Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787
by James Madison
Saturday, July 7
IN CONVENTION1“Shall the clause allowing each State one vote in the 2d. branch, stand as part of the Report”? being taken up
Mr. GERRY. This is the critical question. He had rather agree to it than have no accomodation. A Governt. short of a proper national plan, if generally acceptable, would be preferable to a proper one which if it could be carried at all, would operate on discontented States. He thought it would be best to suspend the2 question till the Comme. yesterday appointed,3 should make report.
Mr. SHERMAN Supposed that it was the wish of every one that some Genl. Govt. should be established. An equal vote in the 2d. branch would, he thought, be most likely to give it the necessary vigor. The small States have more vigor in their Govts. than the large ones, the more influence therefore the large ones have, the weaker will be the Govt. In the large States it will be most difficult to collect the real & fair sense of the people. Fallacy & undue influence will be practiced with most success: and improper men will most easily get into office. If they vote by States in the 2d. branch, and each State has an equal vote, there must be always a majority of States as well as a majority of the people on the side of public measures, & the Govt. will have decision and efficacy. If this be not the case in the 2d. branch there may be a majority of the4 States agst. public measures, and the difficulty of compelling them to abide by the public determination, will render the Government feebler than it has ever yet been.
Mr. WILSON was not deficient in a conciliating temper, but firmness was sometimes a duty of higher obligation. Conciliation was also misapplied in this instance. It was pursued here rather among the Representatives, than among the Constituents; and it wd. be of little consequence, if not established among the latter; and there could be little hope of its being established among them if the foundation should not be laid in justice and right.
On5 Question shall the words stand as part of the Report?
Massts. divd. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. divd.6 [Note. Several votes were given here in the affirmative or were divd. because another final question was to be taken on the whole report.]
Mr. GERRY thought it would be proper to proceed to enumerate & define the powers to be vested in the Genl. Govt. before a question on the report should be taken, as to the rule of representation in the 2d. branch.
Mr. MADISON, observed that it wd. be impossible to say what powers could be safely & properly vested in the Govt. before it was known, in what manner the States were to be represented in it. He was apprehensive that if a just representation were not the basis of the Govt. it would happen, as it did when the Articles of Confederation were depending, that every effectual prerogative would be withdrawn or withheld, and the New Govt. wd. be rendered as impotent and as shortlived as the old.
Mr. PATTERSON would not decide whether the privilege concerning money bills were a valuable consideration or not: But he considered the mode & rule of representation in the 1st. branch as fully so. and that after the establishment of that point, the small States would never be able to defend themselves without an equality of votes in the 2d. branch. There was no other ground of accomodation. His resolution was fixt. He would meet the large States on that Ground and no other. For himself he should vote agst. the Report, because it yielded too much.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. He had no resolution unalterably fixed except to do what should finally appear to him right. He was agst. the Report because it maintained the improper Constitution of the 2d. branch. It made it another Congress, a mere whisp of straw. It had been sd. by Mr. Gerry that the new Governt. would be partly national, partly federal; that it ought in the first quality to protect individuals; in the second, the States. But in what quality was it to protect the aggregate interest of the whole. Among the many provisions which had been urged, he had seen none for supporting the dignity and splendor of the American Empire. It had been one of our greatest misfortunes that the great objects of the nation had been sacrificed constantly to local views; in like manner as the general interests of States had been sacrificed to those of the Counties. What is to be the check in the Senate? none; unless it be to keep the majority of the people from injuring particular States. But particular States ought to be injured for the sake of a majority of the people, in case their conduct should deserve it. Suppose they should insist on claims evidently unjust, and pursue them in a manner detrimental to the whole body. Suppose they should give themselves up to foreign influence. Ought they to be protected in such cases. They were originally nothing more than colonial corporations. On the declaration of Independence, a Governmt. was to be formed. The small States aware of the necessity of preventing anarchy, and taking advantage of the moment, extorted from the large ones an equality of votes. Standing now on that ground, they demand under the new system greater rights as men, than their fellow Citizens of the large States. The proper answer to them is that the same necessity of which they formerly took advantage, does not now exist, and that the large States are at liberty now to consider what is right, rather than what may be expedient. We must have an efficient Govt. and if there be an efficiency in the local Govts. the former is impossible. Germany alone proves it. Notwithstanding their common diet, notwithstanding the great prerogatives of the Emperor as head of the Empire, and his vast resources, as sovereign of his particular dominions, no union is maintained: foreign influence disturbs every internal operation, & there is no energy whatever in the general Governmt. Whence does this proceed? From the energy of the local authorities; from its being considered of more consequence to support the Prince of Hesse, than the Happiness of the people of Germany. Do Gentlemen wish this to be ye case here. Good God, Sir, is it possible they can so delude themselves. What if all the Charters & Constitutions of the States were thrown into the fire, and all their demagogues into the ocean. What would it be to the happiness of America. And will not this be the case here if we pursue the train in wch. the business lies. We shall establish an Aulic Council without an Emperor to execute its decrees. The same circumstances which unite the people here, unite them in Germany. They have there a common language, a common law, common usages and manners, and a common interest in being united; yet their local jurisdictions destroy every tie. The case was the same in the Grecian States. The United Netherlands are at this time torn in factions. With these examples before our eyes shall we form establishments which must necessarily produce the same effects. It is of no consequence from what districts the 2d. branch shall be drawn, if it be so constituted as to yield an asylum agst. these evils. As it is now constituted he must be agst. its being drawn from the States in equal portions. But shall he was7 ready to join in devising such an amendment of the plan, as will be most likely to secure our liberty & happiness.
Masts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. Maryland ay. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no.8
1 The words “The question” are here inserted in the transcript. Return to text 2 The word “this” is substituted in the transcript for “the.” Return to text 3 The words “yesterday appointed” are transposed to read “appointed yesterday” in the transcript. Return to text 4 The word “the” is omitted in the transcript. Return to text 5 The word “the” is here inserted in the transcript. Return to text 6 In the transcript the vote reads: “Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, aye-6; Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, no-3; Massachusetts, Georgia, divided.” Return to text 7 The words “shall be” are substituted in the transcript for “shall he was.” Return to text 8 In the transcript the vote reads: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, aye-6; New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Sough Carolina, Georgia, no-5.” Return to text