The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
SEPr 5. 1787
1 IN CONVENTION
Mr. BREARLEY from the Committee of
Eleven made a farther report as follows,
(1) To add to the clause "to declare war"
the words "and grant letters of marque and reprisal"
(2) To add to the clause "to raise and support
armies" the words "but no appropriation of money to that use shall be
for a longer term than two years"
(3) Instead of sect: 12. art 6. say — "All
bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives, and
shall be subject to alterations and amendments by the Senate: no money shall be
drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law."
(4) Immediately before the last clause of sect. 1.
art. 7. insert "To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever
over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may by Cession of
particular States and the acceptance of the Legislature become the seat of the
Government of the U. S. and to exercise like authority over all places purchased
for the erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, Dock-Yards, and other needful
(5) "To promote the progress of Science and
2 useful arts by securing for limited
times to authors & inventors, the exclusive right to their respective
writings and discoveries"
This report being taken up. — The (1) clause was agreed to nem: con:
To the (2) clause Mr. GERRY objected
that it admitted of appropriations to an army, for two years instead of one, for
which he could not conceive a reason. that it implied that 3
there was to be a standing army which he inveighed against as dangerous to
liberty, as unnecessary even for so great an extent of Country as this, and if
necessary, some restriction on the number & duration ought to be provided:
Nor was this a proper time for such an innovation. The people would not bear it.
Mr. SHERMAN remarked that the
appropriations were permitted only, not required to be for two years. As the
Legislature is to be biennially elected, it would be inconvenient to require
appropriations to be for one year, as there might be no Session within the time
necessary to renew them. He should himself he said like a reasonable restriction
on the number and continuance of an army in time of peace.
The clause (2) was 4 agreed to nem:
The (3) clause, Mr. GOVr. MORRIS moved to postpone. It had been agreed to in the
Committee on the ground of compromise, and he should feel himself at liberty to
dissent to 5 it, if on the whole he should
not be satisfied with certain other parts to be settled. —
Mr. PINKNEY 2ded. the motion
Mr. SHERMAN was for giving immediate
ease to those who looked on this clause as of great moment, and for trusting to
their concurrence in other proper measures.
On the question for postponing
N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. no. N. C.
ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 6
So much of the (4) clause as related to the seat of Government was agreed to
On the residue, to wit, "to exercise like authority over all places
purchased for forts &c.
Mr. GERRY contended that this power
might be made use of to enslave any particular State by buying up its territory,
and that the strongholds proposed would be a means of awing the State into an
undue obedience to the Genl. Government.
Mr. KING thought himself the provision
unnecessary, the power being already involved: but would move to insert after
the word "purchased" the words "by the consent of the Legislature
of the State" This would certainly make the power safe.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
2ded. the motion, which was agreed to nem: con: as was then the residue of the
clause as amended.
The (5) clause was agreed to nem: con:
The following resolution & order being reported from the Committee of
eleven, to wit,
"Resolved that the U. S. in Congress be requested to allow and cause to
be paid to the Secretary and other officers of this Convention such sums in
proportion to their respective times of service, as are allowed to the Secretary
& similar officers of Congress."
"Ordered that the Secretary make out & transmit to the Treasury
office of the U. S. an account for the said Services, & for the incidental
expenses of this Convention"
The resolution & order were separately agreed to nem: con:
Mr. GERRY gave notice that he should
move to reconsider articles XIX. XX. XXI. XXII.
Mr. WILLIAMSON gave like notice as to
the Article fixing the number of Representatives, which he thought too small. He
wished also to allow Rho: Island more than one, as due to her probable number of
people, and as proper to stifle any pretext arising from her absence on the
The Report made yesterday as to the appointment of the Executive being
7 taken up.
Mr. PINKNEY renewed his opposition to
the mode, arguing 1.
8 that the electors will not have
sufficient knowledge of the fittest men, & will be swayed by an attachment
to the eminent men of their respective States. Hence 2dly. the dispersion of the
votes would leave the appointment with the Senate, and as the President's
reappointment will thus depend on the Senate he will be the mere creature of
that body. 3. 8 He will combine with the
Senate agst. the House of Representatives. 4.
8 This change in the mode of election was
meant to get rid of the ineligibility of the President a second time, whereby he
will become fixed for life under the auspices of the Senate
Mr. GERRY did not object to this plan of
constituting the Executive in itself, but should be governed in his final vote
by the powers that may be given to the President.
Mr. RUTLIDGE was much opposed to the
plan reported by the Committee. It would throw the whole power into the Senate.
He was also against a re-eligibility. He moved to postpone the Report under
consideration & take up the original plan of appointment by the Legislature,
to wit. "He shall be elected by joint ballot by the Legislature to which
election a majority of the votes of the members present shall be required: He
shall hold his office during the term of seven years; but shall not be elected a
On this motion to postpone
N. H. divd. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N.
C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. no. 9
Col. MASON admitted that there were objections to an
appointment by the Legislature as originally planned. He had not yet made up his
mind, but would state his objections to the mode proposed by the Committee. 1.
10 It puts the appointment in fact into
the hands of the Senate, as it will rarely happen that a majority of the whole
votes will fall on any one candidate: and as the Existing President will always
be one of the 5 highest, his reappointment will of course depend on the Senate.
10 Considering the powers of the
President & those of the Senate, if a coalition should be established
between these two branches, they will be able to subvert the Constitution —
The great objection with him would be removed by depriving the Senate of the
eventual election. He accordingly moved to strike out the words "if such
number be a majority of that of the electors."
Mr. WILLIAMSON 2ded. the motion. He
could not agree to the clause without some such modification. He preferred
making the highest tho' not having a majority of the votes, President, to a
reference of the matter to the Senate. Referring the appointment to the Senate
lays a certain foundation for corruption & aristocracy.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS
thought the point of less consequence than it was supposed on both sides. It is
probable that a majority of votes will fall on the same man. As each elector is
to give two votes, more than 1/4 will give a majority. Besides as one vote is to
be given to a man out of the State, and as this vote will not be thrown away,
1/2 the votes will fall on characters eminent & generally known. Again if
the President shall have given satisfaction, the votes will turn on him of
course, and a majority of them will reappoint him, without resort to the Senate:
If he should be disliked, all disliking him, would take care to unite their
votes so as to ensure his being supplanted.
Col. MASON those who think there is no danger of
there not being a majority for the same person in the first instance, ought to
give up the point to those who think otherwise.
Mr. SHERMAN reminded the opponents of
the new mode proposed that if the small states had the advantage in the Senate's
deciding among the five highest candidates, the large States would have in fact
the nomination of these candidates
On the motion of Col: Mason
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay.
*11 Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. no.
Mr. WILSON moved to strike out "Senate"
and insert the word "Legislature"
Mr. MADISON considered it as
13 a primary object to render an eventual
resort to any part of the Legislature improbable. He was apprehensive that the
proposed alteration would turn the attention of the large States too much to the
appointment of candidates, instead of aiming at an effectual appointment of the
officer, as the large States would predominate in the Legislature which would
have the final choice out of the Candidates. Whereas if the Senate in which the
small States predominate should have this
14 final choice, the concerted effort of
the large States would be to make the appointment in the first instance
Mr. RANDOLPH. We have in some
revolutions of this plan made a bold stroke for Monarchy. We are now doing the
same for an aristocracy. He dwelt on the tendency of such an influence in the
Senate over the election of the President in addition to its other powers, to
convert that body into a real & dangerous Aristocracy.
Mr. DICKINSON was in favor of giving the
eventual election to the Legislature, instead of the Senate. It was too much
influence to be superadded to that body.
On the question moved by Mr. Wilson
N. H. divd. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N.
C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. no. 15
Mr. MADISON & Mr. WILLIAMSON moved to strike out the word "majority"
and insert "one third" so that the eventual power might not be
exercised if less than a majority, but not less than 1/3 of the Electors should
vote for the same person.
Mr. GERRY objected that this would put
it in the power of three or four States to put in whom they pleased.
Mr. WILLIAMSON. There are seven States
which do not contain one third of the people. If the Senate are to appoint, less
than one sixth of the people will have the power.
On the question
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C.
ay. S. C. no. Geo. no. 16
Mr. GERRY suggested that the eventual
election should be made by six Senators and seven Representatives chosen by
joint ballot of both Houses.
Mr. KING observed that the influence of
the Small States in the Senate was somewhat balanced by the influence of the
large States in bringing forward the candidates; *17
and also by the Concurrence of the small States in the Committee in the clause
vesting the exclusive origination of Money bills in the House of
Col: MASON moved to strike out the word "five"
and insert the word "three" as the highest candidates for the Senate
to choose out of.
Mr. GERRY 2ded. the motion
Mr. SHERMAN would sooner give up the
plan. He would prefer seven or thirteen.
On the question moved by Col: Mason & Mr. Gerry
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Delaware Md. no. Va. ay. N. C.
ay. S. C. no. Geo. no. 19
Mr. SPAIGHT and Mr. RUTLIDGE moved to strike out "five" and insert "thirteen"
— to which all the States disagreed — except N. C. & S. C.
Mr. MADISON & Mr. WILLIAMSON moved to insert after "Electors" the words
"who shall have balloted" so that the non voting electors not being
counted might not increase the number necessary as a majority of the whole, to
decide the choice without the agency of the Senate.
On this question
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C.
ay. S. C. no. Geo. no. 20
Mr. DICKINSON moved, in order to remove
ambiguity from the intention of the clause as explained by the vote, to add,
after the words "if such number be a majority of the whole number of the
electors" the word "appointed"
On this motion
N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Con: ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Delaware Md. ay. Va. no. N. C.
no. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 21
Col: MASON. As the mode of appointment is now
regulated, he could not forbear expressing his opinion that it is utterly
inadmissible. He would prefer the Government of Prussia to one which will put
all power into the hands of seven or eight men, and fix an Aristocracy worse
than absolute monarchy. The words "and of their giving their votes"
being inserted on motion for that purpose, after the words "The Legislature
may determine the time of chusing and assembling the electors."
The House adjourned
1. They year "1787" is omitted
in the transcript.
2. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
3. The word "that" is omitted in
4. The word "then" is here
inserted in the transcript.
5. The word "to" is crossed out
in the transcript and "from" is written above it.
6. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 9; Massachusetts, Virginia, no —
7. The word "then" is here
inserted in the transcript.
8. The figures "1," "3"
and "4" are changed to "first," "Thirdly" and "Fourthly"
in the transcript.
9. In the transcript the vote reads: "North
Carolina, South Carolina, aye — 2; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, no — 8; New Hampshire,
10. The figures "1" and "2"
are changed in the transcript to "First" and "Secondly."
*11. In printed Journal Maryland —
12. In the transcript the vote reads: "Maryland,
*11 North Carolina, aye; the other nine
13. The word "as" is stricken
out in the transcript.
14. The word "the" is
substituted in the transcript for "this."
15. In the transcript the vote reads: "Pennsylvania,
Virginia, South Carolina, aye — 3; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey,
Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, no — 7; New Hampshire,
16. In the transcript the vote reads: "Virginia,
North Carolina, aye; the other nine States, no."
*17. This explains the compromise
18 by Mr. Govr. Morris. Col. Mason Mr.
Gerry & other members from large States set great value on this privilege of
originating money bills. Of this the members from the small States, with some
from the large States who wished a high mounted Govt endeavored to avail
themselves, by making that privilege, the price of arrangements in the
constitution favorable to the small States, and to the elevation of the
18. The words "alluded to" are
substituted in the transcript for "mentioned above."
19. In the transcript the vote reads: "Virginia,
North Carolina, aye; nine States, no."
20. In the transcript the vote reads: "Pennsylvania,
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, aye — 4; New Hampshire, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia, no — 7."
21. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 9; Virginia, North Carolina, no —