Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

by James Madison


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Tuesday, August 28

IN CONVENTION

Mr. SHERMAN from the Committee to whom were referred several propositions on the 25th. instant, made the following report-2

That there be inserted after the 4 clause of3 7th. section

“Nor shall any regulation of commerce or revenue give preference to the ports of one State over those of another, or oblige vessels bound to or from any State to enter, clear or pay duties in another and all tonnage, duties, imposts & excises laid by the Legislature shall be uniform throughout the U. S.”

Ordered to lie on the table.4

Art XI Sect. 35, 6 It was moved to strike out the words

“it shall be appellate” & to insert the words “the supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction,”-in order to prevent uncertainty whether “it” referred to the supreme Court, or to the Judicial power.

On the question

N. H ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. abst. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. ay. N C ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay.7

Sect. 4.8 was so amended nem; con; as to read “The trial of all crimes (except in cases of impeachment) shall be by jury, and such trial shall be held in the State where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, then the trial shall be at such place or places as the Legislature may direct.” The object of this amendment was to provide for trial by jury of offences committed out of any State.

Mr. PINKNEY, urging the propriety of securing the benefit of the Habeas corpus in the most ample manner, moved “that it should not be suspended but on the most urgent occasions, & then only for a limited time, not exceeding twelve months”

Mr. RUTLIDGE was for declaring the Habeas Corpus inviolable.9 He did not conceive that a suspension could ever be necessary at the same time through all the States.

Mr. Govr. MORRIS moved that “The privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended; unless where in cases of Rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

Mr. WILSON doubted whether in any case a suspension could be necessary, as the discretion now exists with Judges, in most important cases to keep in Gaol or admit to Bail.

The first part of Mr. Govr. Morris’ motion, to the word “unless” was agreed to nem: con: -on the remaining part;

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no.:10

Sec. 5. of art: XI.8 was agreed to nem: con:10 11

Art: XII.8 being 12 taken up.

Mr. WILSON & Mr. SHERMAN moved to insert after the words “coin money” the words “nor emit bills of credit, nor make any thing but gold & silver coin a tender in payment of debts” making these prohibitions absolute, instead of making the measures allowable (as in the XIII art:) with the consent of the Legislature of the U. S.

Mr. GHORUM thought the purpose would be as well secured by the provision of art: XIII which makes the consent of the Genl Legislature necessary, and that in that mode, no opposition would be excited; whereas an absolute prohibition of paper money would rouse the most desperate opposition from its partizans.

Mr. SHERMAN thought this a favorable crisis for crushing paper money. If the consent of the Legislature could authorise emissions of it, the friends of paper money, would make every exertion to get into the Legislature in order to licence it.

The question being divided; on the 1st. part-”nor emit bills of credit”

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. divd. Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay.13

The remaining part of Mr. Wilson’s & Sherman’s motion was agreed to nem: con:

Mr. KING moved to add, in the words used in the Ordinance of Congs. establishing new States, a prohibition on the States to interfere in private contracts.

Mr. Govr. MORRIS. This would be going too far. There are a thousand laws, relating to bringing actions-limitations of actions &14 which affect contracts. The Judicial power of the U. S. will be a protection in cases within their jurisdiction; and within the State itself a majority must rule, whatever may be the mischief done among themselves.

Mr. SHERMAN. Why then prohibit bills of credit?

Mr. WILSON was in favor of Mr. King’s motion.

Mr. MADISON admitted that inconveniences might arise from such a prohibition but thought on the whole it would be overbalanced by the utility of it. He conceived however that a negative on the State laws could alone secure the effect. Evasions might and would be devised by the ingenuity of15 Legislatures.

Col: MASON. This is carrying the restraint too far. Cases will happen that can not be foreseen, where some kind of interference will be proper & essential. He mentioned the case of limiting the period for bringing actions on open account-that of bonds after a certain lapse of time-asking whether it was proper to tie the hands of the States from making provision in such cases.

Mr. WILSON. The answer to these objections is thatretrospective16 interferences17 only are to be prohibited.

Mr. MADISON. Is not that already done by the prohibition of ex post facto laws, which will oblige the Judges to declare such interferences null & void.

Mr. RUTLIDGE moved instead of Mr. King’s Motion to insert- “nor pass bills of attainder nor retrospective18 laws” on which motion

N. H. ay. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Virga. no. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay.19

Mr. MADISON moved to insert after the word “reprisal” (art. XII) the words “nor lay embargoes.” He urged that such acts by the States would be unnecessary-impolitic-and unjust.

Mr. SHERMAN thought the States ought to retain this power in order to prevent suffering & injury to their poor.

Col: MASON thought the amendment would be not only improper but dangerous, as the Genl. Legislature would not sit constantly and therefore could not interpose at the necessary moments. He enforced his objection by appealing to the necessity of sudden embargoes during the war, to prevent exports, particularly in the case of a blockade.

Mr. Govr. MORRIS considered the provision as unnecessary; the power of regulating trade between State & State already vested in the Genl. Legislature, being sufficient.

On the question

N. H. no. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. no.20

Mr. MADISON moved that the words “nor lay imposts or duties on imports” be transferred from art: XIII where the consent of the Genl. Legislature may licence the act-into art: XII which will make the prohibition on the States absolute. He observed that as the States interested in this power by which they could tax the imports of their neighbors passing thro’ their markets, were a majority, they could give the consent of the Legislature, to the injury of N. Jersey, N. Carolina &c-

Mr. WILLIAMSON 2ded. the motion

Mr. SHERMAN thought the power might safely be left to the Legislature of the U. States.

Col: MASON, observed that particular States might wish to encourage by import21 duties certain manufactures for which they enjoyed natural advantages, as Virginia, the manufacture of Hemp &c.

Mr. MADISON. The encouragement of Manufactures in that mode requires duties not only on imports directly from foreign Countries, but from the other States in the Union, which would revive all the mischiefs experienced from the want of a Genl. Government over commerce.

On the question

N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del: ay. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. no.22

Art: XII as amended23 agreed to nem: con:

Art: XIII24 being 25 taken up. Mr. KING moved to insert after the word “imports” the words “or exports” so as to prohibit the states from taxing either,-&

On this question it passed in the affirmative.

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. ay. P. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. no.26

Mr. SHERMAN moved to add after the word “exports”-the words “nor with such consent but for the use of the U. S.”-so as to carry the proceeds of all State duties on imports &27 exports, into the common Treasury.

Mr. MADISON liked the motion as preventing all State imposts- but lamented the complexity we were giving to the commercial system.

Mr. Govr. MORRIS thought the regulation necessary to prevent the Atlantic States from endeavoring to tax the Western States-& promote their interest by opposing the navigation of the Mississippi which would drive the Western people into the arms of G. Britain.

Mr. CLYMER thought the encouragement of the Western Country was suicide on28 the old States. If the States have such different interests that they can not be left to regulate their own manufactures without encountering the interests of other States, it is a proof that they are not fit to compose one nation.

Mr. KING was afraid that the regulation moved by Mr. Sherman would too much interfere with a policy of States respecting their manufactures, which may be necessary. Revenue he reminded the House was the object of the general Legislature.

On Mr. Sherman’s motion

N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay.29

Art XIII was then agreed to as amended.

Art. XIV30 was 31 taken up.

Genl. PINKNEY was not satisfied with it. He seemed to wish some provision should be included in favor of property in slaves.

On the question on Art: XIV.

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. divided.32

Art: XV30 being taken up, the words “high misdemesnor,” were struck out, and33 “other crime” inserted, in order to comprehend all proper cases: it being doubtful whether “high misdemeanor” had not a technical meaning too limited.

Mr. BUTLER and Mr. PINKNEY moved “to require fugitive slaves and servants to be delivered up like criminals.”

Mr. WILSON. This would oblige the Executive of the State to do it at the public expence.

Mr. SHERMAN saw no more propriety in the public seizing and surrendering a slave or servant, than a horse.

Mr. BUTLER withdrew his proposition in order that some particular provision might be made apart from this article. Art XV as amended was then agreed to nem: con:

Adjourned


1 The year “1787″ is omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

2 The phrase “which was ordered to lie on the table” is here added in the transcript.  Return to text

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

4 This sentence is omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

5 See ante.  Return to text

6 The words “being considered” are here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

7 In the transcript the vote reads: “New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye-9; Maryland, no-1; New Jersey absent.”  Return to text

8 See ante.  Return to text

9 The word “inviolate” is substituted in the transcript for “invilable.”  Return to text

10 In the transcript the vote reads: “New Nampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, aye-7; North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-3.”  Return to text

11 The vote on this section as stated in the printed Journal is not unanimous; the statement here is probably the right one.  Return to text

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

13 In the transcrip the vote reads: “New Nampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye-8; Virginia, no-1; Maryland, devided.”  Return to text

14 The character “&” is changed in the transcript to “&.”  Return to text

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

16 The transcript does not italicize the word “retrospective.”  Return to text

17 The transcript italicized the word “interferences.” Return to text

18 In the printed Journal-”ex post facto.”  Return to text

19 In the transcript the vote reads: “New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye-7; Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, no-3.”  Return to text

20 In the transcript the vote reads: “Massachusetts, Delaware, South Carolina, aye-3; New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, no-8.”  Return to text

21 The word “impost” is substituted in the transcript for “import.”  Return to text

22 In the transcript the vote reads: “New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina, aye-4; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, no-7.”  Return to text

23 The words “was then” are here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

24 See ante.  Return to text

25 The words “was then” are substituted in the transcript for “being.”  Return to text

27 In the transcript the vote reads: “New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, aye-6; Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, no-5.”  Return to text

27 The word “or” is substituted for “&” in the transcript.  Return to text

28 The words “the part of” are here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

29 In the transcript the vote reads: New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye- 9; Massachusetts, Maryland, no-2.”  Return to text

30 See ante.  Return to text

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

32 In the transcript the vote reads; “New Nampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, aye-9; Georgia, divided.  Return to text

33 The expression “the words” is here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text


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Contents

Introduction

The year was 1787. The place: the State House in Philadelphia. This is the story of the framing of the federal Constitution.

The Convention

Read the four-act drama and day-by-day summary by Gordon Lloyd, as well as Madison’s Notes on the Convention.

Interactive Map of Historic Philadelphia in the Late 18th Century

Learn about historic Philadelphia and where the founders stayed, ate, and met.

View Interactive

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