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title:“Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention”
authors:Theophilus Parsons
date written:1788-1-24

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:39 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 3, 2022, 3:30 p.m. UTC

Parsons, Theophilus. "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. 1338-41. Print.

Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention (January 24, 1788)

Dr. Taylor asked, why there was to be a federal town, over which Congress is to exercise exclusive legislation?
Hon. Mr. STRONG said, that every gentlemen must think, that the erection of a federal town was necessary, wherein Congress might remain protected from insult. A few year ago, said the Hon. gentleman, Congress had to remove, because they were not protected by the authority of the State in which they were then sitting. He asked, whether this Convention, though convened for but a short period, did not think it was necessary that they should have power to protect themselves from insult, much more so must they think it necessary to provide for Congress, considering they are to be a permanent body.
Hon. Mr. DAVIS (Boston) said, it was necessary that Congress should have a permanent residence; and that it was the intention of Congress under the confederation, to erect a federal town. He asked, would Massachusetts, or any other State, wish to give to New-York, or the State in which Congress shall sit, the power to influence the proceedings of that body which was to act for the benefit of the whole, by leaving them liable to the outrages of the citizens of such States?
Dr. TAYLOR asked, why it need be ten miles square, and whether one mile square would not be sufficient?
Hon. Mr. STRONG said, Congress were not to exercise jurisdiction over a district of ten miles, but one not exceeding ten miles square.
Rev. Mr. STILLMAN said, that whatever was the limits of the district, it would depend on the cession of the legislature of one of the States.
Mr. DENCH said, that he wished further light on the subject—but that from the words, "We the people," in the first clause, ordaining this Constitution, he thought it was an actual consolidation of the States—and that, if he was not mistaken, the moment it took place, a dissolution of the State governments will also take place.
Gen. BROOKS (Lincoln) rose, he said, to consider the idea suggested by the gentleman last speaking, that this Constitution would produce a dissolution of the State governments, or a consolidation of the whole; which, in his opinion, he said, was ill founded—or rather a loose idea. In the first place, says he, the Congress under this Constitution cannot be organized without repeated acts of the legislatures of the several States—and therefore, if the creating power is dissolved, the body to be created cannot exist. In the second place, says the General, it is impossible the general government can exist, unless the governments of the several States are for ever existing, as the qualifications of the electors of federal representatives are to be the same as those of the electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.—It was, therefore, he said, impossible, that the State governments should be annihilated by the general government; and it was, he said, strongly implied from that part of the sect, under debate, which gave Congress power to exclusive jurisdiction over the federal town, that they should have exercise over no other place. When we attend to the Constitution, we shall see, says the General, that the powers to be given to Congress amount only to a consolidation of the strength of the union—and that private rights are not consolidated—The General mentioned the rights which Congress could not infringe upon; and said, that their power to define what was treason was much less than is vested in the legislature of this State, by our own constitution—as it was confined in the 3d sect, of article III. to levying war or adhering to, and comforting enemies only.1—He mentioned the restraint upon Congress in the punishment of treason, and compared it with the extended powers lodged in the Parliament of Great-Britain, on like crimes and concluded by observing, that as the United States guarantee to each State a Republican form of government; the State governments were as effectually secured, as though this Constitution should never be in force.
Hon. Mr. KING said, in reply to the inquiry respecting federal town, that there was now no place for Congress to reside in; and that it was necessary that they should have a permanent residence, where to establish proper archives, in which to deposit treaties, state papers, deeds of cession, &c.
Hon. Mr. SINGLETARY said, that all gentlemen had said about a bill of rights to the Constitution, was, that what is written is written—But he thought we were giving up all power and that the states will be like towns, in this state. Towns, says he, have a right to lay taxes to raise money and the states possibly may have the same. We have now says he, a good re2publican constitution, and we do not want it guaranteed to us. He did not understand what gentlemen meant by Congress guaranteeing republican form of government; he wished they would not play round the subject with their fine stories, like a fox round a trap, but come to it. Why don't they say that Congress will guarantee our state constitution.
Gen. THOMPSON said, Congress only meant to guarantee a form of government.
Hon. Mr. KING asked, whether if the present constitution of this state had been guaranteed by the United States, the Hon. Gentleman from Sutton would not have considered it as a great defect in the proposed Constitution, as it must have precluded the state from making any alteration in it, should they see fit so to do, at the time mentioned in the constitution.3

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