Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

James Madison

June 30, 1787

Mr. Madison did justice to the able & close reasoning of Mr. E. but must observe that it did not always accord with itself. On another occasion, the large States were described by him as the Aristocratic States, ready to oppress the small. Now the small are the House of Lords requiring a negative to defend them agst. the more numerous Commons. Mr. E. had also erred in saying that no instance had existed in which confederated States had not retained to themselves a perfect equality of suffrage. Passing over the German system in which the K. of Prussia has nine voices, he reminded Mr. E. of the Lycian confederacy, in which the component members had votes proportioned to their importance, and which Montesquieu recommends as the fittest model for that form of Government. Had the fact been as stated by Mr. E. it would have been of little avail to him, or rather would have strengthened the arguments agst. him; the History & fate of the several Confederacies modern as well as Antient, demonstrating some radical vice in their structure. In reply to the appeal of Mr. E. to the faith plighted in the existing federal compact, he remarked that the party claiming from others an adherence to a common engagement ought at least to be guiltless itself of a violation. Of all the States however Connecticut was perhaps least able to urge this plea. Besides the various omissions to perform the stipulated acts from which no State was free, the Legislature of the State had by a pretty recent vote, positively refused to pass a law for complying with the Requisitions of Congs. and had transmitted a copy of the vote Congs. It was urged, he said, continually that an equality of votes in 2d. branch was not only necessary to secure the small, but would be perfectly safe to the large ones whose majority in the 1st branch was an effectual bulwark. But notwithstanding this apparent defense, the Majority of States might still injure the majority of people. 1. they could obstruct the wishes and interests of the majority. 2. They could extort measures repugnant to the wishes & interest of the Majority. 3. They could imposemeasures adverse thereto; as the 2d. branch will probably exercise some great powers, in which the 1st. will not participate. He admitted that every peculiar interest whether in any class of Citizens, or any description of States, ought to be secured as far as possible. Wherever there is danger of attack there ought be given a constitutional power of defense. But he contended that the States were divided into different interests not by their difference of size, but by other circumstances; the most material of which resulted partly from climate, but principally from the effects of their having or not having slaves. These two causes concurring in forming the great division of interests in the U. States. It did not lie between the large & small States: It lay between the Northern & Southern, and if any defensive power were necessary, it ought to be mutually given to these two interests. He was so strongly impressed with this important truth that he had been casting about in his mind for some expedient that would answer the purpose. The one which had occurred was that instead of proportioning the votes of the States in both branches, to their respective numbers of inhabitants computing the slaves in the ratio 5 to 3, they should be represented in one branch according to the number of free inhabitants only; and in the other according to the whole no. counting the slaves as if free. By this arrangement the southern Scale would have the advantage in one House, and the Northern in the other. He had been restrained from proposing this expedient by two considerations: one was his unwillingness to urge any diversity of interests on an occasion where it is but too apt to arise of the itself-the other was, the inequality of powers that must be vested in the two branches, and which wd. destroy the equilibrium.

 

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