Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

by James Madison

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Monday, July 16


On the question for agreeing to the whole Report as amended & including the equality of votes in the 2d. branch. it passed in the Affirmative.

Mas. divided Mr. Gerry, Mr. Strong, ay. Mr. King Mr. Ghorum no. Cont. ay. N.J.ay. Del.ay. Md.ay. N.C. ay. Mr. Spaight no. [Here enter the whole in the words entered in the Journal July 16]2

The whole, thus passed is in the words following viz

“Resolved that in the original formation of the Legislature of the U. S. the first branch thereof shall consist of sixty five members, of which number N. Hampshire shall send 3. Massts. 8. Rh. I. 1. Connt. 5. N. Y. 6. N. J. 4. Pena. 8. Del. 1. Maryd. 6. Virga. 10. N. C. 5. S. C. 5. Geo. 3.

-But as the present situation of the States may probably alter in the number of their inhabitants, the Legislature of the U. S. shall be authorized from time to time to apportion the number of Reps.; and in case any of the States shall hereafter be divided, or enlarged by, addition of territory, or any two or more States united, or any new States created with3 the limits of the U. S. the Legislature of the U. S. shall possess authority to regulate the number of Reps. in any of the foregoing cases, upon the principle of their number of inhabitants, according to the provisions hereafter mentioned, namely4- provided always that representation ought to be proportioned according to direct taxation; and in order to ascertain the alteration in the direct taxation, which may be required from time to time by the changes in the relative circumstances of the States-

Resolved, that a Census be taken within six years from the 1st. meeting of the Legislature of the U. S. and once within the term of every 10 years afterwards of all the inhabitants of the U. S. in the manner and according to the ratio recommended by Congress in their Resolution of April 18.5 1783, and that the Legislature of the U. S. shall proportion the direct taxation accordingly-

“Resolved, that all bills for raising or appropriating money, and for fixing the salaries of officers of the Govt. of the U. S. shall originate in the first branch of the Legislature of the U. S. and shall not be altered or amended in the 2d. branch: and that no money shall be drawn from the public Treasury, but in pursuance of appropriations to be originated in the 1st. branch.

“Resolvd. that in the 2d. branch of the Legislature of the U. S. each State shall have an equal vote.”

The 6th. Resol: in the Report from the Come. of the whole House, which had been postponed in order to consider the 7 & 8th. Resolns.: was now resumed. see the Resoln.

The 1st. member6 “That the Natl. Legislature ought to possess the Legislative Rights vested in Congs. by the Confederation.” was agreed to nem. Con.

The next,7 “And moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent; or in which the harmony of the U. S. may be interrupted by the exercise of individual legislation,” being read for a question

Mr. BUTLER calls for some explanation of the extent of this power: particularly of the word incompetent. The vagueness of the terms rendered it impossible for any precise judgment to be formed.

Mr. GHORUM. The vagueness of the terms constitutes the propriety of them. We are now establishing general principles, to be extended hereafter into details which will be precise & explicit.

Mr. RUTLIDGE, urged the objection started by Mr. Butler and moved that the clause should be committed to the end that a specification of the powers comprised in the general terms, might be reported.

On the question for a8 commitment, the States9 were equally divided.

Mas. no. Cont. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N.C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. ay:10 So it was lost.

Mr. RANDOLPH. The vote of this morning [involving an equality of suffrage in 2d. branch] had embarrassed the business extremely. All the powers given in the Report from the Come. of the whole, were founded on the supposition that a Proportional representation was to prevail in both branches of the Legislature. When he came here this morning his purpose was to have offered some propositions that might if possible have united a great majority of votes, and particularly might provide agst. the danger suspected on the part of the smaller States, by enumerating the cases in which it might lie, and allowing an equality of votes in such cases. FN*But finding from the preceding vote that they persist in demanding an equal vote in all cases, that they have succeeded in obtaining it, and that N. York if present would probably be on the same side, he could not but think we were unprepared to discuss this subject further. It will probably be in vain to come to any final decision with a bare majority on either side. For these reasons he wished the Convention might13 adjourn, that the large States might consider the steps proper to be taken in the present solemn crisis of the business, and that the small States might also deliberate on the means of conciliation.

Mr. PATTERSON, thought with Mr. R. that it was high time for the Convention to adjourn that the rule of secrecy ought to be rescinded, and that our Constituents should be consulted. No conciliation could be admissible on the part of the smaller States on any other ground than that of an equality of votes in the 2d. branch. If Mr. Randolph would reduce to form his motion for an adjournment sine die, he would second it with all his heart.

Genl. PINKNEY wished to know of Mr. R. whether he meant an adjournment sine die, or only an adjournment for the day. If the former was meant, it differed much from his idea. He could not think of going to S. Carolina and returning again to this place. Besides it was chimerical to suppose that the States if consulted would ever accord separately, and beforehand.

Mr. RANDOLPH, had never entertained an idea of an adjournment sine die; & was sorry that his meaning had been so readily & strangely misinterpreted. He had in view merely an adjournment till tomorrow, in order that some conciliatory experiment might if possible be devised, and that in case the smaller States should continue to hold back, the larger might then take such measures, he would not say what, as might be necessary.

Mr. PATTERSON seconded the adjournment till tomorrow, as an opportunity seemed to be wished by the larger States to deliberate further on conciliatory expedients. On the question for adjourning till tomorrow, the States were equally divided.

Mas. no. Cont. no. N.J.ay. Pa.ay. Md.ay. Va.ay. N.C.ay. So it was lost.

Mr. BROOME thought it his duty to declare his opinion agst. an adjournment sine die, as had been urged by Mr. Patterson. Such a measure he thought would be fatal. Something must be done by the Convention, tho’ it should be by a bare majority.

Mr. GERRY observed that Masts. was opposed to an adjournment, because they saw no new ground of compromise. But as it seemed to be the opinion of so many States that a trial shd-be made, the State would now concur in the adjournmt.

Mr. RUTLIDGE could see no need of an adjournt. because he could see no chance of a compromise. The little States were fixt. They had repeatedly & solemnly declared themselves to be so. All that the large States then had to do, was to decide whether they would yield or not. For his part he conceived that altho’ we could not do what we thought best, in itself, we ought to do something. Had we not better keep the Govt. up a little longer, hoping that another Convention will supply our omissions, than abandon every thing to hazard. Our Constituents will be very little satisfied with us if we take the latter course.

Mr. RANDOLPH & Mr. KING renewed the motion to adjourn till tomorrow.

On the question. Mas. ay. Cont. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. ay. Va.ay. N.C.ay. S.C.ay. Geo.divd.15


On the morning following before the hour of the convention a number of the members from the larger States by common agreement met for the purpose of consulting on the proper steps to be taken in consequence of the vote in favor of an equal Representation in the 2d. branch, and the apparent inflexibility of the smaller States on that point. Several members from the latter States also attended. The time was wasted in vague conversation on the subject, without any specific proposition or agreement. It appeared indeed that the opinions of the members who disliked the equality of votes differed so16much as to the importance of that point, and as to the policy of risking a failure of any general act of the Convention, by inflexibly opposing it. Several of them supposing that no good Governnt. could or would be built on that foundation, and that as a division of the Convention into two opinions was unavoidable; it would be better that the side comprising the principal States, and a majority of the people of America, should propose a scheme of Govt. to the States, than that a scheme should be proposed on the other side, would have concurred in a firm opposition to the smaller States, and in a separate recommendation, if eventually necessary. Others seemed inclined to yield to the smaller States, and to concur in such an act however imperfect & exceptionable, as might be agreed on by the Convention as a body, tho’ decided by a bare majority of States and by a minority of the people of the U. States. It is probable that the result of this consultation satisfied the smaller States that they had nothing to apprehend from a union of the larger, in any plan whatever agst. the equality of votes in the 2d. branch.

1 In the transcript the vote reads: “Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina Mr. Spaight, no, aye-5; Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, no-4; Massachusetts, divided, Mr. Gerry, Mr. Strong, aye; Mr. King, Mr. Gorham, no.”  Return to text

2 Madison’s direction is omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

3 The word “within” is substituted in the transcript for the word “with.”  Return to text

4 The word “namely” is omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

5 The date “April 18″ is changed to “the eighteenth of April” in the transcript.  Return to text

6 The words “The 1st. member” are omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

7 The words “The next” are omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

8 The word “a” is omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

9 The word “votes” is substituted in the transcript for “States.”  Return to text

10 In the transcript the vote reads: “Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, ave 5; Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, no-5.”  Return to text

FN* See the paper in 11 appendix communicated by Mr. R. to J.M. July 10. 12

11 The word “the” is here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

12 The transcript here inserts “No.-”  Return to text

13 The word “to” is substituted in the transcript for “might.”  Return to text

14 In the transcript the vote reads: “New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina aye-5; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia, no-5.”  Return to text

15 In the transcript the vote reads: “Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia North Carolina, South Carolina, aye-7; Connecticut, Delaware, no-2; Georgia, divided.”  Return to text

16 The word “so” is omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

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