Thursday, August 9 | Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

by James Madison

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This Day in the Four Act Drama

In Convention, — Article 4, Sect. 6, was taken up.

Mr. RANDOLPH expressed his dissatisfaction at the disagreement yesterday to Sect. 5 concerning money bills, as endangering the success of the plan, and extremely objectionable in itself; and gave notice that he should move for a reconsideration of the vote.

Mr. WILLIAMSON said he had formed a like intention.

Mr. WILSON gave notice that he should move to reconsider the vote requiring seven instead of three years of citizenship, as a qualification of candidates for the House of Representatives.

Article 4, Sections 6 and 7, were agreed to, nem. con.

Article 5, Sect. 1, was then taken up.

Mr. WILSON objected to vacancies in the Senate being supplied by the Executives of the States. It was unnecessary, as the Legislatures will meet so frequently. It removes the appointment too far from the people, the Executives in most of the States being elected by the Legislatures. As he had always thought the appointment of the Executive by the Legislative department wrong, so it was still more so that the Executive should elect into the Legislative department.

Mr. RANDOLPH thought it necessary in order to prevent inconvenient chasms in the Senate. In some States the Legislatures meet but once a year. As the Senate will have more power and consist of a smaller number, than the other House, vacancies there will be of more consequence. The Executives might be safely trusted, he thought, with the appointment for so short a time.

Mr. ELLSWORTH. It is only said that the Executive may supply vacancies. When the Legislative meeting happens to be near, the power will not be exerted. As there will be but two members from a State, vacancies may be of great moment.

Mr. WILLIAMSON. Senators may resign or not accept. This provision is therefore absolutely necessary.

On the question for striking out, “vacancies shall be supplied by the Executives,” — Pennsylvania, aye, — 1; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no, — 8; Maryland, divided.

Mr. WILLIAMSON moved to insert, after “vacancies shall be supplied by the Executives,” the words, “unless other provision shall be made by the Legislature” (of the State).

Mr. ELLSWORTH. He was willing to trust the Legislature, or the Executive, of a State, but not to give the former a discretion to refer appointments for the Senate to whom they pleased.

On the question on Mr. WILLIAMSON’S motion, — Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye, — 4; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, no, — 6.

MADISON, in order to prevent doubts whether resignations could be made by Senators or whether they could refuse to accept, moved to strike out the words after “vacancies,” and insert the words, “happening by refusals to accept, resignations, or otherwise, may be supplied by the Legislature of the State in the representation of which such vacancies shall happen, or by the Executive thereof until the next meeting of the Legislature.”

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. This is absolutely necessary; otherwise, as members chosen into the Senate are disqualified from being appointed to any office by Sect. 9, of this Article, it will be in the power of the Legislature, by appointing a man a Senator against his consent, to deprive the United States of his services.

The motion of Mr. MADISON was agreed to, nem. con. Mr. RANDOLPH called for a division of the Section, so as to leave a distinct question on the last words, “each member shall have one vote.” He wished this last sentence to be postponed until the reconsideration should have taken place on Article 4, Sect. 5, concerning money bills. If that section should not be reinstated, his plan would be to vary the representation in the Senate.

Mr. STRONG concurred in  Mr. RANDOLPH’S ideas on this point.

Mr. READ did not consider the section as to money-bills of any advantage to the larger States, and had voted for striking it out as being viewed in the same light by the larger States. If it was considered by them as of any value, and as a condition of the equality of votes in the Senate, he had no objection to its being reinstated.

Mr. WILSON, Mr. ELLSWORTH, and Mr. MADISON urged, that it was of no advantage to the larger States; and that it might be a dangerous source of contention between the two Houses. All the principal powers of the National Legislature had some relation to money.

Doctor FRANKLIN considered the two clauses, the originating of money bills and the equality of votes in the Senate, as essentially connected by the compromise which had been agreed to.

Colonel MASON said this was not the time for discussing this point. When the originating of money bills shall be reconsidered, he thought it could be demonstrated, that it was of essential importance to restrain the right to the House of Representatives, — the immediate choice of the people

Mr. WILLIAMSON. The State of North Carolina had agreed to an equality in the Senate, merely in consideration that money bills should be confined to the other House: and he was surprised to see the smaller States forsaking the condition on which they had received their equality.

On the question on the first section, down to the last sentence, — New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, aye, — 7; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania,1 North Carolina, no, — 3; South Carolina, divided.

Mr. RANDOLPH moved that the last sentence, “each member shall have one vote,” be postponed.

It was observed that this could not be necessary; as in case the sanction as to originating money bills should not be reinstated, and a revision of the Constitution should ensue, it would still be proper that the members should vote per capita. A postponement of the preceding sentence, allowing to each State two members, would have been more proper.

Mr. MASON did not mean to propose a change of this mode of voting per capita, in any event. But as there might be other modes proposed, he saw no impropriety in postponing the sentence. Each State may have two members, and yet may have unequal votes. He said that unless the exclusive right of originating money bills should be restored to the House of Representatives, he should, — not from obstinacy, but duty and conscience, — oppose through out the equality of representation in the Senate.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. Such declarations were, he supposed, addressed to the smaller States, in order to alarm them for their equality in the Senate, and induce them, against their judgments, to concur in restoring the section concerning money bills. He would declare in his turn, that as he saw no prospect of amending the Constitution of the Senate, and considered the section relating to money bills as intrinsically bad, he would adhere to the section establishing the equality, at all events.

Mr. WILSON. It seems to have been supposed by some that the section concerning money bills is desirable to the large States. The fact was, that two of those States (Pennsylvania and Virginia) had uniformly voted against it, without reference to any other part of the system.

Mr. RANDOLPH urged, as Col. MASON had done, that the sentence under consideration was connected with that relating to money bills, and might possibly be affected by the result of the motion for reconsidering the latter. That the postponement was therefore not improper.

On the question for postponing, “each member shall have one vote,” —

Virginia, North Carolina, aye, — 2; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, no, — 8; New Hampshire, divided.

The words were then agreed to as part of the section.

Mr. RANDOLPH then gave notice that he should move to reconsider this whole Article 5, Sect. 1, as connected with the Article 4, Sect. 5, as to which he had already given such notice.

Article 5, Sect. 2, was then taken up.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS moved to insert, after the words, “immediately after,” the following: “they shall be assembled in consequence of” which was agreed to, nem. con., as was then the whole section.

Article 5, Sect. 3, was then taken up.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS moved to insert fourteen instead of four years’ citizenship, as a qualification for Senators; urging the danger of admitting strangers into our public councils.

Mr. PINCKNEY seconded him.

Mr. ELLSWORTH was opposed to the motion, as discouraging meritorious aliens from emigrating to this country.

Mr. PINCKNEY. As the Senate is to have the power of making treaties and managing our foreign affairs, there is peculiar danger and impropriety in opening its door to those who have foreign attachments. He quoted the jealousy of the Athenians on this subject, who made it death for any stranger to intrude his voice into their legislative proceedings.

Colonel MASON highly approved of the policy of the motion. Were it not that many, not natives of this country, had acquired great credit during the Revolution, he should be for restraining the eligibility into the Senate to natives.

Mr. MADISON was not averse to some restrictions on this subject, but could never agree to the proposed amendment. He thought any restriction, however, in the Constitution unnecessary and improper; — unnecessary, because the National Legislature is to have the right of regulating naturalization, and can by virtue thereof fix different periods of residence, as conditions of enjoying different privileges of citizenship; — improper, because it will give a tincture of illiberality to the Constitution; because it will put it out of the power of the National Legislature, even by special acts of naturalization, to confer the full rank of citizens on meritorious strangers; and because it will discourage the most desirable class of people from emigrating to the United States. Should the proposed Constitution have the intended effect of giving stability and reputation to our Government, great numbers of respectable Europeans, men who love liberty, and wish to partake its blessings, will be ready to transfer their fortunes hither. All such would feel the mortification of being marked with suspicious incapacitations, though they should not covet the public honors. He was not apprehensive that any dangerous number of strangers would be appointed by the State Legislatures, if they were left at liberty to do so: nor that foreign powers would make use of strangers, as instruments for their purposes. Their bribes would be expended on men whose circumstances would rather stifle, than excite jealousy and watchfulness in the public.

Mr. BUTLER was decidedly opposed to the admission of foreigners without a long residence in the country. They bring with them, not only attachments to other countries, but ideas of government so distinct from ours, that in every point of view they are dangerous. He acknowledged that if he himself had been called into public life within a short time after his coming to America, his foreign habits, opinions, and attachments would have rendered him an improper agent in public affairs. He mentioned the great strictness observed in Great Britain on this subject.

Doctor FRANKLIN was not against a reasonable time, but should be very sorry to see any thing like illiberality inserted in the Constitution. The people in Europe are friendly to this country. Even in the country with which we have been lately at war, we have now, and had during the war, a great many friends, not only among the people at large, but in both Houses of Parliament. In every other country in Europe, all the people are our friends. We found in the course of the Revolution, that many strangers served us faithfully, and that many natives took part against their country. When foreigners after looking about for some other country in which they can obtain more happiness, give a preference to ours, it is a proof of attachment which ought to excite our confidence and affection.

Mr. RANDOLPH did not know but it might be problematical whether emigrations to this country were on the whole useful or not; but he could never agree to the motion for disabling them, for fourteen years, to participate in the public honors. He reminded the Convention of the language held by our patriots during the Revolution, and the principles laid down in all our American Constitutions. Many foreigners may have fixed their fortunes among us, under the faith of these invitations. All persons under this description with all others who would be affected by such a regulation, would enlist themselves under the banners of hostility to the proposed system. He would go as far as seven years, but no farther.

Mr. WILSON said he rose with feelings which were perhaps peculiar; mentioning the circumstance of his not being a native and the possibility, if the ideas of some gentlemen should be pursued, of his being incapacitated from holding a place under the very Constitution which he had shared in the trust of making. He remarked the illiberal complexion which the motion would give to the system, and the effect which a good system would have in inviting meritorious foreigners among us, and the discouragement and mortification they must feel from the degrading discrimination now proposed. He had himself experienced this mortification. On his removal into Maryland, he found himself, from defect of residence, under certain legal incapacities which never ceased to produce chagrin, though he assuredly did not desire, and would not have accepted, the offices to which they related. To be appointed to a place may be matter of indifference. To be incapable of being appointed is a circumstance grating and mortifying.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. The lesson we are taught is, that we should be governed as much by our reason, and as little by our feelings, as possible. What is the language of reason on this subject? That we should not be polite at the expense of prudence. There was a moderation in all things. It is said that some tribes of Indians carried their hospitality so far as to offer to strangers their wives and daughters. Was this a proper model for us? He would admit them to his house, he would invite them to his table, would provide for them comfortable lodgings, but would not carry the complaisance so far as to bed them with his wife. He would let them worship at the same altar, but did not choose to make priests of them. He ran over the privileges which emigrants would enjoy among us, though they should be deprived of that of being eligible to the great offices of government; observing that they exceeded the privileges allowed to foreigners in any part of the world; and that as every society, from a great nation down to a club, had the right of declaring the conditions on which new members should be admitted, there could be no room for complaint. As to those philosophical gentlemen, those citizens of the world, as they called themselves, he owned, he did not wish to see any of them in our public councils. He would not trust them. The men who can shake off their attachments to their own country, can never love any other. These attachments are the wholesome prejudices which uphold all governments. Admit a Frenchman into your Senate, and he will study to increase the commerce of France: an Englishman, and he will feel an equal bias in favor of that of England. It has been said that the Legislatures will not choose foreigners, at least improper ones. There was no knowing what Legislatures would do. Some appointments made by them proved that every thing ought to be apprehended from the cabals practised on such occasions. He mentioned the case of a foreigner who left this State in disgrace, and worked himself into an appointment from another to Congress.

On the question, on the motion of Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS to insert fourteen in place of four years, –

New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, aye, — 4; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, no, — 7.

On the question for thirteen years, moved by Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, it was negatived, as above.

On ten years, moved by General PINCKNEY, the votes were the same.

Doctor FRANKLIN reminded the Convention, that it did not follow, from an omission to insert the restriction in the Constitution, that the persons in question would be actually chosen into the Legislature.

Mr. RUTLEDGE. Seven years of citizenship have been required for the House of Representatives. Surely a longer time is requisite for the Senate, which will have more power.

Mr. WILLIAMSON. It is more necessary to guard the Senate in this case, than the other House. Bribery and cabal can be more easily practised in the choice of the Senate, which is to be made by the Legislatures, composed of a few men, than of the House of Representatives, who will be chosen by the people.

Mr. RANDOLPH will agree to nine years, with the expectation that it will be reduced to seven, if Mr. WILSON’S motion to reconsider the vote fixing seven years for the House of Representatives should produce a reduction of that period.

On the question for nine years, —

New Hampshire, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, aye, — 6; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, no, — 4; North Carolina, divided.

The term “resident” was struck out, and “inhabitant” inserted, nem. con.

Article 5, Sect. 3, as amended, was then agreed to, nem. con.

Article 5, Sect. 4, was agreed to, nem. con.

Article 6, Sect. 1, was then taken up.

Mr. MADISON and Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS moved to strike out, “each House,” and to insert “the House of Representatives;” the right of the Legislatures to regulate the times and places, &c., in the election of Senators, being involved in the right of appointing them; which was disagreed to.

A division of the question being called for, it was taken on the first part down to “but their provisions concerning,” &c.

The first part was agreed to, nem. con.

Mr. PINCKNEY and Mr. RUTLEDGE moved to strike out the remaining part, viz: “but their provisions concerning them may at any time be altered by the Legislature of the United States.” The States, they contended, could and must be relied on in such cases.

Mr. GORHAM. It would be as improper to take this power from the National Legislature, as to restrain the British Parliament from regulating the circumstances of elections, leaving this business to the counties themselves.

Mr. MADISON. The necessity of a General Government supposes that the State Legislatures will sometimes fail or refuse to consult the common interest at the expense of their local convenience or prejudices. The policy of referring the appointment of the House of Representatives to the people, and not to the Legislatures of the States, supposes that the result will be somewhat influenced by the mode. This view of the question seems to decide that the Legislatures of the States ought not to have the uncontrolled right of regulating the times, places, and manner, of holding elections. These were words of great latitude. It was impossible to foresee all the abuses that might be made of the discretionary power. Whether the electors should vote by ballot, or vivâ voce; should assemble at this place or that place; should be divided into districts, or all meet at one place; should all vote for all the Representatives, or all in a district vote for a number allotted to the district, — these and many other points, would depend on the Legislatures, and might materially affect the appointments. Whenever the State Legislatures had a favorite measure to carry, they would take care so to mould their regulations as to favor the candidates they wished to succeed. Besides, the inequality of the representation in the Legislatures of particular States would produce a like inequality in their representation in the National Legislature, as it was presumable that the counties having the power in the former case, would secure it to themselves in the latter. What danger could there be in giving a controlling power to the National Legislature? Of whom was it to consist? First, of a Senate to be chosen by the State Legislatures. If the latter, therefore, could be trusted, their representatives could not be dangerous. Secondly, of Representatives elected by the same people who elect the State Legislatures. Surely, then, if confidence is due to the latter, it must be due to the former. It seems as improper in principle, though it might be less inconvenient in practice, to give to the State Legislatures this great authority over the election of the representatives of the people in the General Legislature, as it would be to give to the latter a like power over the election of their representatives in the State Legislatures.

Mr. KING. If this power be not given to the National Legislature, their right of judging of the returns of their members may be frustrated. No probability has been suggested of its being abused by them. Although this scheme of erecting the General Government on the authority of the State Legislatures has been fatal to the Federal establishment, it would seem as if many gentlemen still foster the dangerous idea.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS observed, that the States might make false returns, and then make no provisions for new elections.

Mr. SHERMAN did not know but it might be best to retain the clause, though he had himself sufficient confidence in the State Legislatures.

The motion of Mr. PINCKNEY and  Mr. RUTLEDGE did not prevail.

The word “respectively” was inserted after the word “State.”

On the motion of Mr. READ, the word “their” was struck out, and “regulations in such cases,” inserted in place of “provisions concerning them,” — the clause then reading; “but regulations, in each of the foregoing cases, may, at any time, be made or altered by the Legislature of the United States.” This was meant to give the National Legislature a power not only to alter the provisions of the States, but to make regulations, in case the States should fail or refuse altogether. Article 6, Sect. 1, as thus amended, was agreed to, nem. con.


1 In the printed Journal, Pennsylvania, aye.

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