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title:“John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates”
authors:John McKesson
date written:1788-6-30

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:27 a.m. UTC
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McKesson, John. "John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 22. Ed. John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2008. 2016-18. Print.
McKesson's Notes, New-York Historical Society

John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates (June 30, 1788)

JOHN LANSING, JR., stated the difference between him & Mr. Hamilton on Saturday—
ALEXANDER HAMILTON stated the sentimts. he had held forth— And denied that he ever was for Subverting the State Govts. or reducing them to the State of Corporations—
JOHN LANSING, JR. The Question is what were the Sentimts. the Honoble. Gent maintaind The Idea he held up was it necessary to reduce the State Govts. to the Situation ROBERT YATES. A disagreable Controversy— perhaps I may in my Notes have omitted something— I endeavoured to take nothing but truth— I went with great Reluctance—I held it my Duty to go— I every day reduced my Notes to the form of the Speech— The Plan as reported was nearly such as it is now— He gave a preference to that the House had gone thro instead of the Federal plan That the state Govts. would in their Nature be unfriendly to the Genl. Governmt. That whether it was a general Sentimt. cannot be de— clared—Many of the leading Characters were of that opinion—
ALEXANDER HAMILTON. The Convention as a Body meant to preserve the State Governments—That he did suppose that there would be an opposition between the State Govts. and Genl Govt. and therefore necessary to fortify the Genl Govt. I suppose the word Corporate Rights not to have been used by me but to be result of the Gentlemans reasoning or Sentiments Idea of my Reasoning—
ROBERT YATES. in Answer to the Question whether that it was probable or possible that the State Govts. would be extinguished, and therefore it was best to form the Genl. Govt. so as not to have any dependance on the State Govts.—but to stand on its own footing—
JOHN WILLIAMS. I shall refute his [Alexander Hamilton's] Argumts. as to a poll Tax— He confesses he is an Enemy to a poll Tax—hostile to the Exercise of the Power but contends for the Utility of & for grantg I. Our Constitution does not prohibit the Power 2 New England States have exercised it— 3 It may be necessary in Time of War— What may be useful or necessary in a State Consti [tu] tion may be the reverse in Genl Govt. The State Govt. will not exercise it the Genl Govt. will— The State Govt. more dependt. on the People—The People of the State secure from their Democratic Representation— New England States may have done wrong—Rome permitted a Cr[editor] to cut the Body of Debtor—England Authorizes impresses of Seamen— A happy equality of Property in Connecticut—it may be nearly just there— Minority of Maryland Convention opposed to it so zealously that it was one There cannot be an Emergency to authorize the Rich to oppress the Poor— Must not do evil that Good may come— In Holland he said every man paid a 20th.—This might be just it was a paymt. in proportion to property— Observat[ion] In every Country almost the Poor are much oppressed In America they are free and participate or may participate in Governmt. The Gent. Reasoning as to Excise has great Weight—It is not the Interest of this State to have Manufactures—for a century we may gain by it— Excise may extend to light given us by Heaven and to every thing we eat drink or wear—
* * * * *
SMITH. On great political Questions men of Abilities frequently differ—The Gent who advocate this Govt. have the advantage of Abilities and habit of public Speaking— No plausibility of Reasong cannot change the nature of things or make Truth falsehood— I stated that the system proposed was complex system— That if the State Govts. were to remain they must be provided for & supported—or there would be a consolidat[ion] The Gent laid down three Points— 1 That it is safe to trust the Govt. with these Powers— on acct. of its formation and that no other Check was necessary— Answer Every State Constitution in the united States has further Checks— full answers have been given as to Representation in the lower House— If an adequate Representat[ion] cannot be obtained we must give up a Republican Govt. If the State Govts. can have no powers to execute Why keep up the Pageantry of State Govts. at the Expence of 1500 Representatives— If the Genl Govt. adequate why the State Govts. That People are free where they are Governed by their own will— Where they cannot meet to express their will they do it by Representation The more numerous the Representation (within the degrees of practicability) the nearer to freedom— I admit there should be ballances to the democratic Branch—but the Govt. will be free if No Law can bind the People without their Consent— In the State Govts. [the people] will have more freedom as more fully represented— There will [be] a better security for Liberty in the State Govts. A Republican Govt. if too extensive cannot have an adequate Representation—The fewer the Representation the less Liberty to be enjoyed and the farther the Govt and Laws will [be] removed from the will of the People— The Gent asks what is a proper Representation? 1 for 4000, or 1 for 30,000— Answer there may be extreames—1 for 30,000 much too Small—less than the Representation in any Country where there is Representation— They are too few to know the Minds of the People— The Gent supposes that when the first Census [is] taken the Representat will be adequate— The like at the 2d Census—the 3d. will render it competent to every purpose— Therefore It appears that it will be 28 years before the Represent be adequate Remark—In less than 28 years this Govt. if it operates at all will have aquired such Habits & Stability as not to be changed but by force of Arms— —The Gent. remarked on an Authority I mentioned as to democr[a]cy's that it only applied to democracy's where the People gave their Suffrages in person—I am countenanced in this by Mr. Wilsons Represent— Position That a Republican Govt. over this Country extending to every thing is impracticable— and must end in Some thing else— It will be asked where shall the Limits be— lt is said this power is necessary—because where you give the End you must give the Means— Not necessary here— It is not true that the Charge Power to provide for the com Defence requires the Power of providing the Means— The King of G B. provides for defence— The Parliamt. provide the means— The Amendmt. under Considerat Will not prevent the Genl Govt. from drawing forth all its Resources— 1st. This Amendmt. will give as full to draw forth all the resources— 2d. The Amendmt. be more secure for the People— The Govt. may possibly in some Case fail— so may every Govt which is not a despotism— The Genl Govt. will have all Imposts—These Great—the Post Office a considerable Revenue— Tonnage on Vessels a Revenue— These will more than Provide for the Ordinary Times— Taxes and Excises only necessary in Extraordinary Times— The State Govts. will have as good or better Ability to Collect Taxes and Excises than the Genl Govt. The People will more readily obey and Support the Laws and the State Govt. will lay the Taxes more judiciously and less Burthensome to the people— The State Govts. will support the Genl. Govt. If they are hostile on [e] or other must fail— The Amendmt. itself has a farther Argumt. That if the State Govt does not raise the Money the Genl. Govt can— The apprehension of this will be a powerful incentive both to the Legislatures and the People of the States— The Money will be more effectually raised than as the Clause stands without Amendmt. The Gent says that the Impost will be one third of the Revenue and the united Genl Govt. must pay 14 fifteenths— does he include the Interest of National Debt A large Navy A Standing Army— foreign Garisons in Affrica and Asia— All these we never shall have— The Expence of the Civil List of the States is about four times as much as the Expence of the Civil List of the union— We have given more than half the Revenue of the Country to Support less than half the Expence— This Impost will greatly encrease— Do not wish to confine the Genl Govt. to this Kind of Revenue— The Amendmt. only proposes Security to the State Govts. and a reasonable certainty of raising the Money— A Gent. Compares Requisitions to voluntary Contributions. It does not apply— deliberative Bodies will see the force of Requisitions— The Genl Govt. could not by direct Taxes have raised as much as have by requisitions been paid— Could Congress have raised a Tax in Georgia—it was depopulated— She was obliged to turn her resources to her own defence— She claims to have furnished large Supplies— North Carolina & South Carolina Supplied the Southern Army—Impresses were made and the Civil Authority lent their Aid— South Carolina lent Certificates— The financier [Robert Morris] contracted that what they supplied the Army should be discounted on the requisition of eight Million— It is said no State made Exertions but those who were the Seat of War— This is a Mistake— the State of Massachussts. made great Exertions had a large Army in the field—The other Eastern States made great Exertions—Massachussetts could not for her load of Inability pay Taxes— Poverty prevented compliance with requisitions in many States Congress held up the Impost as nearly sufficient it was agreed to by most States and therefore some States did not distress their People — The Genl Govt. will raise more Money by requisition than by direct Taxes— An Excise is practicable— The other Impracticable— If there is no ability to pay they cannot get the Money—If there is any Money the State can raise it—And this will also best secure the People against oppression—and be more secure depositary of Power— will best [Possess?] the least oppressive method to raise the Money— It is said Requisitions will be made for [more] money than wanted to make allowance for defalcation— Answer The deficiencies in direct Taxes will amount to more than the deficiencies on requisitions— What will Induce the Genl Govt. to be extravagant in their Demands— If their Revenue will pay their Exigencies—it will be sufficient—If their Money exceeds they will lay it out—If they call on the States their requis[it]ions will carry some Marks of Propriety—they will demand Money only when they cannot do without it—And this Restriction will save Money— This Amendmt. will render the Intervention of the State Govts. necessary to the Genl. Govt.— Now the State Govts. are now only Necessary for the Choice of Senators— This Amendmt. necessary for the Existence of the State Govts. Gent. ask what Danger from this Govt. Axiom that Body who has all power and both purse and Sword has the absolute Govt. of all other Bodies and they must exist at the will & pleasure of the Superior The State Govts. will then exist at the will of the Superior holding purse and Sword as much as it would in England if the King [had] both
. . . .
MELANCTON SMITH. Wherever the Powers are concentered in one hand or any aggregate Body it is the Same— This is a Complex Govt.— the State Govts. are component parts of it— The Genl. Govt. one part and armed with all Power— I shall Answer his observations at a future opportunity as to the Safety of the State Governmts. and as to concurrent Jurisdictions in Taxes—
JOHN LANSING, JR. The Honorable Gentn from N: York [Alexander Hamilton] said it was easy to give a Turn to any Argumt.—
CONVENTION PROCEEDINGS. The Convention adjourned until three o'Clock P. M.
MELANCTON SMITH. I had not intended to finish my observations to day—but as the Gent. (Mr. Jay) says he waits for my observations—I shall now make some Observations as to Excise— Imposts will regulate itself— To give the Genl. Govt. a right of Excise several unanswerable Reasons agt. it— It will affect one or more particular States that manufacture—Therefore will not be gone into— The Rule given is Numbers—The State that has numbers will manufacture— The Rule will therefore work well— Another Reason It is admitted that manufactures in their Infancy should be encouraged not Taxed— The Genl Govt. cannot encourage Manufactures— The State Governmts. must do it—Therefore the State Govts. should have the Avails & the Power of Excises on Manufactures—
JOHN JAY. We have had the Gent. Ideas on the Subject of Excise I wish the Gent Idea on the Subject of Concurrent Jurisdictions—
MELANCTON SMITH. I think the Ideas on Concurrent Jurisdiction not accurately Stated— I also think the Ideas of Concurrent Jurisdiction and a controuling Power May Consist—If they are consistant I then think much objection to the power.
JOHN LANSING, JR. The Observations that the State Govts. & Genl Govt. have concurrent Jurisdiction are not Sufficient to convince me— The Genl Govt. have a power to make Laws which will be the Supreme Law— The Genl Govt. can also designate the objects of Taxation and also declare that the State Laws shall not operate— A Gent. from New York [Alexander Hamilton] has instanced two Creditors This State was not accurate
If the State Laws operate agt. the Genl Govt. the Laws of the Genl. Govt. must prevail— Supposea penny an Acre laid by both Govts. the Lands will bear no more— Then the State Laws must give way—
JOHN JAY. as the Gent has not matured his Sentimts. I will wait until he has—
GEORGE CLINTON moved to proceed to the next Clause—
JOHN JAY. Why proceed—we have not finished the last Clause—a Gent has not matured his Thoughts—another has promised us farther argumts. Shall We then proceed for what—to get home to cut our Grass— A Chain of Reasoning was given to the Committee with Important Conclusions on Saturday last—These are not answered— One Says The State Govts. and Genl Govt. have concurrent Jurisdictions— another says they have not—This unfinished— why proceed—
GEORGE CLINTON. I did not wish to proceed to a new Clause to prevent new Lights or new Argumts—I wish to hear any Gentlemen on this or any other Clause to morrow—If we cannot now proceed on this Clause why sit Idle— Shall [not] be informed by Sitting Idle and looking at each other—
JOHN JAY. The Impropriety of taking up things by halves does not appear right—I assign these reasons why I do not proceed— We are Sent here to think as well as Speak— while our Minds are reflecting on this article alone shall we take up a new Article—I do not wish to take up a new Article—
GEORGE CLINTON. I do not wish to hurry any Gentleman— If Gentlemen are not ready the Gent [John Jay] might have moved for an Amendmt. that we should adjourn—
JOHN LANSING, JR. I suppose some Gentlemen wish to adjourn— If not let us proceed to the next Clause—
SAMUEL JONES. We had reason to believe the Gent next to me (Mr. Jay) This Clause is of great Importance and with the Amendmt proposed affords ample Room for Declamat— The Clause gives the Genl. Govt. every object of Revenue— The Objection is that it will Leave the State Govts to be annihillate other Objections that the Genl Govt. cannot exercise it & other Inconveniences— Neither form a Compleat Govt.— Hence the necessity of so organizing them that they may harmonize— The Genl. Govt. it is said may obsorbe the State Govts. on the other Side that the Genl Govt. will be injured or weakened by the state Govts. The Intention of the amendmts. is to give more power and Stability to the State Govts. and to Collect thro their Medium Certain Excises & Taxes— The Excise is more properly given to the State Govts. They can do it with more propriety & prudence— And they will not overburthen their own productions— Object[ions]. We ought not to limit the Quantum of Taxes the Genl Govt. shall raise because we cannot limit their Expences— but we can limit the Articles they shall Tax— And this appears proper— Remark that the Limitation of the Objects of Taxation nothing new— The Constitution itself has excluded all Articles of Exportation— The Amendment full as proper and more expedient— Time may come when both these Articles are improper—at That time both will be amended— Some Articles should be appropriated to the State Govt as many are to the Genl. Govt.— If there is any such Thing as a Concurrent Jurisdiction it is founded on Induction and reasoning— Can there be a Concurrent Jurisdict and no Supreme Power— Then there will be two Supreme Powers— They must [be] referred and determined by different Judicatories, or will they then receive an uniform determinat[ion] This will not arise from Corruption but from the different opinions of different men— Will not the Clause admit of different Construction—yes—Can two Supreme Powers prevail— It is capable of a contrary Construction— will it not receive— In Adjudicat[ion] will not the Interest of the Public prevail agt. a private Interest— The Inconveniences attending it are sufficient to put it in a different Train— What Misschiefs will arise between two Govts. each Supposing itself right and acting as they think right— Next the Inconvenience of Genl Govt. exercising direct Taxation— It will be difficult—it cannot be exercised with propriety and prudence— It requires more accurate acknowledge [i.e., knowledge] than any part of Govt. to lay direct Taxes— Can Six Men apportion the Taxes in this State—I[t] requires a knowledge of each particular part of the State— It is said the Genl Govt. may adopt the mode of Taxation adopted in each State— Suppose this how apportion the Taxation among the Counties—The No. in N York 22,000—West Chester nearly the Same— The Tax Laws vary every year as Circumstances differ Therefore these will be no guide— If the Supervisors are to distribute it—who are they—they are changeable daily— In every light insuprable Difficulties appear on this Clause — Adopt the Amendmt. the difficulties are removed— If requisition is a different an Improper Term Strike it out and insert Notice or any other Term— I am convinced they cannot exercise the Power thro The Genl Govt. This Amendmt proposed by other States it will be an agreeable Amendmt. It is said the Amendmt. is only a Requisition Here is a power to compel this paymt. then why not be executed— I do not say the Genl Govt cannot Lay or Collect Taxes but I do say they cannot do it fairly & properly— They will have power while they Execute it honestly and justly— It is said this mode will take from the Power of Borrowing—And that no Man will lend on this power—Answer—The One Security as good as another— Objections—There will be delinquencies—So there will if direct Taxation is given— There is now deficiencies in our Own State— Some Towns or Counties pay the whole others but a part— This happens in all Countries— No Country pays the whole Tax— The Amendmt. after examining all the Argumts. appears to me to be such as will operate properly—enable the states to Support their Govts. and enable the Genl Govt. to support itself and assist to establish it and be of general Utility— I should be willing to amend the Amendmt. by excepting in Time of War
JOHN JAY. I think Gentn mistake Excises I tho't that Gent meant that our own Manufactures should be free of Excises— The Gent says both Govts must [be] Supported— true The Genl Govt. can absorb all the Resources what shall Support the State Govts. The Gent says Excises on their own Manufactures This is a new Idea—and not the Idea that produced the Amendment— The Gent. Said that Concurrent Jurisdiction was mere matter of Construction—It must be a Doubtful in construction because Gent differ about it—does the Amendmt. prevent this— The Amendmt only Says Congress shall not Tax domestic Manufactures—And that Congress shall not lay direct Taxes but first make Requisitions— What are direct Taxes—I thot a poll Tax a direct Tax — It is said in Case of Refusal Congress [may] levy tax or lay a poll Tax— Then Congress are to lay a poll Tax Another Gent says Congress shall not lay a poll Tax— What are direct Taxes—
SAMUEL JONES. Proper to explain my Ideas of a poll Tax I consider a poll Tax as a direct Tax— I said if the [y] proceeded by Requisition and were unpaid they would then lay a poll Tax or any other Tax until their requisition was obeyed— I say An Excise will give Govt. a certain Fund to which they can at all Events recur if every other Source is taken away— It is objected that the Amendmt. does not prevent a Concurrent Jurisdict. I think the Genl Govt. has a Supreme Jurisdiction— and that the State Govts. cannot take it from them & perhaps they should retain it—

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