The Convention according to the order of the day, resolved itself into a Committee of the whole Convention, to take into further consideration, the proposed Constitution of Government-Mr. Mathews in the Chair. Mr. Nicholas,-Mr. Chairman.-I do not mean to enter into any further debate
- The friends of the Constitution wish to take up no more time, the matter being now fully discussed-They are convinced that further time will answer no end but to serve the cause of those who wish to destroy the Constitution. We wish it to be ratified, and such amendments as may be thought necessary, to be subsequently considered by a Committee, in order to be recommended to Congress, to be acted upon according to the amendatory mode presented in itself Gentlemen in the opposition have said that the friends of the Constitution would depart after the adoption, without entering into any consideration of subsequent amendments. I wish to know their authority. I wish for subsequent amendments as a friend to the Constitution-I trust its other friends wish so too-and I believe no Gentleman has any intention of departing. The amendments contained in this paper, are those we wish. But we shall agree to any others which will not destroy the spirit of the Constitution, or that will better secure liberty.1
He then moved that the Clerk should read the resolution proposed by Mr. Wythe, in order that the question might be put upon it Which being done-Mr. Tyler moved to read the amendments and bill of rights proposed by Mr. Henry, for the same purpose.
Mr. Harrison,-Mr. Chairman.-The little States refused to come into the Union without extravagant concessions. It will be the same case on every other occasion. Can it be supposed that the little States whose interest and importance are greatly advanced by the Constitution as it stands, will ever agree to any alteration, which must infallibly diminish their political influence? On this occasion let us behave with that fortitude which animated us in our resistance to Great-Britain.
The situation and disposition of the States render subsequent amendments dangerous and impolitic, and previous amendments eligible.
New-Hampshire does not approve of the Constitution as it stands. They have refused it so-In Massachusetts we are told that there was a decided majority in their Convention who opposed the Constitution as it stood, and were in favor of previous amendments, but were afterwards, by the address and artifice of the Fœderalists, prevailed upon to ratify it.
Rhode-Island is not worthy of the attention of this House-She is of no weight or importance to influence any general subject of consequence.
Connecticut adopted it without proposing amendments.
New-York we have every reason to believe, will reject the Constitution, unless amendments be obtained. Hence it clearly appears that there are three States which wish for amendments.
Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, have adopted it unconditionally.
In Maryland there is a considerable number who wish amendments to be had.
Virginia is divided, let this question be determined which way it will. One half of the people at least, wish amendments to be obtained.
North-Carolina is decidedly against it. South-Carolina has proposed amendments.
Under this representation, it appears that there are seven States who wish to get amendments.-Can it be doubted, if these seven States insert amendments as the condition of their accession, that they would not be agreed to? Let us not then be persuaded into an opinion, that the Union will be dissolved if we should reject it. I have no such idea.
As far as I am acquainted with history, there never existed a Constitution where the liberty of the people was established this way; States have risen by gradual steps-Let us follow their example. The line which we ought to pursue, is equally bounded. How comes that paper on your table, to be now here discussed? The State of Virginia finding the power of the Confederation insufficient for the happiness of the people, invited the other States to call a Convention, in order that the powers of Congress might be enlarged. I was not in the Assembly then, and if I had, I have no vanity to suppose I could have decided more cautiously. They were bound to do, what we ought to do now. I have no idea of danger to the Union. A vast majority from every calculation are invincibly attached to it. I see an earnest desire in Gentlemen to bring this country to be great and powerful Considering the very late period when this country was first settled, and the present state of population and wealth, this is impossible now. The attempt will bring ruin and destruction upon us. These things must not be forced. They must come of course like the course of rivers gently going on. As to the inconveniences to me from adoption, they are none at all I am not prejudiced against New-England or any part. They are held up to us as a people from whom protection will come. Will any protection come from thence for many years? When we were invaded, did any Gentlemen from the Northern States come to relieve us? No Sir, we were left to be buffetted. General Washington in the greatness of his soul, came with the French, Auxiliaries and relieved us opportunely. Were it not for this, we should have been ruined. I call Heaven to witness that I am a friend to the Union. But I conceive the measure of adoption to be unwarrantably precipitate, and dangerously impolitic. Should we rush into certain perdition, I should resist with the fortitude of a man. As to the amendments proposed by Gentlemen, I do not object to them-They are inherently good. But they are put in the wrong place-subsequent instead of previous. Mr. Harrison added other observations which could not be heard.
Mr. Madison,-Mr. Chairman.-I should not have risen at all, were it not for what the Honorable Member said. If there be any suspicions, that if the ratification be made, the friends of the system will with draw their concurrence and much more their persons, it shall never be with my approbation. Permit me to remark, that if he has given us a true state of the disposition and of the several Members of the Union, there is no doubt they will agree to the same amendments after adoption. If we propose the conditional amendments, I entreat Gentlemen to consider the distance to which they throw the ultimate settlement, and the extreme risk of perpetual disunion.-They cannot but see how easy it will be to obtain subsequent amendments. They can be proposed when the Legislatures of two-thirds of the States shall make application for that purpose, and the Legislatures of three fourths of the States, or Conventions in the same, can fix the amendments so proposed. If there be an equal zeal in every State, can there be a doubt that they will concur in reasonable amendments? If on the other hand, we call on the States to rescind what they have done, and confess that they have done wrong, and to consider the subject again, it will produce such unnecessary delays and is pregnant with such infinite dangers, that I cannot contemplate it without horror. There are uncertainty and confusion on the one hand, and order, tranquility and certainty on the other. Let us not hesitate to elect the latter alternative. Let us join with cordiality in those alterations we think proper. There is no friend to the Constitution, but who will concur in that mode.
Mr. Monro, after an exordium which could not be heard, remarking that the question now before the Committee was, whether previous or subsequent amendments were the most prudent-Strongly supported the former. He could not conceive that a conditional ratification would in the most remote degree endanger the Union, for that it was as clearly the interest of the adopting States to be United with Virginia, as it could be her interest to be in Union with them-He demanded if they would arm the States against one another, and make themselves enemies of those who were respectable and powerful from their situation and numbers? He had no doubt that they would in preference to such a desperate and violent measure, come forward and make a proposition to the other States, so far as it would be consistent with the general interest. Adopt it now unconditionally, says he, and it will never be amended, not even when experience shall have proved its defects. An alteration will be a diminution of their power, and there will be great exertions made to prevent it. I have no dread that they will immediately infringe the dearest rights of the people, but that the operation of the Government will be oppressive in process of time. Shall we not pursue the dictates of common sense and the example of all free and wise nations, and insist on amendments with manly fortitude.
It is urged that there is an impossibility of getting previous amendments, and that a variety of circumstances concur to render it impracticable. This argument appears to me fallacious, and as a specious evasion. The same cause which has hitherto produced a spirit of unanimity, and a predilection for the Union, will hereafter produce the same effects.
How did the Federal Constitution meet? From the beginning of time in any age or country, did ever men meet under so loose, uncurbed a commission? There was nothing to restrain them, but their characters and reputation. They could not organise a system without defects. This cannot then be perfect Is it not presumeable that by subsequent attempts we shall make it more complete and perfect? What are the great objections now made? Are they local? What are the amendments brought forth by my friends? Do they not contemplate the great interests of the people, and of the Union at large? I am satisfied from what we have seen of the disposition of the other States, that instead of disunion and national confusion, there will be harmony and perfect concord. Disunion is more to be apprehended from the adoption of a system reprobated by some, and allowed by all to be defective. The arguments of Gentlemen have no weight on my mind. It is unnecessary to enter into a refutation of them. My Honorable friends have done it highly to my satisfaction. Permit me only to observe with respect to these amendments, that they are harmless. Do they change a feature of the Constitution? They secure our rights without altering a single feature, I trust therefore that Gentlemen will concur with them.
Mr. Innes,-Mr. Chairman.-I have hitherto been silent on this great and interesting question. But my silence has not proceeded from a neutrality of sentiments, or a supineness of disposition. The session of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, at this time, has indispensably called my attention to the prosecutions for the Commonwealth. Had I taken an earlier part in the discussion, my observations would have been desultory and perhaps not satisfactory, being not apprised of all the arguments which had been used by Gentlemen. We are now brought to that great part of the system where it is necessary for me to take a decided part. This is one of the most important questions, that ever agitated the councils of America. When I see in this House divided in opinion, several of those brave officers whom I have seen so gallantly fighting and bleeding for their country, the question is doubly interesting to me. I thought it would be the last of human events, that I should be on a different side from them, on so awful an occasion. However painful and distressing to me, the recollection of this diversity of sentiments may be, I am consoled by this reflection-that difference in opinion has a happy consequence. It aids discussion, and is a friend to truth. We ought (and I hope we have the temper) to be regulated by candour and moderation, without which in a deliberative body, every thing with respect to the public good, evaporates into nothing. I came hither under a persuasion that the felicity of our country required that we should accede to this system; but I am free to declare, that I came in with a mind open to conviction, and a predetermination to recede from my opinion, if I should find it to be erroneous-I have heard nothing hitherto that would warrant a change of one idea. The objections urged by the advocates of the opposition have been ably and in my conception, satisfactorily answered by the friends of the Constitution. I wish instead of reasoning from possible abuses, that the Government had been considered as an abstract position, drawn from the history of all nations, and such theoretic opinions as experience has demonstrated to be right. I have waited to hear this mode of reasoning, but in vain. Instead of this, Sir, horrors have been called up, chimeras suggested, and every terrific and melancholy idea adduced, to prevent, what I think indispensably necessary for our national honor, happiness and safety-I mean the adoption of the system under consideration.
How are we to decide this question? Shall we take the system byway of subsequent amendments, or propose amendments as the previous condition of our adoption? Let us consider this question coolly. In my humble opinion, it transcends the power of this Convention to take it with previous amendments-If you take it so, I say, that you transcend and violate the commission of the people. For if it be taken with amendments, the opinions of the people at large ought to be consulted on them. Have they an opportunity of considering previous amendments? They have seen the Constitution, and sent us hither to adopt or reject it. Have we more latitude on this subject? If you propose previous amendments as the condition of your adoption, they may radically change the paper on the table, and the people will be bound by what they know not. Subsequent amendments would not have that effect. They would not operate till the people had an opportunity of considering and altering them, if they thought proper.2
They could have it in their power to give contrary directions to their Members of Congress. But I observe with regret, that there is a general spirit of jealousy with respect to our Northern brethren. Had we this political jealousy in 1775? If we had, it would have damped our ardor and intrepidity; and prevented that unanimous resistance which enabled us to triumph over our enemies. It was not a Virginian, Carolinian or Pennsylvanian, but the glorious name of an American that extended from one end of the continent to the other, that was then beloved and confided in. Did we then expect, that in case of success, we should be armed against one another? I would have submitted to British tyranny rather than to Northern tyranny, had what we have been told, been true, that they had no part of that philanthropic spirit, which cherishes fraternal affection, unites friends, enables them to achieve the most gallant exploits, and renders them formidable to other nations. Gentlemen say that the States have not similar interests, that what will accommodate their interests will be incompatible with ours; and that the Northern oppression will fetter, and manacle the hands of the Southern people. Wherein does this dissimilarity consist? Does not our existence as a nation depend on our Union? Is it to be supposed that their principles will be so constuprated, and that they will be so blind to their own true interests, as to alienate the affections of the Southern States, and adopt measures which will produce discontents and terminate in a dissolution of an Union as necessary to their happiness as to ours? Will not brotherly affection rather be cultivated? Will not the great principles of reciprocal friendship, and mutual amity be constantly inculcated, so as to conciliate all parts of the Union? This will be inevitably necessary from the unity of their interests with ours. To suppose that they would act contrary to these principles, would be to suppose them to be not only destitute of honor and probity, but void of reason not only bad, but mad men.
The Honorable Gentleman has warned us to guard against European politics. Shall we not be more able to set their machinations at defiance, by uniting our councils and strength, than by splitting into factions and divisions? Our divisions and consequent debility are the objects most ardently wished for by the nations of Europe. What cause induced Great-Britain and other European nations which had settlements in America, to keep their colonies in an infantine condition? What cause leads them to exclude our vessels from the West-Indies? The fear of our becoming important and powerful. Will they not be perpetually stimulated by this fear? Will they not incessantly endeavour to depress us by force or stratagems? Is there no danger to be apprehended from Spain, whose extensive and invaluable possessions are in our vicinity? Will that nation rejoice at an augmentation of our strength or wealth?
But we are told that we need not be afraid of Great Britain.-Will that great, that warlike, that vindictive nation, lose the desire of revenging her losses and disgraces? Will she passively overlook flagrant violations of the treaty? Will she lose the desire of retrieving those laurels which are buried in America? Should I transfuse into the breast of a Briton, that amor patrice which so strongly predominates in my own, he would say, While I have a guinea, I shall give it to recover lost America.
But says another Gentleman, the maritime powers of Europe look with anxious and jealous eyes on you-While you are helpless, they will let you alone, but if you attempt to become respectable, they will crush you-Is this the language or consolation of an American? Must we acquiesce to continue in this situation? We should by this way of reasoning sacrifice our own honor, and interests, to please those supercilious nations, and promote their interests; and with every means of acquiring a powerful fleet, would never have a ship of the line.- To promote their glory we should become wretched and contemptible. Our national glory, our honor, our interests forbid this disgraceful conduct. It may be said that the ancients who deserved and acquired glory, have lost their liberty. Call to mind the many nations of Indians and Cannibals that have lost it likewise. And who would not rather be a Roman, than one of those who hardly deserve to be enumerated among the human species?
This question is as important as the revolution which severed us from the British empire. It rests now to be determined whether America has in reality gained by that change which has been thought so glorious-and whether those hecatombs of American heroes, whose blood so freely shed at the shrine of liberty, fell in vain; or whether we shall establish such a Government as shall render America respectable and happy. I wish her not only to be internally possessed of political and civil liberty, but to be formidable, terrible, and dignified in war, and not depend on the ambitious Princes of Europe for tranquillity, security or safety. I ask if the most petty of those Princes, even the Dey of Algiers, were to make war upon us, if the other States of Europe should keep a neutrality, whether we should not be reduced to the greatest distress? Is it not in the power of any maritime power to seize our vessels, and destroy our commerce with impunity?
But we are told that the New-Englanders mean to take our trade from us, and make us hewers of wood and carriers of water and the next moment that they will emancipate our slaves! But how inconsistent is this?
They tell you that the admission of the importation of slaves for twenty years, shews that their policy is to keep us weak, and yet the next moment they tell you, that they intend to set them free! If it be their object to corrupt and enervate us, will they emancipate our slaves? Thus they complain and argue against it on contradictory principles.-3
The Constitution is to turn the world topsy turvy to make it answer their various purposes.
Can it be said that liberty of conscience is in danger? I observed on the side of the Constitution, those who have been champions for religious liberty, an attack on which I would as soon resist as one on civil liberty. Do they employ consistent arguments to shew that it is in danger? They inform you that Turks, Jews, Infidels, Christians, and all other sects may be President, and command the fleet and army, there being no test to be required. And yet the tyrannical and inquisitorial Congress, will ask me as a private citizen what is my opinion on religion, and punish me if it does not conform to theirs I cannot think the Gentleman could be serious when he made these repugnant and incompatible objections.
With respect to previous amendments what will be the consequence? Virginia first discovered the defects of the existing confederacy. When the Legislature was sitting, a few years ago, they sent an invitation to the other States to make amendments to it. After some preparatory steps, the late Federal Convention was called. To this were sent select Deputies from all the States except Rhode-Island. After five months spent in tedious and painful investigation, they with great difficulty devised the paper on the table, and it has been adopted by every State which has considered and discussed.-Virginia is about dictating again to the other States. Eight States have exercised their sovereignty in ratifying it. Yet with a great deal of humility we ask them to rescind, and make such alterations as the ancient dominion shall think proper. States are but an aggregate of individuals. Would not an individual spurn at such a requisition? They will say, It has been laid before you, and if you do not like it, consider the consequences. We are as free, sister Virginia, and as independent, as you are; we do not like to be dictated to by you. But say Gentlemen, we can afterwards come into the Union-We may come in at another time-that is, if they do not accede to our dictatorial mandate. They are not of such a yielding, pliant stuff as to revoke a decision founded on their most solemn deliberations, to gratify our capricious wishes.
After hearing the arguments on this subject, and finding such a variety of contradictory objections, I am the more averse to solicit another Convention, from which I should expect great discord, and no good effect at all. Not doubting the sincerity of Gentlemen's protestations, I say the mode pointed out in the Constitution is much better. For, according to their mode, the Union would never be complete, till the thirteen States had acceded to it, and eight States must rescind and revoke what they have done. By the paper before you, if two-thirds of the States think amendments necessary, Congress are obliged to call a Convention to propose amendments, which are to be submitted to the Legislatures, or Conventions in three-fourths of the States, the acquiescence of which, will render them binding. Now is there not a greater probability of obtaining the one than the other? Will not nine States more probably agree to any amendments than thirteen? The doctrine of chances is in favor of it.
Unless we in vain look for a perfect Constitution, we ought to take it In vain you will seek from India to the Pole, for a perfect Constitution. Though it may have certain defects, yet I doubt whether any system more perfect, can be obtained at this time. Let us no longer pursue chimerical and ridiculous systems. Let us try it-Experience is the best test. It will bear equally on all the States from New-Hampshire to Georgia; and as it will operate equally on all, they will all call for amendments; and whatever the spirit of America calls for, must doubtless take place immediately.
I consider Congress as ourselves, as our fellow-citizens, and no more different from us than our Delegates in the State Legislature. I consider them as having all a fellow-feeling for us, and that they will never forget that this Government is that of the people. Under this impression, I conclude that they will never dare to go beyond the bounds prescribed in the Constitution; and that as they are eligible and removeable by ourselves, there is sufficient responsibility-For where the power of election frequently reverts to the people, and that reversion is unimpeded, there can be no danger-Upon the whole this is the question-Shall it be adopted or rejected? With respect to previous amendments they are equal to rejection. They are abhorrent to my mind-I consider them as the greatest of evils-I think myself bound to vote against every measure which I conceive to be a total rejection, than which nothing in my conception, can be more imprudent, destructive and calamitous.
Mr. Tyler,-Mr. Chairman.-I should have been satisfied with giving my vote on the question to-day, but as I wish to hand down to posterity my opposition to this system, I conceive it to be my duty to declare the principles on which I disapprove of it, and the cause of my opposition. I have seriously considered the subject in my mind, and when I consider the effects which may happen to this country from its adoption, I tremble at it. My opposition to it arose first from general principles, independent of any local consideration. But when I find that the Constitution is expressed in indefinite terms-in terms, which the Gentlemen who composed it, do not all concur in the meaning of- I say that when it is thus liable to objections and different constructions, I find no rest in my mind. Those clauses which answer different constructions, will be used to serve particular purposes. If the able Members who composed it, cannot agree on the construction of it, shall I be thought rash or wrong to pass censure on its ambiguity?
The worthy Member last up James Innes] has brought us to a degrading situation that we have no right to propose amendments. I should have expected such language had we already adopted a Constitution, which will preclude us from this advantage. If we propose to them to reconsider what they have done, and not rescind it, will it be dictating to them? I do not undertake to say that our amendments will bind other States; I hope no Gentleman will be so weak as to say so. But no Gentleman on the other side will deny our right of proposing amendments. Wherefore is it called dictatorial? It is not my wish that they should rescind, but so much as will secure our peace and liberty. We wish to propose such amendments to the sister States, as will reconcile all the States. Will Gentlemen think this will dissolve the Union?
Among all the chimeras adduced on this occasion, we are intimidated with the fear of being attacked by the petty Princes of Europe. The little predatory nations of Europe, are to cross the Atlantic and fall upon us, and to avoid this, we must adopt this Government with all its defects. Are we to be frightened into its adoption?
The Gentleman has objected to previous amendments because the people did not know them. Have they seen their subsequent amendments-Here Mr. Innes rose and explained the difference-That previous amendments would be binding on the people, though they had never seen them, and should have no opportunity considering them before they should operate: But that subsequent amendments being only recommendatory in their nature, could be reviewed by the people before they would become a part of the system; and if they disapproved of them, they might direct their Delegates in Congress to alter and modify them-Mr. Tyler then proceeded-I have seen their subsequent amendments, and although they hold out something like the thing we wish for, yet they have not entered pointedly and substantially into it. What have they said about direct taxation? They have said nothing on this subject. Is there any limitation of or restriction on the Federal Judicial power? I think not So that Gentlemen hold out the idea of amendments which will not alter one dangerous part of it. It contains many dangerous articles. No Gentleman here can give such a construction of it, as will give general satisfaction. Shall we be told that we shall be attacked by the Algerines, and that disunion will take place unless we adopt it? Such language as this I did not expect here Little did I think that matters would come to this, when we separated from the mother country-There, Sir, everyman is amenable to punishment. There is far less responsibility in this Government British tyranny would have been more tolerable. By our present Government everyman is secure in his person, and the enjoyment of his property. There is no man who is not liable to be punished for misdeeds. I ask what is it that disturbs men when liberty is in the highest zenith? Human nature will ever be the same. Men never were, nor ever will be satisfied with their happiness.
They tell you, that one letter's alteration will destroy it. I say that it is very far from being perfect. I ask if it were put in immediate operation, whether the people could bear it-whether two bodies can tax the same species of property? The idea of two omnipotent powers is inconsistent. The natural tendency must be, either a revolt, or the destruction of the State Governments, and a consolidation of them all into one general system. If we are to be consolidated, let it be on better grounds. So long as climate will have effect on men, so long will the different climates of the United States, render us different. Therefore a consolidation is contrary to our nature, and can only be supported by an arbitrary Government.
Previous and subsequent amendments are now the only dispute, and when Gentlemen say, that there is a greater probability of obtaining the one, than the other, they accompany their assertions with no kind of argument. What is the reason that amendments cannot be got after ratification? Because we have granted power-Because the amendments you propose will diminish their power, and undo some clauses in that paper. This argument proves to me, that they cannot be serious. It has been plainly proved to you, that it is impracticable. Local advantages are given up as well as the regulation of trade. When this is the case, will the little States agree to an alteration? When Gentlemen insist on this without producing any argument, they will find no credulity in me. Another Convention ought to be had, whether the amendments be previous or subsequent. They say another Convention is dangerous. How is this proved? It is only their assertion. Gentlemen tell us we shall be ruined without adoption. Is this reasonable? It does not appear so to me.
Much has been said on the subject of war by foreigners, and the Indians. But a great deal has been said in refutation of it. Give me leave to say, that from the situation of the powers of Europe at this time, no danger is to be apprehended from thence. Will the French go to war with you, if you do not pay them what you owe them? Will they thereby destroy that balance, to preserve which, they have taken such immense trouble? But Great-Britain will go to war with you, unless you comply with the treaty. Great-Britain, which to my sorrow, has monopolized our trade, is to go to war with us unless the law of treaties be binding. Is this reasonable? It is not the interest of Britain to quarrel with us. She will not hazard any measure which may tend to take our trade out of her hands. It is not the interest of Holland to see us destroyed, or oppressed. It is the interest of every nation in Europe to keep up the balance of power, and therefore they will not suffer any nation to attack us, without immediately interfering.
But much is said of the propriety of our becoming great, and powerful nation. There is a great difference between offensive and defensive war. If we can defend ourselves, it is sufficient. Shall we sacrifice the peace and happiness of this country, to enable us to make want on war?
My conduct through the revolution will justify me-I have invariably wished to oppose oppressions. It is true, that I have now a paltry office. I am willing to give it up away with it-It has no influence on my present conduct I wished Congress to have the regulation of trade. I was of opinion that a partial regulation alone would not suffice. I was among those Members who a few years ago proposed that regulation. I have lamented that I have put my hand to it, since this measure may have grown out of it It was the hopes of our people to have their trade on a respectable footing. But it never entered into my head that we should quit liberty, and throw ourselves into the hands of an energetic Government. Do you want men to be freer, or less free than they are? Gentlemen have been called upon to shew the causes of this measure-None have been shewn. Gentlemen say we shall be ruined unless we adopt it. We must give up our opinions. We cannot judge for ourselves-I hope Gentlemen before this, have been satisfied that such language is improper. All States which have heretofore been lavish in the concession of power, and relinquishment of privileges, have lost their liberty. It has been often observed (and it cannot be too often observed) that liberty ought not to be given up without knowing the terms. The Gentlemen themselves cannot agree in the construction of various clauses of it. And so long as this is the case, so long shall liberty be in danger.
Gentlemen say we are jealous-I am not jealous of this House. I could trust my life with them. If this Constitution were safer I should not be afraid. But its defects warrant my suspicions and fears-We are not passing laws now, but laying the foundation on which laws are to be made. We ought therefore to be cautious how we decide. When I consider the Constitution in all its parts, I cannot but dread its operation. It contains a variety of powers too dangerous to be vested in any set of men whatsoever. Its power of direct taxation, the supremacy of the laws of the Union, and of treaties, are exceedingly dangerous-I have never heard any manner of calling the President to account for his conduct, nor even the Members of the democratic branch of the Government. We may turn out our ten Members, but what can we do with the other fifty-five. The wisdom of Great-Britain gave each State its own Legislative Assembly, and Judiciary, and a right to tax themselves. When they attempted to infringe that right, we declared war. This system violates that right. In the year 1781 the Assembly were obliged to pass a law that forty Members could pass laws. I have heard many Members say that it was a great departure from the Constitution, and that it would lead to aristocracy. If we could not trust forty, can we trust ten? Those who lay a tax ought to be amenable to the payment of a proportionate share of it. I see nothing in their subsequent amendments going to this point-that we shall have a right to tax ourselves. But Gentlemen say, that this would destroy the Constitution. Of what avail then will their subsequent amendments be? Will Gentlemen satisfy themselves that when they adopt this Constitution, their country will be happy? Is not the country divided? Is it a happy Government which divides the people, and sets brother in opposition to brother? This measure has produced anarchy and confusion. We ought to have been unanimous, and gone side by side, as we went through the revolution. Instead of unanimity, it has produced a general diversity of opinions, which may terminate in the most unhappy consequences-We only wish to do away ambiguities, and establish our rights on clear and explicit terms. If this be done, we shall be all like one man-we shall unite and be happy. But if we adopt it in its present form, unanimity or concord can never take place-After adoption, we can never expect to see it amended; because they will consider requests and solicitations for amendments as in a high degree dictatorial. They will say, You have signed and sealed, and you cannot now retract-When I review all these considerations, my heart is full, and can never be at peace, till I see these defects removed. Our only consolation is the virtue of the present age. It is possible that when they see the country divided, these politicians will reconcile the minds of their countrymen, by introducing such alterations as shall be deemed necessary. Were it not for this hope, I should be in dispair. I shall say no more, but that I wish my name to be seen in the yeas and nays, that it may be known that my opposition arose from a full persuasion and conviction, of its being dangerous to the liberties of my country.
Mr. Stephen addressed the Chairman, but in so low a voice that he could not be distinctly heard-He described in a feeling manner the unhappy situation of the country, and the absolute necessity of preventing dismemberment of the confederacy.
I was, says he, sent hitherto adopt the Constitution as it is, but such is my regard for my fellow-citizens, that I would concur in amendments. The Gentlemen on the other side have adduced no reasons or proofs to convince us, that the amendments should become a part of the system, before ratification. What reason have we to suspect, that persons who are chosen from among ourselves, will not agree to the introduction of such amendments as will be desired by the people at large-I5
n all safe and free Governments, there ought to be a judicious mixture of the three different kinds of Government. This Government is a compound of those different kinds. But the democratic kind preponderates as it ought to do. The Members of one branch are immediately chosen by the people; and the people also elect in a secondary degree the Members of the other two-At present we have no Confederate Government. It exists but in name.-The Honorable Gentleman asked where is the genius of America? What else but that genius has stimulated the people to reform that Government, which woeful experience has proved to be totally inefficient. What has produced the unison of sentiments in the States on this subject? I expected that filial duty and affection would have impelled him to enquire for the genius of Virginia-that genius which formerly resisted British tyranny, and in the language of manly intrepidity and fortitude said to that nation-thus far and no farther shall you proceed." What has become of that genius which spoke that magnanimous language-that genius which produced the Federal Convention? Yonder she is in a mournful attire, her hair disheveled-distressed with grief and sorrow-supplicating assistance, against gorgons, fiends and hydras, which are ready to devour her, and carry desolation throughout her country. She bewails the decay of trade and neglect agriculture-her farmers discouraged-her ship-carpenters, blacksmiths and all other tradesmen unemployed. She casts her eyes on these, and deplores her inability to relieve them. She sees and laments that the profit of her commerce goes to foreign States. She further bewails that all she can raise by taxation is inadequate to her necessities-She sees religion die by her side-public faith prostituted, and private confidence lost between man and man. Are the hearts of her citizens so deaf to compassion that they will not go to her relief? If they are so infatuated, the dire consequences may be easily forseen-Expostulations must be made for the defection of Virginia, when Congress meets. They will enquire where she has lately discovered so much political wisdom-she that gave an immense tract of country to relieve the general distresses-Wherein consists her superiority to her friends of South-Carolina, and the respectable State of Massachusetts, who to prevent a dissolution of the Union, adopted the Constitution, and proposed such amendments as they thought necessary, placing confidence in the other States, that they would accede to them-After making several other remarks, he concluded by declaring that in his opinion, they were about to determine whether we should be one of the United States or not.
Mr. Zachariah Johnson,-Mr. Chairman.-I am now called upon to decide the greatest of all questions-a question which may involve the felicity or misery of myself and posterity. I have hitherto listened attentively to the arguments adduced by both sides, and attended to hear the discussion of the most complicated parts of the system by Gentlemen of great abilities. Having now come to the ultimate stage of the investigation, I think it my duty to declare my sentiments on the subject. When I view the necessity of Government among mankind, and its happy operation when judiciously constructed, and when I view the principles of this Constitution, and the satisfactory and liberal manner in which they have been developed by the Gentleman [Edmund Pendleton] in the Chair, and several other Gentlemen; and when I view on the other hand, the strained construction which has been put, by the Gentlemen on the other side, on every word and syllable, in endeavouring to prove oppressions which can never possibly happen, my judgment is convinced of the safety and propriety of this system. This conviction has not arisen from a blind acquiescence or dependence on the assertions and opinions of others, but from a full persuasion of its rectitude, after an attentive and mature consideration of the subject; the arguments of other Gentlemen having only confirmed the opinion which I had previously formed, and which I was determined to abandon, should I find it to be ill founded.
As to the principle representation, I find it attended to in this Government in the fullest manner-It is founded on absolute equality. When I see the power of electing the, Representatives-the principal branch-in the people at large-in those very persons who are the constituents of the State Legislatures; when I find that the other branch is chosen by the State Legislatures; that the Executive is eligible in a secondary degree by the people likewise, and that the terms of elections are short, and proportionate to the difficulty, and magnitude of the objects which they are to act upon; and when in addition to this, I find that no person holding any office under the United States shall be a Member of either branch-I say, when I review all these things, that I plainly see a security of the liberties of this country, to which we may safely trust. Were this Government defective in this fundamental principle representation, it would be so radical, that it would admit of no remedy.
I shall consider several other parts which are much objected to. As to the regulation of the militia, I feel myself doubly interested. Having a numerous offspring, I am careful to prevent the establishment of any regulation, that might entail oppression on them. When Gentlemen of high abilities in this House, and whom I respect, tell us that the militia may be subjected to martial law in time of peace, and whensoever Congress may please, I am much astonished. My judgment is astray and exceedingly undiscerning, if it can bear such a construction. Congress has only the power of arming, and disciplining them. The States have the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress. When called into the actual service of the United States, they shall be subject to the marching orders of the United States.-Then, and then only it ought to be so-When we advert to the plain and obvious meaning of the words, without twisting and torturing their natural, signification, we must be satisfied that this objection is groundless. Had we adverted to the true meaning, and not gone further, we should not be here to-day, but would have come to a decision long ago. We are also told, that religion is not secured-that religious tests are not required.-You will find that the exclusion of tests, will strongly tend to establish religious freedom. If tests were required-and if the church of England or any other were established, I might be excluded from any office under the Government, because my conscience might not permit me to take the test required. The diversity of opinions and variety of sects in the United States, have justly been reckoned a great security with respect to religious liberty. The difficulty of establishing an uniformity of religion in this country is immense.-The extent of the country is very great. The multiplicity of sects is very great likewise.-The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons-They are left in full possession of them. The Government is administered by the Representatives of the people voluntarily and freely chosen. Under these circumstances, should anyone attempt to establish their own system, in prejudice of the rest, they would be universally detested and opposed, and easily frustrated. This is a principle which secures religious liberty most firmly.-The Government will depend on the assistance of the people in the day of distress. This is the case in all Governments. It never was otherwise. They object to this Government, because it is strong and energetic; and with respect to the rich and poor, that it will be favorable to the one and oppressive to the other. It is right it should be energetic. This does not shew that the poor shall be more oppressed than the rich. Let us examine it. If it admits that private and public justice should be done, it admits what is just. As to the indolent and fraudulent, nothing will reclaim these, but the hand of force and compulsion. Is there any thing in this Government which will shew that it will bear hardly and unequally on the honest and industrious part of the community? I think not. As to the mode of taxation, the proportion of each State being known, cannot be exceeded. And such proportion will be raised in the most equitable manner of the people, according to their ability. There is nothing to warrant a supposition that the poor will be equally taxed with the wealthy and opulent.
I shall make a comparison, to illustrate my observations, between the State and the General Governments. In our State Government so much admired by the worthy Gentleman over the way, though there are 1700 militia in some counties, and but 150 in others, yet every county sends two Members to assist in Legislating for the whole community.-There is this disproportion between the respectable county of Augusta, which I have the honor to represent, and the circumscribed narrow county of Warwick; yet Augusta has no more Legislative influence than Warwick! Will any Gentleman tell us, that this is a more equal representation than is fixed in the Constitution, whereby 30,000 are to send one Representative in whatever place they may reside?- By the same State system the poor in many instances pay as much as the rich. Many laws occur to my mind, where I could shew you, that the representation and taxation bears hard on those who live in large remote back counties. The mode of taxation is more oppressive to us than to the rest of the community. Last fall when the principle of taxation was debated, it was determined that tobacco should be received in discharge of taxes16 but this did not relieve us, for it would not fetch what it cost us, as the distance is so great, and the carriage so difficult-Other specific articles were not received in payment of taxes, so that we had no other alternative than to pay specie, which was a peculiar hardship-I could point out many other disadvantages which we labour under, but I shall not now fatigue the House.
It is my lot to be among the poor people. The most that I can claim, or flatter myself with, is to be of the middle rank-I wish no more, for I am contented. But I shall give my opinion unbiassed, and uninfluenced-without erudition or eloquence, but with firmness and candour. And in so doing, I will satisfy my conscience. If this Constitution be bad, it will bear equally as hard on me, as on any Member of the society-It will bear hard on my children, who are as dear to me, as anyman's children can be to him. Having their felicity and happiness at heart, the vote I shall give in its favor, can only be imputed to a conviction of its utility and propriety.
When I look for responsibility, I fully find it in that paper. When the Members of the Government depend on ourselves for their appointment, and will bear an equal share of the burthens imposed on the people-when their duty is inseparably connected with their interest, I conceive there can be no danger. Will they forfeit the friendship and confidence of their countrymen, and counteract their own interests? As they will probably have families, they cannot forget them- When one of them sees that providence has given him a numerous family, he will be averse to lay taxes on his own posterity. They cannot escape them. They will be as liable to be taxed as any other persons in the community-Neither is he sure, that he shall enjoy the place again, if he breaks his faith. When I take these things into consideration, I think there is sufficient responsibility.
As to the amendments now on your table, besides the impropriety of proposing them to be obtained previous to ratification, they appear to me, to be evidently and clearly objectionable.-Look at the bill of rights; it is totally mutilated and destroyed, in that paper-The 15th article of the bill of rights of Virginia is omitted entirely in his proposed bill of rights. That article says, "That no free Government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles."-This article is the best of the whole-Take away this, and all is gone. Look at the first article of our bill of rights. It says that all men are by nature equally free and independent. Does that paper acknowledge this? No-It denies it.
They tell us that they see a progressive danger of bringing about emancipation. The principle has begun since the revolution. Let us do what we will, it will come round. Slavery has been the foundation of that impiety and dissipation which have been so much disseminated among our countrymen. If it were totally abolished, it would do much good.
Gentlemen say that we destroy our own principles by subsequent amendments. They say that it is acting inconsistent with our reasons- Let us examine this position. Here is a principle of united wisdom founded on mutual benefits; and as experience may shew defects, we stipulate, that when they will happen, they shall be amended-That when a majority finds defects, we will search a remedy and apply it. There are two ways of amending it, pointed out in the system itself- When introduced either way, they are to be binding.
I am happy to see that happy day approaching, when we lose sight of dissentions and discord, which are one of the greatest sources of political misfortunes. Division is a dreadful thing. This Constitution may have defects. There can be no human institution without defects. We must go out of this world to find it otherwise. The annals of mankind do not shew us one example of a perfect Constitution.
When I see such a diversity of opinions among Gentlemen on this occasion, it brings to my recollection, a portion of history which strongly warns us to be moderate and cautious. The historical facts to which I allude, happened in a situation similar to our own. When the Parliament of England beheaded King Charles the first, conquered their enemies, obtained liberty and established a kind of a republic, one would think that they would have had sufficient wisdom and policy to preserve that freedom and independence, which they had with such difficulty acquired. What was the consequence?- That they would not bend to the sanction of laws, or legal authority-For the want of an efficient and judicious system of republican Government, confusion and anarchy took place. Men became so lawless, so destitute of principles, and so utterly ungovernable, that to avoid greater calamities, they were driven to the expedient of sending for the son of that Monarch whom they had beheaded, that he might become their master. This is like our situation in some degree. It will completely resemble it, should we lose our liberty as they did. It warns and cautions us to shun their fate, by avoiding the causes which produced it: Shall we lose our blood and treasure which we lost in the revolution and permit anarchy and misery to complete the ruin of this country? Under these impressions, and for these reasons, I am for adopting the Constitution without previous amendments. I will go any length afterwards to reconcile it to Gentlemen by proposing subsequent amendments. The great and wise State of Massachusetts has taken this step. The great and wise State of Virginia might safely do the same. I am contented to rest my happiness on that footing.
Mr. Henry,-Mr. Chairman.-When we were told of the difficulty of obtaining previous amendments, I contended that they might be as easily obtained as subsequent amendments. We are told that nine States have adopted it. If so, when the Government gets in motion, have they not a right to consider our amendments as well as if we adopted first? If we remonstrate, may they not consider and admit our amendments? But now, Sir, when we have been favored with a view of their subsequent amendments, I am confirmed in what I apprehended; and that is, that subsequent amendments will make our condition worse. For they are placed in such a point of view, as will make this Convention ridiculous. I speak in plain direct language-It is extorted from me- If this Convention will say, that the very right by which amendments are desired, is not secured, then I say our rights are not secured. As we have the right of desiring amendments, why not exercise it? But Gentlemen deny this right. It follows of course, that if this right be not secured, our other rights are not. The proposition of subsequent amendments is only to lull our apprehensions. We speak the language of contradiction and inconsistency, to say that rights are secured, and then say that they are not. Is not this placing this Convention in a contemptible light? Will not this produce contempt of us in Congress and every other part of the world? Will Gentlemen tell me that they are in earnest about these amendments?
I am convinced they mean nothing serious. What are the rights which they do not propose to secure-which they reject? For I contend there are many essential and vital rights which are omitted. One is the power of direct taxation. Gentlemen will not even give this invaluable right a place among their subsequent amendments. And do Gentlemen mean seriously, that they will oppose us on this ground on the floor of Congress? If Virginia thinks it one of her dearest rights, she need not" expect to have it amended-No Sir, it will be opposed. Taxes and excises are to be laid on us-The people are to be oppressed, and the State Legislature prostrated. Very material amendments are omitted-With respect to your militia, we only request, that, if Congress should refuse to find arms for them, this country may layout their own money to purchase them. But what do the Gentlemen on the other side say? As much as that they will oppose you in this point also; for if my recollection has not failed me, they have discarded this also. And shall we be deprived of this privilege? We propose to have it, in case there should be (a) necessity to claim it-And is this claim incompatible with the safety of this country-with the grandeur and strength of the United States? If Gentlemen find peace and rest on their minds, when the relinquishment of our rights is declared to be necessary for the aggrandisement of the Government, they are more contented than I am.
Another thing which they have not mentioned, is the power of treaties. Two-thirds of the Senators present can make treaties, and they are when made, to be the supreme law of the land, and are to be paramount to the State Constitutions. We wish to guard against the temporary suspension of our great national rights. We wish some qualification of this dangerous power. We wish to modify it. One amendment which has been wished for in this respect, is, that no treaty should be made without the consent of a considerable majority of both Houses.8
I might go on and enumerate many other great rights entirely neglected by their subsequent amendments, but I shall pass over them in silence. I am astonished at what my worthy friend (Mr. Innes) said- that we had no right of proposing previous amendments. That Honorable Gentleman is endowed with great eloquence-eloquence splendid, magnificent and sufficient to shake the human mind! He has brought the whole force of America against this State. He has also strongly represented our comparative weakness with respect to the powers of Europe. But when I review the actual state of things, I see that dangers from thence are merely ideal. His reasoning has no effect on me. He cannot shake my political faith. He admits our power over subsequent amendments, though not over previous amendments. Where is the distinction between them? If we have a right to depart from the letter of our commission in one instance, we have in the other. For subsequent amendments have no higher authority than previous. We will be absolutely certain of escaping danger in the one case, but not in the other.9
I think the apprehension expressed by another Honorable Gentleman has no good foundation-He apprehended civil discord, if we did not adopt-I am willing to concede that he loves his country. I will for the sake of argument allow that I am one of the meanest of those who love their country. But what does this amount to? The great and direct end of Government is liberty-Secure our liberty and privileges, and the end of Government is answered. If this be not effectually done, Government is an evil-What amendments does he propose which secure our liberty? I ask pardon if I make a mistake, but it seems to me that his proposed subsequent amendments do not secure one single right.-They say that your rights are secured in the paper on the table, so that these subsequent amendments are a mere supererogation. They are not necessary, because the objects intended to be secured by them, are secured already. What is to become of the trial by jury? Had its security been made a part of the Constitution it would have been sufficiently guarded. But as it is, in that proposition, it is by no means explicitly secured. Is it not trifling to admit the necessity of securing it and not do it in a positive, unequivocal manner? I wish I could place it in any other view than a trifling one. It is only intended to attack every project of introducing amendments-If they are serious, why do they not join us, and ask in a manly, firm and resolute manner, for these amendments. Their view is to defeat every attempt to amend. When they speak of their subsequent recommendations they tell you that amendments must be got, and the next moment they say they are unnecessary!
I beg pardon of this House for having taken up more time than came to my share, and I thank them for the patience and polite attention with which I have been heard. If I shall be in the minority, I shall have those painful sensations, which arise from a conviction of being overpowered in a good cause. Yet I will be a peaceable citizen- My head, my hand, and my heart shall be at liberty to retrieve the loss of liberty, and remove the defects of that system-in a constitutional way-I wish not to go to violence, but will wait with hopes that the spirit which predominated in the revolution, is not yet gone, nor the cause of those who are attached to the revolution yet lost-I shall therefore patiently wait in expectation of seeing that Government changed so as to be compatible with the safety, liberty and happiness of the people.
Governor Randolph,-Mr. Chairman.-One parting word I humbly supplicate.
The suffrage which I shall give in favor of the Constitution, will be ascribed by malice to motives unknown to my breast. But although for every other act of my life, I shall seek refuge in the mercy of God- for this I request his justice only. Lest however some future annalist should in the spirit of party vengeance, deign to mention my name, let him recite these truths-that I went to the Federal Convention, with the strongest affection for the Union; that I acted there in full conformity with this affection; that I refused to subscribe; because I had, as I still have, objections to the Constitution, and wished a free inquiry into its merits; and that the accession of eight States reduced our deliberations to the single question of Union or no Union.
Mr. President now resumed the Chair and Mr. Mathews reported, that the Committee had according to order, again had the proposed Constitution under their consideration, and had gone through the same and come to several resolutions thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the Clerk's table, where the same were again read, and are as followeth:
WHEREAS the powers granted under the proposed Constitution are the gift of the people, and every power not granted thereby, remains, with them, and at their will: No right therefore of any denomination, can be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by the Congress, by the Senate or House of Representatives, acting in any capacity, by the President, or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes: And among other essential rights, liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by any authority of the United States:
AND WHEREAS any imperfections which may exist in the said Constitution ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed there in for obtaining amendments, than by a delay with a hope of obtaining previous amendments, to bring the Union into danger:
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee, That the said Constitution be ratified.
But in order to relieve the apprehensions of those, who may be solicitous for amendments, Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee, That whatsoever amendments may be deemed necessary be recommended to the consideration of the Congress, which shall first assemble under the said Constitution, to be acted upon according to the mode prescribed in the fifth article thereof.
The first resolution being read a second time, a motion was made and the question being put to amend the same by substituting in lieu of the said resolution and its preamble, the following resolution;
"Resolved, That previous to the ratification of the new Constitution of Government recommended by the late Federal Convention, a declaration of rights asserting and securing from encroachment the great principles of civil and religious liberty, and the unalienable rights of the people, together with amendments to the most exceptionable parts of the said Constitution of Government, ought to be referred by this Convention to the other States in the American confederacy for their consideration."
It passed in the negative-Ayes 80-Noes 88.
On motion of Mr. Patrick Henry, seconded by Mr. Theodorick Bland, the ayes and noes on the said question were taken as followeth:
AYES-Mr. Edmund Custis, Mr. John Pride, Mr. Edmund Booker,Mr. William Cabell, Mr. Samuel Jordan Cabell, Mr. John Trigg, Mr. Charles Clay, Mr. Henry Lee (of Bourbon), The Hon. John Jones, Mr. Binns Jones, Mr. Charles Patteson, Mr. David Bell, Mr. Robert Alexander, Mr. Edmund Winston, Mr. Thomas Read, Mr. Benjamin Harrison, The Hon. John Tyler, Mr. David Patteson, Mr. Stephen Pankey, jun., Mr. Joseph Michaux, Mr. Thomas H. Drew, Mr. French Strother,Mr. Joel Early, Mr. Joseph Jones, Mr. William Watkins, Mr. MeriwetherSmith, Mr. James Upshaw, Mr. John Fowler, Mr. Samuel Richardson,Mr. Joseph Haden, Mr. John Early, Mr. Thomas Arthurs, Mr. JohnGuerrant, Mr. William Sampson, Mr. Isaac Coles, Mr. George Carrington, Mr. Parke Goodall, Mr. John Carter Littlepage, Mr. Thomas Cooper, Mr. John Marr, Mr. Thomas Roane, Mr. Holt Richeson, Mr. Benjamin Temple, Mr. Stephens Thompson Mason, Mr. William White, Mr. Jonathan Patteson, Mr. Christopher Robertson, Mr. John Logan, Mr. Henry Pawling, Mr. John Miller, Mr. Green Clay, Mr. Samuel Hopkins, Mr. Richard Kennon, Mr. Thomas Allen, Mr. Alexander Robertson, Mr. John Evans, Mr. Walter Crocket, Mr. Abraham Trigg, Mr. Matthew Walton, Mr. John Steele, Mr. Robert Williams, Mr. John Wilson (of Pittsylvania), Mr. Thomas Turpin, Mr. Patrick Henry, Mr. Robert Lawson, Mr. Edmund Ruffin, Mr. Theodorick Bland, Mr. William Grayson, Mr. Cuthbert Bullitt, Mr. Thomas Carter, Mr. Henry Dickenson, Mr. James Monroe, Mr. John Dawson, Mr. George Mason, Mr. Andrew Buchanan, Mr. John Howel Briggs, Mr. Thomas Edmunds, The Hon. Richard Carey, Mr. Samuel Edminson, and Mr. James Montgomery.
NOES-The Hon. Edmund Pendleton, Esq; President, Mr. George Parker, Mr. George Nicholas, Mr. Wilson Nicholas, Mr. Zachariah Johnson, Mr. Archibald Stuart, Mr. William Dark, Mr. Adam Stephen, Mr. Martin M'Ferran, Mr. William Fleming, Mr. James Taylor (of Caroline), The Hon. Paul Carrington, Mr. Miles King, Mr. Worlich Westwood, Mr. David Stuart, Mr. Charles Simms, Mr. Humphrey Marshall, Mr. Martin Pickett, Mr. Humphrey Brooke, Mr. John Shearman Woodcock, Mr. Alexander White, Mr. Warner Lewis, Mr. Thomas Smith, Mr. George Clendinen, Mr. John Stewart, Mr. William Mason, Mr. Daniel Fisher, Mr. Andrew Woodrow, Mr. Ralph Humphreys, Mr. George Jackson, Mr. John Prunty, Mr. Isaac Vanmeter, Mr. Abel Seymour, His Excellency Governor Randolph, Mr. John Marshall, Mr. Nathaniel Burwell, Mr. Robert Andrews, Mr. James Johnson, Mr. Robert Breckenridge, Mr. Rice Bullock, Mr. William Fleet, Mr. Burdit Ashton, Mr. William Thornton, Mr. James Gordon (of Lancaster), Mr. Henry Towles, Mr. Levin Powell, Mr. William Overton Callis, Mr. Ralph Wormley, jun., Mr. Francis Corbin, Mr. William M'Clerry, Mr. Willis Riddick, Mr. Solomon Shepherd, Mr. William Clayton, Mr. Burwell Bassett, Mr. James Webb, Mr. James Taylor (of Norfolk), Mr. John Stringer, Mr. Littleton Eyre, Mr. Walter Jones, Mr. Thomas Gaskins, Mr. Archibald Woods, Mr. Ebenezer Zane, Mr. James Madison, Mr. James Gordon (of Orange), Mr. William Ronald, Mr. Anthony Walke, Mr. Thomas Walke, Mr. Benjamin Wilson, Mr. John Wilson (of Randolph), Mr. Walker Tomlin, Mr. William Peachey, Mr. William M'Kee, Mr. Andrew Moore, Mr. Thomas Lewis, Mr. Gabriel Jones, Mr. Jacob Rinker, Mr. John Williams, Mr. Benjamin Blunt, Mr. Samuel Kello,Mr. John Hartwell Cocke, Mr. John Allen, Mr. Cole Digges, Mr. Henry Lee (of Westmoreland), Mr. Bushrod Washington, The Hon. John Blair, The Hon. George Wythe, Mr. James Innes, and Mr. Thomas Mathews.
And then the main question being put that the Convention do agree with the Committee in the said first resolution; It was resolved in the affirmative-Ayes 89-Noes 79.
On motion of Mr. George Mason, seconded by Mr. Patrick Henry, the ayes and noes on the said main question were taken as followeth:
AYES-The Hon. Edmund Pendleton, Esq; President, Mr. George Parker, Mr. George Nicholas, Mr. Wilson Nicholas, Mr. Zachariah Johnson, Mr. Archibald Stuart, Mr. William Dark, Mr. Adam Stephen, Mr. Martin M'Ferran, Mr. William Fleming, Mr. James Taylor (of Caroline), The Hon. Paul Carrington, Mr. David Patteson, Mr. Miles King, Mr. Worlich Westwood, Mr. David Stuart, Mr. Charles Simms, Mr. Humphrey Marshall, Mr. Martin Pickett, Mr. Humphrey Brooke, Mr. John Shearman Woodcock, Mr. Alexander White, Mr. Warner Lewis, Mr. Thomas Smith, Mr. George Clendinen, Mr. John Stewart, Mr:William Mason, Mr. Daniel Fisher, Mr. Andrew Woodrow, Mr. Ralph Humphreys, Mr. George Jackson, Mr. John Prunty, Mr. Isaac Vanmeter, Mr. Abel Seymour, His Excellency Governor Randolph, Mr. John Marshall, Mr. Nathaniel Burwell, Mr. Robert Andrews, Mr. James Johnson, Mr. Robert Breckenridge, Mr. Rice Bullock, Mr. William Fleet, Mr. Burdet Ashton, Mr. William Thornton, Mr. James Gordon(of Lancaster), Mr. Henry Towles, Mr. Levin Powell, Mr. William Overton Callis, Mr. Ralph Wormely, jun., Mr. Francis Corbin, Mr. William M'Clerry, Mr. Willis Riddick, Mr. Solomon Shepherd, Mr. William Clayton, Mr. Burwell Bassett, Mr. James Webb, Mr. James Taylor (of Norfolk), Mr. John Stringer, Mr. Littleton Eyre, Mr. Walter Jones, Mr. Thomas Gaskins, Mr. Archibald Woods, Mr. Ebenezer Zane, Mr. James Madison, Mr. James Gordon (of Orange), Mr. William Ronald, Mr. Anthony Walke, Mr. Thomas Walke, Mr. Benjamin Wilson, Mr. John Wilson (of Randolph), Mr. Walker Tomlin, Mr. William Peachey, Mr. William M'Kee, Mr. Andrew Moore, Mr. Thomas Lewis, Mr. Gabriel Jones, Mr. Jacob Rinker, Mr. John Williams, Mr. Benjamin Blunt, Mr. Samuel Kello, Mr. John Hartwell Cocke, Mr. John Allen, Mr. Cole Digges, Mr. Henry Lee (of Westmoreland), Mr. Bushrod Washington, The Hon. John Blair, The Hon. George Wythe, Mr. James Innes, andMr. Thomas Mathews.
NOES-Mr. Edmund Custis, Mr. John Pride, Mr. Edmund Booker, Mr. William Cabell, Mr. Samuel Jordan Cabell, Mr. John Trigg, Mr. Charles Clay, Mr. Henry Lee (of Bourbon), The Hon. John Jones, Mr. Binns Jones, Mr. Charles Patteson, Mr. David Bell, Mr. Robert Alexander, Mr. Edmund Winston, Mr. Thomas Read, Mr. Benjamin Harrison, The Hon. John Tyler, Mr. Stephen Pankey, jun., Mr. Joseph Michaux, Mr. Thomas H. Drew, Mr. French Strother, Mr. Joel Early, Mr. Joseph Jones, Mr. William Watkins, Mr. Meriwether Smith, Mr. James Upshaw, Mr. John Fowler, Mr. Samuel Richardson, Mr. Joseph Haden, Mr. John Early, Mr. Thomas Arthurs, Mr. John Guerrant, Mr. William Sampson, Mr. Isaac Coles, Mr. George Carrington, Mr. Parke Goodall, Mr. John Carter Littlepage, Mr. Thomas Cooper, Mr. John Marr, Mr. Thomas Roane, Mr. Holt Richeson, Mr. Benjamin Temple, Mr. Stevens Thompson Mason, Mr. William White, Mr. Jonathan Patteson, Mr. Christopher Robertson, Mr. John Logan, Mr. Henry Pawling, Mr. John Miller, Mr. Green Clay, Mr. Samuel Hopkins, Mr. Richard Kennon, Mr. Thomas Allen, Mr. Alexander Robertson, Mr. John Evans, Mr. Walter Crocket, Mr. Abraham Trigg, Mr. Matthew Walton, Mr. John Steele, Mr. Robert Williams, Mr. John Wilson (of Pittsylvania), Mr. Thomas Turpin, Mr. Patrick Henry, Mr. Robert Lawson, Mr. Edmund Ruffin, Mr. Theodorick Bland, Mr. William Grayson, Mr. Cuthbert Bullitt, Mr. Thomas Carter, Mr. Henry Dickenson, Mr. James Monroe, Mr. John Dawson, Mr. George Mason, Mr. Andrew Buchanan, Mr. John Howell Briggs, Mr. Thomas Edmunds, The Hon. Richard Cary, Mr. Samuel Edminson, and Mr. James Montgomery.
The second resolution being then read a second time, a motion was made and the question being put to amend the same by striking out the preamble thereto; It was resolved in the affirmative.
And then the main question being put that the Convention do agree with the Committee in the second resolution so amended; It was resolved in the affirmative.
On motion, Ordered, That a Committee be appointed to prepare and report a form of ratification, pursuant to the first resolution; and that his Excellency Governor Randolph, Mr. Nicholas, Mr. Madison, Mr. Marshall, and Mr. Corbin, compose the said Committee.
On motion, Ordered, That a Committee be appointed to prepare and report such amendments as shall by them be deemed necessary to be recommended, pursuant to the second resolution; and that the Hon., George Wythe, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Mathews, Mr. Henry, His Excellency Governor Randolph, Mr. George Mason, Mr. Nicholas, Mr. Grayson, Mr. Madison, Mr. Tyler, Mr. John Marshall, Mr. Monroe, Mr. Ronald, Mr. Bland, Mr. Meriwether Smith, The Hon. Paul Carrington, Mr. Innes, Mr. Hopkins, The Hon. John Blair, and Mr. Simms, compose the said Committee. His Excellency Governor Randolph reported, from the Committee appointed, according to order, a form of ratification, which was read and agreed to by the Convention, in the words following:
WE the Delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly, and now met in Convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon, DO, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will: That therefore no right of any denomination, can be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified, by the Congress, by the Senate or House of Representatives acting in any capacity, by the President or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes: and that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by any authority of the United States.
With these impressions; with a solemn appeal to the searcher of hearts for the purity of our intentions, and under the conviction, that, whatsoever imperfections may exist in the Constitution, ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein, than to bring the Union into danger by a delay, with a hope of obtaining amendments, previous to the ratification:
We the said Delegates, in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia, do by these presents assent to, and ratify the Constitution recommended on the seventeenth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven, by the Federal Convention, for the Government of the United States; hereby announcing to all those whom it may concern, that the said Constitution is binding upon the said People, according to an authentic copy hereto annexed, in the words following:
On motion, Ordered, That the Secretary of this Convention cause to be engrossed, forthwith, two fair copies of the form of ratification, and of the proposed Constitution of Government, as recommended by the Federal Convention on the seventeenth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven. And then the Convention adjourned until to-morrow morning, twelve o'clock.