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title:“Debate in the North Carolina Convention”
date written:1788-7-26

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:57 a.m. UTC
retrieved:March 7, 2021, 9:29 a.m. UTC

"Debate in the North Carolina Convention." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Debate in the North Carolina Convention (July 26, 1788)

July 26, 1788.
The 5th section of the 1st article read.
. . . Mr. Graham wished to hear an explanation of the words "from time to time," whether it was a short or a long time, or how often they should be obliged to publish their proceedings.
Mr. Davie answered, that they would be probably published after the rising of Congress, every year — that if they sat two or three times, or oftener, in the year, they might be published every time they rose — that there could be no doubt of their publishing them as often as it would be convenient and proper, and that they would conceal nothing but what it would be unsafe to publish. He further observed, that some states had proposed an amendment, that they should be published annually; but he thought it very safe and proper as it stood — that it was the sense of the Convention that they should be published at the end of every session. . . .
Mr. Spaight. Mr. Chairman, it was thought absolutely necessary for the support of the general government to give it power to raise taxes.2 G3overnment cannot exist without certain and adequate funds. Requisitions cannot be depended upon. For my part, I think it indifferent whether I pay the tax to the officers of the continent or to those of the state. I would prefer paying to the Continental officers, because it will be less expensive. . . .
1st clause of the 9th section read.
Mr. J. M'Dowall wished to hear the reasons of this restriction.
Mr. Spaight answered, that there was a contest between the Northern and Southern States; that the Southern States, whose principal support depended on the labor of slaves, would not consent to the desire of the Northern States to exclude the importation of slaves absolutely; that South Carolina and Georgia insisted on this clause, as they were now in want of hands to cultivate their lands; that in the course of twenty years they would be fully supplied; that the trade would be abolished then, and that, in the mean time, some tax or duty might be laid on. . . .
Mr. Spaight further explained the clause. That the limitation of this trade to the term of twenty years was a compromise between the Eastern States and the Southern States. South Carolina and Georgia wished to extend the term. The Eastern States insisted on the entire abolition of the trade. That the state of North Carolina had not thought proper to pass any law prohibiting the importation of slaves, and therefore its delegation in the Convention did not think themselves authorized to contend for an immediate prohibition of it. . . .
Article 2d, section 1st.
Mr. Davie. . . . The clause meets my entire approbation. I only rise to show the principle on which it was formed. The principle is, the separation of the executive from the legislative — a principle which pervades all free governments. A dispute arose in the Convention concerning the reëligibility of the President. It was the opinion of the deputation from this state, that he should be elected for five or seven years, and be afterwards ineligible. It was urged, in support of this opinion, that the return of public officers into the common mass of the people, where they would feel the tone they had given to the administration of the laws, was the best security the public had for their good behavior; that it would operate as a limitation to his ambition, at the same time that it rendered him more independent; that when once in possession of that office, he would move heaven and earth to secure his reëlection, and perhaps become the cringing dependant of influential men; that our opinion was supported by some experience of the effects of this principle in several of the states. A large and very respectable majority were of the contrary opinion. It was said that such an exclusion would be improper for many reasons; that if an enlightened, upright man had discharged the duties of the office ably and faithfully, it would be depriving the people of the benefit of his ability and experience, though they highly approved of him; that it would render the President less ardent in his endeavors to acquire the esteem and approbation of his country, if he knew that he would be absolutely excluded after a given period; and that it would be depriving a man of singular merit even of the rights of citizenship. It was also said, that the day might come, when the confidence of America would be put in one man, and that it might be dangerous to exclude such a man from the service of his country. It was urged, likewise, that no undue influence could take place in his election; that, as he was to be elected on the same day throughout the United States, no man could say to himself, I am to be the man.<4/em> Under these considerations, a large, respectable majority voted for it as it now stands. With respect to the unity of the executive, the superior energy and secrecy wherewith one person can act, was one of the principles on which the Convention went. But a more predominant principle was, the more obvious responsibility of one person. It was observed that, if there were a plurality of persons, and a crime should be committed, when their conduct came to be examined, it would be impossible to fix the fact on any one of them, but that the public were never at a loss when there was but one man. For these reasons, a great majority concurred in the unity, and reëligibility also, of the executive. I thought proper to show the spirit of the deputation from this state. However, I heartily concur in it as it now stands, and the mode of his election precludes every possibility of corruption or improper influence of any kind.