Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

by James Madison


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Friday, August 31

IN CONVENTION

Mr. KING moved to add to the end of art: XXI the words “between the said States” so as to confine the operation of the Govt. to the States ratifying it.

On the question

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Md. no. Virga. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay.2

Mr. MADISON proposed to fill the blank in the article with “any seven or more States entitled to thirty three members at least in the House of Representatives according to the allotment made in the 3 Sect: of art: 4.” This he said would require the concurrence of a majority both of the States and3 people.

Mr. SHERMAN doubted the propriety of authorizing less than all the States to execute the Constitution, considering the nature of the existing Confederation. Perhaps all the States may concur, and on that supposition it is needless to hold out a breach of faith.

Mr. CLYMER and Mr. CARROL moved to postpone the consideration of Art: XXI in order to take up the Reports of Committees not yet acted on. On this question, the States were equally divided.

N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. divd. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. no. N. C no. S. C. no. G. ay.4

Mr. Govr. MORRIS moved to strike out “Conventions of the” after “ratifications,” leaving the States to pursue their own modes of ratification.

Mr. CARROL mentioned the mode of altering the Constitution of Maryland pointed out therein, and that no other mode could be pursued in that State.

Mr. KING thought that striking out “Conventions” as the requisite mode was equivalent to giving up the business altogether. Conventions alone, which will avoid all the obstacles from the complicated formation of the Legislatures, will succeed, and if not positively required by the plan, its enemies will oppose that mode.

Mr. Govr. MORRIS said he meant to facilitate the adoption of the plan, by leaving the modes approved by the several State Constitutions to be followed.

Mr. MADISON considered it best to require Conventions; among other reasons, for this, that the powers given to the Genl. Govt. being taken from the State Govts. the Legislatures would be more disinclined than conventions composed in part at least of other men; and if disinclined, they could devise modes apparently promoting, but really, thwarting the ratification. The difficulty in Maryland was no greater than in other States, where no mode of change was pointed out by the Constitution, and all officers were under oath to support it. The people were in fact, the fountain of all power, and by resorting to them, all difficulties were got over. They could alter constitutions as they pleased. It was a principle in the Bills of rights, that first principles might be resorted to.

Mr. Mc.HENRY said that the officers of Govt. in Maryland were under oath to support the mode of alteration prescribed by the Constitution.

Mr. GHORUM, urged the expediency of “Conventions” also Mr. PINKNEY, for reasons, formerly urged on a discussion of this question.

Mr. L. MARTIN insisted on a reference to the State Legislatures. He urged the danger of commotions from a resort to the people & to first principles in which the Governments might be on one side & the people on the other. He was apprehensive of no such consequences however in Maryland, whether the Legislature or the people should be appealed to. Both of them would be generally against the Constitution. He repeated also the peculiarity in the Maryland Constitution.

Mr. KING observed that the Constitution of Massachussets was made unalterable till the year 1790, yet this was no difficulty with him. The State must have contemplated a recurrence to first principles before they sent deputies to this Convention.

Mr. SHERMAN moved to postpone art. XXI5 & 6 take up art: XXII 5 on which question,

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

On Mr. Govr. Morris’s motion to strike out “Conventions of the,” it was negatived.

N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. no. S. C. no. Geo. ay.8

On9 filling the blank in Art: XXI with “thirteen” moved by Mr. CARROL & L. MARTIN

N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no-all no. except Maryland.10

Mr. SHERMAN & Mr. DAYTON moved to fill the blank with “ten”

Mr. WILSON supported the motion of Mr. MADISON, requiring a majority both of the people and of States.

Mr. CLYMER was also in favor of it.

Col: MASON was for preserving ideas familiar to the people. Nine States had been required in all great cases under the Confederation & that number was on that account preferable

On the question for “ten”

N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. ay.11

On question for “nine”

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. ay12

Art: XXI. as amended was then agreed to by all the States, Maryland excepted, & Mr. Jenifer being, ay.

Art: XXIIN 32 13taken up, to wit, “This Constitution shall be laid before the U. S. in Congs. assembled for their approbation; and it is the opinion of this Convention that it should be afterwards submitted to a Convention chosen, in each State under the recommendation of its Legislature, in order to receive the ratification of such Convention”

Mr. Govr. MORRIS & Mr. PINKNEY moved to strike out the words “for their approbation” On this question

N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. 14 Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. no.15

Mr. Govr. MORRIS & Mr. PINKNEY then moved to amend the art: so as to read

“This Constitution shall be laid before the U. S. in Congress assembled; and it is the opinion of this Convention that it should afterwards be submitted to a Convention chosen in each State, in order to receive the ratification of such Convention: to which end the several Legislatures ought to provide for the calling Conventions within their respective States as speedily as circumstances will permit.” - Mr. Govr. MORRIS said his object was to impress in stronger terms the necessity of calling Conventions in order to prevent enemies to the plan, from giving it the go by. When it first appears, with the sanction of this Convention, the people will be favorable to it. By degrees the State officers, & those interested in the State Govts. will intrigue & turn the popular current against it.

Mr. L. MARTIN believed Mr. Morris to be right, that after a while the people would be agst. it, but for a different reason from that alledged. He believed they would not ratify it unless hurried into it by surprize.

Mr. GERRY enlarged on the idea of Mr. L. Martin in which he concurred, represented the system as full of vices, and dwelt on the impropriety of distroying the existing Confederation, without the unanimous consent of the parties to it.

16Question on Mr. Govr. Morris’s & Mr. Pinkney’s motion

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 17

Mr. GERRY moved to postpone art: XXII.

Col: MASON 2ded. the motion, declaring that he would sooner chop off his right hand than put it to the Constitution as it now stands. He wished to see some points not yet decided brought to a decision, before being compelled to give a final opinion on this article. Should these points be improperly settled, his wish would then be to bring the whole subject before another general Convention.

Mr. Govr. MORRIS was ready for a postponement. He had long wished for another Convention, that will have the firmness to provide a vigorous Government, which we are afraid to do.

Mr. RANDOLPH stated his idea to be, in case the final form of the Constitution should not permit him to accede to it, that the State Conventions should be at liberty to propose amendments to be submitted to another General Convention which may reject or incorporate them, as shall18 be judged proper.

On the question for postponing

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

On the question on Art: XXII

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

Art: XXIII21 being taken up, as far as the words “assigned by Congress” inclusive, was agreed to nem: con: the blank having been first filled with the word “nine” as of course.

On a motion for postponement the residue of the clause, concerning the choice of the President &c.

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

Mr. Govr. MORRIS then moved to strike out the words “choose the President of the U. S. and”-this point, of choosing the President not being yet finally determined, & on this question

N. H. no. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay Del. ay. Md. divd. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay.23 Geo. ay. 24

Art: XXIII as amended was then agreed to nem: con:

The Report of the Grand Committee of eleven made by Mr. SHERMAN was then taken up (see Aug: 28).25

On the question to agree to the following clause, to be inserted after Sect. 4. art: VII. “nor shall any regulation of commerce or revenue give preference to the ports of one State over those of another.” Agreed to nem: con:

On the clause “or oblige vessels bound to or from any State to enter clear or pay duties in another”

Mr. MADISON thought the restriction wd. be inconvenient, as in the River Delaware, if a vessel cannot be required to make entry below the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania.

Mr. FITZIMMONS admitted that it might be inconvenient, but thought it would be a greater inconveniency26 to require vessels bound to Philada. to enter below the jurisdiction of the State.

Mr. GORHAM & Mr. LANGDON, contended that the Govt. would be so fettered by this clause, as to defeat the good purpose of the plan. They mentioned the situation of the trade of Mas. & N. Hampshire, the case of Sandy Hook which is in the State of N. Jersey, but where precautions agst. smuggling into N. York, ought to be established by the Genl. Government.

Mr. Mc.HENRY said the clause would not shreeen a vessel from being obliged to take an officer on board as a security for due entry &c.

Mr. CARROL was anxious that the clause should be agreed to. He assured the House, that this was a tender point in Maryland.

Mr. JENNIFER urged the necessity of the clause in the same point of view.

On the question for agreeing to it

N. H. no. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. ay.27

The word “tonnage” was struck out, nem: con: as comprehended in “duties”

On28 question on the clause of the Report “and all duties, imposts & excises, laid by the Legislature shall be uniform throughout the U. S.” It was agreed to nem: con:29

On motion of Mr. SHERMAN it was agreed to refer such parts of the Constitution as have been postponed, and such parts of Reports as have not been acted on, to a Committee of a member from each State; the Committee appointed by ballot, being- Mr. Gilman, Mr. King, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Brearly, Mr. Govr. Morris, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Carrol, Mr. Madison, Mr. Williamson, Mr. Butler & Mr. Baldwin.

[The House31 adjourned]
1 The year “1787″ is omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

2 In place of the vote by State the transcript reads: “nine States voted in the affirmative; Maryland, no; Delware, absent.”  Return to text

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

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

5 See [FNante].  Return to text

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

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

8 In the transcript the vote reads: “Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Geogia, aye-4; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina, no-6.”  Return to text

9 The words “the question for” are here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

10 In the transcript the vote reads: “all the States were no, except Maryland.”  Return to text

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

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

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

14 In the printed Journal N. Jersey-no.  Return to text

15 In the transcript the vote reads: “New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jerey, [FN*] Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye-8; Massachusetts, Maryland, Georgia, no-3″,  Return to text

16 The nwords “On the” are here inserted in the transcript.  Return to text

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

18 The word “may” is substituted in the transcript for “shall.”  Return to text

19 In the transcript the vote reads: “New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, no-8.”  Return to text

20 In the transcript the vote reads: ten States aye; Maryland no.”  Return to text

21 See ante.  Return to text

22 In the transcript the vote reads: “Massachusetts, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, no-. 7″  Return to text

23 In printed Journal-S.C.-no.  Return to text

24 In the transcript the vote read: “Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsulvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, [FN*] Georgia, aye-9; New Hampshire, no; Maryland, divided.”  Return to text

25 In the transcript this date reads “the twenty-eighth of August.”  Return to text

26 The word “inconveniency” is changed to “inconvenience” in the transcript.  Return to text

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

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

29 In printed Journal N.H. and S.C. ENTERED AS [84] in the negative.  Return to text

30 The word “as” is omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

31 The words “The House” are omitted in the transcript.  Return to text

32 see ante.  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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