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title:“Alexander Hamilton Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates”
authors:Alexander Hamilton
date written:1788-7-12

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:32 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 9, 2023, 7:21 p.m. UTC

Hamilton, Alexander. "Alexander Hamilton 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. 2156-61. Print.
Alexander Hamilton, Notes, Library of Congress

Alexander Hamilton Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates (July 12, 1788)

A — I A republic a word used in various senses— has been applied to aristocracies and monarchies
1 to Rome under the Kings
2 to Sparta though a senate for life
3 to Carthage though the same
4 to United Netherlands though Stadholder. Hereditary order
5 to Poland though Aristocracy and monarchy.
6 to G Britain though Monarchy &c II Again great confusion about the words democracy Aristocracy Monarchy.
1 Democracy defined by some Rousseau &c. a government exercised by the collective body of the People
2 Delegation of their power has been made the Criterion of Aristocracy.
II Aristocracy has been used to designate governments
1 where an independent few possessed sovereignty
2 Where the representatives of the people possessed it.
III Monarchy, where sovereignty in the hands of a single man.
General idea—Independent in his situation in any other sense would apply to State of N York &c III Democracy in my sense where the whole power of the government is in the people
1 whether exercised by themselves or
2 by their representatives chosen by them either mediately or immediately and legally accountable to them—
IV Aristocracy where whole sovereignty is permanently in the hands of a few for life or hereditary—
V Monarchy where the whole sovereignty is in the hands of one man for life or hereditary—
VI Mixed government where these three principles unite B — I CONSEQUENCE, the proposed government a representative democracy
1 House of representatives chosen by the people for two years
2 Senate indirectly chosen by them for 6 years
3 President indirectly chosen by them for 4 years Pa' Thus legislative and executive representatives of the people
4 Judicial power, representatives of the people indirectly chosen during good behaviour.
5 All officers indirect choice of the people N: r Constitution revocable and alterable by the people.
C — I This representative democracy as far as is consistent with its genius has all the features of good government These features—
1 An immediate and operative representation of the people which is found in the house of representatives
2 Stability and Wisdom which is found in the senate
3 a Vigorous executive which is found in the President
4 An independent judicial which is found in the Supreme Court &c b—A separation of the essential powers of government— Ascertain the sense of the Maxim I—one depar[t] ment must not wholly possess the powers of another.
—British Government II Departments of power must be separated yet so as to check each other.
1 Executive Legislative
2 legislative executive
3 Judicial legislative
4 Legislative judicial All this done in the proposed constitution
1 Legislative in the Congress, yet Checked by negative of Executive
2 Executive in the President yet checked by impeachment of Legis
3 Judicial check upon legislative in Interpretation of laws
4 And Checked by legislative through Impeachment.
D — I Can such a Government apply to so extensive a territory?
Exaggerated ideas of extent N 45°. 42°— S 31 31
14 11 434
973 7641/2 mean 868 3/4 by
Great Britain— 2 De[s] potic Government for a large country to be examined.
Review I First house of representatives chosen every second year &c II Senate for seven 6 years by Legislatures Rotation every two years probable increase— III Executive manner of appointment compensation— Negotiation of treaties Nomination of officers— IV Judicial power constitution of judges Extent of powers inferior Courts Trial by jury Criminal cases—.
Powers I To provide revenue for the common defence II to regulate commerce III to declare war IV to raise & support armies V admission of new States V[I] Disposal of property Miscellaneous advantages I to prohibit importation of slaves prior to 1808
II account to be rendered of expenditure of monies III No state shall emit bills of Credit tender ex post facto law or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant title of nobility
[I] V Definition of treason V Guarantee of republican Governments Discussion I Concurrent jurisdiction objections to system proposed recapitulation with additional idea respecting necessity of standing army— General observations
1 on restraint of revenue necessitating a standing army
2 on restraint upon power respecting Militia tending to the same point
3 on restraint upon reeligibility of the executive after 8 years— with a Council of influence— Desireable amendments Structure of Government
1 in relation to house of representatives
2 in relation to Court of impeachments
3 in relation to standing armies
4 in relation to trial by jury— This being the character of the constitution we are to adopt it is evident that it would be unwise upon speculative defects to reject it or even to do what might by possibility amount to a rejection— Let us now examine the nature of the propos[it] ion before us— I First inquiry have we power— 1 Trace it Convention direct that it be submitted to Conventions for assent and ratification— 2 Congress send it to legislatures to be submitted in conformity to that resolution
3 Joint resolutions submit it for that purpose— sr' Consequence we are to assent or reject and have no power to bind the people by amendments of any kind— Amendments make a new constitution & in this case the people would be bound upon a contingency of 9 States calling a Convention II Could Congress receive it
1 People Creators
2 Congress and all its attributes The Creature sa' Consequence no attribute or character or power but these— What is or is not a ratification is to be sought for there
3 Is it or is not an assent to that Constitution? It is not sa' Congress therefore cannot consider it as such sa' The test is this—It is professedly a condition which requires a subsequent assent— 2 Congress must be organised to assent
3 It is not therefore a valid original ratification
3 Nor according to the instrument by which Congress are created— Can Congress assent— 1 If they can their power must result in theory from the nature of delegated power—Or
2 from some express provision in the Constitution— 3 There is no such express provision—New States—Mode of alteration
4 Contrary to theory
5 The [Depositation?] of delegated power can neither increase nor diminish. Leg. pow
6 Examine argument about forbearing exercise
7 Maxim legislature cannot bind itself nor alienate itself Therefore 8 Congress cannot constitutionally accept If they were to attempt it, their act would be nugatory What number shall be sufficient to assent to Conditn
Question will they in point of expediency accept it
Pre [ce] dent bad.
Is it probable it will be accepted?
I Difficulty will begin with present Congress about place II Precedent III. Obstacle from prejudgment of present Congress many of whom will probably be members of that IV Perhaps from the desire of some states to dismember us— V From pride for after all ten receivin[g] the law Want of confidence &c VI From unwillingness to submit the matter to discretion of a minority Disadvantages I—If we are out of the Union we cannot have a voice concur in amendments— I Cui bono? Is it a ground on which we can stand?

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