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title:“James Wilsons' Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention”
date written:1787-12-1

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:57 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 20, 2024, 10:45 a.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. 445-446, 453-454, 456. Print.

James Wilsons' Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention (December 1, 1787)

TIMOTHY PICKERING: Our principal debate during the many days we have met has been whether the house should have a porch. Let us first take a survey of the mansion and see whether a porch be necessary.
STEPHEN CHAMBERS: The manner of debate is been very irregular and desultory.
"All Legislative Powers herein granted" (Article 1, section 1).
WILLIAM FINDLEY: It has been the endeavor of many to paint our necessities highly-like persuading a man in health that [he] is sick. Our situation is such, that we are not hastened in point of time and necessity. We are enjoying liberty and happiness to a very great degree. Our difficulties arose from the requisition and heavy taxes laid in 1782.
This system not suitable to our necessities or expectations. Necessities: We could not enforce treaties, regulate commerce, and draw a revenue from it. This system goes to raise internal taxes-capitation, excises-to an extension of the judiciary power even to capital cases, a dependence of the state officers on the general government. This system is not such as was expected by me, by the people, by the legislatures, nor within their power.
It is a consolidating government and will abolish the state governments or reduce them to a shadow of power.
(1) From its organization: "We the People" not "We the States."2 From this we could not find out that we were United States. The sovereignty of the states not held forth, nor represented. "Each Senator shall have one Vote." Under the present Confederation the state sovereignty is represented. In Congress they vote by states. A state can speak but one voice.3
(2) From its powers: [Those] who can tax possess all other sovereign power. There cannot be two sovereign powers. A subordinate sovereignty is no sovereignty. Will the people submit to two taxing powers?4 The power over elections gives absolute sovereignty-so of judging elections.5 The judicial powers are coextensive with the legislative powers. Oath of allegiance shows it to be a consolidating government.6 The wages paid out of the public treasury a proof of consolidated government.7
Smilie: Congress have authority to declare what is libel (Article 1, section 8). A jury may be packed.
William Findley: That the supreme power is, of right, in the people is true in all countries. Cajole the people.8
ROBERT WHITEHILL: Tho it is not declared that Congress have a power to destroy the liberty of the press; yet, in effect, they will have it. For they will have the powers of self-preservation. They have a power to secure to authors the right of their writings. Under this, they may license the press, no doubt; and under licensing the press, they may suppress it. Article 2, section 6: The press is by this clause restrained; because the members shall not be questioned for speeches in any other place.
Amendments may be laid before Congress.
JOHN SMILIE: In the construction of a complete government all the necessary powers are given that are not restrained.
The Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction in cases when a state is a party. Crimes shall be tried by jury, ergo they have powers to declare.
WILLIAM FINDLEY: No opposition on local principles. This plan is inimical to our liberties.