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title:“James Wilsons' Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention”
date written:1787-12-7

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:02 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Nov. 28, 2023, 12:46 p.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. 512-514, 521-523. Print.

James Wilsons' Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention (December 7, 1787)

ROBERT WHITEHILL: (154) The Vice President will be an useless and perhaps a dangerous officer; as he will be more blended with the legislature, and will have a voice when the votes are equal. Salaries may depend on his vote.1
(155) The power of Congress to fix the time of choosing the Electors of the President is improper. We have no power to oblige Congress to act.
(156) The power of the Senate to make treaties is dangerous.
(157) The extent of this government is too great. It cannot be executed. We have proved it to be a consolidating government.
WILLIAM FINDLEY: (158) Only a part of the executive power is vested in the President. The most influential part is in the Senate, and he only acts as primus inter pares of the Senate; only he has the sole right of nomination.
(159) The officers of government are the creatures of the Senate. The Senate should not, therefore, be the judges on impeachments.
(160) The great objection is the blending of executive and legislative power. Where they are blended, there can be no liberty.7 Mr. Adams says so. This great subject is better understood by the people and attended to by the legislatures than any other. It is my duty to insist, and I will insist, that the distribution of power in the present system be amended.
ROBERT WHITEHILL: (161) Why is the sovereignty of the people always brought to view? There are 13 sovereignties in the United States; and 13 different governments. Why knock down all distinction of different governments?8
(162) The judicial department is blended with and will absorb the judicial powers of the several states; and nothing will be able to stop its way.
(163) The Supreme Court will have very extensive powers indeed. They must be as extensive as the United States.
(164) There must be a great number of inferior courts in the several states. One for a large state would not be enough. Shall an action for 5 or 10 be brought in it? There ought to be one in every county. The number of judicial officers will be multiplied.
(165) Appeals will be to the Supreme Court; which will put it in the power of the wealthy to oppress the poor.
(166) The powers will be too extensive for the safety and happiness of the people. Justice cannot be administered.
(167) Any kind of action may, by contrivance, be brought into the federal courts.
(168) There may be courts of equity as well as law.
(169) Can the federal courts give relief to the complaints of the people in proper time? The state courts have much business. How much more will the general courts have?
(170) The general courts may alter the rights of descent and the division of real property. They may establish the rights of primogeniture.
(171) The trial of crimes is to be by jury; therefore the trial of civil causes is supposed not to be by jury.
(172) We preserved the trial by jury against the attempts of the British Crown.
(173) I wish, for the honor of the Convention, this had not been omitted.
(174) Article 3, section 2: "the Laws of the United States." Laws may be made in pursuance of the Constitution tho not agreeably to it. The laws may be unconstitutional.
(175) Treaties may be so made as to absorb the liberty of conscience, trial by jury, and all our liberties.
(176) "Citizens of another State" must mean all the citizens.
(177) There is no line drawn, in the judicial department, between the general and state governments.
(178) Houses may be broke open by the officers of the general government. They will not be bound by this Constitution.
JOHN SMILIE: (179) In common law cases there ought not to be an appeal as to facts. Facts found by a jury should never be reexamined.
(180) I doubt whether there has not been an intention to substitute the civil law instead of the common law.
(181) There may be danger in the execution of the judicial department, as in the case of a rigorous collection of direct taxes. A quarrel between a collector and a citizen would drag the citizen into the court of Congress.
(182) The courts must be very numerous or very few. Either will be inconvenient. They must be numerous.
(183) If the state governments are to continue, the people will not be able to bear the expense of them and the general government. Will this save expense?
WILLIAM FINDLEY: (184) The Convention, no doubt, thought they were forming a contract or compact of the greatest importance.
(185) The judges are better for [because of] the guard of juries in all possible cases. The mistakes of juries are never systematical. The laws can never be so enacted, as to prevent the judges from doing wrong.
(186) I admit that it would have been impossible to have accommodated the trial by jury to all the states; but power ought not to have been given applying to such internal objects.
(187) There might have been a declaration that the trial by jury in civil cases as it hath hitherto been in the several states; or in the state, where the cause arose.
(188) The jurisdiction will, I believe, be chiefly appellate; and therefore, chiefly without jury.20 (189) The states can make "no [ex] post facto Laws &c." Therefore there was no occasion for introducing the clause "between Citizens of different States."
(190) This clause may produce doubts in the dealings between citizens of this state and New Jersey.
(191) "Compensation" is a new term. Does it denote salary or perquisites?21 Judges should be incapable of holding offices under the states, or other offices under the general government. They may hold sinecures. I have only lately discovered this objection.
(192) A treaty is not constitutionally guarded. It may be superior to the legislature itself. The House of Representatives have nothing to do with treaties.
JOHN SMILIE: (193) I cannot see the great difficulty of securing at least the substance of jury in civil cases. It might have been said that the legislature should make regulations for the trial by jury in them.
(194) Whatever is not given is reserved. The trial by jury is given in criminal cases therefore reserved in civil cases.
(195) The judges may be bribed by holding other offices.