The Debates in
the Federal Convention of 1787
by James Madison
1 "Shall the clause allowing
each State one vote in the 2d. branch, stand as part of the Report"?
being taken up —
Mr. GERRY. This is the critical
question. He had rather agree to it than have no accomodation. A Governt.
short of a proper national plan, if generally acceptable, would be
preferable to a proper one which if it could be carried at all, would
operate on discontented States. He thought it would be best to suspend the
2 question till the Comme. yesterday
appointed, 3 should make report.
Mr. SHERMAN Supposed that it was the
wish of every one that some Genl. Govt. should be established. An equal
vote in the 2d. branch would, he thought, be most likely to give it the
necessary vigor. The small States have more vigor in their Govts. than the
large ones, the more influence therefore the large ones have, the weaker
will be the Govt. In the large States it will be most difficult to collect
the real & fair sense of the people. Fallacy & undue influence
will be practiced with most success: and improper men will most easily get
into office. If they vote by States in the 2d. branch, and each State has
an equal vote, there must be always a majority of States as well as a
majority of the people on the side of public measures, & the Govt.
will have decision and efficacy. If this be not the case in the 2d. branch
there may be a majority of the 4
States agst. public measures, and the difficulty of compelling them to
abide by the public determination, will render the Government feebler than
it has ever yet been.
Mr. WILSON was not deficient in a
conciliating temper, but firmness was sometimes a duty of higher
obligation. Conciliation was also misapplied in this instance. It was
pursued here rather among the Representatives, than among the
Constituents; and it wd. be of little consequence, if not established
among the latter; and there could be little hope of its being established
among them if the foundation should not be laid in justice and right.
On 5 Question shall the words
stand as part of the Report?
Massts. divd. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va.
no. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. divd. 6
[Note. Several votes were given here in the affirmative or were divd.
because another final question was to be taken on the whole report.]
Mr. GERRY thought it would be proper
to proceed to enumerate & define the powers to be vested in the Genl.
Govt. before a question on the report should be taken, as to the rule of
representation in the 2d. branch.
Mr. MADISON, observed that it wd. be
impossible to say what powers could be safely & properly vested in the
Govt. before it was known, in what manner the States were to be
represented in it. He was apprehensive that if a just representation were
not the basis of the Govt. it would happen, as it did when the Articles of
Confederation were depending, that every effectual prerogative would be
withdrawn or withheld, and the New Govt. wd. be rendered as impotent and
as shortlived as the old.
Mr. PATTERSON would not decide
whether the privilege concerning money bills were a valuable consideration
or not: But he considered the mode & rule of representation in the
1st. branch as fully so. and that after the establishment of that point,
the small States would never be able to defend themselves without an
equality of votes in the 2d. branch. There was no other ground of
accomodation. His resolution was fixt. He would meet the large States on
that Ground and no other. For himself he should vote agst. the Report,
because it yielded too much.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS.
He had no resolution unalterably fixed except to do what should finally
appear to him right. He was agst. the Report because it maintained the
improper Constitution of the 2d. branch. It made it another Congress, a
mere whisp of straw. It had been sd. [by Mr. Gerry] that the new Governt.
would be partly national, partly federal; that it ought in the first
quality to protect individuals; in the second, the States. But in what
quality was it to protect the aggregate interest of the whole. Among the
many provisions which had been urged, he had seen none for supporting the
dignity and splendor of the American Empire. It had been one of our
greatest misfortunes that the great objects of the nation had been
sacrificed constantly to local views; in like manner as the general
interests of States had been sacrificed to those of the Counties. What is
to be the check in the Senate? none; unless it be to keep the majority of
the people from injuring particular States. But particular States ought to
be injured for the sake of a majority of the people, in case their conduct
should deserve it. Suppose they should insist on claims evidently unjust,
and pursue them in a manner detrimental to the whole body. Suppose they
should give themselves up to foreign influence. Ought they to be protected
in such cases. They were originally nothing more than colonial
corporations. On the declaration of Independence, a Governmt. was to be
formed. The small States aware of the necessity of preventing anarchy, and
taking advantage of the moment, extorted from the large ones an equality
of votes. Standing now on that ground, they demand under the new system
greater rights as men, than their fellow Citizens of the large States. The
proper answer to them is that the same necessity of which they formerly
took advantage, does not now exist, and that the large States are at
liberty now to consider what is right, rather than what may be expedient.
We must have an efficient Govt. and if there be an efficiency in the local
Govts. the former is impossible. Germany alone proves it. Notwithstanding
their common diet, notwithstanding the great prerogatives of the Emperor
as head of the Empire, and his vast resources, as sovereign of his
particular dominions, no union is maintained: foreign influence disturbs
every internal operation, & there is no energy whatever in the general
Governmt. Whence does this proceed? From the energy of the local
authorities; from its being considered of more consequence to support the
Prince of Hesse, than the Happiness of the people of Germany. Do Gentlemen
wish this to be ye case here. Good God, Sir, is it possible they can so
delude themselves. What if all the Charters & Constitutions of the
States were thrown into the fire, and all their demagogues into the ocean.
What would it be to the happiness of America. And will not this be the
case here if we pursue the train in wch. the business lies. We shall
establish an Aulic Council without an Emperor to execute its decrees. The
same circumstances which unite the people here, unite them in Germany.
They have there a common language, a common law, common usages and
manners, and a common interest in being united; yet their local
jurisdictions destroy every tie. The case was the same in the Grecian
States. The United Netherlands are at this time torn in factions. With
these examples before our eyes shall we form establishments which must
necessarily produce the same effects. It is of no consequence from what
districts the 2d. branch shall be drawn, if it be so constituted as to
yield an asylum agst. these evils. As it is now constituted he must be
agst. its being drawn from the States in equal portions. But shall he was
7 ready to join in devising such an
amendment of the plan, as will be most likely to secure our liberty &
Mr. SHERMAN & Mr. ELSEWORTH
moved to postpone the Question on the Report from the Committee of a
member from each State, in order to wait for the Report from the Come. of
5 last appointed.
Masts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. Maryland ay. Va.
no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 8
1. The words "The question"
are here inserted in the transcript.
2. The word "this" is
substituted in the transcript for "the."
3. The words "yesterday appointed"
are transposed to read "appointed yesterday" in the transcript.
4. The word "the" is omitted
in the transcript.
5. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
6. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, aye — 6;
Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, no — 3; Massachusetts,
7. The words "shall be" are
substituted in the transcript for "shall he was."
8. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, aye — 6;
New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no — 5."