Framing The Constitution
Title: Framing The Constitution
Author: James Madison
Source: America, Vol.4, pp.113-139
Madison’s services in framing the Constitution were eminent. Historians are agreed that the Constitution bears the stamp of his hand more notably than that of any other. To Madison also we are indebted for the completest and only adequate report of the Constitutional convention of 1787.
In an introduction to his report of these proceeding of June 27, 28, and 29, Madison writes that “I chose a seat in front of the presiding member, with the other members on my right and left hands. In this favorable position for hearing all that passed, I noted in terms legible and in abbreviations intelligible to myself, what was read from the chair or spoken by the members…. I was not absent a single day, and was enabled to write out my notes during the session.”
MR. RUTLEDGE moved to postpone the sixth resolution, defining the powers of Congress, in order to take up the seventh and eighth, which involved the most fundamental points, the rules of suffrage in the two branches, which was agreed to. A question being proposed on the seventh resolution, declaring that the suffrage in the first branch should be according to an equitable ratio, Mr. L. Martin contended at great length and with great eagerness that the general government was meant merely to preserve the State governments, not to govern individuals. That its powers ought to be kept within narrow limits. That, if too little power was given to it, more might be added; but that, if too much, it could never be resumed. That individuals, as such, have little to do but with their own States, that the general government has no more to apprehend from the States composing the Union, while it pursues proper measures, than a government over individuals has to apprehend from its subjects. That to resort to the citizens at large for their sanction to a new government will be throwing them back into a state of nature; that the dissolution of the State Governments is involved in the nature of the process; that the people have no right to do this without the consent of those to whom they have delegated their power for State purposes. Through their tongues only they can speak, through their ears only can hear. That the States have shown a good disposition to comply with the acts of Congress, weak, contemptibly weak, as that body has been; and have failed through inability alone to comply. That the heaviness of the private debts and the waste of property during the war were the chief causes of this inability,—that he did not conceive the instances mentioned by Mr. Madison of compacts between Virginia and Maryland, between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, or of troops raised by Massachusetts for defense against the rebels, to be violations of the Articles of Confederation. That an equal vote in each State was essential to the Federal idea, and was founded in justice and freedom, not merely in policy. That though the States may give up this right of sovereignty, yet they had not, and ought not. That the States, like individuals, were in a state of nature equally sovereign and free.
In order to prove that individuals in a state of nature are equally free and independent, he read passages from Locke, Vattel, Lord Somers, Priestley. To prove that the case is the same with States till they surrender their equal sovereignty, he read other passages in Locke and Vattel, and also Rutherford. That the States, being equal, cannot treat or confederate so as to give up an equality of votes without giving up their liberty. That the propositions on the table were a system of slavery for ten States. That, as Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have forty-two ninetieths of the votes, they can do as they please without a miraculous union of the other ten. That they will have nothing to do but to gain over one of the ten, to make them complete masters of the rest; that they can then appoint an Executive and Judiciary and Legislature for them as they please. That there was, and would continue, a natural predilection and partiality in men for their own States; that the States, particularly the smaller, would never allow a negative to be exercised over their laws; that no State in ratifying the Confederation had objected to the equality of votes; that the complaints at present ran not against this equality, but the want of power. That sixteen members from Virginia would be more likely to act in concert than a like number formed of members from different States. That, instead of a junction of the small States as a remedy, he thought a division of the large States would be more eligible. This was the substance of a speech which was continued more than three hours. He was too much exhausted, he said, to finish his remarks, and reminded the House that he should to-morrow resume them.
Mr. L. Martin resumed his discourse, contending that the General Government ought to be formed for the States, not for individuals; that, if the States were to have votes in proportion to their numbers of people, it would be the same thing whether their representatives were chosen by the legislatures or the people,—the smaller States would be equally enslaved. That, if the large States have the same interest with the smaller, as was urged, there could be no danger in giving them an equal vote,—they would not injure themselves, and they could not injure the large ones, on that supposition without injuring themselves; and, if the interests were not the same, the inequality of suffrage would be dangerous to the smaller States. That it will be in vain to propose any plan offensive to the rulers of the States, whose influence over the people will certainly prevent their adopting it. That the large States were weak at present in proportion to their extent, and could only be made formidable to the small ones by the weight of their votes. That, in case a dissolution of the Union should take place, the small States would have nothing to fear from their power; that, if, in such a case, the three great States should league themselves together, the other ten could do so, too; and that he had rather see partial confederacies take place than the plan on the table. This was the substance of the residue of his discourse, which was delivered with much diffuseness and considerable vehemence.
Mr. Lansing and Mr. Dayton moved to strike out “not,” so that the seventh article might read “that the right of suffrage in the first branch ought to be according to the rule established by the Confederation.”
Mr. Dayton expressed great anxiety that the question might not be put till tomorrow, Governor Livingston being kept away by indisposition, and the representation of New Jersey thereby suspended.
Mr. Williamson thought that, if any political truth could be grounded on mathematical demonstration, it was that, if the States were equally sovereign now, and parted with equal proportions of sovereignty, they would remain equally sovereign. He could not comprehend how the smaller States would be injured in the case, and wished some gentleman would vouchsafe a solution of it. He observed that the small States, if they had a plurality of votes, would have an interest in throwing the burdens off their own shoulders on those of the large ones. He begged that the expected addition of new States from the westward might be taken into view. They would be small States, they would be poor States, they would be unable to pay in proportion to their numbers, their distance from market rendering the produce of their labor less valuable; they would consequently be tempted to combine for the purpose of laying burdens on commerce and consumption, which would fall with greater weight on the old States.
Mr. Madison said he was much disposed to concur in any expedient, not inconsistent with fundamental principles, that could remove the difficulty concerning the rule of representation. But he could neither be convinced that the rule contended for was just, nor that it was necessary for the safety of the small States against the large States. That it was not just had been conceded by Mr. Brearly and Mr. Patterson themselves. The expedient proposed by them was a new partition of the territory of the United States. The fallacy of the reasoning drawn from the equality of sovereign States in the formation of compacts lay in confounding mere treaties, in which were specified certain duties to which the parties were to be bound, and certain rules by which their subjects were to be reciprocally governed in their intercourse, with a compact by which an authority was created paramount to the parties, and making laws for the government of them. If France, England and Spain were to enter into a treaty for the regulation of commerce, etc., with the Prince of Monaco, and four or five other of the smallest sovereigns of Europe, they would not hesitate to treat as equals, and to make the regulations perfectly reciprocal. Would the case be the same if a council were to be formed of deputies from each, with authority and discretion to raise money, levy troops, determine the value of coin, etc.? Would thirty or forty millions of people submit their fortunes into the hands of a few thousands? If they did, it would only prove that they expected more from the terror of their superior force than they feared from the selfishness of their feeble associates. Why are counties of the same States represented in proportion to their numbers? Is it because the representatives are chosen by the people themselves? So will be the representatives in the National legislature. Is it because the larger have more at stake than the smaller? The case will be the same with the larger and smaller States. Is it because the laws are to operate immediately on their persons and properties? The same is the case, in some degree, as the Articles of Confederation stand; the same will be the case, in a far greater degree, under the plan proposed to be substituted. In the cases of captures, of piracies, and of offenses in a Federal army, the property and persons of individuals depend on the laws of Congress. By the plan proposed a complete power of taxation, the highest prerogative of supremacy, is proposed to be vested in the National government. Many other powers are added which assimilate it to the government of individual States. The negative proposed on the State laws will make it an essential branch of the State legislatures, and of course will require that it should be exercised by a body established on like principles with the branches of those legislatures. That it is not necessary to secure the small States against the large ones, he conceived to be equally obvious.
Was a combination of the large ones dreaded? This must arise either from some interest common to Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and distinguishing them from the other States, or from the mere circumstance of similarity of size. Did any such common interest exist? In point of situation they could not have been more effectually separated from each other by the most jealous citizen of the most jealous States. In point of manners, religion and the other circumstances which sometimes beget affection between different communities, they were not more assimilated than the other States. In point of the staple productions, they were as dissimilar as any three other States in the Union. The staple of Massachusetts was fish, of Pennsylvania flour, of Virginia tobacco. Was a combination to be apprehended from the mere circumstance of equality of size? Experience suggested no such danger. The journals of Congress did not present any peculiar association of these States in the votes recorded. It had never been seen that different counties in the same State, conformable in extent, but disagreeing in other circumstances, betrayed a propensity to such combinations.
Experience rather taught a contrary lesson. Among individuals of superior eminence and weight in society, rivalships were much more frequent than coalitions. Among independent nations, preeminent over their neighbors, the same remark was verified. Carthage and Rome tore one another to pieces instead of uniting their forces to devour the weaker nations of the earth. The Houses of Austria and France were hostile as long as they remained the greatest powers of Europe. England and France have succeeded to the preeminence and to the enmity. To this principle we owe, perhaps, our liberty. A coalition between those powers would have been fatal to us. Among the principal members of ancient and modern confederacies, we find the same effect from the same cause. The contentions, not the coalitions, of Sparta, Athens and Thebes, proved fatal to the smaller members of the Amphictyonic confederacy. The contentions, not the combinations, of Russia and Austria have distracted and oppressed the German Empire. Were the large States formidable singly to their smaller neighbors? On this supposition the latter ought to wish for such a general government as will operate with equal energy on the former as on themselves. The more lax the band, the more liberty the larger will have to avail themselves of their superior force.
Here, again, experience was an instructive monitor. What is the situation of the weak compared with the strong, in those stages of civilization in which the violence of individuals is least controlled by an efficient government? The heroic period of ancient Greece, the feudal licentiousness of the Middle Ages of Europe, the existing condition of the American savages, answer this question. What is the situation of the minor sovereigns in the great society of independent nations, in which the more powerful are under no control but the nominal authority of the law of nations? Is not the danger to the former exactly in proportion to their weakness? But there are cases still more in point. What was the condition of the weaker members of the Amphictyonic confederacy? Plutarch (see Life of Themistocles) will inform us that it happened but too often that the strongest cities corrupted and awed the weaker, and that judgment went in favor of the more powerful party. What is the condition of the lesser States in the German Confederacy? We all know that they are exceedingly trampled upon, and that they owe their safety, as far as they enjoy it, partly to their enlisting themselves under the rival banners of the preeminent members, partly to alliances with neighboring princes, which the constitution of the Empire does not prohibit. What is the state of things in the lax system of the Dutch confederacy? Holland contains about half the people, supplies about half the money, and by her influence silently and indirectly governs the whole republic.
In a word, the two extremes before us are a perfect separation and a perfect incorporation of the thirteen States. In the first case, they would be independent nations, subject to no law but the law of nations. In the last, they would be mere counties of one entire republic, subject to one common law. In the first case, the smaller States would have everything to fear from the larger. In the last, they would have nothing to fear. The true policy of the small States, therefore, lies in promoting those principles and that form of government which will most approximate the States to the condition of counties. Another consideration may be added. If the general government be feeble, the larger States, distrusting its continuance, and foreseeing that their importance and security may depend on their own size and strength, will never submit to a partition. Give to the general government sufficient energy and permanency, and you remove the objection. Gradual partitions of the large and junctions of the small States will be facilitated, and time may effect that equalization which is wished for by the small States now, but can never be accomplished at once.
Mr. Wilson.—The leading argument of those who contend for equality of votes among the States is that the States, as such, being equal, and being represented, not as districts of individuals, but in their political and corporate capacities, are entitled to an equality of suffrage. According to this mode of reasoning the representation of the boroughs in England, which has been allowed on all hands to be the rotten part of the Constitution, is perfectly right and proper. They are, like the States, represented in their corporate capacity: like the States, therefore, they are entitled to equal voices,—Old Sarum to as many as London. And, instead of the injury supposed hitherto to be done to London, the true ground of complaint lies with Old Sarum; for London instead of two, which is her proper share, sends four representatives to Parliament.
Mr. Sherman.—The question is, not what rights naturally belong to man, but how they may be most equally and effectually guarded in society. And, if some give up more than others, in order to obtain this end, there can be no room for complaint. To do otherwise, to require an equal concession from all, if it would create danger to the rights of some, would be sacrificing the end to the means. The rich man who enters into society along with the poor man gives up more than the poor man, yet with an equal vote he is equally safe. Were he to have more votes than the poor man in proportion to his superior stake, the rights of the poor man would immediately cease to be secure. This consideration prevailed when the Articles of Confederation were formed.
The determination of the question for striking out the word “not” was put off till to-morrow, at the request of the deputies from New York.
Dr. Franklin.—Mr. President, The small progress we have made after four or five weeks’ close attendance and continual reasonings with each other,—our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes,—is, me—thinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. We, indeed, seem to feel our own want of political wisdom since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard; and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time; and, the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth,—that God governs in the affairs of men. And, if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests, our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and byword to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.
Mr. Sherman seconded the motion.
Mr. Hamilton and several others expressed their apprehensions that, however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the Convention, it might at this late day, in the first place, bring on it some disagreeable animadversions, and in the second lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissensions within the convention had suggested this measure. It was answered by Dr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, and others that the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission, that the rejection of such a proposition would expose the convention to more unpleasant animadversions than the adoption of it, and that the alarm out of doors that might be excited for the state of things within would at least be as likely to do good as ill.
Mr. Williamson observed that the true cause of the omission could not be mistaken. The convention had no funds.
Mr. Randolph proposed, in order to give a favorable aspect to the measure, that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on the Fourth of July, the anniversary of independence; and thenceforward prayers, etc., to be read in the convention every morning. Dr. Franklin seconded this motion. After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing this matter by adjourning, the adjournment was at length carried without any vote on the motion.
Dr. Johnson.—The controversy must be endless while gentlemen differ in the grounds of their arguments,—those on one side considering the States as districts of people composing one political society, those on the other considering them as so many political societies. The fact is that the States do exist as political societies, and a government is to be formed for them in their political capacity as well as for the individuals composing them. Does it not seem to follow that, if the States, as such, are to exist, they must be armed with some power of self-defense? This is the idea of Colonel Mason, who appears to have looked to the bottom of this matter. Besides the aristocratic and other interests, which ought to have the means of defending themselves, the States have their interests as such, and are equally entitled to like means. On the whole, he thought that, as in some respects the States are to be considered in their political capacity, and in others as districts of individual citizens, the two ideas embraced on different sides, instead of being opposed to each other, ought to be combined,—that in one branch the people ought to be represented, in the other the States.
Mr. Gorham.—The States, as now confederated, have no doubt a right to refuse to be consolidated or to be formed into any new system. But he wished the small States, which seemed most ready to object, to consider which are to give up most, they or the larger ones. He conceived that a rupture of the Union would be an event unhappy for all; but, surely, the large States would be least unable to take care of themselves, and to make connections with one another. The weak, therefore, were most interested in establishing some general system for maintaining order. If, among individuals composed partly of weak and partly of strong, the former most need the protection of law and government, the case is exactly the same with weak and powerful States.
What would be the situation of Delaware (for these things he found must be spoken out, and it might as well be done at first as last), what would be the situation of Delaware in case of a separation of the States? Would she not be at the mercy of Pennsylvania? Would not her true interest lie in being consolidated with her; and ought she not now to wish for such a union with Pennsylvania, under one government, as will put it out of the power of Pennsylvania to oppress her? Nothing can be more ideal than the danger apprehended by the States from their being formed into one nation. Massachusetts was originally three colonies, namely, old Massachusetts, Plymouth, and the Province of Maine. These apprehensions existed then. An incorporation took place: all parties were safe and satisfied, and every distinction is now forgotten. The case was similar with Connecticut and New Haven. The dread of union was reciprocal, the consequence of it equally salutary and satisfactory. In like manner, New Jersey has been made one society out of two parts. Should a separation of the States take place, the fate of New Jersey would be worst of all. She has no foreign commerce, and can have but little. Pennsylvania and New York will continue to levy taxes on her consumption. If she consults her interest, she would beg of all things to be annihilated. The apprehensions of the small States ought to be appeased by another reflection. Massachusetts will be divided. The Province of Maine is already considered as approaching the term of its annexation to it; and Pennsylvania will probably not increase, considering the present state of her population and other events that may happen. On the whole, he considered a union of the States as necessary to their happiness, and a firm General Government as necessary to their union. He should consider it his duty, if his colleagues viewed the matter in the same light he did, to stay here as long as any other State would remain with them, in order to agree on some plan that could with propriety be recommended to the people.
Mr. Ellsworth did not despair. He still trusted that some good plan of government would be devised and adopted.
Mr. Read.—He should have no objection to the system if it were truly national, but it has too much of a Federal mixture in it. The little States, he thought, had not much to fear. He suspected that the large States felt their want of energy, and wished for a general government to supply the defect. Massachusetts was evidently laboring under her weakness, and he believed Delaware would not be in much danger if in her neighborhood. Delaware had enjoyed tranquillity, and he flattered himself would continue to do so. He was not, however, so selfish as not to wish for a good general government. In order to obtain one, the whole States must be incorporated. If the States remain, the representatives of the large ones will stick together, and carry everything before them. The Executive, also, will be chosen under the influence of this partiality, and will betray it in his administration. These jealousies are inseparable from the scheme of leaving the States in existence. They must be done away. The ungranted lands also, which have been assumed by particular States, must be given up. He repeated his approbation of the plan of Mr. Hamilton, and wished it to be substituted for that on the table.
Mr. Madison agreed with Dr. Johnson that the mixed nature of the government ought to be kept in view, but thought too much stress was laid on the rank of the States as political societies. There was a gradation, he observed, from the smallest corporation with the most limited powers to the largest empire with the most perfect sovereignty. He pointed out the limitations on the sovereignty of the States as now confederated. Their laws, in relation to the paramount law of the Confederacy, were analogous to that of by-laws to the supreme law within a State. Under the proposed government the powers of the States will be much farther reduced. According to the views of every member, the general government will have powers far beyond those exercised by the British Parliament when the States were part of the British Empire. It will, in particular, have the power without the consent of the State legislatures, to levy money directly from the people themselves; and, therefore, not to divest such unequal portions of the people as composed the several States of an equal voice would subject the system to the reproaches and evils which have resulted from the vicious representation in Great Britain.
He entreated the gentlemen representing the small States to renounce a principle which was confessedly unjust, which could never be admitted, and which, if admitted, must infuse mortality into a Constitution which we wished to last forever. He prayed them to ponder well the consequences of suffering the Confederacy to go to pieces. It had been said that the want of energy in the large States would be a security to the small. It was forgotten that this want of energy proceeded from the supposed security of the States against all external danger. Let each State depend on itself for its security, and let apprehensions arise of danger from distant powers or from neighboring States, and the languishing condition of all the States, large as well as small, would soon be transformed into vigorous and high-toned governments. His great fear was that their governments would then have too much energy, that this might not only be formidable in the large to the small States, but fatal to the internal liberty of all. The same causes which have rendered the old world the theatre of incessant wars, and have banished liberty from the face of it, would soon produce the same effects here. The weakness and jealousy of the small States would quickly introduce some regular military force against sudden danger from their powerful neighbors. The example would be followed by others, and would soon become universal.
In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive magistrate. Constant apprehension of war has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive, will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim, to excite a war whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe the armies kept up under the pretext of defending have enslaved the people. It is, perhaps, questionable whether the best concerted system of absolute power in Europe could maintain itself, in a situation where no alarms of external danger could tame the people to the domestic yoke. The insular situation of Great Britain was the principal cause of her being an exception to the general fate of Europe. It has rendered less defense necessary, and admitted a kind of defense which could not be used for the purpose of oppression. These consequences, he conceived, ought to be apprehended, whether the States should run into a total separation from each other or should enter into partial confederacies. Either event would be truly deplorable; and those who might be accessory to either could never be forgiven by their country nor by themselves.
Mr. Hamilton observed that individuals forming political societies modify their rights differently with regard to suffrage. Examples of it are found in all, the States. In all of them, some individuals are deprived of the right altogether, not having the requisite qualification of property. In some of the States the right of suffrage is allowed in some cases, and refused in others. To vote for a member in one branch, a certain quantum of property; to vote for a member in another branch of the legislature, a higher quantum of property is required. In like manner, States may modify their right of suffrage differently, the larger exercising a larger, the smaller a smaller share of it. But, as States are a collection of individual men, which ought we to respect most, the rights of the people composing them or of the artificial beings resulting from the composition? Nothing could be more preposterous or absurd than to sacrifice the former to the latter. It has been said that, if the smaller States renounce their equality, they renounce at the same time their liberty. The truth is, it is a contest for power, not for liberty. Will the men composing the small States be less free than those composing the larger? The State of Delaware having forty thousand souls will lose power if she has one-tenth only of the votes allowed to Pennsylvania having four hundred thousand; but will the people of Delaware be less free if each citizen has an equal vote with each citizen of Pennsylvania? He admitted that common residence within the same State would produce a certain degree of attachment, and that this principle might have a certain influence on public affairs. He thought, however, that this might by some precautions be in a great measure excluded, and that no material inconvenience could result from it, as there could not be any ground for combination among the States whose influence was most dreaded. The only considerable distinction of interests lay between the carrying and non-carrying States, which divides instead of uniting the largest States. No considerable inconvenience had been found from the division of the State of New York into different districts of different sizes.
Some of the consequences of a dissolution of the Union and the establishment of partial confederacies had been pointed out. He would add another of a most serious nature. Alliances will immediately be formed with different rival and hostile nations of Europe, who will foment disturbances among ourselves, and make us parties to all their own quarrels. Foreign nations having American dominion are, and must be, jealous of us. Their representatives betray the utmost anxiety for our fate; and for the result of this meeting, which must have an essential influence on it. It had been said that respectability in the eyes of foreign nations was not the object at which we aimed, that the proper object of republican government was domestic tranquillity and happiness. This was an ideal distinction. No government could give us tranquillity and happiness at home which did not possess sufficient stability and strength to make us respectable abroad. This was the critical moment for forming such a government. We should run every risk in trusting to future amendments. As yet we retain the habits of union. We are weak, and sensible of our weakness. Henceforward the motives will become feebler, and the difficulties greater. It is a miracle that we are now here exercising our tranquil and free deliberations on the subject. It would be madness to trust to future miracles. A thousand causes must obstruct a reproduction of them.
Mr. Pierce considered the equality of votes under the Confederation as the great source of the public difficulties. The members of Congress were advocates for local advantages. State distinctions must be sacrificed as far as the general good required, but without destroying the States. Though from a small State, he felt himself a citizen of the United States.
Mr. Gerry urged that we were never independent States, were not such now, and never could be, even on the principles of the Confederation. The States and the advocates for them were intoxicated with the idea of their sovereignty. He was a member of Congress at the time the Federal Articles were formed. The injustice of allowing each State an equal vote was long insisted on. He voted for it; but it was against his judgment, and under the pressure of public danger, and the obstinacy of the lesser States. The present Confederation he considered as dissolving. The fate of the Union will be decided by the Convention. If they do not agree on something, few delegates will probably be appointed to Congress. If they do, Congress will probably be kept up till the new system should be adopted. He lamented that, instead of coming here like a band of brothers, belonging to the same family, we seemed to have brought with us the spirit of political negotiators.
Mr. L. Martin remarked that the language of the States being sovereign and independent was once familiar and understood, though it seemed now so strange and obscure. He read those passages in the Articles of Confederation which describe them in that language.
On the question, as moved by Mr. Lansing, shall the word “not” be struck out?—Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, aye,—4; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no,—6; Maryland, divided.
On the motion to agree to the clause as reported, “that the rule of suffrage in the first branch ought not to be according to that established by the Articles of the Confederation,”—Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye,—6; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, no,—4; Maryland, divided.
Dr. Johnson and Mr. Ellsworth moved to postpone the residue of the clause, and take up the eighth resolution.
On the question,—Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye,—9; Massachusetts, Delaware, no,—2.
Mr. Ellsworth moved “that the rule of suffrage in the second branch be the same with that established by the Articles of Confederation.” He was not sorry, on the whole, he said, that the vote just passed had determined against this rule in the first branch. He hoped it would become a ground of compromise with regard to the second branch. We were partly national, partly federal. The proportional representation in the first branch was conformable to the national principle, and would secure the large States against the small. An equality of voices was conformable to the federal principle, and was necessary to secure the small States against the large. He trusted that on this middle ground a compromise would take place. He did not see that it could on any other, and, if no compromise should take place, our meeting would not only be in vain, but worse than in vain. To the eastward, he was sure, Massachusetts was the only State that would listen to a proposition for excluding the States, as equal political societies, from an equal voice in both branches. The others would risk every consequence rather than part with so dear a right. An attempt to deprive them of it was at once cutting the body of America in two, and, as he supposed would be the case, somewhere about this part of it. The large States, he conceived, would, notwithstanding the equality of votes, have an influence that would maintain their superiority. Holland, as had been admitted (by Mr. Madison), had, notwithstanding a like equality in the Dutch confederacy, a prevailing influence in the public measures. The power of self-defense was essential to the small States. Nature had given it to the smallest insect of the creation. He could never admit that there was no danger of combinations among the large States. They will, like individuals, find out and avail themselves of the advantage to be gained by it. It was true the danger would be greater if they were contiguous, and had a more immediate and common interest. A defensive combination of the small States was rendered more difficult by their greater number. He would mention another consideration of great weight. The existing Confederation was founded on the equality of the States in the article of suffrage,—was it meant to pay no regard to this antecedent plighted faith. Let a strong Executive, a Judiciary and Legislative power be created, but let not too much be attempted, by which all may be lost. He was not in general a halfway man, yet he preferred doing half the good we could rather than do nothing at all. The other half may be added when the necessity shall be more fully experienced.
Mr. Baldwin could have wished that the powers of the general Legislature had been defined before the mode of constituting it had been agitated. He should vote against the motion of Mr. Ellsworth, though he did not like the resolution as it stood in the report of the committee of the whole. He thought the second branch ought to be the representation of property, and that, in forming it, therefore, some reference ought to be had to the relative wealth of their constituents, and to the principles on which the Senate of Massachusetts was constituted. He concurred with those who thought it would be impossible for the general legislature to extend its cares to the local matters of the States.
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