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title:“Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention”
authors:Theophilus Parsons
date written:1788-1-18

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:24 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 2, 2023, 2:09 a.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. 1246-48. Print.
Massachusetts Archives

Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention (January 18, 1788)

Mr. DALTON is in favor of the method of fixing the census; it is much in our favor.
Mr. COOLEY asks how the direct [tax] is to be apportioned among the inhabitants of any State?
Gen. Brooks, of Lincoln. No rule is fixed in the Constitution; that is a legislative act, for Congress to determine.
Mr. RANDAL wants to know how far Mr. Dalton has travelled. Denies Mr. Dalton's facts.
Dr. HOLTON rises to give light; mentions the old rule of the census; found impracticable; compelled to have recourse to numbers, after long debate. As to the rule of representing a State's proportion, Congress must hereafter determine the matter, and make an internal tax, which is an imperium in imperio; it will bring on a war. I think the new rule is not in our favor, but am in favor of it, for it is all the rule we can get.
Dr. DAVIS wants to know of Dr. Holton, why our proportion has been lessened?
Dr. HOLTON does not recollect, but Massachusetts always insisted we stood too high; but the reduction was on no fixed principle.
SAM. THOMPSON. What States, in the debate, opposed the rule of numbers? Asks Dr Holton.
Dr. HOLTON does not recollect. He was against the rule of numbers, because the southern States had more land and less numbers, than the eastern.
Hon. Mr DANA. Answers Dr. Davis's question, as it lays in his mind. The reason why our taxes were higher during the war than since, was because we were free from the public enemy and money must be obtained where it could be had. Since the war other States have been recovering.
Mr. DAWES observes that Dr. Holton likes this paragraph, if the Constitution prevails. Mr. Randal need no longer lament the want of abilities and eloquence on his side, since Dr. Holton has spoken. But to the question. Though slaves are reckoned five equal to three now yet in a few years slavery must be abolished, and in the mean time, slaves may be taxed on importation, sixty shillings per head. Slavery will not die of an apoplexy but of a consumption. As to direct taxation, Congress now have powers to make requisitions, but not to enforce them. Considers the revenue, as it relates to borrowing money abroad. Congress may never exercise direct taxes. Lands are not a proper rule of census; numbers are a better rule.
Mr. RANDAL. Sorry to hear it said that after 1808 negroes would be free. If a southern man heard it, he would call us pumpkins.
Mr. WEDGERY objects to Mr Dana's description of the southern States. Their land is better than ours.
Mr. DANA says he never compared the value of the eastern or southern lands; he compared only the mode of cultivation.
Mr. WEDGERY says if this rule is for an equal poll tax, he has no objection. But for a rule apportionment, it is unjust, southern land being better than ours. In Virginia, one thousand acres has forty-eight polls; in Massachusetts, a family of six, to fifty acres, makes one hundred and twenty polls to the one thousand acres. In legislation, one southern man with sixty slaves, will have as much influence as thirty-seven freemen in the eastern States.
Mr. STRONG. This mode of census is not new. Our General Court have considered it, and the General Court have agreed. The southern States have their inconveniences; none but negroes can work there; the buildings are worth nothing. When the delegates were apportioned, forty thousand was the number. Massachusetts had eight, and a fraction; New Hampshire two, and a large fraction. New Hampshire was allowed three, &c. Representation is large enough, because no private local interests are concerned. Very soon, as the country increases, it will be larger. He considered the increasing expense. Mr. WEDGERY asks whether the poverty of our lands was considered?
Mr. RANDAL talks a great deal, and says, as he sits down, that he has done better than he expected.
Mr. -, of Kittery, spoke against the slave trade. We shall all suffer for joining with them, when they allow the slave trade.
Mr. CABOT asks the gentleman from Sharon [Benjamin Randall], whether, in his five hundred miles travel, he saw five thousand people who live as well as five thousand people of the lowest sort here. As to the slave trade, the southern States have the slave trade and are sovereign States. This Constitution is the best way to get rid of it.
Mr. RANDAL says he believes he has, but is not certain. If they do not, it is their own fault.
Mr. NASSON. Southern States are not poor.
Gen. THOMPSON. As to age-slavery-religion.
Adjourned to 3 o'clock.

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