unfortunate — Pray hurry on your Delegates — some personal Sacrifices perhaps may stand in the way of their immediate attendance — But they ought not to yield to such Considerations — Believe me it may prove most unfortunate if they do not attend within a few days —

Edition: current; Page: [27]
George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.1

Friday, [May] 25. — Another delegate comes in from the State of New Jersey. Made a quorum. And seven States being now represented the body was organized and I was called to the Chair by a unanimous vote. Major Jackson was appointed Secretary and a Com’ee. consisting of Mr. Wythe, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Ch. Pinkney chosen to prepare rules and regulations by which the convention should be governed. To give time for this it adjourned till Monday, 10 o’clock.

James Madison
Madison, James
May 27. 1787
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund

James Madison to Edmund Pendleton.2

I have put off from day to day writing to my friends from this place in hopes of being able to say something of the Convention. Contrary to every previous calculation the bare quorum of seven States was not made up till the day before yesterday. The States composing it are N. York, N. Jersey, Pena. Delaware, Virga. N. Carolina & S. Carolina. Individual members are here from Massts. Maryland & Georgia; and our intelligence promises a compleat addition of the first and last, as also of Connecticut by tomorrow General Washington was called to the chair by a unanimous voice, and has accepted it. The Secretary is a Major Jackson. This is all that has yet been done except the appointment of a Committe for preparing the rules by which the Convention is to be governed in their proceedings. A few days will now furnish some data for calculating the probable result of the meeting. In general the members seem to accord in viewing our situation as peculiarly critical and in being averse to temporising expedients. I wish they may as readily agree when particulars are brought forward. Congress are reduced to five or six States, and are not likely to do any thing during the term of the Convention.

James Madison
Madison, James
May 27th. 1787

James Madison to his Father.3

We have been here for some time suffering a daily disappointment from the failure of the deputies to assemble for the Convention. Seven States were not made up till the day before yesterday. Our intelligence from N. York promises an addition of three more by tomorrow. General Washington was unanimously called to Edition: current; Page: [28] the Chair & has accepted it. It is impossible as yet to form a judgment of the result of this experiment. Every reflecting man becomes daily more alarmed at our situation.

George Mason
Mason, George
May 27, 1787
George Mason, Jr.
Mason, George Jr.

George Mason to George Mason, Jr.1

It is impossible to judge how long we shall be detained here, but from present appearances I fear until July, if not later. I begin to grow heartily tired of the etiquette and nonsense so fashionable in this city. It would take me some months to make myself master of them, and that it should require months to learn what is not worth remembering as many minutes, is to me so discouraging a circumstance as determines me to give myself no manner of trouble about them. . . .

We had yesterday, for the first time, a representation of seven States — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and the two Carolinas, and it is expected that the deputies from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia will be here by Monday or Tuesday. The State of Rhode Island has refused to appoint deputies, and although New Hampshire has appointed it is thought we shall be deprived of their representation by no provision having been made for defraying their expenses. The State of Delaware has tied up the hands of her deputies by an express direction to retain the principle in the present Confederation of each State having the same vote; no other State, so far as we have yet seen, hath restrained its deputies on any subject.

Nothing was done yesterday but unanimously appointing General Washington President; Major Jackson (by a majority of five States to two) Secretary; reading the credentials from the different States on the floor, and appointing a committee to draw up and report the rules of proceeding. It is expected our doors will be shut, and communications upon the business of the Convention be forbidden during its sitting. This I think myself a proper precaution to prevent mistakes and misrepresentation until the business shall have been completed, when the whole may have a very different complexion from that in which the several crude and indigested parts might in their first shape appear if submitted to the public eye.

Edition: current; Page: [29]
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund
May 27, 1787
Beverley Randolph
Randolph, Beverley

Edmund Randolph to Beverley Randolph.1

Seven States met on friday, appointed a committee to prepare rules, and adjourned ’till Monday. In four or five days we shall probably have every State represented, except Rhode Island, which has peremptorily refused to appoint deputies, and new Hampshire, of which we can hear nothing certain but her friendly temper towards the Union. I aught, however, to add, that a respectable minority in R. Island are solicitous that their State should participate in the Convention.

George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.2

Monday, [May] 28. — Met in Convention at 10 o’clock. Two States more, viz.: Massachusetts and Connecticut being represented, made nine more on the floor; proceeded to the establishment of rules for the government of the Convention and adjourned about 2 o’clock.

Tuesday, 29. — The same number of States met in the Convention as yesterday.

William Blount
Blount, William
May 28th, 1787
New York
Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor

William Blount to Governor Caswell.3

Soon after the arrival of Mr. Spaight at Philadelphia he informed me by letter that he had brought with him a Commission for me to attend the Convention at the place and Stead of your Excellency. I had been for some time before, and at this time, too indisposed to undertake a journey so far as Philadelphia; at present I am much on the Recovery and shall leave this in a few days to attend the duties of that appointment. On the 24th Inst., only Six States had appeared, among which North Carolina included and had four Members present; on the 25th there were Seven and at that period the Delegates from Massachusetts had passed through this City. North Carolina being so strongly represented and no Convention being formed until this day (if to-day) my absence as yet have been certainly of no moment, indeed I have not the Vanity to suppose my presence and assistance will be of much avail in so arduous a Business as the Amending the Confederation. For some days past not more than five States have appeared on the Floor of Congress Chamber, it is Generally believed that there will not appear a Sufficient Number to form a Congress until the Convention rises.

Edition: current; Page: [30]
William Grayson
Grayson, William
May 29th. 1787
N York
James Monroe
Monroe, James

William Grayson to James Monroe.1

The draught made from Congress of members for the Convention has made them very thin & no business of course is going on here: I do not believe that this will be the case untill that body shall be dissolved, which I hardly think will be the case these three months. What will be the result of their meeting I cannot with any certainty determine, but I hardly think much good can come of it: the people of America don’t appear to me to be ripe for any great innovations & it seems they are ultimately to ratify or reject: the weight of Genl. Washington as you justly observe is very great in America, but I hardly think it is sufficient to induce the people to pay money or part with power.

The delegates from the Eastwd. are for a very strong government, & wish to prostrate all ye. state legislature, & form a general system out of ye. whole; but I don’t learn that the people are with them, on ye. contrary in Massachuzets they think that government too strong & are about rebelling again, for the purpose of making it more democratical: In Connecticut they have rejected the requisition for ye. present year decidedly, & no Man there would be elected to the office of a constable if he was to declare that he meant to pay a copper towards the domestic debt: — R. Island has refused to send members — the cry there is for a good government after they have paid their debts in depreciated paper: — first demolish the Philistines /i, e, their Creditors/ & then for propriety.

N Hamshire has not paid a shilling, since peace, & does not ever mean to pay one to all eternity: — if it was attempted to tax the people for ye domestic debt 500 Shays would arise in a fortnight. — In N. York they pay well because they can do it by plundering N Jersey & Connecticut. — Jersey will go great lengths from motives of revenge and Interest: Pensylvany will join provided you let the sessions of the Executive of America be fixed in Philada. & give her other advantages in trade to compensate for the loss of State power. I shall make no observations on the southern States, but I think they will be/ perhaps from different motives/ as little disposed to part with efficient power as any in the Union.

Henry Knox
Knox, Henry
29 May 1787
General Washington
Washington, General

Henry Knox to General Washington.2

As you will have states sufficient to proceed to business, we hope Edition: current; Page: [31] to hear by the post of this day that you are completely organized. Mr Peirce, & Mr Houston from Georgia set off from this place for Philadelphia yesterday. Mr Sherman & Doctor Johnson will be in Philadelphia in the course of the week. I have not heard any thing from New Hampshire, but I am persuaded, from circumstances, that the delegates from that state will be with you by the 10th of June. I am indeed happy that the convention will be so full, as to feel a confidence that they represent the great majority of the people of the United States.

W. R. Davie
Davie, W. R.
May 30th, 1787
James Iredell
Iredell, James

W. R. Davie to James Iredell.1

After a very fatiguing and rapid journey I arrived here on the 22d. The gentlemen of the Convention had been waiting from day to day for the presence of seven States; on the 25th the members from Jersey attended, and Gen. Washington was chosen President. Yesterday nine States were represented, and the great business of the meeting was brought forward by Virginia, with whom the proposition for a Convention had originated.

As no progress can yet be expected in a business so weighty, and, at the same time, so complicated, you will not look for any news now from this quarter.

George Washington
Washington, George
30th May 1787
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas

George Washington to Thomas Jefferson.2

But, having since been appointed by my native State to attend the national convention, and having been pressed to a compliance in a manner, which it hardly becomes me to describe, I have, in a measure, been obliged to sacrifice my own sentiments, and to be present in Philadelphia. . . .

The business of this convention is as yet too much in embryo to form any opinion of the conclusion. Much is expected from it by some; not much by others; and nothing by a few. That something is necessary, none will deny; for the situation of the general government, if it can be called a government, is shaken to its foundation, and liable to be overturned by every blast. In a word, it is at an end; and, unless a remedy is soon applied, anarchy and confusion will inevitably ensue.

Edition: current; Page: [32]
George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.1

Wednesday, [May] 30. — Convention as yesterday. . . .

Thursday, 31. — Convention representation increased by coming in of the State of Georgia, occasioned by the arrival of Maj. Pierce and Mr. Houston. . . .

Friday, June 1. — Convention as yesterday.

George Mason
Mason, George
June 1st, 1787
George Mason, jr.
Mason, George jr.

George Mason to George Mason, jr.3

The idea I formerly mentioned to you, before the Convention met, of a great national council, consisting of two branches of the legislature, a judiciary and an executive, upon the principle of fair representation in the legislature, with powers adapted to the great objects of the Union, and consequently a control in these instances, on the State legislatures, is still the prevalent one. Virginia has had the honor of presenting the outlines of the plan, upon which the convention is proceeding; but so slowly that it is impossible to judge when the business will be finished, most probably not before August — festina lente may very well be called our motto. When I first came here, judging from casual conversations with gentlemen from the different States, I was very apprehensive that soured and disgusted with the unexpected evils we had experienced from the democratic principles of our governments, we should be apt to run into the opposite extreme and in endeavoring to steer too far from Scylla, we might be drawn into the vortex of Charybdis, of which I still think there is some danger, though I have the pleasure to find in the convention, many men of fine republican principles. America has certainly, upon this occasion, drawn forth her first characters; there are upon this Convention many gentlemen of the most respectable abilities, and so far as I can discover, of the purest intentions. The eyes of the United States are turned upon this assembly, and their expectations raised to a very anxious degree.

May God grant, we may be able to gratify them, by establishing a wise and just government. For my own part, I never before felt myself in such a situation; and declare I would not, upon pecuniary motives, serve in this convention for a thousand pounds per day. The revolt from Great Britain and the formations of our new governments at that time, were nothing compared to the great Edition: current; Page: [33] business now before us; there was then a certain degree of enthusiasm, which inspired and supported the mind; but to view, through the calm, sedate medium of reason the influence which the establishment now proposed may have upon the happiness or misery of millions yet unborn, is an object of such magnitude, as absorbs, and in a manner suspends the operations of the human understanding. . . .

All communications of the proceedings are forbidden during the sitting of the Convention; this I think was a necessary precaution to prevent misrepresentations or mistakes; there being a material difference between the appearance of a subject in its first crude and undigested shape, and after it shall have been properly matured and arranged.

George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.1

Saturday, [June] 2. — Major Jenifer, coming in with powers from the State of Maryland authorizing one member to represent it, added another State, now eleven, to the convention.

Benjamin Rush
Rush, Benjamin
June 2nd, 1787
Richard Price
Price, Richard

Benjamin Rush to Richard Price.2

Dr Franklin exhibits daily a spectacle of transcendent benevolence by attending the Convention punctually, and even taking part in its business and deliberations. He says “it is the most august and respectable Assembly he ever was in in his life, and adds, that he thinks they will soon finish their business, as there are no prejudices to oppose, nor errors to refute in any of the body.” Mr. Dickinson (who is one of them) informs me that they are all united in their objects, and he expects they will be equally united in the means of attaining them. Mr. Adams’s book has diffused such excellent principles among us, that there is little doubt of our adopting a vigorous and compounded federal legislature. Our illustrious minister in this gift to his country has done us more service than if he had obtained alliances for us with all the nations of Europe.

Jeremiah Wadsworth
Wadsworth, Jeremiah
June 3, 1787
Rufus King
King, Rufus

Jeremiah Wadsworth to Rufus King.3

Yours of the 24th ulto. came to hand after our delegates had set out. I am satisfied with the appointment — except Sherman, Edition: current; Page: [34] who, I am told, is disposed to patch up the old scheme of Government. This was not my opinion of him, when we chose him: he is as cunning as the Devil, and if you attack him, you ought to know him well; he is not easily managed, but if he suspects you are trying to take him in, you may as well catch an Eel by the tail.

George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.1

Monday, [June] 4. — Convention as on Saturday.

George Washington
Washington, George
June 6th 1787
La Fayette
Fayette, La

George Washington to La Fayette.2

It was, when I came here, and still is, my intention, to write you a long letter from this place before I leave it, but the hour is not yet come when I can do it to my own Satisfaction or for your information. I therefore shall wait till the result of the present meeting is more matured, and till the members who constitute it are at liberty to communicate the proceedings more freely before I attempt it.

You will I dare say, be surprized my dear Marquis to receive a letter from me at this place, — you will probably, be more so, when you hear that I am again brought, contrary to my public declaration, and intention, on a public theatre — such is the viscissitude of human affairs, and such the frailty of human nature that no man I conceive can well answer for the resolutions he enters into.

The pressure of the public voice was so loud, I could not resist the call to a convention of the States which is to determine whether we are to have a Government of respectability under which life — liberty, and property will be secured to us, or are to submit to one which may be the result of chance or the moment, springing perhaps from anarchy and Confusion, and dictated perhaps by some aspiring demagogue who will not consult the interest of his Country so much as his own ambitious views. What my be the result of the present deliberations is more than I am able, at present, if I was at liberty, to inform you, & therefore I will make this letter short, with the assurance of being more particular when I can be more satisfactory —

James Madison
Madison, James
June 6th. 1787
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson.3

The day fixed for the meeting of the Convention was the 14th. Edition: current; Page: [35] ult: on the 25th. and not before seven States were assembled. General Washington was placed unâ voce in the chair. The Secretaryship was given to Major Jackson. The members present are from Massachusetts Mr. Gerry, Mr. Gorum, Mr. King, Mr. Strong. From Connecticut Mr. Sherman Doct. S. Johnson, Mr. Elseworth. From N. York Judge Yates, Mr. Lansing, Col. Hamilton. N. Jersey, Governour Livingston, Judge Brearly, Mr. Patterson, Attorney Genl. (Mr. Houston & Mr. Clarke are absent members.) From Pennsylvania Doctr. Franklyn, Mr. Morris, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Fitzimmons, Mr. G. Clymer. Genl. Mifflin, Mr. Governeur Morris, Mr. Ingersoll. From Delaware Mr. Jno. Dickenson, Mr. Reed, Mr. Bedford, Mr Broom, Mr. Bassett. From Maryland Majr. Jenifer only. Mr. McHenry, Mr. Danl. Carrol, Mr. Jno. Mercer, Mr. Luther Martin are absent members. The three last have supplied the resignations of Mr. Stone, Mr. Carrol of Carolton, and Mr. T. Johnson as I have understood the case. From Virginia Genl. Washington, Governor Randolph, Mr. Blair, Col. Mason, Docr. McClurg, J Madison. — Mr. Wythe left us yesterday, being called home by the serious declension of his lady’s health. From N. Carolina, Col. Martin late Governor, Docr. Williamson, Mr. Spaight, Col. Davy. — Col. Blount is another member but is detained by indisposition at N. York. From S. Carolina Mr. John Rutlidge, General Pinkney, Mr. Charles Pinkney, Majr. Pierce Butler. Mr. Laurens is in the Commission from that State, but will be kept away by the want of health. From Georgia Col. Few, Majr. Pierce, formerly of Williamsbg. & aid to Genl. Greene, Mr. Houston. — Mr. Baldwin will be added to them in a few days. Walton and Pendleton are also in the deputation. — N. Hamshire has appointed Deputies but they are not expected; the State treasury being empty it is said, and a substitution of private resorces being inconvenient or impracticable. I mention this circumstance to take off the appearance of backwardness, which that State is not in the least chargeable with, if we are rightly informed of her disposition. Rhode Island has not yet acceded to the measure As their Legislature meet very frequently, and can at any time be got together in a week, it is possible that caprice if no other motive may yet produce a unanimity of the States in this experiment.

In furnishing you with this list of names, I have exhausted all the means which I can make use of for gratifying your curiosity, It was thought expedient in order to secure unbiassed discussion within doors, and to prevent misconceptions & misconstructions without, to establish some rules of caution which will for no short time restrain even a confidential communication of our proceedings. The names Edition: current; Page: [36] of the members will satisfy you that the States have heen serious in this business. The attendance of Genl, Washington is a proof of the light in which he regards it. The whole Community is big with expectation. And there can be no doubt but that the result will in some way or other have a powerful effect on our destiny.

Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund
June 6, 1787
Beverley Randolph
Randolph, Beverley

Edmund Randolph to Beverley Randolph.1

The prospect of a very long sojournment here has determined me to bring up my family. They will want about thirty pounds for the expense of travelling. The Executive will therefore oblige me by directing a warrant in my favor, to be delivered to Mrs. R. for that amount. My account stands thus:

2“A hundred pounds was voted for each of the Virginia delegates, and a vessel ordered to convey those residing at Williamsburg, — Blair and Wythe.” (M. D. Conway, Omitted Chapters of History, 64.)
1787. Dr. With the Comm’lth.
May 2d — To cash received £100.00.2
£ 42. 8. now in my hands.
1787. Cr.
June 6 —By attending from the 6th of May to this day (both inclusive), 32 days, at 6 dols. per day, which amount to 192 d’s, and are equal to £57.12s.

Twenty-three or four days more will overrun this sum, and will have elapsed before my family can arrive, so that I trust there will be no difficulty in the advance,

Mr. Wythe has left 50£ of his money to be distributed among such of his colleagues as should require it. . . . We have every reason to expect harmony in the convention, altho’ the currents of opinion are various. But no man can yet divine in what form our efforts against the American crises will appear to the public eye. It will not be settled in its principles for perhaps some weeks hence.

James Madison
Madison, James
June 6th. 1787
William Short
Short, William

James Madison to William Short.3

The Convention has been formed about 12 days. It contains in several instances the most respectable characters in the U. S. Edition: current; Page: [37] and in general may be said to be the best contribution of talents the States could make for the occasion. What the result of the experiment may be is among the arcana of futurity. Our affairs are considered on all hands as at a most serious crisis. No hope is entertained from the existing Confederacy. And the eyes and hopes of all are turned towards this new assembly. The result therefore whatever it may be must have a material influence on our destiny, and, on that of the cause of republican liberty. The personal characters of the members promise much. The spirit which they bring with them seems in general equally promising. But the labor is great indeed; whether we consider the real or imaginary difficulties within doors or without doors.

David Brearley
Brearley, David
9th June 1787
Jonathan Dayton
Dayton, Jonathan

David Brearley to Jonathan Dayton.1

We have been in a Committee of the Whole for some time, and have under consideration a number of very important propositions, none of which, however, have as yet been reported. My colleagues, as well as myself, are very desirous that you should join us immediately. The importance of the business really demands it.

Edward Carrington
Carrington, Edward
June 9. 1787
New York
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas

Edward Carrington to Thomas Jefferson.2

The proposed scheme of a convention has taken more general effect, and promises more solid advantages than was at first hoped for. all the States have elected representatives except Rhode Island, whose apostasy from every moral, as well as political, obligation, has placed her perfectly without the views of her confederates; nor will her absence, or nonconcurrence, occasion the least impediment in any stage of the intended business. on friday the 25th. Ult. seven States having assembled, at Philadelphia, the Convention was formed by the election of General Washington President, and Major W. Jackson Secretary — the numbers have since encreased to 11 States — N. Hampshire has not yet arrived, but is daily expected.

The Commissions of these Gentlemen go to a thorough reform of our confederation — some of the States, at first, restricted their deputies to commercial objects, but have since liberated them. the Edition: current; Page: [38] latitude thus given, together with the generality of the Commission from the States, have doubtless operated to bring Genl. Washington forward, contrary to his more early determination — his conduct in both instances indicate a deep impression upon his mind, of the necessity of some material change — . . .

Men are brought into action who had consigned themselves to an eve of rest, and the Convention, as a Beacon, is rousing the attention of the Empire.

The prevailing impression as well in, as out of, Convention, is, that a fœderal Government adapted to the permanent circumstances of the Country, without respect to the habits of the day, be formed, whose efficiency shall pervade the whole Empire: it may, and probably will, at first, be viewed with hesitation, but, derived and patronsed as it will be, its influence must extend into a general adoption as the present fabric gives way. that the people are disposed to be governed is evinced in their turning out to support the shadows under which they now live, and if a work of wisdom is prepared for them, they will not reject it to commit themselves to the dubious issue of Anarchy.

The debates and proceedings of the Convention are kept in profound secrecy — opinions of the probable result of their deliberations can only be formed from the prevailing impressions of men of reflection and understanding — these are reducible to two schemes — the first, a consolidation of the whole Empire into one republic, leaving in the states nothing more than subordinate courts for facilitating the administration of the Laws — the second an investiture of of a fœderal sovereignty with full and independant authority as to the Trade, Revenues, and forces of the Union, and the rights of peace and War, together with a Negative upon all the Acts of the State legislatures. the first idea, I apprehend, would be impracticable, and therefore do not suppose it can be adopted — general Laws through a Country embracing so many climates, productions, and manners, as the United States, would operate many oppressions, & a general legislature would be found incompetent to the formation of local ones, as a majority would, in every instance, be ignorant of, and unaffected by the objects of legislation — the essential rights, as well as advantages, of representation would be lost, and obedience to the public decrees could only be ensured by the exercise of powers different from those derivable from a free constitution — such an experiment must therefore terminate in a despotism, or the same inconveniencies we are now deliberating to remove. Something like the second will probably be formed — indeed I am certain that nothing less than what will give the fœderal sovereignty a Edition: current; Page: [39] compleat controul over the State Governments, will be thought worthy of discussion — such a scheme constructed upon well adjusted principles would certainly give us stability and importance as a nation, and if the Executive powers can be sufficiently checked, must be eligible — unless the whole has a decided influence over the parts, the constant effort will be to resume the delegated powers, and there cannot be an inducement in the fœderal sovereignty to refuse its assent to an innocent Act of a State. the negative which the King of England had upon our Laws was never found to be materially inconvenient

Mr. Otto
Mr. Otto
10 juin 1787
New York


No. 91.


Explication sur les plans de réforme projettés dans la Convention fédérale de Philadelphie.Dans ma dépêche No. 85, je me suis borné à soumettre à la Cour une idée générale des changemens qui doivent être faits dans la Constitution fédérale par la Convention de Philadelphie. Les plans de réforme qui m’ont été communiqués depuis me mettent en état de vous informer plus amplement des innovations que les députés se proposent d’introduire. Comme il s’agit de refondre entièrement la constitution américaine, j’espère, Monseigneur,Différens partis qui s’y opposeront. que vous excuserés les longueurs qu’il me sera impossible d’éviter. On est rarement spectateur d’une opération politique plus importante que celle-ci, et il est difficile de renfermer dans peu de pages des objets qui doivent déterminer le bonheur, la puissance et l’énergie future d’un Empire naissant.Opinion que le mieux seroit de maintenir la confédération actuelle.

Le premier vice de la Constitution actuelle, Monseigneur, est l’inégalite de la représentation. Tous les Etats ont une voix dans le Conseil fédéral, mais leur population, leur étendue, leurs richesses diffèrent à l’infini. La Géorgie, le Rhodeisland, le Delaware ont en Congrès la même importance que la Virginie, la Pensylvanie, le Massachussets, quoique ces derniers Etats soient au moins cinquante fois plus peuplés et plus opulens que les autres. Il Edition: current; Page: [40] s’agit donc de diviser les Etats en districts, composés d’un certain nombre d’habitans et de donner à chaque district le droit d’envoyer un député en Congrès. Parce moyen, la Virginie, auroit cinquante voix pour une de la Géorgie, et une résolution du Congrès exprimeroit le vœu de la majorite des habitans et non de la majorité d’une division fortuite d’Etats. Les députés de tous les districts formeroient donc un corps politique semblable à la Chambre des Communes en Angleterre. Les suffrages y seroient comptés par têtes et non collectivement par Etats, et les bills concernant les finances ne pourroient être proposés que dans cette Chambre.

Mais les intrigues d’un homme entreprenant, l’or d’une puissance étrangère, l’éloquence funeste d’un membre accredité ou peut être l’avidité d’un marchand pourroient y former un parti contraire au bien général. Pour éviter cet inconvénient, on propose une autre branche législative qu’on pourroit appeller le Senat et qui ressembleroit quant à ses fonctions à la Chambre haute du Parlement d’Angleterre. Les sénateurs seroient élus par la Chambre des députés en proportion des suffrages de chaque Etat. Aucune résolution ne pourroit avoir force de loi qu’après avoir été approuvée par la majorité des deux Chambres.

Il seroit cependant encore possible que le grand nombre d’affaires fit précipiter des résolutions importantes. Un Président élu pour six années et son Conseil composé des différens Ministres d’Etats auroient donc le droit d’examiner ces résolutions avant qu’elles fussent publiées et de les remettre de nouveau sous les yeux des deux Chambres. Dans ce cas, il faudroit une majorité de deux tiers des représentans pour faire passer une loi.

Mais malgré toutes ces précautions, on ne pourroit encore être sûr que d’une bonne législation, dont le Congrès, même dans sa forme actuelle, s’est assés bien acquitté. Il n’en est pas de même de la branche exécutive, puisque cette assemblée n’a eu jusqu’ici que le droit de recommander, aux différens Etats les mesures qui lui paroissoient être les plus avantageuses. D’après les nouveaux plans, le Président Edition: current; Page: [41] et son Conseil auroient le droit d’exécuter par la force les résolutions du Conseil féderal, à peu près de la même manière dont l’Empereur fait exécuter les décrets de la diète de Ratisbonne, en faisant marcher des troupes ou en ordonnant à plusieurs Etats voisins d’envahir le Gouvernment qui refuseroit de se soumettre à la volonté collective des Etats.

Cette dernière partie du projet, Monseigneur, éprouvera les plus grandes difficultés, et, quoique plusieurs députés, comptent la faire passer il m’est impossible de l’espérer. Les intérêts des petits Etats seroient bientôt sacrifiés aux vues ambitieuses de leurs voisins, qui, ayant l’avantage d’avoir en Congrès une représentation beaucoup plus nombreuse, seroient toujours sûrs de la majorité.

Les réformateurs observent ensuite combien il est difficile d’obtenir pour une innovation quelconque le consentement de treize Etats, ainsi qu’il est statué par l’ancienne Constitution. L’opposition d’un seul Etat a empêché depuis quatre ans l’éstablissement d’un droit de 5 pour 0|0 sur les importations, droit qui auroit suffi à tous les besoins de la confédération. Cette faculté, presqu’ aussi ruineuse pour les Etats-Unis que l’a été le liberum veto pour la république de Pologne, est entièrement incompatible avec un gouvernment bien ordonné. On propose en conséquence que désormais le suffrage de dix Etats soit suffisant pour toute altération que les circonstances pourront rendre nécessaire dans le système général, et que tout Etat qui refusera de s’y conformer soit exclu pour toujours de la confédération.

Pour mettre fin aux contradictions qui se trouvent quelquefois entre les loix des Etats particuliers et celles du gouvernement général, on propose de nommer un Committé des deux Chambres, chagré d’examiner toutes les loix des Etats individuels et de rejeter toutes celles qui seront contraires aux maximes et aux vues du Congrès. Les Etats seront surtout privés de la faculté de faire aucun règlement de commerce ou de statuer sur aucun object relatif au droit des gens et le Congrès se réservera exclusivement cette branche de législation.

Edition: current; Page: [42]

Les deux Chambres du Congrès, de concert avec le Conseil de révision, auroient le droit exclusif de déterminer le nombre de troupes et de vaisseaux nécessaire pour soutenir la majesté de peuple américain, et, sans demander le consentement particulier des Etats, ils pourroient répartir les taxes et les impôts de la manière qui leur paroitroit la plus équitable, et, en cas de refus d’un Etat particulier, le Congrès pourroit y lever par ses propres officiers le double de son contingent pour le punir de son opposition.

Les députés, Monseigneur, qui m’ont communiqué ces différens projets, sont déterminés à les soutenir avec vigueur dans l’assemblée de Philadelphie. Je ne répéterai pas ici les doutes que j’ai exprimés ailleurs sur leur succés; mais il est de mon devoir de vous soumettre l’opinion d’une autre classe d’hommes, dont le parti sera également fort et peut être plus obstiné dans l’assemblée dont il s’agit.

Ces hommes observent que, dans la situation actuelle des choses, il’est impossible de réunir sous un seul Chef tous les membres se la confédération. Leurs intérêts politiques, leurs vues commerciales, leurs habitudes et leurs loix sont si hétérogènes, qu’il n’y a pas une résolution du Congrès qui puisse être également utile et populaire au Sud et au Nord du Continent; leur jalousie même paroit être un obstacle insurmontable. Pendant la guerre, les Etats avoient un intérêt général de repousser des ennemis puissants et cruels; cet intérêt n’existe plus, pourquoi réparer un édifice qui n’a plus même de fondemens? Le commerce devient désormais la principale base du système politique de ces Etats. Les habitans du Nord sont pêcheurs et navigateurs, ceux du Centre fermiers, ceux du Sud planteurs. Leur législation doit encourager, améliorer, perfectionner les différentes branches de leur industrie. Dire que le Congrès pourra faire des règlemens particuliers et utiles pour chacune de ces branches, c’est dire que le Congrès n’aura point de passions, que l’intrigue n’aura jamais aucune part à ses mesures, que les intérêts du Nord ne seront jamais sacrifiés à ceux du Sud: chose théoriquement impossible et Edition: current; Page: [43] reconnue fausse par l’expérience. “Dans cette crise, continuent les partisans de ce système, il ne reste qu’un moyen pour donner à chaque Etat toute l’énergie dont il est susceptible, c’est de diviser le continent en plusieurs confédérations dont chacune auroit un gouvernement général et indépendant des autres. Cette division n’est pas difficile; la nature paroit l’avoir indiquée. La confédération du Nord pourroit être composée du New-Hampshire, du Massachussets, du Rhode-Island, du Conecticut, du Vermont et de l’ètat de New York jusqu’a la rivière d’Hudson. La confédération du Centre contiendroit tout le pays situé entre cette rivière et le Potowmac, et celle du Sud seroit composée de la Virginie, des deux Carolines et de la Géorgie. Les productions, les intérêts, les loix, même les moeurs des habitans se trouveroient ainsi classés suivant leurs différentes nuances, et les trois Gouvernmens se fortiffieroient en raison de leur arrondissement et de l’identité de leurs vues politiques. Qu’on ne dise point qu’une de ces divisions tomberoit facilement sous le joug d’une nation étrangère; n’a-t-on pas vu souvent en Europe plusieurs puissances réunies contre une autre puissance qui menaçoit de les envahir? Des traites d’alliance entre les différens Etats serviroient d’un lien commun et produiroient le même effet q’une confédération générale.”

Les Cincinnati, c’est à dire les officiers de l’ancienne armée américaine, sont intéressés à l’éstablissement d’un Gouvernement solide, puisqu’ils sont tous créanciers du public, mais, considérant la foiblesse du Conseil national et l’impossibilité d’être payés par la présente administration, ils proposent de jeter tous les Etats dans une seule masse et de mettre à leur tête le gal. Washington avec toutes les prérogatives et les pouvoirs d’une tête couronnée. Ils menacent même de faire eux mêmes cette révolution les armes à la main, aussitôt qu’ils seront convainous de l’inutilité de la Convention actuelle. Ce Projet est trop extravaguant pour mériter la moindre discussion. La Société des Cincinnati, qui s’est formée sans aucune sanction Edition: current; Page: [44] publique, s’avise aujourd’hui de régler la constitution politique, sans y avoir été authorisée par les peuples; mais elle est trop foible et trop impopulaire pour faire aucune impression.

Un quatrième parti, et peut être celui qui tromphera de tous les autres, propose de laisser les choses sur le pied actuel. L’Etat de Rhode-Island, le gouverneur et les principaux chefs de l’administration de New York, M. John Adams et un grand nombre d’individus dans les différens Etats sont de ce parti. “Nous ne trouvons pas, disent-ils, que la situation des Etats-Unis soit si malheureuse qu’on veut nous le faire accroire. Nos villes et notre population s’augmentent journellement, nos vastes territoires se défrichent, notre commerce et notre industrie s’étendent prodigieusement; si quelques districts manquent d’or et d’argent, nous leurs donnons du papier qui leur en tient lieu; si nous ne sommes pas respecté en Europe, nous ne le serons pas davantage apres avoir sacrifié à un corps souverain une partie de notre liberté. Nos créanciers étrangers seront payés quand nous en aurons les moyens et jusques là ils ne peuvent nous faire aucun mal. Pourquoi changer un système politique qui a fait prospérer les Etats, et qui n’a d’autre inconvénient que celui de différer le payement de nos dettes? Un Gouvernement plus absolu nous exposeroit au despotisme d’une assemblée aristocratique ou au caprice d’un seul homme, car comment s’imaginer que des membres du Congrès, pouvant disposer librement d’une armée, d’une flotte, d’un trésor grossi par les contributions de tous les Etats, veuillent rentrer au bout d’un an dans la classe ordinaire des citoyens, échanger et l’administration publique contre celle d’une ferme. Il importe à notre liberté que le Congrès ne soit qu’un simple corps diplomatique, et non une assemblée souveraine et absolue.”

Parmi cette grande variété de projets, il sera bien difficile pour l’assemblée de Philadelphie d’adopter un plan qui puisse convenir à tous les partis et à tous les Etats. S’il m’etoit permis, Monseigneur, d’avoir une opinion, je me rangerois Edition: current; Page: [45] du côté de ceux qui proposent de ne rien changer à la confédération actuelle, non que je pense qu’elle rendra plutôt justice aux créanciers étrangers ou domestiques, ni qu’elle donnera plus d’éclat aux Etats-Unis, ni même qu’elle conservera plus longtemps l’union et la bonne intelligence entre ses membres, mais parce qu’elle convient mieux que tout autre système politique à l’esprit des peuples. Les hommes riches, les négocians, les officiers publics, les Cincinnati sont tous portés pour un gouvernement plus absolu, mais leur nombre est bien petit quand on le compare à toute la masse des citoyens.

Quoi qu’il en soit, la Convention générale vient de commencer ses séances après avoir élu unanimement le gal. Washington pour Président. Cette nomination donnera certainement plus d’éclat à tout ce qui émanera de cette assemblée importante et respectable. On espère que ses résolutions porteront le sceau de la sagesse, de la modération, de la prévoyance, qui forment les principaux traits dans le caractère du général.

Je laisse, Monseigneur, à des personnes plus habiles que moi le soin de démêler quelle espèce de gouvernement conviendroit le plus à nos intérêts en Amérique, et je me borne à leur fournir des matériaux.

Je suis avec un profund respect, Monseigneur, votre très humble et très obéissant serviteur,

Elbridge Gerry
Gerry, Elbridge
11th June 1787
James Monroe
Monroe, James

Elbridge Gerry to James Monroe.1

The Convention is proceeding in their arduous undertaking with eleven States: under an Injunction of Secrecy on their Members — New Hamshire have elected Members who are soon expected. the object of this Meeting is very important in my Mind — unless a System of Government is adopted by Compact, Force I expect will plant the Standard: for such an anarchy as now exists cannot last long. Gentlemen seem to be impressed with the Necessity of establishing some efficient System, & I hope it will secure Us against domestic as well as foreign Invasions —

Edition: current; Page: [46]
R. D. Spaight
Spaight, R. D.
12th June, 1787
Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor

R. D. Spaight to Governor Caswell.1

I should have done myself the pleasure of writing to your Excellency oftener than I have done, but not being at Liberty to Communicate anything that passes in the Convention, I have nothing to write about.

The time it will require for the Convention to finish the business they have before them being entirely uncertain the deputies are of opinion that a further advance of two months’ Salary will be necessary, and have wrote to your Excellency on that Subject by this Post, should your Excellency think proper to grant us warrants for two months’ Salary in addition to those we have already drawn.2

Alex. Martin
Martin,. Alex
Richard D. Spaight
Spaight, Richard D.
W. R. Davie
Davie, W. R.
Hugh Williamson
Williamson, Hugh
June 14th, 1787
Governor Caswell
Governor Caswell

North Carolina Delegates to Governor Caswell.3


By the date of this you will observe we are near the middle of June and though we sit from day to day, Saturdays included, it is not possible for us to determine when the business before us can be finished, a very large Field presents to our view without a single Straight or eligible Road that has been trodden by the feet of Nations. An Union of Sovereign States, preserving their Civil Liberties and connected together by such Tyes as to Preserve permanent & effective Governments is a system not described, it is a Circumstance that has not Occurred in the History of men; if we shall be so fortunate as to find this in descript our Time will have been well spent. Several Members of the Convention have their Wives here and other Gentlemen have sent for theirs. This Seems to promise a Summer’s Campaign. Such of us as can remain here from the inevitable avocation of private business, are resolved to Continue whilst there is any Prospect of being able to serve the State & Union. Your Excellency is sufficiently informed that the Money of our State is subject to Considerable Decrements when reduced to Current Coin, however it may serve as an Auxiliary by which some of the inconveniencies may be relieved which must necessarily attend our continuance abroad for a much longer Time than was expected; for this Reason we submit to your Consideration the Propriety of furnishing us with an additional Draught for two months’ Service, in case of our return at an earlier period than at Present we have reason Edition: current; Page: [47] to apprehend, we are to Account, and perhaps it would be more desirable that we should have Occasion to repay a small Sum into the Treasury than that we should be under the Necessity of Coming Home, the Public Service unfinished from the want of supplies.

We have the Honour to be, with the utmost Consideration, Sir,
Your Excellency’s most Obedt. and Very Humble Servants,
Alex. Martin,
Richard D. Spaight,
W. R. Davie.
Hugh Williamson.
Joseph Varnum
Varnum, Joseph
June 18th 1787
General Washington
Washington, General

Joseph Varnum to General Washington.1

Sir —

The inclosed address,2 of which I presume your Excellency has received a duplicde, was returned to me from New York after my arrival in this State. I flatterd myself that our Legislature, which convened on monday last, would have receded from the resolution therein refer’d to, and have complied with the recommendation of Congress in sending deligates to the federal convention. The upper house, or Governor, & Council, embraced the measure, but it was negatived in the house of Assembly by a large majority, notwithstanding the greatest exertions were made to support it.

Being disappointed in their expectations, the minority in the administration and all worthy citizens of this State, whose minds are well informd regreting the peculiarities of their Situation place their fullest confidence in the wisdom & moderation of the national council, and indulge the warmest hopes of being favorably consider’d in their deliberations. From these deliberations they anticipate a political System which must finally be adopted & from which will result the Safety, the honour, & the happiness of the United States.

Permit me, Sir, to observe, that the measures of our present Legislature do not exhibit the real character of the State. They are equally reprobated, & abhor’d by Gentlemen of the learned professions, by the whole mercantile body, & by most of the respectable farmers and mechanicks. The majority of the administration is composed of a licentious number of men, destitute of education, and many of them, Void of principle. From anarchy Edition: current; Page: [48] and confusion they derive their temporary consequence, and this they endeavor to prolong by debauching the minds of the common people, whose attention is wholly directed to the Abolition of debts both public & private. With these are associated the disaffected of every description, particularly those who were unfriendly during the war. Their paper money System, founded in oppression & fraud, they are determined to Support at every hazard. And rather than relinquish their favorite pursuit the trample upon the most sacred obligations. As a proof of this they refused to comply with a requisition of Congress for repealing all laws repugnant to the treaty of peace with Great Britain, and urged as their principal reason, that it would be calling in question the propriety of their former measures

These evils may be attributed, partly to the extreme freedom of our own constitution, and partly to the want of energy in the federal Union: And it is greatly to be apprehended that they cannot Speedily be removed but by uncommon and very serious exertions. It is fortunate however that the wealth and resources of this State are chiefly in possion of the well Affected, & that they are intirely devoted to the public good.

I have the honor of being Sir,
with the greatest Veneration & esteem,
Your excellencys very obedient &
most humble servant —


No 6.

Letter to General Washington dated Newport June 18. 1787.

Nathan Dane
Dane, Nathan
June 19th
New York
Rufus King
King, Rufus

Nathan Dane to Rufus King.1

I fully agree to the propriety of the Convention order restraining its members from communicating its doings, tho’ I feel a strong desire and curiosity to know how it proceeds. I think the public never ought to see anything but the final report of the Convention — the digested result only, of their deliberations and enquiries.

Whether the plans of the Southern, Eastern or Middle States succeed, never, in my opinion, ought to be known. A few reflections on the subject lead me to doubt whether one of your members, Mr. P.,2 who two or three days since came to this city, fully understood Edition: current; Page: [49] the true meaning, full and just extent of the order not to communicate &c.

Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund
June 21, 1787
Beverley Randolph
Randolph, Beverley

Edmund Randolph to Beverley Randolph.1

Mr. Wythe, before he left us, requested that the Executive might, if they thought proper, appoint a successor to him. I informed him that I doubted whether, at this advanced stage of the business, they would be so inclined — especially, too, as there was a hope of his return; but that I would mention the affair to you.

Robert Morris
Morris, Robert
June 25, 1787

Robert Morris to his Sons in Leipzig.2

General Washington is now our guest, having taken up his abode at my house during the time he is to remain in this city. He is President of a convention of Delegates from the Thirteen States of America, who have met here for the purpose of revising, amending, and altering the Federal Government. There are gentlemen of great abilities employed in this Convention, many of whom were in the first Congress, and several that were concerned in forming the Articles of Confederation now about to be altered and amended. You, my children, ought to pray for a successful issue to their labours, as the result is to be a form of Government under which you are to live, and in the administration of which you may hereafter probably have a share, provided you qualify yourselves by application to your studies.

William Samuel Johnson
Johnson, William Samuel
27 June, 1787

William Samuel Johnson to his Son.3

I am here attending with Mr. Shearman and Mr. Elsworth as delegates, on the part of Connecticut, a grand convention of the United States, for the purpose of strengthening and consolidating the union and proposing a more efficient mode of government than that contained in the articles of confederation. We have delegates from eleven states actually assembled, consisting of many of the most able men in America, with General Washington at our head, whom we have appointed president of the convention. It is agreed that for the present our deliberations shall be kept secret, so that I can only tell you that much information and eloquence has been displayed Edition: current; Page: [50] in the introductory speeches, and that we have hitherto preserved great temperance, candor, and moderation in debate, and evinced much solicitude for the public weal. Yet, as was to be expected, there is great diversity of sentiment, which renders it impossible to determine what will be the result of our deliberations.

George Mason
Mason, George
June 30, 1787
Beverley Randolph
Randolph, Beverley

George Mason to Beverley Randolph.1

The Convention having resolved that none of their proceedings should be communicated during their sitting, puts it out of my power to give you any particular information upon the subject. Festina lente seems hitherto to have been our maxim. Things, however, are now drawing to that point on which some of the fundamental principles must be decided, and two or three days will probably enable us to judge — which is at present very doubtful — whether any sound and effectual system can be established or not. If it cannot, I presume we shall not continue here much longer; if it can, we shall probably be detained ’til September.

I feel myself disagreeably circumstanced in being the only member of the Assembly in the Virginia delegation, and, consequently, if any system shall be recommended by the Convention that the whole weight of explanation must fall upon me; and if I should be prevented by sickness or accident from attending the Assembly, that it will be difficult for the Assembly to obtain such information as may be necessary upon the subject, as I presume that in the progress through the legislature many questions may be asked and inquiries made, in which satisfactory information, from time to time, can hardly be given but by a member of the House in his place.

We have just received information here that Mr. Wythe has made a resignation, and does not intend to return. Under these circumstances I would beg leave to submit it to the consideration of the Executive, whether it might not be proper to fill the vacancy in the delegation, occasioned by Mr. Wythe’s resignation, with some member of the Assembly. Mr. Corbin being here, his appointment, if it shall be judged proper, would occasion little additional charge to the State, if the Convention should, unfortunately, break up without adopting any substantial system — that event will happen, I think — before the appointment can reach this place; if the Convention continues to proceed on the business, with a prospect of success, Mr. Corbin is on the spot; and I doubt it may be difficult to prevail Edition: current; Page: [51] on any member of the Assembly, now in Virginia, to come hither at this late stage of the business.

George Washington
Washington, George
July 1st. 1787
David Stuart
Stuart, David

George Washington to David Stuart.1

Rhode Island, from our last Accts sill persevere in that impolitic — unjust — and one might add without much impropriety scandalous conduct, which seems to have marked all her public Councils of late; — Consequently, no Representation is yet here from thence. New Hampshire, tho’ Delegates have been appointed, is also unrepresented — various causes have been assigned — whether well, or ill founded I shall not take upon me to decide — The fact however is that they are not here. Political contests, and want of Money, are amidst the reasons assigned for the non attendance of the members.

As the rules of the Convention prevent me from relating any of the proceedings of it, and the gazettes contain more fully than I could detail other occurrances of public nature, I have little to communicate to you on the article of News. Happy indeed would it be if the Convention shall be able to recommend such a firm and permanent Government for this Union, as all who live under it may be secure in their lives, liberty and property, and thrice happy would it be, if such a recommendation should obtain. Every body wishes — every body expects some thing from the Convention — but what will be the final result of its deliberation, the book of fate must disclose — Persuaded I am that the primary cause of all our disorders lies in the different State Governments, and in the tenacity of that power which pervades the whole of their systems. Whilst independent sovereignty is so ardently contended for, whilst the local views of each State and seperate interests by which they are too much govern’d will not yield to a more enlarged scale of politicks; incompatibility in the laws of different States, and disrespect to those of the general government must render the situation of this great Country weak, inefficient and disgraceful. It has already done so, — almost to the final dessolution of it — weak at home and disregarded abroad is our present condition, and contemptible enough it is.

Entirely unnecessary was it, to offer any apology for the sentiments you were so obliging as to offer me — I have had no wish more ardent (thro’ the whole progress of this business) than that of knowing what kind of Government is best calculated for us to live under. No doubt there will be a diversity of sentiment on this Edition: current; Page: [52] important subject; and to inform the Judgment, it is necessary to hear all arguments that can be advanced. To please all is impossible, and to attempt it would be vain; the only way therefore is, under all the views in which it can be placed — and with a due consideration to circumstances — habits — &cc. &cc. to form such a government as will bear the scrutinizing eye of criticism and trust it to the good sense and patriotism of the people to carry it into effect.—Demagogue, — men who are unwilling to lose any of their state consequence — and interested characters in each, will oppose any general government: but let these be regarded rightly, and Justice it is to be hoped will at length prevail.

Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor
1st July, 1787
No. Carolina

Governor Caswell to the North Carolina Delegates.1

Agreeable to your request I have this day drawn on the Collectors for two months’ allowance to each of the deputies in service of the State in Convention, in addition to the four months’ allowance formerly drawn for. Your Task is arduous, your undertaking is of such magnitude as to require Time for Deliberation and Consideration, and altho’ I know each Gentleman must sensibly feel for his own private concerns in being so long absent from them, Yet the future happiness of the States so much depends on the determination of the Convention I am convinced your wishes to promote that happiness to your Country are such as to induce you to attend to the completing this business if possible. Any thing I can do which may tend towards making your stay agreeable shall be most chearfully attended to & I shall be most happy at all times in rendering you service or receiving any communications or advice from you. Mr. Spaight’s and Mr. Williamson’s are forwarded to the Gentlemen by them directed; Mr Martin’s and Mr. Davies’ remain with me subject to their order.

Phineas Bond
Bond, Phineas
July 2nd. 1787
Lord Carmarthen
Carmarthen, Lord

Phineas Bond to Lord Carmarthen.2

The deliberations of the Convention, my Lord, are conducted with vast secrecy; and nothing is known with accuracy but that their drift is to endeavor to form such a federal constitution, as will give energy and consequence to the union. Whether this is to be done by improving the old governments or by substituting new ones — whether by continuing a power in each State to regulate Edition: current; Page: [53] its internal policy, or to abolish all separate establishments, and to form one grand federal authority, is a matter of consideration which creates much doubt and animadversion.

. . . Even in this crisis my Lord when the sober part of the continent looks up to the Convention to prescribe some mode competent to remove existing evils, there is not a complete delegation of the States in Convention — two of the thirteen are not represented, New Hampshire did appoint delegates, but as no fund was provided for their expenses and support they declined attending — The Assembly of Rhode I positively refused to appoint, and when the motion was again lately agitated, it was negatived by a majority of 17 members.

George Washington
Washington, George
[July] 2

George Washington: Diary.1

Monday, [July] 2. — Dined with some of the members of Convention at Indian Queen.

Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton, Alexander
July 3d. 87
George Washington
Washington, George

Alexander Hamilton to George Washington.2

In my passage through the Jerseys and since my arrival here I have taken particular pains to discover the public sentiment and I am more and more convinced that this is the critical opportunity for establishing the prosperity of this country on a solid foundation — I have conversed with men of information not only of this City but from different parts of the state; and they agree that there has been an astonishing revolution for the better in the minds of the people. The prevailing apprehension among thinking men is, that the Convention, from a fear of shocking the popular opinion, will not go far enough — They seem to be convinced that a strong well mounted government will better suit the popular palate than one of a different complexion. Men in office are indeed taking all possible pains to give an unfavourable impression of the Convention; but the current seems to be running strongly the other way.

A plain but sensible man, in a conversation I had with him yesterday, expressed himself nearly in this manner — The people begin to be convinced that their “excellent form of government” as they have been used to call it, will not answer their purpose; and that they must substitute something not very remote from that which they have lately quitted.

These appearances though they will not warrant a conclusion that the people are yet ripe for such a plan as I advocate, yet serve Edition: current; Page: [54] to prove that there is no reason to despair of their adopting one equally energetic, if the Convention should think proper to propose it. They serve to prove that we ought not to allow too much weight to objections drawn from the supposed repugnancy of the people to an efficient constitution — I confess I am more and more inclined to believe that former habits of thinking are regaining their influence with more rapidity than is generally imagined.

Not having compared ideas with you, Sir, I cannot judge how far our sentiments agree; but as I persuade myself the genuineness of my representations will receive credit with you, my anxiety for the event of the deliberations of the Convention induces me to make this communication of what appears to be the tendency of the public mind. . . . I own to you Sir that I am seriously and deeply distressed at the aspect of the Councils which prevailed when I left Philadelphia — I fear that we shall let slip the golden opportunity of rescuing the American empire from disunion anarchy and misery — No motley or feeble measure can answer the end or will finally receive the public support. Decision is true wisdom and will be not less reputable to the Convention than salutary to the community.

I shall of necessity remain here ten or twelve days; if I have reason to believe that my attendance at Philadelphia will not be mere waste of time, I shall after that period rejoin the Convention.

R. D. Spaight
Spaight, R. D.
3d July, 1787
James Iredell
Iredell, James

R. D. Spaight to James Iredell.1

The Convention has made, as yet, but little progress in the business they have met on; and it is a matter of uncertainty when they will finish. Secrecy being enjoined I can make no communications on that head.

Nathan Dane
Dane, Nathan
July 5th, 1787
Rufus King
King, Rufus

Nathan Dane to Rufus King.2

I am very sorry to hear you say that it is uncertain what will be the result of the Convention, because I infer there must be a great diversity of sentiments among the members. The Convention must do something — its meeting has all those effects which we and those who did not fully discern the propriety of the measure apprehended. You know the general opinion is, that our Federal Constitution must be mended; and if the Convention do not agree at least in some Edition: current; Page: [55] amendments, a universal despair of our keeping together, will take place. It seems to be agreed here that the Virginia plan was admitted to come upon the floor of investigation by way of experiment and with a few yieldings on this point & that it keeps its ground at present. The contents of this plan was known to some, I believe, before the Convention met. Perhaps the public mind will be prepared in a few years to receive this new system. However I leave the whole to the wisdom of the Convention.

Hugh Williamson
Williamson, Hugh
July 8th, 1787
James Iredell
Iredell, James

Hugh Williamson to James Iredell.1

I think it more than likely that we shall not leave this place before the middle of August. The diverse and almost opposite interests that are to be reconciled, occasion us to progress very slowly. I fear that Davie will be obliged to leave us before our business is finished, which will be a heavy stroke to the delegation. We have occasion for his judgment, for I am inclined to think that the great exertions of political wisdom in our late Governor [Martin], while he sat at the helm of our State, have so exhausted his fund, that time must be required to enable him again to exert his abilities to the advantage of the nation.

Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund

Edmund Randolph’s Suggestion for Conciliating the Small States.2

communicated by Mr. Randolph, July 10. as an accomodating proposition to small States

(This & the following paper to be in an appendix)

1. Resolvd. that in the second branch each State have one vote in the following cases,

  • 1. in granting exclusive rights to Ports.
  • 2. in subjecting vessels or seamen of the U. States to tonnage, duties or other impositions
  • 3. in regulating the navigation of Rivers
  • 4. in regulating the rights to be enjoyed by citizens of one State in the other States.
  • 5. in questions arising on the guarantee of territory
  • 6. in declaring war or taking measures for subduing a Rebellion
  • 7. in regulating CoinEdition: current; Page: [56]
  • 8. in establishing & regulating the post office
  • 9. in the admission of new States into the Union
  • 10. in establishing rules for the government of the Militia
  • 11. in raising a regular army
  • 12. in the appointment of the Executive
  • 13. in fixing the seat of Government

That in all other cases the right of suffrage be proportioned according to an equitable rule of representation.

2. that for the determination of certain important questions in the 2d branch, a greater number of votes than a mere majority be requisite

3. that the people of each State ought to retain the perfect right of adopting from time to time such forms of republican Government as to them may seem best, and of making all laws not contrary to the articles of Union; subject to the supremacy of the General Government in those instances only in which that supremacy shall be expressly declared by the articles of the Union.

4. That altho’ every negative given to the law of a particular State shall prevent its operation, any State may appeal to the national Judiciary against a negative; and that such negative if adjudged to be contrary to the power granted by the articles of the Union, shall be void

5. that any individual conceiving himself injured or oppressed by the partiality or injustice of a law of any particular State may resort to the National Judiciary, who may adjudge such law to be void, if found contrary to the principles of equity and justice.

George Washington
Washington, George
10th. July 87
Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton, Alexander

George Washington to Alexander Hamilton.1

I thank you for your communication of the 3d. — When I refer you to the state of the Councils which prevailed at the period you left this City — and add, that they are now, if possible, in a worse train than ever; you will find but little ground on which the hope of a good establishment can be formed. — In a word, I almost despair of seeing a favourable issue to the proceedings of the Convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.

The Men who oppose a strong & energetic government are, in my opinion, narrow minded politicians, or are under the influence of local views. — The apprehension expressed by them that the people will not accede to the form proposed is the ostensible, not the real cause of the opposition — but admitting that the present sentiment Edition: current; Page: [57] is as they prognosticate, the question ought nevertheless to be, is it, or is it not, the best form? — If the former, recommend it, and it will assuredly obtain mauger opposition

I am sorry you went away — I wish you were back. — The crisis is equally important and alarming, and no opposition under such circumstances should discourage exertions till the signature is fixed. — I will not, at this time trouble you with more than my best wishes and sincere regards.

William Blount
Blount, William
July 10th, 1787
New York
Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor

William Blount to Governor Caswell.1

On the 18th of June Mr. Hawkins & myself left this for Philadelphia, on my arrival I took my seat in Convention and he agreed for his passage to Petersburg. After having been there a few days, we received a Letter from Charles Thomson informing us that our presence would Complete Seven States in Congress and that a Congress was absolutely Necessary for the great purpose of the Union. Whereupon we returned here on the 4th Instant & formed a Congress and we Considered ourselves bound to Continue until some other State comes up, of which we are in hourly Expectation, and then I shall proceed to the Convention and he will return home.

I conceived it more for the benefit and honor of the State, in which Opinion my Colleagues in the Convention agreed, to return with Mr. Hawkins and represent the State in Congress than to Continue in the Convention especially as my Colleagues in that Body were Generally unanimous and Competent to the Purposes of their Mission. In this instance I hope my Conduct will meet the approbation of Your Excellency and my fellow Citizens.

Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund
July 12, 1787
Beverley Randolph
Randolph, Beverley

Edmund Randolph to Beverley Randolph, L’t-Governor.2

The Deputation here have desired me to obtain a further sum of money. I have accordingly drawn for one hundred pounds, which the Executive will oblige us by paying. . . .

By attendance on the Convention, together with travelling Expences from 6th of May inclusive, to 19th July inclusive, being 74 days, at 6 dollars per day, which are equal to 444 dollars; which are equal to . . . . . . . £133. 4.

Edition: current; Page: [58]

Manasseh Cutler: Journal.1

[1787], Friday, July 13. This tavern (Indian Queen) is situated in Third Street, between Market Street and Chestnut Street, and is not far from the center of the city. It is kept in an elegant style, and consists of a large pile of buildings, with many spacious halls, and numerous small apartments, appropriated for lodging rooms. . . .

Being told, while I was at tea, that a number of the Members of the Continental Convention, now convened in this city for the purpose of forming a Federal Constitution, lodged in this house, and that two of them were from Massachusetts, immediately after tea, I sent into their Hall (for they live by themselves) to Mr. Strong, and requested to speak with him. We had never been personally acquainted, nor had I any letter to him, but we had both of us an hearsay knowledge of each other, and Mr. Gerry had lately mentioned to Mr. Strong that he daily expected me, in consequence of a letter he had received from Governor Bowdoin. Mr. Strong very politely introduced me to Mr. Gorham, of Charlestown, Mass; Mr. Madison and Mr. Mason and his son, of Virginia; Governor Martin, Hon. Hugh Williamson, of North Carolina; the Hon. John Rutledge and Mr. Pinckney, of South Carolina; Mr. Hamilton, of New York, who were lodgers in the house, and to several other gentlemen who were spending the evening with them. I spent the evening with these gentlemen very agreeably.

. . . Mr. Strong was up as early as myself, and we took a walk to Mr. Gerry’s in Spruce street, where we breakfasted. . . . Mr. Gerry has hired a house, and lives in a family state. . . .

From Mr. Peale’s we went to the State House. This is a noble building; the architecture is in a richer and grander style than any public building I have before seen. The first story is not an open walk, as is usual in buildings of this kind. In the middle, however, is a very broad cross-aisle, and the floor above supported by two rows of pillars. From this aisle is a broad opening to a large hall, toward the west end, which opening is supported by arches and pillars. In this Hall the Courts are held, and, as you pass the aisle, you have a full view of the Court. The Supreme Court was now sitting. This bench consists of only three judges. Their robes are scarlet; the lawyers’, black. The Chief Judge, Mr. McKean, was sitting with his hat on, which is the custom, but struck me as being very odd, and seemed to derogate from the dignity of a judge. The hall east of the aisle is employed for public business. The chamber over it is now occupied by the Continental Convention,1 Edition: current; Page: [59] which is now sitting, but sentries are planted without and within — to prevent any person from approaching near — who appear to be very alert in the performance of their duty. . . .

Dr. Franklin lives in Market Street, between Second and Third Streets, but his house stands up a court-yard at some distance from the street. We found him in his Garden, sitting upon a grass plat under a very large Mulberry, with several other gentlemen and two or three ladies. . . . I delivered him my letters. After he had read them, he took me again by the hand, and, with the usual compliments, introduced me to the other gentlemen of the company, who were most of them members of the Convention. Here we entered into a free conversation, and spent our time most agreeably until it was dark. . . . The Doctor showed me a curiosity he had just received, and with which he was much pleased. It was a snake with two heads, preserved in a large vial. . . . The Doctor mentioned the situation of this snake, if it was traveling among bushes, and one head should choose to go on one side of the stem of a bush and the other head should prefer the other side, and that neither of the heads would consent to come back or give way to the other. He was then going to mention a humorous matter that had that day taken place in Convention, in consequence of his comparing the snake to America, for he seemed to forget that everything in Convention was to be kept a profound secret; but the secrecy of Convention matters was suggested to him, which stopped him, and deprived me of the story he was going to tell. . . . We took our leave at ten, and I retired to my lodgings.

The gentlemen who lodged in the house were just sitting down to supper; a sumptuous table was spread, and the attendance in the style of noblemen. After supper, Mr. Strong came in and invited me into their Hall, where we sat till twelve. . . .

George Wythe
Wythe, George
16 july, 1787

George Wythe to ————.2

The reason which moved me, and the only one which could have moved me, to retire from the convention at Philadelphia, not only continues, but i fear is more urgent than it was. The executive, therefore, are desired to consider my letter to governour Randolph, Edition: current; Page: [60] or this, sir, to you, as a resignation of the office which i was deputed to sustain in the convention —

W. R. Davie
Davie, W. R.
July 17, 1787
James Iredell
Iredell, James

W. R. Davie to James Iredell.1

The two great characters you inquire after move with inconceivable circumspection. This hint will satisfy you. Their situations, though dissimilar, are both peculiar and delicate.

I shall not stay until the business is finished. I am sorry it will be out of my power. As soon as the general principles are established I shall set out.

James Madison
Madison, James
July 18. 1787
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson.2

The Convention continue to sit, and have been closely employed since the Commencemt. of the Session. I am still under the mortification of being restrained from disclosing any part of their proceedings. As soon as I am at liberty I will endeavor to make amends for my silence, and if I ever have the pleasure of seeing you shall be able to give you pretty full gratification. I have taken lengthy notes of every thing that has yet passed, and mean to go on with the drudgery, if no indisposition obliges me to discontinue it. It is not possible to form any judgment of the future duration of the Session. I am led by sundry circumstances to guess that the residue of the work will not be very quickly despatched. The public mind is very impatient for ye event, and various reports are circulating which tend to inflame Curosity. I do not learn however that any discontent is expressed at the concealment; and have little doubt that the people will be as ready to receive as we shall be able to propose, a Government that will secure their liberties & happiness.

July 19, 1787

Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser.

So great is the unanimity, we hear, that prevails in the Convention, upon all great federal subjects, that it has been proposed to call the room in which they assemble — Unanimity Hall.3

Edition: current; Page: [61]
Hugh Williamson
Williamson, Hugh
July 22d, 1787
James Iredell
Iredell, James

Hugh Williamson to James Iredell.1

After much labor the Convention have nearly agreed on the principles and outlines of a system, which we hope may fairly be called an amendment of the Federal Government. This system we expect will, in three or four days, be referred to a small committee, to be properly dressed; and if we like it when clothed and equipped, we shall submit it to Congress; and advise them to recommend it to the hospitable reception of the States. I expect that some time in September we may put the last hand to this work. And as Congress can have nothing to do with it but put the question — pass or not pass, — I am in hopes that the subject may be matured in such time as to be laid before our Assembly at its next session. . . . Two delegates from New Hampshire arrived yesterday, so that we have every State except Rhode Island.

Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
July 22, 1787
John Paul Jones
Jones, John Paul

Benjamin Franklin to John Paul Jones.2

Be pleased to present my Respects to him, and acquaint him that the Convention goes on well, and that there is hope of great Good to result from their Counsels. — I intended to have wrote to him: but three Days Illness from which I have hardly recovered have prevented me.

John Jay
Jay, John
25 July 1787
New York
George Washington
Washington, George

John Jay to George Washington.3

Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise & seasonable to provide a a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expresly that the Command in chief of the american army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.

Mr. Otto
Mr. Otto
25 juillet, 1787
New York

Mr. Otto au comte de Montmorin.4

No 96.


Particularités sur la Convention générale établie à Philadelphie pour des changemens projettés dans la Constitution.Quoique la Convention générale de Philadelphie Edition: current; Page: [62] ait enjoint à ses membres le secret le plus profond sur toutes ses délibérations, on a su que, parmi les différens plans de gouvernement proposés, celui de la Virginie a été considéré comme le moins imparfait et qu’un Committé est actuellement chargé de l’examiner en détail et d’en donner son opinion. Ce plan se ressent de la modération du gal. Washington qui est à la tête de la délégation, mais il est peut être encore trop rigoureux pour des peuples incapables de supporter le moindre joug. Après ce que j’ai eu l’honneur de vous mander, Monseigneur, dans ma dépêche No. 91, il seroit superflu d’ajouter ici aucune réflexion; j’attendrai la publication des débats de la Convention pour vous en rendre compte.

A mesure que les spéculateurs politiques avancent dans leurs projets, ils suggèrent de nouvelles idées, dont on ne s’étoit point douté. Les petits Etats, craignant de voir établir une représentation proportionnée à l’éntendue et à la population de chaque Etat, réforme qui leur seroit très préjudiciable, proposent aujourd’hui d’y consentir, pourvu que tous les Etats soient divisés en portions égales. On sent combien cette clause est peu proper à satisfaire les Etats puissans.

Obstacles qu’on craint que n’éprouvent les plans de la Convention de Philadelphie de la part de ceux qui ont peur de perdre leur influence.Les Américains ne se dissimulent plus, Monseigneur, que les difficultés que le gouvernement fédéral a éprouvées depuis la paix ne soient principalement dues à l’ambition de quelques individus qui craignent de perdre leur influence en donnant trop de pouvoirs au corps qui représente la confédération. Le gouvernement et les principaux members de chaque Etat se trouveroient bornés au maintien de la police intérieure, tandis que les finances et les grands intérêts nationaux seroient exclusivement confiés au Congrès. On doit donc craindre qu’en addressant aux Etats les nouveaux plans de la Convention de Philadelphie, les mêmes hommes qui se sont opposés jusqu’ici à un impôt géneral et à d’autres règlemens onéreux ne fassent rejeter la réforme qu’il s’agit d’introduire. Pour remédier à cet inconvénient, les membres de la Convention prétendent que les administrations particulièrs des Etats n’ont pas le droit de décider Edition: current; Page: [63] une question relative à la Constitution fondamentale, et que c’est aux peuples assemblés à donner leurs voix. Ils espèrent qu’en convoquant extraordinairement les habitans de chaque district, en mettant sous leurs yeux l’incohérence actuelle du système fédéral, le peu de ressources du Congrès, les suites malheureuses de l’anarchie, l’épuisement du trésor,Exposition que la Convention de Philadelphie veut faire aux peuples assemblés du désordre qui résulte du système fédéral actuel. le mépris que les nations étrangères ont pour un peuple sans chef et sans vigueur, la difficulté de faire fleurir le commerce parmi les règlemens discordans de treize républiques séparées, enfin la nécessité d’écarter par une union solide et permanente les horreurs d’une guerre civile qui naîtroit indubitablement de l’etat actuel des choses, à moins qu’on ne trouvât sans délai le moyen d’y remédier, les peuples ne manqueroient pas de blâmer les vues ambitieuses de leurs magistrats et de consentir unanimement à un système de gouvernement plus uniforme et plus énergique. Les taxes et les impôts qu’il s’agit de faire verser dans les coffres du Congrès ayant été perçus jusqu’ici par les Etats individuels, on croit que les peuples ne feront aucune difficulté de les accorder au gouvernement général. Les hommes publics qui m’entretiennent journellement de ces projets connoissent certainement mieux que moi les dispositions des peuples, mais je doute encore beaucoup de leur succès.

Le Gouverneur de New York est l’ennemi le plus dangereux de la puissance du Congrès.Les partisans de la réforme, Monseigneur, ont soin en attendant, d’attaquer publiquement les plus redoutables de leurs autagonistes. Leurs traits sont principalement dirigés contre le Gouverneur de New York, l’ennemi le plus actif et le plus dangereux de la puissance du Congrès. Son intérêt personel le porte à ne sacrifier aucune de ses prérogatives et à conserver à son Etat tous les droits de la souveraineté.

Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor
July 26th, 1787
No. Carolina, Kinston
R. D. Spaight
Spaight, R. D.

Governor Caswell to R. D. Spaight.1

From the hint you threw out in your first letter I am induced to think that the plan of a National Parliament and Supreme Executive with adequate powers to the Government of the Union will Edition: current; Page: [64] be more suitable to our situation & circumstances than any other, but I should wish also an independent Judicial department to decide any contest that may happen between the United States and individual States & between one State and another; this however is only a hint, you may not see the necessity of it as forcible as I do and I presume ’tis now too late to offer any reasons for the establishment, as that matter I flatter myself is before this got over; all I can say respecting the Convention is to recommend a perseverence to the end, to the deputies from this State.

Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton, Alexander
July 26, 1787
New York

Alexander Hamilton to Auldjo.1

I have delivered the paper you committed to me, as it stood altered, to Major Peirce, from whose conduct I am to conclude the affair between you is at an end. He informs me that he is shortly to set out on a jaunt up the North River.

As you intimate a wish to have my sentiments in writing on the transaction, I shall with pleasure declare that the steps you have taken in consequence of Mr. Peirce’s challenge have been altogether in conformity to my opinion of what would be prudent, proper and honorable on your part. They seem to have satisfied Mr. Peirce’s scruples arising from what he apprehended in some particulars to have been your conduct to him, and I presume we are to hear nothing further of the matter.

Alexander Martin
Martin, Alexander
July 27th, 1787
Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor

Alexander Martin to Governor Caswell.2

You may think I have been remiss in making you Communications from the Federal Convention, which you had a right to expect from my engagements to you in my last Letter from Carolina. But when you are informed that the Members of that Body are under an Injunction of Secrecy till their Deliberations are moulded firm for the public Eye, You will readily I flatter myself, excuse me. This Caution was thought prudent, least unfavourable Representations might be made by imprudent printers of the many crude matters & things daily uttered & produced in this Body, which are unavoidable, & which in their unfinished state might make an undue impression on the too credulous and unthinking Mobility. How long before the business of Convention will be finished is very uncertain, perhaps not before September, if then. Believe me Sir, it is no small Edition: current; Page: [65] task to bring to a conclusion the great objects of a United Government viewed in different points by thirteen Independent Sovereignties; United America must have one general Interest to be a Nation, at the same time preserving the particular Interest of the Individual States. However Sir, as soon as I am at Liberty to make Communications Your Excellency shall have the earliest information.

George Washington
Washington, George
[July] Friday — 27th

George Washington: Diary.1

In Convention, which adjourned this day, to meet again on Monday the 6th. of August that a Comee. which had been appointed (consisting of 5 Members) might have time to arrange, and draw into method & form the several matters which had been agreed to by the Convention, as a Constitution for the United States. —

James Monroe
Monroe, James
July 27, 1787
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas

James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson.2

I shall I think be strongly impressed in favor of & inclin’d to vote for whatever they will recommend. I have heard from Becly ‘tho’ not from himself (who accompanied the Governour up in expectation of being appointed clerk) they had agreed giving the United States a negative upon the laws of the several States* this I shod. think proper — it will if the body is well organiz’d, be the best way of introducing uniformity in their proceedings that can be devis’d, of a negative kind or by a power to operate indirectly but a few months will give us the result be it what it may.

James Madison
Madison, James
July 28. 1787

James Madison to his Father.3

I am sorry that I cannot gratify your wish to be informed of the proceedings of the Convention. An order of secresy leaves me at liberty merely to tell you that nothing definitive is yet done, that the Session will probably continue for some time yet, that an Adjournment Edition: current; Page: [66] took place on thursday last until Monday week, and that a Committee is to be at work in the mean time.

Nicholas Gilman
Gilman, Nicholas
July 31st 1787
Joseph Gilman
Gilman, Joseph

Nicholas Gilman to Joseph Gilman.1

I have the pleasure to inform you of my having arrived at this place on the 21st instant, Mr Langdon arrived a few hours before and, notwithstanding we are so late in the day, it is a circumstance, in this critical state of affairs, that seems highly pleasing to the Convention in general. — Much has been done (though nothing conclusively) and much remains to do — A great diversity of sentiment must be expected on this great Occassion: feeble minds are for feeble measures & some for patching the old garment with here & there a shred of new Stuff; while vigorous minds and warm Constitutions advocate a high toned Monarchy — This is perhaps a necessary contrast as “all natures difference keeps all natures peace” it is probable the conclusion will be on a medium between the two extremes. —

As secrecy is not otherwise enjoined than as prudence may dictate to each individual — in a letter to my brother John,2 of the 28th instant, I gave him (for the satisfaction of two or three who will not make it public) a hint respecting the general principles of the plan of national Government, that will probably be handed out — which will not be submitted to the Legislatures but after the approbation of Congress to an assembly or assemblies of Representatives recommended by the several Legislatures, to be expressly chosen by the people to consider & decide thereon. —

Great wisdom & prudence as well as liberallity of Sentiment & a readiness to surrender natural rights & privileges for the good of the nation appears in the southern delegates in general and I most devoutly wish that the same spirit may pervade the whole Country that the people by absurdly endeavoring to retain all their natural rights may not be involved in Calamitous factions which would end but with the loss of all

. . . I think the business of the Convention will not be completed untill the first of September —

Edition: current; Page: [67]
Pierce Butler
Butler, Pierce
August 1st, 1787
New York
Weedon Butler
Butler, Weedon

Pierce Butler to Weedon Butler.1

My last letter from Carolina would inform you of my intended visit to Philadelphia. As I declined the honorary fellow Citizens offered me of the Chief Magistracy, I could not refuse the last Appointment of Acting as One of their Commissioners to the Convention to be held at Philadelphia. No doubt you have heard of the purport of the meeting, — to form a stronger Constitution on strict Foederal Principles, for the Governmt. of the whole — I hope we may succeed. Our Country expect much of us. We have satt every day since the 25th of May till last Saturday, when we adjourned for one week. Having placed my Family here, Philadelphia not being so healthy, I embraced the opportunity of visiting them. I go back to Philada on Sunday and shall return home the first week in November.

James McClurg
McClurg, James
Augt. 5. 87
James Madison
Madison, James

James McClurg to James Madison.2

I am much obliged to you for your communication of the proceedings of ye Convention, since I left them; for I feel that anxiety about ye result, which it’s Importance must give to every honest citizen. If I thought that my return could contribute in the smallest degree to it’s Improvement, nothing should keep me away. But as I know that the talents, knowledge, and well-establish’d character, of our present delegates, have justly inspired this country with ye most entire confidence in their determinations; & that my vote could only operate to produce a division, & so destroy ye vote of ye State, I think that my attendance now would certainly be useless, perhaps injurious.

George Washington
Washington, George
[August] Monday — 6th

George Washington: Diary.3

Met, according to adjournment in convention, & received the Rept. of the Committee —

W. R. Davie
Davie, W. R.
August 6th, 1787
James Iredell
Iredell, James

W. R. Davie to James Iredell.4

I shall leave this place on Monday next; and, probably, be in Edition: current; Page: [68] Halifax by the time you receive this, as the great outlines are now marked, and have been detailed by a committee: the residue of the work will rather be tedious than difficult.

July [August] 7th, 1787

North Carolina Delegates to Governor Caswell.1

The Convention having on the 26th of last Month finished the outline of the Amendments proposed to the Federal System, the business was of course Committed for detail and we have the pleasure to inform your Excellency that the report was received on yesterday. From the progress, which has already taken up near three months; we are induced to believe the result of our deliberations will shortly be presented to the United States in Congress and as they are only to consider whether the System shall or shall not be recommended to the States, the Business cannot Remain long before them. It is certainly to be desired that they may be ready to pass upon this subject before the end of the Federal year, otherwise the Report of the Convention, and Consequently of Congress, cannot meet our Assembly in Time next regular adjournment, and we have experienced the difficulty of calling them together at another time. We think it will therefore be of importance that the States in General, and that our State in particular be represented in Congress during the Months of September & October and submit to the Consideration of your Excellency whether it would not be proper to expedite the attendance of those Gentlemen whose duty it may be to serve in Congress at this time.

R. D. Spaight
Spaight, R. D.
August 12th, 1787
James Iredell
Iredell, James

R. D. Spaight to James Iredell.2

The Convention having agreed upon the outlines of a plan of government for the United States, referred it to a small committee to detail: that committee have reported, and the plan is now under consideration. I am in hopes we shall be able to get through it by the 1st or 15th of September.

It is not probable that the United States will in future be so ideal as to risk their happiness upon the unanimity of the whole; and thereby put it in the power of one or two States to defeat the most salutary propositions, and prevent the Union from rising out of that contemptible situation to which it is at present reduced.

Edition: current; Page: [69]
James Madison
Madison, James
Augst. 12. 1787

James Madison to his Father.1

The Convention reassembled at the time my last mentioned that they had adjourned to. It is not possible yet to determine the period to which the Session will be spun out. It must be some weeks from this date at least, and possibly may be computed by months. Eleven States are on the ground, and have generally been so since the second or third week of the Session. Rhode Island is one of the absent States. She has never yet appointed deputies. N. H. till of late was the other. That State is now represented. But just before the arrival of her deputies, those of N. York left us.

Elbridge Gerry
Gerry, Elbridge
Aug. 13, 1787
General Warren
Warren, General

Elbridge Gerry to General Warren.2

It is out of my power in return for the information you have given me to inform you of our proceedings in convention, but I think they will be complete in a month or six weeks, perhaps sooner. Whenever they shall be matured I sincerely hope they will be such as you and I can approve, and then they will not be engrafted with principles of mutability, corruption or despotism, principles which some, you and I know, would not dislike to find in our national constitution.

Wednesday, August 15, 1787

Pennsylvania Herald and General Advertiser.

The debates of the fœderal convention continued until five o’clock on Monday evening; when, it is said, a decision took place upon the most important question that has been agitated since the meeting of this assembly.

George Washington
Washington, George
August 15th. 1787
La Fayette
Fayette, La

George Washington to La Fayette.3

Altho’ the business of the Fœderal Convention is not yet clos’d, nor I, thereby, enabled to give you an account of its proceedings; yet, the opportunity afforded by Commodore Paul Jones’ Return to France is too favourable for me to omit informing you, that the present expectation of the members is, that it will end about the first of next month; when, or as soon after as it shall be in my power, I will communicate the result of our long deliberation to you.

Edition: current; Page: [70]
George Washington
Washington, George
August 19 1787
Henry Knox
Knox, Henry

George Washington to Henry Knox.1

By slow, I wish I could add, and sure movements, the business of the Convention progresses but to say when it will end, or what will be the result, is more than I dare venture to do and therefore shall hazard no opinion thereon. If some thing good does not proceed from the Cession the defects cannot with propriety be charged to the hurry with which the business has been conducted, notwithstanding which many things may be forgot — some of them not well digested — and others from the contrariety of sentiments with which such a body is pervaded become a mere nihility yet I wish a disposition may be found in Congress, the several State Legislatures — and the community at large to adopt the Government which may be agreed on in Convention because I am fully persuaded it is the best that can be obtained at the present moment under such diversity of ideas as prevail.

Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton, Alexander
Aug. 20., 1787
New York
Rufus King
King, Rufus

Alexander Hamilton to Rufus King.2

Since my arrival here, I have written to my colleagues, informing them, that if either of them would come down, I would accompany him to Philadelphia. So much for the sake of propriety and public opinion.

In the mean time if any material alteration should happen to be made in the plan now before the Convention, I will be obliged to you for a communication of it. I will also be obliged to you to let me know when your conclusion is at hand; for I would choose to be present at that time.

Hugh Williamson
Williamson, Hugh
20th August, 1787
Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor

Hugh Williamson to Governor Caswell.3

On Monday last Col. Davie set out from this place. I regret his departure very much as his conduct here has induced me to think highly of his abilities and political principles. On Monday next Col. Martin also proposes to leave us when we shall be reduced to a mere representation; of the five Gentlemen who were appointed by the Assembly only one will remain. I wish you in the meanwhile to believe that Col. Blount & myself are determined to persevere while there are Six other States on the Floor or until the business Edition: current; Page: [71] is finished, tho’ it should last for months, we have two reasons for this resolution, either of which will be conclusive. We owe this duty to the State whose interest seems to be deeply concerned, and we owe it to the feelings of your Excellency, for we would not have it alleged that Gentlemen whom you had been pleased to honor with the Public trust had failed in a single Iota of their duty to the Public. We shall on some future occasion be at liberty to explain to your Excellency how difficult a part has fallen to the share of our State in the course of this business and I flatter myself greatly if we have not sustained it with a Principle & firmness that will entitle us to what we will never ask for, the thanks of the public. It will be sufficient for us if we have the satisfaction of believing that we have contributed to the happiness of Millions.

William Blount
Blount, William
August 20th, 1787
Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor

William Blount to Governor Caswell.1

In a letter from New York I informed your Excellency of my reasons for leaving the Convention and returning to that place with Mr. Hawkins to represent this State in Congress. On Monday the 6th Inst. the Committee of detail made their Report to the Convention and on the Morning of Tuesday the 7th Hawkins and myself returned here and I again took my seat in Convention; so that tho’ I was not present all the time the Convention were debating and fixing the principles of the Government I have been and mean to continue to be present while the detail is under Consideration, that is until the Business of the Convention is Completed. From 10 to 4 O’Clock are the invariable hours of Session and as much Unanimity as can be expected prevails, yet I believe the business will not be completed in less than a month from this Time; Mr. Davie left us on this day week, his business at the approaching Superior Court called him so pressingly that he could not stay any longer. If he could have complyed with his own inclination, or those of the Delegation of the State he would have remained during the Session.

Mr. Martin informs us that on Monday next we must also submit to his leaving us. I wish it could be other ways . . .

Your Excellency is not now to be informed that I am not at liberty to explain the particulars of the mode of Government that the Convention have in Contemplation, but I will venture to assure you that it will be such a form of Government as I believe will be readily adopted by the several States because I believe it will be such as will be their respective interest to adopt.

Edition: current; Page: [72]
Alexander Martin
Martin, Alexander
August 20th, 1787
Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor

Alexander Martin to Governor Caswell.1

I have been honored with your Excellency’s Letter of the 26th Ulto. in which you are pleased to suggest you have been disappointed in receiving particular information respecting the Convention; In my last I wrote your Excellency the Reasons which I flatter myself you have received and approved of, why Communications could not be made until the Business before this Body be Completed and prepared for the public Eye, much time has been employed in drawing the outlines of the Subjects of their Deliberations in which as much unanimity has prevailed as could be well expected from so many Sentiments Arising in twelve Independent Sovereign Bodies; Rhode Island not having deigned to keep company with her Sister States on this Occasion. The Convention after having agreed on some great principles in the Government of the Union Adjourned for a few days, having appointed a Committee composed of the following Gentlemen, to wit: Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina, Mr. Randolph of Virginia, Mr. Elsworth of Connecticut, Mr. Wilson of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Gorham of Massachusetts, to detail or render more explicit the chief subjects of their Discussion; on the Report of these Gentlemen the Convention again met, and are now employed taking up the same Paragraph by paragraph, and so slow is the progress that I am doubtful the Business will not be fully reduced to System and finished before the middle of September next, if then.

It is the wish of the Members of Convention that the States be fully represented in Congress at the time they will be presented with the Conventional Transactions, of which should Congress give their approbation the same may be transmitted to the Legislatures of the several States at their next meeting, that the sense of the Union be obtained as soon as possible thereupon. Colo.Ashe is alone at Congress, Colo. Burton was expected before this, but is not yet arrived; Col. Blount has been with us from Congress for some days past, as Col. Davie was under the Necessity to return Home; Mr. Hawkins is also returned. I am also obliged to be at Salisbury Superior Court in Sept. next, and propose to sett off the first of that month on my return. The State will still be represented fully in Convention by my Honourable friends Messrs. Spaight, Blount & Williamson. My absence may I think be the more easily dispenced with when I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency the Deputation from the State of North Carolina have generally been unanimous on all Edition: current; Page: [73] great questions, and I flatter myself will continue so until the Objects of their mission be finished. Tho’ I have not told your Excellency affirmatively what the Convention have done, I can tell you negatively what they have not done. They are not about to create a King as hath been represented unfavourably in some of the eastern States, so that you are not to expect the Bishop Oznaburg or any prince or great man of the World to rule in this Country.1 The Public Curiosity will no doubt be gratified at the next Assembly, perhaps before.

David Brearley
Brearley, David
21 Aug. 1787
William Paterson
Paterson, William

David Brearley to William Paterson.2

I was in hopes after the Committee had reported, that we should have been able to have published by the first of September, at present I have no prospect of our getting through before the latter end of that month. Every article is again argued over, with as much earnestness and obstinacy as before it was committed. We have lately made a rule to meet at ten and sit ’til four, which is punctually complied with. Cannot you come down and assist us, — we have many reasons for desiring this; our duty, in the manner we now sit, is quite too hard for three, but a much stronger reason is, that we actually stand in need of your abilities.

James McClurg
McClurg, James
Augt. 22. 87
James Madison
Madison, James

James McClurg to James Madison.3

I have so much pleasure from your communications, that I shall be careful to acknowledge the receipt of them, with a view to secure their continuance.

I have still some hope that I shall hear from you of ye reinstatement of ye Negative — as it is certainly ye only mean by which the several Legislatures can be restrain’d from disturbing ye order & harmony of ye whole, & ye Governmt. render’d properly national, & one. I should suppose yt some of its former opponents must by this time have seen ye necessity of advocating it, if they wish to support their own principles.

August 22, 1787

Extract From The Pennsylvania Journal.2

We are informed, that many letters have been written to the Edition: current; Page: [74] members of the foederal convention from different quarters, respecting the reports idly circulating, that it is intended to establish a monarchical government, to send for the bishop of Osnaburgh, &c., &c. — to which it has been uniformly answered, tho’ we cannot, affirmatively, tell you what we are doing, we can, negatively, tell you what we are not doing — we never once thought of a king.1

Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund
August 22 1787

Edmund Randolph to the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.2

I requested Dr. Mclurg to inform your honorable board, that at the completion of our business we should be called upon for several expences, incurred during our session; the principal of which would be an allowance to the secretary, and two door-keepers, and the charge of printing and stationary. Perhaps this circumstance may have escaped that gentleman’s memory; and as it is a matter of some consequence to us, I beg leave to mention it now, and to ask the sense of the executive, whether it can be placed among the contingent charges of government, or must be paid by ourselves. When I informed you, that the balance in my hands would probably be absorbed before my return, or something to this effect, I had in contemplation not my own wages only, but this debt also. You will therefore be pleased, sir, to give me the earliest answer, which may be in your power. Should it not be expedient to allow these expences, I shall have a small balance still in my hands, which I will pay into the treasury immediately on my return — . . .

N. B. I failed in my attempt to take up my draught for the 100 L, as it had been sent to Virginia, contrary to the information I first received. So that what I have said above goes upon the supposition of that sum having been debited to me.

W. R. Davie
Davie, W. R.
August 23rd. 1787
Governor Caswell
Caswell, Governor

W. R. Davie to Governor Caswell.3

I left Philadelphia on the 13th Ulto., before which date we had informed you of the progress of the business; it was not supposed the Convention would rise before the first of September, and all the other Gentlemen were attending and agreed to stay, and as the Edition: current; Page: [75] general principles were already fixed and Considering the State and Nature of my business, I felt myself fully at liberty to return, especially as No. Carolina was so fully and respectably represented.

Thursday, August 23, 1787

Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser.

The punctuality with which the members of the Convention assemble every day at a certain hour, and the long time they spend in the deliberations of each day (sometimes 7 hours) are proofs, among other things how much they are entitled to the universal confidence of the people of America. Such a body of enlightened and honest men perhaps never before met for political purposes in any country upon the face of the earth.

Ezra Stiles
Stiles, Ezra

Ezra Stiles: Diary.1

[August] 27. Judge Elsworth a Member of the foederal Convention just returned fr. Philada visited me, & tells me the Convent. will not rise under three Weeks.

Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton, Alexander
Aug. 28, 1787
Rufus King
King, Rufus

Alexander Hamilton to Rufus King.2

I wrote to you some days since to request you to inform me when there was a prospect of your finishing, as I intended to be with you, for certain reasons, before the conclusion.

It is whispered here that some late changes in your scheme have taken place which give it a higher tone. Is this the case?

I leave town today to attend a circuit in a neighboring County, from which I shall return the last of the week; and shall be glad to find a line from you explanatory of the period of the probable termination of your business.

Nathaniel Gorham
Gorham, Nathaniel
Augt 29
Caleb Strong
Strong, Caleb

Nathaniel Gorham to Caleb Strong.3

I recd your favour from N York and was pleased to find that you had got on so well. . . . We have now under consideration the 18th Article which is that the United States shall guarantee, &c. &c.4

Edition: current; Page: [76]

I am in hopes we shall be done in about 20 days. There are several things referred which will take some time.

Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas
Aug. 30. 1787
John Adams
Adams, John

Thomas Jefferson to John Adams.1

I have news from America as late as July 19. nothing had then transpired from the Federal convention. I am sorry they began their deliberations by so abominable a precedent as that of tying up the tongues of their members. nothing can justify this example but the innocence of their intentions, & ignorance of the value of public discussions. I have no doubt that all their other measures will be good & wise. it is really an assembly of demigods. Genl. Washington was of opinion they should not separate till October.

George Washington
Washington, George
Sept. 2d 1787
John Jay
Jay, John

George Washington to John Jay.2

I regret not having had it in my power to visit New York during the adjournment of the Convention, last Month. — not foreseeing with any precission the period at which it was likely to take place or the length of it, I had put my carriage in the hands of a workman to be repaired and had not the means of mooving during the recess but with, or the curtisy of, others.

I thank you for the hints contained in your letter

Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund
Sept. 2, 1787
Beverley Randolph
Randolph, Beverley

Edmund Randolph to Beverley Randolph.3

I expect to leave this place on Saturday, Seven night.

James Madison
Madison, James
Sepr. 4. 1787

James Madison to his Father.4

The Convention has not yet broken up but its Session will probably continue but a short time longer. Its proceedings are still under the injunction of secresy. . . . As soon as the tie of secresy shall be dissolved I will forward the proceedings of the Convention.

John Collins
Collins, John
Septem ye 4th: 1787
Arthur St. Clair
St. Clair, Arthur

John Collins to Arthur St. Clair, President of Congress.4

I have not as yet lost all hopes of getting a Representation to Edition: current; Page: [77] the General Convention timely, that their Report may be made in the name of the thirteen United States, the idea of a Report from twelve States onely appears extreem disagreeable, I shall spare no pains to prevent it —

James Madison
Madison, James
Sepr. 6. 1787
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson.1

As the Convention will shortly rise I should feel little scruple in disclosing what will be public here, before it could reach you, were it practicable for me to guard by Cypher against an intermediate discovery. But I am deprived of this resource by the shortness of the interval between the receipt of your letter of June 20, and the date of this. This is the first day which has been free from Committee service, both before & after the hours of the House, and the last that is allowed me by the time advertised for the sailing of the packet.

The Convention consists now as it has generally done of Eleven States. There has been no intermission of its Sessions since a house was formed; except an interval of about ten days allowed a Committee appointed to detail the general propositions agreed on in the House. The term of its dissolution cannot be more than one or two weeks distant. A Governmt. will probably be submitted to the people of the States, consisting of a president, cloathed with Executive power; a Senate chosen by the Legislatures, and another House chosen by the people of the States, jointly possessing the legislative power; and a regular judiciary establishment. The mode of constituting the Executive is among the few points not yet finally settled. The Senate will consist of two members from each State, and appointed sexennially. The other, of members appointed biennially by the people of the States, in proportion to their number. The Legislative power will extend to taxation, trade, and sundry other general matters. The powers of Congress will be distributed, according to their nature, among the several departments. The States will be restricted from paper money and in a few other instances. These are the outlines. The extent of them may perhaps surprize you. I hazard an opinion nevertheless that the plan, should it be adopted, will neither effectually answer its national object, not prevent the local mischiefs which everywhere excite disgusts agst. the State Governments. The grounds of this opinion will be the subject of a future letter. . . .

Nothing can exceed the universal anxiety for the event of the Edition: current; Page: [78] meeting here. Reports and conjectures abound concerning the nature of the plan which is to be proposed. The public however is certainly in the dark with regard to it. The Convention is equally in the dark as to the reception wch. may be given to it on its publication. All the prepossessions are on the right side, but it may well be expected that certain characters will wage war against any reform whatever. My own idea is that the public mind will now or in a very little time receive anything that promises stability to the public Councils & security to private rights, and that no regard ought to be had to local prejudices or temporary considerations. If the present moment be lost, it is hard to say what may be our fate. . . .

Mr. Wythe has never returned to us. His lady whose illness carried him away, died some time after he got home.

Jonas Phillips
Phillips, Jonas
Sepr 7th 1787

Jonas Phillips to the President and Members of the Convention.1


With leave and submission I address myself To those in whome there is wisdom understanding and knowledge. they are the honourable personages appointed and Made overseers of a part of the terrestrial globe of the Earth, Namely the 13 united states of america in Convention Assembled, the Lord preserve them amen —

I the subscriber being one of the people called Jews of the City of Philadelphia, a people scattered and despersed among all nations do behold with Concern that among the laws in the Constitution of Pennsylvania their is a Clause Sect. 10 to viz — I do believe in one God the Creature and governour of the universe the Rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked — and I do acknowledge the scriptures of the old and New testement to be given by a devine inspiration — to swear and believe that the new testement was given by devine inspiration is absolutly against the Religious principle of a Jew. and is against his Conscience to take any such oath — By the above law a Jew is deprived of holding any publick office or place of Government which is a Contridectory to the bill of Right Sect 2. viz

That all men have a natural and unalienable Right To worship almighty God according to the dectates of their own Conscience and understanding, and that no man aught or of Right can be Compelled to attend any Relegious Worship or Erect or support any place of worship or Maintain any minister contrary to or against his own free will and Consent nor Can any man who acknowledges Edition: current; Page: [79] the being of a God be Justly deprived or abridged of any Civil Right as a Citizen on account of his Religious sentiments or peculiar mode of Religious Worship, and that no authority Can or aught to be vested in or assumed by any power what ever that shall in any Case interfere or in any manner Controul the Right of Conscience in the free Exercise of Religious Worship —

It is well known among all the Citizens of the 13 united States that the Jews have been true and faithful whigs, and during the late Contest with England they have been foremost in aiding and assisting the States with their lifes and fortunes, they have supported the Cause, have bravely faught and bleed for liberty which they Can not Enjoy —

Therefore if the honourable Convention shall in ther Wisdom think fit and alter the said oath and leave out the words to viz — and I do acknoweledge the scripture of the new testement to be given by devine inspiration then the Israeletes will think them self happy to live under a goverment where all Relegious societys are on an Eaquel footing — I solecet this favour for my self my Childreen and posterity and for the benefit of all the Isrealetes through the 13 united States of america

My prayers is unto the Lord. May the people of this States Rise up as a great and young lion, May they prevail against their Enemies, May the degrees of honour of his Excellencey the president of the Convention George Washington, be Extollet and Raise up. May Every one speak of his glorious Exploits. May God prolong his days among us in this land of Liberty — May he lead the armies against his Enemys as he has done hereuntofore — May God Extend peace unto the united States — May they get up to the highest Prosperetys — May God Extend peace to them and their seed after them so long as the Sun and moon Endureth — and may the almighty God of our father Abraham Isaac and Jacob endue this Noble Assembly with wisdom Judgement and unamity in their Councells, and may they have the Satisfaction to see that their present toil and labour for the wellfair of the united States may be approved of, Through all the world and perticular by the united States of america is the ardent prayer of Sires

Your Most devoted obed Servant
Jonas Phillips

[Addressed:] To His Excellency the president and the Honourable Members of the Convention assembled


Edition: current; Page: [80]

[Endorsed:] No 8.

Letter from Jonas Phillips a Jew, dated Sept. 7. 1787. to the President & Members of the Convention

Jonathan Dayton
Dayton, Jonathan
Sept. 9, 1787
Elias Dayton
Dayton, Elias

Jonathan Dayton to Elias Dayton.1

We have happily so far finished our business, as to be employed in giving it its last polish and preparing it for the public inspection. This, I conclude, may be done in three or four days, at which time the public curiosity and our desire of returning to our respective homes, will equally be gratified.

Joseph Jones
Jones, Joseph
13 September, 1787
James Madison
Madison, James

Joseph Jones to James Madison.2

The continuance of your session and some stories I have heard since my return and on my visit to Alexandria, make me apprehensive there is not that unanimity in your councils I hoped for and had been taught to believe. From whence it originated I know not, but it is whispered here, there is great disagreement among the gentlemen of our delegation, that the general and yourself on a very important question were together, Mr. M — n alone and singular in his opinion and the other two gentlemen holding different sentiments. I asked what was the question in dispute, and was answered that it respected either the defect in constituting the Convention as not proceeding immediately from the people, or the referring the proceedings of the body to the people for ultimate decision and confirmation. My informant also assured me the fact might be relied on as it came, as he expressed it, from the fountain head. I took the liberty to express my disbelief of the fact and that from the circumstances related it was very improbable and unworthy attention. I mention this matter for want of something else to write to you, and more especially as it respects our delegation in particular.

14 Sept., 1787
Lord Dorchester
Lord Dorchester

Sydney to Lord Dorchester.3

The report of an intention on the part of America to apply for a sovereign of the house of Hanover4 has been circulated here; and Edition: current; Page: [81] should an application of that nature be made, it will require a very nice consideration in what manner so important a subject should be treated. But whatever ideas may have been formed upon it, it will upon all accounts be advisable that any influence which your lordship may possess should be exerted to discourage the strengthening their alliance with the house of Bourbon, which must naturally follow were a sovereign to be chosen from any branch of that family.

John Dickinson
Dickinson, John
September 15th, 1787
George Read
Read, George

John Dickinson to George Read.1

Mr. Dickinson presents his compliments to Mr. Read, and requests that if the constitution, formed by the convention, is to be signed by the members of that body, Mr. Read will be so good as to subscribe Mr. Dickinson’s name — his indisposition and some particular circumstances requiring him to return home.2

George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.3

concluded the business of Convention, all to signing the proceedings; to effect which the House sat till 6 o’clock; and adjourned ’till Monday that the Constitution which it was proposed to offer to the People might be engrossed — and a number of printed copies struck off. —

George Washington
Washington, George

George Washington: Diary.4

Met in Convention when the Constitution received the unanimous assent of 11 States and Colo. Hamilton’s from New York (the only delegate from thence in Convention) and was subscribed to by every Member present except Govr. Randolph and Colo. Mason from Virginia — & Mr. Gerry from Massachusetts. The business being thus closed, the Members adjourned to the City Tavern, dined together and took a cordial leave of each other. — after which I returned to my lodgings — did some business with, and received the papers from the secretary of the Convention, and retired to meditate on the momentous wk. which had been executed, after not less than five, for a large part of the time six, and sometimes 7 hours sitting every day, sundays & the ten days adjournment to give a Commee. opportunity & time to arrange the business for more than four months. —

Edition: current; Page: [82]
William Jackson
Jackson, William
17th Sep. 1787
General Washington
Washington, General

William Jackson to General Washington.1

Major Jackson presents his most respectful compliments to General Washington. . . .

Major Jackson, after burning all the loose scraps of paper which belong to the Convention, will this evening wait upon the General with the Journals and other papers which their vote directs to be delivered to His Excellency

September 18, 1787

Pennsylvania Herald and General Advertiser.

Yesterday afternoon, about four o’clock the foederal convention . . . broke up.

Nicholas Gilman
Gilman, Nicholas
September 18th 1787
President Sullivan
Sullivan, President

Nicholas Gilman to President Sullivan.2

I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency that the important business of the Convention is closed. — their Secretary set off this morning to present the Honorable the Congress with a report of their proceedings and the Convention adjourned without day.

Nicholas Gilman
Gilman, Nicholas
September 18, 1787
Joseph Gilman
Gilman, Joseph

Nicholas Gilman to Joseph Gilman.3

The important business of the Convention being closed, the Secretary set off this morning to present Congress with a report of their proceedings, which I hope will come before the States in the manner directed, but as some time must necessarily elapse before that can take place, I do myself the pleasure to transmit the enclosed papers for your private satisfaction forbearing all comments on the plan but that it is the best that could meet the unanimous concurrence of the States in Convention; it was done by bargain and Compromise, yet notwithstanding its imperfections, on the adoption of it depends (in my feeble judgment) whether we shall become a respectable nation, or a people torn to pieces by intestine commotions, and rendered contemptible for ages.

Edition: current; Page: [83]
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund
Sept. 18, 1787
Beverley Randolph
Randolph, Beverley

Edmund Randolph to Beverley Randolph.1

I do myself the honor of forwarding to the executive a copy of the national constitution. Altho’ the names of Colo. Mason and myself are not subscribed, it is not, therefore, to be concluded that we are opposed to its adoption. Our reasons for not subscribing will be better explained at large, and on a personal interview, than by letter.

Wm. Blount, Rich’d
Wm. Blount, Rich’d
D. Spaight
Spaight, D.
Hugh Williamson
Williamson, Hugh
September 18th, 1787
Governor Caswell
Governor Caswell

North Carolina Delegates to Governor Caswell.2

In the course of four Months severe and painful application and anxiety, the Convention have prepared a plan of Government for the United States of America which we hope will obviate the defects of the present Federal Union and procure the enlarged purposes which it was intended to effect. Enclosed we have the honor to send you a Copy, and when you are pleased to lay this plan before the General Assembly we entreat that you will do us the justice to assure that honorable Body that no exertions have been wanting on our part to guard and promote the particular interest of North Carolina. You will observe that the representation in the second Branch of the National Legislature is to be according to numbers, that is to say, According to the whole number of white Inhabitants added to three-fifths of the blacks; you will also observe that during the first three years North Carolina is to have five Members in the House of Representatives, which is just one-thirteenth part of the whole number in that house and our Annual Quota of the National debt has not hitherto been fixed quite so high. Doubtless we have reasons to believe that the Citizens of North Carolina are more than a thirteenth part of the whole number in the Union, but the State has never enabled its Delegates in Congress to prove this Opinion and hitherto they had not been Zealous to magnify the number of their Constituents because their Quota of the National Debt must have been Augmented accordingly. We had many things to hope from a National Government and the chief thing we had to fear from such a Government was the Risque of unequal or heavy Taxation, but we hope you will believe as we do that the Southern States in general and North Carolina in particular are well secured on that head by the proposed system. It is provided in the 9th Section of Article the first that no Capitation or other Edition: current; Page: [84] direct Tax shall be laid except in proportion to the number of Inhabitants, in which number five blacks are only Counted as three. If a land tax is laid we are to pay the same rate, for Example: fifty Citizens of North Carolina can be taxed no more for all their Lands than fifty Citizens in one of the Eastern States. This must be greatly in our favour for as most of their Farms are small & many of them live in Towns we certainly have, one with another, land of twice the value that they Possess. When it is also considered that five Negroes are only to be charged the Same Poll Tax as three whites the advantage must be considerably increased under the proposed Form of Government. The Southern States have also a much better Security for the Return of Slaves who might endeavour to Escape than they had under the original Confederation. It is expected a considerable Share of the National Taxes will be collected by Impost, Duties and Excises, but you will find it provided in the 8th Section of Article the first that all duties, Impost and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States. While we were taking so much care to guard ourselves against being over reached and to form rules of Taxation that might operate in our favour, it is not to be supposed that our Northern Brethren were Inattentive to their particular Interest. A navigation Act or the power to regulate Commerce in the Hands of the National Government by which American Ships and Seamen may be fully employed is the desirable weight that is thrown into the Northern Scale. This is what the Southern States have given in Exchange for the advantages we Mentioned above; but we beg leave to observe in the course of this Interchange North Carolina does not appear to us to have given up anything for we are doubtless the most independent of the Southern States; we are able to carry our own produce and if the Spirit of Navigation and Ship building is cherished in our State we shall soon be able to carry for our Neighbors. We have taken the liberty to mention the General pecuniary Considerations which are involved in this plan of Government, there are other Considerations of great Magnitude involved in the system, but we cannot exercise your patience with a further detail, but submit it with the utmost deference, and have the Honor to be,

Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servts,
Wm. Blount,
Rich’d D. Spaight,
Hugh Williamson.
Edition: current; Page: [85]
James McHenry
McHenry, James

James McHenry: Anecdotes.1

18 —

A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy — A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.*

Mr. Martin said one day in company with Mr Jenifer speaking of the system before Convention —

I’ll be hanged if ever the people of Maryland agree to it. I advise you said Mr Jenifer to stay in Philadelphia lest you should be hanged.

James Parton
Parton, James


When the Convention to form a Constitution was sitting in Philadelphia in 1787, of which General Washington was president, he had stated evenings to receive the calls of his friends. At an interview between Hamilton, the Morrises, and others, the former remarked that Washington was reserved and aristocratic even to his intimate friends, and allowed no one to be familiar with him. Gouverneur Morris said that was a mere fancy, and he could be as familiar with Washington as with any of his other friends. Hamilton replied, “If you will, at the next reception evenings, gently slap him on the shoulder and say, ‘My dear General, how happy I am to see you look so well!’ a supper and wine shall be provided for you and a dozen of your friends.” The challenge was accepted. On the evening appointed, a large number attended; and at an early hour Gouverneur Morris entered, bowed, shook hands, laid his left hand on Washington’s shoulder, and said, “My dear General, I am very happy to see you look so well!” Washington withdrew his hand, stepped suddenly back, fixed his eye on Morris for several minutes with an angry frown, until the latter retreated abashed, and sought refuge in the crowd. The company looked on in silence. At the supper, which was provided by Hamilton, Morris said, “I have won the bet, but paid dearly for it, and nothing could induce me to repeat it.3

Edition: current; Page: [86]
William Pierce
Pierce, William

William Pierce: Anecdote.1

When the Convention first opened at Philadelphia, there were a number of propositions brought forward as great leading principles for the new Government to be established for the United States. A copy of these propositions was given to each Member with the injunction to keep everything a profound secret. One morning, by accident, one of the Members dropt his copy of the propositions, which being luckily picked up by General Mifflin was presented to General Washington, our President, who put it in his pocket, After the debates of the Day were over, and the question for adjournment was called for, the General arose from his seat, and previous to his putting the question addressed the Convention in the following manner, —


“I am sorry to find that some one Member of this Body, has been so neglectful of the secrets of the Convention as to drop in the State House a copy of their proceedings, which by accident was picked up and delivered to me this Morning. I must entreat Gentlemen to be more careful, least our transactions get into the News Papers, and disturb the public repose by premature speculations. I know not whose Paper it is, but there it is (throwing it down on the table), let him who owns it take it.” At the same time he bowed, picked up his Hat, and quitted the room with a dignity so severe Edition: current; Page: [87] that every Person seemed alarmed; for my part I was extremely so, for putting my hand in my pocket I missed my copy of the same Paper, but advancing up to the Table my fears soon dissipated; I found it to be the hand writing of another Person. When I went to my lodgings at the Indian Queen, I found my copy in a coat pocket which I had pulled off that Morning. It is something remarkable that no Person ever owned the Paper.

William Pierce
Pierce, William
New Hampshire

William Pierce: Character Sketches of Delegates to the Federal Convention.1

From New Hampshire.

Jno. Langdon Esqr. and Nichs. Gilman Esquire.

Mr. Langdon is a Man of considerable fortune, possesses a liberal mind, and a good plain understanding. — about 40 years old.

Mr. Gilman is modest, genteel, and sensible. There is nothing brilliant or striking in his character, but there is something respectable and worthy in the Man. — about 30 years of age.

From Massachusetts.

Rufus King, Natl. Gorham, Gerry and Jno. [Caleb] Strong Esquires.

Mr. King is a Man much distinguished for his eloquence and great parliamentary talents. He was educated in Massachusetts, and is said to have good classical as well as legal knowledge. He has served for three years in the Congress of the United States with great and deserved applause, and is at this time high in the confidence and approbation of his Country-men. This Gentleman is about thirty three years of age, about five feet ten Inches high, well formed, an handsome face, with a strong expressive Eye, and a sweet high toned voice. In his public speaking there is something peculiarly strong and rich in his expression, clear, and convincing in his arguments, rapid and irresistible at times in his eloquence but he is not always equal. His action is natural, swimming, and graceful, but there is a rudeness of manner sometimes accompanying it. But take him tout en semble, he may with propriety be ranked among the Luminaries of the present Age.

Mr. Gorham is a Merchant in Boston, high in reputation, and much in the esteem of his Country-men. He is a Man of very good sense, but not much improved in his education. He is eloquent and easy in public debate, but has nothing fashionable or elegant Edition: current; Page: [88] in his style; — all he aims at is to convince, and where he fails it never is from his auditory not understanding him, for no Man is more perspicuous and full. He has been President of Congress, and three years a Member of that Body. Mr. Gorham is about 46 years of age, rather lusty, and has an agreable and pleasing manner.

Mr. Gerry’s character is marked for integrity and perseverance. He is hesitating and laborious speaker; — possesses a great degree of confidence and goes extensively into all subjects that he speaks on, without respect to elegance or flower of diction. He is connected and sometimes clear in his arguments, conceives well, and cherishes as his first virtue, a love for his Country. Mr. Gerry is very much of a Gentleman in his principles and manners; — he has been engaged in the mercantile line and is a Man of property. He is about 37 years of age.

Mr. Strong is a Lawyer of some eminence, — he has received a liberal education, and has good connections to recommend him. As a Speaker he is feeble, and without confidence. This Gentn. is about thirty five years of age, and greatly in the esteem of his Colleagues.

From Connecticut.

Saml. Johnson, Roger Sherman, and W. [Oliver] Elsworth Esquires.

Dr. Johnson is a character much celebrated for his legal knowledge; he is said to be one of the first classics in America, and certainly possesses a very strong and enlightened understanding.

As an Orator in my opinion, there is nothing in him that warrants the high reputation which he has for public speaking. There is something in the tone of his voice not pleasing to the Ear, — but he is eloquent and clear, — always abounding with information and instruction. He was once employed as an Agent for the State of Connecticut to state her claims to certain landed territory before the British House of Commons; this Office he discharged with so much dignity, and made such an ingenious display of his powers, that he laid the foundation of a reputation which will probably last much longer than his own life. Dr. Johnson is about sixty years of age, possesses the manners of a Gentleman, and engages the Hearts of Men by the sweetness of his temper, and that affectionate style of address with which he accosts his acquaintance.

Mr. Sherman exhibits the oddest shaped character I ever remember to have met with. He is awkward, un-meaning, and unaccountably strange in his manner. But in his train of thinking there is something regular, deep and comprehensive; yet the oddity of his address, the vulgarisms that accompany his public speaking, and Edition: current; Page: [89] that strange New England cant which runs through his public as well as his private speaking make everything that is connected with him grotesque and laughable; — and yet he deserves infinite praise, — no Man has a better Heart or a clearer Head. If he cannot embellish he can furnish thoughts that are wise and useful. He is an able politician, and extremely artful in accomplishing any particular object; — it is remarked that he seldom fails. I am told he sits on the Bench in Connecticut, and is very correct in the discharge of his Judicial functions. In the early part of his life he was a Shoe-maker; — but despising the lowness of his condition, he turned Almanack maker, and so progressed upwards to a Judge. He has been several years a Member of Congress, and discharged the duties of his Office with honor and credit to himself, and advantage to the State he represented. He is about 60.

Mr. Elsworth is a Judge of the Supreme Court in Connecticut; — he is a Gentleman of a clear, deep, and copious understanding; eloquent, and connected in public debate; and always attentive to his duty. He is very happy in a reply, and choice in selecting such parts of his adversary’s arguments as he finds make the strongest impressions, — in order to take off the force of them, so as to admit the power of his own. Mr. Elsworth is about 37 years of age, a Man much respected for his integrity, and venerated for his abilities.

From New York.

Alexander Hamilton, [Robert] Yates, and W. [John] Lansing Esquires.

Colo. Hamilton is deservedly celebrated for his talents. He is a practitioner of the Law, and reputed to be a finished Scholar. To a clear and strong judgment he unites the ornaments of fancy, and whilst he is able, convincing, and engaging in his eloquence the Heart and Head sympathize in approving him. Yet there is something too feeble in his voice to be equal to the strains of oratory; — it is my opinion that he is rather a convincing Speaker, that [than] a blazing Orator. Colo. Hamilton requires time to think, — he enquires into every part of his subject with the searchings of phylosophy, and when he comes forward he comes highly charged with interesting matter, there is no skimming over the surface of a subject with him, he must sink to the bottom to see what foundation it rests on. — His language is not always equal, sometimes didactic like Bolingbroke’s at others light and tripping like Stern’s. His eloquence is not so defusive as to trifle with the senses, but he rambles just enough to strike and keep up the attention. He is about 33 years old, of small stature, and lean. His manners are tinctured with stiffness, and sometimes with a degree of vanity that is highly disagreeable.

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Mr. Yates is said to be an able Judge. He is a Man of great legal abilities, but not distinguished as an Orator. Some of his Enemies say he is an anti-federal Man, but I discovered no such disposition in him. He is about 45 years old, and enjoys a great share of health.

Mr. Lansing is a practicing Attorney at Albany, and Mayor of that Corporation. He has a hisitation in his speech, that will prevent his being an Orator of any eminence; — his legal knowledge I am told is not extensive, nor his education a good one. He is however a Man of good sense, plain in his manners, and sincere in his friendships. He is about 32 years of age.

From New Jersey.

Wm. Livingston, David Brearly, Wm. Patterson, and Jonn. Dayton, Esquires.

Governor Livingston is confessedly a Man of the first rate talents, but he appears to me rather to indulge a sportiveness of wit, than a strength of thinking. He is however equal to anything, from the extensiveness of his education and genius. His writings teem with satyr and a neatness of style. But he is no Orator, and seems little acquainted with the guiles of policy. He is about 60 years old, and remarkably healthy.

Mr. Brearly is a man of good, rather than of brilliant parts. He is a Judge of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and is very much in the esteem of the people. As an Orator he has little to boast of, but as a Man he has every virtue to recommend him. Mr. Brearly is about 40 years of age.

M. Patterson is one of those kind of Men whose powers break in upon you, and create wonder and astonishment. He is a Man of great modesty, with looks that bespeak talents of no great extent, — but he is a Classic, a Lawyer, and an Orator; — and of a disposition so favorable to his advancement that every one seemed ready to exalt him with their praises. He is very happy in the choice of time and manner of engaging in a debate, and never speaks but when he understands his subject well. This Gentleman is about 34 ys. of age, of a very low stature.

Capt. Dayton is a young Gentleman of talents, with ambition to exert them. He possesses a good education and some reading; he speaks well, and seems desirous of improving himself in Oratory. There is an impetuosity in his temper that is injurious to him; but there is an honest rectitude about him that makes him a valuable Member of Society, and secures to him the esteem of all good Men. He is about 30 years old, served with me as a Brother Aid to General Sullivan in the Western expedition of ’79.

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From Pennsylvania.

Benja. Franklin, Thos. Mifflin, Robt. Morris, Geo. Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimons, Jared Ingersol, James Wilson, Governeur Morris.

Dr. Franklin is well known to be the greatest phylosopher of the present age; — all the operations of nature he seems to understand,- the very heavens obey him, and the Clouds yield up their Lightning to be imprisoned in his rod. But what claim he has to the politician, posterity must determine. It is certain that he does not shine much in public Council, — he is no Speaker, nor does he seem to let politics engage his attention. He is, however, a most extraordinary Man, and tells a story in a style more engaging than anything I ever heard. Let his Biographer finish his character. He is 82 years old, and possesses an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age.

General Mifflin is well known for the activity of his mind, and the brilliancy of his parts. He is well informed and a graceful Speaker. The General is about 40 years of age, and a very handsome man.

Robert Morris is a merchant of great eminence and wealth; an able Financier, and a worthy Patriot. He has an understanding equal to any public object, and possesses an energy of mind that few Men can boast of. Although he is not learned, yet he is as great as those who are. I am told that when he speaks in the Assembly of Pennsylvania, that he bears down all before him. What could have been his reason for not Speaking in the Convention I know not, — but he never once spoke on any point. This Gentleman is about 50 years old.

Mr. Clymer is a Lawyer of some abilities; — he is a respectable Man, and much esteemed. Mr. Clymer is about 40 years old.

Mr. Fitzsimons is a Merchant of considerable talents, and speaks very well I am told, in the Legislature of Pennsylvania. He is about 40 years old.

Mr. Ingersol is a very able Attorney, and possesses a clear legal understanding. He is well educated in the Classic’s, and is a Man of very extensive reading. Mr. Ingersol speaks well, and comprehends his subject fully. There is a modesty in his character that keeps him back. He is about 36 years old.

Mr. Wilson ranks among the foremost in legal and political knowledge. He has joined to a fine genius all that can set him off and show him to advantage. He is well acquainted with Man, and understands all the passions that influence him. Government seems to have been his peculiar Study, all the political institutions Edition: current; Page: [92] of the World he knows in detail, and can trace the causes and effects of every revolution from the earliest stages of the Greecian commonwealth down to the present time. No man is more clear, copious, and comprehensive than Mr. Wilson, yet he is no great Orator. He draws the attention not by the charm of his eloquence, but by the force of his reasoning. He is about 45 years old.

Mr. Governeur Morris is one of those Genius’s in whom every species of talents combine to render him conspicuous and flourishing in public debate: — He winds through all the mazes of rhetoric, and throws around him such a glare that he charms, captivates, and leads away the senses of all who hear him. With an infinite streach of fancy he brings to view things when he is engaged in deep argumentation, that render all the labor of reasoning easy and pleasing. But with all these powers he is fickle and inconstant, — never pursuing one train of thinking, — nor ever regular. He has gone through a very extensive course of reading, and is acquainted with all the sciences. No Man has more wit, — nor can any one engage the attention more than Mr. Morris. He was bred to the Law, but I am told he disliked the profession, and turned merchant. He is engaged in some great mercantile matters with his namesake Mr. Robt. Morris. This Gentleman is about 38 years old, he has been unfortunate in losing one of his Legs, and getting all the flesh taken off his right arm by a scald, when a youth.

From Delaware.

John Dickinson, Gunning Bedford, Geo: Richd. Bassett, and Jacob Broom Esquires.

Mr. Dickinson has been famed through all America, for his Farmers Letters; he is a Scholar, and said to be a Man of very extensive information. When I saw him in the Convention I was induced to pay the greatest attention to him whenever he spoke. I had often heard that he was a great Orator, but I found him an indifferent Speaker. With an affected air of wisdom he labors to produce a trifle, — his language is irregular and incorrect, — his flourishes (for he sometimes attempts them), are like expiring flames, they just shew themselves and go out; — no traces of them are left on the mind to chear or animate it. He is, however, a good writer and will ever be considered one of the most important characters in the United States. He is about 55 years old, and was bred a Quaker.

Mr. Bedford was educated for the Bar, and in his profession I am told, has merit. He is a bold and nervous Speaker, and has a very commanding and striking manner; — but he is warm and impetuous in his temper, and precipitate in his judgment. Mr. Bedford is about 32 years old, and very corpulant.

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Mr. Read is a Lawyer and a Judge; — his legal abilities are said to be very great, but his powers of Oratory are fatiguing and tiresome to the last degree; — his voice is feeble, and his articulation so bad that few can have patience to attend to him. He is a very good Man, and bears an amiable character with those who know him. Mr. Read is about 50, of a low stature, and a weak constitution.

Mr. Bassett is a religious enthusiast, lately turned Methodist, and serves his Country because it is the will of the people that he should do so. He is a Man of plain sense, and has modesty enough to hold his Tongue. He is a Gentlemanly Man, and is in high estimation among the Methodists. Mr. Bassett is about 36 years old.

Mr. Broom is a plain good Man, with some abilities, but nothing to render him conspicuous. He is silent in public, but chearful and conversable in private. He is about 35 years old.

From Maryland.

Luther Martin, Jas. McHenry, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, and Daniel Carrol Esquires.

Mr. Martin was educated for the Bar, and is Attorney general for the State of Maryland. This Gentleman possesses a good deal of information, but he has a very bad delivery, and so extremely prolix, that he never speaks without tiring the patience of all who hear him. He is about 34 years of age.

Mr. Mc.Henry was bred a physician, but he afterwards turned Soldier and acted as Aid to Genl. Washington and the Marquis de la Fayette. He is a Man of specious talents, with nothing of genious to improve them. As a politician there is nothing remarkable in him, nor has he any of the graces of the Orator. He is however, a very respectable young Gentleman, and deserves the honor which his Country has bestowed on him. Mr. Mc. Henry is about 32 years of age.

Mr. Jenifer is a Gentleman of fortune in Maryland; — he is always in good humour, and never fails to make his company pleased with him. He sits silent in the Senate, and seems to be conscious that he is no politician. From his long continuance in single life, no doubt but he has made the vow of celibacy. He speaks warmly of the Ladies notwithstanding. Mr. Jenifer is about 55 years of Age, and once served as an Aid de Camp to Major Genl. Lee.

Mr. Carrol is a Man of large fortune, and influence in his State. He possesses plain good sense, and is in the full confidence of his Countrymen. This Gentleman is about years of age.

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From Virginia.

Genl. Geo: Washington, Geo: Wythe, Geo: Mason, Jas. Maddison junr. Jno. Blair, Edmd. Randolph, and James Mc.Lurg.

Genl. Washington is well known as the Commander in chief of the late American Army. Having conducted these states to independence and peace, he now appears to assist in framing a Government to make the People happy. Like Gustavus Vasa, he may be said to be the deliverer of his Country;—like Peter the great he appears as the politician and the States-man; and like Cincinnatus he returned to his farm perfectly contented with being only a plain Citizen, after enjoying the highest honor of the Confederacy, — and now only seeks for the approbation of his Country-men by being virtuous and useful. The General was conducted to the Chair as President of the Convention by the unanimous voice of its Members. He is in the 52d. year of his age.

Mr. Wythe is the famous Professor of Law at the University of William and Mary. He is confessedly one of the most learned legal Characters of the present age. From his close attention to the study of general learning he has acquired a compleat knowledge of the dead languages and all the sciences. He is remarked for his examplary life, and universally esteemed for his good principles. No Man it is said understands the history of Government better than Mr. Wythe, — nor any one who understands the fluctuating condition to which all societies are liable better than he does, yet from his too favorable opinion of Men, he is no great politician. He is a neat and pleasing Speaker, and a most correct and able Writer. Mr. Wythe is about 55 years of age.

Mr. Mason is a Gentleman of remarkable strong powers, and possesses a clear and copious understanding. He is able and convincing in debate, steady and firm in his principles, and undoubtedly one of the best politicians in America. Mr. Mason is about 60 years old, with a fine strong constitution.

Mr. Maddison is a character who has long been in public life; and what is very remarkable every Person seems to acknowledge his greatness. He blends together the profound politician, with the Scholar. In the management of every great question he evidently took the lead in the Convention, and tho’ he cannot be called an Orator, he is a most agreable, eloquent, and convincing Speaker. From a spirit of industry and application which he possesses in a most eminent degree, he always comes forward the best informed Man of any point in debate. The affairs of the United States, he perhaps, has the most correct knowledge of, of any Man in the Union. He has been twice a Member of Congress, and was always thought one Edition: current; Page: [95] of the ablest Members that ever sat in that Council. Mr. Maddison is about 37 years of age, a Gentleman of great modesty, — with a remarkable sweet temper. He is easy and unreserved among his acquaintance, and has a most agreable style of conversation.

Mr. Blair is one of the most respectable Men in Virginia, both on account of his Family as well as fortune. He is one of the Judges of the Supreme Court in Virginia, and acknowledged to have a very extensive knowledge of the Laws. Mr. Blair is however, no Orator, but his good sense, and most excellent principles, compensate for other deficiencies. He is about 50 years of age.

Mr. Randolph is Governor of Virginia, — a young Gentleman in whom unite all the accomplishments of the Scholar, and the States-man. He came forward with the postulata, or first principles, on which the Convention acted, and he supported them with a force of eloquence and reasoning that did him great honor. He has a most harmonious voice, a fine person and striking manners. Mr. Randolph is about 32 years of age.

Mr. Mc.Lurg is a learned physician, but having never appeared before in public life his character as a politician is not sufficiently known. He attempted once or twice to speak, but with no great success. It is certain that he has a foundation of learning, on which, if he pleases, he may erect a character of high renown. The Doctor is about 38 years of age, a Gentleman of great respectability, and of a fair and unblemished character.

North Carolina.

Wm. Blount, Richd. Dobbs Spaight, Hugh Williamson, Wm. Davey, and Jno. [Alexander] Martin Esquires.

Mr. Blount is a character strongly marked for integrity and honor. He has been twice a Member of Congress, and in that office discharged his duty with ability and faithfulness. He is no Speaker, nor does he possess any of those talents that make Men shine; — he is plain, honest, and sincere. Mr. Blount is about 36 years of age.

Mr. Spaight is a worthy Man, of some abilities, and fortune. Without possessing a Genius to render him brilliant, he is able to discharge any public trust that his Country may repose in him. He is about 31 years of age.

Mr. Williamson is a Gentleman of education and talents. He enters freely into public debate from his close attention to most subjects, but he is no Orator. There is a great degree of good humour and pleasantry in his character; and in his manners there is a strong trait of the Gentleman. He is about 48 years of age.

Mr. Davey is a Lawyer of some eminence in his State. He is Edition: current; Page: [96] said to have a good classical education, and is a Gentleman of considerable literary talents. He was silent in the Convention, but his opinion was always respected. Mr. Davey is about 30 years of age.

Mr. Martin was lately Governor of North Carolina, which office he filled with credit. He is a Man of sense, and undoubtedly is a good politician, but he is not formed to shine in public debate, being no Speaker. Mr. Martin was once a Colonel in the American Army, but proved unfit for the field. He is about 40 years of age.

South Carolina.

Jno. Rutledge, Chs. Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, and Pierce Butler Esquires.

Mr. Rutledge is one of those characters who was highly mounted at the commencement of the late revolution; — his reputation in the first Congress gave him a distinguished rank among the American Worthies. He was bred to the Law, and now acts as one of the Chancellors of South Carolina. This Gentleman is much famed in his own State as an Orator, but in my opinion he is too rapid in his public speaking to be denominated an agreeable Orator. He is undoubtedly a man of abilities, and a Gentleman of distinction and fortune. Mr. Rutledge was once Governor of South Carolina. He is about 48 years of age.

Mr. Chs. Cotesworth Pinckney is a Gentleman of Family and fortune in his own State. He has received the advantage of a liberal education, and possesses a very extensive degree of legal knowledge. When warm in a debate he sometimes speaks well, — but he is generally considered an indifferent Orator. Mr. Pinckney was an Officer of high rank in the American army, and served with great reputation through the War. He is now about 40 years of age.

Mr. Charles Pinckney is a young Gentleman of the most promising talents. He is, altho’ only 24 ys. of age, in possession of a very great variety of knowledge. Government, Law, History and Phylosophy are his favorite studies, but he is intimately acquainted with every species of polite learning, and has a spirit of application and industry beyond most Men. He speaks with great neatness and perspicuity, and treats every subject as fully, without running into prolixity, as it requires. He has been a Member of Congress, and served in that Body with ability and eclat.1

Mr. Butler is a character much respected for the many excellent Edition: current; Page: [97] virtues which he possesses. But as a politician or an Orator, he has no pretentions to either. He is a Gentleman of fortune, and takes rank among the first in South Carolina. He has been appointed to Congress, and is now a Member of the Legislature of South Carolina. Mr. Butler is about 40 years of age; an Irishman by birth.

For Georgia.

Wm. Few, Abraham Baldwin, Wm. Pierce, and Wm. Houstoun Esqrs.

Mr. Few possesses a strong natural Genius, and from application has acquired some knowledge of legal matters; — he practices at the bar of Georgia, and speaks tolerably well in the Legislature. He has been twice a Member of Congress, and served in that capacity with fidelity to his State, and honor to himself. Mr. Few is about 35 years of age.

Mr. Baldwin is a Gentleman of superior abilities, and joins in a public debate with great art and eloquence. Having laid the foundation of a compleat classical education at Harvard College, he pursues every other study with ease. He is well acquainted with Books and Characters, and has an accomodating turn of mind, which enables him to gain the confidence of Men, and to understand them. He is a practising Attorney in Georgia, and has been twice a Member of Congress. Mr. Baldwin is about 38 years of age.

Mr. Houstoun is an Attorney at Law, and has been Member of Congress for the State of Georgia. He is a Gentleman of Family, and was educated in England. As to his legal or political knowledge he has very little to boast of. Nature seems to have done more for his corporeal than mental powers. His Person is striking, but his mind very little improved with useful or elegant knowledge. He has none of the talents requisite for the Orator, but in public debate is confused and irregular. Mr. Houstoun is about 30 years of age of an amiable and sweet temper, and of good and honorable principles.

My own character I shall not attempt to draw, but leave those who may choose to speculate on it, to consider it in any light that their fancy or imagination may depict. I am conscious of having discharged my duty as a Soldier through the course of the late revolution with honor and propriety; and my services in Congress and the Convention were bestowed with the best intention towards the interest of Georgia, and towards the general welfare of the Confederacy. I possess ambition, and it was that, and the flattering opinion which some of my Friends had of me, that gave me a seat in the wisest Council in the World, and furnished me with an opportunity of giving these short Sketches of the Characters who composed it.

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Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
Sept. 20. 1787
Mrs. Jane Mecom
Mecom, Mrs. Jane

Benjamin Franklin To Mrs. Jane Mecom.1

The Convention finish’d the 17th Instant. I attended the Business of it 5 Hours in every Day from the Beginning; which is something more than four Months. You may judge from thence that my Health continues; some tell me I look better, and they suppose the daily Exercise of going & returning from the Statehouse has done me good. — You will see the Constitution we have propos’d in the Papers. The Forming of it so as to accommodate all the different Interests and Views was a difficult Task: and perhaps after all it may not be receiv’d with the same Unanimity in the different States that the Convention have given the Example of in delivering it out for their Consideration. We have however done our best and it must take its chance.

James Madison
Madison, James
Sepr. 20 1787
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund

James Madison to Edmund Pendleton.2

The privilege of franking having ceased with the Convention, I have waited for this opportunity of inclosing you a copy of the proposed Constitution for the U. States. I forbear to make any observations on it; either on the side of its merits or its faults. The best Judges of both will be those who can combine with a knowledge of the collective & permanent interest of America, a freedom from the bias resulting from a participation in the work. If the plan proposed be worthy of adoption, the degree of unanimity attained in the Convention is a circumstance as fortunate, as the very respectable dissent on the part of Virginia is a subject of regret. The double object of blending a proper stability & energy in the Government with the essential characters of the republican Form, and of tracing a proper line of demarkation between the national and State authorities, was necessarily found to be as difficult as it was desireable, and to admit of an infinite diversity concerning the means among those who were unanimously agreed concerning the end.

Edward Carrington
Carrington, Edward
Sept. 23. 1787
New York
James Madison
Madison, James

Edward Carrington to James Madison.3

The Gentlemen who have arrived from the Convention inform us that you are on the way to join us — least, however, you may, under Edition: current; Page: [99] a supposition that the state of the delegation is such as to admit of your absence, indulge yourself in leisurely movements, after the fatiguing time you have had, I take this precaution to apprise you that the same schism which unfortunately happened in our State in Philadelphia, threatens us here also — one of our Colleagues Mr. R. H. Lee is forming propositions for essential alterations in the Constitution, which will, in effect, be to oppose it.—Another, Mr. Grayson, dislikes it, and is, at best for giving it only a silent passage to the States. Mr. H. Lee joins me in opinion that it ought to be warmly recommended to ensure its adoption. — a lukewarmness in Congress will be made a ground of opposition by the unfriendly in the States — those who have hitherto wished to bring the conduct of Congress into contempt, will in this case be ready to declare it truly respectable.

Roger Sherman
Sherman, Roger
Oliver Elsworth
Elsworth, Oliver
Sept. 26
New London

Sherman and Ellsworth to the Governor of Connecticut.1


We have the honour to transmit to your excellency a printed copy of the constitution formed by the federal convention, to be laid before the legislature of the state.

The general principles, which governed the convention in their deliberations on the subject, are stated in their address to congress.

We think it may be of use to make some further observations on particular parts of the constitution.

The congress is differently organized: yet the whole number of members, and this state’s proportion of suffrage, remain the same as before.

The equal representation of the states in the senate, and the voice of that branch in the appointment to offices, will secure the rights of the lesser, as well as of the greater states.

Some additional powers are vested in congress, which was a principal object that the states had in view in appointing the convention. Those powers extend only to matters respecting the common interests of the union, and are specially defined, so that the particular states retain their sovereignty in all other matters.

The objects, for which congress may apply monies, are the same mentioned in the eighth article of the confederation, viz. for the common defence and general welfare, and for payment of the debts incurred for those purposes. It is probable that the principal branch of revenue will be duties on imports; what may be Edition: current; Page: [100] necessary to be raised by direct taxation is to be apportioned on the several states, according to the numbers of their inhabitants, and although congress may raise the money by their own authority, if necessary, yet that authority need not be exercised, if each state will furnish its quota.

The restraint on the legislatures of the several states respecting emitting bills of credit, making any thing but money a tender in payment of debts, or impairing the obligation of contracts by ex post facto laws, was thought necessary as a security to commerce, in which the interest of foreigners, as well as of the citizens of different states, may be affected.

The convention endeavoured to provide for the energy of government on the one hand, and suitable checks on the other hand, to secure the rights of the particular states, and the liberties and properties of the citizens. We wish it may meet the approbation of the several states, and be a mean of securing their rights, and lengthening out their tranquility.

With great respect, we are,

Sir, your excellency’s
Obedient humble servants,
Roger Sherman
Oliver Elsworth,

His excellency gov. Huntington.

William Pierce
Pierce, William
Sept. 28, 1787
New York
St. George Tucker
Tucker, St. George

William Pierce to St. George Tucker.1

You ask me for such information as I can, with propriety, give you, respecting the proceedings of the Convention: In my letter from Philadelphia, in July last, I informed you that everything was covered with the veil of secrecy. It is now taken off, and the great work is presented to the public for their consideration. I enclose you a copy of it, with the letter which accompanies the Constitution.

You will probably be surprised at not finding my name affixed to it, and will, no doubt, be desirous of having a reason for it. Know then, Sir, that I was absent in New York on a piece of business so necessary that it became unavoidable. I approve of its principles, and would have signed it with all my heart, had I been present. To say, however, that I consider it as perfect, would be to make an acknowledgement immediately opposed to my judgment. Perhaps it is the only one that will suit our present situation. The wisdom Edition: current; Page: [101] of the Convention was equal to something greater; but a variety of local circumstances, the inequality of states, and the dissonant interests of the different parts of the Union, made it impossible to give it any other shape or form.

James Wilson
Wilson, James

James Wilson: Address to a Meeting of the Citizens of Philadelphia on October 6, 1787.1

Another objection that has been fabricated against the new constitution, is expressed in this disingenuous form — “the trial by jury is abolished in civil cases.” I must be excused, my fellow citizens, if, upon this point, I take advantage of my professional experience, to detect the futility of the assertion. Let it be remembered, then, that the business of the foederal constitution was not local, but general — not limited to the views and establishments of a single state, but co-extensive with the continent, and comprehending the views and establishments of thirteen independent sovereignties. When, therefore, this subject was in discussion, we were involved in difficulties, which pressed on all sides, and no precedent could be discovered to direct our course. The cases open to a jury, differed in the different states; it was therefore impracticable, on that ground, to have made a general rule. The want of uniformity would have rendered any reference to the practice of the states idle and useless: and it could not, with any propriety, be said, that “the trial by jury shall be as heretofore:” since there has never existed any foederal system of jurisprudence, to which the declaration could relate. Besides, it is not in all cases that the trial by jury is adopted in civil questions: for causes depending in courts of admiralty, such as relate to maritime captures, and such as are agitated in the courts of equity, do not require the intervention of that tribunal. How, then, was the line of discrimination to be drawn? The convention found the task too difficult for them; and they left the business as it stands — in the fullest confidence, that no danger could possibly ensue, since the proceedings of the supreme court are to be regulated by the congress, which is a faithful representation of the people: and the oppression of government is effectually barred, by declaring that in all criminal cases, the trial by jury shall be preserved.

. . . Perhaps there never was a charge made with less reason, than that which predicts the institution of a baneful aristocracy in the foederal senate. This body branches into two characters, the one legislative, and the other executive. In its legislative character, it can effect no purpose without the co-operation of the house of Edition: current; Page: [102] representatives: and in its executive character, it can accomplish no object, without the concurrence of the president. Thus fettered, I do not know any act which the senate can of itself perform: and such dependence necessarily precludes every idea of influence and superiority. But I will confess, that in the organization of this body, a compromise between contending interests is discernible: and when we reflect how various are the laws, commerce, habits, population, and extent of the confederated states, this evidence of mutual concession and accommodation ought rather to command a generous applause, than to excite jealousy and reproach. For my part, my admiration can only be equalled by my astonishment, in beholding so perfect a system formed from such heterogenous materials.

George Mason
Mason, George
Octor. 7th. 1787
George Washington
Washington, George

George Mason to George Washington.1

I take the Liberty to enclose you my Objections to the new Constitution of Government; which a little Moderation & Temper, in the latter End of the Convention, might have removed. I am however most decidedly of Opinion, that it ought to be submitted to a Convention chosen by the People, for that special Purpose; and shou’d any Attempt be made to prevent the calling such a Convention here, such a Measure shall have every Opposition in my Power to give it. You will readily observe, that my Objections are not numerous (the greater Part of the inclosed paper containing Reasonings upon the probable Effects of the exceptionable Parts) tho’ in my mind, some of them are capital ones.2

Pierce Butler
Butler, Pierce
October 8th, 1787
New York
Weedon Butler
Butler, Weedon

Pierce Butler to Weedon Butler.3

After four months close Confinement, We closed on the 17th of last month the business Committed to Us. If it meets with the approbation of the States, I shall feel myself fully recompensed for my share of the trouble, and a Summer’s Confinement which injured my health much. . . . We, in many instances took the Constitution of Britain, when in its purity, for a model, and surely We cou’d not have a better. We tried to avoid what appeared to Us Edition: current; Page: [103] the weak parts of Antient as well as Modern Republicks. How well We have succeeded is left for You and other Letterd Men to determine. It is somewhat singular yet so the fact is, that I have never met with any Dutch man who understood the Constitution of his own Country. It is certainly a very complex unwieldy piece of business. I have read different Histories of it with attention, and to this hour I have but a very inadequate idea of it. Pray give me your opinion freely of the One I had some small hand in frameing, after you have read it. In passing judgment on it you must call to mind that we had Clashing Interests to reconcile — some strong prejudices to encounter, for the same spirit that brought settlers to a certain Quarter of this Country is still alive in it. View the system then as resulting from a spirit of Accomodation to different Interests, and not the most perfect one that the Deputies cou’d devise for a Country better adapted for the reception of it than America is at this day, or perhaps ever will be. It is a great Extent of Territory to be under One free Government; the manners and modes of thinking of the Inhabitants, differing nearly as much as in different Nations of Europe. If we can secure tranquillity at Home, and respect from abroad, they will be great points gain’d. We have, as you will see, taken a portion of power from the Individual States, to form a General Government for the whole to preserve the Union. The General Government to Consist of two Branches of Legislature and an Executive to be vested in One person for four years, but elligible again — the first Branch of the Legislature to be elected by the People of the different States, agreeable to a ratio of numbers and wealth, to serve for two years. The Second to Consist of two members from each State, to be appointed by the Legislature of the States to serve for six years. One third to go out every two years, but to be Elligible again if their State thinks proper to appoint them. A Judiciary to be Supreme in all matters relating to the General Government, and Appellate in State Controversies. The powers of the General Government are so defined as not to destroy the Sovereignty of the Individual States. These are the outlines, if I was to be more minute I shou’d tire your patience.

George Washington
Washington, George
October 10th. 1787
Mount Vernon
David Humphreys
Humphreys, David

George Washington to David Humphreys.1

The Constitution that is submitted, is not free from imperfections. — but there are as few radical defects in it as could well be Edition: current; Page: [104] expected, considering the heterogenious mass of which the Convention was composed and the diversity of interests that are to be attended to, As a Constitutional door is opened for future amendments and alterations, I think it would be wise in the People to accept what is offered to them and I wish it may be by as great a majority of them as it was by that of the Convention; but this is hardly to be expected because the importance and sinister views of too many characters, will be affected by the change. Much will depend however upon literary abilities, and the recommendation of it by good pens should be openly, I mean publickly afforded in the Gazetees. Go matters however as they may, I shall have the consolation to reflect that no objects but the public good — and that peace and harmony which I wished to see prevail in the Convention, obtruded even for a moment in my bosom during the whole Session long as it was —

11. Oct. 1787

Letter to Jefferson [?].1

I have given two or three papers which contain the substance of what has passed here respecting the federal convention. the connecting thread is all I shall send, except a few minutes of the proceedings of the convention.

After four months session the house broke up. the represented states, eleven & a half, having unanimously agreed to the act handed to you, there were only three dissenting voices; one from New England, a man of sense, but a Grumbletonian. he was of service by objecting to every thing he did not propose. it was of course more canvassed, & some errors corrected. the other two are from Virginia: but Randolph wishes it well, & it is thought would have signed it, but he wanted to be on a footing with a popular rival — both these men sink in the general opinion. no wonder they were opposed to a Washington & Madison. Dr. Franklin has gained much credit within doors for his conduct, & was the person who proposed the general signature. he had prepared his address in writing. the exertion of speaking being too great, they allowed another to read it. the day previous he sent for the Pennsylvania delegates; & it was reported that he did it to acquaint them of his disapprobation of certain points, & the impossibility of agreeing to them. his views were different. he wanted to allay every possible scruple, & make their votes unanimous. some of the sentiments of the address were as follows.

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‘We have been long together. every possible objection has been combated. with so many different & contending interests it is impossible that any one can obtain every object of their wishes. we have met to make mutual sacrifices for the general good, and we have at last come fully to understand each other, & settle the terms. delay is as unnecessary as the adoption is important. I confess it does not fully accord with my sentiments. but I have lived long enough to have often experienced that we ought not to rely too much on our own judgments. I have often found I was mistaken in my most favorite ideas. I have upon the present occasion given up, upon mature reflection, many points which, at the beginning, I thought myself immoveably & decidedly in favor of. this renders me less tenacious of the remainder. there is a possibility of my being mistaken. the general principle which has presided over our deliberations now guides my sentiments. I repeat, I do materially object to certain points, & have already stated my objections — but I do declare that these objections shall never escape me without doors; as, upon the whole, I esteem the constitution to be the best possible, that could have been formed under present circumstances; & that it ought to go abroad with one united signature, & receive every support & countenance from us. I trust none will refuse to sign it. if they do, they will put me in mind of the French girl who was always quarelling & finding fault with every one around her, & told her sister that she thought it very extraordinary, but that really she had never found a person who was always in the right but herself.’ . . .

The attempt is novel in history; and I can inform you of a more novel one; that I am assured by the gentlemen who served, that scarcely a personality, or offensive expression escaped during the whole session. the whole was conducted with a liberality & candor which does them the highest honor. I may pronounce that it will be adopted. General Washington lives; & as he will be appointed President, jealousy on this head vanishes. the plan once adopted, difficulties will lessen. 9. states can alter easier than 13 agree. with respect to Rhode island, my opinion is that she will join speedily. she has paid almost all her debts by a sponge, & has more to gain by the adoption than any other state. it will enable us to gain friends, & to oppose with force the machinations of our enemies.

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Mr. Charles Pinckney
Pinckney, Mr. Charles



Delegate from the State of South-Carolina.

Delivered at different Times in the course of their Discussions.


Mr. Charles Pinckney
Pinckney, Mr. Charles
Mr. President,

It is, perhaps, unnecessary to state to the House the reasons which have given rise to this Convention. The critical and embarrassed situation of our public affairs is, no doubt, strongly impressed upon every mind. I well know, it is an undertaking of much delicacy, to examine into the cause of public disorders, but having been for a considerable time concerned in the administration of the Federal System, and an evidence of its weakness, I trust the indulgence of the House will excuse me, while I endeavor to state with conciseness, as well the motives which induced the measure, as what ought, in my opinion, to be the conduct of the convention.

There is no one, I believe, who doubts there is something particularly alarming in the present conjuncture. There is hardly a man, in, or out of office, who holds any other language. Our government is despised — our laws are robbed of their respected terrors — their inaction is a subject of ridicule — and their exertion, of abhorrence and opposition — rank and office have lost their reverence Edition: current; Page: [107] and effect — our foreign politics are as much deranged, as our domestic economy — our friends are slackened in their affection, — and our citizens loosened from their obedience. We know neither how to yield or how to enforce — hardly anything abroad or at home is sound and entire — disconnection and confusion in offices, in States and in parties, prevail throughout every part of the Union. These are facts, universally admitted and lamented.

This state of things is the more extraordinary, because it immediately follows the close of a war, when we conceived our political happiness was to commence; and because the parties which divided and were opposed to our systems, are known, to be in a great measure, dissolved. No external calamity has visited us — we labor under no taxation that is new or oppressive, nor are we engaged in a war with foreigners, or in disputes with ourselves. To what then, are we to attribute our embarrassments as a nation? The answer is an obvious one. — To the weakness and impropriety of a government, founded in mistaken principles — incapable of combining the various interests it is intended to unite and support — and destitute of that force and energy, without which, no government can exist.

At the time I pronounce in the most decided terms, this opinion of our Confederation, permit me to remark, that considering the circumstances under which it was formed — in the midst of a dangerous and doubtful war, and by men, totally inexperienced in the operations of a system so new and extensive, its defects are easily to be excused. We have only to lament the necessity which obliged us to form it at that time, and wish that its completion had been postponed to a period better suited to deliberation. I confess myself in sentiment with those, who were of opinion, that we should have avoided it if possible, during the war. That it ought to have been formed by a Convention of the States, expressly delegated for that purpose, and ratified by the authority of the people. This indispensible power it wants; and is, therefore, without the validity a federal Constitution ought certainly to have had. In most of the States it has nothing more, strictly speaking, than a legislative authority, and might therefore to be said, in some measure, to be under the control of the State legislatures.

Independent of this primary defect, of not having been formed in a manner that would have given it an authority paramount to the Constitutions and laws of the several States, and rendered it impossible for them to have interfered with its objects or operations, the first principles are destructive, and contrary to those maxims of government which have been received, and approved for ages.

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In a government, where the liberties of the people are to be preserved, and the laws well administered, the executive, legislative and judicial, should ever be separate and distinct, and consist of parts, mutually forming a check upon each other. The Confederation seems to have lost sight of this wise distribution of the powers of government, and to have concentred the whole in a single unoperative body, where none of them can be used with advantage or effect. The inequality of the principle of Representation, where the largest and most inconsiderable States have an equal vote in the affairs of the Union; the want of commercial powers; of a compelling clause to oblige a due and punctual obedience to the Confederation; a provision for the admission of new States; for an alteration of the system, by a less than unanimous vote; of a general guarantee, and in short of numerous other reforms and establishments, convince me, that upon the present occasion, it would be politic in the Convention to determine that they will consider the subject de novo. That they will pay no farther attention to the Confederation, than to consider it as good materials, and view themselves as at liberty to form and recommend such a plan, as from their knowledge of the temper of the people, and the resources of the States, will be most likely to render our government firm and united. This appears to me, far more proper than to attempt the repair of a system, not only radically defective in principle, but which, if it was possible to give it operation, would prove absurd and oppressive. You must not hesitate to adopt proper measures, under an apprehension the States may reject them. From your deliberations much is expected; the eyes, as well as hopes of your constituents are turned upon the Convention; let their expectations be gratified. Be assured, that, however unfashionable for the moment, your sentiments may be, yet, if your system is accomodated to the situation of the Union, and founded in wise and liberal principles, it will, in time, be consented to. An energetic government is our policy, and it will at last be discovered, and prevail.

Presuming that the question will be taken up de novo, I do not conceive it necessary to go into a minute detail of the defects of the present Confederation, but request permission, to submit, with deference to the House, the Draft of a Government which I have formed for the Union. The defects of the present will appear in the course of the examination I shall give each article that either materially varies or is new. I well know the Science of Government is at once a delicate and difficult one, and none more so than that of Republics. I confess my situation or experience have not been such, as to enable me, to form the clearest and justest opinions. Edition: current; Page: [109] The sentiments I shall offer, are the result of not so much reflection as I could have wished. The Plan will admit of important amendments. I do not mean at once to offer it for the consideration of the House, but have taken the liberty of mentioning it, because it was my duty to do so.

The first important alteration is, that of the principle of Representation, and the distribution of the different Powers of Government. In the federal Councils, each State ought to have a weight in proportion to its importance; and no State is justly entitled to a greater. A Representation is the sign of the reality. Upon this principle, however abused, the parliament of Great Britain is formed, and it has been universally adopted by the States in the formation of their Legislatures. It would be impolitic in us, to deem that unjust, which is a certain and beneficial truth. The abuse of this equality, has been censured as one of the most dangerous corruptions of the English Constitution; and I hope we shall not incautiously contract a disease that has been consuming them. Nothing, but necessity, could have induced Congress to ratify a Confederation upon other principles. It certainly was the opinion of the first Congress, in 1774, to acquire materials for forming an estimate of the comparative importance of each State; for, in the commencement of that session, they gave as a reason, for allowing each colony a vote, that it was not in their power, at that time, to procure evidence for determining their importance. This idea, of a just Representation, seems to have been conformable to the opinions of the best writers on the subject, that, in a confederated system, the members ought to contribute according to their abilities, and have a vote in proportion to their importance. But if each must have a vote, it can be defended upon no other ground, than that of each contributing an equal share of the public burdens: either would be a perfect system. The present must ever continue irreconcileable to justice. Montesquieu, who had very maturely considered the nature of a confederated Government, gives the preference to the Lycian, which was formed upon this model. The assigning to each State its due importance in the federal Councils, at once removes three of the most glaring defects and inconveniences of the present Confederation. The first is, the inequality of Representation: the second is, the alteration of the mode of doing business in Congress; that is, voting individually, and not by States: the third is, that it would be the means of inducing the States to keep up their delegations by punctual and respectable appointments. The dilatory and unpleasant mode of voting by States, must have been experienced by all who were members of Congress. Seven are necessary Edition: current; Page: [110] for any question, except adjourning, and nine for those of importance. It seldom happens that more than nine or ten States are represented. Hence it is generally in the power of a State, or of an individual, to impede the operations of that body. It has frequently happened, and indeed, lately, there have rarely been together, upon the floor, a sufficient number of States to transact any but the most trifling business. When the different branches of Government are properly distributed, so as to make each operate upon the other as a check, the apportioning the Representation according to the weight of the members, will enable us to remove these difficulties, by making a majority of the Houses, when constituted, capable of deciding in all, except a few cases, where a larger number may be thought necessary. The division of the legislative will be found essential, because, in a government where so many important powers are intended to be placed, much deliberation is requisite. No possibility of precipitately adopting improper measures ought to be admitted, and such checks should be imposed, as we find, from experience, have been useful in other governments. In the Parliament of Great Britain, as well as in most, and the best instituted legislatures in the States, we find, not only two Branches, but in some, a Council of Revision, consisting of their executive, and principal officers of government. This, I consider as an improvement in legislation, and have therefore incorporated it as a part of the system. It adds to that due deliberation, without which, no act should be adopted; and, if in the affairs of a State government, these restraints have proved beneficial, how much more necessary may we suppose them, in the management of concerns, so extensive and important?

The Senate, I propose to have elected by the House of Delegates, upon proportionable principles, in the manner I have stated, which, though rotative, will give that body a sufficient degree of stability and independence. The districts, into which the Union are to be divided, will be so apportioned, as to give to each its due weight, and the Senate, calculated in this, as it ought to be in every Government, to represent the wealth of the Nation. No mode can be devised, more likely to secure their independence, of, either the people, or the House of Delegates, or to prevent their being obliged to accomodate their conduct to the influence or caprice of either. The people, in the first instance, will not have any interference in their appointment, and each class being elected for four years; the House of Delegates, which nominate, must, from the nature of their institution, be changed, before the times of the Senators have expired.

The executive should be appointed septennially, but his eligibility Edition: current; Page: [111] ought not to be limited: He is not a branch of the legislature, farther, than as a part of the Council of Revision, and the suffering him to continue eligible, will, not only be the means of ensuring his good behavior, but serve to render the office more respectable. I shall have no objection to elect him for a longer term, if septennial appointments are supposed too frequent or unnecessary. It is true, that in our Government, he cannot be cloathed with those executive authorities, the Chief Magistrate of a Government often possesses; because they are vested in the Legislature, and cannot be used or delegated by them in any, but the specified mode. Under the New System, it will be found essentially necessary to have the Executive distinct. His duties, will be, to attend to the execution of the acts of Congress, by the several States; to correspond with them upon the subject; to prepare and digest, in concert with the great departments, such business as will come before the Legislative, at their stated sessions: to acquire, from time to time, as perfect a knowledge of the situation of the Union, as he possibly can, and to be charged with all the business of the Home Department. He will be empowered, whenever he conceives it necessary, to inspect the Departments of Foreign Affairs, of War, of Treasury, and when instituted, of the Admiralty. This inspection into the conduct of the Departments will operate as a check upon those Officers, keep them attentive to their duty, and may be the means in time not only of preventing and correcting errors, but of detecting and punishing mal-practices. He will have a right to consider the principals of these Departments as his Council, and to acquire their advice and assistance, whenever the duties of his Office shall render it necessary. By this means our Government will possess what it has always wanted, but never yet had, a Cabinet Council. An institution essential in all Governments, whose situation or connections oblige them to have an intercourse with other powers. He will be the Commander-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Forces of the United States; have a right to convene and prorogue the Legislature upon special occasions, when they cannot agree, as to the time of their adjournment; and appoint all Officers, except Judges and Foreign Ministers. Independent of the policy of having a distinct Executive, it will be found that one, on these principles will not create a new expense: The establishment of the President of Congres’s Household will nearly be sufficient; and the necessity which exists at present, and which must every day increase, of appointing a Secretary for the Home Department, will then cease. He will remain always removable by impeachment, and it will rest with the Legislature, to fix his salary upon permanent principles,

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The mode of doing business in the Federal Legislature, when thus newly organized, will be the Parliamentary one, adopted by the State Legislatures. In a Council so important, as I trust the Federal Legislature will be, too much attention cannot be paid to their proceedings. It is astonishing, that, in a body, constituted as the present Congress, so few inaccuracies are to be seen in their proceedings; for certainly, no Assembly can be so much exposed to them, as that, wherein a resolution may be introduced, and passed at once. It is a precipitancy which few situations can justify, in deliberative bodies, and which the proposed alteration will effectually prevent.

The 4th article, respecting the extending the rights of the Citizens of each State, throughout the United States; the delivery of fugitives from justice, upon demand, and the giving full faith and credit to the records and proceedings of each, is formed exactly upon the principles of the 4th article of the present Confederation, except with this difference, that the demand of the Executive of a State, for any fugitive, criminal offender, shall be complied with. It is now confined to treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor; but, as there is no good reason for confining it to those crimes, no distinction ought to exist, and a State should always be at liberty to demand a fugitive from its justice, let his crime be what it may.

The 5th article, declaring, that individual States, shall not exercise certain powers, is also founded on the same principles as the 6th of the Confederation.

The next, is an important alteration of the Federal System, and is intended to give the United States in Congress, not only a revision of the Legislative acts of each State, but a negative upon all such as shall appear to them improper.

I apprehend the true intention of the States in uniting, is to have a firm national Government, capable of effectually executing its acts, and dispensing its benefits and protection. In it alone can be vested those powers and prerogatives which more particularly distinguish a sovereign State. The members which compose the superintending Government are to be considered merely as parts of a great whole, and only suffered to retain the powers necessary to the administration of their State Systems. The idea which has been so long and falsely entertained of each being a sovereign State, must be given up; for it is absurd to suppose there can be more than one sovereignty within a Government. The States should retain nothing more than that mere local legislation, which, as districts of a general Government, they can exercise more to the benefit of their particular inhabitants, than if it was vested in the Supreme Council; Edition: current; Page: [113] but in every foreign concern, as well as those internal regulations, which respecting the whole ought to be uniform and national, the States must not be suffered to interfere. No act of the Federal Government in pursuance of its constitutional powers ought by any means to be within the control of the State Legislatures; if it is, experience warrants me in asserting, they will assuredly interfere and defeat its operation. That these acts ought not therefore to be within their power must be readily admitted; and if so, what other remedy can be devised than the one I have mentioned? As to specifying that only their acts upon particular points should be subject to revision, you will find it difficult to draw the line with so much precision and exactness as to prevent their discovering some mode of counteracting a measure that is disagreeable to them. It may be said, that the power of revision here asked, is so serious a diminution of the State’s importance, that they will reluctantly grant it. — This, however true, does not lessen its necessity, and the more the subject is examined, the more clearly will it appear. It is agreed that a reform of our Government is indispensable, and that a stronger Federal System must be adopted; but it will ever be found, that let your System upon paper be as complete, and guarded as you can make it, yet still if the State Assemblies are suffered to legislate without restriction or revision, your Government will remain weak, disjointed, and inefficient. Review the ordinances and resolutions of Congress for the last five or six years, such I mean as they had a constitutional right to adopt, and you will scarcely find one of any consequence that has not, in some measure, been violated or neglected. Examine more particularly your treaties with foreign powers; those solemn national compacts, whose stipulations each member of the Union was bound to comply with. Is there a treaty which some of the States have not infringed? Can any other conduct be expected from so many different Legislatures being suffered to deliberate upon national measures? Certainly not. Their regulations must ever interfere with each other, and perpetually disgrace and distract the Federal Councils. I must confess, I view the power of revision and of a negative as the corner stone of any reform we can attempt, and that its exercise by Congress will be as safe as it is useful. In a Government constituted as this is, there can be no abuse of it. — The proceedings of the States which merely respect their local concerns, will always be passed as matters of form, and objections only arise where they shall endeavor to contravene the Federal Authority. Under the British Government, notwithstanding we early and warmly resisted their other attacks, no objection was ever made to the negative of the King. As a Edition: current; Page: [114] part of his Government it was considered proper. Are we now less a part of the Federal Government than we were then of the British? Shall we place less confidence in men appointed by ourselves, and subject to our recall, than we did in their executive? I hope not. Whatever views we may have of the importance or retained sovereignty of the States, be assured they are visionary and unfounded, and that their true interests consist in concentring as much as possible, the force and resources of the Union in one superintending Government, where alone they can be exercised with effect. In granting to the Federal Government certain exclusive national powers, you invest all their incidental rights. The term exclusive involves every right or authority necessary to their execution. This revision and negative of the laws is nothing more than giving a farther security to these rights. It is only authorizing Congress to protect the powers you delegate, and prevent any interference or opposition on the part of the States. It is not intended to deprive them of the power of making such laws as shall be confined to the proper objects of State legislation, but it is to prevent their annexing to laws of this kind, provisions which may in their nature interfere with the regulations of the Federal Authority. It will sometimes happen that a general regulation which is beneficial to the Confederacy, may be considered oppressive or injurious by a particular State. In a mixed Government, composed of so many various interests, it will be impossible to frame general systems, operating equally upon all its members. The common benefit must be the criterion, and each State must, in its turn, be obliged to yield some of its advantages. If it was possible, compleatly to draw the distinguishing line, so as to reserve to the States, the Legislative rights they ought to retain, and prevent their exceeding them, I should not object, but it will be found exceedingly difficult; for as I have already observed, leave them only a right to pass an act, without revision or controul, and they will certainly abuse it. The only mode that I can think of, for qualifying it, is to vest a power somewhere, in each State, capable of giving their acts a limited operation, until the sense of Congress can be known. To those who have not sufficiently examined the nature of our Federal System, and the causes of its present weakness and disorders, this curb upon the State Legislatures may perhaps appear an improper attempt to acquire a dangerous and unnecessary power. I am afraid the greater part of our Citizens are of this class, and that there are too few among them, either acquainted with the nature of their own Republic, or with those of the same tendency, which have preceded it. Though our present disorders must be attributed in Edition: current; Page: [115] the first instance, to the weakness and inefficacy of our Government, it must still be confessed, they have been precipitated by the refractory and inattentive conduct of the States; most of which, have neglected altogether, the performance of their Federal Duties, and whenever their State-policy, or interests prompted, used their retained Sovereignty, to the injury and disgrace of the Federal Head. Nor can any other conduct be expected, while they are suffered to consider themselves as distinct Sovereignties, or in any other light, than as parts of a common Government. The United States, can have no danger so much to dread, as that of disunion; nor has the Federal Government, when properly formed, anything to fear, but from the licentiousness of its members. We have no hereditary monarchy or nobles, with all their train of influence or corruption, to contend with; nor is it possible to form a Federal Aristocracy. Parties may, for a time prevail in the States, but the establishment of an aristocratic influence in the Councils of the Union, is remote and doubtful. It is the anarchy, if we may use the term, or rather worse than anarchy of a pure democracy, which I fear. Where the laws lose their respect, and the Magistrates their authority; where no permanent security is given to the property and privileges of the Citizens; and no measures pursued, but such as suit the temporary interest and convenience of the prevailing parties, I cannot figure to myself a Government more truly degrading; and yet such has been the fate of all the antient, and probably will be, of all the modern Republics. The progress has been regular, from order to licentiousness; from licentiousness to anarchy, and from thence to despotism. If we review the ancient Confederacies of Greece, we shall find that each of them in their turn, became a prey to the turbulence of their members; who, refusing to obey the Federal Head, and upon all occasions insulting, and opposing its authority, afforded an opportunity to foreign powers, to interfere and subvert them. There is not an example in history, of a Confederacy’s being enslaved or ruined by the invasions of the supreme authority, nor is it scarcely possible, for depending for support and maintenance upon the members, it will always be in their power to check and prevent injuring them. The Helvetic and Belgic Confederacies, which, if we except the Gryson league, are the only Governments that can be called Republics in Europe, have the same vices with the ancients. The too great and dangerous influence of the parts — an influence, that will sooner or later subject them to the same fate. In short, from their example, and from our own experience, there can be no truth more evident than this, that, unless our Government is consolidated, as far as is practicable, by retrenching Edition: current; Page: [116] the State authorities, and concentering as much force and vigor in the Union, as are adequate to its exigencies, we shall soon be a divided, and consequently an unhappy people. I shall ever consider the revision and negative of the State laws, as one great and leading step to this reform, and have therefore conceived it proper, to bring it into view.

The next article, proposes to invest a number of exclusive rights, delegated by the present Confederation; with this alteration, that it is intended to give the unqualified power of raising troops, either in time of peace or war, in any manner the Union may direct. It does not confine them to raise troops by quotas, on particular States, or to give them the right of appointing Regimental Officers, but enables Congress to raise troops as they shall think proper, and to appoint all the officers. It also contains a provision for empowering Congress to levy taxes upon the States, agreeable to the rule now in use, an enumeration of the white inhabitants, and three-fifths of other descriptions.

The 7th article invests the United States, with the complete power of regulating the trade of the Union, and levying such imposts and duties upon the same, for the use of the United States, as shall, in the opinion of Congress, be necessary and expedient. So much has been said upon the subjects of regulating trade, and levying an impost, and the States have so generally adopted them, that I think it unnecessary to remark upon this article. The intention, is to invest the United States with the power of rendering our maritime regulations uniform and efficient, and to enable them to raise a revenue, for Federal purposes, uncontrolable by the States. I thought it improper to fix the per centage of the impost, because it is to be presumed their prudence will never suffer them to impose such duties, as a fair trade will not bear, or such as may promote smuggling. But as far as our commerce, will bear, or is capable of yielding a revenue, without depressing it, I am of opinion, they should have a right to direct. The surrendering to the Federal Government, the complete management of our commerce, and of the revenues arising from it, will serve to remove that annual dependence on the States, which has already so much deceived, and will, should no more effectual means be devised, in the end, fatally disappoint us. This article, will, I think, be generally agreed to by the States. The measure of regulating trade, is nearly assented to by all, and the only objections to the impost, being from New York, and entirely of a constitutional nature, must be removed by the powers being incorporated with, and becoming a part of the Federal System.

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The 8th article only varies so far from the present, as in the article of the Post Office, to give the Federal Government a power, not only to exact as much postage, as will bear the expense of the Office, but also, for the purpose of raising a revenue. Congress had this in contemplation, some time since, and there can be no objection, as it is presumed, in the course of a few years, the Post Office, will be capable of yielding a considerable sum to the Public Treasury.

The 9th article respecting the appointment of Federal Courts, for deciding territorial controversies between different States, is the same with that in the Confederation; but this may with propriety be left to the Supreme Judicial.

The 10th article gives Congress a right to institute all such offices as are necessary for managing the concerns of the Union; of erecting a Federal Judicial Court, for the purposes therein specified; and of appointing Courts of Admiralty for the trial of maritime causes in the States respectively. The institution of a Federal Judicial upon the principles mentioned in this article, has been long wanting. At present there is no Tribunal in the Union capable of taking cognizance of their officers who shall misbehave in any of their departments, or in their ministerial capacities out of the limits of the United States; for this, as well as the trial of questions arising on the law of nations, the construction of treaties, or any of the regulations of Congress in pursuance of their powers, or wherein they may be a party, there ought certainly to be a Judicial, acting under the authority of the Confederacy; for securing whose independence and integrity some adequate provision must be made, not subject to the controul of the Legislature. As the power of deciding finally in cases of Appeal and all Maritime Regulations are to be vested in the United States, the Courts of Admiralty in the several States, which are to be governed altogether by their Regulations, and the Civil Law, ought also to be appointed by them; it will serve as well to secure the uprightness of the Judges, as to preserve an uniformity of proceeding in Maritime Cases, throughout the Union.

The exclusive right of coining Money — regulating its alloy, and determining in what species of money the common Treasury shall be supplied, is essential to assuring the Federal Funds. If you allow the States to coin Money, or emit Bills of Credit, they will force you to take them in payment for Federal Taxes and Duties, for the certain consequence of either introducing base Coin, or depreciated Paper, is the banishing Specie out of circulation; and though Congress may determine, that nothing but Specie shall be received in payment of Federal Taxes or Duties, yet, while the States retain the rights they at present possess, they will always Edition: current; Page: [118] have it in their power, if not totally to defeat, yet very much to retard and confuse the collection of Federal Revenues. The payments of the respective States into the Treasury, either in Taxes or Imposts, ought to be regular and uniform in proportion to their abilities; — no State should be allowed to contribute in a different manner from the others, but all alike in actual Money. There can be no other mode of ascertaining this, than to give to the United States the exclusive right of coining, and determining in what manner the Federal Taxes shall be paid.

In all those important questions where the present Confederation has made the assent of Nine States necessary, I have made the assent of Two-Thirds of both Houses, when assembled in Congress, and added to the number, the Regulation of Trade, and Acts for levying an Impost and raising a Revenue: — These restraints have ever appeared to me proper; and in determining questions whereon the political happiness and perhaps existence of the Union may depend, I think it unwise ever to leave the decision to a mere majority; no Acts of this kind should pass, unless Two-Thirds of both Houses are of opinion they are beneficial, it may then be presumed the measure is right; but when merely a majority determines, it will be doubtful, and in questions of this magnitude where their propriety is doubtful, it will in general be safest not to adopt them.

The exclusive right of establishing regulations for the Government of the Militia of the United States, ought certainly to be ves[t]ed in the Federal Councils. As standing Armies are contrary to the Constitutions of most of the States, and the nature of our Government, the only immediate aid and support that we can look up to, in case of necessity, is the Militia. As the several States form one Government, united for their common benefit and security, they are to be considered as a Nation — their Militia therefore, should be as far as possible national — an uniformity in Discipline and Regulations should pervade the whole, otherwise, when the Militia of several States are required to act together, it will be difficult to combine their operations from the confusion a difference of Discipline and Military Habits will produce. Independent of our being obliged to rely on the Militia as a security against Foreign Invasions or Domestic Convulsions, they are in fact the only adequate force the Union possess, if any should be requisite to coerce a refractory or negligent Member, and to carry the Ordinances and Decrees of Congress into execution. This, as well as the cases I have alluded to, will sometimes make it proper to order the Militia of one State into another. At present the United States possess no power of directing the Militia, and must depend upon the States Edition: current; Page: [119] to carry their Recommendations upon this subject into execution — while this dependence exists, like all their other reliances upon the States for measures they are not obliged to adopt, the Federal views and designs must ever be delayed and disappointed. To place therefore a necessary and Constitutional power of defence and coercion in the hands of the Federal authority, and to render our Militia uniform and national, I am decidedly in opinion they should have the exclusive right of establishing regulations for their Government and Discipline, which the States should be bound to comply with, as well as with their Requisitions for any number of Militia, whose march into another State, the Public safety or benefit should require.

In every Confederacy of States, formed for their general benefit and security, there ought to be a power to oblige the parties to furnish their respective quotas without the possibility of neglect or evasion; — there is no such clause in the present Confederation, and it is therefore without this indispensable security. Experience justifies me in asserting that we may detail as minutely as we can, the duties of the States, but unless they are assured that these duties will be required and enforced, the details will be regarded as nugatory. No Government has more severely felt the want of a coercive Power than the United States; for want of it the principles of the Confederation have been neglected with impunity in the hour of the most pressing necessity, and at the imminent hazard of its existence: Nor are we to expect they will be more attentive in future. Unless there is a compelling principle in the Confederacy, there must be an injustice in its tendency; It will expose an unequal proportion of the strength and resources of some of the States, to the hazard of war in defence of the rest — the first principles of Justice direct that this danger should be provided against — many of the States have certainly shewn a disposition to evade a performance of their Federal Duties, and throw the burden of Government upon their neighbors. It is against this shameful evasion in the delinquent, this forced assumption in the more attentive, I wish to provide, and they ought to be guarded against by every means in our power. Unless this power of coercion is infused, and exercised when necessary, the States will most assuredly neglect their duties. The consequence is either a dissolution of the Union, or an unreasonable sacrifice by those who are disposed to support and maintain it.

The article impowering the United States to admit new States into the Confederacy is become indispensable, from the separation of certain districts from the original States, and the increasing population and consequence of the Western Territory. I have also added Edition: current; Page: [120] an article authorizing the United States, upon petition from the majority of the citizens of any State, or Convention authorized for that purpose, and of the Legislature of the State to which they wish to be annexed, or of the States among which they are willing to be divided, to consent to such junction or division, on the terms mentioned in the article. — The inequality of the Federal Members, and the number of small States, is one of the greatest defects of our Union. It is to be hoped this inconvenience will, in time, correct itself; and, that the smaller States, being fatigued with the expence of their State Systems, and mortified at their want of importance, will be inclined to participate in the benefits of the larger, by being annexed to and becoming a part of their Governments. I am informed sentiments of this kind already prevail; and, in order to encourage propositions so generally beneficial, a power should be vested in the Union, to accede to them whenever they are made.

The Federal Government should also possess the exclusive right of declaring on what terms the privileges of citizenship and naturalization should be extended to foreigners. At present the citizens of one State, are entitled to the privileges of citizens in every State. Hence it follows, that a foreigner, as soon as he is admitted to the rights of citizenship in one, becomes entitled to them in all. The States differed widely in their regulations on this subject. I have known it already productive of inconveniences, and think they must increase. The younger States will hold out every temptation to foreigners, by making the admission to office less difficult in their Governments, than the older. — I believe in some States, the residence which will enable a foreigner to hold any office, will not in others intitle him to a vote. To render this power generally useful it must be placed in the Union, where alone it can be equally exercised.

The 16th article proposes to declare, that if it should hereafter appear necessary to the United States to recommend the Grant of any additional Powers, that the assent of a given number of the States shall be sufficient to invest them and bind the Union as fully as if they had been confirmed by the Legislatures of all the States. The principles of this, and the article which provides for the future alteration of the Constitution by its being first agreed to in Congress, and ratified by a certain proportion of the Legislatures, are precisely the same; they both go to destroy that unanimity which upon these occasions the present System has unfortunately made necessary — the propriety of this alteration has been so frequently suggested, that I shall only observe that it is to this unanimous consent, the depressed situation of the Union is undoubtedly owing. Had the Edition: current; Page: [121] measures recommended by Congress and assented to, some of them by eleven and others by twelve of the States, been carried into execution, how different would have been the complexion of Public Affairs? To this weak, this absurd part of the Government, may all our distresses be fairly attributed.

If the States were equal in size and importance, a majority of the Legislatures might be sufficient for the grant of any new Powers; but disproportioned as they are and must continue for a time; a larger number may now in prudence be required — but I trust no Government will ever again be adopted in this Country, whose Alteration cannot be effected but by the assent of all its Members. The hazardous situation the United Netherlands are frequently placed in on this account, as well as our own mortifying experience, are sufficient to warn us from a danger which has already nearly proved fatal. It is difficult to form a Government so perfect as to render alterations unnecessary; we must expect and provide for them: — But difficult as the forming a perfect Government would be, it is scarcely more so, than to induce Thirteen separate Legislatures, to think and act alike upon one subject — the alterations that nine think necessary, ought not to be impeded by four — a minority so inconsiderable should be obliged to yield. Upon this principle the present articles are formed, and are in my judgment so obviously proper, that I think it unnecessary to remark farther upon them.

There is also in the Articles, a provision respecting the attendance of the Members of both Houses; it is proposed that they shall be the judges of their own Rules and Proceedings, nominate their own Officers, and be obliged, after accepting their appointments, to attend the stated Meetings of the Legislature; the penalties under which their attendance is required, are such as to insure it, as we are to suppose no man would willingly expose himself to the ignominy of a disqualification: Some effectual mode must be adopted to compel an attendance, as the proceedings of the Government must depend upon its formation — the inconveniencies arising from the want of a sufficient representation have been frequently and severely felt in Congress. The most important questions have on this account been delayed, and I believe I may venture to assert, that for six months in the year they have not lately had such a representation as will enable them to proceed on business of consequence. Punctuality is essential in a Government so extensive; and where a part of the Members come from considerable distances, and of course have no immediate calls to divert their attention from the Public business, those who are in the vicinity should not be suffered to disappoint them; if the power of compelling their attendance is Edition: current; Page: [122] necessary, it must be incorporated as a part of the Constitution which the United States will be bound to execute; at present it is contended that no such authority exists; that the Members of Congress are only responsible to the State they represent, and to this may be attributed that shameful remissness in forming the Federal Council, which has been so derogating and injurious to the Union. The Article I have inserted is intended to produce a reform, and I do not at present discover a mode in which the attendance of the Members can be more effectually enforced.

The next Article1 provides for the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus — the Trial by Jury in all cases, Criminal as well as Civil — the Freedom of the Press, and the prevention of Religious Tests, as qualifications to Offices of Trust or Emolument: The three first essential in Free Governments; the last, a provision the world will expect from you, in the establishment of a System founded on Republican Principles, and in an age so liberal and enlightened as the present.

There is also an authority to the National Legislature, permanently to fix the seat of the general Government, to secure to Authors the exclusive right to their Performances and Discoveries, and to establish a Federal University.

There are other Articles, but of subordinate consideration. In opening the subject, the limits of my present observations would only permit me to touch the outlines; in these I have endeavored to unite and apply as far as the nature of our Union would permit, the excellencies of such of the State Constitutions as have been most approved. The first object with the Convention must be to determine on principles — the most leading of these are, the just proportion of representation, and the arrangement and distribution of the Powers of Government. In order to bring a system founded on these principles, to the view of the Convention, I have sketched the one which has just been read — I now submit it with deference to their Consideration, and wish, if it does not appear altogether objectionable, that it may be referred to the examination of a Committee.

There have been frequent but unsuccessful attempts by Congress to obtain from the States the grant of additional powers, and such is the dangerous situation in which their negligence and inattention have placed the Federal concerns, that nothing less than a Convention of the States could probably prevent a dissolution of the Union. Edition: current; Page: [123] Whether we shall be so fortunate as to concur in measures calculated to remove these difficulties, and render our Government firm and energetic, remains to be proved. A change in our political System is inevitable; the States have wisely foreseen this, and provided a remedy. Congress have sanctioned it. The consequences may be serious, should the Convention dissolve without coming to some determination. — I dread even to think of the event of a convulsion, and how much the ineffectual assemblage of this body may tend to produce it. Our citizens would then suppose that no reasonable hope remained of quietly removing the public embarrassment, or of providing by a well-formed Government, for the protection and happiness of the People. They might possibly turn their attention to effecting that by force, which had been in vain constitutionally attempted.

I ought again to apologize for presuming to intrude my sentiments upon a subject of such difficulty and importance. It is one that I have for a considerable time attended to. I am doubtful whether the Convention will at first be inclined to proceed as far as I have intended; but this I think may be safely asserted, that upon a clear and comprehensive view of the relative situation of the Union, and its Members, we shall be convinced of the policy of concentering in the Federal Head, a compleate supremacy in the affairs of Government; leaving only to the States, such powers as may be necessary for the management of their internal concerns.

James Madison
Madison, James
Octr. 14. 1787
New York
George Washington
Washington, George

James Madison to George Washington.1

I add . . . a pamphlet which Mr. Pinkney has submitted to the public,2 or rather as he professes, to the perusal of his friends;3

Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund
Oct. 10. 1787

Edmund Randolph to the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.4

The constitution which I enclosed to the general assembly in a late official letter, appears without my signature. This circumstance, although trivial in its own nature, has been rendered rather important to myself at least by being misunderstood by some, and misrepresented by others. — As I disdain to conceal the reasons Edition: current; Page: [124] for withholding my subscription, I have always been, still am, and ever shall be, ready to proclaim them to the world. To the legislature, therefore, by whom I was deputed to the federal convention, I beg leave now to address them; affecting no indifference to public opinion, but resolved not to court it by an unmanly sacrifice of my own judgment.

As this explanation will involve a summary, but general review of our federal situation, you will pardon me, I trust, although I should transgress the usual bounds of a letter.

Before my departure for the convention, I believed, that the confederation was not so eminently defective, as it had been supposed. But after I had entered into a free communication with those who were best informed of the condition and interest of each State; after I had compared the intelligence derived from them with the properties which ought to characterize the government of our union, I became persuaded, that the confederation was destitute of every energy, which a constitution of the United States ought to possess. . . .

I come, therefore, to the last, and perhaps only refuge in our difficulties, a consolidation of the union, as far as circumstances will permit. To fulfil this desirable object, the constitution was framed by the federal convention. A quorum of eleven States, and the only member from a twelfth have subscribed it; Mr. Mason, of Virginia, Mr. Gerry, of Massachusetts, and myself having refused to subscribe.

Why I refused, will, I hope, be solved to the satisfaction of those who know me, by saying, that a sense of duty commanded me thus to act. It commanded me, sir, for believe me, that no event of my life ever occupied more of my reflection. To subscribe, seemed to offer no inconsiderable gratification, since it would have presented me to the world as a fellow laborer with the learned and zealous statesmen of America.

But it was far more interesting to my feelings, that I was about to differ from three of my colleagues, one of whom is, to the honor of the country which he has saved, embosomed in their affections, and can receive no praise from the highest lustre of language; the other two of whom have been long enrolled among the wisest and best lovers of the commonwealth; and the unshaken and intimate friendship of all of whom I have ever prized, and still do prize, as among the happiest of all acquisitions.—I was no stranger to the reigning partiality for the members who composed the convention, and had not the smallest doubt, that from this cause, and from the ardor of a reform of government, the first applauses at least would Edition: current; Page: [125] be loud and profuse. I suspected, too, that there was something in the human breast which for a time would be apt to construe a temperateness in politics, into an enmity to the union. Nay, I plainly foresaw, that in the dissensions of parties, a middle line would probably be interpreted into a want of enterprise and decision. — But these considerations, how seducing soever, were feeble opponents to the suggestions of my conscience. I was sent to exercise my judgment, and to exercise it was my fixed determination; being instructed by even an imperfect acquaintance with mankind, that self-approbation is the only true reward which a political career can bestow, and that popularity would have been but another name for perfidy, if to secure it, I had given up the freedom of thinking for myself.

It would have been a peculiar pleasure to me to have ascertained before I left Virginia, the temper and genius of my fellow citizens, considered relatively to a government, so substantially differing from the confederation as that which is now submitted. But this was, for many obvious reasons, impossible; and I was thereby deprived of what I thought the necessary guides.

I saw, however, that the confederation was tottering from its own weakness, and that the sitting of a convention was a signal of its total insufficiency. I was therefore ready to assent to a scheme of government, which was proposed, and which went beyond the limits of the confederation, believing, that without being too extensive it would have preserved our tranquility, until that temper and that genius should be collected.

But when the plan which is now before the general assembly, was on its passage through the convention, I moved, that the State conventions should be at liberty to amend, and that a second general convention should be holden, to discuss the amendments, which should be suggested by them. This motion was in some measure justified by the manner in which the confederation was forwarded originally, by congress to the State legislatures, in many of which amendments were proposed, and those amendments were afterwards examined in congress. Such a motion was doubly expedient here, as the delegation of so much power was sought for. But it was negatived. I then expressed my unwillingness to sign. My reasons were the following:

1. It is said in the resolutions which accompany the constitution, that it is to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, for their assent and ratification. The meaning of these terms is allowed universally to be, that the convention must either adopt the constitution in the whole, or reject Edition: current; Page: [126] it in the whole, and is positively forbidden to amend. If therefore, I had signed, I should have felt myself bound to be silent as to amendments, and to endeavor to support the constitution without the correction of a letter. With this consequence before my eyes, and with a determination to attempt an amendment, I was taught by a regard for consistency not to sign.

2. My opinion always was, and still is, that every citizen of America, let the crisis be what it may, ought to have a full opportunity to propose, through his representatives, any amendment which in his apprehension, tends to the public welfare. By signing, I should have contradicted this sentiment.

3. A constitution ought to have the hearts of the people on its side. But if at a future day it should be burdensome after having been adopted in the whole, and they should insinuate that it was in some measure forced upon them, by being confined to the single alternative of taking or rejecting it altogether, under my impressions, and with my opinions, I should not be able to justify myself had I signed.

4. I was always satisfied, as I have now experienced, that this great subject would be placed in new lights and attitudes by the criticism of the world, and that no man can assure himself how a constitution will work for a course of years, until at least he shall have heard the observations of the people at large. I also fear more from inaccuracies in a constitution, than from gross errors in any other composition; because our dearest interests are to be regulated by it; and power, if loosely given, especially where it will be interpreted with great latitude, may bring sorrow in its execution. Had I signed with these ideas, I should have virtually shut my ears against the information which I ardently desired.

5. I was afraid that if the constitution was to be submitted to the people, to be wholly adopted or wholly rejected by them, they would not only reject it, but bid a lasting farewell to the union. This formidable event I wished to avert, by keeping myself free to propose amendments, and thus, if possible, to remove the obstacles to an effectual government. But it will be asked, whether all these arguments, were not be well weighed in convention. They were, sir, with great candor. Nay, when I called to mind the respectability of those, with whom I was associated, I almost lost confidence in these principles. On other occasions, I should cheerfully have yielded to a majority; on this the fate of thousands yet unborn, enjoined me not to yield until I was convinced.

Again, may I be asked, why the mode pointed out in the constitution for its amendment, may not be a sufficient security against Edition: current; Page: [127] its imperfections, without now arresting it in its progress? My answers are — 1. That it is better to amend, while we have the constitution in our power, while the passions of designing men are not yet enlisted, and while a bare majority of the States may amend than to wait for the uncertain assent of three fourths of the States. 2. That a bad feature in government, becomes more and more fixed every day. 3. That frequent changes of a constitution, even if practicable, ought not to be wished, but avoided as much as possible. And 4. That in the present case, it may be questionable, whether, after the particular advantages of its operation shall be discerned, three fourths of the States can be induced to amend. . . .

I should now conclude this letter, which is already too long, were it not incumbent on me, from having contended for amendments, to set forth the particulars, which I conceive to require correction. I undertake this with reluctance: because it is remote from my intentions to catch the prejudices or prepossessions of any man But as I mean only to manifest that I have not been actuated by caprice, and now to explain every objection at full length would be an immense labour, I shall content myself with enumerating certain heads, in which the constitution is most repugnant to my wishes.

The two first points are the equality of suffrage in the senate, and the submission of commerce to a mere majority in the legislature, with no other check than the revision of the president. I conjecture that neither of these things can be corrected; and particularly the former, without which we must have risen perhaps in disorder.

But I am sanguine in hoping that in every other justly obnoxious cause, Virginia will be seconded by a majority of the States. I hope that she will be seconded. 1. In causing all ambiguities of expression to be precisely explained. 2. In rendering the president ineligible after a given number of years. 3. In taking from him the power of nominating to the judiciary offices, or of filling up vacancies which may there happen during the recess of the senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next sessions. 4. In taking from him the power of pardoning for treason at least before conviction. 5. In drawing a line between the powers of congress and individual States; and in defining the former, so as to leave no clashing of jurisdictions nor dangerous disputes; and to prevent the one from being swallowed up by the other, under cover of general words, and implication. 6. In abridging the power of the senate to make treaties supreme laws of the land. 7. In incapacitating the congress to determine their own salaries. And 8. In limiting and defining the judicial power.

Edition: current; Page: [128]
George Washington
Washington, George
October 17th. 1787
Mount Vernon
Doctor Stuart
Stuart, Doctor

George Washington to Doctor Stuart.1

As the enclosed advertiser contains a speech of Mr. Wilson’s2 (as able, candid and honest a member as in Convention) which will place the most of — M. — objections in their true point of light, I send it to you — the republication will (if you can get it done) be Serviceable at this Juncture. His ipso facto objection does not, I believe require any answer, every mind must recoil at the idea — and with respect to the navigation act. I am mistaken if any men, bodies of men or Countries, will enter into any compact or treaty, if one of the three is to have a negative controul over the other two, but granting that it is an evil it will infallibly work its own cure. — there must be reciprocity or no Union. which of the two is preferable, will not become a question in the mind of any true patriot.

Elbridge Gerry
Gerry, Elbridge
Oct. 18, 1787
New York

Elbridge Gerry to President of Senate and Speaker of House of Representatives of Massachusetts.3


I have the honour to inclose, pursuant to my commission, the constitution proposed by the federal convention.

To this system I gave my dissent, and shall submit my objections to the honourable legislature.

It was painful for me, on a subject of such national importance, to differ from the respectable members who signed the constitution: But conceiving as I did, that the liberties of America were not secured by the system, it was my duty to oppose it.

My principal objections to the plan, are, that there is no adequate provision for a representation of the people — that they have no security for the right of election — that some of the powers of the legislature are ambiguous, and others indefinite and dangerous — that the executive is blended with, and will have an undue influence over, the legislature — that the judicial department will be oppressive — that treaties of the highest importance may be formed by the president with the advice of two-thirds of a quorum of the senate — and that the system is without the security of a bill of rights. These are objections which are not local, but apply equally to all the states.

As the convention was called for “the sole and express purpose Edition: current; Page: [129] of revising the articles of confederation, and reporting to congress, and the several legislatures, such alterations and provisions as shall render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the union,” I did not conceive that these powers extend to the formation of the plan proposed: but the convention being of a different opinion, I acquiesced in it, being fully convinced that to preserve the union, an efficient government was indispensably necessary; and that it would be difficult to make proper amendments to the articles of confederation.

The constitution proposed has few if any federal features; but is rather a system of national government. Nevertheless, in many respects, I think it has great merit, and, by proper amendments, may be adapted to the “exigencies of government, and preservation of liberty.”1

James Madison
Madison, James
Octr. 18. 1787
N. York
George Washington
Washington, George

James Madison to George Washington.2

I have been this day honoured with your favor of the 10th. instant, under the same cover with which is a copy of Col. Mason’s objections to the Work of the Convention. As he persists in the temper which produced his dissent it is no small satisfaction to find him reduced to such distress for a proper gloss on it; for no other consideration surely could have led him to dwell on an objection which he acknowledged to have been in some degree removed by the Convention themselves — on the paltry right of the Senate to propose alterations in money bills — on the appointment of the vice President — president of the Senate instead of making the President of the Senate the vice president, which seemed to be the alternative — and on the possibility, that the Congress may misconstrue their powers & betray their trust so far as to grant monopolies in trade &c. If I do not forget too some of his other reasons were either not at all or very faintly urged at the time when alone they ought to have been urged; such as the power of the Senate in the case of treaties, & of impeachments; and their duration in office. With respect to the latter point I recollect well that he more than once disclaimed opposition to it. My memory fails me also if he did not acquiesce in if not vote for, the term allowed for the further importation of slaves; and the prohibition of duties on exports by the States. What he means by the dangerous tendency of the Judiciary I am at some loss to comprehend. It never was Edition: current; Page: [130] intended, nor can it be supposed that in ordinary cases the inferior tribunals will not have final jurisdiction in order to prevent the evils of which he complains. The great mass of suits in every State lie between Citizen & Citizen, and relate to matters not of federal cognizance. Notwithstanding the stress laid on the necessity of a Council to the President I strongly suspect, tho I was a friend to the thing, that if such an one as Col. Mason proposed, had been established, and the power of the Senate in appointments to offices transferred to it, that as great a clamour would have been heard from some quarters which in general eccho his Objections. What can he mean by saying that the Common law is not secured by the new Constitution, though it has been adopted by the State Constitutions. The Common law is nothing more than the unwritten law, and is left by all the Constitutions equally liable to legislative alterations. I am not sure that any notice is particularly taken of it in the Constitutions of the States. If there is, nothing more is provided than a general declaration that it shall continue along with other branches of law to be in force till legally changed. The Constitution of Virga. drawn up by Col Mason himself, is absolutely silent on the subject. An ordinance passed during the same Session, declared the Common law as heretofore & all Statutes of prior date to the 4 of James I. to be still the law of the land, merely to obviate pretexts that the separation from G. Britain threw us into a State of nature, and abolished all civil rights and obligations. Since the Revolution every State has made great inroads & with great propriety in many instances on this monarchical code. The “revisal of the laws” by a Committe of wch. Col. Mason was a member, though not an acting one, abounds with such innovations. The abolition of the right of primogeniture, which I am sure Col. Mason does not disapprove, falls under this head. What could the Convention have done? If they had in general terms declared the Common law to be in force, they would have broken in upon the legal Code of every State in the most material points: they wd. have done more, they would have brought over from G. B. a thousand heterogeneous & antirepublican doctrines, and even the ecclesiastical Hierarchy itself, for that is a part of the Common law. If they had undertaken a discrimination, they must have formed a digest of laws, instead of a Constitution. This objection surely was not brought forward in the Convention, or it wd. have been placed in such a light that a repetition of it out of doors would scarcely have been hazarded. Were it allowed the weight which Col. M. may suppose it deserves, it would remain to be decided whether it be candid to arraign the Convention for omissions which were never suggested to them — or prudent to Edition: current; Page: [131] vindicate the dissent by reasons which either were not previously thought of, or must have been wilfully concealed — But I am running into a comment as prolix, as it is out of place.

George Washington
Washington, George
22 October, 1787
Mount Vernon
James Madison
Madison, James

George Washington to James Madison.1

Mr. C. Pinckney is unwilling, (I perceive by the enclosures contained in your favor of the 13th,) to lose any fame that can be acquired by the publication of his sentiments.

Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
Oct. 22 — 1787
Mr Grand
Mr Grand

Benjamin Franklin to Mr Grand.2

I send you enclos’d the propos’d new Federal Constitution for these States. I was engag’d 4 Months of the last Summer in the Convention that form’d it. It is now sent by Congress to the several States for their Confirmation. If it succeeds, I do not see why you might not in Europe carry the Project of good Henry the 4th into Execution, by forming a Federal Union and One Grand Republick of all its different States & Kingdoms; by means of a like Convention; for we had many Interests to reconcile.

James Madison
Madison, James
Octr 24, 1787
New York
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson, Thomas

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson.3

You will herewith receive the result of the Convention, which continued its session till the 17th of September. I take the liberty of making some observations on the subject, which will help to make up a letter, if they should answer no other purpose.

It appeared to be the sincere and unanimous wish of the Convention to cherish and preserve the Union of the States. No proposition was made, no suggestion was thrown out, in favor of a partition of the Empire into two or more Confederacies.

It was generally agreed that the objects of the Union could not be secured by any system founded on the principle of a confederation of Sovereign States. A voluntary observance of the federal law by all the members could never be hoped for. A compulsive one could evidently never be reduced to practice, and if it could, involved equal calamities to the innocent & the guilty, the necessity of a military force both obnoxious & dangerous, and in general a scene Edition: current; Page: [132] resembling much more a civil war than the administration of a regular Government.

Hence was embraced the alternative of a Government which instead of operating, on the States, should operate without their intervention on the individuals composing them; and hence the change in the principle and proportion of representation.

This ground-work being laid, the great objects which presented themselves were 1. to unite a proper energy in the Executive, and a proper stability in the Legislative departments, with the essential characters of Republican Government. 2. to draw a line of demarkation which would give to the General Government every power requisite for general purposes, and leave to the States every power which might be most beneficially administered by them. 3. to provide for the different interests of different parts of the Union. 4. to adjust the clashing pretensions of the large and small States. Each of these objects was pregnant with difficulties. The whole of them together formed a task more difficult than can be well conceived by those who were not concerned in the execution of it. Adding to these considerations the natural diversity of human opinions on all new and complicated subjects, it is impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle.

The first of these objects, as respects the Executive, was peculiarly embarrassing. On the question whether it should consist of a single person, or a plurality of co-ordinate members, on the mode of appointment, on the duration in office, on the degree of power, on the re-eligibility, tedious and reiterated discussions took place. The plurality of co-ordinate members had finally but few advocates. Governour Randolph was at the head of them. The modes of appointment proposed were various, as by the people at large — by electors chosen by the people — by the Executives of the States — by the Congress, some preferring a joint ballot of the two Houses — some a separate concurrent ballot, allowing to each a negative on the other house — some, a nomination of several candidates by one House, out of whom a choice should be made by the other. Several other modifications were started. The expedient at length adopted seemed to give pretty general satisfaction to the members. As to the duration in office, a few would have preferred a tenure during good behaviour — a considerable number would have done so in case an easy & effectual removal by impeachment could be settled. It was much agitated whether a long term, seven years for example, with a subsequent & perpetual ineligibility, or a short term with a capacity to be re-elected, should be fixed. In favor of the first Edition: current; Page: [133] opinion were urged the danger of a gradual degeneracy of re-elections from time to time, into first a life and then a hereditary tenure, and the favourable effect of an incapacity to be reappointed on the independent exercise of the Executive authority. On the other side it was contended that the prospect of necessary degradation would discourage the most dignified characters from aspiring to the office, would take away the principal motive to ye faithful discharge of its duties — the hope of being rewarded with a reappointment would stimulate ambition to violent efforts for holding over the Constitutional term — and instead of producing an independent administration, and a firmer defence of the constitutional rights of the department, would render the officer more indifferent to the importance of a place which he would soon be obliged to quit forever, and more ready to yield to the encroachmts. of the Legislature of which he might again be a member. The questions concerning the degree of power turned chiefly on the appointment to offices, and the controul on the Legislature. An absolute appointment to all offices — to some offices — to no offices, formed the scale of opinions on the first point. On the second, some contended for an absolute negative, as the only possible mean of reducing to practice the theory of a free Government which forbids a mixture of the Legislative & Executive powers. Others would be content with a revisionary power, to be overruled by three fourths of both Houses. It was warmly urged that the judiciary department should be associated in the revision. The idea of some was that a separate revision should be given to the two departments — that if either objected two thirds, if both, three fourths, should be necessary to overrule.

In forming the Senate, the great anchor of the Government the questions, as they came within the first object, turned mostly on the mode of appointment, and the duration of it. The different modes proposed were 1. by the House of Representatives. 2. by the Executive. 3. by electors chosen by the people for the purpose. 4. by the State Legislatures. — On the point of duration, the propositions descended from good behavior to four years, through the intermediate terms of nine, seven, six, & five years. The election of the other branch was first determined to be triennial, and afterwards reduced to biennial.

The second object, the due partition of power between the General & local Governments, was perhaps of all, the most nice and difficult. A few contended for an entire abolition of the States; Some for indefinite power of Legislation in the Congress, with a negative on the laws of the States; some for such a power without a negative; some for a limited power of legislation, with such a Edition: current; Page: [134] negative; the majority finally for a limited power without the negative. The question with regard to the negative underwent repeated discussions, and was finally rejected by a bare majority. As I formerly intimated to you my opinion in favor of this ingredient, I will take this occasion of explaining myself on the subject. Such a check on the States appears to me necessary. 1. to prevent encroachments on the General authority. 2. to prevent instability and injustice in the legislation of the States.

. . . In the American Constitution the general authority will be derived entirely from the subordinate authorities. The Senate will represent the States in their political capacity; the other House will represent the people of the States in their individual capacy. The former will be accountable to their constituents at moderate, the latter at short periods. The President also derives his appointment from the States, and is periodically accountable to them. This dependence of the General on the local authorities, seems effectually to guard the latter against any dangerous encroachments of the former; whilst the latter, within their respective limits, will be continually sensible of the abridgement of their power, and be stimulated by ambition to resume the surrendered portion of it. We find the representatives of Counties and Corporations in the Legislatures of the States, much more disposed to sacrifice the aggregate interest, and even authority, to the local views of their constituents, than the latter to the former. I mean not by these remarks to insinuate that an esprit de corps will not exist in the National Government or that opportunities may not occur of extending its jurisdiction in some points. I mean only that the danger of encroachments is much greater from the other side, and that the impossibility of dividing powers of legislation, in such a manner, as to be free from different constructions by different interests, or even from ambiguity in the judgment of the impartial, requires some such expedient as I contend for. . . . It may be said that the Judicial authority, under our new system will keep the States within their proper limits, and supply the place of a negative on their laws. The answer is, that it is more convenient to prevent the passage of a law than to declare it void after it is passed; that this will be particularly the case, where the law aggrieves individuals, who may be unable to support an appeal agst. a State to the supreme Judiciary; that a State which would violate the Legislative rights of the Union, would not be very ready to obey a Judicial decree in support of them, and that a recurrence to force, which, in the event of disobedience would be necessary, is an evil which the new Constitution meant to exclude as far as possible.

Edition: current; Page: [135]

2. A constitutional negative on the laws of the States seems equally necessary to secure individuals agst. encroachments on their rights. . . .

Begging pardon for this immoderate digression I return to the third object above mentioned, the adjustments of the different interests of different parts of the Continent. Some contended for an unlimited power over trade including exports as well as imports, and over slaves as well as other imports; some for such a power, provided the concurrence of two thirds of both Houses were required; Some for such a qualification of the power, with an exemption of exports and slaves, others for an exemption of exports only. The result is seen in the Constitution. S. Carolina & Georgia were inflexible on the point of the slaves.

The remaining object created more embarrassment, and a greater alarm for the issue of the Convention than all the rest put together. The little States insisted on retaining their equality in both branches, unless a compleat abolition of the State Governments should take place; and made an equality in the Senate a sine qua non. The large States on the other hand urged that as the new Government was to be drawn principally from the people immediately and was to operate directly on them, not on the States; and consequently as the States wd. lose that importance which is now proportioned to the importance of their voluntary compliances with the requisitions of Congress, it was necessary that the representation in both Houses should be in proportion to their size. It ended in the compromise which you will see, but very much to the dissatisfaction of several members from the large States.

It will not escape you that three names only from Virginia are subscribed to the Act. Mr. Wythe did not return after the death of his lady. Docr. M’Clurg left the Convention some time before the adjournment. The Governour and Col. Mason refused to be parties to it. Mr. Gerry was the only other member who refused. The objections of the Govr. turn principally on the latitude of the general powers, and on the connection established between the President and the Senate. He wished that the plan should be proposed to the States with liberty to them to suggest alterations which should all be referred to another general Convention, to be incorporated into the plan as far as might be judged expedient. He was not inveterate in his opposition, and grounded his refusal to subscribe pretty much on his unwillingness to commit himself, so as not to be at liberty to be governed by further lights on the subject. Col. Mason left Philada. in an exceeding ill humour indeed. A number of little circumstances arising in part from the impatience Edition: current; Page: [136] which prevailed towards the close of the business, conspired to whet his acrimony. He returned to Virginia with a fixed disposition to prevent the adoption of the plan if possible. He considers the want of a Bill of Rights as a fatal objection. His other objections are to the substitution of the Senate in place of an Executive Council & to the powers vested in that body — to the powers of the Judiciary — to the vice President being made President of the Senate — to the smallest of the number of Representatives — to the restriction on the States with regard to ex post facto laws — and most of all probably to the power of regulating trade, by a majority only of each House. He has some other lesser objections. Being now under the necessity of justifying his refusal to sign, he will of course muster every possible one. His conduct has given great umbrage to the County of Fairfax, and particularly to the Town of Alexandria. He is already instructed to promote in the Assembly the calling of a Convention, and will probably be either not deputed to the Convention, or be tied up by express instructions. He did not object in general to the powers vested in the National Government, so much as to the modification. In some respects he admitted that some further powers would have improved the system. He acknowledged in particular that a negative on the State laws, and the appointment of the State Executive ought to be ingredients; but supposed that the public mind would not now bear them, and that experience would hereafter produce these amendments.

James Madison
Madison, James
Octr. 24. 1787
New York
William Short
Short, William

James Madison to William Short.1

The paper which I enclose for Mr. Jefferson will shew you the result of the Convention. The nature of the subject, the diversity of human opinion, and the collision of local interests, and of the pretensions of the large & small States, will not only account for the length of time consumed in the work, but for the irregularities which will be discovered in its structure and form.

James Madison
Madison, James
Octr. 28. 1787
New York
Edmund Pendleton
Pendleton, Edmund

James Madison to Edmund Pendleton.2

I have recd. and acknowledge with great pleasure your favor of the 8th. inst: The remarks which you make on the Act of the Convention appear to me to be in general extremely well founded. Your criticism on the clause exempting vessels bound to or from a Edition: current; Page: [137] State from being obliged to enter &c. in another is particularly so. This provision was dictated by the jealousy of some particular States, and was inserted pretty late in the Session. The object of it was what you conjecture. The expression is certainly not accurate.

Oliver Ellsworth
Ellsworth, Oliver

A Landholder [Oliver Ellsworth], I.1

It proves the honesty and patriotism of the gentlemen who composed the general Convention, that they chose to submit their system to the people rather than the legislatures, whose decisions are often influenced by men in the higher departments of government, who have provided well for themselves and dread any change least they should be injured by its operation. I would not wish to exclude from a State Convention those gentlemen who compose the higher branches of the assemblies in the several states, but choose to see them stand on an even floor with their brethren, where the artifice of a small number cannot negative a vast majority of the people.

This danger was foreseen by the Federal Convention, and they have wisely avoided it by appealing directly to the people.

George Washington
Washington, George
Novber. 16th 1787
Mount Vernon
Mrs. Macauly Graham
Mrs. Macauly Graham

George Washington to Mrs. Macauly Graham.2

You will undoubtedly, before you receive this, have an opportunity of seeing the Plan of Government proposed by the Convention for the United States. You will very readily conceive, Madam, the difficulties which the Convention had to struggle against. The various and opposit interests which were to be conciliated — the local prejudices which were to be subdued, the diversity of opinions and sentiments which were to be reconciled; and in fine, the sacrifices which were necessary to be made on all sides for the General welfare, combined o make it a work of so intricate and difficult a nature that I think it is much to be wondered at that any thing could have been produced with such unanimity as the Constitution proposed.

James Wilson
Wilson, James
November 23, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.3

Mr. Wilson then moved that the time of meeting and adjourning should be fixed, observing that with respect to the time of adjournment, Edition: current; Page: [138] it had been found necessary in the Federal Convention to make a rule that at 4 o’clock they should break up, even if a member was in the middle of his speech.

James Wilson
Wilson, James
November 24, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.1

To frame a government for a single city or State, is a business both in its importance and facility, widely different from the task entrusted to the Federal Convention, whose prospects were extended not only to thirteen independent and sovereign States, some of which in territorial jurisdiction, population, and resource, equal the most respectable nations of Europe, but likewise to innumerable States yet unformed, and to myriads of citizens who in future ages shall inhabit the vast uncultivated regions of the continent. The duties of that body therefore, were not limited to local or partial considerations, but to the formation of a plan commensurate with a great and valuable portion of the globe.

I confess, Sir, that the magnitude of the object before us, filled our minds with awe and apprehension. . . . But the magnitude of the object was equalled by the difficulty of accomplishing it, when we considered the uncommon dexterity and address that were necessary to combat and reconcile the jarring interests that seemed naturally to prevail, in a country which, presenting a coast of 1500 miles to the Atlantic, is composed of 13 distinct and independent States, varying essentially in their situation and dimensions, and in the number and habits of their citizens — their interests too, in some respects really different, and in many apparently so; but whether really or apparently, such is the constitution of the human mind, they make the same impression, and are prosecuted with equal vigor and perseverance. Can it then be a subject for surprise that with the sensations indispensably excited by so comprehensive and so arduous an undertaking, we should for a moment yield to despondency, and at length, influenced by the spirit of conciliation, resort to mutual concession, as the only means to obtain the great end for which we were convened? Is it a matter of surprise that where the springs of dissension were so numerous, and so powerful, some force was requisite to impel them to take, in a collected state, a direction different from that which separately they would have pursued?

There was another reason, that in this respect, increased the difficulties of the Federal Convention — the different tempers and Edition: current; Page: [139] dispositions of the people for whom they acted. But, however widely they may differ upon other topics, they cordially agree in that keen and elevated sense of freedom and independence, which has been manifested in their united and successful opposition to one of the most powerful kingdoms of the world. Still it was apprehended by some, that their abhorrence of constraint, would be the source of objection and opposition; but I confess that my opinion, formed upon a knowledge of the good sense, as well as the high spirit of my constituents, made me confident that they would esteem that government to be the best, which was best calculated eventually to establish and secure the dignity and happiness of their country. Upon this ground, I have occasionally supposed that my constituents have asked the reason of my assent to the several propositions contained in the plan before us. My answer, though concise, is a candid and I think a satisfactory one — because I thought them right; and thinking them right, it would be a poor compliment indeed to presume they could be disagreeable to my constituents. . . . The extent of country for which the New Constitution was required, produced another difficulty in the business of the Federal Convention. It is the opinion of some celebrated writers, that to a small territory the democratical, to a middling territory (as Montesquieu has termed it) the monarchical, and to an extensive territory the despotic form of government, is best adapted. Regarding then, the wide and almost unbounded jurisdiction of the United States, at first view the hand of despotism seemed necessary to control, connect and protect it; and hence the chief embarrassment arose. For we knew that, although our constituents would cheerfully submit to the legislative restraints of a free government, they would spurn at every attempt to shackle them with despotic power.

In this dilemma, a Federal Republic naturally presented itself to our observation, as a species of government which secured all the internal advantages of a republic, at the same time that it maintained the external dignity and force of a monarchy. . . .

But while a federal republic removed one difficulty, it introduced another, since there existed not any precedent to assist our deliberations; for, though there are many single governments, both ancient and modern, the history and principles of which are faithfully preserved and well understood, a perfect confederation of independent states is a system hitherto unknown.

. . . Another, and perhaps the most important obstacle to the proceedings of the Federal Convention, arose in drawing the line between the national and the individual governments of the states.

On this point a general principle readily occurred, that whatever Edition: current; Page: [140] object was confined in its nature and operation to a particular State ought to be subject to the separate government of the States; but whatever in its nature and operation extended beyond a particular State, ought to be comprehended within the federal jurisdiction. The great difficulty, therefore, was the application of this general principle, for it was found impracticable to enumerate and distinguish the various objects to which it extended; and as the mathematics only are capable of demonstration, it ought not to be thought extraordinary that the convention could not develop a subject involved in such endless perplexity. . . .

These difficulties, Mr. President, which embarrassed the Federal Convention, are not represented to enhance the merit of surmounting them, but with a more important view, to show how unreasonable it is to expect that the plan of government should correspond with the wishes of all the States, of all the Citizens of any one State, or of all the citizens of the united continent. I remember well, Sir, the effect of those surrounding difficulties in the late Convention. At one time the great and interesting work seemed to be at a stand, at another it proceeded with energy and rapidity, and when at last it was accomplished, many respectable members beheld it with wonder and admiration. But having pointed out the obstacles which they had to encounter, I shall now beg leave to direct your attention to the end which the Convention proposed. . . .

At this period, America has it in her power to adopt either of the following modes of government: She may dissolve the individual sovereignty of the States, and become one consolidated empire; she may be divided into thirteen separate, independent and unconnected commonwealths; she may be erected into two or more confederacies; or, lastly, she may become one comprehensive Federal Republic. . . .

Of these three species of government, however, I must observe, that they obtained no advocates in the Federal Convention, nor can I presume that they will find advocates here, or in any of our sister States. The general sentiment in that body, and, I believe, the general sentiment of the citizens of America, is expressed in the motto which some of them have chosen, unite or die; and while we consider the extent of the country, so intersected and almost surrounded with navigable rivers, so separated and detached from the rest of the world, it is natural to presume that Providence has designed us for an united people, under one great political compact. If this is a just and reasonable conclusion, supported by the wishes of the people, the Convention did right in proposing a single confederated Republic. But in proposing it they were necessary led, Edition: current; Page: [141] not only to consider the situation, circumstances, and interests of one, two, or three States, but of the collective body; and as it is essential to society, that the welfare of the whole should be preferred to the accomodation of a part, they followed the same rule in promoting the national advantages of the Union, in preference to the separate advantages of the States. A principle of candor, as well as duty, led to this conduct; for, as I have said before, no government, either single or confederated, can exist, unless private and individual rights are subservient to the public and general happiness of the nation. It was not alone the State of Pennsylvania, however important she may be as a constituent part of the union, that could influence the deliberations of a convention formed by a delegation from all the United States to devise a government adequate to their common exigencies and impartial in its influence and operation. In the spirit of union, inculcated by the nature of their commission, they framed the constitution before us, and in the same spirit they submit it to the candid consideration of their constituents. . . .

These observations have been made, Mr. President, in order to preface a representation of the state of the Union, as it appeared to the late convention. We all know, and we have all felt, that the present system of confederation is inadequate to the government and the exigencies of the United States. . . .

Has America lost her magnanimity or perseverance? No! Has she been subdued by any high-handed invasion of her liberties? Still I answer no; for dangers of that kind were no sooner seen than they were repelled. But the evil has stolen in from a quarter little suspected, and the rock of freedom, which stood firm against the attacks of a foreign foe, has been sapped and undermined by the licentiousness of our own citizens. Private calamity and public anarchy have prevailed; and even the blessing of independency has been scarcely felt or understood by a people who have dearly achieved it. . . .

The commencement of peace was likewise the commencement of our distress and disgrace. Devoid of power, we could neither prevent the excessive importations which lately deluged the country, nor even raise from that excess a contribution to the public revenue; devoid of importance, we were unable to command a sale for our commodities in a foreign market; devoid of credit, our public securities were melting in the hands of their deluded owners, like snow before the sun; devoid of dignity, we were inadequate to perform treaties on our own part, or to compel a performance on the part of a contracting nation. In short, Sir, the tedious tale disgusts me, and I fondly hope it is unnecessary to proceed. The years of languor Edition: current; Page: [142] are over. We have seen dishonor and destruction, it is true, but we have at length penetrated the cause, and are now anxious to obtain the cure. The cause need not be specified by a recapitulation of facts; every act of Congress, and the proceedings of every State, are replete with proofs in that respect, and all point to the weakness and imbecility of the existing confederation; while the loud and concurrent voice of the people proclaims an efficient national government to be the only cure. Under these impressions, and with these views, the late convention were appointed and met; the end which they proposed to accomplish being to frame one national and efficient government, in which the exercise of beneficence, correcting the jarring interests of every part, should pervade the whole, and by which the peace, freedom, and happiness of the United States should be permanently ensured. The principles and means that were adopted by the convention to obtain that end are now before us, and will become the great object of our discussion.

. . . That the supreme power, therefore, should be vested in the people, is in my judgment the great panacea of human politics. It is a power paramount to every constitution, inalienable in its nature, and indefinite in its extent. For I insist, if there are errors in government, the people have the right not only to correct and amend them, but likewise totally to change and reject its form; and under the operation of that right, the citizens of the United States can never be wretched beyond retrieve, unless they are wanting to themselves.

Then let us examine, Mr. President, the three species of simple government, which as I have already mentioned, are the monarchical, aristocratical and democratical. . . .

To obtain all the advantages, and to avoid all the inconveniences of these governments, was the leading object of the late convention. Having therefore considered the formation and principles of other systems, it is natural to enquire, of what description is the constitution before us? In its principles, Sir, it is purely democratical; varying indeed, in its form, in order to admit all the advantages, and to exclude all the disadvantages which are incidental to the known and established constitutions of government. But when we take an extensive and accurate view of the streams of power that appear through this great and comprehensive plan, when we contemplate the variety of their directions, the force and dignity of their currents, when we behold them intersecting, embracing, and surrounding the vast possessions and interests of the continent, and when we see them distributing on all hands beauty, energy and riches, still, however numerous and wide their courses, however Edition: current; Page: [143] diversified and remote the blessings they diffuse, we shall be able to trace them all to one great and noble source, the people.

James Wilson
Wilson, James
November 26, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.1

It was observed in the convention, that the Federal convention had exceeded the powers given to them by the several legislatures; but Mr. Wilson observed, that however foreign the question was to the present business, he would place it in its proper light. The Federal convention did not act at all upon the powers given to them by the States, but they proceeded upon original principles, and having framed a constitution which they thought would promote the happiness of their country, they have submitted it to their consideration, who may either adopt or reject it, as they please.

Oliver Ellsworth
Ellsworth, Oliver

The Landholder [Oliver Ellsworth], IV.2

By the proposed constitution the new Congress will consist of nearly one hundred men; when our population is equal to Great Britain of three hundred men, and when equal to France of nine hundred. Plenty of Lawgivers! why any gentlemen should wish for more is not conceivable.

. . . Convention foreseeing this danger, have so worded the article, that if the people should at any future time judge necessary, they may diminish the representation.

James Wilson
Wilson, James
November 28, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.3

Mr. President, we are repeatedly called upon to give some reason why a bill of rights has not been annexed to the proposed plan . . . But the truth is, Sir, that this circumstance, which has since occasioned so much clamor and debate, never struck the mind of any member in the late convention till, I believe, within three days of the dissolution of that body, and even then of so little account was the idea that it passed off in a short conversation, without introducing a formal debate or assuming the shape of a motion. . . .

. . . Thus, Sir, it appears from the example of other states, as well as from principle, that a bill of rights is neither an essential nor a necessary instrument in framing a system of government, Edition: current; Page: [144] since liberty may exist and be as well secured without it. But it was not only unnecessary, but on this occasion it was found impracticable — for who will be bold enough to undertake to enumerate all the rights of the people? — and when the attempt to enumerate them is made, it must be remembered that if the enumeration is not complete, everything not expressly mentioned will be presumed to be purposely omitted.

James Wilson
Wilson, James
November 28, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.1

The truth is, Sir, that the framers of this system were particularly anxious, and their work demonstrates their anxiety, to preserve the state governments unimpaired — it was their favorite object; and, perhaps, however proper it might be in itself, it is more difficult to defend the plan on account of the excessive caution used in that respect than from any other objection that has been offered here or elsewhere. . . . I trust it is unnecessary to dwell longer upon this subject; for, when gentlemen assert that it was the intention of the federal convention to destroy the sovereignty of the states, they must conceive themselves better qualified to judge of the intention of that body than its own members, of whom not one, I believe, entertained so improper an idea.

James McHenry
McHenry, James
Novr. 29th 1787

James McHenry before the Maryland House of Delegates.2

The Delegates to the late Convention being call’d before the House of Representatives to explain the Principles, upon which the proposed Constitution for the United States of America were formed

Mr. McHenry addressed the House in the followg. terms

Mr. Speaker,

Convention having deposited their proceedings with their Worthy President, and by a Resolve prohibited any copy to be taken, under the Idea that nothing but the Constitution thus framed and submitted Edition: current; Page: [145] to the Public could come under their consideration, I regret that at this distant period, I am unable from Memory to give this Honorable House so full and accurate information as might possibly be expected on so important and interesting a Subject. I Collated however from my Notes as soon as the Pleasure of this House was made known to me such of the proceedings as pass’d under my observation from an anxious desire I have to give this Honorable Body the information they require —

It must be within the Knowledge of this House Mr Speaker that the plan of a Convention originated in Virginia — accordingly when it met at Philadelphia the objects of the meeting were first brought forward in an address from an Honorable Member of that State. He premised that our present Constitution had not and on further experiance would be found that it could not fulfill the objects of the Confederation.

1st. It has no sufficient provision for internal defence nor against foreign invasion, if a State offends it cannot punish; nor if the rights of Embassadors or foreign Nations be invaded have the Judges of the respective States competent Jurisdiction to redress them. In short the Journals of Congress are nothing more than a History of expedients, without any regular or fixed system, and without power to give them efficacy or carry them into Execution —

2nd. It does not secure the separate States from Sedition among themselves nor from encroachments against each other —

3rd. It is incapable of producing certain blessings the Objects of all good governments, Justice, Domestic Tranquillity, Common Defence Security to Liberty and general Welfare — Congress have no powers by imposts to discharge their internal engagements or to sustain their Credit with Foreigners — they have no powers to restrain the Emission of Bills of Credit issued to the destruction of foreign Commerce — the perversion of National Justice and violation of private Contracts — they have no power to promote inland Navigation, encourage Agriculture or Manufactures

4th. They have no means to defend themselves against the most direct encroachments — in every Congress there is a party opposed to Federal Measures — In every state even there is a party opposed to efficient Government, the wisest regulations may therefore thwarted and evaded: the Legislature be treated with insult and derision and there is no power, no force to carry their Laws into execution, or to punish the Offenders who oppose them.

5th. The Confederation is inferior to the State Constitutions and cannot therefore have that controul over them which it necessarily requires — the State Governments were first formed and the Edition: current; Page: [146] federal Government derived out of them wherefore the Laws of the respective States are paramount and cannot be controuled by the Acts of Congress —

He then descanted with Energy on our respective situations from New Hampshire to Georgia, on the Situation of our joint National Affairs at Home and abroad and drew the Conclusion that all were on the brink of ruin and disolution — That once dissolve the tie by which we are united and alone preserved and the prediction of our Enemies would be compleat in the bloodshed in contending and opposite interests — That perhaps this was the last, the only opportunity we should ever have to avoid or remedy those impending evils — The Eyes of all actuated by hopes or fears were fixed upon the proceedings of this Convention and if the present meeting founded in a Spirit of Benevolence and General Good, did not correct, or reform our present Situation, it would end most assuredly in the Shame and ruin of ourselves and the Tryumph of others — He therefore moved that it be “Resolved the Articles of the Confederation ought to be corrected and enlarged, and for that purpose submitted certain resolves to the further Consideration of the Convention — Convention being thus in possession of these propositions on the thirtieth of May Resolved to go into a consideration of them when the Honorable Gentleman who first brought them forward moved to withdraw the two first Resolutions, and to substitute the following in lieu of them — 1st. That the Union of the States ought to be founded on the basis of Common Defence, security to Liberty, and General Welfare. 2d. That to this end the right of Suffrage ought to be in proportion to the value of the Property contributing to the expence of General Government or to the free Inhabitants that compose such Government. 3rd. That a National Government ought to be formed with Legislative and Judicial powers. — At this period, Mr. Speaker I was suddenly call’d from Philadelphia by an account that one of my nearest and Dearest Relations was at the point of Death, and did not return till the 4th of August — Convention had formed a Committee of Detail in my absence which on the sixth of August brought in their report, that had for its Basis the propositions handed from Virginia, and with some amendments is the Constitution now submitted to the People—1

S: 2 To this Section it was objected that if the qualifications of the Electors were the same as in the State Governments, it would involve in the Federal System all the Disorders of a Democracy; and it Edition: current; Page: [147] was therefore contended, that none but Freeholders, permanently interested in the Government ought to have a right of Suffrage — the Venerable Franklin opposed to this the natural rights of Man — their rights to an immediate voice in the general Assemblage of the whole Nation, or to a right of Suffrage & Representation and he instanced from general History and particular events the indifference of those, to the prosperity and Welfare of the State who were deprived of it. Residence was likewise thought essential to interest the Human heart sufficiently by those ties and affections it necessarily creates to the general prosperity — at first the Report of the Committee had extended it to three Years only, but on better consideration it was altered to Seven; And the Period of Twenty five Years deemed a necessary Age to mature the Judgement and form the mind by habits of reflection and experience. — Little was said on this subject it passed without any considerable opposition and therefore I was not at the pains to note any other particulars respecting it

That the Representatives should be appointed according to Numbers occasioned a very long, interesting and serious Debate. The Larger States warmly contended for this Regulation and were seriously opposed by the lesser — by the latter it was contended it threw too much power into the hands of the former, and it was answered by the former that Representation ought to be according to property, or numbers, and in either case they had a right to such influence as their Situation gave them, on the contrary if each State had an equal voice, it would unreasonably throw the whole power in the lesser States — In the end a compromise took place by giving an equal Voice to each State in the Senate which ’till then the larger States had contended ought to be formed like the other branch by a Representation according to numbers1

S: 3d. The Classing the Senate so as to produce the proposed change was established by Convention on the principle that a Rotation of power is essential to Liberty. No qualification of property was adopted, that merit alone might advance unclogged by such restriction. It did not pass however unattempted; but the proposed rate of property by the South, was thought much too high by the East, as that by the East on the Contrary was deemed too low by the South.—

The Committee of Detail by their report had at first given to the Senate the choice of their own President but to avoid Cabal Edition: current; Page: [148] and undue influence, it was thought better to alter it. And the power of trying impeachments was lodged with this Body as more likely to be governed by cool and candid investigation, than by those heats that too often inflame and influence more populous Assemblys.

S 4. It was thought expedient to vest the Congress with the powers contained in this Section, which particular exigencies might require them to exercise, and which the immediate representatives of the People can never be supposed capable of wantonly abusing to the prejudice of their Constituents — Convention had in Contemplation the possible events of Insurrection, Invasion, and even to provide against any disposition that might occur hereafter in any particular State to thwart the measures of the General Government on the other hand by an Assembly once a Year Security is Annually given to the People against encroachments of the Governments on their Liberty.

S 5. Respects only the particular privileges and Regulations of each branch of the Legislature.

S 6. That the attendance of Members in the General Legislature at a great distance from their respective abodes might not be obstructed and in some instances prevented either by design or otherwise in withholding any Compensation for their Services, Convention thought it most adviseable to pay them out of the General Treasury, otherwise a representation might some times fail when the Public Exigence might require that attendance — Whether any Members of the Legislature should be Capable of holding any Office during the time for which he was Elected created much division in Sentiment in Convention; but to avoid as much as possible every motive for Corruption, was at length Settled in the form it now bears by a very large Majority.

S: 7. Much was also said on the Priviledge that the immediate Representatives of the People had in originating all Bills to create a Revenue: It was opposed by others on the Principle that, in a Government of this Nature flowing from the People without any Hereditary rights existing in either Branch of the Legislature, the public Good might require, and the Senate ought to possess powers coexistive in this particular with the House of Representatives. The Larger States hoped for an advantage by confirming this priviledge to that Branch where their numbers predominated, and it ended in a compromise by which the Lesser States obtained a power of amendment in the Senate — The Negative given to the President underwent an amendment, and was finally restored to its present form, in the hope that a Revision of the Subject and the objections offered against it might contribute in some instances to perfect Edition: current; Page: [149] those regulations that inattention or other motives had at first rendered imperfect —

S 8. The power given to Congress to lay taxes contains nothing more than is comprehended in the Spirit of the eigth article of the Confederation. To prevent any Combination of States, Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be equal in all, and if such a Duty is laid on foreign Tonage as to give an advantage in the first instance to the Eastern States, it will operate as a bounty to our own Shipbuilders. If an oppressive Act should be obtained to the prejudice of the Southern States, it will always be subject to be regulated by a Majority, and would be repealed as soon as felt. That at most it could prevail no longer than ’till that Jealousy should be awakened which must have Slept when it passed, and which could never prevail but under a supposed Combination of the President and the two Houses of the Legislature.

S. 9. Convention were anxious to procure a perpetual decree against the Importation of Slaves; but the Southern States could not be brought to consent to it — All that could possibly be obtained was a temporary regulation which the Congress may vary hereafter.

Public Safety may require a supension of the Ha: Corpus in cases of necessity: when those cases do not exist, the virtuous Citizen will ever be protected in his opposition to power, ’till corruption shall have obliterated every sense of Honor & Virtue from a Brave and free People. Convention have also provided against any direct or Capitation Tax but according to an equal proportion among the respective States: This was thought a necessary precaution though it was the idea of every one that government would seldom have recourse to direct Taxation, and that the objects of Commerce would be more than Sufficient to answer the common exigencies of State and should further supplies be necessary, the power of Congress would not be exercised while the respective States would raise those supplies in any other manner more suitable to their own inclinations — That no Duties shall be laid on Exports or Tonage, on Vessells bound from one State to another is the effect of that attention to general Equality that governed the deliberations of Convention. Hence unproductive States cannot draw a revenue from productive States into the Public Treasury, nor unproductive States be hampered in their Manufactures to the emolument of others. When the Public Money is lodged in its Treasury there can be no regulation more consistant with the Spirit of Economy and free Government that it shall only be drawn forth under appropriation by Law and this part of the proposed Constitution could meet with no opposition Edition: current; Page: [150] as the People who give their Money ought to know in what manner it is expended.

That no Titles of Nobility shall be granted by the United States will preserve it is hoped, the present Union from the Evils of Aristocracy.

S: 10. It was contended by many that the State sought to be permitted to Emit Bills of Credit where their local Circumstances might require it without prejudice to the obligations arising from private Contracts; but this was overruled by a vast Majority as the best Security that could be given for the Public faith at home and the extension of Commerce with Foreigners.

Article the 2nd.

S: 1st. The Election of the President according to the Report of the Committee of Detail was intended to have been by ballot of both Houses; to hold his appointment for Seven Years, and not be Capable to be reelected; but this mode gave an undue influance to the large States, and paved the way to faction and Corruption — all are guarded against by the present method, as the most exalted Characters can only be Known throughout the whole Union — His power when elected is check’d by the Consent of the Senate to the appointment of Officers, and without endangering Liberty by the junction of the Executive and Legislative in this instance.

Article the 3rd.

S: 1st. The judicial power of the United States underwent a full investigation — it is impossible for me to Detail the observations that were delivered on that Subject — The right of tryal by Jury was left open and undefined from the difficulty attending any limitation to so valuable a priviledge, and from the persuasion that Congress might hereafter make provision more suitable to each respective State — To suppose that mode of Tryal intended to be abolished would be to Suppose the Representatives in Convention to act Contrary to the Will of their Constituents, and Contrary to their own Interest.

Thus Mr. Speaker I have endeavour’d to give this Honorable House the best information in my power on this important Subject — Many parts of this proposed Constitution were warmly opposed, other parts it was found impossible to reconcile to the Clashing Interest of different States — I myself could not approve of it throughout, but I saw no prospect of getting a better — the whole however is the result of that spirit of Amity which directed the wishes of all for the general good, and where those Sentiments govern it will meet I trust, with a Kind and Cordial reception.

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Luther Martin
Martin, Luther
Novr. 29th. 1787

Luther Martin before the Maryland House of Representatives.1

Mr. Speaker.

When I join’d the Convention I found that Mr. Randolph had laid before that Body certain propositions for their consideration, and that Convention had entered into many Resolutions, respecting their manner of conducting the Business one of which was that seven States might proceed to Business, and therefore four States composing a Majority of seven, might eventually give the Law to the whole Union. Different instructions were given to Members of different States — The Delegates from Delaware were instructed not to infringe their Local Constitution — others were prohibited their assent to any duty in Commerce: Convention enjoined all to secrecy; so that we had no opportunity of gaining information by a Correspondence with others; and what was still more inconvenient extracts from their Journals were prohibited even for our own information — It must be remembered that in forming the Confederacy the State of Virginia proposed, and obstinately contended (tho unsupported by any other) for representation according to Numbers: and the second resolve now brought forward by an Honourable Member from that State was formed in the same spirit that characteriz’d its representatives in their endeavours to increase its powers and influence in the Federal Government. These Views in the larger States, did not escape the observation of the lesser and meetings in private were formed to counteract them: the subject however was discuss’d with coolness in Convention, and hopes were formed that interest might in some points be brought to Yield to reason, or if not, that at all events the lesser States were not precluded from introducing a different System; and particular Gentlemen were industriously employed in forming such a System at those periods in which Convention were not sitting.

At length the Committee of Detail brought forward their Resolutions which gave to the larger States the same inequality in the Senate that they now are proposed to have in the House of Representatives — Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts would have one half — all the Officers and even the President were to be chosen by the Legislative: so that these three States might have usurped the whole power. The President would always have been from one of the larger States and so chosen to have an absolute negative, not only on the Laws of Congress but also on the Laws of each respective Edition: current; Page: [152] State in the Union. Should the representation from the other States be compleat, and by a Miracle ten States be so united as upon any occasion to procure a Majority; yet the President by his Negative might defeat the best intentions for the public good. Such Government would be a Government by a Junto and bind hand and foot all the other States in the Union On this occasion the House will please to remember that Mr. Bo was in the Chair, and General Washington and the Venerable Franklin on the floor, and led by State influence, neither of them objected to this System, but on the Contrary it seemed to meet their warm and cordial approbation. — I revere those worthy Personages as much as any man can do, but I could not compliment them by a Sacrafice of the trust reposed in me by this State by acquiescing in their opinion. Then it was Mr. Speaker that those persons who were labouring for the general good, brought forward a different System — The absence of Mr. McHenry unhappily left Maryland with only two representatives, and they differed: New Hampshire Delegates were also absent. Mr. Patterson from Jersey introduced this new System, by which it was proposed, that the Laws of the Confederacy should be the Laws of each State, and therefore the State Judiciaries to have Cognizance in the first instance and the Federal Courts to have an Apelant Jurisdiction only —

The first measure that took place on the Jersey System was to pass a vote not to receive it — Three parties now appeared in Convention; one were for abolishing all the State Governments; another for such a Government as would give an influence to particular States — and a third party were truly Federal, and acting for general Equallity — They were for considering, reforming and amending the Federal Government, from time to time as experience might point out its imperfections, ’till it could be made competent to every exigence of State, and afford at the same time ample security to Liberty and general Welfare. But this scheme was so opposite to the views of the other two, that the Monarchical party finding little chance of succeeding in their wishes joined the others and by that measure plainly shewed they were endeavouring to form such a Government as from its inequality must bring in time their System forward, or at least much nearer in practice than it could otherwise be obtained —

When the principles of opposition were thus formed and brought forward by the 2d. S: respecting the manner of representation, it was urged by a Member of Pennsylvania, that nothing but necessity had induced the larger States to give up in forming the Confederacy, the Equality of Representation according to numbers — Edition: current; Page: [153] That all governments flowed from the People and that their happiness being the end of governments they ought to have an equal Representation. On the contrary it was urged by the unhappy Advocates of the Jersey System that all people were equally Free, and had an equal Voice if they could meet in a general Assembly of the whole. But because one Man was stronger it afforded no reason why he might injure another, nor because ten leagued together, they should have the power to injure five; this would destroy all equallity. That each State when formed, was in a State of Nature as to others, and had the same rights as Individuals in a State of Nature — If the State Government had equal Authority, it was the same as if Individuals were present, because the State Governments originated and flowed from the Individuals that compose the State, and the Liberty of each State was what each Citizen enjoyed in his own State and no inconvenience had yet been experienced from the inequality of representation in the present Federal Government. Taxation and representation go hand and hand, on the principle alone that, none should be taxed who are not represented; But as to the Quantum, those who possess the property pay only in proportion to the protection they receive — The History of all Nations and sense of Mankind shew, that in all former Confederacies every State had an equal voice. Moral History points out the necessity that each State should vote equally — In the Cantons of Switzerland those of Bene & Lucerne have more Territory than all the others, yet each State has an equal voice in the General Assembly. The Congress in forming the Confederacy adopted this rule on the principle of Natural right — Virginia then objected. This Federal Government was submitted to the consideration of the Legislatures of the respective States and all of them proposed some amendments; but not one that this part should be altered. Hence we are in possession of the General Voice of America on this subject. When baffled by reason the larger States possitively refused to yield — the lesser refused to confederate, and called on their opponents to declare that security they could give to abide by any plan or form of Government that could now be devised. The same reasons that now exist to abolish the old, might be urged hereafter to overthrow the New Government, and as the methods of reform prescribed by the former were now utterly disregarded, as little ceremony might be used in discarding the latter — It was further objected that the large States would be continually increasing in numbers, and consequently their influence in the National Assembly would increase also: That their extensive Territories were guaranteed and we might be drawn out to defend the enormous extent of those States, and Edition: current; Page: [154] encrease and establish that power intended in time to enslave ourselves — Threats were thrown out to compel the lesser States to confederate — They were told this would be the last opportunity that might offer to prevent a Dissolution of the Union, that once dissolve that Band which held us together and the lesser States had no security for their existence, even for a moment — The lesser States threatened in their turn they they would not lay under the imputation of refusing to confederate on equitable conditions; they threatened to publish their own offers and the demands of others, and to appeal to the World in Vindication of their Conduct.

At this period there were eleven States represented in Convention on the question respecting the manner of appointing Delegates to the House of Representatives — Massachusetts, Pensylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia adopted it as now handed to the consideration of the People. — Georgia now insignificant, with an immense Territory, looked forward to future power and Aggrandizement, Connecticut, New York, Jersey, and Delaware were against the Measure and Maryland was unfortunately divided — On the same question respecting the Senate, perceiving the lesser States would break up Convention altogether, if the influence of that branch was likewise carried against them, the Delegates of Georgia differed in sentiment not on principle but on expediency, and fearing to lose every thing if they persisted, they did not therefore vote being divided. Massachusetts, Pensylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina were in the affirmative, and New York, Connecticut, Jersey, Delaware & Maryland were in the Negative. Every thing was now at a stand and little hopes of agreement, the Delegates of New York had left us determined not to return, and to hazard every possible evil, rather than to Yield in that particular; when it was proposed that a conciliating Committee should be formed of one member from each State — Some Members possitively refused to lend their names to this measure others compromised, and agreed that if the point was relinquished by the larger States as to the Senate — they would sign the proposed Constitution and did so, not because they approved it but because they thought something ought to be done for the Public — Neither General Washington nor Franklin shewed any disposition to relinquish the superiority of influence in the Senate. I now proposed Convention should adjourn for consideration of the subject, and requested leave to take a Copy of their proceedings, but it was denied, and the Avenue thus shut to information and reflection —

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Article 1st.

S: 1st. A Government consisting of two Branches advocated by some was opposed by others — That a perfect Government necessarily requiring a Check over them did not require it over States and History could furnish no instance of such a second branch in Federal Governmts — The seperate States are competent to the Government of Individuals and a Government of States ought to be Federal, and which the object of calling Convention, and not to establish a National Government. It begins We the People — And the powers are made to flow from them in the first instance. That in Federal Governments an equal voice in each State is essential, as being all in a State of Nature with respect to each other. Whereas the only figure in this Constitution that has any resemblance to a federal one, is the equality of Senate — but the 4th Section gives the power to Congress to strike out, at least to render Nugatory this, the most valuable part of it. It cannot be supposed that any State would refuse to send Representatives, when they would be bound whether they sent Deputies or not, and if it was intended to relate to the cases of Insurrection or Invasion, why not by express words confine the power to these objects?

S: 6. By this Article the Senators when elected are made independant of the State they represent. They are to serve Six Years, to pay themselves out of the General Treasury, and are not paid by the State, nor can be recalled for any misconduct or sacrafice of the Interest of their State that they make before the expiration of that period. They are not only Legislative, but make a part of the Executive, which all wise Governments have thought it essential to keep seperated. They are the National Council; and none can leave their private concerns and their Homes for such a period and consent to such a service, but those who place their future views on the emoluments flowing from the General Government — Tho’ a Senator cannot be appointed to an office created by himself, He may to any that has been antecedently established; and by removing Old Officers, to new Offices, their places may be occupied by themselves and thus the Door opened to evade and infringe the Constitution. When America was under the British Dominion every matter was conducted within a narrow Circle in the Provincial Government, greatly to the ease and convenience of the People. The Habits thus acquired are opposed to extensive Governments, and the extent of this, as a National one, cannot possibly be ever carried into effect —

S: 2. Slaves ought never to be considered in Representation, because they are Property. They afford a rule as such in Taxation; but Edition: current; Page: [156] are Citizens intrusted in the General Government, no more than Cattle, Horses, Mules or Asses; and a Gentleman in Debate very pertinently observed that he would as soon enter into Compacts, with the Asses Mules, or Horses of the Ancient Dominion as with their Slaves — When there is power to raise a revenue by direct Taxation, each State ought to pay an equal Ratio; Whereas by taxing Commerce some States would pay greatly more than others.

S: 7. It was contended that the Senate derived their powers from the People and therefore ought to have equal priviledges to the Representation That it would remove all ground for contest about originating Money Bills, what Bills were so or not, and how far amendments might be made, but nothing more could be obtained from the power of the larger States on that subject than what appears in the proposed Constitution. In Great Britain the King having Hereditary rights, and being one of the three Estates that compose the Legislature has obtained a Voice in the passage of all Acts that bear the title of laws. But the Executive here have no distinct rights, nor is their President likely to have more understanding than the two Branches of the Legislature. Additional weight is thus unnecessarily given to the large States who voting by numbers will cohere to each other, or at least among themselves, and thus easily carry, or defeat any measure that requires a Majority of two thirds.

S: 8: By the word Duties in this Section is meant Stamp Duties. This power may be exercised to any extent, but it has likewise this dangerous tendency it may give the Congress power by establishing duties on all Contracts to decide on cases of that nature, and ultimately draw the dicision of the Federal Courts, which will have sufficient occupation by the other powers given in this Section. They are extensive enough to open a sluice to draw the very blood from your Veins. They may lay direct Taxes by assessment, Poll Tax, Stamps, Duties on Commerce, and excise everything else — all this to be collected under the direction of their own Officers, and not even provided that they shall be Inhabitants of the respective States whey they are to act, and for which many reasons will not be the case: and should any Individual dare to dispute the conduct of an Excise Man, ransacking his Cellars he may be hoisted into the Federal Court from Georgia to vindicate his just rights, or to be punished for his impertinence. In vain was it urged that the State Courts ought to be competent to the decision of such cases: The advocates of this System thought State Judges would be under State influence and therefore not sufficiently independant. But this is not all, they would either trust your Juries for altho matters of Fact are triable by Juries in the Inferior Courts the Judges Edition: current; Page: [157] of the Supreme Court on appeal are to decide on Law and fact both. In this Manner Mr. Speaker our rights are to be tried in all disputes between the Citizens of one State and another, between the Citizens and Foreigners, and between the Citizens and these Revenue Officers of the General Government. As to other cases the Constitution is silent, and it is very doubtful if we are to have the priviledge of Tryal by Jury at all, where the cause originates in the Supreme Court. Should the power of these Judiciaries be incompetent to carry this extensive plan into execution, other, and more certain Engines of power are supplied by the standing Army — unlimited as to number or its duration, in addition to this Government has the entire Command of the Militia, and may call the whole Militia of any State into Action, a power, which it was vainly urged ought never to exceed a certain proportion. By organizing the Militia Congress have taken the whole power from the State Governments; and by neglecting to do it and encreasing the Standing Army, their power will increase by those very means that will be adopted and urged as an ease to the People.

Nothing could add to the mischevious tendency of this system more than the power that is given to suspend the Act of Ha: Corpus — Those who could not approve of it urged that the power over the Ha: Corpus ought not to be under the influence of the General Government. It would give them a power over Citizens of particular States who should oppose their encroachments, and the inferior Jurisdictions of the respective States were fully competent to Judge on this important priviledge; but the Allmighty power of deciding by a call for the question, silenced all opposition to the measure as it too frequently did to many others.

S: 9. By this Article Congress will obtain unlimitted power over all the Ports in the Union and consequently acquire an influence that may be prejudicial to general Liberty. It was sufficient for all the purposes of General Government that Congress might lay what Duties they thought proper, and those who did not approve the extended power here given, contended that the Establishment of the Particular ports ought to remain with the Government of the respective States; for if Maryland for instance should have occasion to oppose the Encroachments of the General Government — Congress might direct that all Vessels coming into this Bay, to enter and clear at Norfolk, and thereby become as formidable to this State by an exercise of this power, as they could be by the Military arrangements or Civil Judiciaries. That the same reason would not apply in prohibiting the respective States from laying a Duty on Exports, as applied to that regulation being exercised by Congress: Edition: current; Page: [158] in the latter case a revenue would be drawn from the productive States to the General Treasury, to t[?] ease of the unproductive, but particular States might be desirous by this method to contribute to the support of their Local Government or for the Encouragement of their Manufactures.

Article 2nd.

S: 1st. A Variety of opinion prevailed on this Article. Mr. Hamilton of New York wanted the President to be appointed by the Senate, others by both Branches, others by the People at large — others that the States as States ought to have an equal voice — The larger States wanted the appointment according to numbers — those who were for a one Genl. Government, and no State Governments, were for a choice by the People at large, and the very persons who would not trust the Legislature to vote by States in the Choice, from a fear of Corruption, yet contended nevertheless for a Standing Army, and before this point was finally adjusted I had left the Convention.

As to the Vice President, the larger States have a manifest influence and will always have him of their choice. The power given to these persons over the Army, and Navy, is in truth formidable, but the power of Pardon is still more dangerous, as in all acts of Treason, the very offence on which the prosecution would possibly arise, would most likely be in favour of the Presidents own power. —

Some would gladly have given the appointment of Ambassadors and Judges to the Senate, some were for vesting this power in the Legislature by joint ballot, as being most likely to know the Merrit of Individuals over this extended empire. But as the President is to nominate, the person chosen must be ultimately his choice and he will thus have an army of civil officers as well as Military — If he is guilty of misconduct and impeached for it by the first branch of the Legislature he must be tried in the second, and if he keeps an interest in the large States, he will always escape punishment — The impeachment can rarely come from the Second branch, who are his Council and will be under his influence.

S: 3rd. It was highly reasonable that Treason against the United States should be defined; resistence in some cases is necessary and a Man might be a Traitor to the General Government in obeying the Laws of his own State, a Clause was therefore proposed that wherever any State entered into Contest with the General Governmt. that during such Civil War, the general Law of Nations, as between Independant States should be the governing rule between them; and that no Citizen in such case of the said State should be deemed guilty of Treason, for acting against the General Government, in Edition: current; Page: [159] Conformity to the Laws of the State of which he was a member: but this was rejected.

Article 6th.

The ratification of this Constitution is so repugnent to the Terms on which we are all bound to amend and alter the former, that it became a matter of surprise to many that the proposition could meet with any countanance or support. Our present Constitution expressly directs that all the States must agree before it can be dissolved; but on the other hand it was contended that a Majority ought to govern — That a dissolution of the Federal Government did not dissolve the State Constitutions which were paramount the Confederacy. That the Federal Government being formed out of the State Governments the People at large have no power to interfere in the Federal Constitution Nor has the State or Federal Government any power to confirm a new Institution. That this Government if ratified and Established will be immediately from the People, paramount the Federal Constitution and operate as a dissolution of it.

Thus Mr. Speaker, I have given to this Honorable House such information, as my situation enabled me to do, on the Subject of this proposed Constitution. If I have spoke with freedom, I have done no more than I did in Convention. I have been under no influence from the expectation of ever enjoying any Office under it, and would gladly yield what little I have saved by Industry, and the Emoluments of my profession to have been able to present it to the Public1 in [a] different form. I freely [own, that it did not] meet my approbation, and [ ] this House will do [ ] believe that [I have conducted myself ] freeman and a faithful servant of the [ ] to the best of my Judgement for the Gen [ ]

James Wilson
Wilson, James
November 30, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.2

Mr. Wilson. It is objected that the number of members in the House of Representatives is too small. This is a subject somewhat embarrassing, and the convention who framed the article felt the enbarrassment. . . .

The convention endeavored to steer a middle course, and when we consider the scale on which they formed their calculation, there are strong reasons why the representation should not have been larger. On the ratio that they have fixed, of one for every thirty Edition: current; Page: [160] thousand, and according to the generally received opinion of the increase of population throughout the United States, the present number of their inhabitants will be doubled in twenty-five years, and according to that progressive proportion, and the ratio of one member for thirty thousand inhabitants, the House of Representatives will, within a single century, consist of more than six hundred members. Permit me to add a further observation on the numbers — that a large number is not so necessary in this case as in the cases of state legislatures. In them there ought to be a representation sufficient to declare the situation of every county, town and district, and if of every individual, so much the better, because their legislative powers extend to the particular interest and convenience of each; but in the general government its objects are enumerated, and are not confined in their causes or operations to a county, or even to a single state. No one power is of such a nature as to require the minute knowledge of situations and circumstances necessary in state governments possessed of general legislative authority. These were the reasons, Sir, that I believe had influence on the convention to agree to the number of thirty thousand; and when the inconveniences and conveniences on both sides are compared, it would be difficult to say what would be a number more unexceptionable.

James Wilson
Wilson, James
December 3, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.1

Much fault has been found with the mode of expression used in the first clause of the ninth section of the first article. I believe I can assign a reason why that mode of expression was used, and why the term slave was not directly admitted in this constitution:— . . . These were the very expressions used in 1783, and the fate of this recommendation was similar to all their [Congress] other resolutions. It was not carried into effect, but it was adopted by no fewer than eleven out of thirteen States; . . . It was natural, Sir, for the late convention to adopt the mode after it had been agreed to by eleven states, and to use the expression which they found had been received as unexceptionable before. With respect to the clause restricting Congress from prohibiting the migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, prior to the year 1808, the honorable gentleman says that this clause is not only dark, but intended to grant to Congress, for that time, the power to admit the importation of slaves. Edition: current; Page: [161] No such thing was intended; but I will tell you what was done, and it gives me high pleasure that so much was done. Under the present confederation, the States may admit the importation of slaves as long as they please; but by this article, after the year 1808, the Congress will have power to prohibit such importation, notwithstanding the disposition of any State to the contrary. I consider this as laying the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country; and though the period is more distant than I could wish, yet it will produce the same kind, gradual change which was pursued in Pennsylvania.1 It is with much satisfaction I view this power in the general government, whereby they may lay an interdiction on this reproachful trade. But an immediate advantage is also obtained, for a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation not exceeding ten dollars for each person; and this, Sir, operates as a partial prohibition. It was all that could be obtained. I am sorry it was no more; but from this I think there is reason to hope that yet a few years, and it will be prohibited altogether. And in the meantime, the new States which are to be formed will be under the control of Congress in this particular, and slaves will never be introduced amongst them. The gentleman says that it is unfortunate in another point of view: it means to prohibit the introduction of white people from Europe, as this tax may deter them from coming amongst us. A little impartiality and attention will discover the care that the convention took in selecting their language. The words are, the migration or importation of such persons, etc., shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to the year 1808, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation. It is observable here that the term migration is dropped when a tax or duty is mentioned, so that Congress have power to impose the tax only on those imported.

James Wilson
Wilson, James
December 4, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.2

A good deal has already been said, concerning a bill of rights; I have stated, according to the best of my recollection, all that passed in convention relating to that business. Since that time, I have spoken with a gentleman, who has not only his memory, but full notes, that he had taken in that body; and he assures me, that upon this subject no direct motion was ever made at all; and certainly, before we heard this so violently supported out of doors, some pains ought to have been taken to have tried its fate within; Edition: current; Page: [162] but the truth is, a bill of rights would, as I have mentioned already, have been not only unnecessary, but improper. . . .

. . . Enumerate all the rights of men! I am sure, Sir, that no gentleman in the late convention would have attempted such a thing. . . .

I say, Sir, that it was the design of this system, to take some power from the State government, and to place it in the general government. It was also the design, that the people should be admitted to the exercise of some powers which they did not exercise under the present confederation. It was thought proper that the citizens, as well as the States, should be represented; . . .

. . . I am not a blind admirer of this system. Some of the powers of the senators are not with me the favorite parts of it, but as they stand connected with other parts, there is still security against the efforts of that body: it was with great difficulty that security was obtained, and I may risk the conjecture, that if it is not now accepted, it never will be obtained again from the same States. Though the senate was not a favorite of mine, as to some of its powers, yet it was a favorite with a majority in the Union, and we must submit to that majority, or we must break up the Union. It is but fair to repeat those reasons, that weighed with the convention; perhaps I shall not be albe to do them justice, but yet I will attempt to show, why additional powers were given to the senate, rather than to the house of representatives. These additional powers, I believe, are, that of trying impeachments, that of concurring with the President in making treaties, and that of concurring in the appointment of officers. These are the powers that are stated as improper. It is fortunate, that in the exercise of every one of them, the Senate stands controlled; if it is that monster which it said to be, it can only show its teeth, it is unable to bite or devour. With regard to impeachments, the senate can try none but such as will be brought before them by the house of representatives.

The senate can make no treaties; they can approve of none unless the President of the United States lay it before them. With regard to the appointment of officers, the President must nominate before they can vote. So that if the powers of either branch are perverted, it must be with the approbation of some one of the other branches of government: thus checked on one side, they can do no one act of themselves.

. . . Sir, I confess I wish the powers of the senate were not as they are. I think it would have been better if those powers had been distributed in other parts of the system. . . .

Edition: current; Page: [163]
James Wilson
Wilson, James
December 7, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.1

. . . I shall beg leave to premise one remark, that the convention, when they formed this system, did not expect they were to deliver themselves, their relations and their posterity, into the hands of such men as are described by the honorable gentlemen in opposition. They did not suppose that the legislature, under this constitution, would be an association of demons. They thought that a proper attention would be given by the citizens of the United States, at the general election, for members to the House of Representatives; they also believed that the particular states would nominate as good men as they have heretofore done, to represent them in the Senate. . . .

The Convention thought further (for on this very subject, there will appear caution, instead of imprudence, in their transactions) they considered, that if suspicions are to be entertained, they are to be entertained with regard to the objects in which government have separate interests and separate views from the interests and views of the people. To say that officers of government will oppress, when nothing can be got by oppression, is making an inference, bad as human nature is, that cannot be allowed. . . .

Whenever the general government can be a party against a citizen, the trial is guarded and secured in the constitution itself, and therefore it is not in its power to oppress the citizen. In the case of treason, for example, though the prosecution is on the part of the United States, yet the Congress can neither define nor try the crime. If we have recourse to the history of the different governments that have hitherto subsisted, we shall find that a very great part of their tyranny over the people has arisen from the extension of the definition of treason. . . .

. . . Sensible of this, the Convention has guarded the people against it, by a particular and accurate definition of treason.

It is very true that trial by jury is not mentioned in civil cases; but I take it, that it is very improper to infer from hence, that it was not meant to exist under this government. Where the people are represented — where the interest of government cannot be separate from that of the people, (and this is the case in trial between citizen and citizen) the power of making regulations with respect to the mode of trial, may certainly be placed in the legislature; for I apprehend that the legislature will not do wrong in an instance from which they can derive no advantage. These were not all the Edition: current; Page: [164] reasons that influenced the convention to leave it to the future Congress to make regulations on this head.

By the constitution of the different States, it will be found that no particular mode of trial by jury could be discovered that would suit them all. The manner of summoning jurors, their qualifications, of whom they should consist, and the course of their proceedings, are all different, in the different States; and I presume it will be allowed a good general principle, that in carrying into effect the laws of the general government by the judicial department, it will be proper to make the regulations as agreeable to the habits and wishes of the particular States as possible; and it is easily discovered that it would have been impracticable, by any general regulation, to have given satisfaction to all. We must have thwarted the custom of eleven or twelve to have accommodated any one. Why do this, when there was no danger to be apprehended from the omission? We could not go into a particular detail of the manner that would have suited each State.

Time, reflection, and experience, will be necessary to suggest and mature the proper regulations on this subject; time and experience were not possessed by the convention; they left it therefore to be particularly organized by the legislature — the representatives of the United States — from time to time, as should be most eligible and proper.

Oliver Ellsworth
Ellsworth, Oliver

The Landholder [Oliver Ellsworth], VI.1

Just at the close of the Convention, whose proceedings in general were zealously supported by Mr. Mason, he moved for a clause that no navigation act should ever be passed but with the consent of two-thirds of both branches; urging that a navigation act might otherwise be passed excluding foreign bottoms from carrying American produce to market, and throw a monopoly of the carrying business into the hands of the eastern states who attend to navigation, and that such an exclusion of foreigners would raise the freight of the produce of the southern states, and for these reasons Mr. Mason would have it in the power of the southern states to prevent any navigation act. This clause, as unequal and partial in the extreme to the southern states, was rejected; because it ought to be left on the same footing with other national concerns, and because no state would have a right to complain of a navigation act which should leave the carrying business equally open to them all. Those who preferred cultivating their lands would do so; those who chose to Edition: current; Page: [165] navigate and become carriers would do that. The loss of this question determined Mr. Mason against the signing the doings of the convention, and is undoubtedly among his reasons as drawn for the southern states; but for the eastern states this reason would not do.1 . . .

There is to be no ex post facto laws. This was moved by Mr. Gerry and supported by Mr. Mason, and is exceptional only as being unnecessary; for it ought not to be presumed that government will be so tyrannical, and opposed to the sense of all modern civilians, as to pass such laws: if they should, they would be void.

The general Legislature is restrained from prohibiting the further importation of slaves for twenty odd years. . . . His objections are . . . that such importations render the United States weaker, more vulnerable, and less capable of defence. To this I readily agree, and all good men wish the entire abolition of slavery, as soon as it can take place with safety to the public, and for the lasting good of the present wretched race of slaves. The only possible step that could be taken towards it by the convention was to fix a period after which they should not be imported. . . .

To make the objections the more plausible, they are called The objections of the Hon. George Mason, etc. — They may possibly be his, but be assured they were not those made in convention, and being directly against what he there supported in one instance ought to caution you against giving any credit to the rest; his violent opposition to the powers given congress to regulate trade, was an open decided preference of all the world to you. . . .

It may be asked how I came by my information respecting Col. Mason’s conduct in convention, as the doors were shut? To this I answer, no delegate of the late convention will contradict my assertions, as I have repeatedly heard them made by others in presence of several of them, who could not deny their truth.

James Wilson
Wilson, James
December 11, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.2

The singular unanimity that has attended the whole progress of their business will in the minds of those considerate men, who have not had opportunity to examine the general and particular interest of their country, prove to their satisfaction that it is an excellent Edition: current; Page: [166] constitution, and worthy to be adopted, ordained and established, by the people of the United States.

. . . We were told some days ago, by the honorable gentleman from Westmoreland (Mr. Findley,) when speaking of this system and its objects, that the convention, no doubt, thought they were forming a compact or contract of the greatest importance. Sir, I confess I was much surprised at so late a stage of the debate to hear such principles maintained. It was matter of surprise to see the great leading principle of this system still so very much misunderstood. “The convention, no doubt, thought they were forming ‘a contract!’ ” I cannot answer for what every member thought; but I believe it cannot be said that they thought they were making a contract, because I cannot discover the least trace of a compact in that system.1 There can be no compact unless there are more parties than one. It is a new doctrine that one can make a compact with himself. “The convention were forming compacts!” With whom? I know no bargains that were made there. I am unable to conceive who the parties could be. The State governments make a bargain with one another; that is the doctrine that is endeavored to be established by gentlemen in opposition; their State sovereignties wish to be represented! But far other were the ideas of this convention, and far other are those conveyed in the system itself.

. . . I do not think, that in the powers of the Senate, the distinction is marked with so much accuracy as I wished, and still wish; . . .

. . . Neither the President nor the Senate solely, can complete a treaty; they are checks upon each other, and are so balanced as to produce security to the people.

I might suggest other reasons, to add weight to what has already been offered, but I believe it is not necessary; yet let me, however, add one thing, the Senate is a favorite with many of the States, and it was with difficulty that these checks could be procured; it was one of the last exertions of conciliation, in the late convention, that obtained them.

. . . The manner of appointing the President of the United States, I find, is not objected to, therefore I shall say little on that point. But I think it well worth while to state to this house, how little the difficulties, even in the most difficult part of this system, appear to have been noticed by the honorable gentlemen in opposition. The Convention, Sir, were perplexed with no part of this plan so much as with the mode of choosing the President of the United States. Edition: current; Page: [167] For my own part, I think the most unexceptionable mode, next after the one prescribed in this Constitution, would be that practised by the eastern States, and the State of New York; yet if gentlemen object, that an eighth part of our country forms a district too large for elections, how much more would they object, if it was extended to the whole Union! On this subject, it was the opinion of a great majority in Convention, that the thing was impracticable; other embarrassments presented themselves.

Was the president to be appointed by the legislature? Was he to continue a certain time in office, and afterwards was he to become ineligible?

. . . To avoid the inconveniences already enumerated, and many others that might be suggested, the mode before us was adopted.

James Wilson
Wilson, James
December 11, 1787
Pennsylvania Convention

James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention.1

We have been told, Sir, by the honorable member from Fayette (Mr. Smilie,) “that the trial by jury was intended to be given up, and the civil law was intended to be introduced into its place, in civil cases.”

Before a sentiment of this kind was hazarded, I think, Sir, the gentleman ought to be prepared with better proofs in its support, than any he has yet attempted to produce. It is a charge, Sir, not only unwarrantable, but cruel; the idea of such a thing, I believe, never entered into the mind of a single member of that convention; and I believe further, that they never suspected there would be found within the United States, a single person that was capable of making such a charge. . . .

Let us apply these observations to the objects of the judicial department, under this constitution. I think it has been shewn already, that they all extend beyond the bounds of any particular State; but further, a great number of the civil causes there enumerated, depend either upon the law of nations, or the marine law, that is, the general law of mercantile countries. Now, Sir, in such cases, I presume it will not be pretended that this mode of decision ought to be adopted; for the law with regard to them is the same here as in every other country, and ought to be administered in the same manner. There are instances in which I think it highly probable, that the trial by jury will be found proper; and if it is highly probable that it will be found proper, is it not equally probable that it Edition: current; Page: [168] will be adopted? There may be causes depending between citizens of different States, and as trial by jury is known and regarded in all the States, they will certainly prefer that mode of trial before any other. The Congress will have the power of making proper regulations on this subject, but it was impossible for the convention to have gone minutely into it; but if they could, it must have been very improper, because alterations, as I observed before, might have been necessary; and whatever the convention might have done would have continued unaltered, unless by an alteration of the Constitution. Besides, there was another difficulty with regard to this subject. In some of the States they have courts of chancery and other appellate jurisdictions, and those States are as attached to that mode of distributing justice, as those that have none are to theirs.

Oliver Ellsworth
Ellsworth, Oliver

The Landholder [Oliver Ellsworth], VII.1

I have often admired the spirit of candour, liberality, and justice, with which the Convention began and completed the important object of their mission. . . .

James Madison
Madison, James
Decr. 20. 1787
New York
George Washington
Washington, George

James Madison to George Washington.2

Tricks of this sort are not uncommon with the Enemies of the new Constitution. Col. Mason’s objections were as I am told published in Boston mutilated of that which pointed at the regulation of Commerce.3 Docr Franklins concluding speech which you will meet with in one of the papers herewith inclosed, is both mutilated & adulterated so as to change both the form & the spirit of it.

Ezra Stiles
Stiles, Ezra

Ezra Stiles: Diary.4

[December] 21. [1787]. Mr. Baldwin was one of the Continental Convention at Philada last Summer. He gave me an Acct of the whole Progress in Convention. It appeared that they were pretty unanimous in the followg Ideas, viz. 1. In a firm foederal Government. 2. That this shd be very popular or stand on the People at large. 3. That their Object shd comprehend all Things of common foederal Concern & wc individual States could not determine or enforce. 4. That the Jurisdictions & Govt of each State shd be Edition: current; Page: [169] left intire & preserved as inviolate as possible consistent with the coercive Subordina for preservg the Union with Firmness. 5. That the present foederal Govt was inadequate to this End. 6. That a certain Portion or Deg. of Dominion as to Laws and Revenue, as well as to Treaties with foreign Nations, War & Armies, was necessy to be ceded by individual States to the Authory of the National Council. 7. That the National Council shd consist of two Branches viz, a Senate, & Representatives. That the last shd be a local Representa apportioned to the Property & Number of Inhabitants, as far as practicable. That this shd be the governg Idea. And yet that the Distinction of States shd be preserved in the House of Representa as well as in the Senate. 8. That the Senate stand on the Election & Distinction of States as at present in Congress, and tho’ like the Representa be in some measure proportioned to the No of Inhab. yet that besides this the Vote in Senate shd be by States, tho’ in the House of Representa the Vote shd be by Plurality of Members present indeed but not by States as States. Hereby two things are secured, one, that the People at large shall be efficaciously represented, the other that the States as separate States be as also efficaciously represented. 9. That these two Branches combined into one Republican Body be the supreme Legislature & become vested with the Sovereignty of the Confederacy; & have powers of Govt & Revenue adequate to these Ends. 10. As to a President, it appeared to the Opin. of Convention, that he shd be a Character respectable by the Nations as well as by the foederal Empire. To this End that as much Power shd be given him as could be consistently with guardg against all possibility of his ascending in a Tract of years or Ages to Despotism & absolute Monarchy: — of which all were cautious. Nor did it appear that any Members in Convention had the least Idea of insidiously layg the Founda of a future Monarchy like the European or Asiatic Monarchies either antient or modern. But were unanimously guarded & firm against every Thing of this ultimate Tendency. Accordinly they meant to give considerable Weight as Supreme Executive, but fixt him dependent on the States at large, and at all times impeachable. 10. They vested Congress thus modified with the Power of an adequate Revenue, by Customs on Trade, Excise and direct Taxation by Authory of Congress; as well as with the Army, Navy & makg War & Peace. These were delicate Things, on which all felt sollicitous & yet all were unanimously convinced that they were necessary. 11. They were unanimous also in the Expedy & Necessy of a supreme judiciary Tribunal of universal Jurisdiction — in Controversies of a legal Nature between States — Revenue — & appellate Causes between Edition: current; Page: [170] subjects of foreign or different States. 12. The Power of appointing Judges & Officers of the supreme Judiciary to be in the Senate.

These & other general & commandg Ideas the Members found themselves almost unanimous in. The Representa would feel for the Interests of their respective local Representations: and the Senate must feel, not for particular local Districts but a Majority of the States or the Universal Interest.

After some Discourses, it was proposed that any & all the Members shd. draught their Ideas. These were all bro’t in & examd & as approved, entered, until all were satisfied they had gone through. Then they reduced these to one Sheet (written) of Articles or Members of the Constitution. These they considered afresh, sometimes in Committee of the Whole, & sometimes in Convention, with subjoyned Alterations & Additions until August; when they adjourned a few Weeks leavg all to be digested by a Committee of 5 Messrs Sherman, Elsworth,

On the Return of Adjournt the whole Digest was printed and every Member entered his Remarks, Altera & Corrections. These again were committed to a Committee of one Member of each State of wc Mr. Baldwin one. This maturated the whole. Finally a Committee of 5 viz, Mess. Dr Johnson, Governeur Morris. Wilson, —— These reduced it to the form in which it was published. Messrs Morris & Wilson had the chief hand in the last Arrangt & Composition. This was completed in September. By this Time several Members were absent party Judge Yates of Albany, Mr. Wyth of Virginia, Judge Sherman & Elsworth. About 42 signed it. Messrs Mason of Virg. & Gerry of Boston & Gov. Randolph refused. Dr Franklin sd he did not entirely approve it but, tho’t it a good one, did not know but he shd. hereafter think it the best, on the whole was ready to sign it & wished all would sign it, & wished all would sign it, & that it shd be adopted by all the States.

Dr Franklins Idea that the American Policy, be one Branch only or Representative Senate of one Order, proportioned to Number of Inhab. & Property — often elected —, with a President assisted with an executive Council: but this last have nothg to do in Legislation & Senatorial Government. Teste Mr. Baldwin.

Oliver Ellsworth
Ellsworth, Oliver
Hon. Elbridge Gerry
Gerry, Hon. Elbridge

The Landholder [Oliver Ellsworth], VIII.1

To the Hon. Elbridge Gerry, Esquire.

When a man in public life first deviates from the line of truth Edition: current; Page: [171] and rectitude, an uncommon degree of art and attention becomes necessary to secure him from detection . . . . his first leap into the region of treachery and falsehood is often as fatal to himself as it was designed to be to his country. Whether you and Mr. Mason may be ranked in this class of trangressors I pretend not to determine. Certain it is, that both your management and his for a short time before and after the rising of the foederal convention impress us with a favorable opinion, that you are great novices in the arts of dissimulation. A small degree of forethought would have taught you both a much more successful method of directing the rage of resentment which you caught at the close of the business at Philadelphia, than the one you took. . . .

It is evident that this mode of proceeding would have been well calculated for the security of Mr. Mason; he there might have vented . . . his sore mortification for the loss of his favorite motion respecting the navigation act. . . .

You will doubtless recollect the following state of facts — if you do not, every member of the convention will attest them — that almost the whole time during the setting of the convention, and until the constitution had received its present form, no man was more plausible and conciliating upon every subject than Mr. Gerry — he was willing to sacrifice every private feeling and opinion — to concede every state interest that should be in the least incompatible with the most substantial and permanent system of general government — that mutual concession and unanimity were the whole burden of his song; and although he originated no idea himself, yet there was nothing in the system as it now stands to which he had the least objection — indeed, Mr. Gerry’s conduct was agreeably surprising to all his acquaintance, and very unlike that turbulent obstinacy of spirit which they had formerly affixed to his character. Thus stood Mr. Gerry, till, toward the close of the business, he introduced a motion respecting the redemption of the old Continental Money — that it should be placed upon a footing with other liquidated securities of the United States. As Mr. Gerry was supposed to be possessed of large quantities of this species of paper, his motion appeared to be founded in such barefaced selfishness and injustice, that it at once accounted for all his former plausibility and concession, while the rejection of it by the convention inspired its author with the utmost rage and intemperate opposition to the whole system he had formerly praised.1 His resentment could no Edition: current; Page: [172] more than embarrass and delay the completion of the business for a few days; when he refused signing the constitution and was called upon for his reasons. These reasons were committed to writing by one of his colleagues1 and likewise by the Secretary, as Mr. Gerry delivered them. These reasons were totally different from those which he has published, neither was a single objection which is contained in his letter to the legislature of Massachusetts ever offered by him in convention.2

Now Mr.Gerry, as this is generally known to be the state of facts, and as neither the reasons which you publish nor those retained on the Secretary’s files can be supposed to have the least affinity to truth, or to contain the real motives which induced you to withhold your name from the constitution, it appears to me that your plan was not judiciously contrived.

Luther Martin
Martin, Luther

Luther Martin: Genuine Information.3

The Genuine Information, delivered to the Legislature of the State of Maryland, relative to the Proceedings of the General Convention, held at Philadelphia, in 1787, by LUTHER MARTIN, Esquire, Attorney-General of Maryland, and one of the Delegates in the said Convention.

Mr. Martin, when called upon, addressed the House nearly as follows:

Edition: current; Page: [173]

[1] Since I was notified of the resolve of this Honorable House, that we should attend this day, to give information with regard to the proceedings of the late convention, my time has necessarily been taken up with business, and I have also been obliged to make a journey to the Eastern Shore. These circumstances have prevented me from being as well prepared as I could wish, to give the information required. However, the few leisure moments I could spare, I have devoted to refreshing my memory, by looking over the papers and notes in my possession; and shall, with pleasure, to the best of my abilities, render an account of my conduct.

[2] It was not in my power to attend the convention immediately on my appointment. I took my seat, I believe, about the eighth or ninth of June. I found that Governor Randolph, of Virginia, had laid before the convention certain propositions for their consideration, which have been read to this House by my honorable colleague, and I believe he has very faithfully detailed the substance of the speech with which the business of the convention was opened; for, though I was not there at the time, I saw notes which had been taken of it.

[3] The members of the convention from the States, came there under different powers, The greatest number, I believe, under powers nearly the same as those of the delegates of this State. Some came to the convention under the former appointment, authorising the meeting of delegates merely to regulate trade. Those of Delaware were expressly instructed to agree to no system, which should take away from the States that equality of suffrage secured by the original articles of confederation. Before I arrived, a number of rules had been adopted to regulate the proceedings of the convention, by one of which, seven States might proceed to business, and consequently four States, the majority of that number, might eventually have agreed upon a system, which was to affect the whole Union. By another, the doors were to be shut, and the whole proceedings were to be kept secret; and so far did this rule extend, that we were thereby prevented from corresponding with gentlemen in the different States upon the subjects under our discussion; a circumstance, Sir, which, I confess, I greatly regretted. I had no idea, that all the wisdom, integrity, and virtue of this State, or of the others, were centered in the convention. I wished to have corresponded freely and confidentially with eminent political characters in my own and other States; not implicitly to be dictated to by them, but to give their sentiments due weight and consideration. So extremely solicitous were they, that their proceedings should not transpire, that the members were prohibited even from taking copies of resolutions, on Edition: current; Page: [174] which the convention were deliberating, or extracts of any kind from the journals, without formally moving for, and obtaining permission, by a vote of the convention for that purpose.

[4] You have heard, Sir, the resolutions which were brought forward by the honorable member from Virginia; let me call the attention of this House to the conduct of Virginia, when our confederation was entered into — That State then proposed, and obstinately contended, contrary to the sense of, and unsupported by the other States, for an inequality of suffrage founded on numbers, or some such scale, which should give her,1 and certain other States, influence in the Union over the rest. Pursuant to that spirit which then characterized her, and uniform in her conduct, the very second resolve, is calculated expressly for that purpose, to give her a representation proportioned to her numbers, as if the want of that was the principal defect in our original system, and this alteration the great means of remedying the evils we had experienced under our present government.

[5] The object of Virginia, and other large States, to increase their power and influence over the others, did not escape observation; the subject, however, was discussed with great coolness, in the committee of the whole House (for the convention had resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to deliberate upon the propositions delivered in by the honorable member from Virginia). Hopes were formed, that the farther we proceeded in the examination of the resolutions, the better the House might be satisfied of the impropriety of adopting them, and that they would finally be rejected by a majority of the committee; if, on the contrary, a majority should report in their favor, it was considered, that it would not preclude the members from bringing forward and submitting any other system to the consideration of the convention; and accordingly, while those resolves were the subject of discussion in the committee of the whole House, a number of the members, who disapproved them, were preparing another system, such as they thought more conducive to the happiness and welfare of the States. The propositions originally submitted to the convention having been debated, and undergone a variety of alterations in the course of our proceedings, the committee of the whole House, by a small majority agreed to a report, which I am happy, Sir, to have in my power to lay before you; it was as follows:

[6] “1. Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that a national government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme legislative, judiciary, and executive.

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“2. That the legislative ought to consist of two branches.

“3. That the members of the first branch of the national legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States, for the term of three years, to receive fixed stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service, to be paid out of the national treasury, to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those particularly belonging to the functions of the first branch, during the term of service, and under the national government, for the space of one year after its expiration.

“4. That the members of the second branch of the legislature ought to be chosen by the individual legislatures; to be of the age of thirty years at least; to hold their offices for a term sufficient to insure their independency, namely, seven years, one third to go out biennially; to receive fixed stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service, to be paid out of the national treasury; to be ineligible to any office by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch, during the term of service, and under the national government, for the space of one year after its expiration.

“5. That each branch ought to possess the right of originating acts.

“6. That the national legislature ought to empowered to enjoy the legislative rights vested in Congress by the confederation, and, moreover, to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent, or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted, by the exercise of individual legislation; to negative all laws passed by the several States, contravening, in the opinion of the legislature of the United States, the articles of union, or any treaties subsisting under the authority of the Union.

“7. That the right of suffrage in the first branch of the national legislature, ought not to be according to the rule established in the articles of confederation, but according to some equitable rate of representation, namely, in proportion to the whole number of white, and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex, and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three-fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians not paying taxes in each State.

“8. That the right of suffrage in the second branch of the national legislature, ought to be according to the rule established in the first.

“9. That a national executive be instituted, to consist of a single person, to be chosen by the national legislature for the term of seven Edition: current; Page: [176] years, with power to carry into execution the national laws, to appoint to offices in cases not otherwise provided for, to be ineligible a second time, and to be removable on impeachment and conviction of malpractice or neglect of duty; to receive a fixed stipend, by which he may be compensated for the devotion of his time to public service, to be paid out of the national treasury.

“10. That the national executive shall have a right to negative any legislative act which shall not afterwards be passed, unless by two third parts of each branch of the national legislature.

“11. That a national judiciary be established, to consist of one supreme tribunal, the judges of which, to be appointed by the second branch of the national legislature, to hold their offices during good behaviour, and to receive punctually, at stated times, a fixed compensation for their services, in which no increase or diminution shall be made, so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time of such increase or diminution.

“12. That the national legislature be empowered to appoint inferior tribunals.

“13. That the jurisdiction of the national judiciary shall extend to cases which respect the collection of the national revenue; cases arising under the laws of the United States; impeachments of any national officer, and questions which involve the national peace and harmony.

“14. Resolved, That provision ought to be made for the admission of States lawfully arising within the limits of the United States, whether from a voluntary junction of government, territory, or otherwise, with the consent of a number of voices in the national legislature less than the whole.

“15. Resolved, That provision ought to be made for the continuance of Congress, and their authority and privileges, until a given day after the reform of the articles of union shall be adopted, and for the completion of all their engagements.

“16. That a republican constitution, and its existing laws, ought to be guarantied to each State by the United States.

“17. That provision ought to be made for the amendment of the articles of union whensoever it shall seem necessary.

“18. That the legislative, executive, and judiciary powers, within the several States, ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of the Union.

“19. That the amendments which shall be offered to the confederation by this convention, ought, at a proper time or times, after the approbation of Congress, to be submitted to an assembly or assemblies, recommended by the legislatures, to be expressly chosen by the people, to consider and decide thereon.

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[7] These propositions, Sir, were acceded to by a majority of the members of the committee; — a system by which the large States were to have not only an inequality of suffrage in the first branch, but also the same inequality in the second branch, or Senate. However, it was not designed the second branch should consist of the same number as the first. It was proposed that the Senate should consist of twenty-eight members, formed on the following scale; Virginia to send five, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts each four, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, and Connecticut two each, and the States of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Jersey, Delaware, and Georgia each of them one; upon this plan, the three large States, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, would have thirteen senators out of twenty-eight, almost one half of the whole number. Fifteen senators were to be a quorum to proceed to business; those three States would, therefore, have thirteen out of that quorum. Having this inequality in each branch of the legislature, it must be evident, Sir, that they would make what laws they pleased, however injurious or disagreeable to the other States; and that they would always prevent the other States from making any laws, however necessary and proper, if not agreeeable to the views of those three States. They were not only, Sir, by this system, to have such an undue superiority in making laws and regulations for the Union, but to have the same superiority in the appointment of the President, the judges, and all other officers of government. Hence, these three States would in reality have the appointment of the President, judges, and all the other officers. This President and these judges, so appointed, we may be morally certain would be citizens of one of those three States; and the President, as appointed by them, and a citizen of one of them, would espouse their interests and their views, when they came in competition with the views and interests of the other States. This President, so appointed by the three large States, and so unduly under their influence, was to have a negative upon every law that should be passed, which, if negatived by him, was not to take effect, unless assented to by two thirds of each branch of the legislature, a provision which deprived ten States of even the faintest shadow of liberty; for if they, by a miraculous unanimity, having all their members present, should outvote the other three, and pass a law contrary to their wishes, those three large States need only procure the President to negative it, and thereby prevent a possibility of its ever taking effect, because the representatives of those three States would amount to much more than one third (almost one half) of the representatives in each branch. And, Sir, this government so organized, with all this undue superiority Edition: current; Page: [178] in those three large States, was, as you see, to have a power of negativing the laws passed by every State legislature in the Union. Whether, therefore, laws passed by the legislature of Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Georgia, or of any other of the ten States, for the regulation of their internal police, should take effect and be carried into execution, was to depend on the good pleasure of the representatives of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

This system of slavery, which bound hand and foot ten States in the Union, and placed them at the mercy of the other three, and under the most abject and servile subjection to them, was approved by a majority of the members of the convention, and reported by the committee.

[8] On this occasion the House will recollect, that the convention was resolved into a committee of the whole; of this committee Mr. Gorham was chairman. The honorable Mr. Washington was then on the floor, in the same situation with the other members of the convention at large, to oppose any system he thought injurious, or to propose any alterations or amendments he thought beneficial. To these propositions, so reported by the committee, no opposition was given by that illustrious personage, or by the President of the State of Pennsylvania. They both appeared cordially to approve them, and to give them their hearty concurrence; yet this system I am confident, Mr. Speaker, there is not a member in this House would advocate, or who would hesitate one moment in saying it ought to be rejected. I mention this circumstance, in compliance with the duty I owe this honorable body, not with a view to lessen those exalted characters, but to show how far the greatest and best of men may be led to adopt very improper measures through error in judgment, State influence, or by other causes, and to show, that it is our duty not to suffer our eyes to be so far dazzled by the splendor of names, as to run blindfolded into what may be our destruction.

[9] Mr. Speaker, I revere those illustrious personages as much as any man here. No man has a higher sense of the important services they have rendered this country. No member of the convention went there more disposed to pay a deference to their opinions; but I should little have deserved the trust this State reposed in me, if I could have sacrificed its dearest interests to my complaisance for their sentiments.

[10] When, contrary to our hopes, it was found, that a majority of the members of the convention had in the committee agreed to the system I have laid before you, we then thought it necessary to bring forward the propositions which such of us as had disapproved the plan before had prepared. The members who prepared these Edition: current; Page: [179] resolutions were principally of the Connecticut, New York, Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland delegations. The honorable Mr. Patterson, of the Jerseys, laid them before the convention; of these propositions* I am in possession of a copy, which I shall beg leave to read to you.

[11] These propositions were referred to a committee of the whole House; unfortunately the New Hampshire delegation had not yet arrived, and the sickness of a relation of the honorable Mr. McHenry obliged him still to be absent; a circumstance, Sir, which I considered much to be regretted, as Maryland thereby was represented by only two delegates, and they unhappily differed very widely in their sentiments.

[12] The result of the reference of these last propositions to a committee was a speedy and hasty determination to reject them. I doubt not, Sir, to those who consider them with attention, so sudden a rejection will appear surprising; but it may be proper to inform you, that, on our meeting in convention, it was soon found there were among us three parties, of very different sentiments and views.

[13] One party, whose object and wish it was to abolish and annihilate all State governments, and to bring forward one general government, over this extensive continent, of a monarchical nature, under certain restrictions and limitations. Those who openly avowed this sentiment were, it is true, but few; yet it is equally true, Sir, that there was a considerable number, who did not openly avow it, who were by myself, and many others of the convention, considered as being in reality favorers of that sentiment; and, acting upon those principles, covertly endeavouring to carry into effect what they well knew openly and avowedly could not be accomplished.

[14] The second party was not for the abolition of the State governments, nor for the introduction of a monarchical government under any form; but they wished to establish such a system, as could give their own States undue power and influence in the government over the other States.

[15] A third party was what I considered truly federal and republican; this party was nearly equal in number with the other two, and was composed of the delegations from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and in part from Maryland; also of some individuals from other representations. This party, Sir, were for proceeding upon terms of federal equality; they were for taking our present federal system as the basis of their proceedings, and, as far as experience had shown us that there were defects, to remedy those defects; as far as experience had shown that other powers were Edition: current; Page: [180] necessary to the federal government, to give those powers. They considered this the object for which they were sent by their States, and what their States expected from them; they urged, that, if, after doing this, experience should show that there still were defects in the system (as no doubt there would be), the same good sense that induced this convention to be called, would cause the States, when they found it necessary, to call another; and, if that convention should act with the same moderation, the members of it would proceed to correct such errors and defects as experience should have brought to light. That, by proceeding in this train, we should have a prospect at length of obtaining as perfect a system of federal government, as the nature of things would admit. On the other hand, if we, contrary to the purpose for which we were intrusted, considering ourselves as master-builders, too proud to amend our original government, should demolish it entirely, and erect a new system of our own, a short time might show the new system as defective as the old, perhaps more so. Should a convention be found necessary again, if the members thereof, acting upon the same principles, instead of amending and correcting its defects, should demolish that entirely, and bring forward a third system, that also might soon be found no better than either of the former; and thus we might always remain young in government, and always suffering the inconveniences of an incorrect, imperfect system.

[16] But, Sir, the favorers of monarchy, and those who wished the total abolition of State governments, well knowing, that a government founded on truly federal principles, the basis of which were the thirteen State governments, preserved in full force and energy, would be destructive of their views; and knowing they were too weak in numbers openly to bring forward their system; conscious also that the people of America would reject it if proposed to them, — joined their interest with that party, who wished a system, giving particular States the power and influence over the others, procuring in return mutual sacrifices from them, in giving the government great and undefined powers as to its legislative and executive; well knowing, that, by departing from a federal system, they paved the way for their favorite object, the destruction of the State governments, and the introduction of monarchy. And hence, Mr. Speaker, I apprehend, in a great measure, arose the objections of those honorable members, Mr. Mason and Mr. Gerry. In every thing that tended to give the large States power over the smaller, the first of those gentlemen could not forget he belonged to the Ancient Dominion, nor could the latter forget, that he represented Old Massachusetts. That part of the system, which tended to give those States power over Edition: current; Page: [181] the others, met with their perfect approbation; but, when they viewed it charged with such powers, as would destroy all State governments, their own as well as the rest, — when they saw a president so constituted as to differ from a monarch scarcely but in name, and having it in his power to become such in reality when he pleased; they being republicans and federalists, as far as an attachment to their own States would permit them, they warmly and zealously opposed those parts of the system. From these different sentiments, and from this combination of interest, I apprehend, Sir, proceeded the fate of what was called the Jersey resolutions, and the report made by the committee of the whole House.

[17] The Jersey propositions being thus rejected, the convention took up those reported by the committee, and proceeded to debate them by paragraphs. It was now that they, who disapproved the report, found it necessary to make a warm and decided opposition, which took place upon the discussion of the seventh resolution, which related to the inequality of representation in the first branch. Those who advocated this inequality urged, that, when the articles of confederation were formed, it was only from necessity and expediency that the States were admitted each to have an equal vote; but that our situation was now altered, and therefore those States who considered it contrary to their interest, would no longer abide by it. They said, no State ought to wish to have influence in government, except in proportion to what it contributes to it; that, if it contributes but little, it ought to have but a small vote; that taxation and representation ought always to go together; that if one State had sixteen times as many inhabitants as another, or was sixteen times as wealthy, it ought to have sixteen times as many votes; that an inhabitant of Pennsylvania ought to have as much weight and consequence as an inhabitant of Jersey or Delaware; that it was contrary to the feelings of the human mind; what the large States would never submit to; that the large States would have great objects in view, in which they would never permit the smaller States to thwart them; that equality of suffrage was the rotten part of the constitution, and that this was a happy time to get clear of it. In fine, that it was the poison which contaminated our whole system, and the source of all the evils we experienced.

[18] This, Sir, is the substance of the arguments, if arguments they may be called, which were used in favor of inequality of suffrage. Those who advocated the equality of suffrage, took the matter up on the original principles of government; they urged, that all men, considered in a state of nature, before any government is formed, are equally free and independent, no one having any right or authority Edition: current; Page: [182] to exercise power over another, and this without any regard to difference in personal strength, understanding, or wealth. That, when such individuals enter into government, they have each a right to an equal voice in its first formation, and afterwards have each a right to an equal vote in every matter which relates to their government. That, if it could be done conveniently, they have a right to exercise it in person. Where it cannot be done in person, but for convenience representatives are appointed, to act for them, every person has a right to an equal vote in choosing that representative; who is intrusted to do for the whole, that which the whole, if they could assemble, might do in person, and in the transaction of which, each would have an equal voice. That, if we were to admit, because a man was more wise, more strong, or more wealthy, he should be entitled to more votes than another, it would be inconsistent with the freedom and liberty of that other, and would reduce him to slavery. Suppose, for instance, ten individuals in a state of nature, about to enter into government, nine of whom are equally wise, equally strong, and equally wealthy, the tenth is ten times as wise, ten times as strong, or ten times as rich; if, for this reason, he is to have ten votes for each vote of either of the others, the nine might as well have no vote at all; since, though the whole nine might assent to a measure, yet the vote of the tenth would countervail, and set aside all their votes. If this tenth approved of what they wished to adopt, it would be well, but if he disapproved, he could prevent it; and in the same manner, he could carry into execution any measure he wished, contrary to the opinion of all the others, he having ten votes, and the other altogether but nine. It is evident, that, on these principles, the nine would have no will or discretion of their own, but must be totally dependent on the will and discretion of the tenth; to him they would be as absolutely slaves, as any negro is to his master. If he did not attempt to carry into execution any measures injurious to the other nine, it could only be said, that they had a good master; they would not be the less slaves, because they would be totally dependent on the will of another, and not on their own will. They might not feel their chains, but they would, notwithstanding, wear them; and whenever their master pleased, he might draw them so tight as to gall them to the bone. Hence it was urged, the inequality of representation, or giving to one man more votes than another, on account of his wealth, &c., was altogether inconsistent with the principles of liberty, and in the same proportion as it should be adopted, in favor of one or more, in that proportion are the others enslaved. It was urged, that though every individual should have an equal voice in the government, yet, even the superior wealth, strength, or understanding, would give great and undue Edition: current; Page: [183] advantages to those who possessed them. That wealth attracts respect and attention; superior strength would cause the weaker and more feeble to be cautious how they offended, and to put up with small injuries rather than to engage in an unequal contest; in like manner, superior understanding would give its possessor many opportunities of profiting at the expense of the more ignorant.

[19] Having thus established these principles, with respect to the rights of individuals in a state of nature, and what is due to each, on entering into government, (principles established by every writer on liberty,) they proceeded to show, that States, when once formed, are considered, with respect to each other, as individuals in a state of nature; that, like individuals, each State is considered equally free and equally independent, the one having no right to exercise authority over the other, though more strong, more wealthy, or abounding with more inhabitants. That, when a number of States unite themselves under a federal government, the same principles apply to them, as when a number of individual men unite themselves under a State government. That every argument which shows one man ought not to have more votes than another, because he is wiser, stronger, or wealthier, proves that one State ought not to have more votes than another, because it is stronger, richer, or more populous. And, that by giving one State, or one or two States, more votes than the others, the others thereby are enslaved to such State or States, having the greater number of votes, in the same manner as in the case before put, of individuals, when one has more votes than the others. That the reason why each individual man in forming a State government should have an equal vote, is because each individual, before he enters into government, is equally free and independent. So each State, when States enter into a federal government, are entitled to an equal vote; because, before they entered into such federal government, each State was equally free and equally independent. That adequate representation of men formed into a State government, consists in each man having an equal voice, either personally, or, if by representatives, that he should have an equal voice in choosing the representatives. So, adequate representation of States in a federal government, consists in each State having an equal voice, either in person or by its representative, in every thing which relates to the federal government. That this adequacy of representation is more important in a federal, than in a State government, because the members of a State government, the district of which is not very large, have generally such a common interest, that laws can scarcely be made by one part, oppressive to the others, without their suffering in common; but the different States, composing an extensive federal empire, widely distant one from the other, may Edition: current; Page: [184] have interests so totally distinct, that the one part might be greatly benefited by what would be destructive to the other.

[20] They were not satisfied by resting it on principles; they also appealed to history. They showed, that in the amphictyonic confederation of the Grecian cities, each city, however different in wealth, strength, and other circumstances, sent the same number of deputies, and had each an equal voice in every thing that related to the common concerns of Greece. It was shown, that in the seven provinces of the United Netherlands, and the confederated Cantons of Switzerland, each Canton and each province have an equal vote, although there are as great distinctions of wealth, strength, population, and extent of territory among those provinces and those Cantos, as among these States. It was said, that the maxim, that taxation and representation ought to go together, was true so far, that no person ought to be taxed who is not represented, but not in the extent insisted upon, to wit, that the quantum of taxation and representation ought to be the same; on the contrary, the quantum of representation depends upon the quantum of freedom; and therefore all, whether individual States, or individual men, who are equally free, have a right to equal representation. That to those who insist, that he who pays the greatest share of taxes ought to have the greatest number of votes, it is a sufficient answer to say, that this rule would be destructive of the liberty of the others, and would render them slaves to the more rich and wealthy. That if one man pays more taxes than another, it is because he has more wealth to be protected by government, and he receives greater benefits from the government. So if one State pays more to the federal government, it is because, as a State, she enjoys greater blessings from it; she has more wealth protected by it, or a greater number of inhabitants, whose rights are secured, and who share its advantages.

[21] It was urged, that, upon these principles, the Pennsylvanian, or inhabitant of a large State, was of as much consequence as the inhabitant of Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or any other State. That his consequence was to be decided by his situation in his own State; that if he was there as free, if he had as great share in the forming of his own government, and in the making and executing its laws, as the inhabitants of those other States, then was he equally important, and of equal consequence. Suppose a confederation of States had never been adopted, but every State had remained absolutely in its independent situation, no person could, with propriety, say that the citizen of the large State was not as important as the citizen of the smaller; the confederation of the States cannot alter the case. Edition: current; Page: [185] It was said, that in all transactions between State and State, the freedom, independence, importance, and consequence, even the individuality of each citizen of the different States, might with propriety be said to be swallowed up, or concentrated, in the independence, the freedom, and the individuality of the State of which they are citizens. That the thirteen States are thirteen distinct political individual existences, as to each other; that the federal government is, or ought to be, a government over these thirteen political individual existences, which form the members of that government; and that, as the largest State, is only a single individual of this government, it ought to have only one vote; the smallest State, also being one individual member of this government, ought also to have one vote. To those who urged, that for the States to have equal suffrage was contrary to the feelings of the human heart, it was answered, that it was admitted to be contrary to the feelings of pride and ambition, but those were feelings which ought not to be gratified at the expense of freedom.

[22] It was urged, that the position, that great States would have great objects in view, in which they would not suffer the less States to thwart them, was one of the strongest reasons why inequality of representation ought not to be admitted. If those great objects were not inconsistent with the interest of the less States, they would readily concur in them; but if they were inconsistent with the interest of a majority of the States composing the government, in that case two or three States ought not to have it in their power to aggrandize themselves, at the expense of all the rest. To those who alleged, that equality of suffrage in our federal government, was the poisonous source from which all our misfortunes flowed, it was answered, that the allegation was not founded in fact; that equality of suffrage had never been complained of by the States, as a defect in our federal system; that, among the eminent writers, foreigners and others, who had treated of the defects of our confederation, and proposed alterations, none had proposed an alteration in this part of the system; and members of the convention, both in and out of Congress, who advocated the equality of suffrage, called upon their opponents, both in and out of Congress, and challenged them to produce one single instance where a bad measure had been adopted, or a good measure had failed of adoption, in consequence of the States having an equal vote; on the contrary, they urged, that all our evils flowed from the want of power in the federal head, and that, let the right of suffrage in the States be altered in any manner whatever, if no greater powers were given to the government, the same inconveniences would continue.

[23] It was denied that the equality of suffrage was originally Edition: current; Page: [186] agreed to on principles of necessity or expediency; on the contrary, that it was adopted on the principles of the rights of men and the rights of States, which were then well known, and which then influenced our conduct, although now they seem to be forgotten. For this, the Journals of Congress were appealed to; it was from them shown, that when the committee of Congress reported to that body the articles of confederation, the very first article, which became the subject of discussion, was that respecting equality of suffrage. That Virginia proposed divers modes of suffrage, all on the principle of inequality, which were almost unanimously rejected; that on the question for adopting the article, it passed, Virginia being the only State which voted in the negative. That, after the articles of confederation were submitted to the States, by them to be ratified, almost every State proposed certain amendments, which they instructed their delegates to endeavour to obtain before ratification, and that among all the amendments proposed, not one State, not even Virginia, proposed an amendment of that article, securing the equality of suffrage, — the most convincing proof it was agreed to and adopted, not from necessity, but upon a full conviction, that, according to the principles of free governments, the States had a right to that equality of suffrage.

[24] But, Sir, it was to no purpose that the futility of their objections were shown, when driven from the pretence, that the equality of suffrage had been originally agreed to on principles of expediency and necessity; the representatives of the large States persisting in a declaration, that they would never agree to admit the smaller States to an equality of suffrage. In answer to this, they were informed, and informed in terms the most strong and energetic that could possibly be used, that we never would agree to a system giving them the undue influence and superiority they proposed. That we would risk every possible consequence. That from anarchy and confusion, order might arise. That slavery was the worst that could ensue, and we considered the system proposed to be the most complete, most abject system of slavery that the wit of man ever devised, under the pretence of forming a government for free States. That we never would submit tamely and servilely, to a present certain evil, in dread of a future, which might be imaginary; that we were sensible the eyes of our country and the world were upon us. That we would not labor under the imputation of being unwilling to form a strong and energetic federal government; but we would publish the system which we approved, and also that which we opposed, and leave it to our country, and the world at large, to judge between us, who best understood the rights of free men and free States, and who Edition: current; Page: [187] best advocated them; and to the same tribunal we would submit, who ought to be answerable for all the consequences, which might arise to the Union from the convention breaking up, without proposing any system to their constituents. During this debate we were threatened, that if we did not agree to the system proposed, we never should have an opportunity of meeting in convention to deliberate on another, and this was frequently urged. In answer, we called upon them to show what was to prevent it, and from what quarter was our danger to proceed; was it from a foreign enemy? Our distance from Europe, and the political situation of that country, left us but little to fear. Was there any ambitious State or States, who, in violation of every sacred obligation, was preparing to enslave the other States, and raise itself to consequence on the ruin of the others? Or was there any such ambitious individual? We did not apprehend it to be the case; but suppose it to be true, it rendered it the more necessary, that we should sacredly guard against a system, which might enable all those ambitious views to be carried into effect, even under the sanction of the constitution and government. In fine, Sir, all these threats were treated with contempt, and they were told, that we apprehended but one reason to prevent the States meeting again in convention; that, when they discovered the part this convention had acted, and how much its members were abusing the trust reposed in them, the States would never trust another convention. At length, Sir, after every argument had been exhausted by the advocates of equality of representation, the question was called, when a majority decided in favor of the inequality; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting for it; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware against it; Maryland divided. It may be thought surprising, Sir, that Georgia, a State now small and comparatively trifling in the Union, should advocate this system of unequal representation, giving up her present equality in the federal government, and sinking herself almost to total insignificance in the scale; but, Sir, it must be considered, that Georgia has the most extensive territory in the Union, being larger than the whole island of Great Britain, and thirty times as large as Connecticut. This system being designed to preserve to the States their whole territory unbroken, and to prevent the erection of new States within the territory of any of them, Georgia looked forward when, her population being increased in some measure proportioned to her territory, she should rise in the scale, and give law to the other States, and hence we found the delegation of Georgia warmly advocating the proposition of giving the States unequal representation. Next day the question came on, with respect to the inequality of representation Edition: current; Page: [188] in the second branch, but little debate took place; the subject had been exhausted on the former question. On the votes being taken, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, voted for the inequality. Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland* were in the negative. Georgia had only two representatives on the floor, one of whom (not, I believe, because he was against the measure, but from a conviction, that we would go home, and thereby dissolve the convention, before we would give up the question,) voted also in the negative, by which that State was divided. Thus, Sir, on this great and important part of the system, the convention being equally divided, five States for the measure, five against, and one divided, there was a total stand, and we did not seem very likely to proceed any further. At length, it was proposed, that a select committee should be balloted for, composed of a member from each State, which committee should endeavour to devise some mode of conciliation or compromise. I had the honor to be on that committee; we met, and discussed the subject of difference; the one side insisted on the inequality of suffrage in both branches, the other insisted on the equality in both; each party was tenacious of their sentiments, when it was found, that nothing could induce us to yield to the inequality in both branches; they at length proposed, by way of compromise, if we would accede to their wishes as to the first branch, they would agree to the equal representation in the second Branch. To this it was answered, that there was no merit in the proposal; it was only consenting, after they had struggled, to put both their feet on our necks, to take one of them off, provided we would consent to let them keep the other on; when they knew at the same time, that they could not put one foot on our necks, unless we would consent to it and that by being permitted to keep on that one foot, they should afterwards be able to place the other foot on whenever they pleased.

[25] They were also called on to inform us what security they could give us should we agree to this compromise, that they would abide by the plan of government formed upon it, any longer that it suited their interests, or they found it expedient. “The States have a right to an equality of representation. This is secured to us by our present articles of confederation; we are in possession of this privilege Edition: current; Page: [189] — It is now to be torn from us — What security can you give us, that, when you get the power the proposed system will give you, when you have men and money, that you will not force from the States that equality of suffrage in the second branch, which you now deny to be their right, and only give up from absolute necessity? Will you tell us we ought to trust you because you now enter into a solemn compact with us? This you have done before, and now treat with the utmost contempt. — Will you now make an appeal to the Supreme Being, and call on him to guarantee your observance of this compact? The same you have formerly done, for your observance of the articles of confederation, which you are now violating in the most wanton manner.

[26] “The same reasons, which you now urge for destroying our present federal government, may be urged for abolishing the system, which you now propose to adopt; and as the method prescribed by the articles of confederation is now totally disregarded by you, as little regard may be shown by you to the rules prescribed for the amendment of the new system, whenever, having obtained power by the government, you shall hereafter be pleased either to discard it entirely, or so to alter it as to give yourselves all that superiority, which you have now contended for, and to obtain which you have shown yourselves disposed to hazard the Union.” — Such, Sir, was the language used on that occasion, and they were told, that, as we could not possibly have a greater tie on them for their observance of the new system than we had for their observance of the articles of confederation, which had proved totally insufficient, it would be wrong and imprudent to confide in them. — It was further observed, that the inequality of the representation would be daily increasing. — — — That many of the States, whose territory was confined and whose population was at the time large in proportion to their territory, would probably, twenty, thirty, or forty years hence, have no more representatives than at the introduction of the government; whereas, the States having extensive territory, where lands are to be procured cheap, would be daily increasing in the number of their inhabitants, not only from propagation, but from the emigration of the inhabitants of the other States, and would have soon double, or perhaps treble the number of representatives that they are to have at first, and thereby enormously increase their influence in the national councils. However, the majority of the select committee at length agreed to a series of propositions, by way of compromise, part of which related to the representation in the first branch, nearly as the system is now published: And part of them to the second branch, securing, in that, equal representation, and reported them as a compromise, Edition: current; Page: [190] upon the express terms, that they were wholly to be adopted, or wholly to be rejected: upon this compromise, a great number of the members so far engaged themselves, that, if the system was progressed upon agreeable to the terms of compromise, they would lend it their names, by signing it, and would not actively oppose it, if their States should appear inclined to adopt it. — Some, however, in which number was myself, who joined in the report, and agreed to proceed upon those principles, and see what kind of a system would ultimately be formed upon it, yet reserved to themselves, in the most explicit manner, the right of finally giving a solemn dissent to the system, if it was thought by them inconsistent with the freedom and happiness of their country. This, Sir, will account why the members of the convention so generally signed their names to the system; not because they thought it a proper one; not because they thoroughly approved, or were unanimous for it; but because they thought it better than the system attempted to be forced upon them. This report of the select committee was after long dissension, adopted by a majority of the convention, and the system was proceeded in accordingly. I believe near a fortnight, perhaps more, was spent in the discussion of this business, during which we were on the verge of dissolution, scarce held together by the strength of an hair, though the public papers were announcing our extreme unanimity.

[27] Mr. Speaker, I think it my duty to observe, that, during this struggle to prevent the large States from having all power in their hands, which had nearly terminated in a dissolution of the convention, it did not appear to me, that either of those illustrious characters, the honorable Mr. Washington or the President of the State of Pennsylvania, was disposed to favor the claims of the smaller States, against the undue superiority attempted by the large States; on the contrary, the Honorable President of Pennsylvania was a member of the committee of compromise, and there advocated the right of the large States to an inequality in both branches, and only ultimately conceded it in the second branch on the principle of conciliation, when it was found no other terms would be accepted. This, Sir, I think it my duty to mention, for the consideration of those, who endeavour to prop up a dangerous and defective system by great names; Soon after this period, the Honorable Mr. Yates and Mr. Lansing, of New York, left us — they had uniformly opposed the system, and, I believe, despairing of getting a proper one brought forward, or of rendering any real service, they returned no more.1 The propositions reported by the committee of the whole house having Edition: current; Page: [191] been fully discussed by the convention, and, with many alterations having been agreed to by a majority, a committee of five, were appointed to detail the system, according to the principles contained in what had been agreed to by that majority — This was likely to require some time, and the convention adjourned for eight or ten days. — Before the adjournment, I moved for liberty to be given to the different members to take correct copies of the propositions, to which the convention had then agreed, in order that during the recess of the convention, we might have an opportunity of considering them, and, if it should be thought that any alterations or amendments were necessary, that we might be prepared against the convention met, to bring them forward for discussion. But, Sir, the same spirit, which caused our doors to be shut, our proceedings to be kept secret, — our journals to be locked up, — and every avenue, as far as possible, to be shut to public information, prevailed also in this case; and the proposal, so reasonable and necessary, was rejected by a majority of the convention; thereby precluding even the members themselves from the necessary means of information and deliberation on the important business in which they were engaged.

[28] It has been observed, Mr. Speaker, by my honorable colleagues, that the debate respecting the mode of representation, was productive of considerable warmth; this observation is true. But, Sir, it is equally true, that, if we could have tamely and servilely consented to be bound in chains, and meanly condescended to assist in riveting them fast, we might have avoided all that warmth, and have proceeded with as much calmness and coolness as any Stoic could have wished.

[29] Having thus, Sir, given the honorable members of this house a short history of some interesting parts of our proceedings, I shall beg leave to take up the system published by the convention, and shall request your indulgence, while I make some observations on different parts of it, and give you such further information as may be in my power. (Here Mr. Martin read the first section of the first article, and then proceeded.) With respect to this part of the system, Mr. Speaker, there was a diversity of sentiment; those who were for two branches in the legislature, a House of Representatives and a Senate, urged the necessity of a second branch, to serve as a check upon the first, and used all those trite and common-place arguments which may be proper and just, when applied to the formation of a State government, over individuals variously distinguished in their habits and manners, fortune and rank; where a body chosen in a select manner, respectable for their wealth and dignity, may be necessary, frequently, to prevent the hasty and rash measures of a Edition: current; Page: [192] representation more popular. But, on the other side, it was urged, that none of those arguments could with propriety be applied to the formation of a federal government over a number of independent States; that it is the State governments which are to watch over and protect the rights of the individual, whether rich or poor, or of moderate circumstances, and in which the democratic and aristocratic influence or principles are to be so blended, modified, and checked, as to prevent oppression and injury; that the federal government is to guard and protect the States and their rights, and to regulate their common concerns; that a federal government is formed by the States, as States, that is, in their sovereign capacities, in the same manner as treaties and alliances are formed; that sovereignties, considered as such, cannot be said to have jarring interests or principles, the one aristocratic, and the other democratic; but that the principles of a sovereignty, considered as a sovereignty, are the same, whether that sovereignty is monarchical, aristocratical, democratical, or mixed — That the history of mankind doth not furnish an instance, from its earliest period to the present time, of a federal government constituted of two distinct branches; that the members of the federal government, if appointed by the States, in their State capacities that is, by their legislatures, as they ought, would be select in their choice, and, coming from different States, having different interests and views, this difference of interests and views would always be a sufficient check over the whole. And it was shewn, that even Adams, who, the reviewers have justly observed, appears to be as fond of checks and balances as Lord Chesterfield of the Graces, even he declares, that a council consisting of one branch has always been found sufficient in a federal government.

[30] It was urged, that the government we were forming was not in reality a federal, but a national government; not founded on the principles of the preservation, but the abolition or consolidation of all State governments; that we appeared totally to have forgot the business for which we were sent, and the situation of the country for which we were preparing our system — That we had not been sent to form a government over the inhabitants of America, considered as individuals; that as individuals, they were all subject to their respective State governments, which governments would still remain, though the federal government should be dissolved; that the system of government we were entrusted to prepare, was a government over these thirteen States; but that, in our proceedings, we adopted principles which would be right and proper, only on the supposition that there were no State governments at all, but that all the inhabitants of this extensive continent were, in their individual Edition: current; Page: [193] capacity, without government, and in a state of nature; that, accordingly, the system proposes the legislature to consist of two branches, the one to be drawn from the people at large, immediately in their individual capacity, the other to be chosen in a more select manner, as a check upon the first. It is, in its very introduction, declared to be a compact between the people of the United States, as individuals; and it is to be ratified by the people at large, in their capacity as individuals; all which it was said would be quite right and proper, if there were no State governments, if all the people of this continent were in a state of nature, and we were forming one national government for them as individuals; and is nearly the same as was done in most of the States when they formed their governments over the people who compose them.

[31] Whereas it was urged, that the principles on which a federal government over States ought to be constructed and ratified, are the reverse; that instead of the legislature consisting of two branches, one branch was sufficient, whether examined by the dictates of reason, or the experience of ages; that the representation, instead of being drawn from the people at large, as individuals, ought to be drawn from the States as States, in their sovereign capacity; that, in a federal government, the parties to the compact are not the people, as individuals, but the States, as States; and that it is by the States as States, in their sovereign capacity, that the system of government ought to be ratified, and not by the people, as individuals.

[32] It was further said, that, in a federal government over States equally free, sovereign, and independent, every State ought to have an equal share in making the federal laws or regulations, in deciding upon them, and in carrying them into execution; neither of which was the case in this system, but the reverse; the States not having an equal voice in the legislature, nor in the appointment of the executive, the judges, and the other officers of government. It was insisted, that, in the whole system, there was but one federal feature, — the appointment of the senators by the States in their sovereign capacity, that is, by their legislatures, and the equality of suffrage in that branch; but it was said, that this feature was only federal in apperance.

[33] To prove this, and the Senate as constituted could not be a security for the protection and preservation of the State governments, and that the senators could not be justly considered the representatives of the States, as States, it was observed, that upon just principles of representation, the representative ought to speak the sentiments of his constituents, and ought to vote in the same manner that his constituents would do, (as far as he can judge,) provided his constituents were acting in person, and had the same knowledge Edition: current; Page: [194] and information with himself; and, therefore, that the representative ought to be dependent on his constituents, and answerable to them; that the connexion between the representative and the represented ought to be as near and as close as possible. According to these principles, Mr. Speaker, in this State it is provided by its constitution, that the representatives in Congress shall be chosen annually, shall be paid by the State, and shall be subject to recall even within the year; so cautiously has our constitution guarded against an abuse of the trust reposed in our representatives in the federal government; whereas, by the third and sixth section of the first article of this new system, the senators are to be chosen for six years, instead of being chosen annually; instead of being paid by their States, who send them, they, in conjunction with the other branch, are to pay themselves, out of the treasury of the United States; and are not liable to be recalled during the period for which they are chosen. Thus, Sir, for six years the senators are rendered totally and absolutely independent of their States, of whom they ought to be the representatives, without any bond or tie between them. During that time, they may join in measures ruinous and destructive to their States, even such as should totally annihilate their State governments, and their States cannot recall them, nor exercise any control over them.

[34] Another consideration, Mr. Speaker, it was thought ought to have great weight, to prove that the smaller States cannot depend on the Senate for the preservation of their rights, either against large and ambitious States, or against an ambitious and aspiring President. The Senate, Sir, is so constituted, that they are not only to compose one branch of the legislature, but, by the second section of the second article, they are to compose a privy council for the President; hence, it will be necessary, that they should be, in a great measure, a permanent body, constantly residing at the seat of government. Seven years are esteemed for the life of a man; it can hardly be supposed, that a senator, especially from the States remote from the seat of empire, will accept of an appointment which must estrange him for six years from his State, without giving up, to a great degree, his prospects in his own State. If he has a family, he will take his family with him to the place where the government shall be fixed; that will become his home, and there is every reason to expect, that his future views and prospects will centre in the favors and emoluments of the general government, or of the government of that State where the seat of empire is established. In either case, he is lost to his own State. If he places his future prospects in the favors and emoluments of the general government, he will become the dependent and Edition: current; Page: [195] creature of the President, as the system enables a senator to be appointed to offices, and, without the nomination of the President, no appointment can take place; as such, he will favor the wishes of the President, and concur in his measures; who, if he has no ambitious views of his own to gratify, may be too favorable to the ambitious views of the large States, who will have an undue share in his original appointment, and on whom he will be more dependent afterwards than on the States which are smaller. If the senator places his future prospects in that State where the seat of empire is fixed, from that time he will be, in every question wherein its particular interest may be concerned, the representative of that State, not of his own.

[35] But even this provision, apparently for the security of the State governments, inadequate as it is, is entirely left at the mercy of the general government; for, by the fourth section of the first article, it is expressly provided, that the Congress shall have a power to make and alter all regulations concerning the time and manner of holding elections for senators; a provision expressly looking forward to, and, I have no doubt designed for, the utter extinction and abolition of all State governments; nor will this, I believe, be doubted by any person, when I inform you, that some of the warm advocates and patrons of the system, in convention, strenuously opposed the choice of the senators by the State legislatures, insisting, that the State governments ought not to be introduced in any manner, so as to be component parts of, or instruments for carrying into execution, the general government. Nay, so far were the friends of the system from pretending that they meant it, or considered it as a federal system, that on the question being proposed, “that a union of the States, merely federal, ought to be the sole object of the exercise of the powers vested in the convention,” it was negatived by a majority of the members, and it was resolved “that a national government ought to be formed.” Afterwards the word “national” was struck out by them, because they thought the word might tend to alarm; and although, now, they who advocate the system pretend to call themselves federalists, in convention the distinction was quite the reverse; those who opposed the system were there considered and styled the federal party, those who advocated it, the antifederal.

[36] Viewing it as a national, not a federal government, as calculated and designed not to protect and preserve, but to abolish and annihilate the State governments, it was opposed for the following reasons. It was said, that this continent was much too extensive for one national government, which should have sufficient power and energy to pervade and hold in obedience and subjection all its parts, Edition: current; Page: [196] consistent with the enjoyment and preservation of liberty — that the genius and habits of the people of America were opposed to such a government. That during their connexion with Great Britain, they had been accustomed to have all their concerns transacted within a narrow circle, their colonial district; they had been accustomed to have their seats of government near them, to which they might have access, without much inconvenience, when their business should require it — That, at this time, we find, if a county is rather large, the people complain of the inconvenience, and clamor for a division of their county, or for a removal of the place where their courts are held, so as to render it more central and convenient. That in those States, the territory of which is extensive, as soon as the population increases remote from the seat of government, the inhabitants are urgent for the removal of the seat of their government, or to be erected into a new State. As a proof of this, the inhabitants of the western parts of Virginia and North Carolina, of Vermont and the province of Maine, were instances; even the inhabitants of the western parts of Pennsylvania, who, it is said, already seriously look forward to the time when they shall either be erected into a new State, or have their seat of government removed to the Susquehanna. If the inhabitants of the different States consider it as a grievance to attend a county court, or the seat of their own government, when a little inconvenient, can it be supposed they would ever submit to have a national government established, the seat of which would be more than a thousand miles removed from some of them?

[37] It was insisted, that governments of a republican nature are those best calculated to preserve the freedom and happiness of the citizen; that governments of this kind are only calculated for a territory but small in its extent; that the only method by which an extensive continent like America could be connected and united together, consistent with the principles of freedom, must be by having a number of strong and energetic State governments for securing and protecting the rights of individuals forming those governments, and for regulating all their concerns; and a strong, energetic federal government over those States, for the protection and preservation, and for regulating the common concerns of the State. It was further insisted, that, even if it was possible to effect a total abolition of the State governments at this time, and to establish one general government over the people of America, it could not long subsist, but in a little time would again be broken into a variety of governments of a smaller extent, similar, in some manner, to the present situation of this continent; the principal difference, in all probability, Edition: current; Page: [197] would be, that the governments so established, being affected by some violent convulsion, might not be formed on principles so favorable to liberty as those of our present State governments. That this ought to be an important consideration to such of the States as had excellent governments, which was the case with Maryland and most others, whatever it might be to persons who disapproving of their particular State government, would be willing to hazard every thing to overturn and destroy it. These reasons, Sir, influenced me to vote against two branches in the legislature, and against every part of the system which was repugnant to the principles of a federal government.1 Nor was there a single argument urged, or reason assigned, which to my mind was satisfactory, to prove, that a good government on federal principles was unattainable; the whole of their arguments only proving, what none of us controverted, that our federal government as originally formed, was defective, and wanted amendment. However, a majority of the convention hastily and inconsiderately, without condescending to make a fair trial, in their great wisdom, decided that a kind of government, which a Montesquieu and a Price have declared the best calculated of any to preserve internal liberty, and to enjoy external strength and security, and the only one by which a large continent can be connected and united, consistently with the principles of liberty, was totally impracticable; and they acted accordingly.

[38] With respect to that part of the second section of the first article, which relates to the apportionment of representation and direct taxation, there were considerable objections made to it, besides the great objection of inequality. It was urged, that no principle could justify taking slaves into computation in apportioning the number of representatives a State should have in the government. That it involved the absurdity of increasing the power of a State in making laws for freemen in proportion as that State violated the rights of freedom. That it might be proper to take slaves into consideration, when taxes were to be apportioned, because it had a tendency to discourage slavery; but to take them into account in giving representation tended to encourage the slave-trade, and to make it the interest of the States to continue that infamous traffic. That slaves could not be taken into account as men or citizens, because they were not admitted to the rights of citizens, in the States which adopted or continued slavery. If they were to be taken into account as property, it was asked, what peculiar circumstance should render this property, (of all others the most odious in its nature,) entitled Edition: current; Page: [198] to the high privilege of conferring consequence and power in the government to its possessors, rather than any other property? and why slaves should, as property, be taken into account, rather than horses, cattle, mules, or any other species — and it was observed by an honorable member from Massachusetts, that he considered it as dishonorable and humiliating to enter into compact with the slaves of the Southern States, as it would with the horses and mules of the Eastern. It was also objected, that the numbers of representatives appointed by this section, to be sent by the particular States to compose the first legislature, were not precisely agreeable to the rule of representation adopted by this system, and that the numbers in this section are artfully lessened for the large States, while the smaller States have their full proportion, in order to prevent the undue influence which the large States will have in the government from being too apparent; and I think, Mr. Speaker, that this objection is well founded. I have taken some pains to obtain information of the number of freemen and slaves in the different States, and I have reason to believe, that, if the estimate was now taken, which is directed, and one delegate to be sent for every thirty thousand inhabitants, Virginia would have at least twelve delegates, Massachusetts eleven, and Pennsylvania ten, instead of the number stated in this section; whereas the other States, I believe, would not have more than the number there allowed them, nor would Georgia, most probably, at present, send more than two. If I am right, Mr. Speaker, upon the enumeration being made, and the representation being apportioned according to the rule prescribed, the whole number of delegates would be seventy-one, thirty-six of which would be a quorum to do business; the delegates of Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, would amount to thirty-three of that quorum. Those three States will, therefore, have much more than equal power and influence in making the laws and regulations, which are to affect this continent, and will have a moral certainty of preventing any laws or regulations which they disapprove, although they might be thought ever so necessary by a great majority of the States. It was further objected, that even if the States who had most inhabitants ought to have a greater number of delegates, yet the number of delegates ought not to be in exact proportion to the number of inhabitants, because the influence and power of those States whose delegates are numerous, will be greater, when compared to the influence and power of the other States, than the proportion which the numbers of their delegates bear to each other; as, for instance, though Delaware has one delegate, and Virginia but ten, yet Virginia has more than ten times as much power and influence in the government as Edition: current; Page: [199] Delaware; to prove this, it was observed, that Virginia would have a much greater chance to carry any measure, than any number of States whose delegates were altogether ten, (suppose the States of Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire,) since the ten delegates from Virginia, in every thing that related to the interest of that State, would act in union, and move one solid and compact body; whereas, the delegates of these four States, though collectively equal in number to those from Virginia, coming from different States, having different interests, will be less likely to harmonize and move in concert. As a further proof, it was said, that Virginia, as the system is now reported, by uniting with her the delegates of four other States, can carry a question against the sense and interest of eight States, by sixty-four different combinations; the four States voting with Virginia being every time so far different, as not to be composed of the same four; whereas, the State of Delaware can only, by uniting four other States with her, carry a measure against the sense of eight States, by two different combinations, — a mathematical proof, that the State of Virginia has thirty-two times greater chance of carrying a measure, against the sense of eight States, than Delaware, although Virginia has only ten times as many delegates.

[39] It was also shown, that the idea was totally fallacious, which was attempted to be maintained, that, if a State had one thirteenth part of the numbers composing the delegation in this system, such State would have as much influence as under the articles of confederation. To prove the fallacy of this idea, it was shown, that, under the articles of confederation, the State of Maryland had but one vote in thirteen, yet no measure could be carried against her interests without seven States, a majority of the whole, concurring in it; whereas in this system, though Maryland has six votes, which is more than the proportion of one in thirteen, yet five States may, in a variety of combinations, carry a question against her interest, though seven other States concur with her; and six States, by a much greater number of combinations, may carry a measure against Maryland, united with six other States. I shall here, Sir, just observe, that, as the committee of detail reported the system, the delegates from the different States were to be one for every forty thousand inhabitants; it was afterwards altered to one for every thirty thousand. This alteration was made after I left the convention, at the instance of whom I know not; but it is evident, that the alteration is in favor of the States which have large and extensive territory, to increase their power and influence in the government, and to the injury of the smaller States, — since it is the States of extensive territory, who Edition: current; Page: [200] will most speedily increase the number of their inhabitants, as before has been observed, and will, therefore, most speedily procure an increase to the number of their delegates. By this alteration, Virginia, North Carolina, or Georgia, by obtaining one hundred and twenty thousand additional inhabitants, will be entitled to four additional delegates; whereas, such State would only have been entitled to three, if forty thousand had remained the number by which to apportion the delegation. As to that part of this section that relates to direct taxation, there was also an objection, for the following reasons. It was said, that a large sum of money was to be brought into the national treasury by the duties on commerce, which would be almost wholly paid by the commercial States; it would be unequal and unjust, that the sum which was necessary to be raised by direct taxation, should be apportioned equally upon all the States, obliging the commercial States to pay as large a share of the revenue arising therefrom, as the States from whom no revenue had been drawn by imposts; since the wealth and industry of the inhabitants of the commercial States will, in the first place, be severely taxed through their commerce, and afterwards be equally taxed with the industry and wealth of the inhabitants of the other States, who have paid no part of that revenue; so that, by this provision, the inhabitants of the commercial States are in this system obliged to bear an unreasonable and disproportionate share in the expenses of the Union, and the payment of that foreign and domestic debt, which was incurred not more for the benefit of the commercial than of the other States.

[40] In the sixth section of the first article, it is provided, that senators and representatives may be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, except such as shall have been created, or the emoluments of which have been increased, during the time for which they were elected. Upon this subject, Sir, there was a great diversity of sentiment among the members of the convention. As the propositions were reported by the committee of the whole House, a senator or representative could not be appointed to any office under a particular State, or under the United States, during the time for which they were chosen, nor to any office under the United States, until one year after the expiration of that time. It was said, and, in my opinion justly, that no good reason could be assigned, why a senator or representative should be incapacitated to hold an office in his own government, since it can only bind him more closely to his State, and attach him the more to its interests, which, as its representative, he is bound to consult and sacredly guard, as far as is consistent with the welfare of the Union; and Edition: current; Page: [201] therefore, at most, would only add the additional motive of gratitude for discharging his duty; and, according to this idea, the clause which prevented senators or delegates from holding offices in their own States, was rejected by a considerable majority. But, Sir, we sacredly endeavoured to preserve all that part of the resolution which prevented them from being eligible to offices under the United States; as we considered it essentially necessary to preserve the integrity, independence, and dignity of the legislature, and to secure its members from corruption.

[41] I was in the number of those who were extremely solicitous to preserve this part of the report; but there was a powerful opposition made by such as wished the members of the legislature to be eligible to offices under the United States. Three different times did they attempt to procure an alteration, and as often failed; a majority firmly adhering to the resolution as reported by the committee — However, an alteration was at length, by dint of perseverance, obtained, even within the last twelve days of the convention; for it happened after I left Philadelphia. As to the exception, that they cannot be appointed to offices created by themselves, or the emoluments of which are by themselves increased, it is certainly of little consequence, since they may easily evade it by creating new offices, to which may be appointed the persons who fill the offices before created, and thereby vacancies will be made, which may be filled by the members who, for that purpose, have created the new offices.

[42] It is true, the acceptance of an office vacates their seat, nor can they be reëlected during their continuance in office. But it was said, that the evil would first take place; that the price for the office would be paid before it was obtained; that vacating the seat of the person who was appointed to office, made way for the admission of a new member, who would come there as desirous to obtain an office as he whom he succeeded, and as ready to pay the price necessary to obtain it; in fine, that it would be only driving away the flies who were filled, to make room for those that were hungry; and as the system is now reported, the President having the power to nominate to all offices, it must be evident, that there is no possible security for the integrity and independence of the legislature, but that they are most unduly placed under the influence of the President, and exposed to bribery and corruption.

[43] The seventh section of this article was also the subject of contest. It was thought by many members of the convention, that it was very wrong to confine the origination of all revenue bills to the House of Representatives, since the members of the Senate Edition: current; Page: [202] will be chosen by the people, as well as the members of the House of Delegates, if not immediately, yet mediately, being chosen by the members of the State legislature, which members are elected by the people; and that it makes no real difference, whether we do a thing in person, or by a deputy or agent appointed by him for that purpose.

[44] That no argument can be drawn from the House of Lords in the British constitution, since they are neither mediately nor immediately the representatives of the people, but are one of the three estates composing that kingdom, having hereditary rights and privileges distinct from, and independent of, the people.

[45] That it may, and probably will, be a future source of dispute and controversy between the two branches, what are or are not revenue bills, and the more so as they are not defined in the constitution; which controversies may be difficult to settle, and may become serious in their consequences, there being no power in the constitution to decide upon, or authorized, in cases of absolute necessity, to terminate them by a prorogation or dissolution of either of the branches; a remedy provided in the British constitution, where the King has that power, which has been found necessary at times to be exercised, in case of violent dissensions between the Lords and Commons on the subject of money bills.

[46] That every regulation of commerce, every law relative to excises, stamps, the post-office, the imposing of taxes and their collection, the creation of courts and offices; in fine, every law for the Union, if enforced by any pecuniary sanctions, as they would tend to bring money into the continental treasury, might, and no doubt would, be considered a revenue act; that, consequently, the Senate, the members of which will, it may be presumed, be the most select in their choice, and consist of men the most enlightened, and of the greatest abilities, who, from the duration of their appointment and the permanency of their body, will probably be best acquainted with the common concerns of the States, and with the means of providing for them, will be rendered almost useless as a part of the legislature; and that they will have but little to do in that capacity, except patiently to wait the proceedings of the House of Representatives, and afterwards examine and approve, or propose amendments.

[47] There were also objections to that part of this section which relates to the negative of the President. There were some who thought no good reason could be assigned for giving the President a negative of any kind. Upon the principle of a check to the proceedings of the legislature, it was said to be unnecessary; that the two branches having a control over each other’s proceedings, and Edition: current; Page: [203] the Senate being chosen by the State legislatures, and being composed of members from the different States, there would always be a sufficient guard against measures being hastily or rashly adopted; that the President was not likely to have more wisdom or integrity than the senators, or any of them, or to better know or consult the interest of the States, than any member of the Senate, so as to be entitled to a negative on that principle; and as to the precedent from the British constitution, (for we were eternally troubled with arguments and precedents from the British government,) it was said it would not apply. The King of Great Britain there composed one of the three estates of the kingdom; he was possessed of rights and privileges as such, distinct from the Lords and Commons; rights and privileges which descended to his heirs, and were inheritable by them; that, for the preservation of these, it was necessary he should have a negative, but that this was not the case with the President of the United States, who was no more than an officer of government, the sovereignty was not in him, but in the legislature. And it was further urged, even if he was allowed a negative, it ought not to be of so great extent as that given by the system, since his single voice is to countervail the whole of either branch, and any number less than two thirds of the other; however, a majority of the convention was of a different opinion, and adopted it as it now makes a part of the system.

[48] By the eighth section of this article, Congress is to have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises. When we met in convention after our adjournment, to receive the report of the committee of detail, the members of that committee were requested to inform us, what powers were meant to be vested in Congress by the word duties in this section, since the word imposts extended to duties on goods imported, and by another part of the system no duties on exports were to be laid. In answer to this inquiry, we were informed, that it was meant to give the general government the power of laying stamp duties on paper, parchment, and vellum. We then proposed to have the power inserted in express words, lest disputes hereafter might arise on the subject, and that the meaning might be understood by all who were to be affected by it; but to this it was objected, because it was said, that the word stamp would probably sound odiously in the ears of many of the inhabitants, and be a cause of objection. By the power of imposing stamp duties, the Congress will have a right to declare, that no wills, deeds, or other instruments of writing shall be good and valid, without being stamped; that, without being reduced to writing and being stamped, no bargain, sale, transfer of property, or contract of any Edition: current; Page: [204] kind or nature whatsoever, shall be binding; and also that no exemplifications of records, depositions, or probates of any kind, shall be received in evidence, unless they have the same solemnity. They may likewise oblige all proceedings of a judicial nature to be stamped, to give them effect. Those stamp duties may be imposed to any amount they please; and, under the pretence of securing the collection of these duties, and to prevent the laws which imposed them from being evaded, the Congress may bring the decision of all questions relating to the conveyance, disposition, and rights of property, and every question relating to contracts between man and man, into the courts of the general government — Their inferior courts in the first instance, and the superior court by appeal. By the power to lay and collect imposts, they may impose duties on any or every article of commerce imported into these States, to what amount they please. By the power to lay excises, a power very odious in its nature, since it authorizes officers to go into your houses, your kitchens, your cellars, and to examine into your private concerns, the Congress may impose duties on every article of use or consumption, — on the food that we eat, on the liquors we drink, on the clothes that we wear, the glass which enlightens our houses, or the hearths necessary for our warmth and comfort. By the power to lay and collect taxes, they may proceed to direct taxation on every individual, either by a capitation tax on their heads, or an assessment on their property. By this part of the section therefore, the government has power to lay what duties they please on goods imported; to lay what duties they please, afterwards, on whatever we use or consume; to impose stamp duties to what amount they please, and in whatever case they please; afterwards to impose on the people direct taxes, by capitation tax, or by assessment, to what amount they choose; and thus to sluice them at every vein, as long as they have a drop of blood, without any control, limitation, or restraint; while all the officers for collecting these taxes, stamp duties, imposts, and excises, are to be appointed by the general government, under its directions, not accountable to the States; nor is there even a security, that they shall be citizens of the respective States in which they are to exercise their offices. At the same time, the construction of every law imposing any and all these taxes and duties, and directing the collection of them, and every question arising thereon, and on the conduct of the officers appointed to execute these laws and to collect these taxes and duties, so various in their kinds, are taken away from the courts of justice of the different States, and confined to the courts of the general government, there to be heard and determined by judges holding their offices under the appointment not of the States, but of the general government.

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[49] Many of the members, and myself among the number, thought, that the States were much better judges of the circumstances of their citizens, and what sum of money could be collected from them by direct taxation, and of the manner in which it could be raised, with the greatest ease and convenience to their citizens, than the general government could be; and that the general government ought not to have the power of laying direct taxes in any case but in that of the delinquency of a State. Agreeably to this sentiment, I brought in a proposition, on which a vote of the convention was taken. The proposition was as follows: “And whenever the legislature of the United States shall find it necessary that revenue should be raised by direct taxation, having apportioned the same by the above rule, requisitions shall be made of the respective States to pay into the continental treasury their respective quotas, within a time in the said requisition to be specified; and in case of any of the States failing to comply with such requisition, then, and then only, to have power to devise and pass acts directing the mode and authorizing the collection of the same.” Had this proposition been acceded to, the dangerous and oppressive power in the general government, of imposing direct taxes on the inhabitants, which it now enjoys in all cases, would have been only vested in it in case of the non-compliance of a State, as a punishment for its delinquency, and would have ceased the moment that the State complied with the requisition. But the proposition was rejected by a majority, consistently with their aim and desire of increasing the power of the general government, as far as possible, and destroying the powers and influence of the States. And, though there is a provision, that all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform, that is, to be laid to the same amount on the same articles in each State, yet this will not prevent Congress from having it in their power to cause them to fall very unequal, and much heavier on some States than on others, because these duties may be laid on articles but little or not at all used in some States, and of absolute necessity for the use and consumption of others; in which case, the first would pay little or no part of the revenue arising therefrom, while the whole, or nearly the whole of it, would be paid by the last, to wit, the States which use and consume the articles on which the imposts and excises are laid.

[50] By our original articles of confederation, the Congress have a power to borrow money and emit bills of credit, on the credit of the United States; agreeably to which, was the report on this system as made by the committee of detail. When we came to this part of the report, a motion was made to strike out the words “to emit bills of credit.” Against the motion we urged, that it would Edition: current; Page: [206] be improper to deprive the Congress of that power; that it would be a novelty unprecedented to establish a government which should not have such authority; that it was impossible to look forward into futurity so far as to decide, that events might not happen, that should render the exercise of such a power absolutely necessary; and that we doubted, whether, if a war should take place, it would be possible for this country to defend itself, without having recourse to paper credit, in which case, there would be a necessity of becoming a prey to our enemies, or violating the constitution of our government; and that, considering the administration of the government would be principally in the hands of the wealthy, there could be little reason to fear an abuse of the power, by an unnecessary or injurious exercise of it. But, Sir, a majority of the convention, being wise beyond every event, and being willing to risk any political evil, rather than admit the idea of a paper emission, in any possible event, refused to trust this authority to a government, to which they were lavishing the must unlimited powers of taxation, and to the mercy of which they were willing blindly to trust the liberty and property of the citizens of every State in the Union; and they erased that clause from the system. Among other powers given to this government in the eighth section, it has that of appointing tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court. To this power there was an opposition. It was urged, that there was no occasion for inferior courts of the general government to be appointed in the different States, and that such ought not to be admitted — That the different State judiciaries in the respective States would be competent to, and sufficient for, the cognizance, in the first instance, of all cases that should arise under the laws of the general government, which, being by this system made the supreme law of the States, would be binding on the different State judiciaries — That, by giving an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, the general government would have a sufficient check over their decisions, and security for the enforcing of their laws — That to have inferior courts appointed under the authority of Congress in the different States, would eventually absorb and swallow up the State judiciaries, by drawing all business from them to the courts of the general government, which the extensive and undefined powers, legislative and judicial, of which it is possessed, would easily enable it to do — That it would unduly and dangerously increase the weight and influence of Congress in the several States, be productive of a prodigious number of officers, and be attended with an enormous additional and unnecessary expense — That the judiciaries of the respective States, not having power to decide upon the laws of the general government, but the determination Edition: current; Page: [207] of those laws being confined to the judiciaries appointed under the authority of Congress, in the first instance, as well as on appeal, there would be a necessity for judges or magistrates of the general government, and those to a considerable number, in each county of every State — That there would be a necessity for courts to be holden by them in each county, and that these courts would stand in need of all the proper officers, such as sheriffs, clerks, and others, commissioned under the authority of the general government — In fine, that the administration of justice, as it will relate to the laws of the general government, would require in each State all the magistrates, courts, officers, and expense, which is now found necessary in the respective States, for the administration of justice as it relates to the laws of the State governments. But here, again, we were overruled by a majority, who, assuming it as a principle, that the general government and the State Governments (as long as they should exist) would be at perpetual variance and enmity, and that their interests would constantly be opposed to each other, insisted, for that reason, that the State judges, being citizens of their respective States, and holding their commissions under them, ought not, though acting on oath, to be intrusted with the administration of the laws of the general government.

[51] By the eighth section of the first article, the Congress have also the power given them to raise and support armies, without any limitation as to numbers, and without any restriction in time of peace. Thus, Sir, this plan of government, instead of guarding against a standing army, that engine of arbitrary power, which has so often and so successfully been used for the subversion of freedom, has in its formation given it an express and constitutional sanction, and hath provided for its introduction; nor could this be prevented. I took the sense of the convention on a proposition, by which the Congress should not have power, in time of peace, to keep embodied more than a certain number of regular troops that number to be ascertained by what should be considered a respectable peace establishment. This proposition was rejected by a majority; it being their determination, that the power of Congress to keep up a standing army, even in peace, should only be restrained by their will and pleasure.

[52] This section proceeds further to give a power to the Congress to provide for the calling forth the militia, to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. As to giving such a power, there was no objection; but it was thought by some, that this power ought to be given with certain restrictions. It was thought, that not more than a certain part of the militia of any one State ought to be obliged to march out of the same, or be employed Edition: current; Page: [208] out of the same, at any one time, without the consent of the legislature of such State. This amendment I endeavoured to obtain; but it met with the same fate which attended almost every attempt to limit the powers given to the general government, and constitutionally to guard against their abuse, it was not adopted. As it now stands, the Congress will have the power, if they please, to march the whole militia of Maryland to the remotest part of the Union, and keep them in service as long as they think proper, without being in any respect dependent upon the Government of Maryland for this unlimited exercise of power over its citizens — — All of whom, from the lowest to the greatest, may, during such service, be subjected to military law, and tied up and whipped at the halbert, like the meanest of slaves.

[53] By the next paragraph, Congress is to have the power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States.

[54] For this extraordinary provision, by which the militia, the only defence and protection which the State can have for the security of their rights against arbitrary encroachments of the general government, is taken entirely out of the power of their respective States, and placed under the power of Congress, it was speciously assigned as a reason, that the general government would cause the militia to be better regulated and better disciplined than the State governments, and that it would be proper for the whole militia of the Union to have a uniformity in their arms and exercise. To this it was answered, that the reason, however specious, was not just; that it would be absurd, the militia of the western settlements, who were exposed to an Indian enemy, should either be confined to the same arms or exercise as the militia of the eastern or middle States; that the same penalties which would be sufficient to enforce an obedience to militia laws in some States, would be totally disregarded in others; that, leaving the power to the several States, they would respectively best know the situation and circumstances of their citizens, and the regulations that would be necessary and sufficient to effect a well-regulated militia in each; that we were satisfied the militia had heretofore been as well disciplined as if they had been under the regulations of Congress, and that the States would now have an additional motive to keep their militia in proper order, and fit for service, as it would be the only chance to preserve their existence against a general government armed with powers sufficient to destroy them.

[55] These observations, Sir, procured from some of the members Edition: current; Page: [209] an open avowal of those reasons, by which we believed before that they were actuated. They said, that, as the States would be opposed to the general government, and at enmity with it, which, as I have already observed, they assumed as a principle, if the militia was under the control and the authority of the respective States, it would enable them to thwart and oppose the general government. They said, the States ought to be at the mercy of the general government, and, therefore, that the militia ought to be put under its power, and not suffered to remain under the power of the respective States. In answer to these declarations, it was urged, that, if after having retained to the general government the great powers already granted, and among those, that of raising and keeping up regular troops without limitations, the power over the militia should be taken away from the States, and also given to the general government, it ought to be considered as the last coup de grace to the State governments; that it must be the most convincing proof, the advocates of this system design the destruction of the State governments, and that no professions to the contrary ought to be trusted; and that every State in the Union ought to reject such a system with indignation, since, if the general government should attempt to oppress and enslave them, they could not have any possible means of self-defence; because, the proposed system taking away from the States the right of organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, the first attempt made by a State to put the militia in a situation to counteract the arbitrary measures of the general government would be construed into an act of rebellion or treason; and Congress would instantly march their troops into the State. It was further observed that, when a government wishes to deprive its citizens of freedom, and reduce them to slavery, it generally makes use of a standing army for that purpose, and leaves the militia in a situation as contemptible as possible, lest they might oppose its arbitrary designs; that, in this system, we give the general government every provision it could wish for, and even invite it to subvert the liberties of the States and their citizens; since we give it the right to increase and keep up a standing army as numerous as it would wish, and, by placing the militia under its power, enable it to leave the militia totally unorganized, undisciplined, and even to disarm them; while the citizens, so far from complaining of this neglect, might even esteem it a favor in the general government, as thereby they would be freed from the burden of militia duties, and left to their own private occupations or pleasures. However, all arguments, and every reason that could be urged on this subject, as well as on many others, were obliged to yield to one that was unanswerable, — a majority upon the division.

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[56] By the ninth section of this article, the importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight; but a duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

[57] The design of this clause is to prevent the general government from prohibiting the importation of slaves; but the same reasons which caused them to strike out the word “national,” and not admit the word “stamps,” influenced them here to guard against the word “slaves.” They anxiously sought to avoid the admission of expressions which might be odious in the ears of Americans, although they were willing to admit into their system those things which the expressions signified. And hence it is, that the clause is so worded, as really to authorize the general government to impose a duty of ten dollars on every foreigner who comes into a State to become a citizen, whether he comes absolutely free, or qualifiedly so, as a servant; although this is contrary to the design of the framers, and the duty was only meant to extend to the importation of slaves.

[58] This clause was the subject of a great diversity of sentiment in the convention. As the system was reported by the committee of detail, the provision was general, that such importation should not be prohibited, without confining it to any particular period. This was rejected by eight States, — Georgia, South Carolina, and, I think, North Carolina, voting for it.

[59] We were then told by the delegates of the two first of those States, that their States would never agree to a system, which put it in the power of the general government to prevent the importation of slaves, and that they, as delegates from those States, must withhold their assent from such a system.

[60] A committee of one member from each State was chosen by ballot, to take this part of the system under their consideration, and to endeavour to agree upon some report, which should reconcile those States. To this committee also was referred the following proposition, which had been reported by the committee of detail, to wit; “No navigation act shall be passed without the assent of two thirds of the members present in each House”; a proposition which the staple and commercial States were solicitous to retain, lest their commerce should be placed too much under the power of the eastern States; but which these last States were as anxious to reject. This committee, of which also I had the honor to be a member, met and took under their consideration the subjects committed to them. I found the eastern States, notwithstanding their aversion to slavery, were very willing to indulge the southern States, at least Edition: current; Page: [211] with a temporary liberty to prosecute the slave-trade, provided the southern States would, in their turn, gratify them, by laying no restriction on navigation acts; and after a very little time the committee, by a great majority, agreed on a report, by which the general government was to be prohibited from preventing the importation of slaves for a limited time, and the restrictive clause relative to navigation acts was to be omitted.

[61] This report was adopted by a majority of the convention, but not without considerable opposition. It was said, that we had just assumed a place among independent nations, in consequence of our opposition to the attempts of Great Britain to enslave us; that this opposition was grounded upon the preservation of those rights to which God and nature had entitled us, not in particular, but in common with all the rest of mankind; that we had appealed to the Supreme Being for his assistance, as the God of freedom, who could not but approve our efforts to preserve the rights which he had thus imparted to his creatures; that now, when we scarcely had risen from our knees, from supplicating his aid and protection, in forming our government over a free people, a government formed pretendedly on the principles of liberty and for its preservation, — in that government, to have a provision not only putting it out of its power to restrain and prevent the slave-trade, but even encouraging that most infamous traffic, by giving the States power and influence in the Union, in proportion as they cruelly and wantonly sport with the rights of their fellow creatures, ought to be considered as a solemn mockery of, and insult to that God whose protection we had then implored, and could not fail to hold us up in detestation, and render us contemptible to every true friend of liberty in the world. It was said, it ought to be considered that national crimes can only be, and frequently are punished in this world, by national punishments; and that the continuance of the slave-trade, and thus giving it a national sanction and encouragement, ought to be considered as justly exposing us to the displeasure and vengeance of Him, who is equally Lord of all, and who views with equal eye the poor African slave and his American master.

[62] It was urged, that, by this system, we were giving the general government full and absolute power to regulate commerce, under which general power it would have a right to restrain, or totally prohibit, the slave-trade; it must, therefore, appear to the world absurd and disgraceful to the last degree, that we should except from the exercise of that power, the only branch of commerce which is unjustifiable in its nature, and contrary to the rights of mankind; that, on the contrary, we ought rather to prohibit expressly in our constitution, the further importation of slaves; and to authorize the Edition: current; Page: [212] general government, from time to time, to make such regulations as should be thought most advantageous for the gradual abolition of slavery, and the emancipation of the slaves which are already in the States: That slavery is inconsistent with the genius of republicanism, and has a tendency to destroy those principles on which it is supported, as it lessens the sense of the equal rights of mankind, and habituates us to tyranny and oppression.

[63] It was further urged that, by this system of government, every State is to be protected both from foreign invasion and from domestic insurrections; that, from this consideration, it was of the utmost importance it should have a power to restrain the importation of slaves; since in proportion as the number of slaves are increased in any State, in the same proportion the State is weakened, and exposed to foreign invasion or domestic insurrection, and by so much less will it be able to protect itself against either; and, therefore, will by so much the more want aid from, and be a burden to the Union. It was further said, that as, in this system, we were giving the general government a power under the idea of national character, or national interest, to regulate even our weights and measures, and have prohibited all possibility of emitting paper money, and passing instalment laws, &c., it must appear still more extraordinary, that we should prohibit the government from interfering with the slave-trade, than which, nothing could so materially affect both our national honor and interest. These reasons influenced me, both on the committee and in convention, most decidedly to oppose and vote against the clause as it now makes a part of the system.

[64] You will perceive, Sir, not only that the general government is prohibited from interfering in the slave-trade before the year eighteen hundred and eight, but that there is no provision in the constitution that it shall afterwards be prohibited, nor any security that such prohibition will ever take place; and I think there is great reason to believe, that, if the importation of slaves is permitted until the year eighteen hundred and eight, it will not be prohibited afterwards. At this time, we do not generally hold this commerce in so great abhorrence as we have done. When our own liberties were at stake, we warmly felt for the common rights of men. The danger being thought to be past, which threatened ourselves, we are daily growing more insensible to those rights. In those States which have restrained or prohibited the importation of slaves, it is only done by legislative acts, which may be repealed. When those States find, that they must, in their national character and connexion, suffer in the disgrace, and share in the inconveniences attendant upon that detestable and iniquitous traffic, they may be desirous Edition: current; Page: [213] also to share in the benefits arising from it; and the odium attending it will be greatly effaced by the sanction which is given to it in the general government.

[65] By the next paragraph, the general government is to have a power of suspending the habeas corpus act, in cases of rebellion or invasion.

[66] As the State governments have a power of suspending the habeas corpus act in those cases, it was said, there could be no reason for giving such a power to the general government; since whenever the State which is invaded, or in which an insurrection takes place, finds its safety requires it, it will make use of that power. And it was urged, that if we gave this power to the general government, it would be an engine of oppression in its hands; since, whenever a State should oppose its views, however arbitrary and unconstitutional, and refuse submission to them, the general government may declare it to be an act of rebellion, and, suspending the habeas corpus act, may seize upon the persons of those advocates of freedom, who have had virtue and resolution enough to excite the opposition, and may imprison them during its pleasure, in the remotest part of the Union; so that a citizen of Georgia might be bastiled in the furthest part of New Hampshire, or a citizen of New Hampshire in the furthest extreme to the south, cut off from their family, their friends, and their every connexion. These considerations induced me, Sir, to give my negative also to this clause.

[67] In this same section, there is a provision, that no preference should be given to the ports of one State over another, and that vessels bound to or from one State shall not be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another. This provision, as well as that which relates to the uniformity of impost duties and excises, was introduced, Sir, by the delegation of this State. Without such a provision, it would have been in the power of the general government to have compelled all ships sailing into or out of the Chesapeake, to clear and enter at Norfolk, or some port in Virginia; a regulation which would be extremely injurious to our commerce, but which would, if considered merely as to the interest of the Union, perhaps not be thought unreasonable; since it would render the collection of the revenue arising from commerce more certain and less expensive.

[68] But, Sir, as the system is now reported, the general government have a power to establish what ports they please in each State, and to ascertain at what ports in every State ships shall clear and enter in such State; a power which may be so used as to destroy the effect of that provision; since by it may be established a port in such Edition: current; Page: [214] a place, as shall be so inconvenient to the States, as to render it more eligible for their shipping to clear and enter in another than in their own States. Suppose, for instance, the general government should determine, that all ships which cleared or entered in Maryland, should clear and enter at Georgetown, on the Potomac; it would oblige all the ships which sailed from or were bound to any other port of Maryland, to clear or enter in some port in Virginia. To prevent such a use of the power which the general government now has, of limiting the number of ports in a State, and fixing the place or places where they shall be, we endeavoured to obtain a provision, that the general government should only, in the first instance, have authority to ascertain the number of ports proper to be established in each State, and transmit information thereof to the several States, the legislatures of which, respectively, should have the power to fix the places where those ports should be, according to their idea of what would be most advantageous to the commerce of their State, and most for the ease and convenience of their citizens; and that the general government should not interfere in the establishment of the places, unless the legislature of the State should neglect or refuse so to do; but we could not obtain this alteration.

[69] By the tenth section every State is prohibited from emitting bills of credit. As it was reported by the committee of detail, the States were only prohibited from emitting them without the consent of Congress; but the convention was so smitten with the paper money dread, that they insisted the prohibition should be absolute. It was my opinion, Sir, that the States ought not to be totally deprived of the right to emit bills of credit, and that, as we had not given an authority to the general government for that purpose, it was the more necessary to retain it in the States. I considered that this State, and some others, had formerly received great benefit from paper emissions, and that, if public and private credit should once more be restored, such emissions might hereafter be equally advantageous; and, further, that it is impossible to foresee, that events may not take place, which shall render paper money of absolute necessity; and it was my opinion, if this power was not to be exercised by a State, without the permission of the general government, it ought to be satisfactory even to those who were the most haunted by the apprehensions of paper money. I therefore thought it my duty to vote against this part of the system.

[70] The same section also puts it out of the power of the States to make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts, or to pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts.

[71] I considered, Sir, that there might be times of such great Edition: current; Page: [215] public calamities and distress, and of such extreme scarcity of specie, as should render it the duty of a government, for the preservation of even the most valuable part of its citizens, in some measure to interfere in their favor, by passing laws totally or partially stopping the courts of justice, or authorizing the debtor to pay by instalments, or by delivering up his property to his creditors at a reasonable and honest valuation. The times have been such as to render regulations of this kind necessary in most or all of the States, to prevent the wealthy creditor and the moneyed man from totally destroying the poor, though even industrious debtor. Such times may again arrive. I therefore voted against depriving the States of this power, a power which I am decided they ought to possess, but which, I admit, ought only to be exercised on very important and urgent occasions. I apprehend, Sir, the principal cause of complaint among the people at large is, the public and private debt with which they are oppressed, and which, in the present scarcity of cash, threatens them with destruction, unless they can obtain so much indulgence in point of time, that by industry and frugality they may extricate themselves.

[72] This government proposed, I apprehend, so far from removing, will greatly increase those complaints, since, grasping in its all-powerful hand the citizens of the respective States, it will, by the imposition of the variety of taxes, imposts, stamps, excises, and other duties, squeeze from them the little money they may acquire, the hard earnings of their industry, as you would squeeze the juice from an orange, till not a drop more can be extracted, and then let loose upon them their private creditors, to whose mercy it consigns them, by whom their property is to be seized upon and sold, in this scarcity of specie, at a sheriff’s sale, where nothing but ready cash can be received, for a tenth part of its value, and themselves and their families, to be consigned to indigence and distress, without their governments having a power to give them a moment’s indulgence, however necessary it might be, and however desirous to grant them aid.

[73] By this same section, every State is also prohibited from laying any imposts or duties on imports or exports, without the permission of the general government. It was urged, that, as almost all sources of taxation were given to Congress, it would be but reasonable to leave the States the power of bringing revenue into their treasuries, by laying a duty on exports if they should think proper, which might be so light as not to injure or discourage industry, and yet might be productive of considerable revenue. Also, that there might be cases in which it would be proper, for the purpose of encouraging manufactures, to lay duties to prohibit the exportation Edition: current; Page: [216] of raw materials; and, even in addition to the duties laid by Congress on imports for the sake of revenue, to lay a duty to discourage the importation of particular articles into a State, or to enable the manufacturer here to supply us on as good terms as they could be obtained from a foreign market; However, the most we could obtain was, that this power might be exercised by the States with, and only with the consent of Congress, and subject to its control. And so anxious were they to seize on every shilling of our money, for the general government, that they insisted even the little revenue that might thus arise, should not be appropriated to the use of the respective States where it was collected, but should be paid into the treasury of the United States; and accordingly it is so determined.

[74] The second article, relates to the executive, — his mode of election, his powers, and the length of time he shall continue in office.

[75] On these subjects there was a great diversity of sentiment. Many of the members were desirous, that the President should be elected for seven years, and not to be eligible a second time; others proposed, that he should not be absolutely ineligible, but that he should not be capable of being chosen a second time, until the expiration of a certain number of years. The supporters of the above propositions went upon the idea, that the best security for liberty was a limited duration and a rotation of office in the chief executive department.

[76] There was a party who attempted to have the President appointed during good behaviour, without any limitation as to time; and, not being able to succeed in that attempt, they then endeavoured to have him reëligible without any restraint. It was objected, that the choice of a President to continue in office during good behaviour, would be at once rendering our system an elective monarchy; and, that if the President was to be reëligible without any interval of disqualification, it would amount nearly to the same thing; since with the powers that the President is to enjoy, and the interests and influence with which they will be attended, he will be almost absolutely certain of being reëlected, from time to time, as long as he lives. As the propositions were reported by the committee of the whole House, the President was to be chosen for seven years, and not to be eligible, at any time after. In the same manner the proposition was agreed to in convention, and so it was reported by the committee of detail, although a variety of attempts were made to alter that part of the system, by those who were of a contrary opinion, in which they repeatedly failed; but, Sir, by never losing sight of their object, and choosing a proper time for their purpose, Edition: current; Page: [217] they succeeded at length in obtaining the alteration, which was not made until within the last twelve days before the convention adjourned.

[77] As the propositions were agreed to by the committee of the whole House, the President was to be appointed by the national legislature; and as it was reported by the committee of detail, the choice was to be made by ballot, in such a manner that the States should have an equal voice in the appointment of this officer, as they, of right, ought to have; but those who wished as far as possible to establish a national instead of a federal government, made repeated attempts to have the President chosen by the people at large. On this the sense of the convention was taken, I think, not less than three times while I was there, and as often rejected; but, within the last fortnight of their session, they obtained the alteration in the manner it now stands, by which the large States have a very undue influence in the appointment of the President. There is no case where the States will have an equal voice in the appointment of the President, except where two persons shall have an equal number of votes, and those a majority of the whole number of electors, (a case very unlikely to happen,) or where no person has a majority of the votes. In these instances the House of Representatives are to choose by ballot, each State having an equal voice; but they are confined, in the last instance, to the five who have the greatest number of votes, which gives the largest States a very unequal chance of having the President chosen under their nomination.

[78] As to the Vice-President, that great officer of government, who is, in case of death, resignation, removal, or inability of the President, to supply his place, and be vested with his powers, and who is officially to be the President of the Senate, there is no provision by which a majority of the voices of the electors are necessary for his appointment; but, after it is decided who is chosen President, that person who has the next greatest number of votes of the electors, is declared to be legally elected to the Vice-Presidency; so that by this system it is very possible, and not improbable, that he may be appointed by the electors of a single large State; and a very undue influence in the Senate is given to that State of which the Vice-President is a citizen, since, in every question where the Senate is divided, that State will have two votes, the President having on those occasions a casting voice. Every part of the system which relates to the Vice-President, as well as the present mode of electing the President, was introduced and agreed upon after I left Philadelphia.

[79] Objections were made to that part of this article, by which Edition: current; Page: [218] the President is appointed Commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, and it was wished to be so far restrained, that he should not command in person; but this could not be obtained. The power given to the President, of granting reprieves and pardons, was also thought extremely dangerous, and as such opposed. The President thereby has the power of pardoning those who are guilty of treason, as well as of other offences; it was said, that no treason was so likely to take place as that in which the President himself might be engaged, — the attempt to assume to himself powers not given by the constitution, and establish himself in regal authority; in which attempt a provision is made for him to secure from punishment the creatures of his ambition, the associates and abettors of his treasonable practices, by granting them pardons, should they be defeated in their attempts to subvert the Constitution.

[80] To that part of this article also, which gives the President a right to nominate, and, with the consent of the Senate, to appoint all the officers, civil and military, of the United States, there was considerable opposition. It was said, that the person who nominates will always in reality appoint, and that this was giving the President a power and influence, which, together with the other powers bestowed upon him, would place him above all restraint or control. In fine, it was urged, that the President, as here constituted, was a king, in every thing but the name; that, though he was to be chosen but for a limited time, yet at the expiration of that time, if he is not re-elected, it will depend entirely upon his own moderation whether he will resign that authority with which he has once been invested; that, from his having the appointment of all the variety of officers, in every part of the civil department for the Union, who will be very numerous, in them and their connexions, relations, friends, and dependents, he will have a formidable host, devoted to his interest, and ready to support his ambitious views. That the army and navy, which may be increased without restraint as to numbers, the officers of which, from the highest to the lowest, are all to be appointed by him, and dependent on his will and pleasure, and commanded by him in person, will, of course, be subservient to his wishes, and ready to execute his commands; in addition to which, the militia also are entirely subjected to his orders. That these circumstances, combined together, will enable him, when he pleases, to become a king in name, as well as in substance, and establish himself in office not only for his own life, but even, if he chooses, to have that authority perpetuated to his family.

[81] It was further observed, that the only appearance of responsibility Edition: current; Page: [219] in the President, which the system holds up to our view, is the provision for impeachment; but that when we reflect that he cannot be impeached but by the House of Delegates, and that the members of this House are rendered dependent upon, and unduly under the influence of the President, by being appointable to offices of which he has the sole nomination, so that without his favor and approbation they cannot obtain them, there is little reason to believe, that a majority will ever concur in impeaching the President, let his conduct be ever so reprehensible; especially, too, as the final event of that impeachment will depend upon a different body, and the members of the House of Delegate will be certain, should the decision be ultimately in favor of the President, to become thereby the objects of his displeasure, and to bar to themselves every avenue to the emoluments of government.

[82] Should he, contrary to probability, be impeached, he is afterwards to be tried and adjudged by the Senate, and, without the concurrence of two thirds of the members who shall be present, he cannot be convicted. This Senate being constituted a privy council to the President, it is probable many of its leading and influential members may have advised or concurred in the very measures for which he may be impeached; the members of the Senate also are by the system, placed as unduly under the influence of, and dependent upon the President, as the members of the other branch, since they also are appointable to offices, and cannot obtain them but through the favor of the President. There will be great, important, and valuable offices under this government, should it take place, more than sufficient to enable him to hold out the expectation of one of them to each of the senators. Under these circumstances, will any person conceive it to be difficult for the President always to secure to himself more than one third of that body? Or, can it reasonably be believed, that a criminal will be convicted, who is constitutionally empowered to bribe his judges, at the head of whom is to preside on those occasions the Chief Justice, which officer, in his original appointment, must be nominated by the President, and will, therefore, probably, be appointed not so much for his eminence in legal knowledge and for his integrity, as from favoritism and influence; since the President, knowing that in case of impeachment the Chief Justice is to preside at his trial, will naturally wish to fill that office with a person of whose voice and influence he shall consider himself secure? These are reasons to induce a belief, that there will be but little probability of the President ever being either impeached or convicted; but it was also urged, that, vested with the powers which the system gives him, and with the influence attendant Edition: current; Page: [220] upon those powers, to him it would be of little consequence whether he was impeached or convicted, since he will be able to set both at defiance. These considerations occasioned a part of the convention to give a negative to this part of the system establishing the executive, as it is now offered for our acceptance.

[83] By the third article, the judicial power of the United States is vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior courts, as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. These courts, and these only, will have a right to decide upon the laws of the United States, and all questions arising upon their construction, and in a judicial manner to carry those laws into execution; to which the courts, both superior and inferior, of the respective States, and their judges and other magistrates, are rendered incompetent. To the courts of the general government are also confined all cases in law or equity, arising under the proposed constitution, and treaties made under the authority of the United States; all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; all controversies to which the United States are a party; all controversies between two or more States; between a State and citizens of another State; between citizens of the same State, claiming lands under grants of different States; and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, or subjects. Whether therefore, any laws or regulations of the Congress, or any acts of its President or other officers, are contrary to, or not warranted by the constitution, rests only with the judges, who are appointed by Congress to determine; by whose determinations every State must be bound. Should any question arise between a foreign consul and any of the citizens of the United States, however remote from the seat of empire, it is to be heard before the judiciary of the general government, and in the first instance to be heard in the Supreme Court, however inconvenient to the parties, and however trifling the subject of dispute.

[84] Should the mariners of an American or foreign vessel, while in any American port, have occasion to sue for their wages, or in any other instance a controversy belonging to the admiralty jurisdiction should take place between them and their masters or owners, it is in the courts of the general government the suit must be instituted; and either party may carry it by appeal to its Supreme Court. The injury to commerce, and the oppression to individuals, which may thence arise, need not be enlarged upon. Should a citizen of Virginia, Pennsylvania, or any other of the United States, be indebted to, or have debts due from a citizen of this State, or any other claim be subsisting on one side or the other, in consequence Edition: current; Page: [221] of commercial or other transactions, it is only in the courts of Congress that either can apply for redress. The case is the same should any claim subsist between citizens of this State and foreigners, merchants, mariners, and others, whether of a commercial or of any other nature; they must be prosecuted in the same courts; and though in the first instance they may be brought in the inferior, yet an appeal may be made to the supreme judiciary, even from the remotest State in the Union.

[85] The inquiry concerning, and trial of, every offence against, and breach of, the laws of Congress, are also confined to its courts; the same courts also have the sole right to inquire concerning and try every offence, from the lowest to the highest, committed by the citizens of any other State, or of a foreign nation, against the laws of this State, within its territory; and in all these cases, the decision may be ultimately brought before the supreme tribunal, since the appellate jurisdiction extends to criminal as well as to civil cases: And in all those cases where the general government has jurisdiction in civil questions, the proposed constitution not only makes no provision for trial by jury in the first instance, but, by its appellate jurisdiction, absolutely takes away that inestimable privilege; since it expressly declares the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction both as to law and fact. Should, therefore, a jury be adopted in the inferior court, it would only be a needless expense, since, on an appeal, the determination of that jury, even on questions of fact, however honest and upright, is to be of no possible effect. The Supreme Court is to take up all questions of fact, to examine the evidence relative thereto, to decide upon them in the same manner as if they had never been tried by a jury; nor is trial by jury secured in criminal cases. It is true, that, in the first instance, in the inferior court, the trial is to be by jury. In this, and in this only, is the difference between criminal and civil cases. But, Sir, the appellate jurisdiction extends, as I have observed, to cases criminal as well as to civil; and, on the appeal, the court is to decide not only on the law, but on the fact. If, therefore, even in criminal cases, the general government is not satisfied with the verdict of the jury, its officer may remove the prosecution to the Supreme Court, and there the verdict of the jury is to be of no effect, but the judges of this court are to decide upon the fact as well as the law, the same as in civil cases.

[86] Thus, Sir, jury trials, which have ever been the boast of the English constitution, which have been by our several State constitutions so cautiously secured to us, — jury trials, which have so long been considered the surest barrier against arbitrary power, and the palladium of liberty, with the loss of which the loss of our Edition: current; Page: [222] freedom may be dated, are taken away, by the proposed form of government, not only in a great variety of questions between individual and individual, but in every case, whether civil or criminal, arising under the laws of the United States, or the execution of those laws. It is taken away in those very cases, where, of all others, it is most essential for our liberty to have it sacredly guarded and preserved; in every case, whether civil or criminal, between government and its officers on the one part, and the subject or citizen on the other. Nor was this the effect of inattention, nor did it arise from any real difficulty in establishing and securing jury trials by the proposed constitution, if the convention had wished so to do; but the same reason influenced here as in the case of the establishment of inferior courts; as they could not trust State judges, so would they not confide in State juries. They alleged, that the general government and the State governments would always be at variance; that the citizens of the different States would enter into the views and interests of their respective States, and therefore ought not to be trusted in determining causes in which the general government was any way interested, without giving the general government an opportunity, if it disapproved the verdict of the jury, to appeal, and to have the facts examined into again, and decided upon by its own judges, on whom it was thought a reliance might be had by the general government, they being appointed under its authority.

[87] Thus, Sir, in consequence of this appellate jurisdiction, and its extension to facts as well as to law, every arbitrary act of the general government, and every oppression of all that variety of officers appointed under its authority, for the collection of taxes, duties, impost, excise, and other purposes, must be submitted to by the individual, or must be opposed with little prospect of success, and almost a certain prospect of ruin, at least in those cases where the middle and common class of citizens are interested; since, to avoid that oppression, or to obtain redress, the application must be made to one of the courts of the United States. By good fortune should this application be in the first instance attended with success, and should damages be recovered equivalent to the injury sustained, an appeal lies to the Supreme Court; in which case, the citizen must at once give up his cause, or he must attend to it at the distance of perhaps more than a thousand miles from the place of his residence, and must take measures to procure before that court, on the appeal, all the evidence necessary to support his action, which, even if ultimately prosperous, must be attended with a loss of time, a neglect of business, and an expense which will be greater than the original grievance, and to which men in moderate circumstances would be utterly unequal.

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[88] By the third section of this article, it is declared, that treason against the United States shall consist in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort.

[89] By the principles of the American revolution, arbitrary power may and ought to be resisted, even by arms if necessary. The time may come, when it shall be the duty of a State, in order to preserve itself from the oppression of the general government, to have recourse to the sword; in which case, the proposed form of government declares, that the State and every of its citizens who act under its authority are guilty of a direct act of treason; — reducing, by this provision, the different States to this alternative, that they must tamely and passively yield to despotism, or their citizens must oppose it at the hazard of the halter if unsuccessful: and reducing the citizens of the State which shall take arms, to a situation in which they must be exposed to punishment, let them act as they will; since, if they obey the authority of their State government, they will be guilty of treason against the United States; if they join the general government, they will be guilty of treason against their own State.

[90] To save the citizens of the respective States from this disagreeable dilemma, and to secure them from being punishable as traitors to the United States, when acting expressly in obedience to the authority of their own State, I wished to have obtained, as an amendment to the third section of this article, the following clause: “Provided, that no act or acts done by one or more of the States against the United States, or by any citizen of any one of the United States, under the authority of one or more of the said States, shall be deemed treason, or punished as such; but, in case of war being levied by one or more of the States against the United States, the conduct of each party towards the other, and their adherents respectively, shall be regulated by the laws of war and of nations.

[91] But this provision was not adopted, being too much opposed to the great object of many of the leading members of the convention, which was, by all means to leave the States at the mercy of the general government, since they could not succeed in their immediate and entire abolition.

[92] By the third section of the fourth article, no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State, without the consent of the legislature of such State.

[93] There are a number of States which are so circumstanced, with respect to themselves and to the other States, that every principle of justice and sound policy require their dismemberment or division into smaller States. Massachusetts is divided into two districts, totally separated from each other by the State of New Edition: current; Page: [224] Hampshire, on the northeast side of which lie the Provinces of Maine and Sagadahock, more extensive in point of territory, but less populous than old Massachusetts, which lies on the other side of New Hampshire. No person can cast his eye on the map of that State but he must in a moment admit, that every argument drawn from convenience, interest, and justice, require, that the Provinces of Maine and Sagadahoc should be erected into a new State, and that they should not be compelled to remain connected with old Massachusetts under all the inconveniences of their situation.

[94] The State of Georgia is larger in extent than the whole island of Great Britain, extending from its sea-coast to the Mississippi, a distance of eight hundred miles or more; its breadth, for the most part, about three hundred miles. The States of North Carolina and Virginia, in the same manner, reach from the seacoast unto the Mississippi.

[95] The hardship, the inconvenience, and the injustice of compelling the inhabitants of those States who may dwell on the western side of the mountains, and along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, to remain connected with the inhabitants of those States respectively, on the Atlantic side of the mountains, and subject to the same State governments, would be such, as would, in my opinion, justify even recourse to arms, to free themselves from, and to shake off, so ignominious a yoke.

[96] This representation was made in convention, and it was further urged, that the territory of these States was too large, and that the inhabitants thereof would be too much disconnected for a republican government to extend to them its benefits, which is only suited to a small and compact territory. That a regard, also, for the peace and safety of the Union ought to excite a desire, that those States should become in time divided into separate States, since, when their population should become proportioned in any degree to their territory, they would, from their strength and power, become dangerous members of a federal government. It was further said, that, if the general government was not by its constitution to interfere, the inconvenience would soon remedy itself, for that, as the population increased in those States, their legislatures would be obliged to consent to the erection of n w States to avoid the evils of a civil war; but as, by the proposed constitution, the general government is obliged to protect each State against domestic violence, and, consequently, will be obliged to assist in suppressing such commotions and insurrections, as may take place from the struggle to have new States erected, the general government ought to have a power to decide upon the propriety and necessity of establishing Edition: current; Page: [225] or erecting a new State, even without the approbation of the legislature of such States, within whose jurisdiction the new State should be erected; and for this purpose I submitted to the convention the following proposition: “That, on the application of the inhabitants of any district of territory, within the limits of any of the States, it shall be lawful for the legislature of the United States, if they shall under all circumstances think it reasonable, to erect the same into a new State, and admit it into the Union, without the consent of the State of which the said district may be a part.” And it was said, that we surely might trust the general government with this power with more propriety than with many others, with which they were proposed to be intrusted; and that, as the general government was bound to suppress all insurrections and commotions, which might arise on this subject, it ought to be in the power of the general government to decide upon it, and not in the power of the legislature of a single State, by obstinately and unreasonably opposing the erection of a new State, to prevent its taking effect, and thereby extremely to oppress that part of its citizens which live remote from, and inconvenient to, the seat of its government, and even to involve the Union in war to support its injustice and oppression. But, upon the vote being taken, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts were in the negative. New Hampshire, Connecticut, Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, were in the affirmative. New York was absent.

[97] That it was inconsistent with the rights of free and independent States, to have their territory dismembered without their consent, was the principal argument used by the opponents of this proposition. The truth of the objection we readily admitted, but at the same time insisted, that it was not more inconsistent with the rights of free and independent States, than that inequality of suffrage and power which the large States had extorted from the others; and that, if the smaller States yielded up their rights in that instance, they were entitled to demand from the States of extensive territory a surrender of their rights in this instance; and in a particular manner, as it was equally necessary for the true interest and happiness of the citizens of their own States, as of the Union. But, Sir, although, when the large States demanded undue and improper sacrifices to be made to their pride and ambition, they treated the rights of free States with more contempt, than ever a British Parliament treated the rights of her colonial establishments; yet, when a reasonable and necessary sacrifice was asked from them, they spurned the idea with ineffable disdain. They then perfectly understood the full value and the sacred obligation of State rights, and at the least attempt Edition: current; Page: [226] to infringe them, where they were concerned, they were tremblingly alive, and agonized at every pore.

[98] When we reflect how obstinately those States contended for that unjust superiority of power in the government, which they have in part obtained, and for the establishment of this superiority by the constitution; when we reflect that they appeared willing to hazard the existence of the Union, rather than not to succeed in their unjust attempt; that, should their legislatures consent to the erection of new States within their jurisdiction, it would be an immediate sacrifice of that power, to obtain which they appeared disposed to sacrifice every other consideration. When we further reflect that they now have a motive for desiring to preserve their territory entire and unbroken, which they never had before, — the gratification of their ambition, in possessing and exercising superior power over their sister States, — and that this constitution is to give them the means to effect this desire, of which they were formerly destitute; the whole force of the United States pledged to them for restraining intestine commotions, and preserving to them the obedience and subjection of their citizens, even in the extremest part of their territory; — I say, Sir when we consider these things, it would be too absurd and improbable to deserve a serious answer, should any person suggest, that these States mean ever to give their consent to the erection of new States within their territory. Some of them, it is true, have been for some time past amusing their inhabitants, in those districts that wished to be erected into new States; but, should this constitution be adopted, armed with a sword and halter to compel their obedience and subjection, they will no longer act with indecision; and the State of Maryland may, and probably will, be called upon to assist, with her wealth and her blood, in subduing the inhabitants of Franklin, Kentucky, Vermont, and the provinces of Maine and Sagadahoc, and in compelling them to continue in subjection to the States which respectively claim jurisdiction over them.

[99] Let it not be forgotten at the same time, that a great part of the territory of these large and extensive States, which they now hold in possession, and over which they now claim and exercise jurisdiction, were crown lands, unlocated and unsettled when the American revolution took place, — lands which were acquired by the common blood and treasure, and which ought to have been the common stock, and for the common benefit of the Union. Let it be remembered, that the State of Maryland was so deeply sensible of the injustice that these lands should be held by particular States for their own emolument, even at a time when no superiority of Edition: current; Page: [227] authority or power was annexed to extensive territory, that, in the midst of the late war and all the dangers which threatened us, it withheld, for a long time, its assent to the articles of confederation for that reason; and, when it ratified those articles, it entered a solemn protest against what it considered so flagrant injustice. But, Sir, the question is not now, whether those States shall hold that territory unjustly to themselves, but whether, by that act of injustice, they shall have superiority of power and influence over the other States, and have a constitutional right to domineer and lord it over them. Nay, more, whether we will agree to a form of government, by which we pledge to those States the whole force of the Union, to preserve to them their extensive territory entire and unbroken; and, with our blood and wealth, to assist them, whenever they please to demand it, to preserve the inhabitants thereof under their subjection, for the purpose of increasing their superiority over us, — of gratifying their unjust ambition, — in a word, for the purpose of giving ourselves masters, and of riveting our chains!

[100] The part of the system which provides, that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, was adopted by a great majority of the convention, and without much debate; however, there were some members so unfashionable as to think, that a belief of the existence of a Deity, and of a state of future rewards and punishments would be some security for the good conduct of our rulers, and that, in a Christian country, it would be at least decent to hold out some distinction between the professors of Christianity and downright infidelity or paganism.

[101] The seventh article declares, that the ratification of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this constitution, between the States ratifying the same.

[102] It was attempted to obtain a resolve, that, if seven States, whose votes in the first branch should amount to a majority of the representation in that branch, concurred in the adoption of the system, it should be sufficient; and this attempt was supported on the principle, that a majority ought to govern the minority; but to this it was objected, that, although it was true, after a constitution and form of government is agreed on, in every act done under and consistent with that constitution and form of government, the act of the majority, unless otherwise agreed in the constitution, should bind the minority, yet it was directly the reverse in originally forming a constitution, or dissolving it; that, in originally forming a constitution, it was necessary that every individual should agree to it, to become bound thereby; and that, when once adopted, it Edition: current; Page: [228] could not be dissolved by consent, unless with the consent of every individual who was party to the original agreement; that in forming our original federal government, every member of that government, that is, each State, expressly consented to it; that it is a part of the compact made and entered into, in the most solemn manner, that there should be no dissolution or alteration of that federal government, without the consent of every State, the members of, and parties to, the original compact; that, therefore, no alteration could be made by a consent of a part of these States, or by the consent of the inhabitants of a part of the States, which could either release the States so consenting from the obligation they are under to the other States, or which could in any manner become obligatory upon those States that should not ratify such alterations. Satisfied of the truth of these positions, and not holding ourselves at liberty to violate the compact, which this State had solemnly entered into with the others, by altering it in a different manner from that which by the same compact is provided and stipulated, a number of the members, and among those the delegation of this State, opposed the ratification of this system in any other manner, than by the unanimous consent and agreement of all the States.

[103] By our original articles of confederation, any alterations proposed are, in the first place, to be approved by Congress. Accordingly, as the resolutions were originally adopted by the convention, and as they were reported by the committee of detail, it was proposed that this system should be laid before Congress for their approbation. But, Sir, the warm advocates of this system, fearing it would not meet with the approbation of Congress, and determined, even though Congress and the respective State legislatures should disapprove the same, to force it upon them, if possible, through the intervention of the people at large, moved to strike out the words “for their approbation,” and succeeded in their motion; to which, it being directly in violation of the mode prescribed by the articles of confederation for the alteration of our federal government, a part of the convention, and myself in the number, thought it a duty to give a decided negative.

[104] Agreeably to the articles of confederation, entered into in the most solemn manner, and for the observance of which the States pledged themselves to each other, and called upon the Supreme Being as a witness and avenger between them, no alterations are to be made in those articles, unless, after they are approved by Congress, they are agreed to and ratified by the legislature of every State; but, by the resolve of the convention, this constitution is not to be ratified by the legislatures of the respective States, but is to be submitted Edition: current; Page: [229] to conventions chosen by the people, and, if ratified by them, is to be binding.

[105] This resolve was opposed, among others, by the delegation of Maryland. Your delegates were of opinion, that, as the form of government proposed was, if adopted, most essentially to alter the constitution, of this State; and as our constitution had pointed out a mode by which, and by which only, alterations were to be made therein, a convention of the people could not be called to agree to and ratify the said form of government, without a direct violation of our constitution, which it is the duty of every individual in this State to protect and support. In this opinion, all your delegates who were attending were unanimous. I, Sir, opposed it also upon a more extensive ground, as being directly contrary to the mode of altering our federal government, established in our original compact; and, as such, being a direct violation of the mutual faith plighted by the States to each other, I gave it my negative.

[106] I was also of opinion, that the States, considered as States, in their political capacity, are the members of a federal government; that the States, in their political capacity, or as sovereignties, are entitled, and only entitled originally to agree upon the form of, and submit themselves to, a federal government, and afterwards, by mutual consent, to dissolve or alter it; that every thing which relates to the formation, the dissolution, or the alteration of a federal government over States equally free, sovereign, and independent, is the peculiar province of the States, in their sovereign or political capacity, in the same manner as what relates to forming alliances or treaties of peace, amity, or commerce; and that the people at large, in their individual capacity, have no more right to interfere in the one case than in the other. That according to these principles we originally acted, in forming our confederation; it was the States, as States, by their representatives in Congress, that formed the articles of confederation; it was the States, as States, by their legislatures, ratified those articles; and it was there established and provided, that the States, as States, that is, by their legislatures, should agree to any alterations that should hereafter be proposed in the federal government, before they should be binding; and any alterations agreed to in any other manner, cannot release the States from the obligation they are under to each other, by virtue of the original articles of confederation. The people of the different States never made any objection to the manner the articles of confederation were formed or ratified, or to the mode by which alterations were to be made in that government; with the rights of their respective States they wished not to interfere. Nor do I believe the people, in their Edition: current; Page: [230] individual capacity, would ever have expected or desired to have been appealed to, on the present occasion, in violation of the rights of their respective States, if the favorers of the proposed constitution, imagining they had a better chance of forcing it to be adopted by a hasty appeal to the people at large, who could not be so good judges of the dangerous consequence, had not insisted upon this mode. Nor do these positions in the least interfere with the principle, that all power originates from the people; because, when once the people have exercised their power in establishing and forming themselves into a State government, it never devolves back to them, nor have they a right to resume or again to exercise that power, until such events take place as will amount to a dissolution of their State government. And it is an established principle, that a dissolution or alteration of a federal government doth not dissolve the State governments which compose it. It was also my opinion, that, upon principles of sound policy, the agreement or disagreement to the proposed system ought to have been by the State legislatures; in which case, let the event have been what it would, there would have been but little prospect of the public peace being disturbed thereby. Whereas, the attempt to force down this system, although Congress and the respective State legislatures should disapprove, by appealing to the people, and to procure its establishment in a manner totally unconstitutional, has a tendency to set the State governments and their subjects at variance with each other, to lessen the obligations of government, to weaken the bands of society, to introduce anarchy and confusion, and to light the torch of discord and civil war throughout this continent. All these considerations weighed with me most forcibly against giving my assent to the mode by which it is resolved this system is to be ratified, and were urged by me in opposition to the measure.

[107] I have now, Sir, in discharge of the duty I owe to this House, given such information as hath occurred to me, which I consider most material for them to know; and you will easily perceive, from this detail, that a great portion of that time, which ought to have been devoted calmly and impartially to consider what alterations in our federal government would be most likely to procure and preserve the happiness of the Union, was employed in a violent struggle on the one side to obtain all power and dominion in their own hands, and on the other to prevent it; and that the aggrandizement of particular States and particular individuals, appears to have been much more the object sought after, than the welfare of our country.

[108] The interest of this State, not confined merely to itself, Edition: current; Page: [231] abstracted from all others, but considered relatively, as far as was consistent with the common interest of the other States, I thought it my duty to pursue, according to the best opinion I could form of it.

[109] When I took my seat in the convention, I found it attempting to bring forward a system, which I was sure never had entered into the contemplation of those I had the honor to represent, and which, upon the fullest consideration, I considered not only injurious to the interest and the rights of this State, but also incompatible with the political happiness and freedom of the States in general. From that time until my business compelled me to leave the convention, I gave it every possible opposition, in every stage of its progression. I opposed the system there with the same explicit frankness with which I have here given you a history of our proceedings; an account of my own conduct, which in a particular manner I consider you as having a right to know. While there, I endeavoured to act as became a free man, and the delegate of a free State. Should my conduct obtain the approbation of those who appointed me, I will not deny it would afford me satisfaction; but to me that approbation was at most no more than a secondary consideration; my first was to deserve it. Left to myself, to act according to the best of my discretion, my conduct should have been the same, had I been even sure your censure would have been my only reward; since I hold it sacredly my duty to dash the cup of poison, if possible, from the hand of a State, or an individual, however anxious the one or the other might be to swallow it.

[110] Indulge, me Sir, in a single observation further. There are persons who endeavour to hold up the idea, that this system is only opposed by the officers of government — I, Sir, am in that predicament. I have the honor to hold an appointment in this State. Had it been considered any objection, I presume I should not have been appointed to the convention. If it could have had any effect on my mind, it would only be that of warming my heart with gratitude, and rendering me more anxious to promote the true interest of that State which has conferred on me the obligation, and to heighten my guilt had I joined in sacrificing its essential rights. But, Sir, it would be well to remember, that this system is not calculated to diminish the number or the value of offices; on the contrary, if adopted, it will be productive of an enormous increase in their number; many of them will be also of great honor and emoluments. Whether, Sir, in this variety of appointments, and in the scramble for them, I might not have as good a prospect to advantage myself as many others, is not for me to say; but this, Sir, I can say with truth, that, so far was I from being influenced in my conduct Edition: current; Page: [232] by interest, or the consideration of office, that I would cheerfully resign the appointment I now hold; I would bind myself never to accept another, either under the general government or that of my own State. I would do more, Sir; — so destructive do I consider the present system to the happiness of my country, I would cheerfully sacrifice that share of property with which Heaven has blessed a life of industry; I would reduce myself to indigence and poverty, and those who are dearer to me than my own existence I would intrust to the care and protection of that Providence, who hath so kindly protected myself, if on those terms only I could procure my country to reject those chains which are forged for it.


Liste des Membres et Officiers du Congrés. 1788.1

Avec des nottes sur les personnages les plus intéressans des différens Etats.

New Hampshire.

Nich. Gillman.. . . Jeune homme à prétentions; peu aimé par ses collègues; on l’appelle par dérision le Congrès. Il a cependant l’avantage d’avoir représenté son Etat dans la grande Convention de Philadelphie et d’avoir signé la nouvelle Constitution. Cette circonstance prouve qu’il n’y a pas un grand choix à faire dans cet Etat, on que du moins les hommes les plus sensés et les plus habiles ne sont pas assés riches pour accepter une place publique. M. G. a servi pendant la guerre comme aide de camp. . . .

John Langdon.Un des hommes les plus intéressans et les plus aimables des Etats Unis; ci devant gouverneur du New Hampshire et à la tête d’un parti très puissant, qui se trouve en opposition avec le Gal. Sullivan.* Edition: current; Page: [233] M. L. a fait une grande fortune dans le commerce, c’est le Rob. Morris de son Etat, faisant une grande dépense et s’attachant beaucoup de citoyens par ses libéralités. Il a été un des principaux membres de la convention de Philadelphie, mais il n’a siégé en Congrès que peu de jours, et quoique ses collègues lui ayent offert la présidence, il n’a pas voulu y rester, parce qu’il avoit en vue de se faire reélire Gouverneur dans le New Hampshire, et que ses affaires de commerce ne lui permettent pas de faire une longue absence. Il est sincèrement attaché à la France et même prévenu pour nos usages et nos manières. Pour répandre le goût de nos meubles, il en a fair venir de très beaux de Paris. On prétend qu’il est jaloux de sa femme, chose assés rare en Amérique. Plusieurs officiers françois ont vu avec chagrin que cette jalousie n’étoit guères fondée.


[Elbridge Gerry.]. . . En Congrès, il [Nathan Dane] a toujours fait cause commune avec M. Gerry*, qui ne nous aime pas, et qui s’est principalement opposé a la ratification de notre Convention consulaire. Il a plus de talens que M. Gerry et moins de duplicité.


[Oliver Ellsworth]. . . M. Ellsworth, ci devant membre du Congrès, est un homme absolument de la même tournure et des mêmes dispositions. On peut en dire Edition: current; Page: [234] autant de M. Sherman. — Les gens de cet Etat ont, en général, un caractère national qu’on ne trouve guères dans les autres parties de continent. Ils se raprochent plus de la simplicité républicaine; ils sont tous à leur aise sans connoître l’opulence. L’économie rurale et l’industrie domestiques sont poussées très loin dans le Connecticut; le peuple y est heureux.

New York.

Alex. Hamilton.. . . Grand orateur; intrépide dans les débats publics. Partisan zélé et même outré de la nouvelle Constitution et ennemi déclare du gouv. Clinton, qu’il a eu le courage d’attaquer publiquement dans les Gazettes, sans aucune provocation. Cest un de ces hommes rares qui s’est distingué également au champ de bataille et au barreau. Il doit tout à ses talens. Une indiscrétion l’a brouillé avec le gal. Washington, dont il était le secrétaire de confiance; d’autres indiscrétions l’ont obligé de quitter le Congrès en 1783. Il a un peu trop de prètentions et trop peu de prudence.

Voici ce que M. le chev[alier] de L[a] L[uzerne] dit de lui en 1780: “M. H[amilton], un des aides de camp du Gal. Wash[ington] a le plus d’ascendant sur lui; homme d’esprit, d’une médiocre probité; éloigné des Anglais parce qu’étant d’une très basse extraction dans une de leurs colonies, il craint de rentrer dans son ancien Etat. Ami particulier de M. de La Fayette. M. Conway pense qu’ Hamilton haît les François, qu’il est absolument corrompu et que les liaisons qu’il paroitra avoir avec nous ne seront jamais que trompeuses.”

M. Hamilton n’a rien fait qui puisse justifier cette dernière opinion; il est seulement trop impétueux, et à force de vouloir tout conduire, il manque son but. Son éloquence est souvent hors de saison dans les débats publics, ou l’on préfère la précision et la clarté à une imagination brillante. On croit que M. H[amilton] est l’auteur de pamphlet intitulé le Fédéraliste. Il y a encore manqué son but. Cet ouvrage n’est d’aucune utilité aux gens instruits, et il est trop savant et trop long pour les ignorans. Edition: current; Page: [235] Il lui a cependant donné une grande célébrité, et l’on a nommé le Hamilton une petite frégatte que, dans la grande procession fédérale on a trainé par les rues de New York. Mais ces parades ne sont ici comme ailleurs qu’une impression nomentanée et comme le parti des Antifédéralistes est le plus nombreux dans l’Etat, M. Hamilton a plutôt perdu que gagné par le zèle qu’il a déploye à cette occasion.

Etranger dans cet Etat, où il a été élevé par charité, M. Hamilton a trouvé moyen d’enlever la fille du Gal. Schuyler*, grand propriétaire et tres influent. Après s’être réconcilié avec la famille, il jouit dans ce moment ci du crédit de son beau père.

New Jersey.

Dayton.. . . Peu connu; n’ayant d’autre mérite que d’être le fils d’un bon patriote et du bienfaiteur de M. d’Anteroches, ce qui fait présumer qu’il aime les François.

Il se trouve dans cet Etat plusieurs particuliers qu’il nous importe de ménager, parce qu’ils sont nos amis, et qu’ils jouissent d’une grande influence.

[Livingston.]1. William Livingston, Esq., Gouverneur depuis le commencement de la révolution, très instruit, ferme, patriote, préférant le bien public à sa popularité et ayant souvent exposé sa place pour empêcher la legislature de passer de mauvaises lois. Quoiqu’il ne cesse de fronder le peuple, il est toujours réélu, puisque même ses ennemis conviennent qu’il est un des hommes les plus habiles et les plus vertueux du continent. Il est père de Made Jay et de M. Broc. Livingston. . . .


[Franklin.]Le Dr. Franklin, Président actuel de cet Etat, set trop bien connu pour avoir besoin des éloges que nous lui devons. Il sent, plus que tout autre Américain, que, pour être vraiment patriote, il faut être l’ami de la France. Malheureusement ce philosophe, Edition: current; Page: [236] qui a su braver les foudres du ciel et du Parlement d’Angleterre, ne luttera plus longtems contre les infirmités de l’âge. Nous devons regretter que l’immortalité n’appartienne qu’à son nom et a ses écrits.

[Mifflin.]Tho. Mifflin. Ci devant Gal., Président du Congrès, orateur de l’assemblée, etc. Ami déclaré et éprouvé de la France. Très populaire et maniant avec une facilité étonnante le monstre à cent têtes apellé peuple. Bon avocat, bon officier, bon patriote, et d’une société agréable. Faisant bien tout se qu’il entreprend, par ce qu’il tient de la nature et qu’il ne peut que gagner en se montrant tel qu’il est.

[R. Morris.]Rob. Morris. Surintendant des Finances pendant la guerre, négociant très puissant dans son Etat. Devant tout à sa bonne tête et à son expérience, peu à l’étude. Il s’est un peu refroidi sur le compte de la France depuis que M. de Marbois a pris avec tant de chaleur le parti de M. Hotker et qu’on a désapprouvé son contrat avec la ferme. Il sera cependant facile de la gagner par de bons procédés. C’est un homme du plus grand poids et dont l’amitié ne sauroit nous être indifférente.

[G. Morris.]Gouv. Morris. Citoyen de l’Etat de New York, mais toujours en relation avec M. Rob. Morris et ayant représenté plusieurs fois la Pennsylvanie. Avocat célébre; une des têtes les mieux organisées du continent, mais sans moeurs, et, si l’on en croit ses ennemis, sans principes; infiniment intéressant dans le conversation et ayant étudié avec un soin particulier la partie des finances. Il travaille constamment avec M. Rob. Morris. On le craint encore plus ne l’admire, mais peu de gens l’estiment.

[Wilson.]. . . James Wilson. Jurisconsulte distingué. C’est lui qui fut désigné par M. Gerard comme avocat de la nation françoise, place dont on a reconnu depuis l’inutilité. Homme altier, aristocrate intrépide, actif, éloquent, profond, dissimulé, connu sous le nom de James the Caledonian, que ses e[n]nemis lui ont donné. Ayant dérangé sa fortune par de grandes enterprises que les affaires publiques Edition: current; Page: [237] ne lui permettoient pas de suivre. Médiocrement attaché a la France.

[Dickinson.]. . . John Dickinson. Auteur des lettres du fermier de Pensylvanie; homme très riche, étant au co[m]mencement de la révolution du parti anti anglican, sans cependant favoriser l’indépendance, contre laquelle il a même voté publiquement. Il est vieux, foible et sans influence. . . .


[Martin.]. . . M. Luther Martin. Avocat distingué et qui a beaucoup écrti contre les résolutions de la Convention de Philadelphie, dont il a été membre.


James MadisonInstruit, sage, modéré, docile, studieux; peut être plus profond que M. Hamilton, mais moins brillant; ami intime de M. Jefferson et sincèrement attaché à la France. Il a été en Congrès fort jeune et il paroit s’être voué particulièrement aux affaires publiques. Il pourra être un jour gouverneur de son Etat, si sa modestie lui permet d’accepter cette place. Il a refusé en dernier lieu celle de président du Congrès. C’est un homme qu’il faut étudier longtemps pour s’en former une idée juste.

[Randolph.]. . . Edmund Randolph, gouverneur actuel, est un des hommes les plus distingués en Amérique par ses talents et son influence; il a cependant perdu une partie de sa considération en s’opposant avec trop de violence à la ratification de la nouvelle Constitution. Il fut membre de Congrès en 1780 et 1781, et à en juger par toutes les difficultés qu’éprouva M. le Chev[alier] de la Luzerne en negociant avec lui notre convention consulaire, nous devons le considérer au moins comme très indifférent sur le compte de la France. Toutes les objections qui se trouvent dans le raport de M. Jay furent faites alors par M. Randolph et le ministre de France ne dut son succès qu’à la modération des autres membres du Committé. . . .

Caroline du Nord.

Hugh Williamson.Médecin et ci-devant Professeur d’astronomie. Bizarre a l’excès, aimant à pérorer, mais parlant Edition: current; Page: [238] avec esprit. Il est difficile de bien connoître son caractère; il est même possible qu’il n’en ait pas; mais son activité lui a donné depuis quelque temps beaucoup d’influence au Congrès. . . .

Carolina du Sud.

[Rutledge.]. . . J. Rutledge. Gouverneur pendant la guerre, membre du Congrès, de la Convention et en général employé dans toutes les grandes occasions. L’homme le plus éloquent, mais le plus fier et le plus impérieux des Etats-Unis. Il tire parti de sa grande influence et de ses co[n]noissances comme Avocat pour ne pas payer ses dettes, qui excèdent de beaucoup sa fortune. Son fils voyage en France pour s’instruire. . . .


Abrah. Baldwin.Raisonnable et bien intentionné, mais n’ayant jamais en l’occasion de sa distinguer. Le Congrès vient de lui en donner les moyens, en le no[m]mant parmi les Commissaires pour régler ses comptes avec les Etats.

William Few.Sans être un grand génie, il a plus de connoissances que son nom et son extérieur ne paroissent indiquer. Quoique jeune encore, il a été constamment employé pendant la guerre. Ses collègues en ont une bonne opinion Il est très timide et embarassant dans la société, à moins qu’on ne lui parle d’affaires.

P. L. Ford
Ford, P. L.

Hugh Williamson: Remarks on the New Plan of Government.1

It seems to be generally admitted, that the system of government which has been proposed by the late convention, is well calculated to relieve us from many of the grievances under which we have been laboring. If I might express my particular sentiments on this subject, I should describe it as more free and more perfect than any form of government that has ever been adopted by any nation; but I would not say it has no faults. Imperfection is inseparable from every device. Several objections were made to Edition: current; Page: [239] this system by two or three very respectable characters in the convention, which have been the subject of much conversation; . . .

When you refer the proposed system to the particular circumstances of North Carolina, and consider how she is to be affected by this plan, you must find the utmost reason to rejoice in the prospect of better times. This is a sentiment that I have ventured with the greater confidence, because it is the general opinion of my late-honourable colleagues, and I have the utmost reliance in their superior abilities. But if our constituents shall discover faults where we could not see any — or if they shall suppose that a plan is formed for abridging their liberties, when we imagined that we had been securing both liberty and property on a more stable foundation — if they perceive that they are to suffer a loss, where we thought they must rise from a misfortune — they will, at least do us the justice to charge those errors to the head, and not to the heart.


The Federalist, No. XXXIII. [Hamilton.]1

But suspicion may ask, Why then was it [Art. I, Sect. 8, last paragraph] introduced? The answer is, that it could only have been done for greater caution, and to guard against all cavilling refinements in those who might hereafter feel a disposition to curtail and evade the legitimate authorities of the union. The convention probably foresaw, that it has been a principal aim of these papers to inculcate, that the danger which most threatens our political welfare is, that the state governments will finally sap the foundations of the union; and might therefore think it necessary, in so cardinal a point, to leave nothing to construction. Whatever may have been the inducement to it, the wisdom of the precaution is evident from the cry which has been raised against it; as that very cry betrays a disposition to question the great and essential truth which it is manifestly the object of that provision to declare.

Mr. Russell
Mr. Russell

[Gerry:] Reply to a Landholder, I.2

Mr. Russell:

You are desired to inform the publick from good authority, that Mr. Gerry . . . never heard, in the Convention, a motion made, much less did make any, “for the redemption of the old continental Edition: current; Page: [240] money;” but that he proposed the public debt should be made neither better nor worse by the new system, but stand precisely on the same ground by the Articles of Confederation; that had there been such a motion, he was not interested in it, as he did not then, neither does he now, own the value of ten pounds in continental money; that he neither was called on for his reasons for not signing, but stated them fully in the progress of the business. His objections are chiefly contained in his letter to the Legislature; that he believes his colleagues men of too much honour to assert what is not truth; that his reasons in the Convention “were totally different from those which he published,” that his only motive for dissenting from the Constitution, was a firm persuasion that it would endanger the liberties of America; that if the people are of a different opinion, they have a right to adopt; but he was not authorized to an act, which appeared to him was a surrender of their liberties; that a representative of a free state, he was bound in honour to vote according to his idea of her true interest, and that he should do the same in similar circumstances.

Oliver Ellsworth
Ellsworth, Oliver
January 7, 1788
Connecticut Convention

Oliver Ellsworth in the Connecticut Convention.1

Mr. President, this is a most important clause in the Constitution; and the gentlemen do well to offer all the objections which they have against it. Through the whole of this debate, I have attended to the objections which have been made against this clause; and I think them all to be unfounded. The clause is general; it gives the general legislature “power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States.” There are three obejctions against this clause — first, that it is too extensive, as it extends to all the objects of taxation; secondly, that it is partial; thirdly, that Congress ought not to have power to lay taxes at all.

. . . The second objection is, that the impost is not a proper mode of taxation; that it is partial to the Southern States. I confess I am mortified when I find gentlemen supposing that their delegates in Convention were inattentive to their duty, and made a sacrifice of the interests of their constituents. . . .

This Constitution defines the extent of the powers of the general government. If the general legislature should at any time overleap their limits, the judicial department is a constitutional check. If Edition: current; Page: [241] the United States go beyond their powers, if they make a law which the Constitution does not authorize, it is void; and the judicial power, the national judges, who to secure their impartiality, are to be made independent, will declare it to be void. On the other hand, if the states go beyond their limits, if they make a law which is a usurpation upon the federal government the law is void; and upright, independent judges will declare it to be so. Still, however, if the United States and the individual states will quarrel, if they want to fight, they may do it, and no frame of government can possibly prevent it. It is sufficient for this Constitution, that, so far from laying them under a necessity of contending, it provides every reasonable check against it. But perhaps, at some time or other, there will be a contest; the states may rise against the general government. If this do take place, if all the states combine, if all oppose, the whole will not eat up the members, but the measure which is opposed to the sense of the people will prove abortive. In republics, it is a fundamental principle that the majority govern and that the minority comply with the general voice. How contrary, then, to republican principles, how humiliating, is our present situation! A single state can rise up, and put a veto upon the most important public measures. We have seen this actually take place. A single state has controlled the general voice of the Union; a minority, a very small minority, has governed us. So far is this from being consistent with republican principles, that it is, in effect, the worst species of monarchy.

Hence we see how necessary for the Union is a coercive principle. No man pretends the contrary: we all see and feel this necessity. The only question is, Shall it be a coercion of law, or a coercion of arms? There is no other possible alternative. Where will those who oppose a coercion of law come out? Where will they end? A necessary consequence of their principles is a war of the states one against the other. I am for coercion by law — that coercion which acts only upon delinquent individuals. This Constitution does not attempt to coerce sovereign bodies, states, in their political capacity. No coercion is applicable to such bodies, but that of an armed force. If we should attempt to execute the laws of the Union by sending an armed force against a delinquent state, it would involve the good and bad, the innocent and guilty, in the same calamity.

But this legal coercion singles out the guilty individual, and punishes him for breaking the laws of the Union. All men will see the reasonableness of this; they will acquiesce, and say, Let the guilty suffer.

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How have the morals of the people been depraved for the want of an efficient government, which might establish justice and righteousness! For the want of this, iniquity has come in upon us like an overflowing flood. If we wish to prevent this alarming evil, if we wish to protect the good citizen in his right, we must lift up the standard of justice; we must establish a national government, to be enforced by the equal decisions of law, and the peaceable arm of the magistrate.

George Washington
Washington, George
January 8th. 1788
Mount Vernon
Edmund Randolph
Randolph, Edmund

George Washington to Edmund Randolph.1

The various passions and medium by which men are influenced are concomitants of falibility — engrafted into our nature for the purposes of unerring wisdom; but had I entertained a latent hope (at the time you moved to have the Constitution submitted to a second Convention) that a more perfect form would be agreed to — in a word that any Constitution would be adopted under the impressions and Instructions of the members, the publications which have taken place since would have eradicated every form of it. . . .

To my judgment, it is more clear than ever, that an attempt to amend the Constitution which is submitted, would be productive of more heat, & greater confusion than can well be conceived. There are somethings in the new form, I will readily acknowledge, wch. never did, and I am persuaded never will, obtain my cordial approbation; but I then did conceive, and now do most firmly believe, that, in the aggregate, it is the best Constitution that can be obtained at this Epocha; and that this, or a dissolution of the Union awaits our choice, & are the only alternatives before us — Thus believing, I had not, nor have I now any hesitation in deciding on which to lean.

I pray your forgiveness for the expression of these sentiments. In acknowledging the receipt of your Letter on this subject, it was hardly to be avoided, although I am well disposed to let the matter rest entirely on its own merits — and mens minds to their own workings.

Robert Morris
Morris, Robert
January, 1788

Robert Morris to a Friend.2

This paper has been the subject of infinite investigation, disputation, and declamation. While some have boasted it as a work from Heaven, others have given it a less righteous origin. I have Edition: current; Page: [243] many reasons to believe that it is the work of plain, honest men, and such, I think, it will appear. Faulty it must be, for what is perfect? But if adopted, experience will, I believe, show that its faults are just the reverse of what they are supposed to be. As yet this paper is but a dead letter. Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Georgia have adopted it. We wait impatiently the result of their deliberations in Massachusetts. Should that State also adopt it, which I hope and believe, there will then be little doubt of a general acquiescence.


The Federalist, No. XXXVII. [Madison].1

Among the difficulties encountered by the convention, a very important one must have lain, in combining the requisite stability and energy in government, with the inviolable attention due to liberty, and to the republican form. Without substantially accomplishing this part of their undertaking, they would have very imperfectly fulfilled the object of their appointment, or the expectation of the public: yet that it could not be easily accomplished, will be denied by no one who is unwilling to betray his ignorance of the subject. . . .

Here, then, are three sources of vague and incorrect definitions; indistinctness of the object, imperfection of the organ of perception, inadequateness of the vehicle of ideas. Any one of these must produce a certain degree of obscurity. The convention, in delineating the boundary between the federal and state jurisdictions, must have experienced the full effect of them all.

To the difficulties already mentioned, may be added the interfering pretensions of the larger and smaller states. We cannot err, in supposing that the former would contend for a participation in the government, fully proportioned to their superior wealth and importance; and that the latter would not be less tenacious of the equality at present enjoyed by them. We may well suppose, that neither side would entirely yield to the other, and consequently that the struggle could be terminated only by compromise. It is extremely probable also, that after the ratio of representation had been adjusted, this very compromise must have produced a fresh struggle between the same parties, to give such a turn to the organization of the government, and to the distribution of its powers, as would increase the importance of the branches, in forming which they had respectively obtained the greatest share of influence. There are features in the constitution which warrant each of these Edition: current; Page: [244] suppositions; and as far as either of them is well founded, it shows that the convention must have been compelled to sacrifice theoretical propriety, to the force of extraneous considerations.

Nor could it have been the large and small states only, which would marshal themselves in opposition to each other on various points. Other combinations, resulting from a difference of local position and policy, must have created additional difficulties. As every state may be divided into different districts, and its citizens into different classes, which give birth to contending interests and local jealousies; so that different parts of the United States are distinguished from each other, by a variety of circumstances, which produce a like effect on a larger scale. And although this variety of interests, for reasons sufficiently explained in a former paper, may have a salutary influence on the administration of the government when formed; yet every one must be sensible of the contrary influence, which must have been experienced in the task of forming it.

Would it be wonderful, if under the pressure of all these difficulties, the convention should have been forced into some deviations from that artificial structure and regular symmetry, which an abstract view of the subject might lead an ingenious theorist to bestow on a constitution planned in his closet, or in his imagination? The real wonder is, that so many difficulties should have been surmounted; and surmounted with an unanimity almost as unprecedented, as it must have been unexpected. It is impossible for any man of candour to reflect on this circumstance, without partaking of the astonishment. It is impossible, for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty Hand, which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.

Robert Yates
Yates, Robert
John Lansing
Lansing, John
New York

Robert Yates and John Lansing, Jr. to the Governor of New York.1

Sir, We do ourselves the honor to advise your excellency, that in pursuance of concurrent resolutions of the honorable senate and assembly, we have, together with Mr. Hamilton, attended the convention, appointed for revising the articles of confederation, and reporting amendments to the same.

It is with the sincerest concern we observe, that, in the prosecution of the important objects of our mission, we have been reduced Edition: current; Page: [245] to the disagreeable alternative, of either exceeding the powers delegated to us, and giving our assent to measures which we conceive destructive to the political happiness of the citizens of the United States, or opposing our opinions to that of a body of respectable men, to whom those citizens had given the most unequivocal proofs of confidence. — Thus circumstanced, under these impressions, to have hesitated, would have been to be culpable; we, therefore, gave the principles of the constitution, which has received the sanction of a majority of the convention, our decided and unreserved dissent; but we must candidly confess, that we should have been equally opposed to any system, however modified, which had in object the consolidation of the United States into one government.

We beg leave, briefly, to state some cogent reasons, which, among others, influenced us to decide against a consolidation of the states. These are reducible into two heads.

1st. The limited and well-defined powers under which we acted, and which could not, on any possible construction, embrace an idea of such magnitude, as to assent to a general constitution, in subversion of that of the state.

2d. A conviction of the impracticability of establishing a general government, pervading every part of the United States, and extending essential benefits to all.

Our powers were explicit, and confined to the sole and express purpose of revising the articles of confederation, and reporting such alterations and provisions therein, as should render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the union.

From these expressions, we were led to believe, that a system of consolidated government could not in the remotest degree, have been in contemplation of the legislature of this state? for that so important a trust, as the adopting measures which tended to deprive the state government of its most essential rights of sovereignty, and to place it in a dependent situation, could not have been confided by implication; and the circumstance, that the acts of the convention were to receive a state approbation in the last resort, forcibly corroborated the opinion, that our powers could not involve the subversion of a constitution, which being immediately derived from the people, could only be abolished by their express consent, and not by a legislature, possessing authority vested in them for its preseveration. Nor could we suppose, that if it had been the intention of the legislature, to abrogate the existing confederation, they would, in such pointed terms, have directed the attention of their delegates to the revision and amendment of it, in total exclusion of every other idea.

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Reasoning in this manner, we were of opinion, that the leading feature of every amendment, ought to be the preservation of the individual states, in their uncontrouled constitutional rights, and that in reserving these, a mode might have been devised of granting to the confederacy, the monies arising from a general system of revenue; the power of regulating commerce, and enforcing the observance of foreign treaties, and other necessary matters of less moment.

Exclusive of our objections originating from the want of power, we entertained an opinion, that a general government, however guarded by declarations of rights, or cautionary provisions, must unavoidably, in a short time, be productive of the destruction of the civil liberty of such citizens who could be effectually coerced by it: by reason of the extensive territory of the United States, the dispersed situation of its inhabitants, and the insuperable difficulty of controuling or counteracting the views of a set of men (however unconstitutional and oppressive their acts might be) possessed of all the powers of government; and who from their remoteness from their constituents and necessary permanency of office, could not be supposed to be uniformly actuated by an attention to their welfare and happiness; that however wise and energetic the principles of the general government might be, the extremities of the United States could not be kept in due submission and obedience to its laws, at the distance of many hundred miles from the seat of government; that if the general legislature was composed of so numerous a body of men, as to represent the interests of all the inhabitants of the United States, in the usual and true ideas of representation, the expence of supporting it would become intolerably burdensome; and that if a few only were vested with a power of legislation, the interests of a great majority of the inhabitants of the United States, must necessarily be unknown; or if known, even in the first stages of the operations of the new government, unattended to.

These reasons were, in our opinion, conclusive against any system of consolidated government: to that recommended by the convention, we suppose most of them very forcibly apply.

It is not our intention to pursue this subject farther, than merely to explain our conduct in the discharge of the trust which the honorable the legislature reposed in us. — Interested, however, as we are, in common with our fellow citizens, in the result, we cannot forbear to declare, that we have the strongest apprehensions, that a government so organized, as that recommended by the convention, cannot afford that security to equal and permanent liberty, which we wished to make an invariable object of our pursuit.

Edition: current; Page: [247]

We were not present at the completion of the new constitution; but before we left the convention, its principles were so well established, as to convince us, that no alteration was to be expected, to conform it to our ideas of expediency and safety. A persuasion, that our further attendance would be fruitless and unavailing, rendered us less solicitious to return.

We have thus explained our motives for opposing the adoption of the national constitution, which we conceived it our duty to communicate to your excellency, to be submitted to the consideration of the honorable legislature.

We have the honor to be, With the greatest respect, Your excellency’s Most obedient, and Very humble servants,

Robert Yates,
John Lansing, Jun.
Caleb Strong
Strong, Caleb
January 15, 1788
Massachusetts Convention

Caleb Strong in the Massachusetts Convention.1

The Hon. Mr. Strong rose to reply to the inquiry of the Hon. Mr. Adams, why the alteration of elections from annual to biennial was made, and to correct an inaccuracy of the Hon. Mr. Gorham, who, the day before, had said that that alteration was made to gratify South Carolina. He said he should then have arisen to put his worthy colleague right; but his memory was not sufficiently retentive to enable him immediately to collect every circumstance. He had since recurred to the original plan. When the subject was at first discussed in convention, some gentlemen were for having the term extended to a considerable length of time; others were opposed to it, as it was contrary to the ideas and customs of the Eastern States; but a majority were in favor of three years, and it was, he said, urged by the Southern States, which are not so populous as the Eastern, that the expense of more frequent elections would be great. He concluded by saying that a general concession produced the term as it stood in the section, although it was agreeable to the practice of South Carolina. [From “Debates of Convention”]

Caleb Strong. Stated the grounds proceeded on in Federal Convention; determined at first to be triennial; afterwards reduced to biennial; South Carolina having at home biennial elections, and it was a compromise. [From “Parson’s Minutes”]

Edition: current; Page: [248]
Caleb Strong
Strong, Caleb
January 16, 1788
Massachusetts Convention

Caleb Strong in the Massachusetts Convention.1

The Hon. Mr. Strong . . . Gentlemen have said, the proposed Constitution was in some places ambiguous. I wish they would point out the particular instances of ambiguity; for my part I think the whole of it is expressed in the plain, common language of mankind. If any parts are not so explicit as they could be, it cannot be attributed to any design; for I believe a great majority of the men who formed it were sincere and honest men.2

Wednesday, January 16, 1788

Debate in the South Carolina Legislature.3

House of Representatives. In the Legislature,

Hon. Charles Pinckney one of the delegates of the Federal Convention) rose in his place, and said that, although the principles and expediency of the measures proposed by the late Convention will come more properly into discussion before another body, yet, as their appointment originated with them, and the legislatures must be the instrument of submitting the plan to the opinion of the people, it became a duty in their delegates to state with conciseness the motives which induced it. . . .

Under these momentous impressions the Convention met, when the first question that naturally presented itself to the view of almost every member, although, it was never formally brought forward, was the formation of a new, or the amendment of the existing system. Whatever might have been the opinions of a few speculative men, who either did, or pretended to, confide more in the virtue of the people than prudence warranted, Mr. Pinckney said he would venture to assert that the states were unanimous in preferring a change.

. . . It was sufficient to remark that the Convention saw and felt the necessity of establishing a government upon different principles, which, instead of requiring the intervention of thirteen different legislatures between the demand and the compliance, should operate upon the people in the first instance.

He repeated, that the necessity of having a government which should at once operate upon the people, and not upon the states, Edition: current; Page: [249] was conceived to be indispensable by every delegation present; that, however they may have differed with respect to the quantum of power, no objection was made to the system itself. They considered it, however, highly necessary that, in the establishment of a constitution possessing extensive national authorities, a proper distribution of its powers should be attended to. Sensible of the danger of a single body, and that to such a council the states ought not to intrust important rights, they considered it their duty to divide the legislature into two branches, and, by a limited revisionary power, to mingle, in some degree, the executive in their proceedings — a provision that he was pleased to find meets with universal approbation. The degree of weight which each state was to have in the federal council became a question of much agitation. The larger states contended that no government could long exist whose principles were founded in injustice; that one of the most serious and unanswerable objections to the present system was the injustice of its tendency in allowing each state an equal vote, notwithstanding their striking disparity. The small ones replied, and perhaps with reason, that, as the states were the pillars upon which the general government must ever rest, their state governments must remain; that, however they may vary in point of territory or population, as political associations they were equal; that upon these terms they formally confederated, and that no inducement whatsoever should tempt them to unite upon others; that, if they did, it would amount to nothing less than throwing the whole government of the Union into the hands of three or four of the largest states.

After much anxious discussion, — for, had the Convention separated without determining upon a plan, it would have been on this point, — a compromise was effected, by which it was determined that the first branch be so chosen as to represent in due proportion the people of the Union; that the Senate should be the representatives of the states, where each should have an equal weight. Though he was at first opposed to this compromise, yet he was far from thinking it an injudicious one. . . . The purpose of establishing different houses of legislation was to introduce the influence of different interests and principles. . . .

And the executive, he said, though not constructed upon those firm and permanent principles which he confessed would have been pleasing to him, is still as much so as the present temper and genius of the people will admit. . . .

He had been opposed to connecting the executive and the Senate in the discharge of those duties, because their union, in his opinion, destroyed that responsibility which the Constitution should, in Edition: current; Page: [250] this respect, have been careful to establish; but he had no apprehensions of an aristocracy.

. . . Though at first he considered some declaration on the subject of trial by jury in civil causes, and the freedom of the press, necessary, and still thinks it would have been as well to have had it inserted, yet he fully acquiesced in the reasoning which was used to show that the insertion of them was not essential. . . .

On the subject of juries, in civil cases, the Convention were anxious to make some declaration; but when they reflected that all courts of admiralty and appeals, being governed in their propriety by the civil law and the laws of nations, never had, or ought to have, juries, they found it impossible to make any precise declaration upon the subject; they therefore left it as it was, trusting that the good sense of their constituents would never induce them to suppose that it could be the interest or intention of the general government to abuse one of the most invaluable privileges a free country can boast; in the loss of which, themselves, their fortunes and connections, must be so materially involved, and to the deprivation of which, except in the cases alluded to, the people of this country would never submit. . . .

Judge Pendleton read a paragraph in the Constitution, which says “the Senate shall have the sole power of impeachment.” . . .

Maj. Pierce Butler (one of the delegates of the Federal Convention) was one of a committee that drew up this clause, and would endeavor to recollect those reasons by which they were guided. It was at first proposed to vest the sole power of making peace or war in the Senate; but this was objected to as inimical to the genius of a republic, by destroying the necessary balance they were anxious to preserve. Some gentlemen were inclined to give this power to the President; but it was objected to, as throwing into his hands the influence of a monarch, having an opportunity of involving his country in a war whenever he wished to promote her destruction The House of Representatives was then named; but an insurmountable objection was made to this proposition — which was, that negotiations always required the greatest secrecy, which could not be expected in a large body. The honorable gentleman then gave a clear, concise opinion on the propriety of the proposed Constitution.

Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (one of the delegates of the Federal Convention) observed, that the honorable judge, from his great penetration, had hit upon one of those difficult points which for a long time occasioned much debate in the Convention. Indeed, this subject appeared to be of so much magnitude, that a committee consisting of one member from each state was appointed to consider Edition: current; Page: [251] and report upon it. His honorable friend (Major Butler) was on the committee for this state. Some members were for vesting the power for making treaties in the legislature; but the secrecy and despatch which are so frequently necessary in negotiations evinced the impropriety of vesting it there. The same reason showed the impropriety of placing it solely in the House of Representatives. A few members were desirous that the President alone might possess this power, and contended that it might safely be lodged with him, as he was to be responsible for his conduct, and therefore would not dare to make a treaty repugnant to the interest of his country and from his situation he was more interested in making a good treaty than any other man in the United States. This doctrine General Pinckney said he could not acquiesce in. Kings, he admitted, were in general more interested in the welfare of their country than any other individual in it, because the prosperity of the country tended to increase the lustre of the crown, and a king never could receive a sufficient compensation for the sale of his kingdoms; for he could not enjoy in any other country so advantageous a situation as he permanently possessed in his own. Hence kings are less liable to foreign bribery and corruption than any other set of men, because no bribe that could be given them could compensate the loss they must necessarily sustain for injuring their dominions; indeed, he did not at present recollect any instance of a king who had received a bribe from a foreign power, except Charles II., who sold Dunkirk to Louis XIV. But the situation of a President would be very different from that of a king: he might withdraw himself from the United States, so that the states could receive no advantage from his responsibility; his office is not to be permanent, but temporary; and he might receive a bribe which would enable him to live in greater splendor in another country than his own; and when out of office, he was no more interested in the prosperity of his country than any other patriotic citizen: and in framing a treaty, he might perhaps show an improper partiality for the state to which he particularly belonged. The different propositions made on this subject, the general observed, occasioned much debate. At last it was agreed to give the President a power of proposing treaties, as he was the ostensible head of the Union, and to vest the Senate (where each state had an equal voice) with the power of agreeing or disagreeing to the terms proposed. This, in some measure, took away their responsibility, but not totally; for, though the Senate were to be judges on impeachments, and the members of it would not probably condemn a measure they had agreed to confirm, yet, as they were not a permanent body, they might be tried hereafter Edition: current; Page: [252] by other senators, and condemned, if they deserved it. On the whole, a large majority of the Convention thought this power would be more safely lodged where they had finally vested it, than any where else. It was a power that must necessarily be lodged somewhere: political caution and republican jealousy rendered it improper for us to vest it in the President alone; the nature of negotiation, and the frequent recess of the House of Representatives, rendered that body an improper depository of this prerogative. The President and Senate joined were, therefore, after much deliberation, deemed the most eligible corps in whom we could with safety vest the diplomatic authority of the Union.

. . . Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney rose to obviate some of the objections made by the honorable gentleman who sat down, . . . If we should not be represented in the Senate, it would be our own fault; the mode of voting in that body per capita, and not by states, as formerly, would be a strong inducement to us to keep up a full representation: the alteration was approved by every one of the Convention who had been a member of Congress. He then mentioned several instances of difficulties which he had been informed had occurred in Congress in determining questions of vast importance to the Union, on account of the members voting as states, and not individually. . . .

C. C. Pinckney
Pinckney, C. C.
Thursday, January, 1788

C. C. Pinckney: Speech in South Carolina House of Representatives.1

. . . But now that the senators vote individually, and not by states, each state will be anxious to keep a full representation in the Senate; and the Senate has now power to compel the attendance of its own members. We shall thus have no delay, and business will be conducted in a fuller representation of the states than it hitherto has been. All the members of the Convention, who had served in Congress, were so sensible of the advantage attending this mode of voting, that the measure was adopted unanimously. For my own part, I think it infinitely preferable to the old method. . . .

. . . Every state in the Union, except Rhode Island, was so thoroughly convinced that our government was inadequate to our situation, that all, except her, sent members to the Convention at Philadelphia. General Pinckney said, it had been alleged that, when there, they exceeded their powers. He thought not. They had a right, he apprehended, to propose any thing which they imagined Edition: current; Page: [253] would strengthen the Union, and be for the advantage of our country; but they did not pretend to a right to determine finally upon any thing. . . .

Every member who attended the Convention, was, from the beginning, sensible of the necessity of giving greater powers to the federal government. This was the very purpose for which they were convened. The delegations of Jersey and Delaware were, at first, averse to this organization; but they afterwards acquiesced in it; and the conduct of their delegates has been so very agreeable to the people of these states, that their repsective conventions have unanimously adopted the Constitution. As we have found it necessary to give very extensive powers to the federal government both over the persons and estates of the citizens, we thought it right to draw one branch of the legislature immediately from the people, and that both wealth and numbers should be considered in the representation. We were at a loss, for some time, for a rule to ascertain the proportionate wealth of the states. At last we thought that the productive labor of the inhabitants was the best rule for ascertaining their wealth. In conformity to this rule, joined to a spirit of concession, we determined that representatives should be apportioned among the several states, by adding to the whole number of free persons three fifths of the slaves. We thus obtained a representation for our property; and I confess I did not expect that we had conceded too much to the Eastern States, when they allowed us a representation for a species of property which they have not among them.

The numbers in the different states, according to the most accurate accounts we could obtain, were —

In New Hampshire, 102,000
Massachusetts, 360,000
Rhode Island, 58,000
Connecticut, 202,000
New York, 233,000
New Jersey, 138,000
Pennsylvania, 360,000
Delaware, 37,000
Maryland, (including three fifths of 80,000 negroes,) 218,000
Virginia, (including three-fifths of 280,000 negroes,) 420,000
N. Carolina, (including three-fifths of 60,000 negroes,) 200,000
S. Carolina, (including three-fifths of 80,000 negroes,) 150,000
Georgia, (including three-fifths of 20,000 negroes,) 90,000

. . . The general then said he would make a few observations on the objections which the gentleman had thrown out on the restrictions that might be laid on the African trade after the year 1808. On this point your delegates had to contend with the religious and Edition: current; Page: [254] political prejudices of the Eastern and Middle States, and with the interested and inconsistent opinion of Virginia, who was warmly opposed to our importing more slaves. I am of the same opinion now as I was two years ago, when I used the expressions the gentleman has quoted — that, while there remained one acre of swampland uncleared of South Carolina, I would raise my voice against restricting the importation of negroes. I am as thoroughly convinced as that gentleman is, that the nature of our climate, and the flat, swampy situation of our country, obliges us to cultivate our lands with negroes, and that without them South Carolina would soon be a desert waste.

You have so frequently heard my sentiments on this subject, that I need not now repeat them. It was alleged, by some of the members who opposed an unlimited importation, that slaves increased the weakness of any state who admitted them; that they were a dangerous species of property, which an invading enemy could easily turn against ourselves and the neighboring states; and that, as we were allowed a representation for them in the House of Representatives, our influence in government would be increased in proportion as we were less able to defend ourselves. “Show some period,” said the members from the Eastern States, “when it may be in our power to put a stop, if we please, to the importation of this weakness, and we will endeavor, for your convenience, to restrain the religious and political prejudices of our people on this subject.” The Middle States and Virginia made us no such proposition; they were for an immediate and total prohibition. We endeavored to obviate the objections that were made in the best manner we could, and assigned reasons for our insisting on the importation, which there is no occasion to repeat, as they must occur to every gentleman in the house: a committee of the states was appointed in order to accommodate this matter, and, after a great deal of difficulty, it was settled on the footing recited in the Constitution.

By this settlement we have secured an unlimited importation of negroes for twenty years. Nor is it declared that the importation shall be then stopped; it may be continued. We have a security that the general government can never emancipate them, for no such authority is granted; and it is admitted, on all hands, that the general government has no powers but what are expressly granted by the Constitution, and that all rights not expressed were reserved by the several states. We have obtained a right to recover our slaves in whatever part of America they may take refuge, which is a right we had not before. In short, considering all circumstances, we have made the best terms for the security of this species of property it Edition: current; Page: [255] was in our power to make. We would have made better if we could; but, on the whole, I do not think them bad.

Rufus King
King, Rufus
January 17, 1788
Massachusetts Convention

Rufus King in the Massachusetts Convention.1

Mr. King said that gentlemen had made it a question, why a qualification of property in a representative is omitted. . . . Such a qualification was proposed in Convention, but by the delegates of Massachusetts, it was contested that it should not obtain. . . .

The third paragraph of the second section being read,

Mr. King rose to explain it. There has, says he, been much misconception on this section. It is a principle of this Constitution, that representation and taxation should go hand in hand. This paragraph states that the number of free persons shall be determined, by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. These persons are the slaves. By this rule is representation and taxation to be apportioned. And it was adopted, because it was the language of all America. According to the Confederation, ratified in 1781, the sums for the general welfare and defence should be apportioned according to the surveyed lands, and improvements thereon, in the several States. But it hath never been in the power of Congress to follow that rule; the returns from the several States being so very imperfect. [From “Debates of Convention.”]

Hon. Mr. King. The principle on which this paragraph is founded is, that taxation and representation should go hand in hand. By the Confederation, the apportionment is upon surveyed land, the buildings and improvements. The rule could never be assessed. A new rule has been proposed by Congress, similar to the present rule, which has been adopted by eleven States — all but New Hampshire and Rhode Island. [From “Parsons’s Minutes.”]

C. C. Pinckney
Pinckney, C. C.
Friday, January 18, 1788

C. C. Pinckney: Speech in South Carolina House of Representatives.2

. . . He said, that the time for which the President should hold his office, and whether he should be reëligible, had been fully discussed Edition: current; Page: [256] in the Convention. It had been once agreed to by a majority, that he should hold his office for the term of seven years, but should not be reëlected a second time. But upon reconsidering that article, it was thought that to cut off all hopes from a man of serving again in that elevated station, might render him dangerous, or perhaps indifferent to the faithful discharge of his duty. His term of service might expire during the raging of war, when he might, perhaps, be the most capable man in America to conduct it; and would it be wise and prudent to declare in our Constitution that such a man should not again direct our military operations, though our success might be owing to his abilities? The mode of electing the President rendered undue influence almost impossible; and it would have been imprudent in us to have put it out of our power to reëlect a man whose talents, abilities, and integrity, were such as to render him the object of the general choice of his country. With regard to the liberty of the press, the discussion of that matter was not forgotten by the members of the Convention. It was fully debated, and the impropriety of saying any thing about it in the Constitution clearly evinced. The general government has no powers but what are expressly granted to it; it therefore has no power to take away the liberty of the press. That invaluable blessing, which deserves all the encomiums the gentleman has justly bestowed upon it, is secured by all our state constitutions; and to have mentioned it in our general Constitution would perhaps furnish an argument, hereafter, that the general government had a right to exercise powers not expressly delegated to it. For the same reason, we had no bill of rights inserted in our Constitution; for, as we might perhaps have omitted the enumeration of some of our rights, it might hereafter be said we had delegated to the general government a power to take away such of our rights as we had not enumerated; but by delegating express powers, we certainly reserve to ourselves every power and right not mentioned in the Constitution. Another reason weighed particularly, with the members from this state, against the insertion of a bill of rights. Such bills generally begin with declaring that all men are by nature born free. Now, we should make that declaration with a very bad grace, when a large part of our property consists in men who are actually born slaves. As to the clause guarantying to each state a republican form of government being inserted near the end of the Constitution, the general observed that it was as binding as if it had been inserted in the first article. The Constitution takes its effect from the ratification, and every part of it is to be ratified at the same time, and not one clause before the other; but he thought there was a peculiar Edition: current; Page: [257] propriety in inserting it where it was, as it was necessary to form the government before that government could guaranty any thing.


The Federalist, No. XL. [Madison.]1

In one particular, it is admitted, that the convention have departed from the tenor of their commission. Instead of reporting a plan requiring the confirmation of all the states, they have reported a plan, which is to be confirmed, and may be carried into effect, by nine states only. It is worthy of remark, that this objection, though the most plausible, has been the least urged in the publications which have swarmed against the convention. The forbearance can only have proceeded from an irresistible conviction of the absurdity of subjecting the fate of twelve states to the perverseness or corruption of a thirteenth; from the example of inflexible opposition given by a majority of one sixtieth of the people of America, to a measure approved and called for by the voice of twelve states, comprising fifty-nine sixtieths of the people; an example still fresh in the memory and indignation of every citizen who has felt for the wounded honour and prosperity of his country. As this objection, therefore, has been in a manner waved by those who have criticised the powers of the convention, I dismiss it without further observation.

The third point to be inquired into is, how far considerations of duty arising out of the case itself, could have supplied any defect of regular authority.

In the preceding inquiries, the powers of the convention have been analyzed and tried with the same rigour, and by the same rules, as if they had been real and final powers, for the establishment of a constitution for the United States. We have seen, in what manner they have borne the trial, even on that supposition. It is time now to recollect, that the powers were merely advisory and recommendatory; that they were so meant by the states, and so understood by the convention; and that the latter have accordingly planned and proposed a constitution, which is to be of no more consequence than the paper on which it is written, unless it be stamped with the approbation of those to whom it is addressed. This reflection places the subject in a point of view altogether different, and will enable us to judge with propriety of the course taken by the convention.

Let us view the ground on which the convention stood. It may be collected from their proceedings, that they were deeply and unanimously impressed with the crisis, which had led their country, almost with one voice, to make so singular and solemn an experiment, Edition: current; Page: [258] for correcting the errors of a system, by which this crisis had been produced; that they were no less deeply and unanimously convinced, that such a reform as they have proposed, was absolutely necessary to effect the purposes of their appointment. It could not be unknown to them, that the hopes and expectations of the great body of citizens, throughout this great empire, were turned with the keenest anxiety, to the event of their deliberations. They had every reason to believe, that the contrary sentiments agitated the minds and bosoms of every external and internal foe to the liberty and prosperity of the United States. They had seen in the origin and progress of the experiment, the alacrity with which the proposition, made by a single state (Virginia) towards a partial amendment of the confederation had been attended to and promoted. They had seen the liberty assumed by very few deputies, from a very few states, convened at Annapolis, of recommending a great and critical object, wholly foreign to their commission, not only justified by the public opinion, but actually carried into effect, by twelve out of the thirteen states. They had seen, in a variety of instances, assumptions by congress, not only of recommendatory but of operative powers, warranted in the public estimation, by occasions and objects infinitely less urgent than those by which their conduct was to be governed. They must have reflected, that in all great changes of established governments, forms ought to give way to substance; that a rigid adherence in such cases to the former, would render nominal and nugatory the transcendent and precious right of the people to “abolish or alter their governments as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness;”* since it is impossible for the people spontaneously and universally, to move in concert towards their object: and it is therefore essential, that such changes be instituted by some informal and unauthorized propositions, made by some patriotic and respectable citizen, or number of citizens. They must have recollected, that it was by this irregular and assumed privilege, of proposing to the people plans for their safety and happiness, that the states were first united against the danger with which they were threatened by their ancient government; that committees and congresses were formed for concentrating their efforts, and defending their rights; and that conventions were elected in the several states, for establishing the constitutions under which they are now governed. Nor could it have been forgotten, that no little ill-timed scruples, no zeal for adhering to ordinary forms, were anywhere seen, except in those who wished to indulge, under these masks, their secret enmity to the substance contended for. They Edition: current; Page: [259] must have borne in mind, that as the plan to be framed and proposed, was to be submitted to the people themselves, the disapprobation of this supreme authority would destroy it forever: its approbation blot out all antecedent errors and irregularities. It might even have occurred to them, that where a disposition to cavil prevailed, their neglect to execute the degree of power vested in them, and still more their recommendation of any measure whatever not warranted by their commission, would not less excite animadversion, than a recommendation at once of a measure fully commensurate to the national exigencies.

P. L. Ford
Ford, P. L.

Luther Martin’s Defense of Gerry.1

I beg leave, through the channel of your Paper, to declare to the Public that from the time I took my seat in convention, which was early in June, until the fourth day of September, when I left Philadelphia, I am satisfied I was not ten minutes absent from convention while sitting (excepting only five days in the beginning of August, immediately after the committee of detail had reported, during which but little business was done.) That during my attendance I never heard Mr. Gerry or any other member introduce a proposition for the redemption of continental money according to its nominal or any other value, nor did I ever hear that such a proposition had been offered to consideration or had been thought of.2 I was intimate with Mr. Gerry, and never heard him express, in private conversation or otherwise, a wish for the redemption of continental money, or assign the want of such a provision as a defect. Nor did I ever hear in Convention, or anywhere else, such a motive of conduct attributed to Mr. Gerry. I also declare to the Public that a considerable time before I left the convention Mr. Gerry’s opposition to the System was warm and decided; that in a particular manner he strenuously opposed that provision by which the power and authority over the militia is taken away from the States and given to the general government; that in the debate he declared if that measure was adopted it would be the most convincing proof that the destruction of the State governments and the introduction of a king was designed, and that no declarations to the contrary ought to be credited, since it was giving the states the last coup de grace by taking from them the only means of self preservation. The conduct of the advocates and framers of this system towards the Edition: current; Page: [260] thirteen States, in pretending that it was designed for their advantage, and gradually obtaining power after power to the general government, which could not but end in their slavery, he compared to the conduct of a number of jockeys who had thirteen young colts to break; they begin with the appearance of kindness, giving them a lock of hay, or a handful of oats, and stroaking them while they eat, until being rendered sufficiently gentle they suffer a halter to be put round their necks; obtaining a further degree of their confidence, the jockeys slip a curb bridle on their heads and the bit into their mouths, after which the saddle follows of course, and well booted and spurred, with good whips in their hands, they mount and ride them at their pleasure, and although they may kick and flounce a little at first, nor being able to get rid of their riders, they soon become as tame and passive as their masters could wish them. In the course of public debate in the convention Mr. Gerry applied to the system of government, as then under discussion, the words of Pope with respect to vice, “that it was a monster of such horrid mien, as to be hated need but to be seen.” And some time before I left Philadelphia, he in the same public manner declared in convention that he should consider himself a traitor to his country if he did not oppose the system there, and also when he left the convention. These, sir, are facts which I do not fear being contradicted by any member of the convention, and will, I apprehend, satisfactorily shew that Mr. Gerry’s opposition proceeded from a conviction in his own mind that the government, if adopted, would terminate in the destruction of the States and in the introduction of a kingly government.

Caleb Strong
Strong, Caleb
January 18, 1788

Caleb Strong in the Massachusetts Convention.1

Mr. Strong. This mode of census is not new. Our General Court have considered it, and the General Court have agreed. The southern States have their inconveniences; none but negroes can work there; the buildings are worth nothing. When the delegates were apportioned, forty-thousand was the number. Massachusetts had eight, and a fraction; New Hampshire two, and a large fraction. New Hampshire was allowed three; Georgia three, &c. Representation is large enough, because no private local interests are concerned. Very soon, as the country increases, it will be larger. He considered the increasing expense.

Edition: current; Page: [261]
January 19, 1788
Massachusetts Convention

Proceedings in the Massachusetts Convention.1

The Hon. E. Gerry, Esq., answered the question proposed to him yesterday, as follows, viz: —

SIR: — I have no documents in Boston, and am uncertain whether I have any at home, to assist me in answering the question, “Why, in the las requisition of Congress, the portion required of this State was thirteen times as much as of Georgia, and yet we have but eight representatives in the general government, and Georgia has three?” but if my memory serves me, the reason assigned by the committee who made the apportionment for giving such a number to Georgia, was, that that State had of late greatly increased its numbers by migration, and if not then, would soon be entitled to the proportion assigned her. I think it was also said, that the apportionment was made, not by any fixed principle, but by a compromise. These reasons not being satisfactory, a motion was made on the part of Massachusetts, for increasing her number of representatives, but it did not take effect. [From “Journal of Convention.”]

Hon. Mr. King. It so happened that I was both of the Convention and Congress at the same time, and if I recollect right, the answer of Mr. Gerry does not materially vary. . . .

The Hon. Mr. Strong mentioned the difficulty which attended the construction of the Senate in the Convention; and that a committee, consisting of one delegate from each State, was chosen to consider the subject, who reported as it now stands; and that Mr. Gerry was on the committee, from Massachusetts. [From “Debates of Convention.”]

Mr. Gerry’s answer, in writing, produced and filed — respecting Georgia having three representatives.

Mr. King will give the answer, which he does at large. The estimate by which the requisitions are made, was made in 1782; no alteration since. Georgia has great additions and emigration, and is now in an Indian war. Connecticut and New Hampshire have paid nothing. If I was for it now, it is improper, till we are more united. . . .

Hon. Mr. Strong. There were large debates on this subject in the Convention. The Convention would have broke up if it had Edition: current; Page: [262] not been agreed to allow an equal representation in the Senate. It was an accommodation, reported by a Committee, of which Mr. Gerry was one. [From “Parsons’s Minutes.”]

January 19, 1788
Massachusetts Convention

King and Strong in the Massachusetts Convention.1

Rufus King explained and enlarged on the same subject: said that no certain rule ever had been in the power of Congress, therefore laid their taxes as they found the States able; the judgment founded on conjecture; and the money paid considered as so much loaned on credit by each State, and to be settled hereafter. The case of Georgia was, before the war, small; much harrassed by it; since rapidly increasing; the number of representatives no more than what they had, or would have, a right to, considering their increasing population. . . .

Strong. — A detail of proceedings in Convention about Senate; that Gerry was of the Committee about proportioning the Senate; that the Committee was appointed because the small States were jealous of the large ones; and the Convention was nigh breaking up but for this.

Jan. 20. 1788

Belknap to Hazard.2

On Friday P. M., an honest member, who, I believe, is a Federalist, and I believe you know him, Major Fuller, of Newton, desired to know why Georgia had 3 representatives allowed in the new plan, and Massachusetts 8, when, in the last requisition for taxes, they were assessed but one thirteenth of what Massachusetts was. One of the Anti-feds. desired that Mr. G. might answer this question. It was put to vote, and passed in the affirmative. Mr. G. himself then asked the President to reduce the question to writing, which he did, and gave it to him. . . . A vote passed, desiring him to take his own time, and give his answer in writing. He delivered it yesterday A.M. It was to this purpose: That the mode of apportioning taxes in Congress was by a kind of compromise, and that Georgia had lately been increased by migration. R. K. then explained the matter at large, and much more to everybody’s satisfaction.

Edition: current; Page: [263]
Benjamin Lincoln
Lincoln, Benjamin
Jany 20, 1788
George Washington
Washington, George

Benjamin Lincoln to George Washington.1

Having been detained from convention for a number of day I requested one of my friends to give me a general state of matters which statement I do myself the pleasure to inclose . . .


. . . when a question, for the first time, was proposed to Mr Gerry viz Why Georgia was entitled to three reps, under this Constitution, and Massts but to eight, when in former requisitions on Massts, she had been requir’d to pay thirteen times the amount Georgia was assess’d — a motion was made by Mr Dana, at the request of Mr G— as he declared in Convention, & Mr Gerry acceded to, that the question should be reduced to writing, & the answer in writing be laid on the table — this was complied with on saturday morning — a debate then ensued on the first paragraph in the 3d section — and an objection was raised against the equality of the representation of the states in the senate — Mr Strong stated that this was a matter of long debate in the fed-convention — & that a committee consisting of a member from each state in the Convention was appointed to consider the subject — that, in regard to an equality of representation of states in the senate the committee agreed2 & so reported to Convention —

Elbridge Gerry
Gerry, Elbridge
21st January, 1788

Elbridge Gerry to the Vice President of the Convention of Massachusetts.3

After having, on Saturday morning, stated an answer to the question proposed the preceding evening, I perceived that your honourable body were considering a paragraph which respected an equal representation of the States in the Senate, and one of my honorable colleagues observed, that this was agreed to by a committee consisting of a member from each State, and that I was one of the number. This was a partial narrative of facts, which I conceived placed my conduct in an unfavorable point of light, probably without any such intention on the part of my colleague. . . .

I shall only add, Sir, that I have subjoined a state of facts, Edition: current; Page: [264] founded on documents relative to my consent that the lesser States should have an equal representation in the Senate. . . .

21st January, 1788


The business of the Federal Convention having been opened by Governor Randolph, of Virginia, and the outlines of a plan of government having been proposed by him, they were referred to a Committee of the whole house, and after several weeks’ debate, the committee reported general principles for forming a Constitution, amongst which were the following: —

‘7th. That the right of suffrage in the first branch of the National Legislature’ (by which was intended the House of Representatives) ‘ought not to be according to the rule established in the Articles of Confederation, but according to some equitable ratio of representation, viz.: in proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants, of every age, sex and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three-fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians, not paying taxes, in each State.

‘8th. That the right of suffrage in the second branch of the National Legislature’ (meaning the senate) ‘ought to be according to the rule established for the first.’

In the Committee of the Whole, the eighth article above recited, for which I voted, was carried, if my memory serves me, by six States against five; and when under consideration of the Convention, it produced a ferment, and a separate meeting, as I was informed, of most of the delegates of those five States, the result of which was, a firm determination on their part not to relinquish the right of equal representation in the Senate, confirmed as it was, to those States, by the Articles of Confederation. The matter at length became so serious as to threaten a dissolution of the Convention, and a Committee, consisting of a member from each State, was appointed, to meet (if possible) on the ground of accommodation. The members from the three large States of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, were Mr. Mason, Doctor Franklin and myself, and after debating the subject several days, during which time the Convention adjourned, the Committee agreed to the following Report: —

‘That the subsequent propositions be recommended to the Convention, on condition that both shall be generally adopted: —

First. That in the first branch of the Legislature, each of the States now in the Union be allowed one member for every forty thousand inhabitants, of the description reported in the seventh Edition: current; Page: [265] resolution of the Committee of the whole House — that each State not containing that number shall be allowed one member — that all writs for raising or appropriating money, and for fixing the salaries of the officers of government of the United States, shall originate in the first branch of the Legislature, and shall not be altered or amended by the second branch — and that no money shall be drawn from the treasury of the United States, but in pursuance of appropriations to be originated by the first branch.

Secondly. That in the second branch of the Legislature each State shall have an equal vote.’

The number of forty thousand inhabitants to every member in the House of Representatives, was not a subject of much debate, or an object insisted on, as some of the Committee were opposed to it. Accordingly, on the 10th of July, a motion was made ‘to double the number of representatives, being sixty-five,’ and it passed in the negative.

The admission, however, of the smaller States to an equal representation in the Senate, never would have been agreed to by the Committee, or by myself, as a member of it, without the provision ‘that all bills for raising or appropriating money, and for fixing the salaries of the officers of government,’ should originate in the House of Representatives, and ‘not be altered or amended’ by the Senate, ‘and that no money should be drawn from the treasury’ ‘but in pursuance of such appropriations.’

This provision was agreed to by the Convention, at the same time and by the same vote, as that which allows to each State an equal voice in the Senate, and was afterwards referred to the Committee of Detail, and reported by them as part of the Constitution, as will appear by documents in my possession. Nevertheless, the smaller States having attained their object of an equal voice in the Senate, a new provision, now in the Constitution, was substituted, whereby the Senate have a right to propose amendments to revenue bills, and the provision reported by the Committee was effectually destroyed.

It was conceived by the Committee to be highly unreasonable and unjust that a small State, which would contribute but one sixty-fifth part of any tax, should, nevertheless, have an equal right with a large State which would contribute eight or ten sixty-fifths of the same tax, to take money from the pockets of the latter, more especially as it was intended that the powers of the new legislature should extend to internal taxation. It was likewise conceived, that the right of expending should be in proportion to the ability of raising money — that the larger States would not have the least security Edition: current; Page: [266] for their property if they had not the due command of their own purses — that they would not have such command, if the lesser States in either branch had an equal right with the larger to originate, or even to alter, money bills — that if the Senate should have the power of proposing amendments, they may propose that a bill, originated by the House, to raise one thousand, should be increased to one hundred thousand pounds — that although the House may negative amendments proposed by the Senate, yet the giving them power to propose amendments, would enable them to increase the grants of the House, because the Senate (as well as the House) would have a right to adhere to their votes, and would oblige the House to consent to such an increase, on the principle of accommodation — that the lesser States would thus have nearly as much command of the property of the greater, as they themselves — that even if the representation in the Senate had been according to numbers, in each State, money bills should not be originated or altered by that branch, because, by their appointments, the members would be farther removed from the people, would have a greater and more independent property in their offices, would be more extravagant, and not being so easily removed, would be ever in favor of higher salaries than members of the House — that it was not reasonable to suppose the aristocratical branch would be as saving of the public money as the democratical branch: — but that, on the other hand, should the Senate have only the power of concurrence or non-concurrence of such bills, they would pass them, although the grants should not equal their wishes, whilst, with the power of amendment, they would never be satisfied with the grants of the House — that the Commons of Great Britain had ever strenuously and successfully contended for this important right, which the Lords had often, but in vain, endeavored to exercise — that the preservation of this right, the right of holding the purse-strings, was essential to the preservation of liberty — and that to this right, perhaps, was principally owing the liberty that still remains in Great Britain.

These are the facts and reasons whereon was grounded the admission of the smaller States to an equal representation in the Senate, and it must appear that there is an essential difference between an unqualified admission of them to an equal representation in the Senate, and admitting them from necessity, on the express condition provided in the recited report of the Committee; and it must also appear, that had that provision been preserved in the Constitution, and the Senate precluded from a right to alter or amend money or revenue bills, agreeably to the said report, the lesser States would not have that undue command of the property of the larger States Edition: current; Page: [267] which they are now to have by the Constitution, and that I never consented to an equal representation of the States in the Senate, as it now stands, in the new system.

Rufus King
King, Rufus
January 21, 1788
Massachusetts Convention

Rufus King in the Massachusetts Convention.1

Hon. Mr. King rose to pursue the inquiry, why the place and manner of holding elections were omitt