Log In Register

Source & Citation Info

title:“Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention”
authors:Theophilus Parsons
date written:1788-1-17

permanent link
to this version:
last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:28 a.m. UTC
retrieved:March 1, 2021, 10:31 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. 1240-43. Print.

Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention (January 17, 1788)

Hon. Mr. WHITE objects to the qualifications, as no value in property is required; for I may have three sons, who may have spent two or three thousand dollars that I have given them, and then get into Congress and serve the State in the same manner.
Mr. PIERCE says he has the same objection, for he should not choose to trust any man with his concerns who had no property; and why should we trust a man in public matters?
Hon. Mr. SEDGWICK says, this objection is democratic; the people may choose at large, and no man without property will ever be chosen, unless he is a man of great talents and virtues.
Gen. THOMPSON thinks the objection of no weight, as the poor man has generally as much integrity as a rich man.
Hon. Mr. KING thinks property no mark of integrity or talents. Those who have ruined the liberties of their country, were generally rich. If a certain property was required, still it could not be ascertained whether the elected was qualified in point of property or not. If property was required, the different States would have different ideas on the subject. The old Confederation requires no property. As to the exclusion of men of advanced years, there is a difficulty; for in the southern States an old man, is, in the eastern States a man of vigor and maturity of judgment.
Mr. JONES, of Bristol. I could not hear him.
Mr. BACKUS. in Connecticut there is no exclusion on account of age, and no inconvenience has resulted from it.
Mr. HUBBARD. in Connecticut no qualification in point of property is required of the electors, which is the reason why the elected there have no qualifications for electors, therefore there should be for the elected.
Hon. Mr. DANA. If we consider the impossibility of ascertaining the quantum of property, we shall be satisfied. Beside, why should we bridle the people in their elections? and in framing the Constitution the Convention have acted wisely.
Mr. DENCH thinks the objection of no weight, from the great number of electors every representative should have.
Mr. THOMAS, of Middleborough, thinks they should have property, otherwise they cannot feel the burdens they lay on the people.
Hon. Mr. DANA. The people will take care of that. If a man has not property they will not choose him, unless he has qualifications that can dispense with his poverty.
Mr. WEDGERY thinks there can be no weight in the objection. Rich men will most commonly be the object of their choice.
Ordered to proceed to the next paragraph, vix.: "Representatives and direct taxes, &c., &c.-Georgia three."
Hon. Mr. KING. The principal on which this paragraph is founded is, that taxation and representation should go hand in hand. By the Confederation, the apportionment is upon surveyed land, the buildings and improvements. The rule could never be assessed. A new rule has been proposed by Congress, similar to the the present rule, which has been adopted by eleven States-all but New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
Mr. WEDGERY objects to the rule, as apprentices are not freeman, but blunders about it.
Mr. King explains-
Mr. SHURTLEFF. His difficulty is, our negroes are free, but those of other states are not. But the number of representatives first chosen-
Gen. THOMPSON. The rule is unequal; as we have more children than the luxurious inhabitants of the southern States. Congress will have no impost or excise, but lay the whole tax on polls. We live longer thtan they live. We live to one hundred; they to forty.
Dr. TAYLOR. If eleven States have agreed to the rule of polls, twelve have agreed to alter the Confederation. So the agreement of eleven States is no reason. But I object to another part; the number of representatives shall not exceed one to thirty thousand. The representation will not be numerous enough. It may be objected, that if a larger number, it would be unwieldly-but it is not unwieldly. It may not be increased, it may be said, and that we may increase the expense. But the expense will be trifling, compared to the advantage to let every class be represented. The additional expense is but three pence per poll. Supposed twelve instead of eight, at forty shillings per day. The smallest representation that ever was. It is trifling.
Mr. WEDGERY wants to know whether all white infants are free persons? If they are, we are over-taxed.
Hon. Mr. KING. All persons born free are counted among free persons, to which three-fifths of all persons born or imported slaves, make the census.
Mr. WEDGERY. If Mr. King is right, the we shall pay one-quarter of the debt.
Mr. GORHAM. Mr. Wedgery is totally in the wrong. It will lessen our old proportion nearly one-seventh. As eleven States have agreed to this rule, among which was Massachusetts, it is a rule most likely to be adopted, As to representation mentioned-
Col. FULLER. The arguments against the representation are groundless. As the rule of proportion is by numbers, five slaves to three freemen is but equal, for slaves are but chattels.
Hon. Mr. DANA. If this government was a consolidation and not a confederation, he should then think the number too small. But as it is Federal, and we have our own governments to support, the expense would have been too great. We can send seven on the old plan, but have only sent four of five, which proves the sense of the people not to have a large representation. The Constitution proves for increasing the representatives. 'Tis true Congress are not bound to increase representation as numbers increase, nor should they; for, from the rapidity of population, the representation would be enormous. We can instruct our representatives; they will not dare to disobey them. The old rule of apportionment by lands was against this State. Our lands are worth more by acre. Lands cultivated by slaves are not worth as much as lands cultivated by freeman. Slaves are their masters' moneys, and at their risk, and it would be unjust to tax a slave as much as a freeman. If we think there should be a difference, the only question would be, what difference. The States have agreed, in Convention, on materials, which we have not. The southern States have not half the value of the buildings we have, arising from the climate and manner of living.
Hon. Mr. WHITE. If we are to be taxed by numbers, it will ruin all the poor people; but I do not understand the matter, and will wait to hear it explained.
Mr. SHURTLEFF wants to know whether five smart negro slaves are to be equal to three of our children?
Mr. NASSON thinks both sides should be stated. Mr. King says five of their infant slaves are equal to three of our governors; but three of our infants are equal to five of their healthy strong slaves. Besides, though our climates make us build houses, yet we have to work all summer for winter. Also, the representation is unequal between us and New Hampshire; also, our negroes are all free, and theirs are slaves.
Mr. RANDAL. Lands in the southern States are as good as ours; if not better. It produces every thing. Mr. Dana is mistaken; but as to the slaves, he is about right. The laboring part of the free men in the southern States can live upon two days' work, as easily as we can upon six. They can work all winter, we cannot.

Resource Metadata






Annotations (0)