Day-by-Day Summary of the New York Ratifying Convention

Introduction | New York Ratifying Convention | New York Amendment Proposals

Tuesday, June 17, 1788

  • Governor George Clinton unanimously elected President of the Convention, subordinate officers elected, and Committee of Regulations appointed.

Wednesday, June 18, 1788

  • Convention rules established, including an agreement to discuss the Constitution from start to finish.

Thursday, June 19, 1788

  • Preamble
    • Chancellor Robert Livingston occupied the entire day with a speech that used the Preamble as a springboard for “general observations” on the “great objects of the Union.” Among other things, he pointed out the inefficiencies of the Articles and urged adoption of the Constitution because it showed the superiority of the new world over the old world: America represents the new world principle that “all power is derived from the people.” In the old world, governments “are the children of force and fraud.”
    • Livingston‘s resolution was agreed to: do not send any issue to committee until the entire Constitution has been discussed clause by clause.

Friday, June 20, 1788

  • Mr. Lansing opened the day with an objection to the tone of Livingston‘s remarks. He defended the ability of the Articles to secure the common defense and domestic tranquility. He supported removing the defects of the powers of Congress under the Articles rather than scrapping them entirely and moving toward a consolidated government.
  • Mr. Smith, in a speech that covers eight pages of Elliot’s Debates, reminded the delegates that they were supposed to consider the Constitution section by section; he focused on Article I, Section 2. Mr. Smith argued that the rule of apportionment is unjust (including the 3/5 clause); there is no precise number below which the house shall not be reduced; and 1 for 30,000 is inadequate. “Would they be possessed of the requisite information to make happy the great number of souls that were spread over this extensive country?” He proposed that “the number of representatives be fixed at a rate of one for every twenty thousand inhabitants.”
  • Mr. Hamilton, in a speech that covers ten pages of Elliot’s Debates, argues that “a rejection of the Constitution may involve most fatal consequences.” He repeats his “radical vice” argument of Federalist 15, namely, that the “old Confederation… operated upon states instead of individuals.” He gives the “history of the circumstances which attended the Convention,” and reiterated his earlier position that “the fundamental principle of the old Confederation is defective; we must totally eradicate and discard this principle before we can expect an efficient government.”He defends the 3/5 clause as a necessary compromise. And the number of representatives is not all that bad: we may “safely calculate upon a growing representation, according to the advance of population, and the circumstances of the country.”

Saturday, June 21, 1788

  • Article I, Section 2
    • Mr. Williams says that the number of representatives is too small, and elections not frequent enough for “a well-digested democracy.” He continues: “Let us insist upon the necessary alterations and amendments” to the proposed Constitution in order to avoid the establishment of “a tyrannical aristocracy.”
    • Mr. Smith agrees that adequate representation is not provided for by this Constitution and the legislature is unlikely to rectify this. Moreover, the Constitution favors the wealthy and does not include “the middling class of life.” He also warns that giving government too little power is better than giving it too much power.
    • Mr. Hamilton repeats, in a speech that covers eight pages of Elliot’s Debates, his critique of the Articles and his defense of the scheme of representation in the Constitution. The people, trusting their “interests and opinions,” will be the appropriate check on a legislature unresponsive to an increase in representation. The Smith amendment is, thus, “speculative and useless.” Hamilton, furthermore, states that 1) “pure democracy… never possessed one good feature of good government,” 2) “the confidence of the people will be easily gained by a good administration. This is the true touchstone,” 3) “the interests of all parts of the community must be represented. No idea is more erroneous than this,” 4) “The Federal Farmer” essays warning about aristocracy are “ridiculous,” 5) “the true principle of a republic is that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.”
    • Mr. Smith clarified his position on the Constitution: we need to “increase the representation and limit the powers.”
    • Mr. Lansing agreed; representation in the House should be larger; “the democratic branch ought to possess the feelings of the people, and be above corruption.”
    • Governor Clinton also linked corruption and representation: “in a small territory, maladministration is easily corrected, and designs unfavorable to liberty frustrated and punished. But in large confederacies, the alarm excited by small and gradual encroachments rarely extends to the distant members, or inspires a general spirit of resistance.”
    • Mr. Hamilton again defends the scheme of representation in the Constitution from the charges of “inadequacy” and “corruption.” In particular, he claims “the state legislatures… will be standing bodies of observation, possessing the confidence of the people, jealous of federal encroachments, and armed with every power to check the first essays of treachery. They will institute regular modes of inquiry.” On the other hand, the assertion “that the interests, habits, and manners of the thirteen states are (so) different” is exaggerated. “The people of America are as uniform in their interests and manners as those of any established in Europe.” He suggests that Clinton‘s arguments contain a “real tendency” to the “destruction of the union.”
    • Governor Clinton: “The gentleman Hamilton has attempted to give an unjust and unnatural coloring to my observations… that gentleman may wish for a consolidated, I wish for a federal republic.”

Monday, June 23, 1788

  • Article I, Section 2
    • Mr. Harrison is persuaded by Hamilton‘s argument that the number of representatives will be increased as the population increases.
    • Mr. Lansing reminds the delegates that this clause was the result of “an accommodation” at the “general Convention.” We should move on to other clauses. (He is concerned that Congress has the authority to both raise and reduce the ratio.)
    • Hamilton states that he and Lansing concur that the work of the Committee of Detail shows that representation in the House “was entirely a work of accommodation.”
    • Lansing: If there were an “accommodation,” then how come 1:40000 was changed to 1:30000? His point is that the accommodation didn’t last long because it was changed later.
    • Hamilton: Because “his Excellency, the president, expressing a wish that the number should be reduced to thirty thousand, it was agreed to without opposition.”
    • Chancellor Livingston: Who knows ahead of time how many representatives we should have? There is so much “contingency” in life. Moreover, representative government should represent “interests,” and not the “feelings” of people that Smith seems to be suggesting. Does Mr. Smith presume, he continues, that “the rich and the great” are the only folks who are “vicious and intemperate?” This is “phantom aristocracy” nonsense. There is room for the “natural aristocracy” in the American project.
    • Smith: Livingston is the one who is uttering nonsense. “My argument was, that, in order to have a true and genuine representation, you must receive the middling class of people into your government.” And the Constitution does not do that adequately.
    • John Jay: Smith suggests that “according to his idea of a complete representation, the extent of our country is too great (impractical) for it.” Jay favors the “accommodation” of the Constitutional Convention.

Tuesday, June 24, 1788

  • Article I, Section 3
    • Mr. G. Livingston argues that the authority granted to the Senate under the Constitution “rendered the Senate a dangerous body.” It is potentially dangerous to democracy due to its small numbers, its power to block the House, and its six-year terms. He offers a rotation and recall amendment.
    • Mr. Lansing supports the. G. Livingston amendment; he too is concerned by the vast powers put into the hands of such a small number of representatives.
    • Mr. R. Livingston disagrees with the rotation and recall amendment; why not let the people decide who shall represent them?
    • Mr. Lansing thinks that recall is important so that Senators do not lose touch with the people. “All free constitutions are formed with two views—to deter the governed from crime, and the governors from tyranny.”
    • Mr. R. Livingston warned that recall would “bind the senators too strongly to the interests of their respective states” and interfere with the aims of the Union.
    • Mr. R. Morris: G. Livingston’s amendment is destructive. The Senate, because of foreign policy matters, must be “federally oriented,” rather than state oriented.
    • Mr. G. Livingston, Mr. R. Morris, Mr. R. Livingston, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Lansing continue their discussion on the merits of recall and rotation of Senators.
    • Mr. Hamilton: We need to pay as much attention to stability and vigor as we do to the excessive “zeal for liberty.” A Senate is needed to “correct the prejudices, check the intemperate passions, and regulate the fluctuations, of a popular assembly.” Thus, we need a Senate to check the “sudden impulses, and the intrigues of ambitious men.” The recall and rotation amendment, therefore, would weaken the Senate and be contrary to “systematic government.”
    • Mr. Lansing is unconvinced. “The states, having no constitutional control, would soon be found unnecessary and useless, and would be gradually extinguished.”

Wednesday, June 25, 1788

  • Article I, Section 3
    • Mr. Smith defends the rotation and recall amendment. He agrees with Hamilton that the Senate needs more stability than the House, but there is a difference between stability and perpetuity! He thinks that a six-year term with rotation meets the stability test and avoids the Senate becoming a “perpetual body.” Besides, rotation “will diffuse a more general spirit of emulation, and to bring forward into office the genius and abilities of the continent.” In defense of recall, he claims that “as the senators are the representatives of the state legislatures, it is reasonable and proper that they be under their control.”
    • Mr. Hamilton reminds the delegates that “there are two objects in forming systems of government—safety for the people (the ‘liberty of the individual’) and energy in the administration (the ‘strength of the government’).” He accuses Smith of applying the safety issue to the Senate when it should be confined to the House. The purpose of the Senate is different than the House. And it is “through the opposition and mutual control of these bodies, (the House and the Senate) the government will reach, in its operations, the perfect balance between liberty and power.”
      To permit recall would ruin the federal balance by making Senators too bound to the interests of their particular state rather than the well-being of the union. To be sure, “it is proper that the influence of the states should prevail to a certain extent. But shall the individual states be the judges how far? [This is] a fantastical Utopia.” And rotation is also to be rejected. “The difficulty of obtaining men capable of conducting the affairs of a nation in dangerous times, is much more serious than the gentlemen imagine.”
    • Chancellor Livingston injected a practical note into the proceedings. He reminded the delegates that according to “the intelligence of yesterday,” New Hampshire had adopted the Constitution. We have “an alteration in circumstances.” He warned that some “might flatter themselves that some of the Southern States would form a league with us” and cautioned those who “might contemplate disunion” without “terror” or “pain.”
    • Mr. Lansing was moved by Livingston‘s remarks to announce that “no such event should influence our deliberations.” Moreover, “who wishes for disunion?”
  • Article 1, Section 4 (Elliot’s Debates notes that no debates took place on Section 3)
    • Mr. Jones: Congress should not be given the “power of prescribing or altering the time, place, and manner of holding elections.” He offered an amendment that denied Congress this right “unless the legislature of such state shall neglect or refuse to make laws or regulations for the purpose.”
    • Mr. Jay said “every government was imperfect, unless it had a power of preserving itself.” Under the proposed Constitution, Congress has the power, “by law, to support the government, and prevent the dissolution of the Union.”
    • Governor Clinton noted the “attempts that had been made to influence the committee by fear, and to introduce gloomy reflections upon the situation.”

Thursday, June 26, 1788

  • Article I, Section 4
    • Mr. Smith proposes an amendment, giving each state the option of being “divided into as many districts as the representatives it is entitled to, and that each representative shall be chosen by a majority of votes.”
    • Mr. Duane deems this district representation amendment to be impracticable.
    • Mr. Lansing proposed the following, and it was passed: “And that nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prevent the legislature of any state to pass laws, from time to time, to divide such state into as many convenient districts as the state shall be entitled to elect representatives for Congress, nor to prevent such legislature from making provision, that the electors in each district shall choose a citizen of the United States, who shall have been an inhabitant of the district, for the term of one year immediately preceding the time of his election, for one of the representatives of such state.”
  • (Elliot’s Debates has no coverage of Sections 5, 6 and 7.)
  • Article I, Section 8
    • Mr. Williams considers the restrictions on Congressional power to be “inadequate.” In particular, he is concerned that the state governments are not provided with a source of revenue. He offers the following amendment: “Resolved, That no excise shall be imposed on any article of the growth or manufacture of the United States, or any part of them; and that Congress do not lay direct taxes, but when moneys arising from the impost and excise, are insufficient, for the public exigencies; nor then, until Congress shall first have made a requisition upon the states, to assess, levy, and pay their respective proportion of such requisition, agreeably to the census fixed in the said Constitution, in such way and manner as the legislatures of the respective states shall judge best; and in such case, if any state shall neglect or refuse to pay its proportion, pursuant to such requisition, then Congress may assess and levy such state’s proportion, together with interest thereon, at the rate of six per cent. Per annum, from the time of payment prescribed in such requisition.”

Friday, June 27, 1788

  • Article I, Section 8
    • Mr. Smith figured that time will fix most of the Confederation’s problems, and that there is no need for such a powerful central and “simple government” as proposed by the Constitution. He thinks that the state governments and the federal government will be engaged “in a constant jarring of claims and interests.” He continues: “The idea that Congress ought to have unlimited powers is entirely novel.” This includes taxes that will eventually lead to the “abolition” of the state governments.
    • Mr. Williams challenges the supporters of the Constitution to defend Article I, Section 8 and refute the wisdom of his amendment proposal. If Congress has the right to pass any laws in the name of “the common defense and general welfare… what, in the name of common sense, will prevent them” from abolishing the state governments? He feels that the ability for both state governments and the federal government to have the concurrent power to tax items will result in a disadvantage to the state governments.
    • Chancellor Livingston responds to Williams’s challenge. This amendment will “deprive the United States of a fruitful and indispensable branch of revenue.” He admits that indirect taxes should be enough for times of peace, but they must allow direct taxes in times of emergency and war. But the power to raise money is vital to the survival of the country and cannot be abridged. He denies that the federal government and state governments will clash over taxes. The people do not care whether they are paying state taxes or federal taxes, because “they have such and such taxes to pay,” and that is that.
    • Mr. Hamilton delivers a lecture in political theory that occupies ten pages of Elliot’s Debates. 1) Once we have “free representation” and “mutual checks”—which we do have—then “our apprehensions of the extent of power are unjust and imaginary.” 2) “When, in short, you have rendered your system as perfect as human forms can be, then you must give power.” 3) “The true principle of government is this—make the system complete in its structure, give a perfect proportion and balance to its parts, and the powers you give it will never affect your security.” 4) “The question of the division of powers between the general and state governments is a question of convenience.” 5) “Everyone knows that the objects of the general government are numerous, extensive, and important.” 6) “That no government but a despotism can exist in a very extensive country… is a melancholy consideration indeed.” 7) “The human affections, like the solar heat, lose their intensity as they depart from the center.”

Saturday, June 28, 1788

  • Hamilton, Clinton, Duane, Smith, and Tredwell discuss the propriety of introducing official documents or papers detailing the supposed inefficiencies of the New York system for raising revenue under the Articles of Confederation.
  • The secretary then read the public papers, including “extracts, resolves, messages,” and general resolutions.
  • Governor Clinton acknowledged that, at the times of those resolutions, the people were indeed fed up with the inabilities of the Confederation government. But “because a strong government was wanted during the late war, does it follow that we should now be obliged to accept of a dangerous one?”
  • Mr. Hamilton, in a speech taking up eleven pages in Elliot’s Debates, states the papers correctly exhibit New York’s distress under the Confederation. He then launches into the current controversy over concurrent taxation. Why can’t both the federal government and state governments tax the same people without being unconstitutional? Moreover, the Constitution, he says, must be capable of responding to unforeseen emergencies; thus the Congressional power to tax cannot be limited ahead of time. He repeats his critique of requisitions and the proposed amendment. And concludes: “Gentlemen ought not, then, to presume that the advocates of this Constitution are influenced by ambitious views. The suspicion, sir, is unjust; the charge is uncharitable.”
  • Mr. Lansing: “Our fears arise from the experience of all ages and our dispositions of mankind.” He focuses on the relationship between the two levels of government under the Constitution. Unlike, Mr. Hamilton, he is “firmly persuaded that an hostility between them will exist. This was a received opinion in the late Convention in Philadelphia. That honorable gentleman was then fully convinced that it would exist, and argued, with much decision and great plausibility, that the state governments ought to be subverted, at least so far as to leave them only corporate rights, and that, even in that situation, they would endanger the existence of the general government. But the honorable gentleman’s reflections have probably induced him to correct that sentiment.”
  • [The Recorder notes that "Hamilton interrupted Mr. Lansing, and contradicted, in the most positive terms, the charge of inconsistency included in the preceding observations. This produced a warm personal altercation between those gentleman which engrossed the remainder of the day.”]

Monday, June 30, 1788

  • Article I, Section 8
    • [The Recorder notes further that the Hamilton-Lansing dispute “occupied the attention of the committee for a considerable part of the day.”]
    • The discussion over Mr. Williams’ proposed amendment resumed.

Tuesday, July 1, 1788

  • Article I, Section 8
    • Mr. Smith anticipates hostilities between the federal and the state governments. He concluded that “he objected to this Constitution, because it gave too much power to the general government, however it might be organized.”
    • Mr. Duane addresses the committee in “a long and elaborate” speech in which he defended his earlier introduction of the state documents to the Convention. He said that the public papers indicated that requisitions were ineffective. He supported the notion that Congress must have unlimited taxation powers to finance the common defense.
    • Mr. Jay argues that the Constitution does not and should not limit the powers of the general government. He was particularly concerned about the war powers.
    • Mr. Smith urges practicality about the costs of defense: “Calculate for the present period, and not attempt to provide for the contingencies of two or three centuries to come.”
    • Chancellor Livingston accuses the opponents of the Constitution of being incoherent: “They advance opposite principles, and they argue differently. As they do not appear to have any fixed maxims in their politics, it is not to be wondered at that they talk at random, and run into inconsistencies.” He concludes: Mr. Smith “says we ought not to look forward to a future period. What, then, must be this government of a day? It is the third time we have been making a government, and God grant it may be the last.”

Wednesday, July 2, 1788

  • Article I, Section 8
    • Mr. G. Livingston: “if this section is not amended, there will not be the shadow of liberty left to the states, as states.”
    • Mr. Williams, and Mr. Smith, object to the “harangue” of a certain “honorable member.” Chancellor Livingston seemed pleased with being so portrayed.
    • Mr. Thomas Tredwell, in a speech that occupies ten pages of Elliot’s Debates, broke his usual silence. He suggested in the strongest terms that the claim of the proponents of the Constitution that what was not expressly given in the Constitution is reserved is an “absurdity.” It is clear, he continues, that “the late Convention in Philadelphia… did not adopt the principle.” He believes the purpose of government “is not so much to give powers to their rulers, as to guard against the abuse of them.” He continues: “I could have wished, sir, that a greater caution had been used to secure to us the freedom of election, a sufficient and responsible representation, the freedom of the press, and the trial by jury both in civil and criminal cases.” He is also concerned that we have violated the “public faith” of 1776. The ratification article, Article VII, is a violation of “the public faith of these states” pledged under the Articles of Confederation.
    • According to the Recorder. “The committee then proceeded through Sections. 8, 9 and 10 of this Article, and the whole of the next, with little or no debate. As the secretary read the paragraphs, amendments were moved, in the order and form hereafter recited.”
      • To the paragraph respecting the borrowing of money, Mr. Lansing proposed the following amendment: “Provided, That no money be borrowed on the credit of the United States, without the assent of two thirds of the members of both houses present.”
      • To the clause respecting the establishment of post-offices, &c., Mr. Jones moved the following amendment: “Resolved, as the opinion of the committee, that the power of Congress to establish post-offices and post-roads is not to be construed to extend to the laying out, making, altering, or repairing highways, in any state, without the consent of the legislature of such state.”
      • To the clause respecting the raising and supporting armies, Mr. Lansing proposed the following: “Provided, That no standing army, or regular troops, shall be raised, or kept up, in time of peace, without the consent of two thirds of the members of both houses present.”
      • Respecting the organization and arming the militia, &c: “Provided, That the militia of any state shall not be marched out of such state without the consent of the executive thereof, nor be continued in service out of the state, without the consent of the legislature thereof, for a longer term than six weeks; and provided, that the power to organize, arm, and discipline the militia, shall not be construed to extend further than to prescribe the mode of arming and disciplining the same.” Moved by Mr. Smith.
      • Respecting the power to make all laws necessary for the carrying the Constitution into execution: “Provided, That no power shall be exercised by Congress, but such as is expressly given by this Constitution; and all others, not expressly given, shall be reserved to the respective states, to be by them exercised.” Moved by Mr. Lansing.
      • To the clause respecting the power of regulating commerce: “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that nothing in the said Constitution contained shall be construed to authorize Congress to grant monopolies, or erect any company with exclusive advantages of commerce.” Moved by Mr. Smith.
      • Relative to the right of declaring war: “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the Congress ought not to have the power or right to declare war, without the concurrence of two thirds of the members of each house.” Moved by Mr. Tredwell.
      • Respecting the privilege of habeas corpus: “Provided, That, whenever the privilege of habeas corpus shall be suspended, such suspension shall in no case exceed the term of six months, or until the next meeting of the Congress.” Moved by Mr. Lansing.
      • Respecting ex post facto laws: “Provided, that the meaning of ex post facto laws shall not be construed to prevent calling public defaulters to account, but shall extend only to crimes.” Moved by Mr. Tredwell.
      • Respecting the ratio in which taxes shall be laid: “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that no capitation tax ought ever to be laid.” Moved by Mr. Tredwell.
      • Clause relative to the publication of the receipts and expenditures: “Provided, That the words from time to time shall be so construed, as that the receipts and expenditures of public money shall be published at least once in every year, and be transmitted to the executives of the several states, to be laid before the legislatures thereof.” Moved by Mr. Tredwell.
      • Clause relating to the granting titles of nobility: “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the Congress shall at no time consent that any person, holding any office of profit or trust in or under the United States, shall accept of any title of nobility from any king, prince, or foreign state.” Moved by Mr. Smith.

Friday, July 4, 1788

  • Article II
    • Section 1. Clause respecting the office of President: “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the President of the United States should hold his office during the term of seven years, and that he should not be eligible a second time.” Moved by Mr. Smith.
    • Section 2. Clause 1, respecting the powers of the President: “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the President of the United States should never command the army, militia, or navy of the United States, in person, without the consent of the Congress; and that he should not have the power to grant pardons for treason, without the consent of the Congress; but that, in cases where persons are convicted of treason, he should have authority to grant reprieves, until their cases can be laid before the Congress.” Moved by Mr. G. Livingston.

Saturday, July 5, 1788

  • Article II, Section 2, clause 2
    • Amendment moved by Mr. Smith: “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the Congress should appoint, in such manner as they may think proper, a council to advise the President in the appointment of officers; that the said council should continue in office for four years; that they should keep a record of their proceedings, and sign the same, and always be responsible for their advice, and impeachable for malconduct in office; that the counsellors should have a reasonable allowance for their services, fixed by a standing law; and that no man should be elected a counsellor who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and who is not either a natural-born citizen, or has not become a citizen before the 4th day of July, 1776.”
  • Article II, Section 2, clause 3
    • Motion by Mr. Smith: “Provided, That all commissions, writs, and processes, shall run in the name of the people of the United States, and be tested in the name of the President of the United States, or the person holding his place for the time being, or the first judge of the court out of which the same shall issue.”
  • Article III
    • Mr. Jones proposed the following amendments, which he explained in a speech of some length, and was followed by Mr. Smith; but no debate ensued:
      “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that nothing in the Constitution now under consideration contained shall be construed so as to authorize the Congress to constitute, ordain, or establish, any tribunals, or inferior courts, with any other than appellate jurisdiction, except such as may be necessary for trial of causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas; and in all other cases to which the judicial power of the United States extends, and in which the Supreme Court of the United States has no original jurisdiction, the cause shall be heard, tried, and determined in some of the state courts, with the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, or other proper tribunal, to be established for the purpose by the Congress, with such exceptions, and under such regulations, as the Congress shall make.”
      “As the secretary went on with this article, Mr. Jones submitted the following amendments”:

      • Resolve 1. “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that all appeals from any courts in this state, proceeding according to the course of the common law, are to be by writ of error, and not otherwise.”
      • Res. 2. “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that no judge of the Supreme Court of the United States shall, during his continuance in office, hold any other office under the United States, or any of them.”
      • Res. 3. “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the judicial power of the United States, as to controversies between citizens of the same state, claiming lands under grants of different states, extends only to controversies relating to such lands as shall be claimed by two or more persons, under grants of different states.”
      • Res. 4. “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that nothing in the Constitution now under consideration contained, is to be construed to authorize any suit to be brought against any state, in any manner whatever.”
      • Res. 5. “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the judicial power of the United States, in cases in which a state shall be a party, is not to be construed to extend to criminal prosecutions.”
      • Res. 6. “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the judicial power of the United States, as to controversies between citizens of different states, is not to be construed to extend to any controversy relating to any real estate not claimed under grants of different states.”
      • Res. 7. “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the judicial power of the United States, as to controversies between citizens of the same state, claiming lands under grants of different states, extends only to controversies relating to such lands as shall be claimed by two or more persons, under grants of different states.”
      • Res. 8. “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the person aggrieved by any judgment, sentence, or decree of the Supreme Court of the United States, with such exceptions, and under such regulations, as the Congress shall make concerning the same, ought, upon application, to have a commission, to be issued by the President of the United States, to such learned men as he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint, not less than seven, authorizing such commissioners, or any seven or more of them, to correct the errors in such judgment, or to review such sentence and decree, as the case may be, and to do justice to the parties in the premises.”
      • Res. 9. “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the United States, or of any other court to be instituted by the Congress, ought not, in any case, to be increased, enlarged, or extended, by any fiction, collusion, or mere suggestion.”

Monday, July 7, 1788

  • The secretary continued reading the Articles IV and V without interruption.
    • To the 2d clause of Article VI, Mr. Lansing proposed the following amendments: “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that no treaty ought to operate so as to alter the constitution of any state; nor ought any commercial treaty to operate so as to abrogate any law of the United States.”
    • To the 3d clause of Article VI, Mr. Smith moved the following addition: “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that all the officers of the United States ought to be bound, by oath or affirmation, not to infringe the constitutions or rights of the respective states.”
  • After the Constitution had been gone through, Mr. Smith moved for the following amendment to Article I, Section 8, Clause 17:”Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the right of the Congress to exercise exclusive legislation over such district, not exceeding ten miles square, as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, shall not be so exercised as to exempt the inhabitants of such district from paying the same taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, as shall be imposed on the other inhabitants of the state where such district may be, nor shall it be so exercised as to prevent the laws of the state, and all process under those laws, from extending to such district, in all cases of crimes committed without the district, or in cases of contracts made between persons residing within such district and persons residing without it. Nor shall it be so exercised, as to authorize any inhabitant of the said district to bring any suit in any court, which may be established by the Congress within the same, against any citizen or person not an inhabitant of the said district. And it is understood that the stipulations in this Constitution, respecting all essential rights, shall extend as well to this district as to the United States in general. Resolved, further, as the opinion of this committee, that the right of exclusive legislation, with respect to such places as may be purchased for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, and dock-yards, and other needful buildings, shall not be construed to authorize the Congress to make any law to prevent the laws of the states in which they may lie, from extending to such places in all civil and criminal matters, except as to such persons as shall be in the service of the United States, nor to them with respect to crimes committed without such places.”
  • Mr. Lansing then read, and presented to the committee, a Bill of Rights to be prefixed to the Constitution.

Tuesday, July 8, 1788

  • The Convention met, and adjourned without doing business.

Wednesday, July 9, 1788

  • The Convention met, and adjourned without doing business.

Thursday, July 10, 1788

  • According to the Recorder: “Mr. Lansing submitted a plan of amendments, on a new arrangement, and with material alterations. They are divided into three—1st, explanatory; 2d, conditional; 3d, recommendatory.”

Friday, July 11, 1788

  • Mr. Jay moved the following two resolutions:
    • [1] “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the Constitution under consideration ought to be ratified by this Convention.”
    • [2] “Resolved, further, as the opinion of this committee, that such parts of the said Constitution as may be thought doubtful ought to be explained, and that whatever amendment may be deemed useful, or expedient, ought to be recommended.”
  • Mr. Jay was supported by Mr. Chancellor Livingston and Mr. Chief Justice Morris, and opposed by Mr. Melancton Smith.
  • According to the Recorder; “The debates on this motion continued till Tuesday, the 15th of July; when Mr. Smith moved, as an amendment, to add to the first resolution proposed by Mr. Jay, so that the same, when amended, should read as follows:
    • “Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that the Constitution under consideration ought to be ratified by this Convention: upon condition, nevertheless, That until a convention shall be called and convened for proposing amendments to the said Constitution, the militia of this state will not be continued in service out of this state for a longer term than six weeks, without the consent of the legislature thereof: That the Congress will not make or alter any regulation in this state respecting the times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators or representatives, unless the legislature of this state should neglect or refuse to make laws or regulations for the purpose, or from any circumstance be incapable of making the same; and that, in those cases, such power will only be exercised until the legislature of this state shall make provision in the premises: That no excise will be imposed on any article of the growth, production, or manufacture of the United States, or any of them, within this state, ardent spirits excepted: And that Congress shall not lay direct taxes within this state, but when the moneys arising from the impost and excise shall be insufficient for the public exigencies; nor then, until Congress shall first have made a requisition upon this state, to assess, levy, and pay the amount of such requisition, made agreeably to the census fixed in the said Constitution, in such way and manner as the legislature of this state judge best; but in such case, if the state shall neglect or refuse to pay its proportion pursuant to such requisition, then the Congress may assess and levy this state’s proportion, together with interest at the rate of six per centum, per annum, from the time at which the same was required to be paid.”

Wednesday, July 16, 1788

  • Judge Hobart brought forward a motion for adjournment.
  • Mr. Duane then brought forward a plan of ratification, with certain explanations, and with a list of amendments to be recommended. This was rejected.
  • Mr. Smith‘s proposition was then resumed and debated.

Saturday, July 19, 1788

  • Mr. Lansing moved to postpone the several propositions before the house, in order to take into consideration a draft of a conditional ratification, with a bill of rights prefixed, and amendments subjoined.
  • [The Recorder: "Debates arose on the motion, and it was carried. The committee then proceeded to consider separately the amendments proposed in this plan of ratification."]

Wednesday, July 23, 1788

  • “Mr. Jones moved, that the words on condition, in the form of the ratification, should be obliterated, and that the words in full confidence should be substituted—which was carried.”

Friday, July 25, 1788

  • The whole being gone through and amended, the question was put, whether the committee did agree to the same, which was carried in the affirmative.

Saturday, July 26, 1788

  • The Convention having met, the bill of rights, and form of the ratification of the Constitution, with the amendments, were read, when the question being put, whether the same should pass, as agreed to and ratified by the Convention, it was carried in the affirmative. The vote was 30-27 in favor of ratification.

 

Contents

General Overview

In 1787 and 1788, following the Constitutional Convention, a great debate took place throughout America over the Constitution that had been proposed.

In-Doors Debate

View in-depth studies of the Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York state ratifying conventions.

The Federal Pillars

View drawings of the federal pillars rising published by the Massachusetts Centinel during the ratification debate.

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The Stages of Ratification: An Interactive Timeline

View the six stages of the ratification of the Constitution with links to many other features on this site.

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Interactive Ratification Map

View interactive maps showing the breakdown of Federalist-Antifederalist strength at the state level during the Ratification debate.

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