Amendments to the Constitution.

House of Representatives, August 13, 1789.

Mr. GERRY. The Constitution of the United States was proposed by a Convention met at Philadelphia; but with all its importance, it did not possess as high authority as the President, Senate, and House of Representatives of the Union; for that Convention was not convened in consequence of any express will of the people, but an implied one, through their members in the state legislatures. The Constitution derived no authority from the first Convention; it was concurred in by conventions of the people, and that concurrence armed it with power, and invested it with dignity. Now, the Congress of the United States are expressly authorized, by the sovereign and uncontrollable voice of the people, to propose amendments whenever two thirds of both houses shall think fit. Now, if this is the fact, the propositions of amendment will be found to originate with a higher authority than the original system. The conventions of the states respectively have agreed, for the people, that the state legislatures shall be authorized to decide upon these amendments in the manner of a convention. If these acts of the state legislatures are not good, because they are not specifically instructed by their constituents, neither were the acts calling the first and subsequent conventions.

Mr. AMES. It is not necessary to increase the representation, in order {405} to guard against corruption; because no one will presume to think that a body composed like this, and increased in a ratio of 4 to 3, will be much less exposed to sale than we are. Nor is a greater number necessary to secure the rights and liberties of the people, for the representative of a great body of people is likely to be more watchful of its interests than the representative of a lesser body.

Mr. MADISON. Suppose they, the people, instruct a representative by his vote to violate the Constitution; is he at liberty to obey such instructions? Suppose he is instructed to patronize certain measures, and from circumstances known to him, but not to his constituents, he is convinced that they will endanger the public good; is he obliged to sacrifice his own judgment to them? Is he absolutely bound to perform what he is instructed to do? Suppose he refuses; will his vote be the less valid, or the community be disengaged from that obedience which is due, from the laws of the Union? If his vote must inevitably have the same effect, what sort of a right is this, in the Constitution, to instruct a representative who has a right to disregard the order, if he pleases? In this sense, the right does not exist; in the other sense, it does exist, and is provided largely for.