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title:“Newspaper Report of the House of Representatives Debates on August 14, 1789”
date written:1789-8-15

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:20 a.m. UTC
retrieved:March 5, 2024, 4:21 a.m. UTC

"Newspaper Report of the House of Representatives Debates on August 14, 1789." The Daily Advertiser 1789-08-15 : . Rpt. in Creating the Bill of Rights. Ed. Kenneth R. Bowling and Helen E. Veit. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. 128-31. Print.
Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress

Newspaper Report of the House of Representatives Debates on August 14, 1789 (August 15, 1789)

The house went into a committee on the amendments to the Constitution.
Mr. TRUMBULL in the chair.
The first amendment was again read, which was to fix per to the introductory paragraph these words, "Government being intended for the benefit of the people and the rightful establishment thereof being derived from their authority alone."
Mr. GERRY objected to the phraseology of this clause; it might seem to imply that all Governments were instituted and intended for the benefit of the people, which was not true. Indeed most of the governments both of antient and modern times were calculated on very different principles. They had chiefly originated in fraud or in force; and were designed for the purpose of oppression and personal ambition. He wished to have nothing go out from this body as a maxim, which was false in fact or which was not clear in its construction. He moved to alter the clause, by inserting the words "of right."
This motion was negatived.
Mr. TUCKER objected to any amendments being made to the preamble of the constitution. This he said, was no part of the constitution, and the object was only to amend the constitution: The preamble was no more a subject of amendment than the letter of the President annexed to the constitution.
Mr. SMITH (S. C.) in answer to Mr. TUCKER shewed that this amendment had been recommended by three states; and that it was proper it should be made.
Mr. TUCKER replied that he was not opposed to the principle, but thought this was an improper place to express it; it could be inserted with propriety in a bill of rights, if one should be agreed on, and in that form be prefixed to the constitution, but the preamble was not the place for it.
Others objected to the whole clause as it was unnecessary since the words, "We the people" contained in itself the principle of the amendment fully. Mr SHERMAN observed that if the constitution had been a grant from another power, it would be proper to express this principle; but as the right expressed in the amendment was natural and inherent in the people, it is unnecessary to give any reasons or any ground on which they made their constitution. It was the act of their own sovereign will. It was also said that it would injure the beauty of the preamble.
Mr. MADISON contended for the amendment-He saw no difficulty in associating the amendment with the preamble without injuring the propriety or sense of the paragraph. Though it was indisputable that the principle was on all hands acknowledged, and could itself derive no force from expressing, yet he thought it prudent to insert it as it had been recommended by three respectable states.
The question on adopting the amendment being put, was carried in the affirmative.
Second amendment; from Art. 1 Sec. 2. par 3. strike out all between the word "direct" and "until such" and instead thereof insert, "after the first enumeration, there shall be one representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that the number of representatives shall never be less than one hundred, nor more than one hundred and seventy five, but each state shall always have at least one representative."
Mr. VINING moved that a clause should be inserted in the paragraph, providing that when any one state possessed forty five thousand inhabitants, it should be entitled to two representatives.
This was negatived without a division.
Mr. AMES then moved to strike out the word "thirty" and insert "forty," so that the ratio representation should be one for forty thousand-He went into a train of reasoning to prove the superior advantages of a small representation: He drew an argument, in the first place, from the satisfaction which the people universally expressed in the present representation, that their minds were reconciled to it, and were convinced that a more faithful and more prompt discharge of the business of the Union would take place in so small an assembly. Experience had taught them that all the information that was necessary both of a general and local nature, would be found in a body similar to the present. He suggested the importance of the expence of a numerous representation, as a capital burthen, which would soon become dissatisfactory to the people. Accordingto the ratio of 1 to 30,000, the increase of the people would swell the representation to an enormous mass, whose support would be insufferable, and whose deliberations would be rendered almost impracticable. The present population would, on the first census, produce upwards of 100. The augmentation would be very rapid; it was therefore proper to fix the proportion immediately so as to prevent these evils-He went very copiously into the usual arguments to prove that all numerous popular bodies are liable in proportion to their number, of fluctuations, fermentations and a factious spirit-By enlarging the representation, the government, he said, would depart from that choice of characters who could best represent the wisdom and the interest of the United States; and who would alone be able to support the importance and dignity of this branch of the legislature-Men would be introduced, more liable to improper influences, and more easy tools for designing leaders.
Mr. AMES said it appeared clear to him that as the whole number was increased, the individual consequence, the pride of character, and consequently the responsibility of each member. The responsibility would also be in some proportion to the number of the constituents. A representative of a large body of people would feel in a higher degree the weight imposed upon him, and he would be thereby the more interested to support a virtuous fame, and redouble his exertions for the public good.
Mr. Ames contended that the original design of those who proposed the amendments respecting representation, was not to obtain an increase beyond what the first census would give them; their intention was to fix a limitation, that it should not be in the power of Congress to diminish the representation at any time, below the point of security. Their object was certainly not augmentation.
Mr. Ames was much more ample in his arguments, but want of time obliges us rather to sketch the topics on which he dwelt, than pursue the connected chain of his ideas.
Mr. MADISON in reply insisted that the principal design of these amendments was to conciliate the minds of the people, and prudence required that the opinion of the states who had proposed the important amendment in contemplation, should be attended to. He said it was a fact that some states had not confined themselves to limitation, but had proposed an increase of the number, he did not conceive it to be very necessary in this case to investigate the advantages or disadvantages of a numerous representation; he acknowledged that beyond a certain point the number might be inconvenient. That point was a matter yet of uncertainty. It was true that numerous bodies were liable to some abuses; but if on one hand they were prone to those evils which the gentlemen had mentioned they were on the other hand less susceptible of corruption.
He thought also that to fix the ratio at even 40,000 for one would not prevent the abuses which Mr. Ames apprehended; for before the second census should be taken it was probable that the increase of population would be so great as to make the body very large—There was little choice therefore with a view to futurity between one ratio or the other; but as this of 1 for 30,000 was the proportion contemplated and proposed by the states, it was most advisable to adopt it.
Mr. GERRY, Mr. SEDGWICK, Mr LIVERMORE, Mr. JACKSON, Mr. SENEY opposed the amendment; and Mr. AMES replied to them largely—The question being taken, Mr. Ames's proposition was rejected.
Mr. TUCKER moved to strike out the first "one hundred" in the amendment, and to insert "two hundred" and then to strike out the rest of the paragraph-so that the representation should not be less than two hundred, nor should Congress have a discretion to fix any ratio of increase, but that such proportion should be adopted as to keep the representation fixed at two hundred.
After some debate, this motion was negatived.

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