The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
On the question for allowing each State one vote in the second branch as
moved by Mr. Elseworth, 1 Massts. no.
Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Mr. Jenifer being not
present Mr. Martin alone voted Va no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. divd. Mr. Houston
no. Mr. Baldwin ay.
Mr. PINKNEY thought an equality of votes
in the 2d. branch inadmissible. At the same time candor obliged him to admit
that the large States would feel a partiality for their own Citizens & give
them a preference, in appointments: that they might also find some common points
in their commercial interests, and promote treaties favorable to them. There is
a real distinction
3 the Northern & Southn. interests. N.
Carola. S. Carol: & Geo. in their Rice & Indigo had a peculiar interest
which might be sacrificed. How then shall the larger States be prevented from
administering the Genl. Govt. as they please, without being themselves unduly
subjected to the will of the smaller? By allowing them some but not a full
proportion. He was extremely anxious that something should be done, considering
this as the last appeal to a regular experiment. Congs. have failed in almost
every effort for an amendment of the federal System. Nothing has prevented a
dissolution of it, but the appointmt. of this Convention; & he could not
express his alarms for the consequences of such an event He read his motion, to
form the States into classes, with an apportionment of Senators among them, [see
art. 4, of his plan].
General PINKNEY. was willing the motion might be
considered. He did not entirely approve it. He liked better the motion of Docr.
Franklin [which see Saturday June 30]. Some compromise seemed to be necessary:
the States being exactly divided on the question for an equality of votes in the
2d. branch. He proposed that a Committee consisting of a member from each State
should be appointed to devise & report some compromise.
Mr. L. MARTIN had no objection to a
commitment, but no modifications whatever could reconcile the Smaller States to
the least diminution of their equal Sovereignty.
Mr. SHARMAN. We are now at a full stop,
and nobody he supposed meant that we shd. break up without doing something. A
committee he thought most likely to hit on some expedient.
*4 M r . Govr. M ORRIS . thought a Come. adviseable as the Convention had been
equally divided. He had a stronger reason also. The mode of appointing the 2d.
branch tended he was sure to defeat the object of it. What is this object? to
check the precipitation, changeableness, and excesses of the first branch. Every
man of observation had seen in the democratic branches of the State
Legislatures, precipitation — in Congress changeableness, in every
department excesses agst. personal liberty private property & personal
safety. What qualities are necessary to constitute a check in this case? Abilities
virtue , are equally necessary in both branches. Something more then is
now wanted. 1. 6 the checking branch must
have a personal interest in checking the other branch, one interest must be
opposed to another interest. Vices as they exist, must be turned agst. each
7 It must have great personal property, it
must have the aristocratic spirit; it must love to lord it thro' pride, pride is
indeed the great principle that actuates both the poor & the rich. It is
this principle which in the former resists, in the latter abuses authority. 3.
8 It should be independent. In Religion
the Creature is apt to forget its Creator. That it is otherwise in political
affairs, the late debates here are an unhappy proof. The aristocratic body,
should be as independent & as firm as the democratic. If the members of it
are to revert to a dependence on the democratic choice, the democratic scale
will preponderate. All the guards contrived by America have not restrained the
Senatorial branches of the Legislatures from a servile complaisance to the
democratic. If the 2d. branch is to be dependent we are better without it. To
make it independent, it should be for life. It will then do wrong, it will be
said. He believed so: He hoped so. The Rich will strive to establish their
dominion & enslave the rest. They always did. They always will. The proper
security agst them is to form them into a separate interest. The two forces will
then controul each other. Let the rich mix with the poor and in a Commercial
Country, they will establish an oligarchy. Take away commerce, and the democracy
will triumph. Thus it has been all the world over. So it will be among us.
Reason tells us we are but men: and we are not to expect any particular
interference of Heaven in our favor. By thus combining & setting apart, the
aristocratic interest, the popular interest will be combined agst. it. There
will be a mutual check and mutual security. 4. 9
An independence for life, involves the necessary permanency. If we change our
measures no body will trust us: and how avoid a change of measures, but by
avoiding a change of men. Ask any man if he confides in Congs. if he confides in
the State of Pena. if he will lend his money or enter into contract? He will
tell you no. He sees no stability. He can repose no confidence. If G. B. were to
explain her refusal to treat with us, the same reasoning would be employed. —
He disliked the exclusion of the 2d. branch from holding offices. It is
dangerous. It is like the imprudent exclusion of the military officers during
the war, from civil appointments. It deprives the Executive of the principal
source of influence. If danger be apprehended from the Executive what a
lift-handed way is this of obviating it? If the son, the brother or the friend
can be appointed, the danger may be even increased, as the disqualified father &c.
can then boast of a disinterestedness which he does not possess. Besides shall
the best, the most able, the most virtuous citizens not be permitted to hold
offices? Who then are to hold them? He was also agst. paying the Senators. They
will pay themselves if they can. If they can not they will be rich and can do
without it. Of such the 2d. branch ought to consist; and none but such can
compose it if they are not to be paid — He contended that the Executive
should appoint the Senate & fill up vacancies. This gets rid of the
difficulty in the present question. You may begin with any ratio you please; it
will come to the same thing. The members being independt. & for life, may be
taken as well from one place as from another. — It should be considered too
how the scheme could be carried through the States. He hoped there was strength
of mind eno' in this House to look truth in the face. He did not hesitate
therefore to say that loaves & fishes must bribe the Demagogues. They must
be made to expect higher offices under the general than the State Govts. A
Senate for life will be a noble bait. Without such captivating prospects, the
popular leaders will oppose & defeat the plan. He perceived that the 1st.
branch was to be chosen by the people of the States: the 2d. by those chosen by
the people. Is not here a Govt. by the States. A Governt. by Compact between
Virga. in the 1st. & 2d. branch; Masts. in the 1st. & 2d. branch &c.
This is going back to mere treaty. It is no Govt. at all. It is altogether
dependent on the States, and will act over again the part which Congs. has
acted. A firm Governt. alone can protect our liberties. He fears the influence
of the rich. They will have the same effect here as elsewhere if we do not by
such a Govt. keep them within their proper sphere. 10
We should remember that the people never act from reason alone. The Rich will
11 advantage of their passions & make
these the instruments for oppressing them. The Result of the Contest will be a
violent aristocracy, or a more violent despotism. The schemes of the Rich will
be favored by the extent of the Country. The people in such distant parts can
not communicate & act in concert. They will be the dupes of those who have
more knowledge & intercourse. The only security agst. encroachments will be
a select & sagacious body of men, instituted to watch agst. them on all
sides. He meant only to hint these observations, without grounding any motion on
Mr. RANDOLPH favored the commitment
though he did not expect much benefit from the expedient. He animadverted on the
warm & rash language of Mr. Bedford on Saturday; reminded the small States
that if the large States should combine some danger of which he did not deny
there would be a check in the revisionary power of the Executive, and intimated
that in order to render this still more effectual, he would agree that in the
choice of the
12 Executive each State should have an
equal vote. He was persuaded that two such opposite bodies as Mr. Morris had
planned, could never long co-exist. Dissentions would arise as has been seen
even between the Senate and H. of Delegates in Maryland, appeals would be made
to the people; and in a little time, commotions would be the result — He
was far from thinking the large States could subsist of themselves any more than
the small; an avulsion would involve the whole in ruin, and he was determined to
pursue such a scheme of Government as would secure us agst. such a calamity.
Mr. STRONG was for the Commitment; and
hoped the mode of constituting both branches would be referred. If they should
be established on different principles, contentions would prevail, and there
would never be a concurrence in necessary measures. DOCr.
WILLIAMSON. If we do not concede on both sides, our
business must soon be at an end. He approved of the Commitment, supposing that
as the Come. wd. be a smaller body, a compromise would be pursued with more
Mr. WILSON objected to the Committee,
because it would decide according to that very rule of voting which was opposed
on one side. Experience in Congs. had also proved the inutility of Committees
consisting of members from each State.
Mr. LANSING wd. not oppose the
commitment, though expecting little advantage from it.
Mr. MADISON opposed the Commitment. He
had rarely seen any other effect than delay from such Committees in
Congs. Any scheme of compromise that could be proposed in the Committee might as
easily be proposed in the House; and the report of the Committee when
13 it contained merely the opinion
of the Come. would neither shorten the discussion, nor influence the decision of
Mr. GERRY was for the Commitmt.
Something must be done, or we shall disappoint not only America, but the whole
world. He suggested a consideration of the State we should be thrown into by the
failure of the Union. We should be without an Umpire to decide controversies and
must be at the mercy of events. What too is to become of our treaties —
what of our foreign debts, what of our domestic? We must make concessions on
both sides. Without these the Constitutions of the several States would never
have been formed.
On the question "for committing," generally:
Masts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. no. P. ay. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N.
C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 14
On the question for committing 15 "to
a member from each State."
Massts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay.
N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 16
The Committee elected by ballot, were Mr. Gerry, Mr. Elseworth, Mr. Yates,
Mr. Patterson, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Bedford, Mr. Martin, Mr. Mason, Mr. Davy, Mr.
Rutlidge, Mr. Baldwin.
That time might be given to the Committee, and to such as chose to attend to
the celebrations on the anniversary of Independence, the Convention adjourned
1. The phrase "it was lost by an
equal division of votes," is here inserted in the transcript and the vote
reads: "Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland,
2 aye — 5; Massachusetts,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, no — 5; Georgia,
divided [Mr. Baldwin, aye, Mr. Houston, No]." The footnote referring to
Maryland reads: "Mr. Jenifer not being present, Mr. Martin alone voted."
2. Transfer hither the marginal note.
3. The word "between" is here
inserted in the transcript. See Appendix to Debates, IV, No. 3, p. 600.
*4. He had just returned from N.Y. havg.
left ye. Convention a few days after it commenced business.
5. Madison's direction concerning the
footnote is omitted in the transcript.
6. The figure "1" is changed to "In
the first place" in the transcript.
7. The figure "2" is changed to "In
the second place" in the transcript.
8. The figure "3" is changed to "In
the third place" in the transcript.
9. The figure "4" is changed to "In
the fourth place" in the transcript.
10. The transcript uses the word "sphere"
in the plural.
11. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
12. The word "an" is
substituted in the transcript for "the."
13. The word "where" is
substituted in the transcript for "when."
14. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Georgia, aye — 9; New Jersey, Delaware, no — 2."
15. The word "it" is here
inserted in the transcript.
16. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina,
South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 10; Pennsylvania, no — 1."