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title:“Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention”
authors:Theophilus Parsons
date written:1788-1-21

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:56 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 5, 2023, 7:51 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. 1294-97. Print.
Massachusetts Archives

Theophilus Parson's Notes of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention (January 21, 1788)

Mr. PARSONS gives the reasons why two-thirds are necessary to expulsion.
Dr. TAYLOR objects. As to publishing journal from time to time, is uncertain; it means any thing or nothing.
Mr. KING says, the phrase must be determined according to the subject matter to which it is applied—from session to session. Mr. WEDGERY. He has no doubt as to the words "from time to time," but objects as to the clause of secrecy—each house may think it proper to keep every thing secret.
Mr. GORHAM. As to secrecy the interest of the State requires, many times, secrecy. No other government ever required in its Constitution that the journals should be published. In cases of treaties, secrecy is necessary.
Dr. TAYLOR. His only objection is, as to the time.
Rev. Mr. PERLEY. Alarms of Lexington—God raised up Washington, a better man than General Thompson. Should Washington have published his secret council to his armies, he could not have defied Gen. Howe, &c.
Dr. TAYLOR, to the sixth section. Under the old Confederation, each State paid its own delegates, and no corruption; is not for an alteration.
Col. PORTER. There has been complaint. Rhode Island would pay their delegates in paper money—some States have not sent because they had not money—equal, it should be a common charge—this Convention is so supported.
Mr. SEDGWICK. In favor of the section—the practice in every State.
Mr. KING. If the section does not take place the people may be deprived of privileges, by the legislatures refusing to make provision.
Paragraph, exclusion from office.
Mr. GORHAM. To take away all inducement to ill-administration, the exclusion was provided.
Mr. PARSONS added, that if a member was to resign, he could not take a place until the time for which he was elected was expired.
Section seventh—no debate.
Section eighth, first paragraph—for laying duty &c.
Gen. BROOKS, of Lincoln. Has doubts about the clause of the general welfare—whether there should not have been some limitation.
Gen. THOMPSON seems to think nobody now understands it.
Mr KING. The present clause the most important. We have already considered the organization of the legislature, and now come to powers to be vested in it. This Constitution is to be formed by the people, the old Confederation by the States—the old Confederation radically defective as to raising money. In Holland the several provinces never advanced the quota, though strictly bound—Holland, by force, compelled one of the states to pay its quota—to relieve the state, they used to demand double of what they wanted, and get what they could—Holland advanced almost the whole, and having but one vote, could never get the accounts settled. Considers the conduct of the several American States during the late war. Nobody will object to the impost and excise, but to direct taxation.
Hon. Mr WHITE. The other States will always out-vote us. As to Holland, they are already got into Lordships—no collecting the money but by the point of the sword—that is the design of this Constitution, after they have built the forts and got the ten miles square.
Mr. DAWES. The reason of giving this power is to render the sword unnecessary for without this power Congress cannot compel a State to pay without an army—perhaps Congress may never have the necessity as they now have imposts and excises. But Congress will not raise direct taxes but for necessity. They will be chosen by the people, and will feel as the people feel, and therefore will not abuse their power necessary that Congress should have the power of imposts and excises—that they encourage agriculture by checking the importation and consumption of foreign produce—necessity Congress having the regulation of commerce—talks about agriculture and manufactures—population from migration—convenient places for mills for manufacturing. But we cannot encourage manufactures until Congress have these powers—when they have these powers, Congress will have but little occasion for direct taxation—we may have war and want money—to collect it by requisition is nugatory—without an army—Congress will first demand it, and each State may raise it in such a way as they like best.
Mr. BODMAN. Objects to direct taxation. Congress should have some powers, but, it is difficult to draw the line, but it ought to be drawn between the sovereignty general government and of each State. Now the sovereignty of this State is given up, as the general government may prevent our collecting any taxes. Now if the power had been conditional, if a State refused, he should have no objection. Now Congress may prevent each State from supporting its own government.
Mr. SEDGWICK. The same objection applies as between a State and its towns—states the necessity of Congress having this power.
Mr. SINGLETARY. The power is unlimited in Congress—he objects against it—a new case—as much power as was ever given to a despotic prince—will destroy all power in this of raising taxes, and we have nothing left—the only security is, we may have an honest man, but we may not have—we may have an atheist, pagan, Mahommedan—must take care of posterity—few nations enjoy the liberty of Englishmen. Is for giving up some power but not every thing—no bill of rights—civil and sacred privileges will all go.
Gen. THOMPSON. He would not adopt the Constitution if it was perfect, till he saw what our sister States will do. Massachusetts being a leading State, ought to stand by. We send delegates to Convention to amend, and not make a new one. Only two of our delegates signed it—overpowered by Pennsylvania delegates. This Constitution will not help our trade—if the other States who have not paid, will not pay, we must make them by fair means—better draw than drive—we must support the old Confederation—if only nine accept, we cannot touch the other four—if we attempt to force them, we shall be torn to pieces, for foreign States will help them. The Constitution is in doubtful terms; it can't be understood. Union is necessary; division will destroy us.
Maj. KINSLEY. Power is not dangerous, if people have proper checks—checks were proper under the old Confederation—we have them not under the new. Under the old Confederation, the delegates were our servants; now they are our masters, and we have no control over any usurpation if theirs—they have all our money, a standing army, a Federal town/ Tells the story of the Devemviri, but mistakes it. The British Parliament first altered from annual the triennial, then to septennial—people uneasy under it—every session an exertion is made to repeal the setennial bill, but fails through bribery and corruption—our Senate, on an average, for four years—we shall soon see the time when bribery and corruption will be employed to obtain elections—under these circumstances, he is not for trusting these powers with any one body of me.

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