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title:“Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention”
date written:1788-1-21

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:58 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 16, 2024, 7:13 a.m. UTC

"Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 6. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2000. 1277-80. Print.

Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention (January 21, 1788)

4th sect. considered in its order.
Mr. AMES rose to answer several objections. He would forbear if possible to go over the ground which had been already well trodden. The fourth section had been, he said, well discussed, and he did not mean to offer any formal argument, or new observations upon it.-It had been said, the power of regulating elections was given to Congress. He asked if a motion was brought forward in Congress, on that particular, subjecting the states to any inconvenience-whether it was probable such a motion could obtain?1 It had been also said, that our federal legislature, would endeavour to perpetuate themselves in office-and that the love of power was predominant.-Mr. Ames asked how the gentlemen prevailed on themselves to trust the state legislature. He thought it was from a degree of confidence, that was placed in them. At present we trust Congress with power—nay we trust the representatives of Rhode-Island and Georgia—he thought it was better to trust a general government, than a foreign state. Mr. A. acknowledged he came with doubts of the fourth sect. Had his objections remained, he would have been obliged to vote against the constitution: But now he thought if all the constitution was as clear as this sect. it would meet with little opposition.
Judge DANA. This sect[ion] Mr President, has been subject to much dispute and difficulty I did not come here, approving of every paragraph of this constitution. I supposed this clause dangerous—it has been amply discussed—and I am now convinced, that this paragraph is much better as it stands, than with the amendment, which is, that Congress be restricted in the appointing of "Time place &c." unless when the state legislatures refuse to make them. I have altered my opinion on this point—these are my reasons: It is apparent the intention of the Convention was to set Congress on a different ground—that a part should proceed directly from the people, and not from their substitutes the legislatures: Therefore the legislature ought not to controul the elections. The legislature of Rhode-Island has lately formed a plan, to alter their representation to corporations, which ought to be by numbers. Look at Great-Britain, where the injustice of this mode is apparent: Eight tenths of the people there, have no voice in the elections. A borough of but two or three cottages, has a right to send two representatives to Parliament, while Birmingham, a large and populous manufacturing town lately sprung up, cannot send one. The legislature of Rhode-Island are about adopting this plan, in order to deprive the towns of Newport and Providence of their weight; and that thereby the legislature may have a power to counteract the will of the majority of the people.
Mr. COOLEY (Amherst) thought Congress in the present instance, would, from the powers granted by the constitution, have authority to controul elections, and thereby endanger liberty.
Dr. TAYLOR wished to ask the gentleman from Newbury-Port, whether the two branches of Congress could not agree to play into each other's hands; and, by making the qualifications of electors 100 1. by their power of regulating elections, fix the matter of elections, so as to keep themselves in.
Hon. Mr. KING rose to pursue the inquiry why the "place and manner" of holding elections were omitted in the section under debate. It was to be observed, he said, that in the constitution of Massachusetts, and other states, that the manner and place of elections were provided for; the manner was by ballot, and the places, towns—for said he, we happened to settle originally in townships. But it was different in the southern states; he would mention an instance. In Virginia, there are but 15 or 20 towns, and 70 or 80 counties: Therefore no rule could be adopted to apply to the whole. If it was practicable, he said, it would be necessary to have a district the fixed place—but this is liable to exceptions—as a district that may now be fully settled, may in time be sparcely inhabited—and the back country now sparcely inhabited, may be fully settled. Suppose this state thrown into eight districts—and member apportioned to each: If the numbers increase, the representatives and districts will be increased. The matter therefore, must be left subject to the regulation of the state legislature, or the general government.2 Suppose the state legislature, the circumstance will be the same. It is truly said, that our representatives are but a part of the union—and that they may be subject to the controul of the rest; but our representatives make a ninth part of the whole—and if any authority is vested in Congress it must be in our favour But to the subject; in Connecticut they do not chuse by numbers, but by corporations—Hartford of their largest towns, sends no more delegates than one of their smallest corporations, each town sending two, except latterly when a town was divided. The same rule is about to be adopted in Rhode-Island. The inequalityof such representation, where every corporation would have an equal right to send an equal number of representatives, was apparent. In the southern states, the inequality is greater. By the constitution of South-Carolina, the city of Charleston has a right to send 30 representatives to the General Assembly; the whole number of which amount to 200. The back parts of Carolina have increased greatly since the adoption of their constitution, and have frequently attempted an alteration of this unequal mode of representation; but the members from Charleston having the balance so much in their favour will not consent to an alteration and we see that the delegates from Carolina in Congress, have always been chosen from the delegates of that city. The representatives, therefore, from that state, will not be chosen by the people but will be the representatives of a faction of that state. If the general government cannot controul in this case, how are the people secure? The idea of the Hon. Gentleman from Douglass [John Taylor], said he, transcends understanding; for the power of controul given by this sect. extends to the manner of election, not the qualifications of the electors.3 The qualifications are age and residence, and none can be preferable. On motion, Resolved as follows, viz.
Whereas there is a publication in "The Boston Gazette and the Country Journal," of this day as follows, viz.
"Bribery and Corruption!!!
"The most diabolical plan is on foot to corrupt the members of the Convention, who oppose the adoption of the new Constitution. Large sums of money have been brought from a neighbouring State for that purpose, contributed by the wealthy;—if, is it not probable there may be collections for the same accursed purpose nearer home?
Resolved, That this Convention will take measures for inquiring into the subject of the said publication, and for ascertaining the truth or falshood of the suggestion therein contained.
Ordered, That the Messenger be directed to request the Printers of the said Gazette, to appear before this Convention, forthwith, to give information respecting the said publication.

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