The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
On the question for agreeing to the whole Report as amended & including
the equality of votes in the 2d. branch. it passed in the Affirmative.
Mas. divided Mr. Gerry, Mr. Strong, ay. Mr. King Mr. Ghorum no. Cont. ay.
N.J. ay. Pena. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. no. N.C. ay. Mr. Spaight no. S.C. no.
1 [Here enter the whole in the words
entered in the Journal July 16] 2
The whole, thus passed is in the words following viz
"Resolved that in the original formation of the Legislature of the U.
S. the first branch thereof shall consist of sixty five members, of which number
N. Hampshire shall send 3. Massts. 8. Rh. I. 1. Connt. 5. N. Y. 6. N. J. 4.
Pena. 8. Del. 1. Maryd. 6. Virga. 10. N. C. 5. S. C. 5. Geo. 3. — But as
the present situation of the States may probably alter in the number of their
inhabitants, the Legislature of the U. S. shall be authorized from time to time
to apportion the number of Reps.; and in case any of the States shall hereafter
be divided, or enlarged by, addition of territory, or any two or more States
united, or any new States created with 3
the limits of the U. S. the Legislature of the U. S. shall possess authority to
regulate the number of Reps. in any of the foregoing cases, upon the principle
of their number of inhabitants, according to the provisions hereafter mentioned,
4 — provided always that
representation ought to be proportioned according to direct taxation; and in
order to ascertain the alteration in the direct taxation, which may be required
from time to time by the changes in the relative circumstances of the States —
Resolved, that a Census be taken within six years from the 1st. meeting of
the Legislature of the U. S. and once within the term of every 10 years
afterwards of all the inhabitants of the U. S. in the manner and according to
the ratio recommended by Congress in their Resolution of April 18. 5
1783, and that the Legislature of the U. S. shall proportion the direct taxation
"Resolved, that all bills for raising or appropriating money, and for
fixing the salaries of officers of the Govt. of the U. S. shall originate in the
first branch of the Legislature of the U. S. and shall not be altered or amended
in the 2d. branch: and that no money shall be drawn from the public Treasury,
but in pursuance of appropriations to be originated in the 1st. branch.
"Resolvd. that in the 2d. branch of the Legislature of the U. S. each
State shall have an equal vote."
The 6th. Resol: in the Report from the Come. of the whole House, which had
been postponed in order to consider the 7 & 8th. Resolns.: was now resumed.
see the Resoln.
The 1st. member 6 "That the Natl.
Legislature ought to possess the Legislative Rights vested in Congs. by the
Confederation." was agreed to nem. Con.
The next, 7 "And moreover to
legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent; or in which
the harmony of the U. S. may be interrupted by the exercise of individual
legislation," being read for a question
Mr. BUTLER calls for some explanation of
the extent of this power: particularly of the word incompetent. The
vagueness of the terms rendered it impossible for any precise judgment to be
Mr. GHORUM. The vagueness of the terms
constitutes the propriety of them. We are now establishing general principles,
to be extended hereafter into details which will be precise & explicit.
Mr. RUTLIDGE, urged the objection
started by Mr. Butler and moved that the clause should be committed to the end
that a specification of the powers comprised in the general terms, might be
On the question for a 8 commitment,
9 were equally divided.
Mas. no. Cont. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N.C. no. S. C.
ay. Geo. ay: 10 So it was lost.
Mr. RANDOLPH. The vote of this morning
[involving an equality of suffrage in 2d. branch] had embarrassed the business
extremely. All the powers given in the Report from the Come. of the whole, were
founded on the supposition that a Proportional representation was to prevail in
both branches of the Legislature. When he came here this morning his purpose was
to have offered some propositions that might if possible have united a great
majority of votes, and particularly might provide agst. the danger suspected on
the part of the smaller States, by enumerating the cases in which it might lie,
and allowing an equality of votes in such cases. *11
But finding from the preceding vote that they persist in demanding an equal vote
in all cases, that they have succeeded in obtaining it, and that N. York if
present would probably be on the same side, he could not but think we were
unprepared to discuss this subject further. It will probably be in vain to come
to any final decision with a bare majority on either side. For these reasons he
wished the Convention might
14 adjourn, that the large States might
consider the steps proper to be taken in the present solemn crisis of the
business, and that the small States might also deliberate on the means of
Mr. PATTERSON, thought with Mr. R. that
it was high time for the Convention to adjourn that the rule of secrecy ought to
be rescinded, and that our Constituents should be consulted. No conciliation
could be admissible on the part of the smaller States on any other ground than
that of an equality of votes in the 2d. branch. If Mr. Randolph would reduce to
form his motion for an adjournment sine die, he would second it with all his
Genl. PINKNEY wished to know of Mr. R.
whether he meant an adjournment sine die, or only an adjournment for the day. If
the former was meant, it differed much from his idea. He could not think of
going to S. Carolina and returning again to this place. Besides it was
chimerical to suppose that the States if consulted would ever accord separately,
Mr. RANDOLPH, had never entertained an
idea of an adjournment sine die; & was sorry that his meaning had been so
readily & strangely misinterpreted. He had in view merely an adjournment
till tomorrow, in order that some conciliatory experiment might if possible be
devised, and that in case the smaller States should continue to hold back, the
larger might then take such measures, he would not say what, as might be
Mr. PATTERSON seconded the adjournment
till tomorrow, as an opportunity seemed to be wished by the larger States to
deliberate further on conciliatory expedients. On the question for adjourning
till tomorrow, the States were equally divided.
Mas. no. Cont. no. N.J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N.C. ay. S.C.
no. Geo. no. 15 So it was lost.
Mr. BROOME thought it his duty to
declare his opinion agst. an adjournment sine die, as had been urged by Mr.
Patterson. Such a measure he thought would be fatal. Something must be done by
the Convention, tho' it should be by a bare majority.
Mr. GERRY observed that Masts. was
opposed to an adjournment, because they saw no new ground of compromise. But as
it seemed to be the opinion of so many States that a trial shd — be made,
the State would now concur in the adjournmt.
Mr. RUTLIDGE could see no need of an
adjournt. because he could see no chance of a compromise. The little States were
fixt. They had repeatedly & solemnly declared themselves to be so. All that
the large States then had to do, was to decide whether they would yield or not.
For his part he conceived that altho' we could not do what we thought best, in
itself, we ought to do something. Had we not better keep the Govt. up a little
longer, hoping that another Convention will supply our omissions, than abandon
every thing to hazard. Our Constituents will be very little satisfied with us if
we take the latter course.
Mr. RANDOLPH & Mr. KING renewed the motion to adjourn till tomorrow.
On the question. Mas. ay. Cont. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. ay. Va.
ay. N.C. ay. S.C. ay. Geo. divd. 16
On the morning following before the hour of the convention a number of the
members from the larger States by common agreement met for the purpose of
consulting on the proper steps to be taken in consequence of the vote in favor
of an equal Representation in the 2d. branch, and the apparent inflexibility of
the smaller States on that point. Several members from the latter States also
attended. The time was wasted in vague conversation on the subject, without any
specific proposition or agreement. It appeared indeed that the opinions of the
members who disliked the equality of votes differed so 17
much as to the importance of that point, and as to the policy of risking a
failure of any general act of the Convention, by inflexibly opposing it. Several
of them supposing that no good Governnt. could or would be built on that
foundation, and that as a division of the Convention into two opinions was
unavoidable; it would be better that the side comprising the principal States,
and a majority of the people of America, should propose a scheme of Govt. to the
States, than that a scheme should be proposed on the other side, would have
concurred in a firm opposition to the smaller States, and in a separate
recommendation, if eventually necessary. Others seemed inclined to yield to the
smaller States, and to concur in such an act however imperfect &
exceptionable, as might be agreed on by the Convention as a body, tho' decided
by a bare majority of States and by a minority of the people of the U. States.
It is probable that the result of this consultation satisfied the smaller States
that they had nothing to apprehend from a union of the larger, in any plan
whatever agst. the equality of votes in the 2d. branch.
1. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina [Mr. Spaight, no], aye — 5;
Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, no — 4; Massachusetts,
divided, [Mr. Gerry, Mr. Strong, aye; Mr. King, Mr. Gorham, no.]"
2. Madison's direction is omitted in the
3. The word "within" is
substituted in the transcript for the word "with."
4. The word "namely" is omitted
in the transcript.
5. The date "April 18" is
changed to "the eighteenth of April" in the transcript.
6.. The words "The 1st. member"
are omitted in the transcript.
7 The words "The next" are
omitted in the transcript.
8. The word "a" is omitted in
9. The word "votes" is
substituted in the transcript for "States."
10. In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut,
Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 5; Massachusetts, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, no — 5."
*11 See the paper in 12
appendix communicated by Mr. R. to J.M. July 10. 13
12. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
13. The transcript here inserts "No.
14. The word "to" is
substituted in the transcript for "might."
15. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina aye — 5;
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia, no — 5."
16. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
aye — 7; Connecticut, Delaware, no — 2; Georgia, divided."
17. The word "so" is omitted in