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title:“Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention Debates”
date written:1788-1-17

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:37 a.m. UTC
retrieved:March 3, 2024, 7:11 a.m. UTC

"Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention Debates." Massachusetts Gazette 1788-01-17 : . Rpt. in 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. 1233-35. Print.

Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention Debates (January 17, 1788)

Massachusetts Gazette, 18 January MR. TURNER, speaking of the power given to Congress in the 4th section of the constitution, observed, that he was very far from approving of Congress' having a power that they could abuse, and that such a power was included in the 4th section, then under consideration, was his opinion. That he wished they might be favoured with such continental rulers as might have no disposition to abuse their power, but that he had well grounded fears of the contrary. That there had been a decay of morals and communicative justice, the invariable concommitant of luxury, and that this apparent decline seemed to have commenced with the introduction of paper money and the business of privateering. That, therefore, in proportion to this decay, there ought to be a more energetick continental government. That from these considerations, all possible restraints ought to be laid upon rulers. That he wished they might conduct such an important matter with the utmost sobriety and that nothing might turn them aside from the way of their duty; and be careful to guard against those extremes to which human nature is liable.
Hon. Judge SUMNER observed, that it had been objected, that the delegation of such power to Congress would be dangerous to the people, as they might order the electors to a remote part of the country; but this, he said, appeared to him chimerical, as it would be in the power of the states to redress such grievance in future elections; and asked, whether it was not more consistent, in the nature of things, to suppose, that the representatives in Congress would use their utmost endeavours for the good of their constituents, than that they would abuse their power in such a manner as some of the gentlemen, who had risen before him, had insinuated: And that such a power vested in Congress, appeared more necessary upon supposition that a war should take place, and a state should be reduced to the unhappy situation of Carolina, when Cornwallis was in possession, and ravaging that part of the continent, which must be unrepresented, without such a power vested in Congress.
Mr. WEDGERY observed, speaking upon the 3d paragraph of sect. 2d, that one representative to a state was fixed and determinate; and that after the enumeration should be made, notwithstanding this state was entitled to chuse eight representatives, previous to that time, it would be in the power of Congress to reduce the number to one, and that he was not willing to risk an unlimitted power with Congress.
Mr. WEST asked, whether we should be reduced to a state of nature because Congress might abuse their power? and observed, that the objections with regard to the abuse of their power were raised merely against possibilities, but by no means against probabilities; and upon supposition that Congress should remove the electors to any remote or ineligible place, it would entirely frustrate the very design of the election. He said, that such arguments appeared to him so chimerical that the gentlemen who made use of them, seemed to make a tacit confession that they were endeavouring to support a very weak cause.
Mr. DENCH. Representation and direct taxes must always keep peace with each other; but it appeared to him, that for Congress to appoint time and place for holding elections, was giving them power to do as they pleased, whether the states would or would not, acquiesce. That the honourable Convention ought to consider that they were deliberating upon a constitution, for generations yet unborn; that he was in favour of a federal system, but not to lay a foundation to subvert that freedom which the people had so industriously sought after Hon. Mr. VARNUM. It has been said, that Congress may appoint the county of Lincoln as the place of election for this commonwealth; but, said he, what greater check can we have against such an abuse of power than that of two thirds of the legislature?
Mr. King, Mr. Sedgwick, Mr. Parsons, and some other gentlemen in favour of the plan, spoke at different times, and argued strongly in behalf of the subject in debate, and reasoned with the opposition so candidly as, in our opinion, must have a tendency to remove those prejudices, which had been imbibed, from all minds open to conviction.
Mr. Wedgery, General Thompson, and some more, who are opposed to the constitution, rose often, and urged their pleas in so strenuous a manner as seemed to denote they had the good of their constituents at heart.
For want of time we cannot insert the debates of this day intire; but, imperfect as they may be, we give them, and shall continue to through the course of the session of the honourable Convention.

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