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title:“Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention”
authors:Theophilus Parsons
date written:1788-1-19

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:12 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 19, 2024, 11:38 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. 1262-64. Print.
Massachusetts Archives

Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention (January 19, 1788)

Proceeded to the next paragraph—no debate. To the next—no debate. To the next—the Senate—
Mr. COOLEY. As it has been proved that the biennial elections are better than annual, so sexennial are better; therefore, we had better proceed.
Hon. Mr. SINGLETARY is against the Senate being chosen for six years—they may make themselves perpetual—will move their families there—have high wages no religion is necessary—we may have an atheist or a pagan.
Dr. DAVIS. Mr Singletary has not reverted to the rotation. There will probably be but one session in a year and there is no reason to suppose senators for so short a time will carry their families with them.
Mr. SHURTLEFF. The rotation is only in the first choice; afterwards there is no rotation.
Dr. TAYLOR. The rotation is a shadow and not a substance, and will be no security for the people. There will be more than one session; probably they will be there all the time.
Mr. DAWES. The senators can never feel independent; every two years one-third will come fresh from the people. They ought to have a longer tenure than the representatives, as a balance; and their business being more difficult, they should have more time to inform themselves.
Gen. THOMPSON is against the power of the Senate, as each State, however small, has as much influence as a great State.
Mr. SINGLETARY repeats his old objections, and wishes to have it discussed fully.
Mr. COOLEY is against the present mode of arguing. We should confine ourselves to mere inquiry and information, and not go so deep into the merits of the several paragraphs.
Gen. BROOKS, of Medford. His object is to grant the necessary powers for the benefit of the people, and then to provide suitable checks; that is the case here. 1. The choice by the legislatures. 2. They feel all the inconveniences they lay on others. 3. They can do nothing without the consent of the representatives, who will always watch over them, and impeach them if they behave amiss.
Mr. WEDGERY. They are only answerable to their constituents, by not being rechosen at the end of six years.
Mr. Gerry's answer in writing, produced and filed—respecting Georgia having three representatives.
Mr. KING will give the answer which he does at large. The estimate by which the requisitions are made, was made in 1782; no alteration since. Georgia has great additions and emigration, and is now in an Indian war Connecticut and New Hampshire have paid nothing. If I was for it now it is improper till we are more united.
Mr. DAWES reads resolves of Congress to support Mr King's statements.
Mr. Dalton. All the difficulties Gen. Thompson has made, show the necessity of adopting this government, to do us justice.
Hon. Mr. DANA says the reason why the small States have the same weight in the Senate, is because the Senate represents the sovereignty. The large gain by having the popular branch introduced.
Hon. Mr. STRONG. There were large debates on this subject in the Convention. The Convention would have broke up if it had not been agreed to allow an equal representation in the Senate. It was an accommodation, reported by a Committee, of which Mr. Gerry was one.
Mr. JONES, of Bristol, objects to length of time for which the Senate are chosen. Is for their being chosen annually. If they behave well, they may be rechosen, otherwise they ought not. Senators will now carry their families with them to the seat of government, and forget their own States. We had not yet asked advice of God about it. Should have had a fast before. He moved for one in the house; he was not seconded. We have hurried too much, and the election of delegates to this Convention, was too soon. We first must adore God.
Mr. AMES. Senate not chosen for too long a time. Consolidation not proper—country too large for that purpose. We must guardagainst the consolidation of the States—representation must therefore be equal among the States in the Union who represent the sovereignty. They should have a longer tenure than the representatives—their business is more important—they negotiate with foreign powers—2and every two years one-third of the Senate will return to the people.3
Mr. SHURTLEFF. The Convention says they aimed at consolidating the Union.
Mr. PARSONS. The distinction is between consolidation of the States, and a consolidation of the Union.
Mr. JONES, of Bristol, is still for annual elections—great danger from a longer time.
Mr. KING. The average length of time is but four years, for every time If one-third is chosen, one-third will vacate in two years, and one-third in four years. As to their forgetting their States, the legislature will instruct them from time to time.5 No senator will dare to disobey—necessary they have time to inquire into the character of men, as they advise to the appointment of officers,6 and negotiate with foreign States.7 Dr. Taylor. Mr King's object is to show that the election of senators is not sexennial, and that the States have a greater check now than in the old Confederation. But they are always chosen for six years, and the check under the new Constitution is not so great—they are chosen annually—a rotation—and are liable to be recalled.
Mr. COOLEY. Experience teaches us that rulers should be under restraint. Congress have great powers—sometimes a majority of a quorum is required—sometimes two-thirds present, as in treaties.
Gen. BROOKS, of Lincoln, denies the fact.
Mr. REED moves Mr Gerry may be asked about the matter. Then Mr. Gerry said he was putting in writing state of facts upon this matter.

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