The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
Art: IV. Sect. I. 1, 2
— Mr. MERCER expressed his dislike of
the whole plan, and his opinion that it never could succeed.
Mr. GHORUM. he had never seen any
inconveniency 3 from allowing such as were
not freeholders to vote, though it had long been tried. The elections in Phila.
N. York & Boston where the Merchants, & Mechanics vote are at least as
good as those made by freeholders only. The case in England was not accurately
stated yesterday [by Mr. Madison] The Cities & large towns are not the seat
of Crown influence & corruption. These prevail in the Boroughs, and not on
account of the right which those who are not freeholders have to vote, but of
the smallness of the number who vote. The people have been long accustomed to
this right in various parts of America, and will never allow it to be abridged.
We must consult their rooted prejudices if we expect their concurrence in our
Mr. MERCER did not object so much to an
election by the people at large including such as were not freeholders, as to
their being left to make their choice without any guidance. He hinted that
Candidates ought to be nominated by the State Legislatures.
On 4 question for agreeing to Art: IV —
Sect. 1 it passd. nem. con.
Art IV. Sect. 2 1, 5
Col. MASON was for opening a wide door for
emigrants; but did not chuse to let foreigners and adventurers make laws for us
& govern us. Citizenship for three years was not enough for ensuring that
local knowledge which ought to be possessed by the Representative. This was the
principal ground of his objection to so short a term. It might also happen that
a rich foreign Nation, for example Great Britain, might send over her tools who
might bribe their way into the Legislature for insidious purposes. He moved that
"seven" years instead of "three," be inserted.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
2ded. the Motion, & on the question, all the States agreed to it except
Mr. SHERMAN moved to strike out the word
"resident" and insert "inhabitant," as less liable to
Mr. MADISON 2ded. the motion, both were
vague, but the latter least so in common acceptation, and would not exclude
persons absent occasionally for a considerable time on public or private
business. Great disputes had been raised in Virga. concerning the meaning of
residence as a qualification of Representatives which were determined more
according to the affection or dislike to the man in question, than to any fixt
interpretation of the word.
Mr. WILSON preferred "inhabitant."
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS,
was opposed to both and for requiring nothing more than a freehold. He quoted
great disputes in N. York occasioned by these terms, which were decided by the
arbitrary will of the majority. Such a regulation is not necessary. People
rarely chuse a nonresident — It is improper as in the 1st. branch, the people
at large, not the States, are represented.
Mr. RUTLIDGE urged & moved that a
residence of 7 years shd. be required in the State Wherein the Member shd. be
elected. An emigrant from N. England to S. C. or Georgia would know little of
its affairs and could not be supposed to acquire a thorough knowledge in less
Mr. READ reminded him that we were now
forming a Natil. Govt. and such a regulation would correspond little with the
idea that we were one people.
Mr. WILSON. enforced the same
Mr. MADISON suggested the case of new
States in the West, which could have perhaps no representation on that plan.
Mr. MERCER. Such a regulation would
present a greater alienship among the States 6
than existed under the old federal system. It would interweave local prejudices
& State distinctions in the very Constitution which is meant to cure them.
He mentioned instances of violent disputes raised in Maryland concerning the
Mr. ELSEWORTH thought seven years of
residence was by far too long a term: but that some fixt term of previous
residence would be proper. He thought one year would be sufficient, but seemed
to have no objection to three years.
Mr. DICKENSON proposed that it should
read "inhabitant actually resident for ______ year. 7
This would render the meaning less indeterminate.
Mr. WILSON. If a short term should be
inserted in the blank, so strict an expression might be construed to exclude the
members of the Legislature, who could not be said to be actual residents in
their States whilst at the Seat of the Genl. Government.
Mr. MERCER. It would certainly exclude
men, who had once been inhabitants, and returning from residence elsewhere to
resettle in their original State; although a want of the necessary knowledge
could not in such case 8 be presumed.
Mr. MASON thought 7 years too long, but
would never agree to part with the principle. It is a valuable principle. He
thought it a defect in the plan that the Representatives would be too few to
bring with them all the local knowledge necessary. If residence be not required,
Rich men of neighbouring States, may employ with success the means of corruption
in some particular district and thereby get into the public Councils after
having failed in their own State. 9 This
is the practice in the boroughs of England.
On the question for postponing in order to consider Mr. Dickensons motion.
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. no. N. C.
no. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 10
On the question for inserting "inhabitant" in place of "resident"
— agd. to nem. con.
Mr. ELSEWORTH & Col. MASON move to insert "one year" for previous
Mr. WILLIAMSON liked the Report as it
stood. He thought "resident" a good eno' term. He was agst. requiring
any period of previous residence. New residents if elected will be most zealous
to Conform to the will of their constituents, as their conduct will be watched
with a more jealous eye.
Mr. BUTLER & Mr. RUTLIDGE moved "three years" instead of "one
year" for previous inhabitancy
On the question for 3 years —
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C.
no. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 11
On the question for "1 year"
N. H. no — Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. divd. Va.
no. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 12
Art. IV. Sect. 2. As amended in manner preceding, was agreed to nem. con.
Art: IV. Sect. 3." 13,
14 taken up.
Genl. PINKNEY & Mr. PINKNEY moved that the number of representatives allotted to S.
Carola. be "six" on the question, N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no.
Pa. no. Delaware ay Md. no. Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 15
The 3. Sect. of Art: IV was then agreed to.
Art: IV. Sect. 4 13, 14
Mr. WILLIAMSON moved to strike out "according
to the provisions hereinafter after made" and to insert the words "according
"to the rule hereafter to be provided for direct taxation" — See
Art. VII. sect. 3. 16
On the question for agreeing to Mr. Williamson's amendment
N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C.
ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 17
Mr. KING wished to know what influence
the vote just passed was meant 18 have on
the succeeding part of the Report, concerning the admission of slaves into the
rule of Representation. He could not reconcile his mind to the article if it was
to prevent objections to the latter part. The admission of slaves was a most
grating circumstance to his mind, & he believed would be so to a great part
of the people of America. He had not made a strenuous opposition to it
heretofore because he had hoped that this concession would have produced a
readiness which had not been manifested, to strengthen the Genl. Govt. and to
mark a full confidence in it. The Report under consideration had by the tenor of
it, put an end to all those hopes. In two great points the hands of the
Legislature were absolutely tied. The importation of slaves could not be
prohibited — exports could not be taxed. Is this reasonable? What are the
great objects of the Genl. System? 1. 19
defence agst. foreign invasion. 2. 19
agst. internal sedition. Shall all the States then be bound to defend each; &
shall each be at liberty to introduce a weakness which will render defence more
difficult? Shall one part of the U. S. be bound to defend another part, and that
other part be at liberty not only to increase its own danger, but to withhold
the compensation for the burden? If slaves are to be imported shall not the
exports produced by their labor, supply a revenue the better to enable the Genl.
Govt. to defend their masters? — There was so much inequality &
unreasonableness in all this, that the people of the Northern States could never
be reconciled to it. No candid man could undertake to justify it to them. He had
hoped that some accomodation wd. have taken place on this subject; that at least
a time wd. have been limited for the importation of slaves. He never could agree
to let them be imported without limitation & then be represented in the
Natl. Legislature. Indeed he could so little persuade himself of the rectitude
of such a practice, that he was not sure he could assent to it under any
circumstances. At all events, either slaves should not be represented, or
exports should be taxable.
Mr. SHERMAN regarded the slave trade as
iniquitous; but the point of representation having been settled after much
difficulty & deliberation, he did not think himself bound to make
opposition; especially as the present article as amended did not preclude any
arrangement whatever on that point in another place of the Report.
Mr. MADISON objected to 1 for every
40,000, inhabitants as a perpetual rule. The future increase of population if
the Union shd. be permanent, will render the number of Representatives
Mr. GHORUM. It is not to be supposed
that the Govt. will last so long as to produce this effect. Can it be supposed
that this vast Country including the Western territory will 150 years hence
remain one nation?
Mr. ELSEWORTH. If the Govt. should
continue so long, alterations may be made in the Constitution in the manner
proposed in a subsequent article.
Mr. SHERMAN & Mr. MADISON moved to insert the words "not exceeding"
before the words "1 for every 40,000, which was agreed to nem. con.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
moved to insert "free" before the word inhabitants. Much he said would
depend on this point. He never would concur in upholding domestic slavery. It
was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of heaven on the States where it
prevailed. Compare the free regions of the Middle States, where a rich &
noble cultivation marks the prosperity & happiness of the people, with the
misery & poverty which overspread the barren wastes of Va. Maryd. & the
other States having slaves. Travel thro' ye. whole Continent & you behold
the prospect continually varying with the appearance & disappearance of
slavery. The moment you leave ye. E. Sts. & enter N. York, the effects of
the institution become visible, passing thro' the Jerseys & entering Pa.
every criterion of superior improvement witnesses the change. Proceed south wdly
& every step you take thro' ye. great region of slaves presents a desert
increasing, with ye. increasing proportion of these wretched beings. Upon what
principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation? Are
they men? Then make them Citizens and let them vote. Are they property? Why then
is no other property included? The Houses in this city [Philada.] are worth more
than all the wretched slaves which cover the rice swamps of South Carolina. The
admission of slaves into the Representation when fairly explained comes to this:
that the inhabitant of Georgia and S. C. who goes to the Coast of Africa, and in
defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity tears away his fellow creatures
from their dearest connections & damns them to the most cruel bondages,
20 shall have more votes in a Govt.
instituted for protection of the rights of mankind, than the Citizen of Pa. or
N. Jersey who views with a laudable horror, so nefarious a practice. He would
add that Domestic slavery is the most prominent feature in the aristocratic
countenance of the proposed Constitution. The vassalage of the poor has ever
been the favorite offspring of Aristocracy. And What is the proposed
compensation to the Northern States for a sacrifice of every principle of right,
of every impulse of humanity. They are to bind themselves to march their militia
for the defence of the S. States; for their defence agst. those very slaves of
whom they complain. They must supply vessels & seamen in case of foreign
Attack. The Legislature will have indefinite power to tax them by excises, and
duties on imports: both of which will fall heavier on them than on the Southern
inhabitants; for the bohea tea used by a Northern freeman, will pay more tax
than the whole consumption of the miserable slave, which consists of nothing
more than his physical subsistence and the rag that covers his nakedness. On the
other side the Southern States are not to be restrained from importing fresh
supplies of wretched Africans, at once to increase the danger of attack, and the
difficulty of defence; nay they are to be encouraged to it by an assurance of
having their votes in the Natl. Govt. increased in proportion, and are at the
same time to have their exports & their slaves exempt from all contributions
for the public service. Let it not be said that direct taxation is to be
proportioned to representation. It is idle to suppose that the Genl. Govt. can
stretch its hand directly into the pockets of the people scattered over so vast
a Country. They can only do it through the medium of exports imports &
excises. For what then are all these sacrifices to be made? He would sooner
submit himself to a tax for paying for all the negroes in the U. States, than
saddle posterity with such a Constitution.
Mr. DAYTON 2ded. the motion. He did it
he said that his sentiments on the subject might appear whatever might be the
fate of the amendment.
Mr. SHERMAN. did not regard the
admission of the Negroes into the ratio of representation, as liable to such
insuperable objections. It was the freemen of the Southn. States who were in
fact to be represented according to the taxes paid by them, and the Negroes are
only included in the Estimate of the taxes. This was his idea of the matter.
Mr. PINKNEY, considered the fisheries &
the Western frontier as more burdensome to the U. S. than the slaves. He thought
this could be demonstrated if the occasion were a proper one.
Mr. WILSON. thought the motion
premature. An agreement to the clause would be no bar to the object of it.
21 Question On 22
motion to insert "free" before "inhabitants."
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C.
no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 23
On the suggestion of Mr. DICKENSON the
words, "provided that each State shall have one representative at least."
— were added nem. con.
Art. IV. Sect. 4. as amended was agreed to nem. con.
Art. IV. Sect. 5. 24, 25
Mr. PINKNEY moved to strike out Sect. 5.
As giving no peculiar advantage to the House of Representatives, and as clogging
the Govt. If the Senate can be trusted with the many great powers proposed, it
surely may be trusted with that of originating money bills.
Mr. GHORUM. was agst. allowing the
Senate to originate; but
26 only to amend.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS.
It is particularly proper that the Senate shd. have the right of originating
money bills. They will sit constantly, will consist of a smaller number, and
will be able to prepare such bills with due correctness; and so as to prevent
delay of business in the other House.
Col. MASON was unwilling to travel over this ground
again. To strike out the section, was to unhinge the compromise of which it made
a part. The duration of the Senate made it improper. He does not object to that
duration. On the Contrary he approved of it. But joined with the smallness of
the number, it was an argument against adding this to the other great powers
vested in that body. His idea of an Aristocracy was that it was the governt. of
the few over the many. An aristocratic body, like the screw in mechanics,
workig. its way by slow degrees, and holding fast whatever it gains, should ever
be suspected of an encroaching tendency. The purse strings should never be put
into its hands.
Mr. MERCER. considered the exclusive
power of originating Money bills as so great an advantage, that it rendered the
equality of votes in the Senate ideal & of no consequence.
Mr. BUTLER was for adhering to the
principle which had been settled.
Mr. WILSON was opposed to it on its
merits without regard to the compromise
Mr. ELSEWORTH did not think the clause
of any consequence, but as it was thought of consequence by some members from
the larger States, he was willing it should stand.
Mr. MADISON was for striking it out:
considering it as of no advantage to the large States as fettering the Govt. and
as a source of injurious altercations between the two Houses.
On the question for striking out "Sect. 5. Art. IV" N. H. no. Mas.
no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo.
1. See ante.
2. The words "being under
consideration" are here inserted in the transcript.
3. The word "inconveniency" is
changed to "inconvenience" in the transcript.
4. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
5. The words "was then" are here
inserted in the transcript.
6. The phrase "among the States"
is omitted in the transcript.
7. The transcript uses the word "year"
in the plural.
8. The transcript uses the word "case"
in the plural.
9. The transcript uses the word "State"
in the plural.
10. In the transcript the vote reads: "Maryland,
South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 3; New Hampshire, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, no —
11. In the transcript the vote reads: "South
Carolina, Georgia, aye — 2; New Hampshire, MAssachusetts, Connecticut, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, no — 9."
12. In the transcript the vote reads: New
Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 4; New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, no — 6;
13. See ante.
14. The words "was then" are
here inserted in the transcript.
15. In the transcript the vote reads:
Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 4; New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, new Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, no —
16. See ante.
17. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 9; New Jersey, Delaware, no —
18. The word "to" is here
inserted in the transcript.
19. The figures "1" and "2"
are changed to "First" and "Secondly" in the transcript.
20. The transcript uses the word "bondages"
in the singular.
21. The words "On the" are here
inserted in the transcript.
22. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
23. In the transcript the vote reads: New
Jersey, aye — 1; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no —
24. See ante.
25. The words "was then" are
here inserted in the transcript.
26. The words "was for allowing it"
are here inserted in the transcript.
27. In the transcript the vote reads: New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, aye
— 7; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, no —