The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
moved to commit so much of the Report as relates to "I member for every
40,000 inhabitants" His view was that they might absolutely fix the number
for each State in the first instance; leaving the Legislature at liberty to
provide for changes in the relative importance of the States, and for the case
of new States.
Mr. WILSON 2ded. the motion; but with a
view of leaving the Committee under no implied shackles.
Mr. GHORUM apprehended great
1 from fixing directly the number of
Representatives to be allowed to each State. He thought the number of
Inhabitants the true guide; tho' perhaps some departure might be expedient from
the full proportion. The States also would vary in their relative extent by
separations of parts of the largest States. A part of Virga. is now on the point
of a separation. In the province of Mayne a Convention is at this time
deliberating on a separation from Masts. In such events the number of
representatives ought certainly to be reduced. He hoped to see all the States
made small by proper divisions, instead of their becoming formidable as was
apprehended, to the Small States. He conceived that let the Genl. 2
Government be modified as it might, there would be a constant tendency in the
State Governmts. to encroach upon it: it was of importance therefore that the
extent of the States shd. be reduced as much & as fast as possible. The
stronger the Govt. shall be made in the first instance the more easily will
these divisions be effected; as it will be of less consequence in the opinion of
the States whether they be of great or small extent.
Mr. GERRY did not think with his
Colleague that the large States ought to be cut up. This policy has been
inculcated by the middling and smaller States, ungenerously & contrary to
the spirit of the Confederation. Ambitious men will be apt to solicit needless
divisions, till the States be reduced to the size of Counties. If this policy
should still actuate the small States, the large ones cou'd not confederate
safely with them; but would be obliged to consult their safety by confederating
only with one another. He favored the Commitment and thought that Representation
ought to be in the Combined ratio of numbers of Inhabitants and of wealth, and
not of either singly.
Mr. KING wished the clause to be
committed chiefly in order to detach it from the Report with which it had no
connection. He thought also that the Ratio of Representation proposed could not
be safely fixed, since in a century & a half our computed increase of
population would carry the number of representatives to an enormous excess; that
ye. number of inhabitants was not the proper index of ability & wealth; that
property was the primary object of Society; and that in fixing a ratio this
ought not to
3 be excluded from the estimate. With
regard to new States, he observed that there was something peculiar in the
business which had not been noticed. The U. S. were now admitted to be
proprietors of the Country N. West of the Ohio. Congs. by one of their
ordinances have impoliticly laid it out into ten States, and have made it a
fundamental article of compact with those who may become settlers, that as soon
as the number in any one State shall equal that of the smallest of the 13
original States, it may claim admission into the union. Delaware does not
contain it is computed more than 35,000 souls, and for obvious reasons will not
increase much for a considerable time. It is possible then that if this plan be
persisted in by Congs. 10 new votes may be added, without a greater addition of
inhabitants than are represented by the single vote of Pena. The plan as it
respects one of the new States is already irrevocable, the sale of the lands
having commenced, and the purchasers & settlers will immediately become
entitled to all the privileges of the compact.
Mr. BUTLER agreed to the Commitment if
the Committee were to be left at liberty. He was persuaded that the more the
subject was examined, the less it would appear that the number of inhabitants
would be a proper rule of proportion. If there were no other objection the
changeableness of the standard would be sufficient. He concurred with those who
thought some balance was necessary between the old & new States. He
contended strenuously that property was the only just measure of representation.
This was the great object of Governt: the great cause of war; the great means of
carrying it on.
Mr. PINKNEY saw no good reason for
committing. The value of land had been found on full investigation to be an
impracticable rule. The contributions of revenue including imports &
exports, must be too changeable in their amount; too difficult to be adjusted;
and too injurious to the non-commercial States. The number of inhabitants
appeared to him the only just & practicable rule. He thought the blacks
ought to stand on an equality with
4 whites: But wd. agree to the ratio
settled by Congs. He contended that Congs. had no right under the articles of
Confederation to authorize the admission of new States; no such case having been
Mr. DAVY, was for committing the clause
in order to get at the merits of the question arising on the Report. He seemed
to think that wealth or property ought to be represented in the 2d. branch; and
numbers in the 1st. branch.
On the Motion for committing as made by Mr. Govr. Morris.
Masts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. divd. Va. ay.
N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 5
The members appd. by Ballot were Mr. Govr. Morris, Mr. Gorham, Mr. Randolph,
Mr. Rutlidge, Mr. King.
Mr. WILSON signified that his view in
agreeing to the commitmt. was that the Come. might consider the propriety of
adopting a scale similar to that established by the Constitution of Masts. which
wd. give an advantage to ye. small States without substantially departing from a
6 rule of proportion.
Mr. WILSON & Mr. MASON moved to postpone the clause relating to money bills in
order to take up the clause relating to an equality of votes in the second
On the question 7 Masts. no. Cont. no.
N. Y. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo.
The clause relating to equality of votes being under consideration,
observed that this question could not be properly put by itself, the Committee
having reported several propositions as mutual conditions of each other. He
could not vote for it if separately taken, but should vote for the whole
Col. MASON perceived the difficulty & suggested
a reference of the rest of the Report to ye Committee just appointed, that the
whole might be brought into one view.
Mr. RANDOLPH disliked ye. reference to
that Committee, as it consisted of members from States opposed to the wishes of
the smaller States, and could not therefore be acceptable to the latter.
Mr. MARTIN & Mr. JENIFER moved to postpone the clause till the Come. last
appointed should report.
Mr. MADISON observed that if the
uncommitted part of the Report was connected with the part just committed, it
ought also to be committed; if not connected, it need not be postponed till
report should be made.
On the question for postponing moved by Mr. Martin & Mr. Jennifer
|Cont. N. J. Del. Md. Va. Geo.,
|Pa. N. C. S. C.......................................
|Mas. N. Y............................................
The 1st. clause relating to the originating of money bills was then resumed.
Mr. GOVERNr. MORRIS
was opposed to a restriction of this right in either branch, considered merely
in itself and as unconnected with the point of representation in the 2d. branch.
It will disable the 2d. branch from proposing its own money plans, and giving
the people an opportunity of judging by comparison of the merits of those
proposed by the 1st. branch.
Mr. WILSON could see nothing like a
concession here on the part of the smaller States. If both branches were to say
10 or no, 10
it was of little consequence which should say yes 10
or no 10 first, which last. If either was
indiscriminately to have the right of originating, the reverse of the Report,
would he thought be most proper; since it was a maxim that the least numerous
body was the fittest for deliberation; the most numerous for decision. He
observed that this discrimination had been transcribed from the British into
several American constitutions. But he was persuaded that on examination of the
American experiments it would be found to be a trifle light as air. Nor could he
ever discover the advantage of it in the Parliamentary history of G. Britain. He
hoped if there was any advantage in the privilege, that it would be pointed out.
Mr. WILLIAMSON thought that if the
privilege were not common to both branches it ought rather to be confined to the
2d. as the bills in that case would be more narrowly watched, than if they
originated with the branch having most of the popular confidence.
Mr. MASON. The consideration which
weighed with the Committee was that the 1st. branch would be the immediate
representatives of the people, the 2d. would not. Should the latter have the
power of giving away the people's money, they might soon forget the source from
whence they received it. We might soon have an aristocracy. He had been much
concerned at the principles which had been advanced by some gentlemen, but had
the satisfaction to find they did not generally prevail. He was a friend to
proportional representation in both branches; but supposed that some points must
be yielded for the sake of accomodation.
Mr. WILSON. If he had proposed that the
2d. branch should have an independent disposal of public money, the observations
of [Col Mason] would have been a satisfactory answer. But nothing could be
farther from what he had said. His question was how is the power of the 1st.
branch increased or that of the 2d. diminished by giving the proposed privilege
to the former? Where is the difference, in which branch it begins if both must
concur, in the end?
Mr. GERRY would not say that the
concession was a sufficient one on the part of the small States. But he could
not but regard it in the light of a concession. It wd. make it a constitutional
principle that the 2d. branch were not possessed of the Confidence of the people
in money matters, which wd. lessen their weight & influence. In the next
place if the 2d. branch were dispossessed of the privilege, they wd. be deprived
of the opportunity which their continuance in office 3 times as long as the 1st.
branch would give them of makig three successive essays in favor of a particular
Mr. PINKNEY thought it evident that the
Concession was wholly on one side, that of the large States, the privilege of
originating money bills being of no account.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
had waited to hear the good effects of the restriction. As to the alarm sounded,
of an aristocracy, his creed was that there never was, nor ever will be a
civilized Society without an aristocracy. His endeavor was to keep it as much as
possible from doing mischief. The restriction if it has any real operation will
deprive us of the services of the 2d. branch in digesting & proposing money
bills of which it will be more capable than the 1st. branch. It will take away
the responsibility of the 2d. branch, the great security for good behavior. It
will always leave a plea, as to an obnoxious money bill that it was disliked,
but could not be constitutionally amended; nor safely rejected. It will be a
dangerous source of disputes between the two Houses. We should either take the
British Constitution altogether or make one for ourselves. The Executive there
has dissolved two Houses as the only cure for such disputes. Will our Executive
be able to apply such a remedy? Every law directly or indirectly takes money out
of the pockets of the people. Again What use may be made of such a privilege in
case of great emergency? Suppose an Enemy at the door, and money instantly &
absolutely necessary for repelling him, may not the popular branch avail itself
of this duress, to extort concessions from the Senate destructive of the
Constitution itself. He illustrated this danger by the example of the Long
Parliament's expedts. for subverting the H. of Lords; concluding on the whole
that the restriction would be either useless or pernicious.
did not mean to go into a justification of the Report; but as it had been asked
what would be the use of restraining the 2d. branch from medling with money
bills, he could not but remark that it was always of importance that the people
should know who had disposed of their money, & how it had been disposed of.
It was a maxim that those who feel, can best judge. This end would, he thought,
be best attained, if money affairs were to be confined to the immediate
representatives of the people. This was his inducement to concur in the report.
As to the danger or difficulty that might arise from a negative in the 2d.
11 where the people wd. not be
proportionally represented, it might easily be got over by declaring that there
should be no such Negative: or if that will not do, by declaring that there
shall be no such branch at all.
Mr. MARTIN said that it was understood
in the Committee that the difficulties and disputes which had been apprehended,
should be guarded agst. in the detailing of the plan.
Mr. WILSON. The difficulties &
disputes will increase with the attempts to define & obviate them. Queen
Anne was obliged to dissolve her Parliamt. in order to terminate one of these
obstinate disputes between the two Houses. Had it not been for the mediation of
the Crown, no one can say what the result would have been. The point is still
sub judice in England. He approved of the principles laid down by the
12 [Doctr. Franklin] his Colleague, as to
the expediency of keeping the people informed of their money affairs. But
thought they would know as much, and be as well satisfied, in one way as in the
Genl. PINKNEY was astonished that this
point should have been considered as a concession. He remarked that the
13 to money bills had been rejected on
the merits singly considered, by 8 States agst. 3. and that the very States
which now called it a concession, were then agst. it as nugatory or improper in
On the Question whether the clause relating to money bills in the Report of
the Come. consisting of a member from each State, shd. stand as part of the
Massts. dividd. Cont. ay. N. Y. divd. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va.
no. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. divd. 14
A Question was then raised whether the question was carried in the
affirmative: there being but 5 ays out of 11 States present. The words of the
rule are 15 (see May 28). 16
On The 17 question:
|Mas. Cont. N. J. Pa. Del. Md. N. C. S. C. Geo
|N. Y. Va......................
[In several preceding instances like votes had sub silentio been
entered as decided in the affirmative.]
1. The word "inconveniency" is
changed to "inconvenience" in the transcript.
2. The word "Genl." is omitted
in the transcript.
3. The word "to" is omitted in
4. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
5. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia,
aye — 7; New York, Jersey, Delaware, no — 3; Maryland, divided."
6. The word "the" is substituted
in the transcript for the word "a."
7. The words "of postponement"
are here inserted in the transcript and the vote reads: "New York, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, aye
— 8; Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, no — 3."
8. The figure "6" is here
inserted in the transcript.
9. The figure "3" is here
inserted in the transcript.
10. The transcript italicizes the words "yes"
11. The word "branch" is here
inserted in the transcript.
12. In the transcript after the word "President"
reference is made to a footnote which reads: "He was at that time President
of the State of Pennsylvania."
13. The word "as" is here
inserted in the transcript.
14. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, aye — 5; Pennsylvania,
Virginia, South Carolina, no — 3; Massachusetts, New York, Georgia,
15. The phrase "For the words of the
Rule" is substituted in the transcript for "The words of the rule are."
16. A 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.
17. The word "this" is
substituted in the transcript for "the".
18. The figure "9" is here
added in the transcript.
19. The figure "2" is here
added in the transcript.