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title:“The Congressional Register”
date written:1789-8-18

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:18 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Oct. 2, 2023, 3:49 p.m. UTC

"The Congressional Register." The Congressional Register 1789-08-18 : . Rpt. in Creating the Bill of Rights. Ed. Kenneth R. Bowling and Helen E. Veit. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. 193-97. Print.

The Congressional Register (August 18, 1789)

Moved, "That such of the amendments to the constitution proposed by the several states, as are not in substance comprised in the report of the select committee, appointed to consider amendments, be referred to a committee of the whole house; and that all amendments which shall be agreed to by the committee last mentioned, be included in one report.""
Remarked, that many citizens expected that the amendments proposed by the conventions, would be attended to by the house, and that several members conceived it to be their duty to bring them forward; if the house should decline taking them into consideration, it might tend to destroy that harmony which had hitherto subsisted, and which did great honor to their proceedings, it might effect all their future measures, and promote such feuds as might embarrass the government exceedingly. The states who had proposed these amendments would feel some degree of chagrin at having misplaced their confidence in the general government; five important states have pretty plainly expressed their apprehensions of the danger to which the rights of their citizens are exposed; finding these cannot be secured in the mode they had wished, they will naturally occur to the alternative, and endeavor to obtain a federal convention, the consequence of this may be disagreeable to the union; party spirit may be revived, and animosities rekindled obstructive of tranquillity. States that exert themselves to obtain a federal convention; and those that oppose the measure, may feel so strongly the spirit of discord as to sever the union asunder.
If in this conflict the advocates for a federal convention should prove successful, the consequences may be alarming, we may lose many of the valuable principles now established in the present constitution; if on the other hand a convention should not be obtained, the consequences resulting are equally to be dreaded, it would render the administration of this system of government weak, if not impracticable; for no government can be administered with energy, however energetic its system, unless it obtains the confidence and support of the people, which of the two evils is the greatest would be difficult to ascertain.
It is essential to our deliberations that the harmony of the house be preserved, by it alone we shall be enabled to perfect the organization of the government; a government but in embryo, or at best but in its infancy.
My idea, relative to this constitution whilst it was dependant upon the assent of the several states was, that it required amendment, and that the proper time for amendment was previous to the ratification; my reasons were, that I conceived it difficult, if not impossible to obtain essential amendments by the way pointed out in the constitution; nor have I been mistaken in this suspicion, it will be found, I fear, still more difficult than I apprehended, for perhaps these amendments, should they be agreed to, by two-thirds of both houses of congress, will be submitted for ratification to the legislatures of the several states, instead of state conventions, in which case the chance is still worse. The legislatures of almost all the states consist of two independent distinct bodies, the amendments must be adopted by three-fourths of such legislatures, that is to say, it must meet the approbation of the majority of each of eighteen deliberative assemblies. But notwithstanding all these objections to obtaining amendments after the ratification of the constitution, it will tend to give a great degree of satisfaction to those who are desirous of them, if this house shall take them up and consider them with that degree of candor and attention they have hitherto displayed on the subjects that have come before them; consider the amendments separately, and after fair deliberation, either approve or disapprove of them; by such conduct, we answer in some degree the expectations of those citizens in the several states who have shewn so great a tenacity to the preservation of those rights and liberties they secured to themselves by an arduous persevering, and successful conflict.
I have hopes that the states will be reconciled to this disappointment, in consequence of such procedure.
A great variety of arguments might be urged in favor of the motion; but I shall rest it here, and not trespass any further upon the patience of the house.
Was just going to move to refer these amendments, in order that they might be considered in the fullest manner; but it would be very inconvenient to have them made up into one report, or all of them discussed at the present time.
Had no objection to the bringing them forward in the fullest point of view; but his objection arose from the informality attending the introduction of the business.
The order of the house, was to refer the report of the committee of eleven to a committee of the whole, and therefore it was improper to propose any thing additional. A desultory conversation arose on this motion, when mr. Vining moved the previous question, in which being supported by five members, it was put, and the question was, shall the main question, to agree to the motion, be now put, the ayes and noes being demanded by one fifth of the members present, on this last motion they were taken.
So the motion was lost.
The house now resolved itself into a committee of the whole on the subject amendments, and took into consideration the 2d clause of the 7th proposition, in the words following, "The trial of all crimes (except in cases of impeachment, and in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia when in actual service in time of war, or public danger) shall be by an impartial jury of freeholders of the vicinage, with the requisite of unanimity for conviction, the right of challenge, and other accustomed requisites;7 and no person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment, or indictment, by a grand jury;8 but if a crime be committed in a place in the possession of an enemy, or in which an insurrection may prevail, the indictment and trial may by law be authorised in some other place within the same state; and if it be committed in a place not within a state, the indictment and trial may be at such place or places as the law may have directed."9
Moved to change the word "vicinage" into "district or county in which the offence has been committed," he said this was conformable to the practice of the state of South Carolina, and he believed to most of the states in the union, it would have a tendency also to quiet the alarm entertained by the good citizens of many of the states for their personal security, they would no longer fear being dragged from one extremity of the state to the other for trial, at the distance of 3 or 400 miles.
Thought the word "vicinage" was more applicable than that of "district, or county," it being a term well understood by every gentleman of legal knowledge.
The question on mr. Burke's motion being put was negatived.
Mr. BURKE then revived his motion for preventing prosecutions upon information, but on the question this was also lost.
The clause was now adopted without amendment.
The 3d clause of the 7th proposition as follows, "In suits at common law, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved," was considered and adopted.
The 8th proposition in the words following, was considered, "Immediately after art. 6, the following to be inserted as art. 7."
"The powers delegated by this constitution to the government of the United States, shall be exercised as therein appropriated, so that the legislative shall not exercise the powers vested in the executive or the judicial; nor the executive the power vested in the legislative or judicial; nor the judicial the powers vested in the legislative or executive."
Mr. SHERMAN conceived this amendment to be altogether unnecessary, inasmuch as the constitution assigned the business of each branch of the government to a separate department.
Supposed the people would be gratified with the amendment, as it was admitted, that the powers ought to be separate and distinct, it might also tend to an explanation of some doubts that might arise respecting the construction of the constitution. The house then took into consideration the amendments to the constitution.
Mr. LIVERMORE, thinking the clause subversive of the constitution, was opposed to it, and hoped it might be disagreed to. On the motion being put, the proposition was carried. The 9th proposition in the words following was considered, "The powers not delegated by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively."
Proposed to amend the proposition by prefixing to it, "all powers being derived from the people," thought this a better place to make this assertation than the introductory clause of the constitution, where a similar sentiment was proposed by the committee. He extended his motion also, to add the word "expressly" so as to read "The powers not expressly delegated by this constitution."
Mr. Madison Objected to this amendment, because it was impossible to confine a government to the exercise of express powers, there must necessarily be admitted powers by implication, unless the constitution descended to recount every minute. He remembered the word "expressly" had been moved in the convention of Virginia, by the opponents to the ratification, and after fill and fair discussion was give up to them, and the system allowed to retain its present form.
Mr. Sherman Coincided with mr. Madison in opinion, observing that corporate bodies are supposed to possess all powers incident to a corporate capacity, without being absolutely expressed.
Did not view the word "expressly" in the same light with the gentleman who opposed him, he though every power to be expressly given that could be clearly comprehended within any accurate definition of the general power.
Mr. Tucker's motion being negatived, The committee then rose and reported the amendments as amended by the committee.

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