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title:“James Wilsons' Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention”
date written:1787-11-3

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:59 a.m. UTC
retrieved:March 21, 2018, 4:22 p.m. UTC

"James Wilsons' Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 2. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1976. 428, 433, 434, 439-41. Print.

James Wilsons' Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention (November 3, 1787)

Whitehill: The general government may subsist after the abolition of the state governments. The powers of Congress are unlimited and undefined. The Senators may hold their places as long as they live, and there is no power to prevent them .
Article 1 , section 8, last clause gives the power self-preservation independent of the several states; for in case of their abolition it will be alleged in favor of the general government that self-preservation is the first law.
The "Time" of election is in their power and therefore they may make it as long as they please.
There are some reservations in this government—why not more?
It was systematically intended to abolish the state governments.
Hartley: England became enslaved at the time of the Conquest. The power of collecting taxes is necessary. Recommendations have been insufficient. Our Representatives have this power. In the time of the emperors, they appointed the senate.
Rush: All bills of rights have been broken. There is no security for liberty but in two things-just representation and checks. The citizens of United States have the preoccupancy of liberty; shall they make a deed confirmation to themselves?
Yeates: Objections reducible to 2 heads-want of bill of rights- abolition of state governments.
4 Article, 4 section: Guarantee of republican government.
Power must be given. All power may be abused.
The restrictions in Article 1, section 10 will revive our commerce, restore public credit, lessen taxes.
WILLIAM FINDLEY: The observations made relate to what is, and what is not in the system. I confine myself to answering the remarks that have been made this forenoon.
The natural course of power is to make the many slaves to the few. This is verified by universal experience. England had always the common law. Its Charter will not apply to us. Bills of rights were great improvements there. Government will construe its own powers so as to suit its own wishes, which it will call necessities. Because all securities are broken, shall we have none? Is it not a new doctrine that, because a good government, ill-administered, produces mischief, therefore we ought to be indifferent about it? Powers given—powers reserved—ought to be all enumerated. Let us add a bill of rights to our other securities.
In Britain the appropriations are annual. Annual elections are absolutely necessary in this government that is not merely federal.4 The Senate, the principal branch, is elected for 6 years, and removes responsibility far. Number of Representatives too small. There should be more in this new and thinly settled country than in one old and populous. Pennsylvania will not have any Representatives far from Philadelphia.5
This is not a confederate but a consolidating government. We ought to suppose that Congress will abuse its powers. The powers of the general government extend to state and internal purposes.
BENJAMIN RUSH: Our rights are not yet all known. Why should we attempt to enumerate them?
Smilie: In The Remembrancer there is a bill of rights of Virginia.
McKean: I wish to see what kind of bill of rights those gentlemen would propose.
JOHN SMILIE: We will exhibit a bill of rights, if the Convention will receive it. (1) Great point Is a bill of rights necessary? (2) Does this system abolish the state governments? Direct taxation, poll tax, standing army are objections.
Freedom almost unknown in the Old World. Are we to go there for precedents of liberty? Bill of rights necessary as the instrument of original compact and to mention the rights reserved. The sovereignty and independence of the states should be reserved. There must be a people before there is a king; and the people, in the first instance, have inherent and inalienable rights. We ought to know what rights we surrender, and what we retain.
Suppose Congress to pass an act for the punishment of libels and restrain the liberty of the press, for they are warranted to do this. What security would a printer have, tried in one of their courts? An aristocratical government cannot bear the liberty of the press.
The Senate will swallow up any thing. What harm from a bill of rights?

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