Mr. Harrison reported from the Committee of Privileges and Elections, that the Committee had, according to order, examined the returns for electing Delegates to serve in this Convention, and had come to a resolution thereupon, which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the clerk's table, where the same was again twice read, and agreed to by the House, as followeth:
Resolved That it is the opinion of this Committee, That the returns for electing Delegates to serve in this Convention for the counties of Albemarle, Amelia, Amherst, Bedford, Botetourt, Berkeley, Brunswick, Buckingham, Caroline, Charlotte, Charles-City, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Elizabeth-City, Fauquier, Fairfax, Fayette, Fluvanna, Frederick, Gloucester, Goochland, Greenbrier, Greenesville, Halifax, Hampshire, Hardy, Harrison, Hanover, Henrico, Henry, James-City, Jefferson, Isle-of-Wight, King George, King & Queen, King William, Lancaster, Lincoln, Loudon, Louisa, Lunenburg, Madison, Mecklenburg, Mercer, Middlesex, Monongalia, Montgomery, Nanse- mond, New-Kent, Nelson, Norfolk, Northampton, Northumberland, Ohio, Orange, Pittsylvania, Princess-Anne, Prince George, Prince William, Prince Edward, Powhatan, Randolph, Richmond, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russel, Shenandoah, Southampton, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Surry, Sussex, Warwick, Washington, York, and of a Delegate for the borough of Norfolk, and city of Williamsburg, are satisfactory.
Mr. Harrison reported from the Committee of Privileges and Elections, that the Committee had enquired into the elections of Delegates for the counties of Accomack and Franklin, and had agreed to a report, 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 twice read, and agreed to by the House, as followeth:
It appears to your Committee, that no returns have been made of the election of Delegates to serve in this Convention, for the counties of Accomack and Franklin; that as to the election of Delegates for the said county of Accomack, it appears from the information of Nathaniel Darby, and Littleton Eyre, Esquires, that they were at the election of Delegates for the said county of Accomack, in March last, and that George Parker, and Edmund Custis, Esquires, (the sitting members) were proclaimed by the Sheriff at the close of the poll, as duly elected Delegates to represent the said county in this Convention.
That as to the election of Delegates for the said county of Franklin, it appears to your Committee, from the information of Robert Williams, Esquire, that he was at the election of Delegates for the said county of Franklin, in March last, and that John Early, and Thomas Arthurs, Esquires, (the sitting members) were proclaimed by the Sheriff at the close of the poll, as duly elected Delegates to represent the said county in this Convention. Resolved, That it is the oPinion of this Committee, That Edmund Custis, and George Parker, Esquires, were elected Delegates to represent the said county of Accomack in this Convention.
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee, That John Early, and Thomas Arthurs,Esquires, were elected Delegates to represent the said county of Franklin in this Convention.
Ordered, That Mr. Madison and Mr. Lawson be added to the Committee of Privileges and Elections.
Mr. Archibald Stuart presented a petition of Samuel Anderson, of the county of Cumberland, setting forth, that Thomas H. Drew, Esquire, one of the Delegates returned for the said county, to serve in this Convention, was not, at the time of his election, a freeholder in this Commonwealth; and praying that the election of the said Thomas H. Drew, may be set aside, and another election directed to supply his place which was read, and ordered to be referred to the Committee of Privileges and Elections.
The Convention, according to the order of the day, resolved itself into a Committee of the whole Convention, to take into consideration, the proposed plan of Government—Mr. Wythe in the Chair.
Mr. Henry moved, That the Act of Assembly appointing Deputies to meet at Annapolis, to consult with those from some other States, on the situation of the commerce of the United States—The Act of Assembly for appointing Deputies to meet at Philadelphia, to revise the Articles of Confederation—and other public papers relative thereto— should be read.
Mr. Pendleton then spoke to the following effect:
Mr. Chairman—We are not to consider whether the Federal Convention exceeded their powers. It strikes my mind, that this ought not to influence our deliberations. This Constitution was transmitted to Congress by that Convention: By the Congress transmitted to our Legislature: By them recommended to the people: The people have sent us hither to determine whether this Government be a proper one or not. I did not expect these papers would have been brought forth. Although those Gentlemen were only directed to consider the defects of the old system, and not devise a new one; if they found it so thoroughly defective as not to admit a revision, and submitted a new system to our consideration, which the people have deputed us to investigate, I cannot find any degree of propriety in reading those papers.
Mr. Henry then withdrew his motion.
The Clerk proceeded to read the preamble, and the two first sections of the Article.
Mr. Nicholas—Mr. Chairman—The time being now come when this State is to decide on this important question, of rejecting or receiving this plan of Government, it gave me great pleasure yesterday, when the Convention determined to proceed with the fullest deliberation on the subject; as every Gentleman will, in the course of the discussion, have an opportunity to urge every objection that may arise in his mind against this system. I beg Gentlemen to offer all their objections here, and that none may be insisted on elsewhere; and I hope nothingurged without these walls, will influence the minds of anyone. If this part of the plan now under consideration be materially defective, I will readily agree it ought to be wholly rejected, because representation is the corner stone on which the whole depends; but if on investigation it should be found to be otherwise, the highest gratitude should be shewn to those Gentlemen who framed it although some small defects may appear in it, yet its merits I hope will amply cover those defects.
I shall take it into consideration first—as it affects
the qualifications of the electors—1
2dly. as it affects
the qualification(s) of the elected,2
—3dly. as to
the time of their continuance in office—4
5thly. their power—and, 6thly, whether this power be
sufficient to enable them to discharge their duty,5
without diminishing the securityof the people—or in other words, their responsibility.
I will consider it first then, as to the
qualifications of the electors.6
— The best writers on government agree that in a republic those laws which fix the right of suffrage are fundamental, if therefore by the proposed plan it is left uncertain in whom the right of suffrage is to rest or if it has placed that right in improper hands, I shall admit that it is a radical defect: But in this plan (there) is a fixed rule for determining the qualification(s) of electors—and that rule the most judicious that could possibly have been devised: because it refers to a criterion which cannot be changed. A qualification that gives a right to elect Representatives for the State Legislatures, gives also by this Constitution a right to choose Representatives for the general Government. As the qualification(s) of electors are different in the different States, no particular qualification uniform through the States would have been politic, as it would have caused a great inequality in the electors, resulting — from the situation and circumstances of the respective States. Uniformity of qualifications would greatly affect the yeomanry in the States, as it would either exclude from this inherent right some who are entitled to it by the laws of some States at present; or be extended so universally, as to defeat the admirable end of the institution of representation.
Secondly—As it respects the qualifications of the elected.7
It has ever been considered as a great security to liberty, that very few should be excluded from the right of being chosen to the Legislature. This Constitution has amply attended to this idea. We find no qualifications required except those of age and residence, which create a certainty I of their judgment being matured, and of being attached to their State. It has been objected, that they ought to be possessed of landed estates, but, Sir, when we reflect that most of the electors are landed men, we must suppose they will fix on those who are in a similar situation with themselves. We find there is a decided majority attached to the landed interest, consequently the landed interest must prevail in the choice. Should the State be divided into districts, in no one can the mercantile interest by any means have an equal weight in the elections therefore the former will be more fully represented in the Congress—and yet men of eminent abilities are not excluded for the want of landed property.—There is another objection which has been echoed from one end of the Continent to the other—that
Congress may alter the time, place and manner of holding elections—8
that they may direct the place of election to be where it will be impossible for those who have a right to vote, to attend: For instance, that they may order the freeholders of Albemarle, to vote in the county of Princess Anne, or vice versa—or, regulate elections otherwise in such a manner as totally to defeat their purpose, and lay them entirely under the influence of Congress. I flatter myself that from an attentive consideration of this power, it will clearly appear, that it was essentially necessary to give it to Congress, as without it there could have been no security for the general government against the State Legislatures. What, Mr. Chairman, is the danger apprehended in this case? If I understand it right, it must be, that Congress might cause the elections to be held in the most inconvenient places, and at so inconvenient a time, and in such a manner, as to give them the most undue influence over the choice; nay, even (to) prevent the elections from being held at all, in order to perpetuate themselves. But what would be the consequence of this measure? It would be this, Sir, that Congress would cease to exist—It would destroy the Congress itself—It would absolutely be an act of suicide—and therefore, it can never be expected. This alteration, so much apprehended, must be made by law; that is, with the concurrence of both branches of the Legislature. Will the House of Representatives, the members of which are chosen only for two years, and who depend on the people for their re-election, agree to such an alteration? It is unreasonable to suppose it. But let us admit, for a moment, that they will: What would be the consequence of passing such a law? It would be, Sir, that after the expiration of the two years, at the next election they would either choose such men as would alter the law, or they would resist the government. An enlightened people will never suffer what was established for their security, to be perverted to an act of tyranny. It may be said, perhaps, that resistance would then become vain:
Congress are vested with the power of raising an army:9
To which I say, that if ever Congress shall have an army sufficient for their purpose, and disposed to execute their unlawful commands, before they would act under this disguise, they would pull off the mask and declare themselves absolute. I ask, Mr. Chairman, is it a novelty in our government? Has not our State Legislature the power of fixing the time, places, and manner of holding elections? The possible abuse here complained of never can happen as long as the people of the United States are virtuous: As long as they continue to have sentiments of freedom and independance; should the Congress be wicked enough to harbour so absurd an idea, as this objection supposes, the people will defeat their attempt, by choosing other Representatives who will alter the law. If the State Legislature, by accident, design, or any other cause, would not appoint a place for holding elections, then there might be no election till the time was past for which they were to have been chosen; and as this would eventually put an end to the Union, it ought to be guarded against, and it could only be guarded against by giving this discretionary power to the Congress, of altering the time, place, and manner, of holding the elections. It is absurd to suppose that Congress will exert this power, or change the time, place, and manner, established by the States, if the States will regulate them properly, or so as not to defeat the purposes of the Union. It is urged, that the State Legislatures ought to be fully and exclusively possessed of this power. Were this the case, it might certainly defeat the government. As the powers vested by this plan in Congress, are taken from the State Legislatures, they would be prompted to throw every obstacle in the way of the general government. It was then necessary that Congress should have this power. Another strong argument for the necessity of this power is, that if it was left solely to the States, there might have been as many times of choosing as there are States. States having solely the power of altering and establishing the time of election, it might happen that there should be no Congress; not only by omitting to fix a time, but also by the elections in the States being at thirteen different times, such intervals might elapse between the first and last election, as to prevent there being a sufficient number to form a House; and this might happen at a time when the most urgent business rendered their session necessary: And by this power, this great part of the representation will be always kept full, which will be a security for a due attention to the interest of the community; and also the power of Congress to make the times of elections uniform in all the States, will destroy the continuance of any cabal, as the whole body of Representatives will go out of office at once.
I come now, Sir, to consider
that part of the Constitution which fixes the number of Representatives.10
It is first necessary for us to establish what the number of Representatives is to be.
At present it only consists of sixty five:11
But let us consider, that it is only to continue at that number till the actual enumeration shall be made; which is to be within three years after the first meeting of Congress; and that the number of Representatives will be ascertained, and the proportion of taxes fixed within every subsequent term of ten years.
Till this enumeration be made, Congress will have no power to lay direct taxes:12
- As there is no provision for this purpose, Congress cannot impose it; as direct taxation and representation are to be regulated by the enumeration there directed; therefore they have no power of laying direct taxes till the enumeration be actually made. I conceive no apportionment can be made before this enumeration, there being no certain data to go on. When the enumeration shall be made, what will be the consequence? I conceive there will be always one for every thirty thousand. Many reasons concur to lead me to this conclusion: By the Constitution, the allotment now made, will only continue till the enumeration be made; and as a new enumeration will take place every ten years, I take it for granted that the number of Representatives will be increased according to the progressive increase of population at every respective enumeration; and one for every thirty thousand will amount to one hundred Representatives, if we compute the number of inhabitants to be only three millions in the United States, which is a very moderate calculation. The first intention was only to have one for every forty thousand, which was afterwards estimated to be too few, and according to this proportion the present temporary number is fixed: But as it now stands, we readily see that the proportion of Representatives are sufficiently numerous to answer every purpose of Federal Legislation, and even soon to gratify those who wish for the greatest number. I take it, that the number of Representatives will be proportioned to the highest number we are entitled to; and that it never will be less than one for every thirty thousand. I formed this conclusion from the situation of those who will be our Representatives.
They are all chosen for two years;13
at the end of which term they are to depend on the people for their re-election: This dependance will lead them to a due and faithful discharge of their duty to their constituents: The augmentation of their number will conciliate the affections of the people at large; for the more the Representatives increase in number, the greater the influence of the people in the government, and the greater the chance of re-election to the Representatives. But it has been said, that the Senate will not agree to any augmentation of the number of Representatives. The Constitution will entitle the House of Representatives to demand it. Would the Senate venture to stand out against them? I think they would not, Sir. Were they ready to recede from the evident sense of the Constitution, and grasp at power not thereby given them, they would be compelled to desist. But that I may not be charged with urging suppositions, let us see what ground this stands upon, and whether there be any real danger to be apprehended. The first objection that I shall consider is, that by paucity of numbers they will be more liable to depart from their duty, and more subject to influence: I apprehend that the fewer the number of Representatives, the freer the choice, and the greater the number of electors, the less liable to the unworthy arts of the candidates will they be; and thus their suffrage being free, will probably fall on men of the most merit. The practice of that country, which is situated more like America than any other country in the world, will justify this supposition. The British House of Commons consists, I believe, of five hundred and fifty-eight members—yet the far greater number of these are supposed to be under the undue influence of the Crown. A single fact from the English history illustrates these observations, viz: that there is scarcely an instance, for a century past, of the Crown's exercising its undoubted prerogative, of rejecting a bill sent up to it by the two Houses of Parliament: It is no answer to say, that the King's influence is sufficient to prevent any obnoxious bills passing the two Houses: There are many instances in that period, not only of bills passing the two Houses, but even receiving the royal assent, contrary to the private wish and inclination of the Prince: It is objected, however, as a defect in the Constitution, that it does not prohibit the House of Representatives from giving their powers, particularly that respecting the support, &c. of armies, out of their hands for a longer term than two years. Here, I think, the enemies to the plan reason unfairly; they first suppose that Congress, from a love of power natural to all, will in general abuse that with which they are invested; and then they would make us apprehend that the House of Representatives, notwithstanding their love of power (and it must be supposed as great in a branch of Congress as in the whole) will give out of their hands the only check, which can ensure to them a continuance of the participation of the powers lodged in Congress in general: In England there is no restraint of this kind on the Parliament; and yet there is no instance of a mutiny bill being passed for a longer term than one year: The proposed plan therefore, when it declares that no appropriation for the support of an army, shall be made for a longer term than two years, introduces a check unknown to the English Constitution; and one which will be found very powerful when we reflect, that if the House of Representatives could be prevailed on to make an appropriation for an army for two years, at the end of that time there will be a new choice of Representatives. Thus I insist, that security does not depend on the number of Representatives: The experience of that country also shews, that many of their counties and cities contain a greater number of souls, than will be entitled to a representation in America, and yet the Representatives chosen in those places, have been the most strenuous advocates of liberty, and have exerted themselves in the defence of it, even in opposition to those chosen by much smaller numbers. Many of the Senatorial districts in Virginia also contain a greater number of souls, and yet I suppose no Gentleman within these walls will pay the Senators chosen by them, so poor a compliment as to attribute less wisdom and virtue to them than to the Delegates chosen from single counties; and as there is greater probability that the electors in a large district will be more independant, so I think the Representatives chosen in such districts will be more so too; for those who have sold themselves to their Representatives will have no right to complain, if they in their turn barter away their rights and liberties; but those who have not themselves been bought, will never consent to be sold. Another objection made to the small number of Representatives is that admitting they were sufficient to secure their integrity, yet they cannot be acquainted with the local situation and circumstances of their constituents: When we attend to the object of their jurisdiction we find this objection unsupportable. Congress will superintend the great national interests of the Union. Local concerns are left to the State Legislatures. When the members compare and communicate to one another their knowledge of their respective districts and States, their collective intelligence will sufficiently enable them to perform the objects of their cognizance. They cannot extend their influence or agency to any objects but those of a general nature; the Representatives will therefore be sufficiently acquainted with the interests of their States, although chosen by large districts: As long as the people remain virtuous and uncorrupted, so long we may fairly conclude will their Representatives, even at their present number, guard their interest(s), and discharge their duty with fidelity and zeal: When they become otherwise, no government can possibly secure their freedom.
I now consider the time of their continuance in office.—A short continuance in office, and a return of the officers to the mass of the people, there to depend solely on their former good conduct for theirre-election, is of the highest security to public liberty—let the power of the persons elected be what it may, they are only the trustees and not the masters of the people—yet the time ought not to be so short that they could not discharge their duty with ability. Considering this,
two years are a short enough term in this case.14
Many will have a considerable distance to travel from the places of their abode, to the seat of the general government. They must take time to consider the situation of the Union, make themselves acquainted with the circumstances of our finances, and the relative situation(s) of and our connections with foreign nations, and a variety of other objects of importance. Would it not be the height of impolicy, that they should go out of their office, just at the time they began to know something of the nature of their duty? Were this the case the interest of their constituents could never be sufficiently attended to. Our Representatives for the State Legislature are chosen for one year, and it has never been thought too long a term. If one year be not too long to elect a State Representative, give me leave to say, that two years ought not to be considered as too long for the election of the members of the general Legislature. The objects of the former are narrow and limited to State and local affairs—the objects of the latter are co-extensive with the continent. In England, at the time they were most jealous of the prerogative of the King, triennial elections was their most ardent wish they would have thought themselves perfectly happy in this acquisition—nor did they think of a shorter term of elections. Let Gentlemen recollect that it is to septennial elections we owe our lib- erties. The elections were for seven years in most of the States before the late revolution.
I now consider their weight and power, and whether they will be sufficient to give them, as the Representatives of the people, their due weight in the government. By the Constitution, they are one entire branch of the Legislature, without whose consent no law can be passed—
all money bills are to originate in their House—15
they are to have the sole power of impeachment;16
their consent is necessary to all acts or resolutions for the appropriation of the public money;17
to all acts for laying and collecting duties, imposts, and excises,18
for borrowing money on the credit of the United States;19
—for creating all officers and fixing their salaries—
for coining money;20
for raising and supporting armies;21
—for raising and maintaining navy;—and,
for establishing rules for the government of the land and naval forces:22
These are the powers which will be fixed in the House of Representatives. Hence it appears our Representatives have more comparative power in the scale of government, than the Commons of England, and yet in that country, the Commons possessing less powers, opposed with success much greater powers than our Representatives have to encounter. In that country the King is one entire branch of the Legislature, and an hereditary Monarch can prorogue or dissolve, call or dismiss, the two Houses at his pleasure besides his judicial influence, he is head of the church, fountain of honor, Generalissimo of the forces by sea and land, may raise what fleets and armies he pleases is rendered personally sacred, by the constitutional maxim, that he can do no wrong—and besides several other great powers, has a grand revenue settled on him, sufficient to answer the ordinary ends of government; it being established as a custom, at the accession of every new King to settle such a revenue on him for life—and can increase the House of Lords at any time, and thereby extend his legislative influence. Notwithstanding the enormity of these powers it has been found that the House of Commons, with powers greatly inferior to those of our Representatives, is a match for both the King and the Nobles. This superiority resulted from their having the power of granting or withholding supplies.—What will put this in a still clearer point of view is, that the House of Commons was not originally possessed , of these powers: The history of the English Parliament will shew, that the great degree of power which they now possess, was acquired from beginnings so small that nothing but the innate weight of the power of the people, when lodged with their Representatives, could have effected it. In the reign of Edward the first, in the year 1295, the House of Commons were first called by legal authority: They were then confined to giving their assent barely to supplies to the Crown. In the reign of Edward the second, they first annexed petitions to the bills by which they granted subsidies. Under Edward the third, they declared they would not in future acknowledge any law to which they had not consented: In the same reign they impeached and brought to punishment, some of the Ministers of the Crown. Under Henry the fourth, they refused supplies until an answer had been given to their petitions and have increased their powers in succeeding reigns to such a degree, that they entirely control the operation of government, even in those cases where the King's prerogative gave him nominally the sole direction. Let us here consider the causes to which this uncommon weight and influence may be assigned. The government being divided into branches, Executive, and Legislative, in all contests between them, the people have divided into the favorers of one or the other; from their dread of the Executive and affection to their Representatives, they have always sided with the Legislature: This has rendered the Legislature successful. The House of Commons have succeeded also withholding supplies-they can by this power put a stop to the operations of government, which they have been able to direct as they pleased. This power has enabled them to triumph over all obstacles; it is so important, that it will in the end swallow up all others. Any branch of government that depends on the will of another for supplies of money, must be in a state of subordinate dependence, let it have what other powers it may. Our Representatives, in this case, will be perfectly independant, being vested with this power fully. Another source of superiority is the power of impeachment. In England very few Ministers have dared to bring on themselves an accusation by the Representatives of the people, by pursuing means contrary to their rights and liberties. Few Ministers will ever run the risk of being impeached, when they know the King cannot protect them by a pardon. This power must have much greater force in America, where the President himself is personally amenable for his mal-administration; the power of impeachment must be a sufficient check on the President's power of pardoning before conviction. I think we may fairly conclude, that if the House of Commons in England have been able to oppose with success a powerful hereditary Nobility, and an hereditary Monarch, with all the appendages of royalty, and immense powers and revenue; our Federal House of Representatives will be able to oppose with success, all attempts by a President only chosen for four years, by the people, with a small revenue and with limitted powers, sufficient only for his own support; and a Senate chosen only for six years, one third of whom vacate their seats every two years, accountable to the State Legislatures, and have no separate interest from them or the people.
I now come to consider their responsibility to the people at large.—The probability of their consulting most scrupulously the interests of their constituents must be self-evident; this probability will result from their biennial elections, whether they wish to be re-elected or not: If they wish to be re-elected, they will know that on their good conduct alone, their re-election will depend. If they wish not to be re-elected, they will not enter into a fixed combination against the people, because they return to the mass of the people, where they will participate [in] the disadvantages of bad laws; by the publication of the yeas and nays, the votes of the individual members will be known; they will act therefore as if under the eyes of their constituents: The State Legislatures also will be a powerful check on them. Every new power given to Congress is taken from the State Legislatures, they will be therefore very watchful over them, for
should they exercise any power not vested in them, it will be an usurpation of the rights of the different State Legislatures,23
who would sound the alarm to the people. Upon such an appeal from the States to the people, nothing but the propriety of their conduct would ensure the Congress any chance of success: Should a struggle actually ensue, it would be uniform and universal; it would terminate to the disadvantage of the general Government, as Congress would be the object of the fears, and the State Legislature the object of the affection of the people: One hundred and sixty members chosen in this State Legislature, must on any dispute between Congress and the State Legislature, have more influence than ten members of Congress: One Representative to Congress will be chosen by eight or ten counties; his influence and chance of re-election will be very small when opposed by twenty men of the best interest in the district; when we add to this the influence of the whole body of State officers, I think I may venture to affirm, that every measure of Congress will be successfully opposed by the States. The experience of this State Legislature, hath fully satisfied me that this reasoning is just. The members of our Senate have never ventured to oppose any measure of the House of Delegates; and if they had, their chance of being re-elected, when opposed by the Delegates of the different counties, would be small. But what demonstrates that there is sufficient responsibility in the Representatives to the people, and what must satisfy the Committee, is this, that it will be their own interest to attend to that of the people at large. They can pass no law, but what will equally affect their own persons, their families, and property. This will be an additional influence to prevail with them to attend to their duty—and more effectually watch and check the Executive. Their consequence as members will be another inducement. If they will individually signalize themselves in support of their constituents, and in curbing the usurpations of the Executive, it will best recommend them to the people, secure their re-election and enhance their consequence. They, therefore, will become watchful guardians of the interest of the people. The Constitution has wisely interposed another check, to wit: that no person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office. No powers ought to be vested in the hands of any who are not Representatives of the people, and amenable to them. A review of the history of those countries with which I am acquainted, will shew that, for want of representation and responsibility, power has been exercised with an intention to advance the interest of a few, and not to remove the grievances, of the many. At the time the Romans expelled their Kings, the Executive authority was given to Consuls, and the people did not gain by the change; for the plebian interest declined, while that of (the) patricians rapidly advanced, till the oppressions of the latter caused the former to retire to the sacred mount; and even this struggle terminated only in the creation of the tribune of the people. Another struggle produced only the advantage of their admission to the consular dignity, and permission to intermarry into patrician families; so that in every succession on the side of the people, only produced a change in their tyrants. Under Louis the XIth in France, a war took place between the King and his Barons, (professedly) for the public good only; and they being successful, a treaty was made for the securing that public good; but it contained stipulations only in favor of a few Lords,—not a word in favor of the people. But in England where the people had delegated all their powers to a few Representatives, all contests have terminated in favor of the people. One contest produced Magna Charta, containing stipulations for the good of the whole: This great charter was renewed, enlarged, and confirmed, by several succeeding Kings: The habeas corpus under Charles the IId, and Declaration of Rights under William and Mary—the latter limitting the prerogative of the Crown—the former establishing the personal liberty of the subject; were also in favor of the whole body of the people. Every revolution terminated differently in Rome and in England ; in the first they only caused a change in their masters; in the second they ended in a confirmation of their liberties. The powerful influence of the people in gaining an extension of their liberties will appear more forcibly, and our confidence in our House of Representatives must be encreased, when we come to consider the manner in which the House of Commons in England are elected: They consist of 558 members, 200 of whom are chosen by about 7000 freeholders in the counties, out of eight millions of people: The rest are chosen by towns, several of which, though small, elect five members, and even there are instances of two Representatives being chosen by one elector. The most baneful elections procure seats one half of the candidates purchase them: Yet the people in England have ever prevailed, when they persisted in any particular purpose. If then, they have prevailed there, when opposed by two other powerful branches of the Legislature, and when elected so unduly, what may we not expect from our House of Representatives fairly chosen by the people. If the people there prevail with septennial elections, what may we not expect from our Representatives chosen only for two years, and who have only to encounter the feeble power of the President, and a Senate whose interest will lead them to do their duty. The opposers of this plan of Government dread the exercise of the most necessary, the most indispensible powers, and exercised by their own Representatives. Magna Charta, and Declaration of Rights, only say that such powers shall not be exercised but with consent of Parliament; and experience has proved, that the making their consent necessary has sufficiently secured a proper exercise of those powers. The best writers also agree that such powers may always be lodged with Representatives. We have all the security which a people sensible and jealous of their liberties can wish for. Experience has evinced that mankind can trust those who have similar rights with themselves. Power lodged in the hands of Representatives, chosen as ours must be, cannot be abused. The truth of this cannot but strike every Gentleman in the Committee: And still the people can, when they please, change the government, being possessed of the supreme power.—Mr. Nicholas then quoted a passage from the celebrated Dr. Price, who was so strenuous a friend to America, proving that as long as representation and responsibility existed in any country, liberty could not be endangered;—and concluded, by saying, that he conceived the Constitution founded on the strictest principles of true policy and liberty, and that he was willing to trust his own happiness, and that of his posterity, to the operation of that system.
Mr. Henry—Mr. Chairman.—The public mind, as well as my own, is extremely uneasy at the proposed change of Government. Give me leave to form one of the number of those who wish to be thoroughly acquainted with the reasons of this perilous and uneasy situation and why we are brought hither to decide on this great national question. I consider myself as the servant of the people of this Commonwealth, as a centinel over their rights, liberty, and happiness. I represent their feelings when I say, that they are exceedingly uneasy, being brought from that state of full security, which they enjoyed, to the present delusive appearance of things. A year ago the minds of our citizens were at perfect repose. Before the meeting of the late Federal Convention at Philadelphia, a general peace, and an universal tranquillity, prevailed in this country but since that period they are exceedingly; uneasy and disquieted. When I wished for an appointment to this Convention, my mind was extremely agitated for the situation of public affairs. I conceive the republic to be in extreme danger. If our situation be thus uneasy, whence has arisen this fearful jeopardy? It arises from this fatal system—it arises from a proposal to change our government:—proposal that goes to the utter annihilation of the most solemn engagements of the States. A proposal of establishing 9 States into a confederacy, to the eventual exclusion of 4 States. It goes to the annihilation of those solemn treaties we have formed with foreign nations. The present circumstances of France-the good offices rendered us by that kingdom, require our most faithful and most punctual adherence to our treaty with her. We are in alliance with the Spaniards, the Dutch, the Prussians: Those treaties bound us as thirteen States, confederated together—Yet, here is a proposal to sever that confederacy. Is it possible that we shall abandon all our treaties and national engagements—And for what? I expected to have heard the reasons of an event so unexpected to my mind, and many others. Was our civil polity, or public justice, endangered or sapped? Was the real existence of the country threatened or was this preceded by a mournful progression of events? This proposal of altering our Federal Government is of a most alarming nature: Make the best of this new Government—say it is composed by any thing but inspiration you ought to be extremely cautious, watchful, jealous of your liberty; for instead of securing your rights you may lose them forever. If a wrong step be now made, the Republic may be lost forever. If this new Government will not come up to the expectation of the people, and they should be disappointed— their liberty will be lost, and tyranny must and will arise. I repeat it again, and I beg Gentlemen to consider, that a wrong step made now will plunge us into misery, and our Republic will be lost. It will be necessary for this Convention to have a faithful historical detail of the facts, that preceded the session of the Federal Convention, and the reasons that actuated its members in proposing an entire alteration of Government—and (to) demonstrate the dangers that awaited us: If they were of such awful magnitude, as to warrant a proposal so extremely perilous as this, I must assert, that this Convention has an absolute right to a thorough discovery of every circumstance relative to this great event. And here I would make this enquiry of those worthy characters who composed a part of the late Federal Convention. I am sure they were fully impressed with the necessity of forming a great consolidated Government, instead of a confederation. That this is a consolidated Government is demonstrably clear, and the danger of such a Government, is, to my mind, very striking. I have the highest veneration for those Gentlemen,—but, Sir, give me leave to demand, what right had they to say, We, the People. My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, who authorised them to speak the language of
We, the People,24
instead of We, the States? States are the characteristics, and the soul of a confederation. If the States be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great consolidated National Government of the people of all the States. I have the highest respect for those Gentlemen who formed the Convention, and were some of them not here, I would express some testimonial of my esteem for them. America had on a former occasion put the utmost confidence in them: A confidence which was well placed: And I am sure, Sir, I would give up any thing to them; I would chearfully confide in them as my Representatives. But, Sir, on this great occasion, I would demand the cause of their conduct.—Even from that illustrious man [George Washington], who saved us by his valor, I would have a reason for his conduct—that liberty which he has given us by his valor, tells me to ask this reason,—and sure I am, were he here, he would give us that reason: But there are other Gentlemen here, who can give us this information. The people gave them no power to use their name. That they exceeded their power is perfectly clear. It is not mere curiosity that actuates me—I wish to hear the real actual existing danger, which should lead us to take those steps so dangerous in my conception. Disorders have arisen in other parts of America, but here, Sir, no dangers, no insurrection or tumult, has happened—every thing has been calm and tranquil. But notwithstanding this, we are wandering on the great ocean of human affairs. I see no landmark to guide us. We are running we know not whither. Difference in opinion has gone to a degree of inflammatory resentment in different parts of the country—which has been occasioned by this perilous innovation. The Federal Convention ought to have amended the old system—for this purpose they were solely delegated: The object of their mission extended to no other consideration. You must therefore forgive the solicitation of one unworthy member, to know what danger could have arisen under the present confederation, and what are the causes of this proposal to change our Government.
Governor Randolph—Mr. Chairman.—Had the most enlightened Statesman whom America has foretold but the If yet seen, a year ago, the crisis which has now called us together, he would have been confronted by the universal testimony of history: for never was it yet known, that in so short a space, by the peaceable working of events, without a war, or even the menace of the smallest force, a nation has been brought to agitate a question, an error in the issue of which, may blast their happiness. It is therefore to be feared, left to this trying exigency, the best wisdom should be unequal, and here, (if it were allowable to lament any ordinance of nature) might it be deplored, that in proportion to the magnitude of a subject, is the mind intemperate. Religion, the dearest of all interests, has too often sought proselytes by fire, rather than by reason; and politics, the next in rank, are too often nourished by passion, at the expence of the understanding.—Pardon me, however, for expecting one exception to this tendency of mankind—From the dignity of this Convention, a mutual toleration, anda persuasion that no man has a right to impose his opinion on others. Pardon me too, Sir, if I am particularly sanguine in my expectations from the chair—It well knows what is order, how to command obedience, and that political opinions may be as honest on one side as on the other. Before I press into the body of the argument, I must take the liberty of mentioning the part I have already borne in this great question: But let me not here be misunderstood. I come not to apologize to any individual within these walls, to the Convention as a body, or even to my fellow citizens at large—Having obeyed the impulse of duty, having satisfied my conscience, and I trust, my God, I shall appeal to no other tribunal; nor do I come a candidate for popularity: My manner of life, has never yet betrayed such a desire. The highest honors and emoluments of this Commonwealth, are a poor compensation for the surrender of personal independence. The history of England, from the revolution, and that of Virginia, for more than twenty years past, shew the vanity of a hope, that general favor should ever follow the man, who without partiality or prejudice, praises or disapproves the opinions of friends or of foes: Nay, I might enlarge the field, and declare from the great volume of human nature itself that to be moderate in politics, forbids an ascent to the summit of political fame. But I come hither regardless of allurements; to continue as I have begun, to repeat my earnest endeavours for a firm energetic government, to enforce my objections to the Constitution, and to concur in any practical scheme of amendments; but I never will assent to any scheme that will operate a dissolution of the Union, or any measure which may lead to it. This conduct may possibly be upbraided as injurious to my own views; if it be so, it is at least, the natural offspring of my judgment. I refused to sign, and if the same were to return, again would I refuse. Wholly to adopt or wholly to reject, as proposed by the Convention, seemed too hard an alternative to the citizens of America, whose servants we were, and whose pretensions amply to discuss the means of their happiness, were undeniable. Even if adopted under the terror of impending anarchy, the government must have been without that safest bulwark, the hearts of the people—and if rejected because the chance for amendments was cut off the Union would have been irredeemably lost. This seems to have been verified by the event in Massachusetts; but our Assembly have removed these inconveniences, by propounding the Constitution to our full and free enquiry. When I withheld my subscription, I had not even a glimpse of the genius of America, relative to the principles of the new Constitution. Who, arguing from the preceding history of Virginia, could have divined that she was prepared for the important change? In former times indeed, she transcended every Colony in professions and practices of loyalty; but she opened a perilous war, under a democracy almost as pure as representation would admit: She supported it under a Constitution which subjects all rule, authority and power, to the Legislature: Every attempt to alter it had been baffled: The increase of Congressional power, had always excited an alarm. I therefore would not bind myself to uphold the new Constitution, before I had tried it by the true touchstone; especially too, when I foresaw, that even the members of the General Convention, might be instructed by the comments of those who were without doors. But I had moreover objections to the Constitution, the most material of which, too lengthy in the detail, I have as yet but barely stated to the public, but shall explain when we arrive at the proper point(s). Amendments were consequently my wish; these were the grounds of my repugnance to subscribe, and were perfectly reconcileable with my unalterable resolution, to be regulated by the spirit of America, if after our best efforts for amendments they could not be removed. I freely indulge those who may think this declaration too candid, in believing, that I hereby depart from the concealment belonging to the character of a Statesman. Their censure would be more reasonable, were it not for an unquestionable fact, that the spirit of America depends upon a combination of circumstances which no individual can controul, and arises not from the prospect of advantages which may be gained by the arts of negociation, but from deeper and more honest causes.
As with me the only question has ever been, between previous, and subsequent amendments, so will I express my apprehensions, that the postponement of this Convention, to so late a day, has extinguished the probability of the former without inevitable ruin to the Union, and the Union is the anchor of our political salvation; and I will assent to the lopping of this limb (meaning his arm) before I assent to the dissolution of the Union.—I shall now follow the Honorable Gentleman (Mr. Henry) in his enquiry. Before the meeting of the Federal Convention, says the Honorable Gentleman, we rested in peace; a miracle it was, that we were so: Miraculous must it appear to those who consider the distresses of the war, and the no less afflicting calamities, which we suffered in the succeeding peace;—be so good as to recollect how we fared under the confederation. I am ready to pour forth sentiments of the fullest gratitude to those Gentlemen who framed that system. I believe they had the most enlightened heads in this western hemisphere:—Notwithstanding their intelligence, and earnest solicitude, for the good of their country, this system has proved totally inadequate to the purpose, for which it was devised: But, Sir, this was no disgrace to them; the subject confederations was then new, and the necessity of speedily forming some government for the States, to defend them against the pressing dangers, prevented, perhaps, those able Statesmen from making that system as perfect as more leisure and deliberation might have enabled them to do: I cannot otherwise conceive how they could have formed a system, that provided no means of enforcing the powers which were nominally given it. Was it not a political farce, to pretend to vest powers, without accompanying them with the means of putting them in execution? This want of energy was not a greater solecism than the blending together, and vesting in one body, all the branches of Government. The utter inefficacy of this system was discovered the moment the danger was over, by the introduction of peace: The accumulated public misfortunes that resulted from its inefficacy, rendered an alteration necessary; this necessity was obvious to all America: Attempts have accordingly been made for this purpose. I have been a witness to this business from its earliest beginning. I was honored with a seat in the small Convention held at Annapolis. The members of that Convention thought unanimously, that the
controul of commerce should be given to Congress,25
and recommended to their States to extend the improvement to the whole system. The members of the General Convention were particularly deputed to meliorate the confederation. On a thorough contemplation of the subject, they found it impossible to amend that system: What was to be done? The dangers of America, which will be shewn at another time by a particular enumeration, suggested the expedient of forming new plan: The confederation has done a great deal for us, we all allow, but it was the danger of a powerful enemy, and the spirit of America, Sir, and not any energy in that system that carried us through that perilous war: For what were its best arms? The greatest exertions were made, when the danger was most imminent. This system was not signed till March, 1781. Maryland having not acceded to it before; yet the military atchievements and other exertions of America, previous to that period, were as brilliant, effectual, and successful, as they could have been under the most energetic Government. This clearly shews, that our perilous situation was the cement of our Union—How different the scene when this peril vanished, and peace was restored! The demands of Congress were treated with neglect. One State complained that another had not paid its quotas as well as itself Public credit gone—for I believe were it not for the private credit of individuals we should have been ruined long before that time. Commerce languishing—produce falling in value, and justice trampled under foot. We became contemptible in the eyes of foreign nations; they discarded us as little wanton bees who had played for liberty, but who had not sufficient solidity or wisdom to secure it on a permanent basis, and were therefore unworthy of their regard. It was found that Congress could not even enforce the observance of treaties. That treaty under which we enjoy our present tranquillity was disregarded. Making no difference between the justice of paying debts due to people here, and that of paying those due to people on the other side of the Atlantic. I wished to see the treaty complied with, by the payment of the British debts, but have not been able to know why it has been neglected. What was the reply to the demands and requisitions of Congress? You are too contemptible, we will despise and disregard you. I shall endeavor to satisfy the Gentleman's [Patrick Henry] political curiosity. Did not our compliance with any demand of Congress depend on our own free will If we refused, I know of no coercive force to compel a compliance—After meeting in Convention, the deputies from the States communicated their information to one another: On a review of our critical situation, and of the impossibility introducing any degree of improvement into the old system; what ought they to have done? Would it not have been treason to return without proposing some scheme to relieve their distressed country? The Honorable Gentleman asks, why we should adopt a system, that shall annihilate and destroy our treaties with France, and other nations? I think, the misfortune is, that these treaties are violated already, under the Honorable Gentleman's favorite system. I conceive that our engagements with foreign nations are not at all affected by this system, for the sixth article expressly provides, that "all debts contracted, and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation." Does this system then, cancel debts due to or from the continent? Is it not a well known maxim that no change of situation can alter an obligation once rightly entered into? He also objects because
nine States are sufficient to put the Government in motion:26
What number of States ought we to have said? Ought we to have required, the concurrence of all the thirteen? Rhode-Island, in rebellion against integrity; Rhode-Island plundering all the world by her paper money, and notorious for her uniform opposition to every federal duty, would then have it in her power to defeat the Union; and may we not judge with absolute certainty from her past conduct, that she would do so; Therefore, to have required the ratification of all the thirteen States would have been tantamount to returning without having done anything. What other number would have been proper? Twelve? The same spirit that has actuated me in the whole progress of the business, would have prevented me from leaving it in the power of anyone State to dissolve the Union: For would it not be lamentable, that nothing could be done for the defection of one State? A majority of the whole would have been too few. Nine States therefore seem to be a most proper number. The Gentleman then proceeds, and inquires, why we assumed the language of "We, the People." I ask why not? The Government is for the people; and the misfortune was, that the people had no agency in the Government before. The Congress had (no) power to make peace and war, under the old Confederation. Granting passports, by the law of nations, is annexed to this power; yet Congress was reduced to the humiliating condition of being obliged to send deputies to Virginia to solicit a passport. Notwithstanding the exclusive power of war, given to Congress, the second article of the Confederation was interpreted to forbid that body to grant a passport for tobacco; which during the war, and in pursuance of engagements made at little York, was to have been sent into New-York. What harm is there in consulting the people, on the construction of a Government by which they are to be bound? Is it unfair? Is it unjust? If the Government is to be binding on the people, are not the people the proper persons to examine its merits or defects? I take this to be one of the least and most trivial objections that will be made to the Constitution—it carries the answer with itself In the whole of this business, I have acted in the strictest obedience to the dictates of my conscience, in discharging what I conceive to be my duty to my country. I refused my signature, and if the same reasons operated on my mind, I would still refuse; but as I think that those eight States which have adopted the Constitution will not recede, I am a friend to the Union.
Mr. George Mason—Mr. Chairman—Whether the Constitution be good or bad, the present clause clearly discovers, that it is a National Government, and no longer a confederation. I mean
that clause which gives the first hint of the General Government laying direct taxes.27
The assumption of this power of laying direct taxes, does of itself, entirely change the confederation of the States into one consolidated Government. This power being at discretion, unconfined, and without any kind of controul, must carry every thing before it. The very idea of converting what was formerly confederation, to a consolidated Government, is totally subversive of every principle which has hitherto governed us. This power is calculated to annihilate totally the State Governments. Will the people of this great community submit to be individually taxed by two different and distinct powers? Will they suffer themselves to be doubly harrassed? These two concurrent powers cannot exist long together; the one will destroy the other: The General Government being paramount to, and in every respect more powerful than, the State governments, the latter must give way to the former. Is it to be supposed that one National Government will suit so extensive a country, embracing so many climates, and containing inhabitants so very different in manners, habits, and customs? It is ascertained by history, that there never was a Government, over a very extensive country, without destroying the liberties of the people: History also, supported by the opinions of the best writers, shew us, that monarchy may suit a large territory, and despotic Governments ever so extensive t a country; but that popular Governments can only exist in small territories —Is there a single example, on the face of the earth, to support t a contrary opinion? Where is there one exception to this general rule? Was there ever an instance of a general National Government extending over so extensive a country, abounding in such a variety of climates, where the people retained their liberty? I solemnly declare that no man is a greater friend to a firm Union of the American States than I am: But, Sir, if this great end can be obtained without hazarding the rights of the people, why should we recur to such dangerous principles? Requisitions have been often refused, sometimes from an impossibility of complying with them; often from that great variety of circumstances which retard the collection of monies, and, perhaps, sometimes from a wilful design of procrastinating. But why shall we give up to the National Government this power, so dangerous in its nature, and for which its members will not have sufficient information—Is it not well known, that what would be a proper tax in one State would be grievous in another? The Gentleman [George Nicholas] who hath favored us with an eulogium in favor of this system, must, after all the encomiums he has been pleased to bestow upon it, acknowledge, that our Federal Representatives must be unacquainted with the situation of their constituents: Sixty-five members cannot possibly know the situation and circumstances of all the inhabitants of this immense continent: When a certain sum comes to be taxed, and the mode of levying to be fixed, they will lay the tax on that article which t will be most productive, and easiest in the collection, without consulting the real circumstances or convenience of a country, with which, in fact, they cannot be sufficiently acquainted. The mode of levying I taxes is of the utmost consequence, and yet here it is to be determined by those who have neither knowledge of our situation, nor a common interest with us, nor a fellow feeling for us:—The subjects of taxation differ in three-fourths; nay, I might say with truth, in four-fifths of the States—If we trust the National Government with an effectual way of raising the necessary sums, 'tis sufficient; every thing we do furtheris trusting the happiness and rights of the people: Why then should we give up this dangerous power of individual taxation? Why leave the manner of laying taxes to those, who in the nature of things, cannot be acquainted with the situation of those on whom they are to impose them, when it can be done by those who are well acquainted with it? If instead of giving this oppressive power, we give them such an effectual alternative as will answer the purpose, without encountering the evil and danger that might arise from it, then I would chearfully acquiesce: And would it not be far more eligible? I candidly acknowledge the inefficacy of the confederation; but requisitions have been made, which were impossible to be complied with: Requisitions for more gold and silver than were in the United States: If we give the General Government the power of demanding their quotas of the States, with an alternative of laying direct taxes, in case of non compliance, then the mischief would be avoided; and the certainty of this conditional power would, in all human probability, prevent the application, and the sums necessary for the Union would be then laid by the States; by those who know how it can best be raised; by those who have a fellow feeling for us. Give me leave to say, that the same sum raised one way with convenience and ease, would be very oppressive another way: Why then not leave this power to be exercised by those who know the mode most convenient for the inhabitants, and not by those who must necessarily apportion it in such manner as shall be oppressive? With respect to the representation so much applauded, I cannot think it such a full and free one as it is represented; but I must candidly acknowledge, that this defect results from the very nature of the Government. It would be impossible to have a full and adequate representation in the General Government; it would be too expensive and too unweildy: We are then under the necessity of having this a very inadequate representation: Is this general representation to be compared with the real, actual, substantial representation of the State Legislatures? It cannot bear a comparison. To make representation real and actual, the number of Representatives ought to be adequate; they ought to mix with the people, think as they think, feel as they feel, ought to be perfectly amenable to them, and thoroughly acquainted with their interest and condition: Now these great ingredients are, either not at all, or in so small a degree, to be found in our Federal Representatives, that we have no real, actual, substantial representation; but I acknowledge it results from the nature of the Government: The necessity of this inconvenience may appear a sufficient reason not to argue against it: But, Sir, it clearly shews, that we ought to give power with a sparing hand to a Government thus imperfectly constructed. To a Government, which, in the nature of things, cannot but be defective, no powers ought to be given, but such as are absolutely necessary: There is one thing in it which I conceive to be, extremely dangerous. Gentlemen may talk of public virtue and confidence; we shall be told that the House of Representatives will consist t of the most virtuous men on the Continent, and that in their hands we may trust our dearest rights. This, like all other assemblies, will be composed of some bad and some good men; and considering the natural lust of power so inherent in man, I fear the thirst of power will prevail to oppress the people—What I conceive to be so dangerous, is the provision with respect to the number of Representatives:
It does not expressly provide, that we shall have one for every 30,000, but that the number shall not exceed that proportion:28
The utmost that we can expect (and perhaps that is too much) is, that the present number shall be continued to us—"The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000." Now will not this be complied with, although the present number should never be increased; nay, although it should be decreased? Suppose Congress should say, that we should have one for every 200000, will not the Constitution be complied with? For one for every 200,000 does not exceed one for every 30,000. There is a want of proportion that ought to be strictly guarded against: The worthy Gentleman [George Nicholas] tells us, we have no reason to fear; but I always fear for the rights of the people: I do not pretend to inspiration, but I think, it is apparent as the day, that the members will attend to local partial interests to prevent an augmentation of their number: I know not how they will be chosen, but whatever be the mode of choosing, our present number is but ten: And suppose our State is laid off in ten districts; those Gentlemen who shall be sent from those districts will lessen their own power and influence, in their respective districts, if they increase their number; for the greater the number of men among whom any given quantum of power is divided, the less the power of each individual Thus they will have a local interest to prevent the increase of and perhaps they will lessen their own number: This is evident on the face of the Constitution—so loose an expression ought to be guarded against; for Congress will be clearly within the requisition of the Constitution, although the number of Representatives should always continue what it is now, and the population of the country should increase to an immense number. Nay, they may reduce the number from 65, to one from each State, without violating the Constitution; and thus the number which is now too small would then be infinitely too much so: But my principal objection is, that the confederation is converted to one general consolidated Government, which, from my best judgment of it (and which perhaps will be shewn in the course of this discussion, to be really well founded) is one of the worst curses that can possibly befal a nation. Does any man suppose, that one general National Government can exist in so extensive a country as this? I hope that a Government may be framed which may suit us, by drawing the line between the general and State Governments, and prevent that dangerous clashing of interest and power, which must, as it now stands, terminate in the destruction of one or the other. When we come to the Judiciary, we shall be more convinced, that this Government will terminate in the annihilation of the State Governments: The question then will be, whether a consolidated Government can preserve the freedom, and secure the great rights of the people.
If such amendments be introduced as shall exclude danger, I shall most gladly put my hand to it. When such amendments, as shall, from the best information, secure the great essential rights of the people, shall be agreed to by Gentlemen, I shall most heartily make the greatest concessions, and concur in any reasonable measure to obtain the desirable end of conciliation and unanimity. An indispensible amendment in this case, is, that Congress shall not exercise the power of raising direct taxes till the States shall have refused to comply with the requisitions of Congress. On this condition it may be granted, but I see no reason to grant unconditionally; as the States can raise the taxes with more ease, and lay them on the inhabitants with more propriety, than it is possible for the General Government to do. If Congress hath this power without controul, the taxes will be laid by those who have no fellow feeling acquaintance with the people. This is my objection to the article now under consideration. It is a very great and important one. I therefore beg Gentlemen seriously to consider it Should this power be restrained, I shall withdraw my objections to this part of the Constitution: But as it stands, it is an objection so strong in my mind, that its amendment is with me, a sine qua non, of its adoption. I wish for such amendments, and such only, as are necessary to secure the dearest rights of the people. Mr. Madison—Mr. Chairman—It would give me great pleasure to concur with my honorable colleague in any conciliatory plan. The clause to which the worthy member alludes, is only explanatory of the proportion which representation and taxation shall respectively bear to one another: The power of laying direct taxes will be more properly discussed, when we come to that part of the Constitution which vests that power in Congress. At present I must endeavour to reconcile our proceedings to the resolution we have taken, by postponing the examination of this power till we come properly to it. With respect to converting the confederation to a complete consolidation, I think no such consequence will follow from the Constitution; and that with more attention he will see that he is mistaken: And
with respect to the number of Representatives, I reconcile it to my mind, when I consider, that it may be increased to the proportion fixed;29
and that, as it may be so increased, it shall, because it is the interest of those who alone can prevent it, who are our Representatives, and who depend on their good behaviour for their re-election. Let me observe also, that as far as the number of Representatives may seem to be inadequate to discharge their duty; they will have sufficient information from the laws of particular States, from the State Legislatures, from their own experience, and from a great number of individuals: And as to our security against them, I conceive, Sir, that the general limitation of their powers, and the general watchfulness of the States, will be a sufficient guard. As it is now late, I shall defer any further investigation till (a) more convenient time.
The Committee then rose—And on motion, Resolved, That this Convention will, tomorrow, again resolve itself into a Committee of the whole Convention, to take into farther consideration, the proposed Constitution of Government.
And then the Convention adjourned until tomorrow morning, —eleven o'clock.
(a) Observations on Civil Liberty.