The Debates in the
Federal Convention of 1787
Governour LIVINGSTON from the Committee of Eleven to
whom was referred the propositions respecting the debts of the several States
and also the Militia entered on the 18th. inst: delivered the following report:
"The Legislature of the U. S. shall have power to fulfil the
engagements which have been entered into by Congress, and to discharge as well
the debts of the U. S. as the debts incurred by the several States during the
late war, for the common defence and general welfare"
"To make laws for organizing arming and disciplining the militia, and
for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the U. S.
reserving to the States respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the
authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by the
Mr. GERRY considered giving the power
only, without adopting the obligation, as destroying the security now enjoyed by
the public creditors of the U-States. He enlarged on the merit of this class of
citizens, and the solemn faith which had been pledged under the existing
Confederation. If their situation should be changed as here proposed great
opposition would be excited agst. the plan. He urged also that as the States had
made different degrees of exertion to sink their respective debts, those who had
done most would be alarmed, if they were now to be saddled with a share of the
debts of States which had done least.
Mr. SHERMAN. It means neither more nor
less than the confederation as it relates to this subject.
Mr. ELSEWORTH moved that the Report
delivered in by Govr. Livingston should lie on the table. 1
Agreed to nem. con.
Art: VII. Sect. 3. 2 resumed. — Mr.
DICKENSON moved to postpone this in order to reconsider
Art: IV. Sect. 4. and to limit the number of representatives to be
allowed to the large States. Unless this were done the small States would be
reduced to entire insignificancy, 3 and
encouragement given to the importation of slaves.
Mr. SHERMAN would agree to such a
reconsideration, but did not see the necessity of postponing the section before
the House. — Mr. DICKENSON withdrew his
motion. Art: VII. Sect. 3. 4 then agreed
to 10 ays. Delaware alone being 5 no.
Mr. SHERMAN moved to add to Sect. 3. the
following clause "and all accounts of supplies furnished, services
performed, and monies advanced by the several States to the U. States, or by the
U. S. to the several States shall be adjusted by the same rule"
Mr. GOVERNr. MORRIS 2ds. the motion.
Mr. GHORUM, thought it wrong to insert
this in the Constitution. The Legislature will no doubt do what is right. The
present Congress have such a power and are now exercising it.
Mr. SHERMAN unless some rule be
expressly given none will exist under the new system.
Mr. ELSEWORTH. Though The contracts of
Congress will be binding, there will be no rule for executing them on the
States; and one ought to be provided.
Mr. SHERMAN withdrew his motion to make
way for one of Mr. WILLIAMSON to add to
Sect. 3. "By this rule the several quotas of the States shall be determined
in Settling the expences of the late war."
Mr. CARROL brought into view the
difficulty that might arise on this subject from the establishment of the
Constitution as intended without the unanimous consent of the States
Mr. WILLIAMSON's motion was postponed
Art: VI Sect. 12. 6 which had been
postponed Aug: 15.
7 was now called for by Col. MASON, who wished to know how the proposed amendment as to
money bills would be decided, before he agreed to any further points.
Mr. GERRY's motion of yesterday that
previous to a census, direct taxation be proportioned on the States according to
the number of Representatives, was taken up. He observed that the principal acts
of Government would probably take place within that period, and it was but
reasonable that the States should pay in proportion to their share in them.
Mr. ELSEWORTH thought such a rule
unjust. there was a great difference between the number of Represents., and the
number of inhabitants as a rule in this case. Even if the former were
proportioned as nearly as possible to the latter, it would be a very inaccurate
rule. A State might have one Representative only that had inhabitants enough for
1 1/2 or more, if fractions could be applied, &c — . He proposed to
amend the motion by adding the words "subject to a final liquidation by the
foregoing rule when a census shall have been taken."
Mr. MADISON. The last apportionment of
Congs., on which the number of Representatives was founded, was conjectural and
meant only as a temporary rule till a Census should be established.
Mr. READ. The requisitions of Congs. had
been accomodated to the the impoverishments produced by the war; and to other
local and temporary circumstances —
Mr. WILLIAMSON opposed Mr. Gerry's
Mr. LANGDON was not here when N. H. was
allowed three members. If
8 it was more than her share; he did not
wish for them.
Mr. BUTLER contended warmly for Mr.
Gerry's motion as founded in reason and equity.
Mr. ELSEWORTH's proviso to Mr. Gerry's
motion was agreed to nem. con.
Mr. KING thought the power of taxation
given to the Legislature rendered the motion of Mr. Gerry altogether
On Mr. Gerry's motion as amended
N. H. no. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. Ci.
divd. S. C. ay. Geo. no. 9
On a question, Shall Art: VI Sect. 12. with the amendment to it proposed &
entered on the 15 instant, as called for by Col. Mason be now taken up? it
passed in the Negative.
N. H. ay. Mas no. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C.
ay. S. C. no. Geo. no 10
Mr. L. MARTIN. The power of taxation is
most likely to be criticised by the public. Direct taxation should not be used
but in case of absolute necessity; and then the States will be best Judges of
the mode. He therefore moved the following addition to Sect: 3. Art: VII "And
whenever the Legislature of the U: S: shall find it necessary that revenue
should be raised by direct taxation, having apportioned the same, according to
the above rule on the several States, requisitions shall be made of the
respective States to pay into the Continental Treasury their respective quotas
within a time in the said requisitions specified, and in case of any of the
States failing to comply with such requisitions, then and then only to devise
and pass acts directing the mode, and authorizing the collection of the same"
Mr. McHENRY 2ded. the motion
— there was no debate, and on the question
N. H. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pena. no. Del. no. Md. divd. (Jenifer &
Carrol no). Va. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 11
Art. VII. Sect. 4. 12, 13
— Mr. LANGDON. by this section the
States are left at liberty to tax exports. N. H. therefore with other
nonexporting States, will be subject to be taxed by the States exporting its
produce. This could not be admitted. It seems to be feared that the Northern
States will oppress the trade of the Southn. This may be guarded agst. by
requiring the concurrence of 2/3 or 3/4 of the legislature in such cases.
Mr. ELSEWORTH. It is best as it stands.
The power of regulating trade between the States will protect them agst. each
other. Should this not be the case, the attempts of one to tax the produce of
another passing through its hands, will force a direct exportation and defeat
themselves. There are solid reasons agst. Congs. taxing exports. 1.
14 it will discourage industry, as taxes
on imports discourage luxury. 2. 14 The
produce of different States is such as to prevent uniformity in such taxes.
There are indeed but a few articles that could be taxed at all; as Tobo. rice &
indigo, and a tax on these alone would be partial & unjust. 3.
14 The taxing of exports would engender
Mr. WILLIAMSON. Tho' N. C. has been
taxed by Virga. by a duty on 12,000 Hhs of her Tobo. exported thro' Virga. yet
he would never agree to this power. Should it take take place, it would distroy
the last hope of an adoption of the plan.
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS.
These local considerations ought not to impede the general interest. There is
great weight in the argument, that the exporting States will tax the produce of
their uncommercial neighbours. The power of regulating the trade between Pa. &
N. Jersey will never prevent the former from taxing the latter. Nor will such a
tax force a direct exportation from N. Jersey. The advantages possessed by a
large trading City, outweigh the disadvantage of a moderate duty; and will
retain the trade in that channel. — If no tax can be laid on exports, an
embargo cannot be laid though in time of war such a measure may be of critical
importance. Tobacco, lumber and live-stock are three objects belonging to
different States, of which great advantage might be made by a power to tax
exports. To these may be added Ginseng and Masts for Ships by which a tax might
be thrown on other nations. The idea of supplying the West Indies with lumber
from Nova Scotia is one of the many follies of lord Sheffield's pamphlets. The
State of the Country also will change, and render duties on exports, as skins,
beaver & other peculiar raw materials, politic in the view of encouraging
Mr. BUTLER was strenuously opposed to a
power over exports; as unjust and alarming to the Staple-States.
Mr. LANGDON suggested a prohibition on
the States from taxing the produce of other States exported from their harbours.
Mr. DICKENSON. The power of taxing
exports may be inconvenient at present; but it must be of dangerous consequence
to prohibit it with respect to all articles and for ever. He thought it would be
better to except particular articles from the power.
Mr. SHERMAN. It is best to prohibit the
National legislature in all cases. The States will never give up all power over
trade. An enumeration of particular articles would be difficult invidious and
Mr. MADISON As we aught to be governed
by national and permanent views, it is a sufficient argument for giving ye.
power over exports that a tax, tho' it may not be expedient at present, may be
so hereafter. A proper regulation of exports may & probably will be
necessary hereafter, and for the same purposes as the regulation of imports;
viz, for revenue — domestic manufactures — and procuring equitable
regulations from other nations. An Embargo may be of absolute necessity, and can
alone be effectuated by the Genl. authority. The regulation of trade between
State and State can not effect more than indirectly to hinder a State from
taxing its own exports; by authorizing its Citizens to carry their commodities
freely into a neighbouring State which might decline taxing exports in order to
draw into its channel the trade of its neighbours. As to the fear of
disproportionate burdens on the more exporting States, it might be remarked that
it was agreed on all hands that the revenue wd. principally be drawn from trade,
and as only a given revenue would be needed, it was not material whether all
should be drawn wholly from imports — or half from those, and half from
exports. The imports and exports must be pretty nearly equal in every State —
and relatively the same among the different States.
Mr. ELSEWORTH did not conceive an
embargo by the Congress interdicted by this section.
Mr. McHENRY conceived that
power to be included in the power of war.
Mr. WILSON. Pennsylvania exports the
produce of Maryd. N. Jersey, Delaware & will by & by when the River
Delaware is opened, export for N-York. In favoring the general power over
exports therefore, he opposed the particular interest of his State. He remarked
that the power had been attacked by reasoning which could only have held good in
case the Genl Govt. had been compelled, instead of authorized,
to lay duties on exports. To deny this power is to take from the Common Govt.
half the regulation of trade. It was his opinion that a power over exports might
be more effectual than that over imports in obtaining beneficial treaties of
Mr. GERRY was strenuously opposed to the
power over exports. It might be made use of to compel the States to comply with
the will of the Genl. Government, and to grant it any new powers which might be
demanded. We have given it more power already than we know how will be
exercised. It will enable the Genl. Govt. to oppress the States as much as
Ireland is oppressed by Great Britain.
Mr. FITZIMMONS would be agst. a tax on
exports to be laid immediately; but was for giving a power of laying the tax
when a proper time may call for it. This would certainly be the case when
America should become a manufacturing Country. He illustrated his argument by
the duties in G. Britain on wool &c.
Col. MASON. If he were for reducing the States to
mere corporations as seemed to be the tendency of some arguments, he should be
for subjecting their exports as well as imports to a power of general taxation.
He went on a principle often advanced & in which he concurred, that "a
majority when interested will oppress the minority." This maxim had been
verified by our own Legislature [of Virginia]. If we compare the States in this
point of view the 8 Northern States have an interest different from the five
Southn. States; and have in one branch of the legislature 36 votes agst. 29. and
in the other, in the proportion of 8 agst. 5. The Southern States had therefore
good ground for their suspicions. The case of Exports was not the same with that
of imports. The latter were the same throughout the States: The former very
different. As to Tobacco other nations do raise it, and are capable of raising
it as well as Virga. &c. The impolicy of taxing that article had been
demonstrated by the experiment of Virginia.
Mr. CLYMER remarked that every State
might reason with regard to its particular productions, in the same manner as
the Southern States. The middle States may apprehend an oppression of their
wheat flour, provisions &c. and with more reason, as these articles were
exposed to a competition in foreign markets not incident to Tobo. rice &c.
They may apprehend also combinations agst. them between the Eastern &
Southern States as much as the latter can apprehend them between the Eastern &
middle. He moved as a qualification of the power of taxing Exports that it
should be restrained to regulations of trade, by inserting after the word "duty"
Sect 4 art VII the words, "for the purpose of revenue."
On 15 Question on Mr. Clymer's motion
N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. no. N. C.
no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 16
Mr. MADISON. In order to require 2/3 of
each House to tax exports — as a lesser evil than a total prohibition moved
to insert the words "unless by consent of two thirds of the Legislature."
Mr. WILSON 2ds. and on this question, it
passed in the Negative. N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay.
Md. no. Va. no [Col. Mason, Mr. Randolph, Mr. Blair no. Genl. Washington &
J. M. ay.] N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 17,
18 Question on Sect: 4. art VII. as far as to "no
tax shl. be laid on exports — It passed in the affirmative.
N. H. no. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay (Genl.
W. & J. M. no) N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. 19
Mr. L. MARTIN, proposed to vary the
Sect: 4. art VII. so as to allow a prohibition or tax on the importation of
slaves. 1. 20 as five slaves are to be
counted as 3 free men in the apportionment of Representatives; such a clause wd.
leave an encouragement to this trafic. 2.
21 slaves weakened one part of the Union
which the other parts were bound to protect: the privilege of importing them was
therefore unreasonable. 3. 22 it was
inconsistent with the principles of the revolution and dishonorable to the
American character to have such a feature in the Constitution.
Mr. RUTLIDGE did not see how the
importation of slaves could be encouraged by this Section. He was not
apprehensive of insurrections and would readily exempt the other States from the
obligation to protect the Southern against them. — Religion & humanity
had nothing to do with this question. Interest alone is the governing principle
with nations. The true question at present is whether the Southn. States shall
or shall not be parties to the Union. If the Northern States consult their
interest, they will not oppose the increase of Slaves which will increase the
commodities of which they will become the carriers.
Mr. ELSEWORTH was for leaving the clause
as it stands. let every State import what it pleases. The morality or wisdom of
slavery are considerations belonging to the States themselves. What enriches a
part enriches the whole, and the States are the best judges of their particular
interest. The old confederation had not meddled with this point, and he did not
see any greater necessity for bringing it within the policy of the new one:
Mr. PINKNEY. South Carolina can never
receive the plan if it prohibits the slave trade. In every proposed extension of
the powers of the Congress, that State has expressly & watchfully excepted
that of meddling with the importation of negroes. If the States be all left at
liberty on this subject, S. Carolina may perhaps by degrees do of herself what
is wished, as Virginia & Maryland have already 23
1. The words "which was" are
here inserted in the transcript.
2. The words "was then" are here
inserted in the transcript.
3. The word "insignificancy" is
changed to "insignificance" in the transcript.
4. The word "was" is here
inserted in the transcript.
5. The word "being" is omitted
in the transcript.
6. See ante.
7. The words "on the fifteenth of
August" are substituted in the transcript for "Aug: 15."
8. The word "if" is omitted in
9. In the transcript the vote reads "Massachusetts,
South Carolina, aye — 2; New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, no — 8; North
10. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Hampshire, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, aye — 5;
Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia, no —
11. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Jersey, aye — 1; New Hampshire, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no — 8; Maryland,
divided [Jenifer and Caroll, no]."
12. See ante.
13. The words "was then taken up"
are here inserted in the transcript.
14. The figures "1," "2"
and "3" are changed in the transcript to "First," "Secondly"
15. The word "the" is here
inserted in the transcript.
16. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Aye — 3; New Hampshire, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no —
17. In the transcript the vote reads: "New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, aye — 5;
Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia [Col. Mason, Mr. Randolph, Mr. Blair, no;
General Washington, Mr. Madison, aye] North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia,
no — 6."
18. The words "On the" are here
inserted in the transcript.
19. In the transcript the vote reads: "Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia [Genl. Washington and Mr. Madison, no] North
Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye — 7; New Hampshire, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Delaware, no — 4."
20. The figure "1" is changed
in the transcript to "In the first place."
21. The figure "2" is changed
in the transcript to "In the second place."
22. The figure "3" is changed
in the transcript to "And in the third place."
23. The words "have already"
are transposed in the transcript to read "already have."