Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787
by James Madison
Friday, July 6
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 inconveniency1 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 to3 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 with4 whites: But wd. agree to the ratio settled by Congs. He contended that Congs. had no right under the articles of to authorize the admission of new States; no such case having been provided for.
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
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 a6 rule of proportion.
On the question7 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. ay.
The clause relating to equality of votes being under consideration,
Docr. FRANKLIN 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 together.
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. 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.
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 yes10 or no,10 it was of little consequence which should say yes 10 or no10 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 point.
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.
Docr. FRANKLIN 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 Hon’ble President12 [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 other.
Genl. PINKNEY was astonished that this point should have been considered as a concession. He remarked that the restriction13 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 itself.
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 Report-
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
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. Return to text 2 The word “Genl.” is omitted in the transcript. Return to text 3 The word “to” is omitted in the transcript. Return to text 4 The word “the” is here inserted in the transcript. Return to text 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.” Return to text 6 The word “the” is substituted in the transcript for the word “a.” Return to text 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.” Return to text 8 The figure “6″ is here inserted in the transcript. Return to text 9 he figure “3″ is here inserted in the transcript. Return to text 10 The transcript italicizes the words “yes” and “no.” Return to text 11 The word “branch” is here inserted in the transcript. Return to text 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.” Return to text 13 The word “as” is here inserted in the transcript. Return to text 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, divided.” Return to text 15 The phrase “For the words of the Rule” is substituted in the transcript for “The words of the rule are.” Return to text 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. Return to text 17 The word “this” is substituted in the transcript for “the”. Return to text 18 The figure “9″ is here added in the transcript. Return to text 19 The figure “2″ is here added in the transcript. Return to text