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title:“James Wilson's Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention”
date written:1787-12-6

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:07 a.m. UTC
retrieved:July 3, 2022, 8:49 a.m. UTC

"James Wilson's 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. 508-11. Print.

James Wilson's Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention (December 6, 1787)

John Smilie: (113) I object to the power of Congress over the militia and to keep a standing army.
(114) What I mean by a consolidating government is one that will transfer the sovereignty from the state governments to the general government.
(115) It is properly an aristocracy,
(116) because the Representatives are too few, and will be elected only by a few tools in very large districts.
(117) In Pennsylvania before the Revolution, the little county towns governed the elections.
(118) The people will not attend the election; only the tools of government will attend.
(119) If Congress exercise their powers over the times, places, and manner of elections, where are we? 8 men may be elected in one ticket and at one place. Should anybody have this power?
(120) The balance of power is in the Senate. Their share in the executive department will corrupt the legislature, and detracts from the proper power of the President, and will make the President merely a tool to the Senate.
(121) The President should have had the appointment of all officers, with the advice of a council.
(122) The Senate will overset the balance of government by having the purse and the sword. The President will act in concert with them.
(123) In a free government there never will be need of standing armies; for it depends on the confidence of the people. If it does not so depend, it is not free.
(124) The Convention, in framing this government, knew it was not a free one; otherwise they would not have asked the power of the purse and the sword.
(125) The last resource of a free people is taken away; for Congress are to have the command of the militia.
(126) The laws of Pennsylvania have hitherto been executed without the aid of the militia.
(127) The governor of each state will be only the drill sergeant of Congress.
(128) The militia officers will be obliged by oath to support the general government against that of their own state.
(129) Congress may give us a select militia which will, in fact, be a standing army or—Congress, afraid of a general militia, may say there shall be no militia at all.
(130) When a select militia is formed; the people in general may be disarmed.
(131) Will the states give up to Congress their last resource—the command of the militia?
(132) Will the militia laws be as mild under the general government as under the state governments? Militia men may be punished with whipping or death. They may be dragged from one state to any other.
(133) "Congress guarantees to each State a Republican Form of Government." Is this a security for a free government? Can even the shadow of state governments be continued if Congress pleases to take it away?
(134) The Senate and President may dismiss the Representatives, when once a standing army is established with funds; and there this government will terminate.
WILLIAM FINDLEY: (135) The objections of the member from Fayette are founded, important, and of extensive practical influence. Tax and militia laws are of universal operation.
(136) The militia will be taken from home; and when the militia of one state has quelled insurrections and destroyed the liberties, the militia of the last state may, at another time, be employed in retaliating on the first.9
(137) No provision in behalf of those who are conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms.10
JOHN SMILIE: (138) As citizens, we are all equally interested. Let us have a friendly, free, and fair discussion.
WILLI11AM FINDLEY: (139) The power of regulating elections remains to be considered.
(140) Article 1, section 4 as to the "Place" of elections struck the public more suddenly and with more force than any other. The "Time" may be justified.
(141) Congress may say that none shall vote by ballot.
(142) The modes of election will be appointed in such way as to give the greatest influence to government.
(143) The "Places" of elections are of more importance than the time or manner.
(144) The states were competent as to the places by their knowledge and responsibility. This is entrusted by our constitution to the state legislature.
(145) This can have no virtuous or pure use.
(146) The place of elections may be removed so as to take it out of the reach of the lower and middling classes of men.
(147)1213 By this clause the government may mold and influence elections as it shall please.
(148) This government may go into the channel of monarchy; but more likely14 of aristocracy.
(149) Under the present Confederation, Congress have not both the power of raising standing armies and the means of paying them.
(150) I could not contrive a better plan this for introducing aristocracy.15
JOHN SMILIE: (151) Mr. Adams says there is in all societies a natural aristocracy. Letter. 53. p. 362. Three branches of government in every society. The executive ought to have a negative on the legislature.16
(152) The people of the United States thought a single branch sufficient for Congress, which is not a legislative but a diplomatique body, etc. (ibid.).17
(153)Letter. 55. 372.