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Table of Contents

  1. MONDAY, MAY 14 and FRIDAY, MAY 25
  2. MONDAY, MAY 28
  3. TUESDAY, MAY 29
  12. FRIDAY, JUNE 8
  14. MONDAY, JUNE 11
  15. TUESDAY, JUNE 12
  18. FRIDAY, JUNE 15
  20. MONDAY, JUNE 18
  21. TUESDAY, JUNE 19
  24. FRIDAY, JUNE 22
  26. MONDAY, JUNE 25
  27. TUESDAY, JUNE 26
  30. FRIDAY, JUNE 29
  32. MONDAY, JULY 2
  34. FRIDAY, JULY 6
  36. MONDAY, JULY 9
  37. TUESDAY, JULY 10
  40. FRIDAY, JULY 13
  42. MONDAY, JULY 16
  43. TUESDAY, JULY 17
  46. FRIDAY, JULY 20
  48. MONDAY, JULY 23
  49. TUESDAY, JULY 24

James Madison's Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

Edited by Gordon LloydSeptember 5, 2013


2Monday May 14th 1787 was the day fixed for the meeting of the deputies in Convention for revising the federal system of Government. On that day a small number only had assembled. Seven States were not convened till,4

3Friday 25 of May , when the following members appeared: From Massachusetts Rufus King. N. York Robert Yates, and Alexr. Hamilton. N. Jersey, David Brearly, William Churchill Houston, and William Patterson. Pennsylvania, Robert Morris, Thomas Fitzsimmons, James Wilson, and Govurneur Morris. Delaware, George Read, Richard Basset, and Jacob Broome. Virginia, George Washington, Edmund Randolph, John Blair, James Madison, George Mason, George Wythe, and James Mc.Clurg. N. Carolina, Alexander Martin, William Richardson Davie, Richard Dobbs Spaight, and Hugh Williamson. S. Carolina, John Rutlidge, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, and Pierce Butler. Georgia, William Few.2

4Mr. ROBERT MORRIS informed the members assembled that by the instruction & in behalf, of the deputation of Pena. he proposed George Washington Esqr. late Commander in chief for president of the Convention. * Mr. JNo. RUTLIDGE seconded the motion; expressing his confidence that the choice would be unanimous, and observing that the presence of Genl. Washington forbade any observations on the occasion which might otherwise be proper.2

5General WASHINGTON was accordingly unanimously elected by ballot, and conducted to the Chair by Mr. R. Morris and Mr. Rutlidge; from which in a very emphatic manner he thanked the Convention for the honor they had conferred on him, reminded them of the novelty of the scene of business in which he was to act, lamented his want of better qualifications, and claimed the indulgence of the House towards the involuntary errors which his inexperience might occasion.1

6Mr. WILSON moved that a Secretary be appointed, and nominated Mr. Temple Franklin.2

7Col HAMILTON nominated Major Jackson.1

8On the ballot Majr. Jackson had 5 votes & Mr. Franklin 2 votes. On reading the credentials of the deputies it was noticed that those from Delaware were prohibited from changing the article in the Confederation establishing an equality of votes among the States.1

9The appointment of a Committee, on the motion of Mr. C. PINCKNEY, consisting of Messrs. Wythe, Hamilton & C. Pinckney, to prepare standing rules & orders was the only remaining step taken on this day.


11* The nomination came with particular grace from Penna. as Docr. Franklin alone could have been thought of as a competitor. The Docr. was himself to have made the nomination of General Washington, but the state of the weather and of his health confined him to his house.1


13In Convention.

14From Massts. Nat: Gorham & Caleb Strong. From Connecticut Oliver Elseworth. From Delaware, Gunning Bedford. From Maryland James McHenry. From Penna. B. Franklin, George Clymer, Ths. Mifflin & Jared Ingersol took their seats.1

15Mr. Wythe from the Committee for preparing rules made a report which employed the deliberations of this day.

16Mr. KING objected to one of the rules in the Report authorising any member to call for the yeas & nays and have them entered on the minutes. He urged that as the acts of the Convention were not to bind the Constituents, it was unnecessary to exhibit this evidence of the votes; and improper as changes of opinion would be frequent in the course of the business & would fill the minutes with contradictions.

17Col. MASON seconded the objection; adding that such a record of the opinions of members would be an obstacle to a change of them on conviction; and in case of its being hereafter promulged must furnish handles to the adversaries of the Result of the Meeting.1

18The proposed rule was rejected nem. contradicente. The standing rules agreed to were as follow:


20A House to do business shall consist of the Deputies of not less than seven States; and all questions shall be decided by the greater number of these which shall be fully represented: but a less number than seven may adjourn from day to day.

21Immediately after the President shall have taken the chair, and the members their seats, the minutes of the preceding day shall be read by the Secretary.

22Every member, rising to speak, shall address the President; and whilst he shall be speaking, none shall pass between them, or hold discourse with another, or read a book, pamphlet or paper, printed or manuscript-and of two members rising to speak at the same time, the President shall name him who shall be first heard.

23A member shall not speak oftener than twice, without special leave, upon the same question; and not the second time, before every other, who had been silent, shall have been heard, if he choose to speak upon the subject.

24A motion made and seconded, shall be repeated, and if written, as it shall be when any member shall so require, read aloud by the Secretary, before it shall be debated; and may be withdrawn at any time, before the vote upon it shall have been declared.

25Orders of the day shall be read next after the minutes, and either discussed or postponed, before any other business shall be introduced.

26When a debate shall arise upon a question, no motion, other than to amend the question, to commit it, or to postpone the debate shall be received.

27A question which is complicated, shall, at the request of any member, be divided, and put separately upon the propositions, of which it is compounded.

28The determination of a question, altho' fully debated, shall be postponed, if the deputies of any State desire it until the next day.

29A writing which contains any matter brought on to be considered, shall be read once throughout for information, then by paragraphs to be debated, and again, with the amendments, if any, made on the second reading; and afterwards, the question shall be put upon the whole, amended, or approved in its original form, as the case shall be.

30That Committees shall be appointed by ballot; and that the members who have the greatest number of ballots, altho' not a majority of the votes present, be the Committee– When two or more members have an equal number of votes, the member standing first on the list in the order of taking down the ballots, shall be preferred.

31A member may be called to order by any other member, as well as by the President; and may be allowed to explain his conduct or expressions supposed to be reprehensible.- And all questions of order shall be decided by the President without appeal or debate.

32Upon a question to adjourn for the day, which may be made at any time, if it be seconded, the question shall be put without a debate.

33When the House shall adjourn, every member shall stand in his place, until the President pass him. †

34A letter from sundry persons of the State of Rho. Island addressed to The Chairman of the General Convention was presented to the Chair by Mr. Govr. MORRIS, and being read, was ordered to lie on the table for further consideration.

35Mr. BUTLER moved that the House provide agst. interruption of business by absence of members, and against licentious publications of their proceedings-to which was added by-Mr. SPAIGHT-a motion to provide that on the one hand the House might not be precluded by a vote upon any question, from revising the subject matter of it when they see cause, nor, on the other hand, be led too hastily to rescind a decision, which was the result of mature discussion. - Whereupon it was ordered that these motions be referred for the consideration of the Committee appointed to draw up the standing rules and that the Committee make report thereon.1

36Adjd. till tomorrow at 10. OClock.


38† Previous to the arrival of a majority of the States, the rule by which they ought to vote in the Convention had been made a subject of conversation among the members present. It was pressed by Governeur Morris and others from Pennsylvania, that the large States should unite in firmly refusing to the small states an equal vote, as unreasonable, and as enabling the small States to negative every good system of Government, which must in the nature of things, be founded on a violation of that equality. The members from Virginia, conceiving that such an attempt might beget fatal altercations between the large & small States, and that it would be easier to prevail on the latter, in the course of the deliberations, to give up their equality for the sake of an effective Government, than on taking the field of discussion to disarm themselves of the right & thereby throw themselves on the mercy of the large States, discountenanced & stifled the project.


40In convention.

41John Dickenson, and Elbridge Gerry, the former from Delaware, the latter from Massts. took their seats.

42The following rules were added, on the report of Mr. Wythe from the Committee-

43That no member be absent from the House, so as to interrupt the representation of the State, without leave.

44That Committees do not sit whilst the House shall be or ought to be, sitting.

45That no copy be taken of any entry on the journal during the sitting of the House without leave of the House.

46That members only be permitted to inspect the journal.

47That nothing spoken in the House be printed, or otherwise published or communicated without leave.3

48That a motion to reconsider a matter which has been determined by a majority, may be made, with leave unanimously given, on the same day on which the vote passed; but otherwise not without one day's previous notice: in which last case, if the House agree to the reconsideration, some future day shall be assigned for that purpose.

49Mr. C. PINKNEY moved that a Committee be appointed to superintend the Minutes.

50Mr. Govr. MORRIS objected to it. The entry of the proceedings of the Convention belonged to the Secretary as their impartial officer. A committee might have an interest & bias in moulding the entry according to their opinions and wishes.

51The motion was negatived, 5 noes, 4 ays.

52Mr. Randolph then opened the main business.1

53He expressed his regret, that it should fall to him, rather than those, who were of longer standing in life and political experience, to open the great subject of their mission. But, as the convention had originated from Virginia, and his colleagues supposed that some proposition was expected from them, they had imposed this task on him. He then commented on the difficulty of the crisis, and the necessity of preventing the fulfilment of the prophecies of the American downfal. He observed that in revising the foederal system we ought to inquire first, into the properties, which such a government ought to possess, secondly, the defects of the confederation, thirdly, the danger of our situation & fourthly the remedy.

541. The Character of such a government ought to secure first against foreign invasion; secondly, against dissentions between members of the Union, or seditions in particular states; thirdly, to procure to the several States, various blessings, of which an isolated situation was incapable; fourthly, it should be able to defend itself against incroachment; & fifthly, to be paramount to the state constitutions.

552. In speaking of the defects of the confederation he professed a high respect for its authors, and considered them, as having done all that patriots could do, in the then infancy of the science, of constitutions, & of confederacies – when the inefficiency of requisitions was unknown-no commercial discord had arisen among any states – no rebellion had appeared as in Massts. – foreign debts had not become urgent – the havoc of paper money had not been foreseen-treaties had not been violated – and perhaps nothing better could be obtained from the jealousy of the states with regard to their sovereignty.1

56He then proceeded to enumerate the defects:

57First, that the confederation produced no security against foreign invasion, congress not being permitted to prevent a war nor to support it by their own authority. Of this he cited many examples, most of which tended to shew, that they could not cause infractions of treaties or of the law of nations, to be punished; that particular states might by their conduct provoke war without controul; and that neither militia nor draughts being fit for defence on such occasions, inlistments only could be successful, and these could not be executed without money.

58Secondly, that the foederal government could not check the quarrels between states, nor a rebellion in any, not having constitutional power nor means to interpose according to the exigency.1

59Thirdly, that there were many advantages, which the U. S. might acquire, which were not attainable under the confederation, such as: a productive impost; counteraction of the commercial regulations of other nations; pushing of commerce ad libitum; &c &c.

60Fourthly, that the foederal government could not defend itself against incroachments from the states.

61Fifthly, that it was not even paramount to the state constitutions, ratified as it was in many of the states.

623. He next reviewed the danger of our situation, and appealed to the sense of the best friends of the U.S. – the prospect of anarchy from the laxity of government every where, and to other considerations.

63He proposed as conformable to his ideas the following resolutions, which he explained one by one.1

641. Resolved, that the Articles of Confederation ought to be so corrected & enlarged as to accomplish the objects proposed by their institution; namely, "common defence, security of liberty and general welfare."

652. Resd. therefore that the rights of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be proportioned to the Quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants, as the one or the other rule may seem best in different cases.1

663. Resd. that the National Legislature ought to consist of two branches.

674. Resd. that the members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States every _______ for the term of ______; to be of the age of ______ years at least, to receive liberal stipends by with they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to the public service; to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the first branch, during the term of service, and for the space of _______ after its expiration; to be incapable of reelection for the space of ________ after the expiration of their term of service, and to be subject to recall.1

685. Resold. that the members of the second branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by those of the first, out of a proper number of persons nominated by the individual Legislatures, to be of the age of ________ years at least; to hold their offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independence; to receive liberal stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to the public service; and to be ineligible to any office established 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 for the space of ________ after the expiration thereof.

696. Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of originating Acts; that the National Legislature ought to be impowered to enjoy the Legislative Rights vested in Congress by the Confederation & 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 National Legislature the articles of Union or any treaty subsisting under the authority of the Union; and to call forth the force of the Union agst. any member of the Union failing to fulfill its duty under the articles thereof.1

707. Resd. that a National Executive be instituted; to be chosen by the National Legislature for the term of ________, to receive punctually at stated times, a fixed compensation for the services rendered, in which no increase nor diminution shall be made so as to affect the Magistracy, existing at the time of increase or diminution, and to be ineligible a second time; and that besides a general authority to execute the National laws, it ought to enjoy the Executive rights vested in Congress by the Confederation.1

718. Resd. that the Executive and a convenient number of the National Judiciary, ought to compose a Council of revision with authority to examine every act of the National Legislature before it shall operate, & every act of a particular Legislature before a Negative thereon shall be final; and that the dissent of the said Council shall amount to a rejection, unless the Act of the National Legislature be again passed, or that of a particular Legislature be again negatived by _______ of the members of each branch.1

729. Resd. that a National Judiciary be established to consist of one or more supreme tribunals, and of inferior tribunals to be chosen by the National Legislature, to hold their offices during good behaviour; and to receive punctually at stated times 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. that the jurisdiction of the inferior tribunals shall be to hear & determine in the first instance, and of the supreme tribunal to hear and determine in the dernier resort, all piracies & felonies on the high seas, captures from an enemy; cases in which foreigners or citizens of other States applying to such jurisdictions may be interested, or which respect the collection of the National revenue; impeachments of any National officers, and questions which may involve the national peace and harmony.1

7310. Resolvd. 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.

7411. Resd. that a Republican Government & the territory of each State, except in the instance of a voluntary junction of Government & territory, ought to be guarantied by the United States to each State.

7512. Resd. that provision ought to be made for the continuance of Congress and their authorities 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.

7613. Resd. that provision ought to be made for the amendment of the Articles of Union whensoever it shall seem necessary, and that the assent of the National Legislature ought not to be required thereto.

7714. Resd. that the Legislative Executive & Judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of Union

7815. Resd. that the amendments which shall be offered to the Confederation, by the Convention ought at a proper time, or times, after the approbation of Congress to be submitted to an assembly or assemblies of Representatives, recommended by the several Legislatures to be expressly chosen by the people, to consider & decide thereon.

79He concluded with an exhortation, not to suffer the present opportunity of establishing general peace, harmony, happiness and liberty in the U. S. to pass away unimproved.*

80It was then Resolved - That the House will tomorrow resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House to consider of the state of the American Union. - and that the propositions moved by Mr. Randolph be referred to the said Committee. It was then


82* This Abstract of the speech was furnished to J. M. by Mr. Randolph and is in his handwriting.

83Resolved-That the House will tomorrow resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House to consider of the state of the American Union. - and that the propositions moved by Mr. Randolph be referred to the said Committee.

84Mr. CHARLES PINKNEY laid before the house the draught of a federal Government which he had prepared, to be agreed upon between the free and independent States of America. - ordered that the same be referred to the Committee of the Whole appointed to consider the state of the American Union.1



87Roger Sherman (from Connecticut) took his seat.

88The House went into Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union. Mr. Gorham was elected to the Chair by Ballot.1

89The propositions of Mr. Randolph which had been referred to the Committee being taken up. He moved on the suggestion of Mr. G. Morris, that the first of his propositions to wit "Resolved that the articles of Confederation ought to be so corrected & enlarged, as to accomplish the objects proposed by their institution; namely, common defence, security of liberty & general welfare” – should be postponed, in order to consider the 3 following:1

901. that a Union of the States merely federal will not accomplish the objects proposed by the articles of Confederation, namely common defence, security of liberty, & genl. welfare.1

912. that no treaty or treaties among the whole or part of the States, as individual Sovereignties, would be sufficient.1

923. that a national Government ought to be established consisting of a supreme Legislative, Executive & Judiciary. The motion for postponing was seconded by Mr. Govr. MORRIS and unanimously agreed to.3

93Some verbal criticisms were raised agst. the first proposition, and it was agreed on motion of Mr. BUTLER seconded by Mr. Randolph, to pass on to the third, which underwent a discussion, less however on its general merits than on the force and extent of the particular terms national & supreme.

94Mr. CHARLES PINKNEY wished to know of Mr. Randolph whether he meant to abolish the State Governts. altogether. Mr. R. replied that he meant by these general propositions merely to introduce the particular ones which explained the outlines of the system he had in view.

95Mr. BUTLER said he had not made up his mind on the subject, and was open to the light which discussion might throw on it. After some general observations he concluded with saying that he had opposed the grant of powers to Congs. heretofore, because the whole power was vested in one body. The proposed distribution of the powers with different bodies changed the case, and would induce him to go great lengths.

96Genl. PINKNEY expressed a doubt whether the act of Congs. recommending the Convention, or the Commissions of the Deputies to it, would authorise a discussion of a System founded on different principles from the federal Constitution.

97Mr. GERRY seemed to entertain the same doubt.

98Mr. Govr. MORRIS explained the distinction between a federal and national, supreme, Govt.; the former being a mere compact resting on the good faith of the parties; the latter having a compleat and compulsive operation. He contended that in all Communities there must be one supreme power, and one only.

99Mr. MASON observed, not only that the present confederation was deficient in not providing for coercion & punishment agst. delinquent States; but argued very cogently that punishment could not in the nature of things be executed on the States collectively, and therefore that such a Govt. was necessary as could directly operate on individuals, and would punish those only whose guilt required it.

100Mr. SHERMAN admitted that the Confederation had not given sufficient power to Congs. and that additional powers were necessary; particularly that of raising money which he said would involve many other powers. He admitted also that the General & particular jurisdictions ought in no case to be concurrent. He seemed however not to be disposed to make too great inroads on the existing system; intimating as one reason that it would be wrong to lose every amendment, by inserting such as would not be agreed to by the States.

101It was moved by Mr. READ and 2ded. by Mr. Chs. COTESWORTH PINKNEY, to postpone the 3d. proposition last offered by Mr. Randolph viz that a national Government ought to be established consisting of a supreme Legislative Executive and Judiciary," in order to take up the following-viz. "Resolved that in order to carry into execution the Design of the States in forming this Convention, and to accomplish the objects proposed by the Confederation a more effective Government consisting of a Legislative, Executive and Judiciary ought to be established."1

102The motion to postpone for this purpose was lost:

103Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, S. Carolina- aye 4. N. Y. Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina- no 4.

104On the question as moved by Mr. Butler, on the third proposition it was resolved in Committee of the whole that a national governt. ought to be established consisting of a supreme Legislative Executive & Judiciary." Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina aye-6; Connecticut, no-1; New York, divided (Colonel Hamilton, aye, Mr. Yates, No).

105The following Resolution being the 2d. of those proposed by Mr. Randolph was taken up, viz-"that the rights of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be proportioned to the quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants, as the one or the other rule may seem best in different cases."1

106Mr. MADISON observing that the words "or to the number of free inhabitants," might occasion debates which would divert the Committee from the general question whether the principle of representation should be changed, moved that they might be struck out.1

107Mr. KING observed that the quotas of contribution which would alone remain as the measure of representation, would not answer, because waving every other view of the matter, the revenue might hereafter be so collected by the general Govt. that the sums respectively drawn from the States would not appear; and would besides be continually varying.1

108Mr. MADISON admitted the propriety of the observation, and that some better rule ought to be found.

109Col. HAMILTON moved to alter the resolution so as to read "that the rights of suffrage in the national Legislature ought to be proportioned to the number of free inhabitants. Mr. SPAIGHT 2ded. the motion. It was then moved that the Resolution be postponed, which was agreed to.1

110Mr. Randolph and Mr. MADISON then moved the following resolution-"that the rights of suffrage in the national Legislature ought to be proportioned." It was moved and 2ded. to amend it by adding "and not according to the present system"-which was agreed to. It was then moved and 2ded. to alter the resolution so as to read "that the rights of suffrage in the national Legislature ought not to be according to the present system." It was then moved & 2ded. to postpone the Resolution moved by Mr. Randolph & Mr. Madison, which being agreed to:1

111Mr. MADISON, moved, in order to get over the difficulties, the following resolution-"that the equality of suffrage established by the articles of Confederation ought not to prevail in the national Legislature, and that an equitable ratio of representation ought to be substituted." This was 2ded. by Mr. Govr. MORRIS, and being generally relished, would have been agreed to; when,1

112Mr. REED moved that the whole clause relating to the point of Representation be postponed; reminding the Come. that the deputies from Delaware were restrained by their commission from assenting to any change of the rule of suffrage, and in case such a change should be fixed on, it might become their duty to retire from the Convention.1

113Mr. Govr. MORRIS observed that the valuable assistance of those members could not be lost without real concern, and that so early a proof of discord in the Convention as a secession of a State, would add much to the regret; that the change proposed was however so fundamental an article in a national Govt. that it could not be dispensed with.1

114Mr. MADISON observed that whatever reason might have existed for the equality of suffrage when the Union was a federal one among sovereign States, it must cease when a national Govermt. should be put into the place. In the former case, the acts of Congs. depended so much for their efficacy on the cooperation of the States, that these had a weight both within & without Congress, nearly in proportion to their extent and importance. In the latter case, as the acts of the Genl. Govt. would take effect without the intervention of the State legislatures, a vote from a small State wd. have the same efficacy & importance as a vote from a large one, and there was the same reason for different numbers of representatives from different States, as from Counties of different extents within particular States. He suggested as an expedient for at once taking the sense of the members on this point and saving the Delaware deputies from embarrassment, that the question should be taken in Committee, and the clause on report to the House be postponed without a question there. This however did not appear to satisfy Mr. Read. By several it was observed that no just construction of the Act of Delaware, could require or justify a secession of her deputies, even if the resolution were to be carried thro' the House as well as the Committee. It was finally agreed however that the clause should be postponed: it being understood that in the event the proposed change of representation would certainly be agreed to, no objection or difficulty being started from any other quarter than from Delaware.1

115The motion of Mr. Read to postpone being agreed to, The Committee then rose. The Chairman reported progress, and the House having resolved to resume the subject in Committee tomorrow,

116Adjourned to 10 OClock.


118William Pierce from Georgia took his seat.

119In Committee of the whole on Mr. Randolph's propositions.

120The 3d. Resolution "that the national Legislature ought to consist of two branches" was agreed to without debate or dissent, except that of Pennsylvania, given probably from complaisance to Docr. Franklin who was understood to be partial to a single House of Legislation.1

121The fourth Resolution, first clause, "that the members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States" being taken up,

122Mr. SHERMAN opposed the election by the people, insisting that it ought to be by the State Legislatures. The people he said, immediately should have as little to do as may be about the Government. They want information and are constantly liable to be misled.1

123Mr. GERRY. The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots. In Massts. it had been fully confirmed by experience that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute. One principal evil arises from the want of due provision for those employed in the administration of Governmt. It would seem to be a maxim of democracy to starve the public servants. He mentioned the popular clamour in Massts. for the reduction of salaries and the attack made on that of the Govr. though secured by the spirit of the Constitution itself. He had he said been too republican heretofore: he was still however republican, but had been taught by experience the danger of the levilling spirit.2

124Mr. MASON, argued strongly for an election of the larger branch by the people. It was to be the grand depository of the democratic principle of the Govtt. It was, so to speak, to be our House of Commons-It ought to know & sympathise with every part of the community; and ought therefore to be taken not only from different parts of the whole republic, but also from different districts of the larger members of it, which had in several instances particularly in Virga., different interests and views arising from difference of produce, of habits &c &c. He admitted that we had been too democratic but was afraid we sd. incautiously run into the opposite extreme. We ought to attend to the rights of every class of the people. He had often wondered at the indifference of the superior classes of society to this dictate of humanity & policy; considering that however affluent their circumstances, or elevated their situations, might be, the course of a few years, not only might but certainly would, distribute their posterity throughout the lowest classes of Society. Every selfish motive therefore, every family attachment, ought to recommend such a system of policy as would provide no less carefully for the rights and happiness of the lowest than of the highest orders of Citizens.1

125Mr. WILSON contended strenuously for drawing the most numerous branch of the Legislature immediately from the people. He was for raising the federal pyramid to a considerable altitude, and for that reason wished to give it as broad a basis as possible. No government could long subsist without the confidence of the people. In a republican Government this confidence was peculiarly essential. He also thought it wrong to increase the weight of the State Legislatures by making them the electors of the national Legislature. All interference between the general and local Governmts. should be obviated as much as possible. On examination it would be found that the opposition of States to federal measures had proceded much more from the officers of the States, than from the people at large.1

126Mr. MADISON considered the popular election of one branch of the National Legislature as essential to every plan of free Government. He observed that in some of the States one branch of the Legislature was composed of men already removed from the people by an intervening body of electors. That if the first branch of the general legislature should be elected by the State Legislatures, the second branch elected by the first-the Executive by the second together with the first; and other appointments again made for subordinate purposes by the Executive, the people would be lost sight of altogether; and the necessary sympathy between them and their rulers and officers, too little felt. He was an advocate for the policy of refining the popular appointments by successive filtrations, but though it might be pushed too far. He wished the expedient to be resorted to only in the appointment of the second branch of the Legislature, and in the Executive & judiciary branches of the Government. He thought too that the great fabric to be raised would be more stable and durable, if it should rest on the solid foundation of the people themselves, than if it should stand merely on the pillars of the Legislatures.

127Mr. GERRY did not like the election by the people. The maxims taken from the British constitution were often fallacious when applied to our situation which was extremely different. Experience he said had shewn that the State legislatures drawn immediately from the people did not always possess their confidence. He had no objection however to an election by the people if it were so qualified that men of honor & character might not be unwilling to be joined in the appointments. He seemed to think the people might nominate a certain number out of which the State legislatures should be bound to choose.

128Mr. BUTLER thought an election by the people an impracticable mode.

129On the question for an election of the first branch of the national Legislature by the people.

130Massts. ay. Connect. divd. N. York ay. N. Jersey no. Pena. ay. Delawe. divd. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Georga. ay.

131The remaining Clauses of the fourth Resolution relating to the qualifications of members of the National Legislature, being pospd. nem. con., as entering too much into detail for general propositions:

132The Committee proceeded to the fifth Resolution "that the second, (or senatorial) branch of the National Legislature ought to be chosen by the first branch out of persons nominated by the State Legislatures."

133Mr. SPAIGHT contended that the 2d. branch ought to be chosen by the State Legislatures and moved an amendment to that effect.1

134Mr. BUTLER apprehended that the taking so many powers out of the hands of the States as was proposed, tended to destroy all that balance and security of interests among the States which it was necessary to preserve; and called on Mr. Randolph the mover of the propositions, to explain the extent of his ideas, and particularly the number of members he meant to assign to this second branch.1

135Mr. RAND observed that he had at the time of offering his propositions stated his ideas as far as the nature of general propositions required; that details made no part of the plan, and could not perhaps with propriety have been introduced. If he was to give an opinion as to the number of the second branch, he should say that it ought to be much smaller than that of the first; so small as to be exempt from the passionate proceedings to which numberous assemblies are liable. He observed that the general object was to provide a cure for the evils under which the U. S. laboured; that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy: that some check therefore was to be sought for agst. this tendency of our Governments: and that a good Senate seemed most likely to answer the purpose.1

136Mr. KING reminded the Committee that the choice of the second branch as proposed (by Mr. Spaight) viz. by the State Legislatures would be impracticable, unless it was to be very numerous, or the idea of proportion among the States was to be disregarded. According to this idea, there must be 80 or 100 members to entitle Delaware to the choice of one of them. -Mr. SPAIGHT withdrew his motion.1

137Mr. WILSON opposed both a nomination by the State Legislatures, and an election by the first branch of the national Legislature, because the second branch of the latter, ought to be independent of both. He thought both branches of the National Legislature ought to be chosen by the people, but was not prepared with a specific proposition. He suggested the mode of chusing the Senate of N. York to wit of uniting several election districts, for one branch, in chusing members for the other branch, as a good model.1

138Mr. MADISON observed that such a mode would destroy the influence of the smaller States associated with larger ones in the same district; as the latter would chuse from within themselves, altho' better men might be found in the former. The election of Senators in Virga. where large & small counties were often formed into one district for the purpose, had illustrated this consequence Local partiality, would often prefer a resident within the County or State, to a candidate of superior merit residing out of it. Less merit also in a resident would be more known throughout his own State.

139Mr. SHERMAN favored an election of one member by each of the State Legislatures.

140Mr. PINKNEY moved to strike out the "nomination by the State Legislatures." On this question * is: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-9; Delaware divided.

141On the whole question for electing by the first branch out of nominations by the State Legislatures: Massachusetts, Virginia, South Carolina, aye-3; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, Georgia, no-7.1

142So the clause was disagreed to & a chasm left in this part of the plan.

143The sixth Resolution stating the cases in which the national Legislature ought to legislate was next taken into discussion: On the question whether each branch shd. originate laws, there was an unanimous affirmative without debate. On the question for transferring all the Legislative powers of the existing Congs. to this Assembly, there was also an unanimous affirmative, without debate.


145* This question omitted in the printed Journal, & the votes applied to the succeeding one, instead of the votes as here stated.

146On the proposition for giving "Legislative power in all cases to which the State Legislatures were individually incompetent."

147Mr. PINKNEY & Mr. RUTLEDGE objected to the vagueness of the term incompetent, and said they could not well decide how to vote until they should see an exact enumeration of the powers comprehended by this definition.1

148Mr. BUTLER repeated his fears that we were running into an extreme in taking away the powers of the States, and called on Mr. Randolp for the extent of his meaning.1

149Mr. Randolph disclaimed any intention to give indefinite powers to the national Legislature, declaring that he was entirely opposed to such an inroad on the State jurisdictions, and that he did not think any considerations whatever could ever change his determination. His opinion was fixed on this point.1

150Mr. MADISON said that he had brought with him into the Convention a strong bias in favor of an enumeration and definition of the powers necessary to be exercised by the national Legislature; but had also brought doubts concerning its practicability. His wishes remained un ltered; but his doubts had become stronger. What his opinion might ultimately be he could not yet tell. But he should shrink from nothing which should be found essential to such a form of Govt. as would provide for the safety, liberty and happiness of the community. This being the end of all our deliberations, all the necessary means for attaining it must, however reluctantly, be submitted to.1

151On the question for giving powers, in cases to which the States are not competent, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye- 9; Connecticut divided (Sherman, no. Ellsworth, aye).

152The other clauses giving powers necessary to preserve harmony among the States to negative all State laws contravening in the opinion of the Nat. Leg. the articles of union, down to the last clause, (the words "or any treaties subsisting under the authority of the Union," being added after the words "contravening &c. the articles of the Union," on motion of Dr. FRANKLIN) were agreed to witht. debate or dissent. The last clause of the sixth Resolution authorizing an exertion of the force of the whole agst. a delinquent State came next into consideration.1

153Mr. MADISON, observed that the more he reflected on the use of force, the more he doubted the practicability, the justice and the efficacy of it when applied to people collectively and not individually. -A union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force agst. a State, would look more like a declaration of war, than an infliction of punishment, and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound. He hoped that such a system would be framed as might render this resource unnecessary, and moved that the clause be postponed. This motion was agreed to nem. con.1

154The Committee then rose & the House



157William Houston from Georgia took his seat.

158The Committee of the whole proceeded to the seventh Resolution "that a national Executive be instituted, to be chosen by the national Legislature-for the term of ------ years &c to be ineligible thereafter, to possess the executive powers of Congress &c."1

159Mr. PINKNEY was for a vigorous Executive but was afraid the Executive powers of the existing Congress might extend to peace & war &c., which would render the Executive a monarchy, of the worst kind, to wit an elective one.

160Mr. WILSON moved that the Executive consist of a single person.1

161Mr. C PINKNEY seconded the motion, so as to read "that a National Ex. to consist of a single person, be instituted.

162A considerable pause ensuing and the Chairman asking if he should put the question, Docr. FRANKLIN observed that it was a point of great importance and wished that the gentlemen would deliver their sentiments on it before the question was put.1

163Mr. RUTLIDGE animadverted on the shyness of gentlemen on this and other subjects. He said it looked as if they supposed themselves precluded by having frankly disclosed their opinions from afterwards changing them, which he did not take to be at all the case. He said he was for vesting the Executive power in a single person, tho' he was not for giving him the power of war and peace. A single man would feel the greatest responsibility and administer the public affairs best.1

164Mr. SHERMAN said he considered the Executive magistracy as nothing more than an institution for carrying the will of the Legislature into effect, that the person or persons ought to be appointed by and accountable to the Legislature only, which was the depositary of the supreme will of the Society. As they were the best judges of the business which ought to be done by the Executive department, and consequently of the number necessary from time to time for doing it, he wished the number might not be fixed but that the legislature should be at liberty to appoint one or more as experience might dictate.1

165Mr. WILSON preferred a single magistrate, as giving most energy dispatch and responsibility to the office. He did not consider the Prerogatives of the British Monarch as a proper guide in defining the Executive powers. Some of these prerogatives were of Legislative nature. Among others that of war & peace &c. The only powers he considered strictly Executive were those of executing the laws, and appointing officers, not appertaining to and appointed by the Legislature.

166Mr. GERRY favored the policy of annexing a Council to the Executive in order to give weight & inspire confidence. Mr. Randolph strenuously opposed a unity in the Executive magistracy. He regarded it as the foetus of monarchy. We had he said no motive to be governed by the British Governmt. as our prototype. He did not mean however to throw censure on that Excellent fabric. If we were in a situation to copy it he did not know that he should be opposed to it; but the fixt genius of the people of America required a different form of Government. He could not see why the great requisites for the Executive department, vigor, despatch & responsibility could not be found in three men, as well as in one man. The Executive ought to be independent. It ought therefore in order to support its independence to consist of more than one.

167Mr. WILSON said that unity in the Executive instead of being the fetus of monarchy would be the best safeguard against tyranny. He repeated that he was not governed by the British Model which was inapplicable to the situation of this Country; the extent of which was so great, and the manners so republican, that nothing but a great confederated Republic would do for it. Mr. Wilson's motion for a single magistrate was postponed by common consent, the Committee seeming unprepared for any decision on it; and the first part of the clause agreed to, viz-"that a National Executive be instituted."

168Mr. MADISON thought it would be proper, before a choice shd. be made between a unity and a plurality in the Executive, to fix the extent of the Executive authority; that as certain powers were in their nature Executive, and must be given to that departmt. whether administered by one or more persons, a definition of their extent would assist the judgment in determining how far they might be safely entrusted to a single officer. He accordingly moved that so much of the clause before the Committee as related to the powers of the Executive shd. be struck out & that after the words "that a national Executive ought to be instituted" there be inserted the words following viz. "with power to carry into effect the national laws, to appoint to offices in cases not otherwise provided for, and to execute such other powers "not Legislative nor Judiciary in their nature," as may from time to time be delegated by the national Legislature." The words "not legislative nor judiciary in their nature" were added to the proposed amendment in consequence of a suggestion by Genl. Pinkney that improper powers might otherwise be delegated.

169Mr. WILSON seconded this motion-

170Mr. PINKNEY moved to amend the amendment by striking out the last member of it; viz: "and to execute such other powers not Legislative nor Judiciary in their nature as may from time to time be delegated." He said they were unnecessary, the object of them being included in the "powers to carry into effect the national laws."

171Mr. Randolph seconded the motion.

172Mr. MADISON did not know that the words were absolutely necessary, or even the preceding words-"to appoint to offices &c. the whole being perhaps included in the first member of the proposition. He did not however see any inconvenience in retaining them, and cases might happen in which they might serve to prevent doubts and misconstructions.

173In consequence of the motion of Mr. Pinkney, the question on Mr. Madison's motion was divided; and the words objected to by Mr. Pinkney struck out; by the votes of Connecticut, N. Y. N. J. Pena. Del. N. C. & Geo.7 agst., Mass. Virga. & S. Carolina 3, the preceding part of the motion being first agreed to; Connecticut divided, all the other States in the affirmative.

174The next clause in the seventh Resolution, relating to the mode of appointing, & the duration of, the Executive being under consideration,

175Mr. WILSON said he was almost unwilling to declare the mode which he wished to take place, being apprehensive that it might appear chimerical. He would say however at least that in theory he was for an election by the people. Experience, particularly in N. York & Massts., shewed that an election of the first magistrate by the people at large, was both a convenient & successful mode. The objects of choice in such cases must be persons whose merits have general notoriety.

176Mr. SHERMAN was for the appointment by the Legislature, and for making him absolutely dependent on that body, as it was the will of that which was to be executed. An independence of the Executive on the supreme Legislature, was in his opinion the very essence of tyranny if there was any such thing.

177Mr. WILSON moves that the blank for the term of duration should be filled with three years, observing at the same time that he preferred this short period, on the supposition that a reeligibility would be provided for.

178Mr. PINKNEY moves for seven years.

179Mr. SHERMAN was for three years, and agst. the doctrine of rotation as throwing out of office the men best qualifyed to execute its duties.

180Mr. MASON was for seven years at least, and for prohibiting a re-eligibility as the best expedient both for preventing the effect of a false complaisance on the side of the Legislature towards unfit characters; and a temptation on the side of the Executive to intrigue with the Legislature for a re-appointment.1

181Mr. BEDFORD was strongly opposed to so long a term as seven years. He begged the committee to consider what the situation of the Country would be, in case the first magistrate should be saddled on it for such a period and it should be found on trial that he did not possess the qualifications ascribed to him, or should lose them after his appointment. An impeachment he said would be no cure for this evil, as an impeachment would reach misfeasance only, not incapacity. He was for a triennial election, and for an ineligibility after a period of nine years.

182On the question for seven years, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, aye-5; Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-4; Massachusetts, divided. There being 5ays, 4 noes, 1 divd., a question was asked whether a majority had voted in the affirmative? The President decided that it was an affirmative vote.

183The mode of appointing the Executive was the next question.

184Mr. WILSON renewed his declarations in favor of an appointment by the people. He wished to derive not only both branches of the Legislature from the people, without the intervention of the State Legislatures but the Executive also; in order to make them as independent as possible of each other, as well as of the States;1

185Col. MASON favors the idea, but thinks it impracticable. He wishes however that Mr. Wilson might have time to digest it into his own form.-the clause "to be chosen by the National Legislature"-was accordingly postponed.-

186Mr. RUTLIDGE suggests an election of the Executive by the second branch only of the national Legislature.

187The Committee then rose and the House




191William Saml. Johnson from Connecticut, Daniel of St. Thomas Jennifer, from Maryd. & John Lansing Jr. from N. York, took their seats.

192It was movd. & 2ded. to postpone ye Resol: of Mr. Randolph respecting the Executive, in order to take up the 2d. branch of the Legislature; which being negatived by Mas: Con: Del: Virg: N. C. S. C. Geo: 7 agst. N. Y. Pena. Maryd. 3

193The mode of appointg ye Executive was resumed.

194Mr. WILSON made the following motion, to be substituted for the mode proposed by Mr. Randolph's resolution, "that the Executive Magistracy shall be elected in the following manner: That the States be divided into -------- districts: & that the persons qualified to vote in each district for members of the first branch of the national Legislature elect -------- members for their respective districts to be electors of the Executive magistracy, that the said Electors of the Executive magistracy meet at -------- and they or any -------- of them so met shall proceed to elect by ballot, but not out of their own body -------- person in whom the Executive authority of the national Government shall be vested."1

195Mr. WILSON repeated his arguments in favor of an election without the intervention of the States. He supposed too that this mode would produce more confidence among the people in the first magistrate, than an election by the national Legislature.

196Mr. GERRY, opposed the election by the national legislature. There would be a constant intrigue kept up for the appointment. The Legislature & the candidates wd. bargain & play into one another's hands, votes would be given by the former under promises or expectations from the latter, of recompensing them by services to members of the Legislature or their friends. He liked the principle of Mr. Wilson's motion, but fears it would alarm & give a handle to the State partisans, as tending to supersede altogether the State authorities. He thought the Community not yet ripe for stripping the States of their powers, even such as might not be requisite for local purposes. He was for waiting till people should feel more the necessity of it. He seemed to prefer the taking the suffrages of the States instead of Electors, or letting the Legislatures nominate, and the electors appoint. He was not clear that the people ought to act directly even in the choice of electors, being too little informed of personal characters in large districts, and liable to deceptions.1

197Mr. WILLIAMSON could see no advantage in the introduction of Electors chosen by the people who would stand in the same relation to them as the State Legislatures, whilst the expedient would be attended with great trouble and expence.

198On the question for agreeing to Mr. Wilson's substitute, it was negatived: Pennsylvania, Maryland, aye-2; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, * Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-8.

199On the question for electing the Executive by the national Legislature for the term


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