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title:“Jasper Yeates' Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention”
date written:1787-11-3

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:16 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 9, 2023, 6:01 p.m. UTC

"Jasper Yeates' 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. 429, 434-436, 440-443. Print.
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Jasper Yeates' Notes of the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention (November 3, 1787)

Whitehill: The seeds of self-preservation are so well sown in the federal system, that the same will overshadow all the state governments.
JASPER YEATES: 1st Objection: The want of a bill of rights.
Response: Our governments differ in their formation from England and therefore, tho necessary there, not so here. New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, and perhaps Virginia have no bill of rights. Are they not free? Do they hold their liberties as tenants at will? But an enumeration would be dangerous; part might be omitted and therefore excluded. Whatever is not expressly ceded to the federal government is still reserved.1
But it is said we have adopted part of the bill of rights, as in reserving the trials by jury in criminal cases, and directing that the privilege of the habeas corpus act shall not be suspended except in times of immediate danger.
Response: This is restrictive of the general legislative powers of Congress. They might claim this right if not restrained. Their powers being enumerated, it became necessary to make exceptions. This clause then does not form a bill of rights, but are the express exceptions from the general delegated powers of Congress.
2d Objection: The Federal Constitution annihilates all state legislatures and is intended for that purpose and vest Congress with too large and dangerous state powers.
Response: Candor and the character of the Federal Convention forbid the idea. The work does not justify the remark. But it has been shown if the state governments fail, so must the federal government. The Representatives must be chosen by persons voting for the most numerous branch of the state legislature. The state legislatures must choose the Senate and appoint Electors to choose a President. The judicial power depends on the Senate.4 The 4th section of the 4th Article guarantees a republican form of government to each state (read it).5
As to the large legislative powers given to Congress, they are absolutely - necessary to our existence and can be lodged in no hands so safely. They are our choice. Their existence depends on the choice of a House of Representatives, and should have power to make regulations to prevent factions. It is only intended that this power should be used when the state would either not use or abuse their power. Will we presume that Congress will abuse this power? It is not possible to define and lay down power so exactly, but that it may be abused. The elements of fire and water may be abused. But shall we renounce them because they may be abused?
The supreme power must be vested somewhere, but where so naturally as in the supreme head chosen by the free suffrages of the people mediately or immediately. The objects of state legislation are different from those of the Federal Constitution. They are confined to matters within ourselves. The latter embrace the general interests of the United States and conduct them into one common channel to enrich and render happy the citizens of the whole community. Could the states individually exercise the powers given to Congress? Could they carry them into execution? Could they propose an uniform system of commerce and trade? Witness the 5 percent impost refused by the State of Rhode Island. Consider the circumstances if Congress had the power they are now proposed to have? This matter is taken up by the opposition as if Congress were a separate independent body deliberately determined on destroying the liberties of the people. Surely this is not fair. They have no separate interests from ourselves. They must feel every tax, every imposition. We can remove them if we please.
It is confessed the 10th section [Article I] abridges some of the powers of the state legislature, as in preventing them from coining money, emitting bills of credit, making legal tender, impairing the obligations of contracts, etc. But is [it] not proper that they should be so restricted? What have been the effects of tender laws, emissions of paper money, or the destruction of contracts? All faith has been destroyed amongst us; speculations of the most dangerous kind have been introduced. The principles of morality have been impaired; and if virtue is the foundation of a republic, we have been sapping it as fast as we could.
If state governments are prevented from exercising these powers, it will produce respectability, and credit will immediately take place. Laws respecting the general interests of trade will take place, commerce will flourish, shipbuilding will revive again, taxes will be lessened on the landed interest, the superfluities of life will be taxed, and the luxuries of the rich will defray a considerable part of the national burthen. We shall be respectable in the eyes of all Europe. Our credit will again extend itself. Foreigners will trust us. Congress alone with the powers given them by this system, or similar powers, can effect these purposes.
Findley: The number of Representatives is much too few for so large a country as America.
Does any state who has a bill of rights complain of it?
Smilie: The state of Virginia has a bill of rights.6 Reads a volume of The Remembrancer for this purpose. Says he has a French translation of it.
Wilson: I wish to hear and subsequently answer every objection against the new Constitution.
THOMAS McKEAN: The gentleman who complains of the smallness representation in the Union should tell us in what ratio the people should be represented instead of 30,000 for 1. Formerly representation was in this state as 750 to 1, now it is 1,000 to 1 and, perhaps in a few years, it will be 2,000 to 1. This is all matter of opinion.
Smilie: 1st Objection. Want of a bill of rights.
2. The government is a consolidated one and will swallow up the state legislatures.8
We shall object to direct taxation [and] to the power of keeping upstanding armies.
Wilson: A large representation draws after it heavy expense. A deliberative body may be too large. I won't say it may not exceed100. Great difficulties arose on this question in Convention. If we suppose, according to the common calculation, that the numbers of people in the United States double every 25 years, in the course of one century, according to the best accounts we have of our state of population, the number of Representatives in the Federal Constitution will amount to about 600 persons. Carrying our views therefore to a distant period, it appears that the ratio of 30,000 for 1 will not be improper.

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