Thursday, September 13 | Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

by James Madison

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This Day in the Four Act Drama 

In Convention. — Colonel MASON. He had moved without success for a power to make sumptuary regulations. He had not yet lost sight of his object. After descanting on the extravagance of our manners, the excessive consumption of foreign superfluities, and the necessity of restricting it, as well with economical as republican views, he moved, that a committee be appointed to report articles of association for encouraging, by the advice, the influence, and the example, of the members of the Convention, economy, frugality, and American manufactures.

Doctor JOHNSON seconded the motion, which was without debate agreed to; nemcon. and a Committee appointed, consisting of Colonel MASON, Doctor FRANKLIN, Mr. DICKINSON, Doctor JOHNSON, and Mr. LIVINGSTON.1

Colonel MASON renewed his proposition of yesterday on the subject of inspection laws, with an additional clause giving to Congress a control over them in case of abuse, — as follows:

“Provided, that no State shall be restrained from imposing the usual duties on produce exported from such State, for the sole purpose of defraying the charges of inspecting, packing, storing, and indemnifying the losses on such produce, while in the custody of public officers; but all such regulations shall in case of abuse, be subject to the revision and control of Congress.”

There was no debate, and on the question, —

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, aye, — 7; Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, no, — 3.

The report from the Committee of Style and Arrangement was taken up, in order to be compared with the articles of the plan, as agreed to by the House, and referred to the committee, and to receive the final corrections and sanction of the Convention.

Article 1, Section 2. On motion of Mr. RANDOLPH, the word “servitude” was struck out, and “service”2 unanimously inserted, the former being thought to express the condition of slaves, and the latter the obligations of free persons.

Mr. DICKINSON and Mr. WILSON moved to strike out, “and direct taxes,” from Article 1, Section 2, as improperly placed in a clause relating merely to the constitution of the House of Representatives.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. The insertion here was in consequence of what had passed on this point; in order to exclude the appearance of counting the negroes in the representation. The including of them may now be referred to the object of direct taxes, and incidentally only to that of representation.

On the motion to strike out, “and direct taxes,” from this place, —

New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, aye, — 3; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no, — 8.

Article 1, Section 7, — “if any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him,” &c.

Mr. MADISON moved to insert, between “after,” and “it,” in Article 1, Section 7, the words, “the day on which,” in order to prevent a question whether the day on which the bill be presented ought to be counted, or not, as one of the ten days.

Mr. RANDOLPH seconded the motion.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. The amendment is unnecessary. The law knows no fractions of days.

A number of members being very impatient, and calling for the question, —

Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, aye, — 3; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no, — 8.

Doctor JOHNSON made a further report from the Committee of Style, &c., of the following resolutions, to be substituted for Articles 22 and 23:

“Resolved, that the preceding Constitution be laid before the United States in Congress assembled; and that it is the opinion of this Convention, that it should afterwards be submitted to a Convention of Delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its Legislature, for their assent and ratification; and that each convention assenting to and ratifying the same, should give notice thereof to the United States in Congress assembled.”

“Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Convention, that as soon as the Conventions of nine States shall have ratified this Constitution, the United States in Congress assembled should fix a day on which Electors should be appointed by the States which shall have ratified the same; and a day on which the Electors should assemble to vote for the President; and the time and place for commencing proceedings under this Constitution: That after such publication the Electors should be appointed, and the Senators and Representatives elected: That the Electors should meet on the day fixed for the election of the President, and should transmit their votes, certified, signed, sealed, and directed, as the Constitution requires, to the Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled: That the Senators and Representatives should convene at the time and place assigned: that the Senators should appoint a President for the sole purpose of receiving, opening and counting the votes for President, and that after he shall be chosen, the Congress, together with the President, should, without delay, proceed to execute this Constitution.”


1This motion and appointment of the Comittee not in the printed Journal. No report was made by the Come.  Return to text

2See page 372 of the printed Journal.  Return to text

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