The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 29th, 1787
1 IN CONVENTION
Art: XVI. 2, 3,
Mr. WILLIAMSON moved to substitute in
place of it, the words of the Articles of Confederation on the same subject. He
did not understand precisely the meaning of the article.
Mr. WILSON & DOCr.
JOHNSON supposed the meaning to be that Judgments in one
State should be the ground of actions in other States, & that acts of the
Legislatures should be included, for the sake of Acts of insolvency &c.
Mr. PINKNEY moved to commit art XVI,
with the following proposition, "To establish uniform laws upon the subject
of bankruptcies, and respecting the damages arising on the protest of foreign
bills of exchange"
Mr. GHORUM was for agreeing to the
article, and committing the proposition.
Mr. MADISON was for committing both. He
wished the Legislature might be authorized to provide for the execution of
Judgments in other States, under such regulations as might be expedient. He
thought that this might be safely done, and was justified by the nature of the
Mr. RANDOLPH said there was no instance
of one nation executing judgments of the Courts of another nation. He moved the
"Whenever the act of any State, whether Legislative, Executive or
Judiciary shall be attested & exemplified under the seal thereof, such
attestation and exemplification, shall be deemed in other States as full proof
of the existence of that act — and its operation shall be binding in every
other State, in all cases to which it may relate, and which are within the
cognizance and jurisdiction of the State, wherein the said act was done."
On the question for committing Art: XVI. with Mr. Pinkney's motion
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C.
ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 4
The motion of Mr. Randolph was also committed nem: con:
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
moved to commit also the following proposition on the same subject.
"Full faith ought to be given in each State to the public acts,
records, and judicial proceedings of every other State; and the Legislature
shall by general laws, determine the proof and effect of such acts, records, and
proceedings," and it was committed nem: contrad:
The committee appointed for these references, were Mr. Rutlidge, Mr.
Randolph, Mr. Gorham, Mr. Wilson, & Mr. Johnson.
Mr. DICKENSON mentioned to the House
that on examining Blackstone's Commentaries, he found that the terms,
5 "ex post facto" related to
criminal cases only; that they would not consequently restrain the States from
retrospective laws in civil cases, and that some further provision for this
purpose would be requisite.
Art. VII Sect. 6 by ye. Committee of eleven reported to be struck out (see
the 24 instant) being now taken up,
Mr. PINKNEY moved to postpone the Report
in favor of the following proposition — "That no act of the
Legislature for the purpose of regulating the commerce of the U- S. with foreign
powers, or among the several States, shall be passed without the assent of two
thirds of the members of each House." He remarked that there were five
distinct commercial interests. 1. the fisheries & W. India trade, which
belonged to the N. England States. 2. the interest of N. York lay in a free
trade. 3. Wheat & flour the Staples of the two Middle States (N. J. &
Penna.). 4 Tobo. the staple of Maryd. & Virginia & partly of N.
Carolina. 5. Rice & Indigo, the staples of S. Carolina & Georgia. These
different interests would be a source of oppressive regulations if no check to a
bare majority should be provided. States pursue their interests with less
scruple than individuals. The power of regulating commerce was a pure concession
on the part of the S. States. They did not need the protection of the N. States
Mr. MARTIN 2ded. the motion
Genl. PINKNEY said it was the true
interest of the S. States to have no regulation of commerce; but considering the
loss brought on the commerce of the Eastern States by the revolution, their
liberal conduct towards the views
*6 of South Carolina, and the interest the
weak Southn. States had in being united with the strong Eastern States, he
thought it proper that no fetters should be imposed on the power of making
commercial regulations; and that his constituents though prejudiced against the
Eastern States, would be reconciled to this liberality. He had himself, he said,
prejudices agst. the Eastern States before he came here, but would acknowledge
that he had found them as liberal and candid as any men whatever.
Mr. CLYMER. The diversity of commercial
interests of necessity creates difficulties, which ought not to be increased by
unnecessary restrictions. The Northern & middle States will be ruined, if
not enabled to defend themselves against foreign regulations.
Mr. SHERMAN, alluding to Mr. Pinkney's
enumeration of particular interests, as requiring a security agst. abuse of the
power; observed that the diversity was of itself a security, adding that to
require more than a majority to decide a question was always embarrassing as had
been experienced in cases requiring the votes of nine States in Congress.
Mr. PINKNEY replied that his enumeration
meant the five minute interests. It still left the two great divisions of
Northern & Southern Interests.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS,
opposed the object of the motion as highly injurious. Preferences to American
ships will multiply them, till they can carry the Southern produce cheaper than
it is now carried. — A navy was essential to security, particularly of the
S. States, and can only be had by a navigation act encouraging American bottoms
& seamen. In those points of view then alone, itis the interest of the S.
States that navigation acts should be facilitated. Shipping he said was the
worst & most precarious kind of property, and stood in need of public
Mr. WILLIAMSON was in favor of making
two thirds instead of a majority requisite, as more satisfactory to the Southern
people. No useful measure he believed had been lost in Congress for want of nine
votes. As to the weakness of the Southern States, he was not alarmed on that
account. The sickliness of their climate for invaders would prevent their being
made an object. He acknowledged that he did not think the motion requiring 2/3
necessary in itself, because if a majority of 7
Northern States should push their regulations too far, the S. States would build
ships for themselves: but he knew the Southern people were apprehensive on this
subject and would be pleased with the precaution.
Mr. SPAIGHT was against the motion. The
Southern States could at any time save themselves from oppression, by building
ships for their own use.
Mr. BUTLER differed from those who
considered the rejection of the motion as no concession on the part of the S.
States. He considered the interests of these and of the Eastern States, to be as
different as the interests of Russia and Turkey. Being notwith-standing desirous
of conciliating the affections of the East: States. he should vote agst.
requiring 2/3 instead of a majority.
Col. MASON. If the Govt. is to be lasting, it must
be founded in the confidence & affections of the people, and must be so
constructed as to obtain these. The Majority will be governed by their
interests. The Southern States are the minority in both Houses. Is it to be
expected that they will deliver themselves bound hand & foot to the Eastern
States, and enable them to exclaim, in the words of Cromwell on a certain
occasion — "the lord hath delivered them into our hands.
Mr. WILSON took notice of the several
objections and remarked that if every peculiar interest was to be secured,
unanimity ought to be required. The majority he said would be no more governed
by interest than the minority. It was surely better to let the latter be bound
hand and foot than the former. Great inconveniences had, he contended, been
experienced in Congress from the article of confederation requiring nine votes
in certain cases.
Mr. MADISON, went into a pretty full
view of the subject. He observed that the disadvantage to the S. States from a
navigation act, lay chiefly in a temporary rise of freight, attended however
with an increase of Southn. as well as Northern Shipping — with the
emigration of Northern Seamen & merchants to the Southern States — &
with a removal of the existing & injurious retaliations among the States on
each other. The power of foreign nations to obstruct our retaliating measures on
them by a corrupt influence would also be less if a majority shd. be made
competent than if 2/3 of each House shd. be required to Legislative acts in this
case. An abuse of the power would be qualified with all these good effects. But
he thought an abuse was rendered improbable by the provision of 2 branches —
by the independence of the Senate, by the negative of the Executive, by the
interest of Connecticut & N: Jersey which were agricultural, not commercial
States; by the interior interest which was also agricultural in the most
8 by the accession of Western States which
wd. be altogether agricultural. He added that the Southern States would derive
an essential advantage in the general security afforded by the increase of our
maritime strength. He stated the vulnerable situation of them all, and of
Virginia in particular. The increase of the coasting trade, and of seamen, would
also be favorable to the S. States, by increasing, the consumption of their
produce. If the Wealth of the Eastern should in a still greater proportion be
augmented, that wealth wd. contribute the more to the public wants, and be
otherwise a national benefit.
Mr. RUTLIDGE was agst. the motion of his
colleague. It did not follow from a grant of the power to regulate trade, that
it would be abused. At the worst a navigation act could bear hard a little while
only on the S. States. As we are laying the foundation for a great empire, we
ought to take a permanent view of the subject and not look at the present moment
only. He reminded the House of the necessity of securing the West India trade to
this country. That was the great object, and a navigation Act was necessary for
Mr. RANDOLPH said that there were
features so odious in the constitution as it now stands, that he doubted whether
he should be able to agree to it. A rejection of the motion would compleat the
deformity of the system. He took notice of the argument in favor of giving the
power over trade to a majority, drawn from the opportunity foreign powers would
have of obstructing retaliating 9
measures, if two thirds were made requisite. He did not think there was weight
in that consideration. The difference between a majority & two thirds did
not afford room for such an opportunity. Foreign influence would also be more
likely to be exerted on the President who could require three fourths by his
negative. He did not mean however to enter into the merits. What he had in view
was merely to pave the way for a declaration which he might be hereafter obliged
to make if an accumulation of obnoxious ingredients should take place, that he
could not give his assent to the plan.
Mr. GORHAM. If the Government is to be
so fettered as to be unable to relieve the Eastern States what motive can they
have to join in it, and thereby tie their own hands from measures which they
could otherwise take for themselves. The Eastern States were not led to
strengthen the Union by fear for their own safety. He deprecated the
consequences of disunion, but if it should take place it was the Southern part
of the Continent that had the 10 most
reason to dread them. He urged the improbability of a combination against the
interest of the Southern States, the different situations of the Northern &
Middle States being a security against it. It was moreover certain that foreign
ships would never be altogether excluded especially those of Nations in treaty
On the question to pospone in order to take up Mr. Pinkney's Motion
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C.
ay. S. C. no. Geo. ay. 11
The Report of the Committee for striking out sect: 6. requiring two thirds
of each House to pass a navigation act was then agreed to, nem: con:
Mr. BUTLER moved to insert after art:
XV. "If any person bound to service or labor in any of the U. States shall
escape into another State, he or she shall not be discharged from such service
or labor, in consequence of any regulations subsisting in the State to which
they escape, but shall be delivered up to the person justly claiming their
service or labor," which was agreed to nem: con:
Art: XVII 12 being 13
taken up, Mr. GOVr. MORRIS moved to strike out the two last sentences, to wit "If
the admission be consented to, the new States shall be admitted on the same
terms with the original States. But the Legislature may make conditions with the
new States, concerning the public debt, which shall be then subsisting." —
He did not wish to bind down the Legislature to admit Western States on the
terms here stated.
Mr. MADISON opposed the motion,
insisting that the Western States neither would nor ought to submit to a union
which degraded them from an equal rank with 17
Col: MASON. If it were possible by just means to
prevent emigrations to the Western Country, it might be good policy. But go the
people will as they find it for their interest, and the best policy is to treat
them with that equality which will make them friends not enemies.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS,
did not mean to discourage the growth of the Western Country. He knew that to be
impossible. He did not wish however to throw the power into their hands.
Mr. SHERMAN, was agst. the motion, &
for fixing an equality of privileges by the Constitution.
Mr. LANGDON was in favor of the Motion,
he did not know but circumstances might arise which would render it inconvenient
to admit new States on terms of equality.
Mr. WILLIAMSON was for leaving the
Legislature free. The existing small States enjoy an equality now, and for that
reason are admitted to it in the Senate. This reason is not applicable to new
On Mr. Govr. Morris's motion for striking out.
N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. no. N. C.
ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 14
Mr. L. MARTIN & Mr. GOVr. MORRIS moved to
strike out of art XVII. "but to such admission the consent of two thirds of
the members present shall be necessary." Before any question was taken on
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
moved the following proposition as a substitute for the XVII art:
"New States may be admitted by the Legislature into this Union: but no
new State shall be erected within the limits of any of the present States,
without the consent of the Legislature of such State, as well as of the Genl.
The first part to Union inclusive was agreed to nem: con:
Mr. L. MARTIN opposed the latter part.
Nothing he said would so alarm the limited States as to make the consent of the
large States claiming the Western lands, necessary to the establishment of new
States within their limits. It is proposed to guarantee the States. Shall
Vermont be reduced by force in favor of the States claiming it? Frankland &
the Western country of Virginia were in a like situation.
On Mr. Govr. Morris's motion to substitute &c it
was agreed to.
N. H. no. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C.
ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 15
Art: XVII — 16 before the House,
Mr. SHERMAN was against it. He thought
it unnecessary. The Union can not dismember a State without its consent.
Mr. LANGDON thought there was great
weight in the argument of Mr. Luther Martin, and that the proposition
substituted by Mr. Govr. Morris would excite a dangerous opposition to the plan.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
thought on the contrary that the small States would be pleased with the
regulation, as it holds up the idea of dismembering the large States.
Mr. BUTLER. If new States were to be
erected without the consent of the dismembered States, nothing but confusion
would ensue. Whenever taxes should press on the people, demagogues would set up
their schemes of new States.
agreed in general with the ideas of Mr. Sherman, but was afraid that as the
clause stood, Vermont would be subjected to N. York, contrary to the faith
pledged by Congress. He was of opinion that Vermont ought to be compelled to
come into the Union.
Mr. LANGDON said his objections were
connected with the case of Vermont. If they are not taken in, & remain
exempt from taxes, it would prove of great injury to N. Hampshire and the other
Mr. DICKINSON hoped the article would
not be agreed to. He dwelt on the impropriety of requiring the small States to
secure the large ones in their extensive claims of territory.
Mr. WILSON. When the majority of a State
wish to divide they can do so. The aim of those in opposition to the article, he
perceived, was that the Genl. Government should abet the minority, & by that
means divide a State against its own consent.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS.
If the forced division of States is the object of the new System, and is to be
pointed agst. one or two States, he expected, the Gentleman 17
from these would pretty quickly leave us.
1. The year "1787" is omitted in
2. See ante.
3. The word "being" is here
inserted in the transcript.
4. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Georgia, aye — 9; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, no — 2."
5. The transcript uses the word "terms"
in the singular.
*6. He meant the permission to import
slaves. An understanding on the two subjects of navigation and slavery, had
taken place between those parts of the Union, which explains the vote on the
motion depending, as well as the language of Genl Pinkney & others.
7. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
8. The word "and" here inserted
in the transcript.
9. The word "retaliatory" is
substituted in the transcript for "retaliating."
10. The word "the" is omitted
in the transcript.
11. In the transcript the vote reads:
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, aye — 4; New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina,
no — 7."
12. See p. — .
13. The word "then" is here
inserted in the transcript.
14. In the transcript the vote reads: New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, no —
15. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 6;
New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, no — 5."
16. The word "being" is here
inserted in the transcript.
17. The transcript uses the word "Gentleman"
in the plural.
18. The transcript uses the word "Gentleman"
in the plural.