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title:“John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Debates”
authors:John McKesson
date written:1788-6-23

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:57 a.m. UTC
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McKesson, John. "John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Debates." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 22. Ed. John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2008. 1804-05. Print.
McKesson's Notes, New-York Historical Society

John McKesson's Notes of the New York Ratification Debates (June 23, 1788)

HARISON. Importance of the Quest. It is admitted
1st. That the present Confederat. is inadequate for want of Coercive power—having no means but war
2d Essential to the Happiness of the Country that our Union should remain but there is a third Altho' we are to provide for the defects of the Confe[de]rat[ion] & Secure our union— Yet we cannot give up the Liberties of the People— These being agreed we will with unanimity & temper consider whether the Constitution will not
It has been agreed with Candour that the 3/5th. &ca.1 must be given up for Union—
There are other Objections vizt.
1st That the Number of Represent[atives] in assembly Not Sufficien2
Answer Six Men may be found in the State sufficient to the Knowledge of the Circumstances of the State Six as good as 20— Should remember the Number was a matter of Accommodation Some from their Circumstances unwilling to Suppor[t] a larger Number By the Articles themselves provision is made for a larger Number in a few Years— A member (Mr. Hamilton) has stated the matter fully I State this matter in one more Light3
As to the Language—Represent[ation] agreable to the Numbers of Inhabitants—yet every State to have 1 Represent[ative]4
Delaware 33,000 Inhabitants—it will remain Stationary This is arguing from natural Causes— Delaware cannot encrease—This State will encrease— this and the other encreasing States must have an Increase of Representation at the End of 3 years Delaware will have, and if then 3, mill [i.e., 3 million] there will be 90 Represent at 25 or 30 years the Representatives be what Massachussets have desired—Perhaps Considering the growing Country it might be right to have more Representatives Perhaps in a Century Delaware may be 50 thousand by that Time the Representation may be so large that it would be improper to encrease it—And then perhaps 300 will be a Sufficient Representation for the whole Union—5
I trust that Men Chosen for their Superior Virtue or Superior Fortune cannot be so far lost to their own Interest as to suffer Corruption— From the Circumstances of the Country wise to have a Small No. and there is provision to encrease it It will work advantages to this State and Security to the Liberties of every Man among us—6
* * * * *
LANSING. when the Representation was under Consideration the larger States insisted on a Representation according to No.— The Smaller States opposed— A Committee of one member from each State appointed The Report was an equal Suffrage in the upper House— and a Representative for every 40,000 in the lower House7
I[t] did not appear to be a matter much I shall consider Argumt. with a new face— what can shew 50,000 should be the Criterion Suppose Delaware 50,000—If the Genl. Govt. should fix 60,000 who is to oppose it—not the Smaller States for each must have one Represent it will encrease the weight— It is necessary in some Cases to mention Argumts. which are not intended to be insisted on— Exam. The 3/5ths. to Shew that will give up every thing not essential to Liberty for the Sake of Union—
* * * * *
HAMILTON. It is true the great object of the Smaller States was an equal Suffrage in Senate—but some of them also wished to retain what advantages in Suffrage the[y] Could in the other House I was absent 10 days—found on Return the plan as it now is—A8
Motion was made to encrease the Numbers—It was declared that the Number was the Effect of Compromise— New Hampshire & the South declared the difficulty of Send[ing] a greater Number into the Center—and the Expence too great— Some also Saw that the Expence would be made an Argumt agt the Constitution—And many really feared the Expence—Connecticut could not avow but did really compromise some things to preserve their Suffrage in Senate— The Delegates represented to their State held it up as a merit that the Number was not encreased beyond what it might have been under the Old Confe[de]ration— It was in all his parts a Matter of Compromise—9
* * * * *
LANSING. The Committee of 13 Reported an equal Suffrage in the upper House and 40,000 for a Representative in the House—10
* * * * *
HAMILTON. It was carried on at 40,000 until near the Close—many wanted it to [be] 30,000—The Presidt. (Genl Washington) expressed a wish to have it 30,000— It was agreed to11
* * * * *
R. R. LIVINGSTON. I was misunderstood— It would be absurdity in Me to say that no federal Govt. could Subsist— I meant that the federal Govt. which operates only on States and not on Individuals cannot Subsist and are Scenes of Violence— No Rule what number of Representatives will afford Sufficient Security— When we consider the Objects of the Genl. Govt. I suppose 100 Men may be found who will be sufficient12 If it is necessary that every Representative is raised or manufactured the Greatest part of the Represent of Britain should be wollen Drapers— If Representatives should know the feelings of his Constituents I suppose that must mean their Interests— If not it must mean their vices which should not be represented The Gent from Dutchess [Melancton Smith] who declaimed agt Declamation began with a powerful agt. Rich men— He [said the] rich are intemporate He said the Rich are unfeeling because far removed from the Poor I think the Reverse true— We all enjoy many conveniences—and if less in any One Class it is in those who suffer most The Rich are said to be ambitious Are not all men ambitious The Rich are not more Intemporate The Rich will always be elected and bro't forward— I think the reverse true— Let two Men of equal Abilities Example Men Members of Congress Presiding there Example the Gent who presides over the State, not elected for his wealth He has next brot forth an Aristocracy Let us examine this Airy fantom— He possesses so many these Qualities we might hail him the prince of the Senate It is highly Improper we should have any Rich any wise any Good Men— It would be proper to go into the Hedges and Highways and Compel them to come in— Who have the Community sent here None but Aristocrats How guard agt. the Evil—Double the Number—That would aid—here are 65.—12 Aristocrats will go farther than Six— and his reasoning will not help unless 1 wise and good man cannot be found in 20,000— I now Consider the Argumt. of another Gent. (Mr Lansing) as to the Smallness of the Number & ease to Corrupt them— Who is to corrupt them— Where will the others be that they cannot prevent them— If they should pass a Corrupt Law would not the other Members by Law repeal it— Let us consider Congress which might be exactly the Same Number—and yet very Seldom more than three or two Members—It is observed Congress have not the Same Powers— I Say they have the Same Powers— But the States are to carry it into Execution— If Yes—And they are bound to do it—If they do not they are guilty of Perfidy—The present Congress (if such a thing there is) have both the purse and the Sword— Congress emitted Millions—was not this a Tax on the people—have they not Borrowed Vast Sums—must we not pay them— It is said Congress might diminish the No.—This fully answered by a Gent from New York— Will not every State wish to encrease their Representation Will 24 Aristocrats in Senate be Able to prevent it— There is no rule Whether 100 or 200 would be best— It is the opinion of the Inhabitants of this State that our Representat is too Large—The[y] have submitted this very Constitution to no More than 65—I believe it is the wishes of the People the Numbers should be some where where it is— Delegates have only 4 Dollars a day Expence 400 Dollars a Day —
* * * * *
SMITH. I rise on Acct. of the Reprimand of the Gent from New York [Robert R. Livingston] for Declamation— I did not wish the Vicious feelings of the people to be represented—he may be assured that if this Govt. take place the Vices of the People will be sufficiently represented— I said the Rich were more exposed to the Temptation— I assert [it] is true— Whether a Great Man who is Ambitious Gets all Pow[er] He says a natural Aristocracy is new Idea—I refer him to Mr Adams who has proved that every Country has a natural Aristocracy I now answer what a Gent said of a Book Said [to] be in high Estimation with the Antifœderalists— That book holds out all the Aristocrats in the united States to a few hundred— I stated that the Basis of Representation should be such as to embrace the Midling Class of Men— That as to Numbers an adequate Representation could not be had—Therefore their numbers should be encreased & powers limitted [Confederation] Congress are not like this Govt. The Delegates are chosen annually—They may be recalled every Hour—They can Serve but three years [in six]— I hope he will assist me to form such Checks in this Govt.13 He says the States Legislatures are bound by their Resolutions and the Congress have both purse & Sword— Qu. Would the State Legislatures be bound by Resolutions or requisitions that would destroy or be inconsistent with the Liberties of the People— If Economy was the Reason—Some Offices might be spared and the Representat encreased— If 65 is equal to that Govt. because equal to ours then 65 will represent three mill. as well as 65—24[0],000—
* * * * *
JAY. One or two Remarks have not been mentioned— It is agreed that a Strong energetic Fæderal Govt. is necessary—Hence we are [to] believe that it [is] believed such a Govt. is practicable—Yet a Gent [Melancton Smith] has given us to understand that a Strong energetic federal Govt. extending so far as this does is impracticable and the Country inadequate for it— If this Govt. must have the powers of War peace and Treaties—every man is interest[ed]—If a Representation can be equal this why not answer all the other objects of the Country— Allowing that the extent of our Country such that we cannot have a like Represent in our federal Govt. as in the State, let enquire whether it is necessary— A thousand matters come under State Govt. which Genl Govt. has nothing to do with— The General Govt. has to do with such matters as concern the States relative to each other and the States relative to foreign Nations— If the Members for the Genl. Govt. are sufficiently informed as to the general Produce and Trade of the State it is all that it is or can be necessary— They may be instructed by the State Legislatures—They may receive Information from Individuals— On a point (vizt. No [i.e., Number of Representatives]) in which mens Minds differ so exceedingly there is reason to suppose there is Doubt— This was done by Convey—I therefore feel it best to acquiese—If I saw apparent Danger it would be different— The Danger is Suggested from Corruption— I do no[t] apprehend Corruption— We have gone thro' perilous Times—we have no reason to suppose many were corrupted— The American Characters thereby became greatly & Gloriously distinguished— I do not remember 65 Members at any time then Have not principles of Eco[no]my made this & other States send not the whole Number, but only a bare Represent I Agree that this is unwise œconomy— There are in Congress now but 13 Votes—in the federal Govt. 91 Votes—which is most easy to purchase—Tis votes that are to be purchased— But you cant buy Votes without buying Men— The federal Govt. can Scarce do one Good thing without Nine Votes—very difficult to get them—never more than 11 or 12— To prevent this good thing it is necessary to corrupt two or three Votes—If two Members only corrupt one—if three Corrupt three Corrupt 8 or 10 Men you prevent the most Salutary Measure— Corrupt the like No. under this Govt. the Good thing will yet be done & every thing go on— As the federal Govt. now exists a Man may go home and Leave his colleage— The Ballance is in favour of the Change to guard agt. Corruption— If a Bad bill pass one House the other will check it— If it pass both Houses Objections may be made [by the president] then two thirds will be necessary— Tho I prefer large Representat to Small ones yet I am perfectly Contented— A Member from N York [Richard Harison] has spoken Demonstration— If 1 to 6 be the proportion between N York & Delaware it must be so throughout— Representation & Taxation be according to relative Numbers— Gentlemen must dispute thro' Stonewalls to get thro' this— If these are facts the Consequences are obvious— I have no points to carry I came here to consider Facts—
* * * * *
SMITH. The Ratio may be altered and the Number now existing may be decreased Tho' I do not believe the Legislature will reduce the No. below 65. but the number ought to be fixed14
Rarely Govts. are oppressed by a Govt. not doing but by their doing I Suppose the Checks on this Govt. an advantage On the other the Checks better
* * * * *
RICHARD HARISON. relative to His Ideas this Morning as to Increase The Principle being fixed the Represent cannot be diminished I state it must encrease Delaware cannot encrease in proportion to the other States The other States must encrease from Natural Cause while there apart of this Delaware being fixed Suppose it 33,000 N York 231000 at the next Census suppose NY 250 or 260,000 and Delaware to remain N York must have 8 or 9 Represent Increase must arise from Principle15
* * * * *
THOMAS TREDWELL. Rule "Representat & Direct Taxation agreable to Numbers but the Smallest States must have one" They may make the ratio 100,000 or any greater Number but must allow the Sn16