Notes of Alexander Hamilton in the Federal Convention of 1787. (1)

I. NOTES FOR JUNE 1, 1787.

See also James Madison's Notes for June 1

1-The way to prevent a majority from having an interest to oppress the minority is to enlarge the sphere.

2-Elective Monarchies turbulent and unhappy- Madison

Men unwilling to admit so decided a superiority of merit in an individual as to accede to his appointment to so preeminent a station-

If several are admitted as there will be many competitors of equal merit they may be all included-contention prevented-and the republican genius consulted-

I Situation of this Country peculiar- Randoph

II Taught the people an ervasion to Monarchy-

III All their constitutions opposed to it-

IV Fixed character of the people opposed to it-

V If proposed twill prevent a fair discussion of the plan.

VI Why cannot three execute? -Great exertions only requisite on particular occasions. View [or voice] of america

-Legislature may appoint a dictator when necessary- Safety to liberty the great object

-Seeds of destruction-Slaves-[former Continental army struck out] might be safely enlisted-

-May appoint men devoted to them-and even bribe the legislature by offices-

-Chief Magistrate must be free from impeachment extent-manners- Wilson

Confederated republic unites advantages and banishes disadvantages of other kinds of governments-

rendering the executive ineligible an infringement of the right of election-

peculiar talents requisite for executive, therefore ought to be opportunity of ascertaining his talents-therefore frequent change- Bedford

Princ 1 The further men are from the ultimate point of importance the readier they will be [to] concur in a change-

2 Civilization approximates the different species of governments-

3-Vigour is the result of several principles-Activity wisdom-confidence-

4-Extent of limits will occasion the non attendance of remote members and tend to throw the government into the hands of the Country near the seat of government-a reason for strengthening the upper branch and multiplying the Inducements to attendance-

II. NOTES FOR JUNE 6, 7, AND 8, 1787.

See also James Madison's Notes for June 6


A free government to be preferred to an absolute monarchy not because of the occasional violations of liberty or property but because of the tendency of the Free Government to interest the passions of the community in its favour beget public spirit and public confidence-

Re: When public mind is prepared to adopt the present plan they will outgo our proposition-They will never part with Sovereignty of the state till they are tired [?] of the state governments-

Mr. Pinkney. If Legislatures do not partake in the appointment of they will be more jealous

Pinckney-Elections by the state legislatures will be better than those by the people-

Principle-Danger that the Executive by too frequent communication with the judicial may corrupt it-They may learn to enter into his passions-

Note-At the period which terminates the duration of the Executive there will be always an awful crisis-in the National situation.

Note. The arguments to prove that a negative would not be used would go so far as to prove that the revisionary power would not be exercised.

Mr. Mason-The purse and sword will be in the hands of the [executive struck out]-legislature.

I One great defect of our Governments are that they do not present objects sufficiently interesting to the human mind.

I-A reason for leaving little or nothing to the state legislatures will be that as their objects are diminished they will be worse composed-Proper men will be less inclined to participate in them-

[June 7, 1787]

See also James Madison's Notes for June 7

II-He would have the state legislatures elect senators, because he would bring into the general government the sense of the state Governments etc. - Dickinson

II-because the most respectable choices would be made-

Note-Separate states may give stronger organs to their governments and engage more the good will of Ind: -while Genl. govt.

Consider the Principle of Rivalship by excluding the state Legislatures-

General government could not know how to make laws for every part-such as respect agriculture etc. = particular governments would have no defensive power unless let into the constitution as a Constituent part- Mason

[June 8, 1787.]

See also
James James Madison's Notes for June 8
Rufus King's Notes for June 8

Pinckney-For general Negative-

Gerry-Is for a negative on paper emissions-

New States will arise which cannot be controuled-and may outweigh and controul-

Wilson-Foreign influence may infect certain corners of confederacy what ought to be restrained-

Union basis of our oppos and Ind[ependence]:


See also James Madison's Notes for June 6


I-Human mind fond of Compromise-Maddisons Theory-

Two principles upon which republics ought to be constructed-

I that they have such extent as to render combinations on the ground of Interest difficult-

II By a process of election calculated to refine the representation of the People-

Answer-There is truth in both these principles but they do not conclude so strongly as he supposes-

-The Assembly when chosen will meet in one room if they are drawn from half the globe-and will be liable to all the passions of popular assemblies.

If more minute links are wanting others will supply them-Distinctions of Eastern middle and Southern states will come into view; between commercial and non commercial states-Imaginary lines will influence etc. Human mind prone to limit its view by near and local objects-

Paper money is capable of giving a general impulse-It is easy to conceive a popular sentiment pervading the E. states-

Observ: large districts less liable to be influenced by factious demmagogues than small-

Note-This is in some degree true but not so generally as may be supposed- Frequently small portions of the large districts carry elections-An influential demagogue will give an impulse to the whole-Demagogues are not always inconsiderable persons-Patricians were frequently demagogues-Characters are less known and a less active interest taken in them-

[June 8, 1787.]

See also
James James Madison's Notes for June 8
Rufus King's Notes for June 8

Arithmetical calculation of proportional influence in General Government-

Pensyl. and Delaware may have rivalship in commerce-and influence of Pens- sacrifice delaware

If there be a negative in G G-yet if a law can pass through all the forms of S-C it will require force to abrogate it.

Butler-Will a man throw afloat his property and confide it to a government a thousand miles distant?

IV. NOTES FOR JUNE 16 AND 19, 1787.

See also James Madison's Notes for June 16

Mr. Lansing-N[ew] S[ystem]-proposes to draw representation from the whole body of people, without regard to S[tate] sovereignties-

Subs: proposes to preserve the State Sovereignties-

Powers-Different Legislatures had a different object-

-Revise the Confederation-

Ind. States cannot be supposed to be willing to annihilate the States-

State of New York would not have agreed to send members on this ground-

In vain to devise systems however good which will not be adopted-

If convulsions happen nothing we can do will give them a direction-

Legislatures cannot be expected to make such a sacrifice-

The wisest men in forming a system from theory apt to be mistaken-

The present national government has no precedent or experience to support it-

General opinion that certain additional powers ought to be given to Congress-

Mr. Patterson-1-plan accords with powers

2-accords with sentiments of the People-

If Confederation radically defective we ought to return to our states and tell them so-

Comes not here to sport sentiments of his own but to speak the sense of his Constituents-

-States treat[ed] as equal-

Present Compact gives one Vote to each state.

alterations are to be made by Congress and all the Legislatures-

All parties to a Contract must assent to its dissolution-

States collectively have advantages in which the smaller states do not participate-therefore individual rules do not apply-

-Force of government will not depend on proportion of representation-but on

Quantity of power-

-Check not necessary in a ge[ne]ral government of communities-but

in an individual state spirit of faction is to be checked-

How have Congress hitherto conducted themselves?

The People approve of Congress but think they have not powers enough-

-body constituted like Congress from the fewness of their numbers more wisdom and energy-

than the complicated system of Virginia-

-Expence enormous-



Wilson-Points of Disagreement-                    
                   V-                                N J-           
 1 2 or three branches-                    One branch-              
 2 Derives authority from People-          from states-             
 3 Proportion of suffrage-                 Equality-                
 4-Single Executive-                       Plural-                  
 5-Majority to govern-                     Minority to govern-      
 6-Legislate in all matters of general     partial objects-         
 7 Negative-                               None-                    
 8 Removeable by impeachment-              on application of ma-    
                                            jority of Executives.   
 9-Qualified Negative by Executive-        None                     
10-Inf[erior]. tribunals-                  None-                    
11-Orig[inal]: Jurisdiction in all cases   None-                    
      of Nat: Rev-                                                  
12 National Government to be rati-         to be ratified by Legis- 
      fied by People-                      latures-                 

-Empowered to propose everything to conclude nothing-

-Does not think state governments the idols of the people-

Thinks a competent national government will be a favourite of the people-

Complaints from every part of United States that the purposes of government cannot be answered-

-In constituting a government-not merely necessary to give proper powers-but to give them to proper hands-

Two reasons against giving additional powers to Congress-

-First it does not stand on the authority of the people-

Second-It is a single branch-

Inequality-the poison of all governments-

-Lord Chesterfield speaks of a Commission to be obtained for a member of a small province-


Mr. Elsworth-

Mr. Randolp[h]-Spirit of the People in favour of the Virginian scheme-

We have powers; but if we had not we ought not to scruple-

[June 19, 1787.]

See also James Madison's Notes for June 19
Rufus King's Notes for June 19

Maddison-Breach of compact in one article releases the whole-

Treaties may still be violated by the states under the Jersey plan-

appellate jurisdiction not sufficient because second trial cannot be had under it-

Attempt made by one of the greatest monarchs of Europe to equalize the local peculiarities of their separate provinces-in which the Agent fell a victim

Mr. Pinckney is of opinion that the first branch ought to be appointed in such manner as the legislatures shall direct-

Impracticable for general legislature to decide contested elections-

V. NOTES FOR JUNE 20, 1787.

See also James Madison's Notes for June 20
Rufus King's Notes for June 20

Mr. Lansing-Resolved that the powers of legislation ought to be vested in the United States in Congress-

-If our plan be not adopted it will produce those mischiefs which we are sent to obviate-

Principles of system-

Equality of Representation-

Dependence of members of Congress on States-

So long as state distinctions exist state prejudices will operate whether election be by states or people-

-If no interest to oppress no need of apportionment-

-Virginia 16-Delaware 1-

-Will General Government have leisure to examine state laws-?

-Will G Government have the necessary information?

-Will states agree to surrender?

-Let us meet public opinion and hope the progress of sentiment will make future arrangements-

-Would like my [Hamilton's] system if it could be established

System without example-

Mr. Mason-Objection to granting power to Congress arose from their constitution.

Sword and purse in one body-

Two principles in which America are unanimous

1 attachment to Republican government

2-to two branches of legislature-

-Military force and liberty incompatible-

-Will people maintain a standing army?-

-Will endeavour to preserve state governments and draw lines-trusting to posterity to amend-

Mr. Martin-General Government originally formed for the preservation of state governments-

Objection to giving power to Congress has originated with the legislatures-

10 of the states interested in an equal voice-

Real motive was an opinion that there ought to be distinct governments and not a general government-

If we should form a general government twould break to pieces-

-For common safety instituted a General gover[n]ment-

Jealousy of power the motive-

People have delegated all their authority to state governments-

Caution necessary to both systems-

Requisitions necessary upon one system as upon another-

In their system made requisitions necessary in the first instance but left Congress in the second instance to assess themselves-

Judicial tribunals in the different states would become odious-

If we always to make a change shall be always in a state of infancy-

States will not be disposed hereafter to strengthen-the general government.

Mr. Sherman-Confederacy carried us through the war-

Non compliances of States owing to various embarrassments.

Why should state legislatures be unfriendly?

State governments will always have the confidence and government of the people; if they cannot be conciliated no efficacious government can be established.

Sense of all states that one branch is sufficient-

If consolidated all treaties will be void.

State governments more fit for local legislation customs habits etc.


See also James Madison's Notes for June 26

I Every government ought to have the means of self preservation

II-Combinations of a few large states might subvert

II-Could not be abused without a revolt

II Different genius of the states and different composition of the body

NOTE. Senate could not desire [?] to promote such a class

III Uniformity in the time of elections-

Objects of a Senate

To afford a double security against Faction in the house of representatives

Duration of the Senate necessary to its Firmness


sense of national character


(1) Text reprinted from the American Historical Review, Vol. X, (Washington, 1905-6) PP.98-109. Back

Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States.
Government Printing Office, 1927.
House Document No. 398.
Selected, Arranged and Indexed by Charles C. Tansill
127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.