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title:“John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates”
authors:John McKesson
date written:1788-6-25

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:11 a.m. UTC
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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. 1883-85. Print.
McKesson's Notes, New-York Historical Society

John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates (June 25, 1788)

SMITH. I concur that the Senate should have a degree of Stability to make them Systymatical and firm— To establish rotation will make them more firm— If a Man knows that at the Expiration of Six years he cannot be reelected—he will be more firm— Exercise his own Judgmt. more and be less dependent on Office— There will [be] Stability sufficient with Rotation It is contrary to the Ideas of a Republican Govermt. to make any Body perpetual without change— If a faction takes place, without Rotation, it will last during the Lives of the Members— Rotation destroyed or removed the Factions in Congress Those factions had a bad Influence— Rotation brings forward more Men of Abilities this will be a great Advantage A Benefit that Senators return home to inform and Explain in the States And also to know the circumstances of the People— Two Objections 1st. That it will be a Restraint on the Natural Liberty of the People Answer— All Govt. is a Restraint This Very Clause has two Restraints as it now Stands— 2d. By this provision we may exclude the two best Men in the State— Answer It will scarce be found that two Men only in the State will be so Superior to all others— If there should be two such they will be sometimes wanted at home to assist in State Police The Senate are to represent the State in the Sovereignty— If the Agents do not represent the State well, the State ought to have the Power to recall—All agents ought to be responsible in the nature of things— It is said If this amendmt. takes place, the Senators will hold their Seats at the pleasure and will want Stability Stability in a Repub: should only be such as to prevent hasty measures Recall from Misinformat[ion] &c This might apply to the People at large Not to the State Legislature Objection This Power should not be given because it will make the Senators attend only to local Interests— This is non consistent with the Reasons given for equality in Senate It was said that the States would have more Influence over the People than the Genl. Govt. because 2000 Represent Will the People long retain respect for a Legislature to regulate fences What have the Legislature to regulate in Agriculture—It must regulate itself— Will the State Legislatures have more Officers—doubtful even that— but more probable the more Important— Your State Officers depend on the Legislature—The Officers of Genl. Govermt. cannot have their Salaries lowered—they may be raised— I[t] was said the State Govermts. could excite the People agt. the Genl Govt. This will be a bad Check—Will produce misery—and perhaps annihilate the one Govt. or the other— The[y] Should be so formed as to harmonise The Local Interests of the States was another Argumt. in favor of the Senators being independt. of Recal— The Interests of all the States will leave very few local Interests The Rule of Taxation here established will destroy most local Interests— The local Interests will only arise between Navigating and non Navigating States—This Prejudice ought to remain—Every Navigation Law Will be a Matter of Compromise 8 States who navigate must Compromise with the 5 non-navigating States— There is not difference of Interest which is supposed on this Head Factions in the Legislature was assigned as another Argumt. ambitious Men will not render places less Permanent The Legislature will not recall without Cause—The Danger very remote and distant— A Gent. [Robert R. Livingston] says whence will Corruption arise? will people bribe with their own Money— Answer—In Many Countries People are taxed & pay money As to Offices— There will be Offices enough under the Genl. Govt. to give Every Member an Office as he goes out— True A Member cannot take a new Office or one whose Salary is encreased—But tis easy to change an office Consider the number of offices—These are to be given by the President and Senate— Shew any Govt. that will have so many offices— Men are alike in all ages— I would form a reasonable Check— It is said there has as yet been no Corruption— We know not— Millions of money in the Hands of the present Govt. is yet un[accounted for] The Genl Govt. compared to our own— In the State Govt. the Districts Small—they return to their Neighbours they are asked the Reasons of Our Council of appointmt. has checks—they are for one year—The State Council [i.e., U. S. Senate] will exist for 6 years & perhaps be perpetual The Comparison of our State Govr. will not hold—his Powers are very limitted—
* * * * *
HAMILTON. The Principles laid down on both Sides may be true to a certain Extent— Each appears plausible and have a certain degree of force We must then determine where one principle must give way to another— We Should combine the Principles which will [give] Stability on one Side— and Safety to the Interests of the People on the other Side The Argumts. applied here to the Senate should be applied to the House of Represent—The Senate should be formed for Stability— When the People have an Organized Will which will pursue Measures Sistematically they will always prevail— But danger The Genl. Argumts. would destroy Stability The Gent [Melancton Smith] Says that there is a falacy in my argumt. because this Body is to be chosen by the State Legislatures and not by the People— does the Gent. recollect that the Assembly come immediately from among the People with the like Ideas principles and passions— Is not Rhode Island an Example—A Depreciating Paper Medium carried with Violence in the Legislature— In this State we have a Security from our Senate — In many States only annual Bodies who represent the Violencies and Passions of the People— The People at Times are deceived for want of Information— By this Process the Senate of the united States must guard as an Anchor to the State govt. agt. the violencies of State Legislatures and even agt. the Assem[bl]y of the Genl Govt. The State Legislatures will Always have a vast Momentum in the Genl Govt. The Power they have combining the Sentimts. of the People will have Influence—will not this have weight on the Represent in Assembly— on the Senators—On the Officers of Genl Governmt. The State Govts. will influence the Election of Presidt. Will they not then have too much Influence— Will there not be a Clashing of local Interests—there will— We have a Tax of 6d a Bushel on Salt—The Eastern States on acct. of their Fisheries would oppose it— A thousand other Instances The Agregate Good of the States I admit must be But if they can be recalled at any moment they will be so dependt. that they will yield to it and not have firmness for national Purposes— We have Seen Members in Congress considering how will this Affect my Seat my Interest my popu[larity] To what point is a dependence useful—I say that Six years is little enough— Experience of 3 years & 7 years [for] represent[atives] has confirmed this —Six years admits a great degree of Dependence— More would destroy Stability— 1/3d. at two years 1/3d 4 years— 1/3d Six years— This goes as far as is consistent with any degree of Energy in the Genl Govt. and gives a due degree of Dependence— And the House of Represent. have a due degree of Dependence—
* * * * *
SMITH. The Gent. [Alexander Hamilton] Observes That factions cannot exist without being known to the State Legislature—A Mistake—they may only be known to the Presidt. and Senate alone—They must appoint foreign Ministers—make Treaties &ca. and foreign matters must be kept Secrete— The Senate and President have many Powers of the very Nature that will probably create Factions and the Represent cannot Interfere— The Gent. [Alexander Hamilton] said yesterday—The People always judge Right if not misinformed Then Surely the Legislature who are cool and reason & get Information will reason Right— I said I did not recollect any Object of Importance of local Interest but what arises from Commerce—I did not say there was none other—I say the Same now— It may take place as to impost in some Degree—but to no great Degree The Gent. says no need of such Check—because no Instance has happened in Confederated Govt. to make it necessary An No Confed Govt. like The Gent. says this Amendt. will operate to weaken a desire of Reward for past Services—admitted—but which principle will operate most Strongly— Gent. Says it will banish Knowledge & Experience The Reverse— Gent Repeats the Argumt. of loosing the two best Men— The next two best Men will
* * * * *
R. R. LIVINGSTON. This Argumt. has not been argued fairly Owing to accident not design The Objection was not expected— The Intelligence of yesterday has changed our Situation—The Confederation now closed— I know there a[re] Gent. who have firmness to look disunion in the face—who think we can Stand alone—who look to a league— It is allowed "that without a certain Permanency in Office Govt. cannot be well administered"— Supposing Every State well informed of the objects of Genl Govt. and that they would harmonise in System Genl Govt. would not be necessary. This not the Case —Genl Govt. necessary— The Internal Policy of the State Govts. with foreign Powers can only be known to those who are acquainted with foreign Powers— The State Govts. have not or but partially this Informat— Constitution admits that the Legislature may be mistaken in a matter of their own police or Govt— Instanced The Clause creating a Council of Appointment— The Security of our State Agents or Senators must arise from other Causes not from recall They are to be chosen with deliberation by the Legislature Their Oath of Office —their Reputation— their own Interest— The Necessity of Continuing them in Office arises from their great Powers—Their forming Treaties—which requires a knowledge of Commerce &c have the Disposition of offices— They are to be the Systimatic Part of your Govt. With respect to the Powers of Govt. they must [be] adequate to the objects or it becomes useless— There must be checks or the Govt. will [be] dangerous— Power is a Head strong Horse—requires a Curb and will even then sometimes Will the Rider then Hamstring To Contrive a Govt. to check it from operating— Let us examine the Powers of the Senate— 1 They Try Causes on Impeachmt. 2d. They do not appoint to Offices—They are only a check 3d. In making Law checked both by the Repres[ent]atives and the President—Money Bills they cannot originate— 4th. It [is] said they will appropriate Money—They cannot appropriate Money—but with the Consent of the Reprent Body and the President— They are only a check on the other parts of the Genl Govt. This Amendmt. will make them entirely dependt on the State Govt. I know from my own Experience that the State has Suffered more than once by leaving out Members, whose times of Service might [have] been continued—Delegates from other States [who] have State Interests [have] interfered in the Electing Delegates for this State— It is not more supposable that a foreign Ambassador may Corrupt a State Demagogue to misrepresent a Senator than that a Majority of the Represent of Genl Govt. would Corrupt State Legislatures If a Faction now in Congress Rotation has not prevented it—therefore proves nothing— When the Legislature of a State shall think it right or necessary they can Change when it [is] requisite to retain a Senator they can— It will not do to send Senators to School—While the Senators are learning the State may be ruined—
* * * * *
SMITH. The Gent says no State has agreed to this Amendmt. therefore useless— We do not know what Amendments any State has offered—The Article has been carried by majorities without hearing Amendmts. I am Sorry the Gent. [Robert R. Livingston] mentioned Change of Circumstances— I do not think them Changed— I Suppose it was unnecessary to insert that a Legislature The Gent Says the Senate have no Power are only a check—by same Reasong—Senate The Hono [ra] ble Gent says Gent have been left out before their time of Service Expired—No— He observes—that I said I meant send Gent to School— I took it from his Idea of yesterday which I think true vizt that Experience is necessary and that it will require a considerable time to learn— Gent says that foreigners & Delegates of other States have interfered in electing Delegates for this State— The Gent holds up that the Senate cannot originate
* * * * *
LANSING. I rise to observe on what was said by a Gent from N York [Robert R. Livingston]—and State the facts— A Gent. [Melancton Smith] indisposed a few minutes before the Adjournmt. wished to be heard—I hope every Member in such Situation will be indulged— Whatever difference there is in our Situation since yesterday—We must not be intimidated to give up those Rights we ought to make every Exertion to preserve for the public Happiness— I have not heard from Any Gent that they wished or without fear looked up for a disunion—I think it not founded in fact—
* * * * *
GILBERT LIVINGSTON. I wish to contest two principles
1st. That the Senate as Council of Appointment Exercise no power— The Clause Read— 2d. It is said the Senate will have no Power in trying Impeachmts. The Assembly are a Grand Jury to Indict to Impeach The Senate are a petty Jury (and the Court also) to try Sect. 4—
* * * * *
JONES. Supposed Defects in the Confederation produced a Convention and the proposed Constitution—It was right [to] give the Powers of the first part What is the meaning of the latter part—If it is intended to deprive the States of the power given by the first part—If it is not—let it be explaned so as not [to] leave Room for fearing the Intent Amendment by Mr. Jones—
* * * * *
ALEXANDER HAMILTON. The Gen[era]l Intent of the Clause is Suppose what is expressed in the Resolution proposed— If that is the Opinion of the Committee—there will be no debate on the Question—
* * * * *
JAY. It does not appear that there is at present a Disposition to consider farther at present the Clause or Amendmt. But let it be considered That this Country if the Govt. Organized will be under the Controul and direction of the National Govt. as the State Officers are under the Controul of the State Govt. Should the State interfere in or regulate the Election of State Officers—
* * * * *
MORRIS. The People of the State represented and the Legislat of the State represented in the National Govt. by two different Branches— The designs of Convention was to trust the Legislatures will they would exercise it and exercise it Can those distinctions be held up or will they not be abolished & blended—
* * * * *
CLINTON. I observe that in all Debates a Distinction is held up between the Representatives and the People— There cannot be a just and honest distinctiction— The Will of the People may be contradicted by their Representatives they may do acts agt. the will of the People—But this is by Corruption—
* * * * *
JAY. The will of the People is to be the Law—But the Quest recurrs GEORGE CLINTON. It does not a Legislative deliberative Body cannot have tumults The [legislature] ought to speak and will Speak the will of the People—
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SMITH. The Gentlemen say It more proper that the Genl Govt. rather than the State Legislature should fix the time place and Manner it should not be in the Power of any Legislature to alter the Time place and Manner—but should be left with the People forever— And therefore I shall Move for the following Amendmt. to follow the last—

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