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title:“Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention”
authors:Theophilus Parsons
date written:1788-1-15

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:08 a.m. UTC
retrieved:June 6, 2023, 3:44 p.m. UTC

Parsons, Theophilus. "Theophilus Parson's Notes 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. 1206-08. Print.
Massachusetts Archives

Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention (January 15, 1788)

The paragraph in debate was the biennial election of the representatives.
CALEB STRONG. State the grounds proceeded on in Federal Convention; determined at first to be triennial; afterwards reduced to biennial; South Carolina having at home biennial elections, and it was a compromise.
FISHER AIMS. People cannot, without a representation, exercise any powers but pulling down a government. Man has no natural liberty in a state of nature, because he has no security for it, Too long or too short a time for elections is dangerous and inconvenient, The time must be regulated by the nature of the business the representatives have to do. 1. The extensive dominion to be governed. 2. The object of legislation. 3. The security of the liberties of the people.
GILBERT DENCH. Immaterial whether biennial or annual. My difficulty is, whether biennial elections are secured to the people in the fourth section. He was called to order, for reasoning on that section, by Mr. Dana. After debate, Mr. Dench stated, he was satisfied he was out of order.
Gov. BOWDOIN. Thought that Dench was in order. He was called to order by Mr. Parsons, when, after some debate, the following question was put:-
To reconsider the order of the debate passed yesterday, so far as to amend it by allowing any member to refer to any other paragraph which in his opinion relates to the paragraph under debate, and it passed in the affirmative.
Then Gov. BOWDOIN arose. There was no reason for annual elections arising from the course of the sun, for the time of election would then be varied in every planet. He then argued in favor of a biennial election. 1. There was no danger, as they cannot alter the Constitution. 2. They can lay no burdens but such as they bear their part of. 3. A shorter election would not give sufficient time for information.
Gen. HEATH showed the importance of the subject from the extent of country. Opinions of the best writers show that short elections are necessary. Montequieu says more than a year would be dangerous. In this country we have always had annual elections; that length of time is necessary to acquaint themselves with their business is a novel observation, for being a representative of the people implies a knowledge of their circumstances. While sitting in Congress how can they learn the situation of other States? Members of the British Parliament return home for the knowledge of the situation of their constituents. He was, however, in favor of biennial elections, as there will be but one session in a year, and all the business not being then done will be left, if the same body cannot meet again.
CHARLES TURNER, Esq. Is for a year, because it is the most proper length of time. If we allow two years, then by some means or other there will be a stretch as long as the new star's revolution.
Mr. DAWES. Montesquieu's opinion applies only to single governments, not to a confederated one.
Gen. BROOKS, of Medford. Montesquieu gives the greatest plaudits to the British government, where elections were never annual. In answer to the objection that biennial elections are novel: But our situation is new-which-he states-rising from dependent colonies to independent States. Then reasons from the state of parliaments in Europe.
Gen. SAM. THOMPSON. Argues for frequent reelections, because if the administration had not been changed for last year, we should now be in blood. He was called to order by Dr. Jarvis. After debate, it was moved that he proceed. Then Dr. Spring presented a letter to the Convention from Mr. Gerry. After some debate, a motion was made to adjourn, which passed in the affirmative.

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