Log In Register

Source & Citation Info

title:“John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates”
authors:John McKesson
date written:1788-6-20

permanent link
to this version:
https://consource.org/document/john-mckessons-notes-of-the-new-york-ratification-convention-debates-1788-6-20/20130122083212/
last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:32 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 16, 2019, 12:40 p.m. UTC

transcription
citation:
McKesson, John. "John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 22. Ed. John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2008. 1708-10. Print.
manuscript
source:
McKesson's Notes, New-York Historical Society

John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates (June 20, 1788)

LANSING. in Answer to Argumts. of yesterday— The Prince who attempted a Junction of so many Republic's could not succeed because Otherwise here If the Interests of the Governors and Governed are opposite they cannot continue. The People tho to be governed may with more safety trust their annual Governmts. than a General Governmt. almost independent of them— I cannot agree that the present Confederation cannot be rendered Effectual Most of the defects arose from want of power in the General Governmt. to enforce obedience to Requisitions on the particular States— The New form gives Coertion on Individuals— The Power of Imposts might also have been granted— Commercial Regulations might have been made which would have reli[e]ved agt. Complaints on that Subject— Every State but two have agreed to give such powers to Congress— It has been said a General Governmt. would have obtained the western Posts— Answer—whatever Governmt. it would not have been prudent without A Navy (the work of Ages) to risque a new War.
Our Country has been reduced to great Inconveniencies by a Long War—to Increase the Evils we imported all the Luxuries of Life for which we are unable to pay—All this attributed to the Genl Governmt.— The Jewish Theocracy Subject to evils for their Sins & ravaged by war—The[y] Wanted a King— The Dutch Republics have been adduced as Similar to our Situation—In Some Instances the Genl. Govt. have been controuled by a Small Body of Men— We are not So— They were long engaged in War—this gave them a Temporary Stat-Holder—he was afterwards appointed during the War then for Life—then Hereditary— The Germanic Republics Confederacy not like ours—Their Customs manners Religion Language & Interests differ— There is not any Instance in which in Confederated Republics the Govt. has Coercion on Indivi[du]als— —We must not for the fears held up to us yesterday, part with Civil Liberty—If we are conquered it is the worst that could happen Then why incur a certain Evil for a probable one— I wish these Ideas Banished— Let us consider this Constitution where it secures Liberty & Property let us agree to it—where not, let us endeavour to amend it—1
We have no territor[i]al Controversy but with Vermont—we have shewn by Act of Legislature our disposition to Settle that— I have formerly shewn my Sentimts. they are the Same— I now represent others—I shall offer such Amendments as to Prevent the Genl. Govt. from destroying the State Governments—not to protect State Officers— The Sentimt. when from a Gentleman in high & Lucrative Office is gains Strength however illiberal— In this State no men more divided in Sentimt. than the State Officers—
* * * * *
R. R. LIVINGSTON. I cautioned Gentlemen not to be influenced by Ideas which might have been induced by Situation or Office— The Gent. [John Lansing, Jr.] is of opinion that the powers might be added to the old Confederation—The Gent says that if States refuse Genl. Governmt. may by their Officers coerce Indivi[du]als—This admits Coercion on Individuals necessary—but how long could this last— first call on the State—they refuse—Congress must then have all the officers and Coerce Individuals—This would be a fund of eternal Distractions and Delay—
* * * * *
SMITH. We shall be able to shew that a General Governmt. may be limitted as to Revenue —let us proceed by Paragraphs— Representatives and direct Taxes2
Will the Liberties of the people of this Country be preserved if we adopt this Constitution?—I wish declamation may be left until we have tried the force of Reason— Why are we alarmed with our defenceless Situation—long Island Exposed to the Ravages3 of Connect[icut] & Mass.—Western frontiers exposed— Why say our Governmt. the worst—A Tirany worse than no Governmt.— True all the ancient Confederated Republicks destroyed—So are all the Ancient Republics not confederated the Ancient Monarchies— This arose from the wickedness of the People—The Tyrany of her Rulers— Holand has under all her Defects made a figure among Nations & her People Happy— The Convulsions in the Germanic Confederacy have princes in it who have the People their Slaves—the Law their will— The Gentleman [Robert R. Livingston] admits this Constitution is not a Confederated Republic Montescue says—A Confederated Repub. has all the force of monarchy & the Benefits of Republic— The Inconven[ien]cies of the difficulties in Republic of a fickle Disposition is better than to subject the People to the will [of] one man or a few men— The Jewish Theocracy Stated at Large— When we have investigated the Subject shall be better able to judge how far this applicable to the united States— This Govermt. was compared to the Image of Brass Iron and Clay—perhaps it is more like the Beast with Iron Teeth in the Same Vision— As to taxes & Representatives— The Rule of apportionmt. is unequal & unjust
The Rule is the white Inhabitants with three fifths of the Slaves— Slaves have no will of their Own and no Vote— The free Inhabitants of one State Shall have greater Privileges because they are so wicked as to keep more Slaves than their neighbours—4
Repugnant to
2d. The Number of Representatives not fixed in the Constitution For 3. years 65 to be the number—Then a Census taken—then at the pleasure of the first Legislature how many Representatives provided each State shall have one and that they do not exceed one to every 30,0005
3d. If 30,000 is the Ratio by which the Representation is fixed it is inadequate to the Business— The Man is free who acts by his own will vice versa The like as to Govermts.
Evident that except in Small Districts all Men cannot meet to regulate Governmt. Hence Representation— When Men form Society if a free governmt. it Should be governed as far as possible with one will— In G: Britain Representation has gone farther than any where (except this Country) and yet very inadequate— We cannot be perfect—But we should encrease our Representation and limit the Powers of the Representatives—6
As the powers of General Govt. is diminished—So should the Representatives— The New Constitution embraces every thing that is dear, tho' some small Powers seem left to the State Govts.
The Representatives shold know and Express the will of their Constituents—to do this, they must be chosen in Small Districts— If the great affairs of Governmt. is trusted to a few men they are more liable to corruption—notwithstanding Virtue during the War, yet Americans are but Men— Men who Patronize this Constitution redicule the Patriotism of the Heroes of America in the late War— Governmt. must have the Confidence of the People—or by a Standing Army and executing Laws at the Point of the Bayonet— Want of Affection has affected our present Governmt.—It was the production of wise and Virtuous Men—Notwithstanding its defects had affection to it been inculcated, instead calling it a Rope of Sand, it might have operated better—The Country was left distressed—and every man distressed or who could not pay his Debts was induced to believe it was chargable on the Government— This Representation inadequate—The Federal City perhaps a 1000 miles from parts of the Confe[de]ration and cannot have the Confidence of the People, who never Will Submit their Liberties to 65 Men—7
* * * * *
HAMILTON. The Gentleman [Robert R. Livingston] who spoke yesterday has been treated as having dealt in the flowry Fields of Immagination
8
I agree if this Governt. is dangerous to the Liberties of the People let us reject it-
Tho No Considerations of Danger should induce us to adopt a Governmt. radically bad yetit was prudent to weigh those Moti[v] es which might induce us to attend those Considerations which involve public Danger The Honorable Members went into General Considerations As to the Gentleman [John Lansing, Jr.] who spoke first Admits that Amendmts. are necessary to the Confederation This Confederation is to make Laws or Requisitions which the States are to execute This radically defective If one Govt. is to make a Law and another Governmt. to execute it, they will examine and judge & Deliberate, and that without the Lights the General Govt. had, and in conformity only to their own Interest— Many are deceived because during the War that Governt. only gave advice and the Patriotism of the People made them Execute the measures And even then where there was less Danger the Citizens were more Inactive-
In 1779. or 1780 Our Governt. resolved that the federal Governmt. required to be Strengthend-
This State is all over exposed and therefore more peculiarly interested in Strengthening the Genal Government— Our Distresses were the Greatest by the War yetwe have complied with the requisitions The States who suffered most have most complied with the Requisitions New Hampshire totally delinquent North Carolina totally delin— quent—Others much delinquent except Pensilvania & N York— This arises from their Power to deliberate and their own Interest— Therefore there must be the Power of preventing delinquency— Several States will from the Same or Similar Causes be delinquent in a greater or less degree Will the other States commence a War If Massachussets alone delinquent—would we declare War We [i.e., will] She not obtain the Countenance and Aid of some Smaller State Can any Man countenance a Governmt. which is to be supported by War & involve the Innocent & Guilty— Can one part of a State be bro't forth to coerce another— It cannot— Then we must have a new Governt. and enable the National Govt. to operate as the State Governments do or leave the Requisitions to be made the willing to pay and others to Omit-
Tho' we will give Governmt. a particular Fund for particular purposes is not despotism Despotism is to give the Power of the Purse & Sword to one Body— Convention Saw That Power must be given to be carried home to Individuals That Safety required it should not be lodged in one Body That therefore there must be a Legislative & Judicial Allthe Confederacies that existed Shew that they were impe [rfe] ct where they Acted on Collective Bodies Instances The Achean League Subverted by Philip of Macedon Dutch Republic They Collected the Resources of the Provinces by force There the province of Holand alone could compel them— not the case with any of the united States Observed that Dutch Republic has lasted long-
Answer—lst That is owing to its being pressed by foreign Powers-
2d. The Statholder has great Possessions great Powers an army of 40,000
3d In want of a Stat Holder the Province of Holland keep them together— Germanic Body—The Requisitions of the Diet are never complied with The Emporer keeps them together in part; but they are continually at War with each other— It has been contended that the principles we contend for are entirely new Answer the Achean League and are Examples like ours as far as they are known In the History of Republics the Mischiefs we mention bro't on their Ruin The Romans destroyed the Achean League and made those Grecians Vassals of Rome Consider the Question before the House and shew why the Convention have made that Article and that the same was proper— The Northern and Middle States navigating States The Southern States planting States Interest of the Navigating that there should be no restraints on the general Governmt. as to Laws of Trade The Non Navigating States required Restrictions on the Laws of Trade to have 2 ads.
The Small States found they had gained by an Equal Power with the great States The Great States that it unjust that the Small States should have an equal Share of Power—But the non Navigating States were willing to gratify the Small States in power to obtain their Interest in the Business of Navigation— A Committee was appointed to form the mode of Representation where by a Compromise the Present State of Representation as it is in the Constitution was arranged That Body had no Power to establish a Govermt. it had only Power to recommend one
9
Several of the States were disposed to cultivate economy and therefore wanted a Small Representation Others wanted for safety a large one
Examine How far this Measure is a Proper one— It is the situation of the So. States to have a great part of their po10pu— lation in Blacks—It is just that property should have a Share in the Representation They have Tobacco Rice &ca. which make them valuable Confederates to the Northern States Without this Compromise they would not confederate.
But Taxes also are to be fixed by this Rule If they are to [be] taxed for their Numbers, they should be represented—11
Also—In the different States many have no Representation in the State Legislature All these will be represented in the General Legislature— Pledges himself No Confederation with the federal States can 12be made without this Article as Stated and to reject it is to dissolve the union— The necessary Implication is that the numbers mentioned shall never be lessend-
Perhaps at present the Ratio would give more than 65 in three years it will give 100 or more Admits it is in the discretion of the Legislature to increase the Representation—It is right it should be so13
At first it may be difficult to obtain persons to attend If govermt. is found useful it will afterwards be more easy to obtain Representatives-
14
Qu. What is a proper Representation— A large Assembly more diffuse and difficult A Smaller Assembly more connected and sooner agreed in their Deliberations— The present Number is sufficient—Several New State [s] were mentioned which must have Representatives in 3 years 100 Members—in 10 years 130 Members besides the Increase of the Senate in 28 years 200 Members
Massachussets have Stated the Excess they wish to 200— Experi [en] ce alone must determine what is proper in this Business— It will be the Interest of every large & every new State must desire to encrease the Representation If their Interest it must take Effect— Combination cannot take place in 3 years nor the State Governments be annihilated Afterwards the Representation and National Circumstances will encrease together.
Cannot we rely that this Representation is sufficient in the first Instant— Mentiond A Numerous Representation to embrace the feelings and Sentiments of the Community— I shall consider this hereafter Smaller States would wish to be gratified in having the Representation as now fixed in hope of Retaining as [much] Power as they Could—The only method was to moderate their Views If Gentn. have no more Solid Objection it is our Interest to adopt the Constitution, and infallibly hereafter obtain the object they aim at.
HAMILTON. The Gentleman [Robert R. Livingston] who spoke yesterday has been treated as having dealt in the flowry Fields of Immagination— I agree if this Governt. is dangerous to the Liberties of the People let us reject it— Tho No Considerations of Danger should induce us to adopt a Governmt. radically bad—yet it was prudent to weigh those Moti[v]es which might induce us to attend those Considerations which involved public Danger— The Honorable Members went into General Considerations— As to the Gentleman [John Lansing, Jr.] who spoke first— Admits that Amendmts. are necessary to the Confederation This Confederation is to make Laws or Requisitions which the States are to execute—This radically defective— If one Govt. is to make a Law and another Governmt. to execute it, they will examine and judge & Deliberate, and that without the Lights the General Govt. had, and in conformity only to their own Interest— Many are deceived because during the War that Governt. only gave advice and the Patriotism of the People made them Execute the measures And even then where there was less Danger the Citizens were more Inactive— In 1779. or 1780 Our Governt. resolved that the federal Governmt. required to be Strengthend— This State is all over exposed and therefore more peculiarly interested in Strengthening the Genal Government— Our Distresses were the Greatest by the War—yet we have complied with the requisitions— The States who suffered most have most complied with the Requisitions New Hampshire totally deliquent North Carolina totally delinquent—Others much delinquent except Pensilvania & N York— Therefore there must be the Power of preventing delinquency— Several States will from the Same or Similar Causes be delinquent in a greater or less degree— Will the other States commence a War— If Massachussets alone delinquent—would we declare War
We [i.e., will] She not obtain the Countenance and Aid of some Smaller State— Canany Man countenance a Governmt. which is to be supported by War & involve the Innocent & Guilty— Can on epart of State be bro't forth to coerce another— It cannot— Then we must have a new Governt. and enable the National Govt. to operate as the State Governments do or leave the Requisitions to be made—the willing to pay and others to Omit— Tho' we will give Governmt. a particular Fund for particular purposes is not despotism— Despotism is to give the Power of the Purse & Sword to one Body — Convention Saw— That Power must be given to be carried home to Individuals That Safety required it should not be lodged in one Body That therefore there must be a Legislative & Judicial— All the Confederacies that existed Shew that they were impe[rfe]ct where they Acted on Collective Bodies Instances The Achean League—Subverted by Philip of Macedon— Dutch Republic—They Collected the Resources of the Provinces by force
There the province of Holand alone could compel them— not the case with any of the united States— Observed that Dutch Republic has lasted long—
Answer—1st That is owing to its being pressed by foreign Powers
2d. The Statholder has great Possessions great Powers an army of 40,000
3d In want of a Stat Holder the Province of Holland keep them together— Germanic Body—The Requisitions of the Diet are never complied with—The Emporer keeps them together in part; but they are continually at war with each other— It has been contended that the principles we contend for are entirely new— Answer the Achean League and are Examples like ours as far as they are known— In the History of Republics the Mischiefs we mention bro't on their Ruin— The Romans destroyed the Achean League and made those Grecians Vassals of Rome— Consider the Question before the House—and shew why the Convention have made that Article and that the same was proper— The Northern and Middle States navigating States The Southern States planting States— Interest of the Navigation that there should be no restraints on the general Governmt. as to Laws of Trade— The Non Navigating States required Restrictions on the Laws of Trade to have 2 3ds.
The Small States found they had gained by an Equal Power with the great States The Great States that it unjust that the Small States should have an equal Share of Power—But the non Navigating States were willing to gratify the Small States in power to obtain their Interest in the Business of Navigation— A Committee was appointed to form the mode of Representation where by a Compromise the Present State of Representation as it is in the Constitution was arranged— That Body had no Power to establish a Govermt. it had only Power to recommend one— Several of the States were disposed to cultivate œconomy and therefore wanted a Small Representation—Others wanted for safety a large one— Examine How far this Measure is a Proper one— It is the situation of the So. States to have a great part of their population in Blacks—It is just that property should have a Share in the Representation They have Tobacco Rice &ca. which make them valuable Confederates to the Northern States— Without this Compromise they would not confererate.
But Taxes also are to be fixed by this Rule If they are to [be] taxed for their Numbers, they should be represented— Also—In the different States many have no Representation in the State Legislature—All these will be represented in the General Legislature— Pledges himself No Confederation with the federal States can be made without this Article as Stated and to reject it is to dissolve the union— The necessary Implication is that the numbers mentioned shall nver be lessend— Perhaps at the present the Ratio would give more than 65 in three yearts it will give 100 or more— Admits it is in the descretion of the Legislature to increase the Representation—It is right it should be so— At first it may be difficult to obtain persons to attend If govermt. is found useful it will afterwards be more easy to obtain Representatives— Qu. What is a proper Representation— A large Assembly more diffuse and difficult A Smaller Assembly more connected and sooner agreed in their Deliberations— The present Number is sufficient—Several new State[s] were mentioned which must have Representatives— in 3 years 100 Members—in 10 years 130 Members besides the Increase of the Senate—in 28 years 200 Members Experi[en]ce alone must determine what is proper in this Business— It will be the Interest of every large & every new State must desire to encrease the Representation— If their Interest it must take Effect— Combination cannot take place in 3 years nor the State Governments be annihilated—Afterwards the Representation and National Circumstances will encrease together.
Cannot we rely that this Representation is sufficient in the first Instant— Mentiond A Numerous Representation to embrace the feelings and Sentiments of the Community— I shall consider this hereafter— Smaller States would wish to be gratified in having the Representation as now fixed in hope of Retaining as [much] Power as they Could—The only method was to moderate their Views— If Gentn. have no more Solid Objection it is our Interest to adopt the Constitution, and infallibly hereafter obtain the object they aim at—15
* * * * *
MELANCTON SMITH. The Gent. [Alexander Hamilton] has taken great pains to shew that it is necessary that the National Governt. Admitted it must operate in some persons on Individuals— How far must it operate on Individuals— If so far as this the Building superstructure is infinitly too large for the foundation I did not either intend to be understood that a Governmt. should be strictly federal— Our present Confederation JOHN LANSING, JR. In our Govt. the Confederates give their Consent without resorting to inferior Bodies—In the Dutch Republic's they must resort to inferior Bodies for Consent— I am of opinion with the Gent. from Dutchess [Melancton Smith] the Representat too Small — It is asserted by the Gent. from N. York [Alexander Hamilton] to be large enough— Observ. 23 Men can make a Law for 3,000,000 of People— Observ. The Clause Leaves in the Power of the united States in Congress to keep the Representation where it is— The General Governmt. may declare that only one hundred thousand men shall send a Representative— Some Amendmt. ought to encrease the Representation or at least that it grow Progressively16 The Second Massachussets Amendment read—
* * * * *
CONVENTION PROCEEDINGS. The third Paragraph of the 2d Section of the first Article having been read and considered Mr. M. Smith as an Amendment proposed the following Resolution— Resolved that it is proper that the Number of Representatives be fixed at the Rate of one for every twenty Thousand Inhabitants to be ascertained on the Principles mentioned in the second Section of the first Article of the Constitution until they amount to three hundred, after which they shall be apportioned among the States in Proportion to the Number of the Inhabitants of the States respectively—And that before the first enumeration shall be made, the Several States shall be entitled to chuse double the Number of Representatives for that purpose mentioned in the Constitution17
That on June 21st. & 23d. Debates on the same Paragraph were continued—