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title:“William R. Davie in the North Carolina Convention”
authors:William Richardson Davie
date written:1788-7-25

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:56 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Feb. 22, 2024, 6:21 p.m. UTC

Davie, William Richardson. "William R. Davie in the North Carolina Convention." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

William R. Davie in the North Carolina Convention (July 25, 1788)

July 25, 1788.
Mr. Chairman, I will state to the committee the reasons upon which this officer was introduced. I had the honor to observe to the committee, before, the causes of the particular formation of the Senate — that it was owing, with other reasons, to the jealousy of the states, and, particularly, to the extreme jealousy of the lesser states of the power and influence of the larger members of the confederacy. It was in the Senate that the several political interests of the states were to be preserved, and where all their powers were to be perfectly balanced. The commercial jealousy between the Eastern and Southern States had a principal share in this business. It might happen, in important cases, that the voices would be equally divided Indecision might be dangerous and inconvenient to the public. It would then be necessary to have some person who should determine the question as impartially as possible. Had the Vice-President been taken from the representation of any of the states, the vote of that state would have been under local influence in the second. It is true he must be chosen from some state; but, from the nature of his election and office, he represents no one state in particular, but all the states. It is impossible that any officer could be chosen more impartially. He is, in consequence of his election, the creature of no particular district or state, but the officer and representative of the Union. He must possess the confidence of the states in a very great degree, and consequently be the most proper person to decide in cases of this kind.1 These, I believe, are the principles upon which the Convention formed this officer. . . .
The 1st clause of the 4th section read.
. . . Mr. Davie. Mr. Chairman, a consolidation of the states is said by some gentlemen to have been intended. They insinuate that this was the cause of their giving this power of elections. If there were any seeds in this Constitution which might, one day, produce a consolidation, it would, sir, with me, be an insuperable objection, I am so perfectly convinced that so extensive a country as this can never be managed by one consolidated government. The Federal Convention were as well convinced as the members of this house, that the state governments were absolutely necessary to the existence of the federal government. They considered them as the great massy pillars on which this political fabric was to be extended and supported; and were fully persuaded that, when they were removed, or should moulder down by time, the general government must tumble into ruin. A very little reflection will show that no department of it can exist without the state governments.
. . . The gentleman from Edenton (Mr. Iredell) has pointed out the reasons of giving this control over elections to Congress, the principal of which was, to prevent a dissolution of the government by designing states. If all the states were equally possessed of absolute power over their elections, without any control of Congress, danger might be justly apprehended where one state possesses as much territory as four or five others; and some of them, being thinly peopled now, will daily become more numerous and formidable. Without this control in Congress, those large states might successfully combine to destroy the general government. It was therefore necessary to control any combination of this kind.2
Another principal reason was, that it would operate, in favor of the people, against the ambitious designs of the federal Senate. I will illustrate this by matter of fact. The history of the little state of Rhode Island is well known. An abandoned faction have seized on the reins of government, and frequently refused to have any representation in Congress. If Congress had the power of making the law of elections operate throughout the United States, no state could withdraw itself from the national councils, without the consent of a majority of the members of Congress. Had this been the case, that trifling state would not have withheld its representation. What once happened may happen again; and it was necessary to give Congress this power, to keep the government in full operation. This being a federal government, and involving the interests of several states, and some acts requiring the assent of more than a majority, they ought to be able to keep their representation full. It would have been a solecism, to have a government without any means of self-preservation. The Confederation is the only instance of a government without such means, and is a nerveless system, as inadequate to every purpose of government as it is to the security of the liberties of the people of America. When the councils of America have this power over elections, they can, in spite of any faction in any particular state, give the people a representation.

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