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title:“North Carolina Ratification Convention Debates”
authors:Anonymous
date written:1788-7-31

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North Carolina Ratification Convention Debates (July 31, 1788)

The Convention met according to adjournment, and resolved itself, according to the order of the day, into a committee of the whole Convention.—Mr. Kenan in the chair.
Governor Johnston—Mr. Chairman, It appears to me, that if the motion made yesterday by the gentleman from Halifax, be adopted, it will not answer the intention of the people. It determines nothing with respect to the Constitution. We were sent here to determine upon it. [Here his Excellency read the resolution of the Assembly under which the Convention met.] If we do not decide upon the Constitution, we shall have nothing to report to Congress. We shall be entirely out of the union, and stand by ourselves. I wish gentlemen would pause a moment before they decide so awful a question. To whom are we to refer these amendments which are to be proposed as the condition of our adoption? The present Congress have nothing to do with them. Their authority extends only to introduce the new government, not to receive any proposition of amendments. Shall we present them to the new Congress? In what manner can that be done? We shall have no Representatives to introduce them. We may indeed appoint Ambassadors to the United States of America to represent what scruples North-Carolina has in regard to their Constitution. I know no other way. A number of states have proposed amendments to the Constitution, and ratified in the mean time. These will have great weight and influence in Congress, and may prevail in getting material amendments proposed. We shall have no share in voting upon any of these amendments, for in my humble opinion, we shall be entirely out of the union, and can be considered only as a foreign power. It is true the United States may admit us hereafter. But they may admit us on terms unequal and disadvantageous to us. In the mean time many of their laws, by which we shall be hereafter bound, may be particularly injurious to the interests of this state, as we shall have no share in their formation. Gentlemen say, they will not be influenced by what others have done. I must confess that the examples of great and good men, and wise states, has great weight with me. It is said there is a probability that New-York will not adopt this Constitution. Perhaps she may not.—But it is generally supposed, that the principal reason of her opposing it, arises from a selfish motive. She has it now in her power to tax indirectly two contiguous states. Connecticut and New-Jersey contribute to pay a great part of the taxes of that state, by consuming large quantities of goods, the duties of which are now levied for the benefit of New-York only. A similar policy may induce the United States to lay restrictions on us if we are out of the union. These considerations ought to have great weight with us. We can derive very little assistance from any thing New-York will do on our behalf. Her views are diametrically opposite to ours. That state wants all her imposts for her own exclusive support. It is our interest that all imposts should go into the general treasury. Should Congress receive our commissioners, it will be a considerable time before this business will be decided on. It will be some time after Congress meets, before a Convention is appointed, and some time will elapse before the Convention meets. What they will do will be transmitted to each of the states, and then a Convention or the Legislature in each state will have to ratify it ultimately.—This will probably take up eighteen months or two years. In the mean time the national government is going on.—Congress will appoint all the great officers, and will proceed to make laws and form regulations for the future government of the United States. This state during all that time will have no share in their proceedings or any negative on any business before them. Another inconvenience which will arise, is this—we shall be deprived of the benefit of the impost, which under the new government is an additional fund; all the states having a common right to it.—By being in the union we should have a right to our proportionate share of all duties and imposts collected in all the states. But by adopting this resolution, we shall lose the benefit of this; which is an object worthy of attention. Upon the whole I can see no possible good that will result to this state from following the resolution before us. I have not the vanity to think that any reasons I offer will have any weight. But I came from a respectable county to give my reasons for or against the Constitution. They expect them from me, and to suppress them would be a violation of my duty.
Mr. Willie Jones—Mr. Chairman, The gentleman last up has mentioned the resolution of Congress now lying before us, and the act of Assembly under which we met here, which says that we should deliberate and determine on the Constitution. What is to be inferred from that? Are we to ratify it at all events? Have we not an equal right to reject? We do determine by neither rejecting nor adopting. It is objected we shall be out of the union. So I wish to be. We are left at liberty to come in at any time. It is said we shall suffer a great loss, for want of a share of the impost. I have no doubt we shall have it when we come in, as much as if we adopted now. I have a resolution in my pocket, which I intend to introduce if this resolution is carried, recommending it to the Legislature to lay an impost for the use of Congress on goods imported into this state, similar to that which may be laid by Congress on goods imported into the adopting states. This shews the committee what is my intention, and on what footing we are to be. This being the case, I will forfeit my life that we shall come in for a share. It is said that all the offices of Congress will be filled, and we shall have no share in appointing the officers. This is an objection of very little importance. Gentlemen need not be in such haste. If left eighteen months or two years without offices it is no great cause of alarm. The gentleman further said, that we could send no Representatives, but must send Ambassadors to Congress as a foreign power. I assert the contrary, and that whenever a Convention of the states is called, North-Carolina will be called upon like the rest. I do not know what these gentlemen would desire. I am very sensible that there is a great majority against the Constitution. If we take the question as they propose, they know it would be rejected, and bring on us all the dreadful consequences which they feelingly foretell, but which can never in the least alarm me. I have endeavoured to fall in with their opinions, but could not. We have a right in plain terms to refuse it, if we think proper. I have in my proposition adopted word for word the Virginia amendments, with one or two additional ones. We run no risk of being excluded from the union when we think proper to come in. Virginia our next neighbour will not oppose our admission. We have a common cause with her. She wishes the same alterations. We are of the greatest importance to her. She will have great weight in Congress, and there is no doubt but she will do everything she can to bring us into the union. South Carolina and Georgia are deeply interested in our being admitted. The creek nation would overturn these two states without our aid. They cannot exist without North-Carolina. There is no doubt we shall obtain our amendments and come into the union when we please. Massachusetts, New-Hampshire and other states have proposed amendments. New-York will do so also if she ratifies. There will be a majority of the states, and the most respectable, important and extensive states also, desirous of amendments, and favourable to our admission. As great names have been mentioned, I beg leave to mention the authority of Mr. Jefferson, whose great abilities and respectability are well known. When the Convention sat in Richmond, in Virginia, Mr. Madison received a letter from him. In that letter he said he wished nine states would adopt it; not because it deserved ratification, but to preserve the union. But he wished that the other four states would reject it, that there might be a certainty of obtaining amendments. Congress may go on and take no notice of our amendments. But I am confident they will do nothing of importance till a Convention be called. If I recollect rightly, the Constitution may be ratified either by Conventions or the Legislatures of the states. In either case it may take up about eighteen months. For my own part, I would rather be eighteen years out of the union than adopt it in its present defective form.
Governor Johnston—Mr. Chairman, I wish to clear myself from the imputation of the gentleman last up. If any part of my conduct warrants his aspersion, if ever I hunted after offices or sought public favours to promote private interest—let the instances be pointed out. If I know myself—I never did. It is easy for any man to throw out illiberal and ungenerous insinuations. I have no view to offices under this Constitution. My view are much humbler. When I spoke of Congress establishing offices, I meant great offices, the establishment of which might affect the interest of the states; and I added that they would proceed to make laws, deeply affecting us, without any influence of our own. As to the appointment of the officers, it is of no importance to me who is an officer, if he be a good man.
Mr. Jones replied, that in every publication one might see ill motives assigned to the opposers of the Constitution. One reason assigned for their opposition, was, that they feared the loss of their influence, and diminution of their importance. He said that it was fair its opposers should be permitted to retort, and assign a reason equally selfish, for the conduct of its friends. Expectation to offices might influence them, as well as the loss of office and influence might bias the others. He intended no allusion to that gentleman, for whom he declared he had the highest respect.
Mr. Spencer rose in support of the motion of the gentleman from Halifax. He premised, that he wished no resolution to be carried without the utmost deliberation and candour. He thought the proposition was couched in such modest terms as could not possibly give offence to the other states. That the amendments it proposed were to be laid before Congress, and would probably be admitted, as they were similar to those which were wished for and proposed by several of the adopting states. He always thought it more proper and agreeable to prudence to propose amendments previous rather than subsequent to ratification. He said that if two or more persons entered into a co-partnership, and employed a scrivener to draw up the articles of co-partnership in a particular form, and on reading them, they found them to be erroneous, it would be thought very strange if any of them should say, "Sign it first, and we shall have it altered hereafter." If it should be signed before alteration, it would be considered as an act of indiscretion. As therefore, it was a principle of prudence in matters of private property, not to assent to any obligation till its errors were removed, he thought the principle infinitely more necessary to be attended to in a matter which concerned such a number of people, and so many millions yet unborn. Gentlemen said they should be out of the union. He observed, that they were before confederated with the other states by a solemn compact, which was not to be dissolved without the consent of every state in the union. North-Carolina had not assented to its dissolution. If it was dissolved it was not their faults, but that of the adopting states. It was a maxim of law that the same solemnities were necessary to destroy which were necessary to create a deed or contract. He was of opinion, that if they should be out of the union by proposing previous amendments, they were as much so now. If the adoption by nine states enabled them to exclude the other four states, he thought North-Carolina might then be considered as excluded. But he did not think that doctrine well founded. On the contrary, he thought each state might come into the union when she thought proper. He confessed it gave him some concern, but he looked on the short exclusion of eighteen months, if it might be called exclusion, as infinitely less dangerous than an unconditional adoption. He expected the amendments would be adopted, and when they were, this state was ready to embrace it. No great inconvenience could result from this. Mr. Spencer made some other remarks, but spoke too low to be heard.
Mr. Iredell—Mr. Chairman, In my opinion this is a very awful moment. On a right decision of this question may possibly depend the peace and happiness of our country for ages. Whatever be the decision of the House on this subject, it ought to be well weighed before it is given. We ought to view our situation in all its consequences, and determine with the utmost caution and deliberation. It has been suggested, not only out of doors, but during the course of the debates, that if we are out of the union, it will be the fault of other states and not ours. It is true, that by the Articles of the Confederation, the consent of each state was necessary to any alteration. It is also true, that the consent of nine states renders this Constitution binding on them. The unhappy consequences of that unfortunate article in this Confederation, produced the necessity of this article in the Constitution. Every body knows, that through the peculiar obstinacy of Rhode-Island many great advantages were lost. Notwithstanding her weakness, she uniformly opposed every regulation for the benefit and honour of the union at large. The other states were then driven to the necessity of providing for their own security and welfare, without waiting for the consent of that little state. The Deputies from twelve states unanimously concurred in opinion, that the happiness of all America ought not to be sacrificed to the caprice and obstinacy of so inconsiderable a part. It will often happen in the course of human affairs, that the policy which is proper on common occasion fails; and that laws which do very well in the regular administration of a government, cannot stand when everything is going into confusion. In such a case, the safety of the community must supersede every other consideration, and every subsisting regulation which interferes with that must be departed from rather than that the people should be ruined. The Convention therefore, with a degree of manliness which I admire, dispensed with an unanimous consent for the present change, and at the same time provided a permanent remedy for this evil, not barely by dispensing with the consent of one member in future alterations, but by making the consent of nine sufficient for the whole if the rest did not agree, considering that the consent of so large a number ought in reason to govern the whole, and the proportion was taken from the old Confederation, which in the most important cases required the consent of nine, and in every thing except the alteration of the Constitution, made that number sufficient. It has been objected, that the adoption of this government would be improper, because it would interfere with the oath of allegiance to the state. No oath of allegiance requires us to sacrifice the safety of our country. When the British government attempted to establish a tyranny in America, the people did not think their oath of allegiance bound them to submit to it. I had taken that oath several times myself, but had no scruple to oppose their tyrannical measures. The great principle is, The safety of the people is the supreme law. Government was originally instituted for their welfare, and whatever may be its form, this ought to be its object. This is the fundamental principle on which our government is founded. In other countries they suppose the existence of an original compact, and infer, that if the sovereign violates his part of it, the people have a right to resist. If he does not, the government must remain unchanged unless the sovereign consents to an alteration. In America, our governments have been clearly created by the people themselves. The same authority that created can destroy, and the people may undoubtedly change the government, not because it is ill exercised, but because they conceive another form will be more conducive to their welfare. I have stated the reasons for departing from the rigid article in the Confederation requiring an unanimous consent. We were compelled to do this or see our country ruined. In the manner of the dispensation the Convention however appear to have acted with great prudence, in copying the example of the Confederation in all other particulars of the greatest moment, by authorising nine states to bind the whole. It is suggested indeed, that though ten states have adopted this new Constitution, yet as they had no right to dissolve the old articles of Confederation, these still subsist, and the old union remains, of which we are a part. The truth of that suggestion may well be doubted on this ground. When the principles of a Constitution are violated, the Constitution itself is dissolved, or may be dissolved at the pleasure of the parties to it. Now, according to the articles of Confederation, Congress had authority to demand money in a certain proportion from the respective states to answer the exigencies of the union. Whatever requisitions they made for that purpose, were constitutionally binding on the states. The states had no discretion except as to the mode of raising the money. Perhaps every state has committed repeated violations of the demands of Congress. I do not believe it was from any dishonourable intention in many of the states; but whatever was the cause, the fact is, such violations were committed. The consequence is, that upon the principle I have mentioned (and in which I believe all writers agree) the articles of Confederation are no longer binding. It is alledged, that by making the consent of nine sufficient to form a government for themselves, the first nine may exclude the other four. This is a very extraordinary allegation. When the new Constitution was proposed, it was proposed to the thirteen states in the union. It was desired, that all should agree if possible, but if that could not be obtained, they took care that nine states might at least save themselves from destruction. Each undoubtedly had a right on the first proposition, because it was proposed to them all. The only doubt can be, whether they had a right afterwards. In my opinion, when any state has once rejected the Constitution, it cannot claim to come in afterwards as a matter of right. If it does not in plain terms reject, but refuses to accede for the present, I think the other states may regard this as an absolute rejection, and refuse to admit us afterwards but at their pleasure and on what terms they please. Gentlemen wish for amendments. On this subject, though we may differ as to the necessity of amendments, I believe none will deny the propriety of proposing some, if only for the purpose of giving more general satisfaction. The question then is, whether it is most prudent for us to come into the union immediately and propose amendments (as has been done in the other states) or to propose amendments and be out of the union till all these be agreed to by the other states. The consequences of either resolution I beg leave to state. By adopting we shall be in the union with our sister states, which is the only foundation of our prosperity and safety. We shall avoid the danger of a separation, a danger of which the latent effects are unknown. So far am I convinced of the necessity of the union, that I would give up many things against my own opinion to obtain it. If we sacrifice it, by a rejection of the Constitution, or a refusal to adopt (which amounts, I think, nearly to the same thing) the very circumstance of disunion may occasion animosity between us and the inhabitants of the other states, which may be a means of severing us forever. We shall lose the benefit which must accrue to the other states from the new government. Their trade will flourish: Goods will sell cheap; Their commodities will rise in value, and their distresses occasioned by the war will gradually be removed. Ours, for want of these advantages, will continue. Another very material consequence will result from it: We shall lose our share of the imposts in all the states, which under this Constitution are to go into the federal treasury. It is the particular local interest of this state to adopt on this account, more perhaps than that of any other member of the union. At present all these imposts go into the respective treasury of each state, and we well know our own are of little consequence compared to those of the other states in general. The gentleman from Halifax (Mr. Jones) has offered an expedient to prevent the loss of our share of the impost. In my opinion that expedient will not answer the purpose. The amount of duties on goods imported into this state is very little, and if these resolutions are agreed to it will be less. I ask any gentleman, whether the United States would receive from the duties of this state so much as would be our proportion under the Constitution, of the duties on goods imported in all the states. Our duties would be no manner of compensation for such proportion. What would be the language of Congress on our holding forth such an offer? "If you are willing to enjoy the benefits of the union, you must be subject to all the laws of it. We will make no partial agreement with you" This would probably be their language. I have no doubt all America would wish North-Carolina to be a member of the union. It is of importance to them. But we ought to consider whether ten states can do longer without one, or one without ten? On a competition, which will give way? The adopting states will say, "Other states had objections as well as you, but rather than separate they agreed to come into the union, trusting to the justice of the other states for the adoption of proper amendments afterwards. One most respectable state, Virginia, has pursued this measure, though apparently averse to the system as it now stands. But you have laid down the condition on which alone you will come into the union. We must accede to your particular propositions, or be disunited from you altogether. Is it fit that North-Carolina shall dictate to the whole union? We may be convinced by your reason, but our conduct will certainly not be altered by your resistance." I beg leave to say, if Virginia thought it right to adopt and propose amendments, under the circumstances of the Constitution at that time, surely it is much more so for us in our present situation. That state, as was justly observed, is a most powerful and respectable one. Had she held out, it would have been a subject of most serious alarm. But she thought the risk of losing the union altogether too dangerous to be incurred. She did not then know of the ratification by New-Hampshire. If she thought it necessary to adopt when only eight states had ratified, is it not much more necessary for us after the ratification by ten? I do not say that we ought servilely to imitate any example. But I may say, that the examples of wise men, and intelligent nations, are worthy of respect; and that in general we may be much safer in following than in departing from them. In my opinion, as many of the amendments proposed, are similar to amendments recommended not only by Virginia, but by other states, there is a great probability of their being obtained. All the amendments proposed undoubtedly will not be, nor I think ought to be, but such as tend to secure more effectually the liberties of the people, against an abuse of the powers granted, in all human probability, will; for in such amendments all the states are equally interested. The probability of such amendments being obtained is extremely great, for though three states ratified the Constitution unanimously, there has been a considerable opposition in the other states. In New-Hampshire the majority was small. In Massachusetts there was a strong opposition. In Connecticut the opposition was about one third; so it was in Pennsylvania. In Maryland the minority was small, but very respectable. In Virginia they had little more than a bare majority. There was a powerful minority in South-Carolina. Can any man pretend to say, that thus circumstanced, the states would disapprove of amendments calculated to give satisfaction to the people at large? There is a very great probability, if not an absolute certainty, that amendments will be obtained. The interest of North-Carolina would add greatly to the scale in their favour. If we do not accede we may injure the states who wish for amendments, by withdrawing ourselves from their assistance. We are not at any event in a condition to stand alone. God forbid we should be a moment separated from our sister states. If we are, we shall be in great danger of a separation forever. I trust every gentleman will pause before he contributes to so awful an event. We have been happy in our connexion with the other states. Our freedom, independence, every thing dear to us, has been derived from that union we are now going rashly to dissolve. If we are to be separated; let every gentleman well weigh the ground he stands on before he votes for the separation. Let him not have to reproach himself hereafter that he voted without due consideration, for a measure that proved the destruction of his country.
Mr. Iredell then observed, that there were insinuations thrown out against those who favoured the Constitution—that they had a view of getting offices and emoluments. He said, he hoped no man thought him so wicked, as to sacrifice the interest of his country to private views. He declared in the most solemn manner, the insinuation was unjust and ill-founded as to himself. He believed it was so with respect to the rest. The interest and happiness of his country solely governed him on that occasion. He could appeal to some Members in the House, and particularly to those who knew him in the lower part of the country, that his disposition had never been pecuniary, and that he had never aspired to offices. At the beginning of the revolution, he said, he held one of the best offices in the state under the crown—an office on which he depended for his support. His relations were in Great-Britain; yet though thus circumstanced, so far was he from being influenced by pecuniary motives, or emoluments of office, that as soon as his situation would admit of it, he did not hesitate a moment to join the opposition to Great-Britain, nor would the richest office in America have tempted him to adhere in that unjust cause to the British government. He apologised for taking up the time of the committee, but he observed that reflections of that kind were considered as having applied, unless they were taken notice of. He attributed no unworthy motives to any gentleman in the House. He believed most of them wished to pursue the interest of their country according to their own ideas of it. He hoped other gentlemen would be equally liberal.
Mr. Willie Jones observed, that he assigned unworthy motives to no one. He thought a gentleman had insinuated, that the opposition all acted from base motives. He was well assured that their motives were as good as those of the other party, and he thought he had a right to retort by shewing that selfish views might influence as well on one side as the other. He intended however no particular reflections on those two gentlemen, who had applied the observation to themselves, for whom he said he had the highest respect, and was sorry he had made the observation as it had given them pain. But if they were conscious that the observation did not apply to them, they ought not to be offended at it. He then explained the nature of the resolutions he proposed; and the plain question was, whether they should adopt them or not.—He was not afraid that North-Carolina would not be admitted at any time hereafter. Maryland, he observed, had not confederated for many years with the other states; yet she was considered in the mean time as a member of the union, was allowed as such to send her proportion of men and money, and was at length admitted into the confederacy in 1781. This he said shewed how the adopting states would act on the present occasion. North-Carolina might come into the union when she pleased.
Governor Johnston made some observations as to the particular case of Maryland, but in too low a voice to be distinctly heard.
Mr. Bloodworth observed, that the first Convention which met to consult on the necessary alterations of the Confederation, so as to make it efficient, and put the commerce of the United States on a better footing, not consisting of a sufficient number from the different states, so as to authorize them to proceed, returned without effecting any thing; but proposed that another Convention should be called, to have more extensive powers, to alter and amend the Confederation. This proposition of that Convention was warmly opposed in Congress.—Mr. King, from Massachusetts, insisted on the impropriety of the measure, and that the existing system ought to stand as it was. His arguments, he said, were, that it might destroy the Confederation to propose alterations; that the unanimous consent of all the states was necessary to introduce those alterations, which could not possibly be obtained; and that it would therefore be in vain to attempt it. He wondered how gentlemen came to entertain different opinions now. He declared he had listened with attention, to the arguments of the gentlemen on the other side, and had endeavoured to remove every kind of bias from his mind, yet he had heard nothing of sufficient weight to induce him to alter his opinion. He was sorry that there was any division on that important occasion, and wished they could all go hand in hand.
As to the disadvantages of a temporary exclusion from the union, he thought them trifling. He asked if a few political advantages could be put in competition with out liberties. Gentlemen said that amendments would probably be obtained. He thought their arguments and reasons were not so sure a method to obtain them as withholding their consent would be. He could not conceive that the adopting state would take any measures to keep this state out of the union. If a right view were taken of the subject, he said they could not be blamed in staying out of the union till amendments were obtained. The compact between the states was violated by the other states and not by North-Carolina. Would the violating party blame the upright party? This determination would correspond with the opinion of the gentleman who had written from France on the subject. He would lay stress on no man's opinion, but the opinion of that gentleman was very respectable.
Mr. Davie—Mr. Chairman, It is said that there is a great majority against the Constitution and in favour of the gentleman's proposition. The object of a majority, I suppose, is to pursue the most probable method of obtaining amendments. The honourable gentleman from Halifax has said this is the most eligible method of obtaining them. My opinion is the very reverse; let us weigh the probability of both modes proposed, and determine with candour which is the safest and surest method of obtaining the wished for alterations. The honourable gentleman from Anson, has said that our conduct in adhering to these resolutions, would be modest. What is his idea or definition of modesty? The term must be very equivocal; so far from being modest, it appears to me to be no less than an arrogant dictatorial proposal of a Constitution, to the United States of America. We shall be no part of that confederacy, and yet attempt to dictate to one of the most powerful confederacies in the world. It is also said to be most agreeable to prudence; if our real object be amendments, every man must agree that the most likely means of them are the most prudent. Four of the most respectable states have adopted the Constitution, and recommended amendments, New-York (if she refuses to adopt) Rhode-Island, and North-Carolina, will be the only state out of the union. But if these three were added, they would compose a majority in favour of amendments, and might by various means, compel the other states into the measure. It must be granted that there is no way of obtaining amendments but the mode prescribed in the Constitution; two thirds of the Legislatures of the states in the confederacy, may require Congress to call a Convention to propose amendments, or the same proportion of both Houses may propose them. It will then be of no consequence that we stand out and propose amendments; without adoption we are not a member of the confederacy, and possessing no federal rights, can neither make any proposition nor require Congress to call a Convention. Is it not clear, however strange it may be, that we are with-holding our weight from those states who are of our own opinion, and by a perverse obstinacy obstructing the very measure we wish to promote. If two thirds of both Houses are necessary to send forward amendments to the states, would it not be prudent that we should be there and add our vote to the number of those states who are of the same sentiment? The honourable Member from Anson has likened this business to a copartnership, comparing small things to great. The comparison is only just in one respect—the dictatorial proposal of North-Carolina to the American confederacy, is like a beggarly bankrupt addressing an opulent company of merchants, and arrogantly telling them, "I wish to be in copartnership with you, but "the terms must be such as I please." What has North-Carolina to put into the stock with the other states? Have we not felt our poverty? What was the language of Congress on their last requisition on this state? Surely gentlemen must remember the painful terms in which our delinquency was treated. That gentleman has also said, "that we shall still be a part of the union, and if we be separated it is not our fault." This is an obvious solecism. It is our own fault, Sir, and the direct consequence of the means we are now pursuing. North-Carolina stands foremost in point of delinquency, and has repeatedly violated the Confederation. The conduct of this state has been among the principal causes which produced this revolution in our federal government. The honourable gentleman has also added, that it was a rule in law, that the same solemnities were necessary to annul which were necessary to create or establish a compact, and that as thirteen states created, so thirteen states must concur in the dissolution of the Confederation." This may be talking like a lawyer or a judge, but it is very unlike a politician; a majority is the rule of republican decisions. It was the voice of a majority of the people of America that gave that system validity, and the same authority can and will annul it at any time. Every man of common sense knows, that political power is political right. Lawyers may cavil and quibble about the necessity of unanimity, but the true principle is otherwise. In every republican community the majority binds the minority, and whether confederated or separated the principle will equally apply. We have a right to come into the union, until we exercise the right of deciding on the question referred to us. Adoption places us in the union—rejection extinguishes the right forever. The scheme proposed by these gentlemen will certainly be considered as an absolute rejection; it may amuse the people and answer a purpose here, but will not answer any purpose there. The honourable gentleman from Halifax asserts, "we may come in when we please." The gentleman from New-Hanover, on the same side of the question, endeavoured to alarm and frighten us about the dangerous influence of the eastern states; if he deserves any credit, can we expect they will let us into the union, until they have accomplished their particular views, and then but on the most disadvantageous terms? Commercial regulations will be one of the great objects of the first session of Congress, in which our interests will be totally neglected. Every man must be convinced of the importance of the first acts and regulations; as they will probably give a tone to the policy of ages yet to come, and this scheme will add greatly to the influence of the eastern states, and proportionably diminish the power and interests of the southern states.
The gentleman says he has a project in his pocket, which he risks his life will induce the other states to give us a share of the general impost. I am fully satisfied, Sir, this project will not answer the purpose, and the forfeiture of his life will be no compensation for irretrievable public loss. Every man who knows the resources of our commerce, and our situation, will be clearly convinced that the project cannot succeed—the whole produce of our duties, both by land and water is very trifling. For several years past it has not exceeded 10,000l. of our own paper money. It will not be more, probably less, if we are out of the union. The whole proportion of this state of the public debts, except this mere pittance, must be raised from the people by direct and immediate taxation. But the fact is, Sir, it cannot be raised, because it cannot be paid; and without sharing in the general impost we shall never discharge our quota of the federal debt. What does he offer the other states? The poor pittance I have mentioned. Can we suppose Congress so lost to every sense of duty, interest and justice?—Would their constituents permit them to put their hands into their pockets to pay our debts? We have no equivalent to give them for it. As several powerful states have proposed amendments, they will no doubt be supported with zeal and perseverance, so that it is not probable that the object of amendments will be lost. We may struggle on for a few years and render ourselves wretched and contemptible, but we must at last come into the union on their terms however humiliating they may be. The project on the table is little better than an absolute rejection, and is neither rational or politic as it cannot promote the end proposed.
Mr. Lock, in reply to Mr. Davie, expressed some apprehensions that the Constitution, if adopted as it then stood, would render the people poor and miserable. He thought it would be very productive of expences. The advantages of the impost he considered as of little consequence, as he thought all the money raised that way, and more, would be swept away by courtly parade—the emoluments of the President, and other members of the government, the Supreme Court, &c. These expences would double the impost in his opinion. They would render the sates bankrupt. The imposts, he imagined, would be inconsiderable. The people of America began to import less foreign frippery. Every wise planter was fond of home manufacture. The northern states manufactured considerably, and he thought manufactures would encrease daily. He thought a previous ratification dangerous. The worst that could happen would be, that we should be thrown out of the union. He would rather that should be the case, than embrace a tyrannical government, and give away our rights and privileges. He was therefore determined to vote for the resolutions of the gentleman from Halifax.
Mr. Spencer observed, that if the conduct of North-Carolina would be immodest and dictatorial, in proposing amendments, and if it was proposing a constitution to the other states, he was sure the other states who had proposed the same amendments, were equally guilty of immodesty and dictating a constitution to the other states. The only difference being, that this state does not adopt previously. The gentleman had objections to his legal maxims, and said they were not politic. He would be extremely sorry, he said, if the maxims of justice should not take place in politics. Were this to be the case, there could be no faith put in any compact. He thought the comparison of the state to a beggar was a degradation of it, and insisted on the propriety of his own comparison; which he thought obvious to any one. He acknowledged that an exclusion from the union would be a most unhappy circumstance, but he had no idea that it would be the case. As this mode of proceeding would hasten the amendments, he could not but vote for it.
Mr. Jones defined the word modesty by contrasting it with its antagonist impudence. The gentleman found fault with the observation, that this was the most decent and best way of obtaining amendments. If gentlemen would propose a more eligible method, he would consent to that. He said the gentleman had reviled the state by his comparison, and must have hurt the feelings of every gentleman in the House. He had no apprehensions that the other states would refuse to admit them into the union, when they thought proper to come in. It was their interest to admit them. He asked if a beggar would refuse a boon though it were but a shilling, or if twelve men struggling under a heavy load would refuse the assistance of a thirteenth man?
A desultory conversation now took place.
Mr. Davie hoped they would not take up the whole collectively, but that the proposed amendments would be considered one by one. Some other gentlemen expressed the same desire.
Many other gentlemen thought the resolution very proper as it stood.
The question being put, the resolution was agreed to by a great majority of the committee.
It was then resolved that the committee should rise. Mr. President resumed the chair, and Mr. Kenan reported from the committee of the whole Convention, that the committee had again had the Constitution proposed for the future government of the United States under consideration, and had come to a resolution thereupon; which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the Clerk's table.
1
Ordered, That the said report lie on the table until tomorrow morning nine o'clock: To which time the House adjourned.

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1788-7-31

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