Notes of Rufus King in the Federal Convention of 1787 (1)
May 31 June 4 June 8 June 9 June 18 June 20 June 25 June 27
June 28 June 29 June 30 July 5 July 7 July 15 August 7 August 8

Among the manuscripts in the handwriting of Rufus King is one containing an abstract of a portion of the debates in the Convention for the formation of the Constitution, which appears to have been made as the debate proceeded. The copy was written out, nearly verbatim, by him, somewhere about 1818-21 (2) (for the paper bears the watermark of 1818), from rough notes taken at the time. It will be observed that he does not reproduce his own remarks, except in speeches on the powers of the Convention. There is no new information as to the proceedings, or the opinions of members of the Convention, but the reports previously published in the Madison and Yates papers are corroborated in these.


See also James Madison's Notes for May 31

House of Representatives to be elected by the People.

Gerry opposes. Appointment by the State Legislature preferable, because the People want information.

Mason, Virginia-in favor of popular choice, because the first Branch is to represent the People. We must not go too far. A portion of Democracy should be preserved; our own children in a short time will be among the general mass.

Wilson of Penn. agrees with Mason. We ought to adopt measures to secure the popular confidence, and to destroy the Rivalry between the Genl. and State Governments; in this way both will proceed immediately from the People.

Madison agrees with Wilson. The measure immediately introduces the People, and will naturally inspire the affection for the Genl. Govt. that exists toward our own offspring. A legislative appointment will remove the Govt. too far from the People. In Maryland the Senate is two Removes from the People, and a Deputy appointed by them would be three Removes off; and if the first Branch appoint the second, the Deputy wd. be four Removes-and if the Legislature of the U. S. appoint the President or Executive, the Executive wd. be five Removes from the People. If the Election be made by the People in large Districts, there will be no danger of Demagogues.

Measure carried. That first Br. be elected by People of the several States. Mass. N. Y. Penn. Virginia. N. Car. & Georgia-aye. Con. & Del. divided N. Jersey & S. Carolina,-No.

Friday June 1. Com. of the whole.

Executive power to be in one person.

Motion by Wilson Penn. Seconded by Chs. Pinckney So. Car.

Rutledge in favor of the motion.

Sherman preferred leaving the number to the Legislature.

Wilson. An Executive should possess the Power of secresy, vigour & Dispatch, and so constituted as to be responsible. Executive powers are intended for the execution of the Laws, and the appointment of officers not otherwise appointed: a single Executive may be responsible, but a numerous one cannot be responsible.

Madison agreed with Wilson in the Definition of Executive power. Ex vi termini. Executive power does not include the Power of War and Peace. Executive Power shd. be limited and defined. If large, we shall have the Evils of Elective Monarchies. Perhaps the best plan will be a single Executive of long duration, with a Council and with Liberty to dissent on his personal Responsibility.

Gerry. I am in favor of a Council to advise the Executive: they will be organs of information respecting Persons qualified for the various offices. Their opinions may be recorded, so as to be liable to be called to account & impeached-in this way, their Responsibility will be certain, and for misconduct their Punishment sure.

Dickinson. A limited yet vigorous Executive is not republican, but peculiar to monarchy-the royal Executive has vigour, not only by power, but by popular Attachment & Report-an Equivalent to popular attachment may be derived from the Veto on the Legislative acts. We cannot have a limited monarchy-our condition does not permit it. Republics are in the beginning and for a time industrious, but they finally destroy themselves because they are badly constituted. I dread the consolidation of the States, & hope for a good national Govt. from the present Division of the States with a feeble Executive.

We are to have a Legislature of two branches, or two Legislatures, as the sovereign of the nation-this will work a change unless you provide that the judiciary shall aid and correct the Executive. The first Branch of the Legislature, the H. of Representatives, must be on another plan. The second Branch or Senate may be on the present scheme of representing the States-the Representatives to be apportioned according to the Quotas of the States paid into the general Treasury. The Executive to be removed from office by the national Legislature, on the Petition of seven States.

Randolph-by a single Executive, there will be danger of Monarchy or Tyranny. If the Executive consist of three persons, they may act without danger. If of one, he will be dependent on the Legislatures & cannot be impeached till the Expiration of his Office. A single Executive against the Genius of America.

Wilson-There are two important Points to be considered, the extent of the Country & the Manners of the People of the U. S.-the former requires the Vigour of Monarchy, the latter, are against a Kingly Executive, our manners are purely republican.

Montesquieu is favorable to confederated Republics-I also am in favor of this Scheme, if we can take for its Basis, Liberty, and are able to ensure a vigourous execution of the Laws. A single executive is not so likely so soon to introduce Monarchy or Despotism, as a complex one. The People of America did not oppose the King, but the Parliament-Our opposition was not against a Unity, but a corrupt Multitude.

Williamson-There is no true difference between an Executive composed of a single person, with a Council, and an Executive composed of three or more persons.

The Question postponed.

After debating the Powers, the Committee proceeded to discuss the Duration of the Executive Power.

Wilson proposed three years, without rotation or exclusion

Madison proposed good behaviour, or Seven years with exclusion for ever afterward.

Mason-In favor of Seven years, and future ineligibility-by this Provision the executive is made independent of the Legislature, who may be his Electors-if re-elected, he will be complaisant to the Legislature to obtain their favor & his own Re-election.

On the Question for Seven years-Mass. Gerry & Strong, no. Gorham & King aye- divided. (3) Cont. N. C., S. C. & G. no. N. Y. N. J. Penn. Del. Virginia aye. 5 ayes, 4. nos-1. divided. So the blank filled.


See also James Madison's Notes for June 4

Unity of Executive-power resumed.

On Question of a single executive carried thus.

Mass. Cont. N. Y. Penn. Virg. N. C., S. Car. Georg. -Ay. N. J. Del. Mar. - No.

Motion by Gerry seconded by Mr. King, to postpone the article for a Council of Revision, and to vest a qualified Negative in the Executive.

Affirmative all the States except Cont. & Mard.

Wilson second Hamilton-proposed a complete Negative in the Executive. The natural operation of the Legislature will be to swallow up the Executive power: divided power becomes the object of contest; if the powers are equal, each will preserve its own-otherwise the strongest will acquire the whole.

Butler opposed-because it will become a King.

Franklin opposed-Our former Govt. in Penn. abused this power of a full Negative and extorted money from the Legislature, before he would sign their acts-in one instance he refused his Signature to a Bill to march the Militia agt. the Indians, till the Bill exempted from Taxes the Estate of the Proprietors on account of the expense of the Militia.

One man cannot be believed to possess more wisdom than both Branches of the Legislature-the Royal Negative has not been exercised since the Revolution; he easily does by corruption what could be done with some risk by his negative.

Madison-opposed-No man would dare negative a Bill unanimously passed. It is even doubtful whether the King of England wd have Firmness enough to do so.

Mason-opposed-We have voted that the executive power be vested in one person- it is now proposed to give this person a negative in all cases-you have agreed that he shall appoint all officers, not otherwise to be appointed, and those he has not the sole power to appoint, you propose to grant to him the power to negative-with these powers the Executive may soon corrupt the Legislature-the Executive will become a monarchy. We must regard the Genius of our People, which is Republican, & will not receive a King.

Franklin-The Prince of Orange at first had limited Powers, and his office was for Life-his son raised a faction & caused himself to be declared hereditary-we may meet the same fate.

Unanimous negative, except Wilson, Hamilton, King.

Madison-The judiciary ought to be introduced in the business of Legislation- they will protect their department, and united with the Executive make its negatives more strong. There is weight in the objections to this measure-but a check on the Legislature is necessary, Experience proves it to be so, and teaches us that what has been thought a calumny on a republican Govt. is nevertheless true-In all Countries are diversity of Interests, the Rich & the Poor, the Dr. & Cr., the followers of different Demagogues, the Diversity of religious Sects-the Effects of these Divisions in ancient Govts. are well known, and the like causes will now produce like effects. We must therefore introduce in our system Provisions against the measures of an interested majority-a check is not only necessary to protect the Executive power, but the minority in the Legislature. The independence of the Executive, having the Eyes of all upon him will make him an impartial judge-add the Judiciary, and you greatly increase his respectability.

Wilson-Wilson moved and Madison seconds, that the judiciary be added to the Executive in revising the Laws.

Dickinson opposed-you shd. separate the Departments-you have given the Executive a share in Legislation; and it is asked why not give a share to the judicial power. Because the Judges are to interpret the Laws, and therefore shd. have no share in making them-not so with the executive whose causing the Laws to be executed is a ministerial office only. Besides we have experience in the Br. Constitution which confers the Power of a negative on the Executive.

the motion was withdrawn.


Wilson proposes that the judiciary be appointed by the National Executive, because he will be responsible.

Rutledge opposes, because the States generally appoint by their Legislatures.

Franklin-The 15 Lords of Sessions in Scotland are appointed by the Barristers or Doctors-these elect the most learned of their own order, because he has the most Business, wh. afterwards is divided among themselves.

Madison-in favor of further deliberation. Perhaps the appointment shd. be by the Senate-

Postponed-N. H., Mass, NY, Penn & Md. by the Executive power R. Island by the People-Con. N. J. Del. Virg. N. Car. & So. Car elect Judges by Legislatre.

Rutledge proposes to have a supreme Natl. Tribunal but no subordinate ones, except those established by the States respectively.

Wilson of a different opinion.

Dickinson-the State & Genl. Tribunals will interfere-we must have a National Tribunal-entire and proceeding from the Genl Govt.

Madison-proposed to vest the Genl. Govt. with power to establish an independent Judiciary, to be co-extensive with the nation. Ayes, 5, No, 4, divided 2.


Chs. Pinckney-proposes that the Representatives shd. be chosen by the Legislatures & not by the People-as the old members of Congress are chosen.

Gerry-proposes that the People shd. elect double the requisite number, and out of them the Legislature to choose the authorized number of each State. The People may be imposed upon by corrupt and unworthy men.

Wilson-Representatives shd. be elected by the People, thereby we shall come nearer to the will or sense of the majority-If you give the Election to the State Legislatures, you give it to the Rivals of the general Govt.-the People having parted with sufficient Powers, it remains only to divide these Powers between the Genl. & State Govts.

The People will love & respect the Genl. Govt., if it is founded on their consent & derived from them-it will acquire rank above the State Govts.

Mason-at Present the Reps. in Congress do not represent the People but the States-It is now proposed to form a Gov. for men, not for States-therefore draw the Reps. from the People-the Representation to be faithful shd. shew the Defects of the People; if not, how are they to be corrected? A Representation proceeding from the Legislatures will not afford this correction.

Suppose a majority of the Legislature to be in favor of Paper money, or some other bad measure, would they not elect Members to Congress, holding the same opinions?

Sherman-If the State Govts. remain, they shd. appoint Representatives to Congress-if they are to be swept away, then the People must elect,-the State Govts. must continue-few objects in this case will be before the Genl. Govt.- for war, treaties & commerce-Let the Genl. Govt. be a collateral Govt. to secure the States in particular Exigencies-for war, or war between the States.

I am opposed to a Genl. Govt. & in favor of the independence & Confederation of the States-give the Genl. Govt. powers to regulate Commerce, drawing therefrom a Revenue.

Dickinson-We cannot form a Genl. Gov. unless we draw a Branch from the People, and a Br. from the Legislatures of the States-in theory this is requisite, and to the success of the scheme, it is also essential-the objection to popular Elections arise from the nature of free Govts. and are slight in comparison with the Excellence of such Govts.-the other Branch or Senate must come from the State Legislatures-they will thereby be more respectable, and for Respectability & Duration resemble the Br. H. of Lords. They can come from Legislatures who are & have been opposed to the general Govt.-they shd. be appointed for 3, 5 or 7 years, not subject to a recall and dependent on the Genl. Gov. for support.

Read-We must come to a consolidation-State Govts. must be swept away-we had better speak out-that the People will disapprove is perhaps a mistake-the State Magistrates may disapprove but the People are with us.

Genl. Pinckney-An election in South Carolina by the people is impracticable- the settlements are so sparse, that four or five thousand cannot be assembled to give their votes. I am in favor of an Election by the Legislatures-in So. Carolina the Legislature is against the issue of Paper Money with a tender, but in my Opinion a majority of the People are in favor thereof.

Wilson-I would preserve the State Govts.-there is no danger of their being swallowed up by the Genl. Govt.-the States have overpowered the Confederated Governments-The Amphictionic Council & the Achaean League were destroyed by the encroachments of the Members.

Madison-The Election may be safely made by the People, if you enlarge the sphere of Election-Experience shows this-if bad Elections be made by the People, it will be found to happen in small Districts.

Butler-Until the Ratio be fixed, I am opposed to settling the mode of Election; if this be established on a principle favorable to Wealth as well as numbers of free Inhabitants, I am content to unite with Delaware (Mr. Read) in abolishing the State Legislatures and becoming one nation instead of a Confederacy of Republics.

On question to choose Reps. by States Legislatures-

Con., N. Jersey & S. Car. aye. The Eight other States-no.

Motion by Wilson seconded by Madison.

To reconsider the partial Negative by the Pr. to vest this power in him jointly with the Judiciary-

Madison-A check requisite, to prevent legislative encroachment in the Judiciary, the Executive, or on private Rights.

By the judiciary Union, the check is increased in power and respectability-the Ex. alone is too weak-the King of Eng. wd. hesitate to negative a Bill unanimously passed by Parliament.

Gerry-The motion aims to unite Departments wh. ought to be separate-the union destroys Responsibility.

Chs. Pinckney-opposed as it destroys Responsibility.

Mason-The Purse & the sword must not be in the same Hands-if so, and the Legislature are able to raise revenue and make and direct war, I shall agree to a Restriction in the Executive, or in a Council of Revision.

Dickinson-hurry, vigour and Despatch are not properties of a Republic-we cannot have these in a Council-but Responsibility of such immense value, we can have by a single Executive-unite the judiciary and you lose Responsibility-the measure is furthermore bad by uniting Departments which should be separate and independent. It will require as great talents & firmness to discharge the other executive Duties, as to interpose a veto on the Laws, wh. shall require two thirds of both branches of the Legislature to remove.

We have not introduced a plurality in the Executive in the former instance and why should we do so in this case? For Reconsideration Con. N. Y. Virginia, ay. 8 others no.


The proposition that the Senate be chosen by the H. of Reps. out of Persons nominated by the State Legislatures being negatived.

Dickinson moved that the Senators be appointed by the State Legislatures- because the mind & body of the several States shd. be represented in the national Legislature; and because these Legislatures would choose men of distinguished Talents as Senators-such men would have a chance to be chosen by the People as national Representatives-failing in such choice, Wealth, family, or Talents may recommend them to be appointed Senators-let the Number of Senators be more than 200-by enlarging their number, their influence and weight will be increased by combining the Families and Wealth of the aristocracy and thereby you will establish a Balance against, and a check of the Democracy.

Wilson-if this amendment succeed, we shall not have a National government-the Senate will be too numerous, representing neither Property, nor numbers, but States or Societies, whose interests may oppose the General Govt.; the consequence will be unfavorable to the Harmony of the Nation.

Madison-We propose to form a National Government, and therefore mu t abandon Ideas founded in the Plan of a Confederation.

The Senate shd. come from, and represent, the wealth of the Nation, and this being the Principle, the proposed amendment cannot be adopted-besides the numbers will be too large-History proves this proposition, that delegated power has most weight and consequence in the hands of a few. The Roman tribunes when few, checked the Senate-when numerous, they divided, became weak and ceased to be the Guardians of the People, which was the object of their institution.

Dickinson-The objection is, that you attempt to unite distinct Interests: I do not consider this Union to be an objection that we should regard-Safety may flow from these various Interests-this diversity exists in the Constitution of England-we cannot abolish the States, and consolidate the whole into one Government-if we could consolidate, I should oppose our doing so. Let our Government be like that of the solar system-let the Genl. Govt. be the Sun and States the Planets, repelled yet attracted, and the whole moving harmoniously in their several orbits.

The objection from Virginia (Madison) that Power delegated to a few will prove a more weighty and efficient check upon the Democracy, as in the instance of the roman Tribunes, proves too much; they never exceeded Ten; and no one thinks that the Senate should consist of so small a number, as that of the Tribunes at any time, much less when their number was only three.

Wilson-I am not in favor of the abolition of the States. I revere the theory of the British Government, but we cannot adopt it. We have no Laws in favor of Primogeniture-no Distinction of Families-the partition of States destroys the influence of the few. Yet I well know that all confederations have been destroyed by the growth and ambition of some of their Members, and if the State Legislatures appoint the Senators, the Principle will be received by which the antient Confederacies were ruined. I therefore propose that the Senators be elected by the People, and for this purpose, that the territory be formed into convenient divisions or Districts.

Dickinson-Opposes Mr. Wilson's substitute, because it is either impracticable, or unfair-the Districts must be parts of a State, or entire States, or parts of distinct States-if the first, how can you prevent fraudulent & corrupt elections; if the second, How can you establish an intermediate body, from which to elect those who have a majority of voters, and who are not elected; if the third, the small States will never have a Senator, therefore it would be unfair.

On Question to agree to Wilson's substitute, Penn. aye, the other 10 States, no.

Mason-It is true that the old Confederacies were ruined by gt. overgrown power and the ambition of some of their Members-but their circumstances differed from ours-We have agreed that the natl. Govt. shall have a negative on the acts of the State Legislatures.-the danger now is that the national Legislature will swallow up the Legislatures of the States. The Protection from this Occurrence will be the securing to the State Legislatures, the choice of the Senators of the U. S. So adopted unanimously.


See also
James Madison's Notes for June 8
Alexander Hamilton's Notes for June 8 part 1
Alexander Hamilton's Notes for June 8 part 2

Charles Pinckney moved, seconded by Madison, to reconsider the vote, giving to the National Legislature power in certain cases to negative the State Laws, in order to vest in the Nat. Legislature power in all cases to negative State Laws. agreed to reconsider.

Chas. Pinckney-the violation of Treaties and ordinances, passed by Congress, by Laws enacted by the States, are known by all. The Harmoney of the Union calls for this Measure of a general Negative, and the National independence requires the same.

Williamson-the State Legislatures ought to possess independent Powers in purely local cases, relating to their separate internal Policy.

Madison-A Reconsideration of the amendment seems necessary. I am of opinion that the general Govt. will not be able to compel the large and important States to rescind a popular Law, passed by their respective Legislatures. If this power does not vest in the national Legislature, a check will be wanting against the centrifugal force, operating constantly to force the several States off from the common centre, or national union.

Gerry-This Power may enable the Genl. Govt. to depress one State for the advantage of another State. It may prevent the encouragement that some States may be inclined to give to manufacturers, or prevent the States from training the militia, and thereby establish a military force, and so a Despotism.

Wilson-In the establishmt of society, every man yields to it a power over his Life, his Liberty, his Character & his Property. There is no such reservation, that the individuals shall be subjected to one, and exempt from another, Law. We have seen the Legislatures in our own Country deprive the Citizen of Life, of Liberty & of Property. We have seen Laws of Attainder, Punishment and Confiscation. It we mean to found a national Govt., States must submit like individuals-the Govt. must be supreme-either the national, or State Govt. must be so. We should remember the language with which we began the Revolution-We then united in saying Virginia is no more, Massachusetts is no more, we are one in name, let us be one in truth and fact. Unless this Power is vested in the general Govt., the States will be employed by foreign Powers, against the Union. New States will soon be formed, the Inhabitants may be foreigners, and possess foreign affections-and unless the Genl. Govt. can check the State Laws, the nation may be involved in tumult and confusion.

Dickinson-There can be no line of separation, dividing the Legislative power between the Genl. and State Governments. The consequence is inevitable that there must be a supreme & august national Legislature-the objection that the States may be prevented from training their Militia, is obviated by the Plan of choosing the Senate by the State Legislatures and the H. of Reps. by the People.

Bedford-opposed to the power to negative State Laws. Now Delaware makes 1/13 of the whole-on the system of equal Representation, Delaware will be only 1/90 th, Virginia & Pennsylvania will constitute 28/90 th. In case of Rivalry in respect to commerce, or manufactures, what will be the chance of Delaware, opposed by those States? Bounties may be given in Virginia & Pennsylvania, and by their influence denied in Delaware-the State Laws may be allowed in the former, and negatived in the latter case.

On the Question to vest a power of Negative in the Natl. Legislature on all State Laws, it was negatived.

Mass., Penn. & Virginia being ay. Delaware divided, & Con., N. Y., N. J., MAr., S. Car. N. Car. & Georgia, no. 7 no, 3 ay, 1 divided.



See also James Madison's Notes for June 9

Brearly-opposes the Equality of Representatives (4)-numerically it is equal, but in operation it will be unequal-there will be two divisions, or parties-one composed of Mass. Penn. & Virginia; and the other of the 10 other States. If Georgia sends one Rep., Virginia will send 16-these will be united, but the Reps. of the smaller States will act without a common impulse and be divided; the Rule of the Confed. is unequal, the large & small States have the same Power-correct this, take the Map, and divide the whole into 13 equal Parts, this done, equality of Representation will be just.

Paterson-Our Powers do not extend to the abolition of State Governments in order to establish a national Govt.-we may amend the present system, keeping for our Basis the Confederation, which establishes the equality of votes among the States 1 consent to the equal Division of the Territory of the U. S. when this Equality will be the Parent, or origin, of an equality in the Representation.

But perhaps the Inequality of the present system is not so obvious-the States being equal, have equal votes-so in the respective States individuals have equal votes, tho' they possess unequal Property.

Men with 4000 pounds, and those with 100 pounds have equal votes, tho' one possesses 40 times the Property of the other.

Mr. Galloway early in Congress from Penn., proposed that America should be represented in Parliament, America to have 200 & G. Br. 500 members-but it was quickly foreseen that in this way there would be no security of the Liberties of America. In like manner an inequality in Representation from the several States will not succeed-should the Convention approve thereof, they cannot bind the States. I cannot agree to the Project here, and will employ my influence against it in N. Jersey, which never will approve of the Plan.

Wilson-The true Doctrine of Representation is, that the Representative ought to speak the language of his Constituents, and that his voice should have the same influence, as if given by his Constituents-Apply this Theory, and the conclusion is in favor of a Ratio of Representation and against the present system.


The Powers of the Convention only authorize the enlargement of the Provisions of the Confederation, viz.

1. To grant Powers to Congress to collect an impost on the importation of foreign Goods, to pass stamp acts & to regulate the post off., to regulate Commerce for. & domestic, provided the fines & forfeitures be recovered in the course of the common Law.

2. Apportionments on the States to be according to the number of Whites & 3/5 of all others-and in case of arrears by the State, to pass Laws remedied of the Evil.

3. Congress to appoint Persons as an Executive to hold their Offices - Years, with fixed salaries & to be ineligibleafterwards-removable by Congress on application of a majority of the State Executives, but no member of this Executive to command in any military Expedition.

4. The national Executive to appoint the supreme Judicial magistrates for good behaviour-with Power to try impeachments of officers of Gen'l. Govt., and questions of appeal from State judiciaries, in the construction of treaties, where the Laws of trade & Revenue are affected, or in cases in wh. foreigners are Parties.

5. The Laws & treaties of U. S. to be paramount over State Laws in case of opposition to treaties or general Laws, the Executive to call out the militia to cause the treaties and Laws to be observed.

6. Naturalization to be the same in every State.

7. A citizen guilty of offence in one State, and belonging to another State to be punished as tho' belonging to the State where the offence was committed.

18 JUNE (? 19)

See also James Madison's Notes for June 18 or June 19
Alexander Hamilton's Notes for June 19

Madison-It is an Error to say that because unanimity was requisite to form the Confederation, that unanimity is also required to dissolve it.-A contract may be dissolved by the breach of a single article-such is the Law of Treaties and the same Law is applicable to analagous Compacts-provisions are sometimes made to preserve the Treaty or Compact, not withstanding the breach of a single article.

Georgia without authority and against the articles of the Confederation, declared & prosecuted war agt. the Indians, and afterwards treated for Peace with them. New Jersey expressly refused to comply with a constitutional Requisition-Virginia and Maryland formed a Compact respecting the River Potomac. Pennsylvania & N. York made an agreement about their boundary Line. Massachusetts has raised an army and is now about to augment their military Establishment.

Do not these violations of the Confederation prove that a federal Govt. will not answer. the Amphictions had power to decide controversies between the members of the League, to fine offenders, to send ambassadors, to choose the Commander in Chief, to command the general forces and to employ them agt. the States who did not obey the General Regulations. The Athenean League was similar to that of the Amphictions-this League failed by the overgrown power of some of the members. Helvetic Confederation, loose & weak, and the situation of the Swiss differs from our own. The German Confederacy, unequal among themselves-the strength of some members being greater than that of the Confederacy-The Netherland Union, subject to great Defects-could act only by unanimity which is not attainable in difficult cases, and may be defeated by for. influence in the most important.

Our System must be such as to escape these Defects.

Wilson. I do not apprehend that the General Govt. will swallow up that of the States-the States and their separate Governments must be preserved-they will harmonize with the Genl. Govt. The U. S. are too extensive for one & a free Govt. No Despot has governed a Country so extensive. Persia is divided into 20 subordinate Govts. and the Roman Empire & Republic was divided between the Proconsuls. Alfred divided England into societies of 10. persons, 100 persons & into Towns and Counties. (5)

Mason-The Powers are sufficient-and were they not so, we should imitate the Amer. Ministers who negotiated the Treaty of Peace & did so without full Powers, trusting to the Congress to ratify.

Moreover the proposed System is not impracticable-the public opinion is not opposed to it-the Impost was opposed because the Congress consisted of a single Branch, possessing Legislative, judicial and executive powers. They were unworthy of being entrusted with additional Powers,-the People would not rest satisfied with the secret Journals of a Conclave.

The whole People agree in two points-first, that the Government should be Republican-Second, that the Legialature shd. consist of two Branches.

That two branches shd. be unanimously adopted, must have happened by a miracle, or by a fixed and universal opinion of the People.

The Gentlemen from N. Jersey adhere to the plan of the Confederation, and think that Requisition, after all experience, may be made on the State, and, if requisite, executed by military Force. I think that this cannot be accomplished. We can no more execute civil Regulations by the Militia, than we can unite opposite Elements, mingle fire with water-besides military coercion does not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty-and it would therefore be unjust. I will nevr consent to abolish the State Govts., because no General Govt. can perform their Duties. We may proceed a certain length in favor of the Genl. Govt., but for myself, I will take equal care of the State Govts. We cannot make a perfect System, there will after doing our best be faults in the work and we can trust our successors with further Amendments.

Martin-The Confederation was formed for the safety & Protection of the particular States, and not for the safety & protection of the union. I cannot support the Genl. Govt. at the Expence of the State Govts., but will contend for the Safety and Happiness of the particular States at the expense of the U. S.

Sherman. Two Branchs not requisite, one is sufficient and most fit for a Confederation. No example can be given of two Branches in a federal Govt. - Increase the powers of Congress-preserve the States and avoid a Consolidation of them. Our Treaties would become void by the abandonment of the Articles of Confederation-these were formed by & with the U. S. of N. H., Mass., &c.

Wilson. It is made a question whether the Legislature shall be composed of one of two bodies-whether it shall be elected by the States, or by the People,- and whether the States shall be equally represented, or in proportion to their respective wealth & numbers.-The antient Confederacies were formed in the infancy of Politicks and soon fell victims to the inefficacy of their organization. Because they had only a single body, it is not therefore expedient that we shd. follow their example.

The Dutch & Swiss Confederacies have been preserved by external balances-The German League is kept by the predominance of the imperial House. Our equality of Votes was an occasional Compact, produced in a crisis of our Affairs. The Great States conducted like the true mother in the controversy of the Harlots- they like her, in the claim of her child, gave their sovereignty to the small States, rather than it shd. be destroyed by the British King.

JUNE 20 (? 21).

See also James Madison's Notes for June 20 or June 21
Alexander Hamilton's Notes for June 20

Johnson-The Gentleman from N. York is praised by all, but supported by no Gentleman. He goes directly to the abolition of the State Governments. All other Gentlemen agree that the Genl. Govt. shd. be made more powerful and the State Govt. less powerful. In the Virginia Plan, Provision is made to increase the general Powers, but it contains no Provision for the security of the States-The Plan of N. Jersey provides for the Security of the Genl. & State Govts. If the advocates for the Virginia Plan can show that it affords to the States security against the Gen. Govt. we may all agree.

Wilson-We have agreed that the Legislatures shall appoint one Branch of the national Govt. -give to the National Gov. power reciprocally to appoint one Br. of each State Legislature-How wd. this endanger the States? What Power of the States would the General Govt. desire to have? Would a portion of the State powers, were they acquired, be of considerable importance to the Genl. Govt.? any attempt to acquire the same would excite and the People would not suffer it.

Madison-The History of the antient Confederacies proves, that there has never been Danger of the ruin of the State Govts. by Encroachment of the General Govt., but the converse is true, the particular Govts. have overthrown the Genl. Govt. I have therefore been assiduous to guard the general Govt. from the power of the State Govts. These Govts. regulate the conduct of their Citizens, they punish offenders, cause ordinary Justice to be administered & perform acts which endear the Govt. to the People, who will not suffer the general Govt. to injure the State Govts.

The Convention resolved that the Genl. Legislature shd. consist of two Branches. So. Carolina moved that Representatives shd. be chosen as the several State Legislatures shd. judge proper.

Madison and Wilson opposed the Election by State Legislatures and recommended the Election by the People. State Elections will introduce State influence opposed to that of the Genl. Govt. The States will elect to Congress and manage the affairs of the States also-if the State Legislatures elect, they will also instruct and so embarrass the Representatives-otherwise, if elected by the People. There will be no difficulty in popular Elections-the returns may be made to the State Legislatures who may settle contested Elections.

Decided 4 ay, 1 divided-6 no. Motion negatived.


Dickinson-Annual Elections are favorites in America-it suits England which is a small country. But annual, biennial or triennial are two short terms for America-I would consent to three years with a classification by wh. one third shd. expire and be renewed annually.

Strong & Ellsworth-Except So. Carolina we are all accustomed to annual Elections.

Wilson also agrees to annual Elections.

Mason-An annual Election will give an advantage to some over other States-in Virginia & Georgia, from our sparse and remote settlements, we could not ascertain in less than three years who were elected-The States that are most compactly settled will be the first on the floor, and those of extensive settlements will be absent, unless the Elections precede for a long time the time of meeting.

Hamilton-I prefer three years to a longer or shorter Term. The Dependence on Constituents is sufficient, & the independence of the members as little as it ought to be.

JUNE 25.


See also James Madison's Notes for June 25

Wilson-Every man will possess a double character. He will be a citizen of a particular State and also of the U. S. The National Legislature will apply to the latter, and should therefore be chosen by the citizens of the U. S., and not by the State Legislatures-because the Members of the State Legislatures are particularly chosen on account of their State Citizenship and attachments-they have a remote connexion with the Genl. Govt. and a direct and intimate one with that of the several States.

The Distinction indicates the character of the Electors of the Senate, and the Circumstance shd. influence our decision in respect to the choice of the Senators. The General Govt. is separate and distinct from the State Govts.; War, Peace, Commerce, Revenue, are the particular concerns of the Genl. Govt., while inferior and local interests are confided to the State Government. In whatever concerns the Questions confided to the Genl. Govt., we act as Citz. of the U. S., and in relation to the interests intrusted to the State Govts. we act as Citz. of the respective States. We should not then refer ourselves to the Legislatures of the States in appointing the Senators of the U. S., but should proceed on the Basis of the People, and choose the Senators by Electors appointed by the People.

Ellsworth-We must build our Genl. Govt. on the strength & vigour of the State Govts. The Genl. Govt. could not proceed without their support, or by the help of a large standing army. Massachusetts is unable to go on with her republican Govt. without an army-Virginia cannot & does not govern Kentucky-Each of these States (Mass. & Virg.) are too large for a Republican System. I am in favor of the old scheme & for proceeding on the continuation of the States, and therefore for electing Senators of the U. S. by the State Legislatures.

Johnson-When the Question of State Security or individuality occurred, it was urged by Mr. Wilson & Mr. Madison that the States were secured by the Rights of their Legislatures to appoint the Senators of the U.S. If their security depend on this mode of choice, the proposed plan to elect the Senators by Electors chosen by the people would destroy the promised security of choosing them by the Legislatures of the States.

Mason-The national Executive has a negative on the two Branches and each Branch has a negative on the other. The Genl. Govt. moreover has a negative on the several State Legislatures, and this Regulation is necessary on the principle of Self-Defence, which is an instinctive Principle, or Law of Nature; and in a suitable degree shd. be possessed by natural and artificial bodies-being granted to the Genl. Govt., why withhold it from the State Govt.? What other influence over, or check upon the Genl. Govt. will the States possess, if their Legislatures do not elect the Senate or second Branch of the Natl. Govt. I am unwilling to have the States without a self-protecting Power- as I desire the continuance of the several States, I shall not agree to deprive them of the Faculty of self-Protection.

JUNE 27.

See also James Madison's Notes for June 27

That the suffrage of the first Branch of the Legislature (the H. of R.) ought not to be equal among the States.

Martin. The States are equal and we have agreed in the Equality of votes excepting Virginia & N. Carolina, the latter being divided-By giving more votes to the large than to the small States, the large ones will combine and tyrannize over the small States-these States would have 42 of 90 votes in the first Branch-Now, under the confederation, seven States may combine-but they are the constitutional majority.

(Remarks. The Ratio of taxes is determined by the 8 art. of the Confederation wh. gives equal votes to the States-even the Post office cannot be so regulated as to obtain a Revenue beyond the Expenses of supporting-but under the proposed amendment the Power of taxation is not limited, but may be exercised in such manner as the national Legislature may prefer.)

Martin-continued-The amendment of the Confederation must be made in reference to the State Govts. and for their Safety & Protection-all which relates to external, and concerns that are merely national, may be granted to the U. S. while all that is internal and relative to the individuals of the separate States must continue to belong to the particular States-If further Powers to the U. S. become requisite a future Convention may propose them to the States. If we give more than enough now, it can never be retained (resumed). We hear it said, that if the Genl. Govt. makes Laws affecting individuals instead of States the Govt. ceases to be federal-but if the persons and concerns affected by the laws of the Genl. Govt. be foreign or external, the Govt. would be merely federal as regards everything within the power of the States separately, which would remain wholly subject to State Laws-the States being equal must have equal influence and equal votes.

All men out of Society are by nature equal, in freedom and every other Property of men. Locke, Vattel and all other writers establish this Truth.

JUNE 28.

See also James Madison's Notes for June 28

Madison-The Gentlemen opposed to a Representation founded upon the number of Citizens of the respective States, are somewhat inaccurate in their observations-They speak of Tyranny and of the small States being swallowed up by the large ones-They apprehend combinations between Mass. Penn. & Virginia against the other States. But there is nothing in Religion, manners, modes of thinking or Habits of any sort, manufactures or course of Business, commerce or natural Productions which would create a common interest or Prejudice between these States exclusive of all others. There is no fact in the history of men or nations that authorizes such a Jealousy. England and France might have combined to divide America. The great States of Greece, Athens & Sparta, which were members of the Amphictionic League never combined to oppress their co- estates-instead thereof, they were Rivals and fought each other. The greater Cantons of the Helvetic Union, did not combine against the small Cantons; no such combination has existed in the Union of the Netherlands. Instead of Combination, the great States of Germany have often been at war with each other-These are not only Historical Facts, but they proceed from a Law of Nature that governs men and Nations, which are but aggregates of men. When men or Nations are strong and equal they become Rivals and Jealousy prevents their Union.

Chas. Pinckney. The Honors & Offices may become the objects of strong desire and of combination to acquire them. If Representatives be apportioned among the States in the Ratio of numbers, the Citizens will be free and equal but the States will be unequal, and their sovereignty will be degraded.


See also James Madison's Notes for June 29

Johnson. The two sides of the House reason in such a manner that we can never meet. Those who contend for the equality of votes between the States, define a State to be a mere association of men and affirm these associations to be equal; on the other side, they who contend for the apportionment of votes according to numbers, define a State to be a District, or country with a certain number of Inhabitants, like a parish or county; and these say that these Districts should have an influence in proportion to the number of their Inhabs. Both reason correctly from their Premises. We must compromise and gratify both; let one branch be composed according to the Rule of Equality, and the other by the Rule of Proportion.

Madison. We are vague in our language. We speak of the Sovereignty of the States. The States are not sovereign in the full extent of the term. There is a gradation from a simple corporation for limited and specified objects, such as an incorporation of a number of Mechanicks up to a full sovereignty as possessed by independent Nations, whose Powers are not limited. The last only are truly sovereign. The States, who have not such full power, but are deprived of such as by the Confedn. compose the natl. powers are in the true meaning of the word Sovereigns. They are political associations or corporations, possessing certain powers-by these they may make some, but not all, Laws.

Hamilton. Men are naturally equal, and societies or States, when fully independent, are also equal. It is as reasonable, and may be as expedient, that States should form Leagues or compacts, and lessen or part with their national Equality, as that men should form the social compact and, in doing so, lessen or surrender the natural Equality of men. This is done in every society; and the grant to the society affects Persons and Property; age, minority & Estates are all affected.

A Man may not become an Elector or elected, unless of a given age & having a certain Estate. Let the People be represented according to numbers, the People will be free: every Office will be equally open to all and the majority of the People are to make the Laws. Yet it is said that the States will be destroyed & the People will be Slaves-this is not so. The People are free, at the expense of an artificial & ideal Equality of the States.

On this Question for apportionment.

Cont. N. Yk, N. Jersey & Delaware-No.

Maryland ---------------------------- divided

Mass. Penn. Virg. N. Car. S. Car. Georgia-ay.

Ellsworth moved that in the second Br., or Senate, each State should have one Vote only. As the first, or Democratic, Br. represents the People, let the second Br., or Senate, represent the States. The People will thus be secured and the States protected. Without we agree in this motion we shall have met in vain. None of the eastern States, except Mass. will consent to abolish the States. If the southern States agree to a popular, instead of a State, Representation we shall produce a separation. The Union must be cut in two at the Delaware. This plan of forming the Senate is to give an equal vote to the States, will secure the small States, and as the numbers of the large States will have more influence, tho' they have the same & an equal vote with the small States, they will receive no injury. Holland has but one Vote in the States, yet her influence is greater than that of any two of the States. There is Danger that the large States may combine to overpower the small States; the danger is not so great by reason of the distance between the large States, still there is danger; they will be able to combine and therefore there is danger. Three or four can more easily enter into Combinations than nine or ten.

Madison. One Gentleman from Connecticut has proposed doing as much as is prudent now, leaving future amendments to Posterity,-this is a dangerous doctrine. The Defects of the Amphictionic League were acknowledged, but were never reformed. The Netherlands have four times attempted to make amendments in their Confederation, but have failed in each attempt. The Fear of innovation, the hue & Cry in favour of the Liberty of the People will as they have done prevent the necessary Reforms. If the States have equal Votes & influence in the Senate we shall be in the utmost danger, the minority of the People will govern the majority. Delaware during the late war opposed and defeated an Embargo, to which twelve States had agreed, and continued to supply the enemy with Provisions in time of war.

30 JUNE.

See also James Madison's Notes for June 30


Wilson. The proportionate Representation in the H. of R. was opposed by 22 out of 90: the latter number standing for the who. Population. The Equality of votes among the States will subject the majority of the People & Property to be governed by the minority of each-even if the States, being a majority, make 24/90 ths of the whole-and will be able to govern and control 66/90 ths. This is too palpable an error, too great a Defect in the Constitution to permit the expectation of public harmony & Happiness.

The Gentleman from Connecticut (Ellsworth) urges that if the Representation in the Senate be in proportion to the numbers of the People, we shall establish an aristocracy or monarchy-three or four large States may combine for monarchy; if not so, for aristocracy. 4 States containing a majority of People will govern 9 other States-but the danger of combination & aristocracy is not greater, nor so great, among the large States as the small ones. Seven States contain only 24/90ths of the People: if the 24 control the 66, this would in reality be an Aristocracy-and one that could not endure.


See also James Madison's Notes for July 5


G. Morris-Mere numbers should not be the rule: tho' it may be a fit rule at present, it will cease to be so, when the Western Country is settled. We should take care not to establish a Rule, that will enable the poor but numerous Inhabitants of the West to destroy or oppress the Atlantic States. Men do not enter into Society to preserve their Lives or Liberty-the Savages possess both in perfection-they unite in Society for the Protection of Property.

Genl. Rutledge. I agree with Mr. Morris. Property is the object of Society. I therefore propose that the Representation should be in proportion to the taxes paid in given Districts-let the property be represented. I do not consider Numbers to be a true index of wealth even now, hereafter it will become less so.


See also James Madison's Notes for July 7


Gerry. I agree to the measure, provided that the first Br. (H. of Reps.) shall originate money bills and money appropriations. The prejudices as well as the interest of our Constituents must be regarded-two or three thousand men are in office in the States-their influence will be in favor of an Equality of votes among the States.

Madison. Equality in the Senate will enable a minority to hold a majority, and to oblige them to submit to their interests, or they will withdraw their assent to measures essential and necessary to the general Good. I have known one man, when the State was represented by only two, and they were divided, oppose six States in Congress on an important occasion for three days, and finally compel them to gratify his caprice in order to obtain his suffrage. The Senate will possess certain exclusive Powers, such as the appointments to office, if the States have equal votes; a minority of People will appoint the Great Offices. Besides the small States may be near the Seat of Govt.-a bare Quorum of the H. of R. may be easily assembled, and carry a bill against the sense of a majority if all were present, and the Senate, tho' all were present, might confirm such Bill. Virginia has objected to every addition of the powers of Congress, because she has only 1/13 of the Power when she ought to have one sixth.

Paterson. I hope the question will be taken: if we do not give equal votes in the Senate to the States, the small States agreeing that money Bills and appropriations shall originate in the H. of Reps., elected according to numbers, it must not be expected that the small States will agree to the amendments of the Confederation. Let us decide this question and lose no more time. I think that I shall vote against the provision, because I think that the exclusive originating of money Bills & appropriations by the H. of Reps. is giving up too much on the part of the small States.

Gov. Morris. Let us examine what the small States call the consideration which they are to give for the adventure of an equal vote in the Senate. How did it happen that the small States acquired this advantage of an equal vote? When England pressed hard upon us, the small States said go on with your opposition without us, or give us an equal vote; and so they obtained it. And now they call the Confederation, made under these circumstances, a sacred Compact, that cannot be changed. We are met to propose new and further powers for the Genl. Govt. The great States may truly say that the Confederation is defective, it wants more power, especially as respects the levying of Taxes, and the regulation of Trade-we are sensible of this Truth, but we also know the further Defect of the want of a proportionate Representation in Congress, and are unwilling to add to the Powers unless the Representation bear a just Proportion to the power we confer & the interest that we shall have in the Regulations of the General Govt. Unless we can agree with others in establishing a vigourous General Government, we must for our own safety make vigourous State Govts., & not depend on a weak General Govt. Germany has an Emperor and a powerful one, a common Language; her religion, customs, Habits and interests are not dissimilar, yet the glory of her Princes and the Prosperity of her free cities are preferred to those of the Empire, whose honors are less esteemed than those of the subordinate Princess-In our plan we propose an Aulic Council, but we shall have no Emperor to execute its Decrees.

JULY 15.

See also James Madison's Notes for July 16

On question to apportion the Senate differently from the Rule of Equality in the votes, as proposed by Ch. Pinckney 4 ayes, 6 noes, 1 divided-Gorham being absent, Massachusetts, Strong & Gerry against King, voted with the noes.


JULY 15, '87.

About twelve days since the Convention appointed a Grand Comee, consisting of Gerry, Ellsworth, Yates, Paterson, Franklin, Bedford, Martin, Mason, Rutledge & Baldwin to adjust the Representation in the two Brs. of the Legislature of the U. S. They reported yt. every 40,000 Inhabs. taken agreeably to the Resolution of Cong. of ye 18 Ap. 1783, shd. send one member to the first Br. of the Legislatre, yt. this Br. shd. originate exclusively Money Bills, & also originate ye appropriations of money; and that in ye Senate or upper Br. each State shd. have one vote & no more. The Representation as to the first Br. was twice recommitted altho' not to the same Committee; finally it was agreed yt Taxation of the direct sort & Representation shd. be in direct proportion with each other-that the first Br. shd. consist of 65 members, viz. N. H. 3, M. 8, R. I. 1, C. 5, N. Y. 6, N. J. 4, P. 8, D. 1, M. 6, V. 10, N. C. 5, S. C. 5, G. 3,-and that the origination of money Bills and the Appropriations of money shd. belong in the first instance to yt Br., but yt in the Senate or 2nd Br. each State shd. have an equal Vote. In this situation of the Report it was moved by S. Car. that in the formation of the 2nd Br., instead of an equality of Votes among the States, that N. H. shd. have 2, M. 4, R. I. 1, C. 3, N. Y. 3, N. J. 2, P. 4, D. 1, M. 3, V. 5, N. C. 3, S. C. 3, G. 2 = total 36.

On the question to agree to this apportionment, instead of the equality (Mr. Gorham being absent) Mass., Con., N. Jer., Del., N. Car., & Georg-No. Penn., Mar., Virg. & S. Car. Aye.

This Question was taken and to my mortification by the vote of Mass. lost on the 14th July.

(endorsed "inequality lost by vote of Mass.")


See also James Madison's Notes for August 7

3rd Article. A negative in all cases proposed to be altered to all cases in which Each Branch has concurrent jurisdiction.

Madison proposed to strike the clause out, which was done. He also proposed to omit the provision, fixing the time when the Legislature should meet.

Morris-in favor of leaving the time of meeting to the Legislature, and observed that if the time be fixed in the Constitution, it would not be observed, as the Legislature wd. not be punctual in assembling.

Gorham-in favor of the Legislature's meeting once a year and of fixing the time. They should meet, if for no other Business, to superintend the Conduct of the Executive.

Mason-in favor of an annual meeting. -The Legislatures are also inquisitorial and should meet frequently to inspect the conduct of the public Officers.

4 Art. ยง 1. Electors to be the same as those of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

Morris proposed to strike out the Clause, and to leave it to the State Legislatures to establish the Qualification of the Electors and Elected, or to add a clause giving to the Nat. Legislature powers to alter the qualifications.

Ellsworth-If the Legislature can alter the qualifications, they may disqualify three fourths, or a greater portion of the Electors-this would go far to create aristocracy. The clause is safe as it stands-the States have staked their liberties on the Qualifications which we have proposed to confirm.

Dickinson-It is urged that to confine the Right of Suffrage to the Free- Holders is a step towards the creation of an aristocracy. This cannot be true. We are all safe by trusting the owners of the soil; and it will not be unpopular to do so, for the Freeholders are the more numerous Class. Not from freeholders, but from those who are not freeholders, free Govts. have been endangered. Freeholds are by our Laws of inheritance divided among the children of the deceased, and will be parcelled out among all the worthy men of the State; the merchants & mechanicks may become freeholders; and without being so, they are Electors of the State Legislatures, who appoint the Senators of the U. S.

Ellsworth-Why confine the Right of Suffrage to freeholders? The Rule should be that he who pays and is governed, should be an Elector. Virtue & Talents are not confined to the Freeholders, and we ought not to exclude them.

Morris. I disregard sounds and am not alarmed with the word aristocracy, but I dread the thing and will oppose it, and for this reason I think that I shall oppose this Constitution because it will establish an Aristocracy. There cannot be an aristocracy of Freeholders if they all are Electors. But there will be, when a great & rich man can bring his poor Dependents to Vote in ourElections-unless you establish a qualification of Property, we shall have an aristocracy. Limit the Right of suffrage to freeholders, and it will not be unpopular, because nine Tenths of the Inhabitants are freeholders.

Mason. Every one who is of full age and can give evidence of his common Interest in the Community should be an Elector. By this Rule, freeholders alone have not this common Interest. The Father of a family, who has no freehold, has this Interest. When he is dead his children will remain. This is a natural interest or bond which binds men to their country-lands are but an artificial tie. The idea of counting freeholders as the true and only persons to whom the Right of Suffrage shd. be confided is an English Prejudice. In England, a Twig and Turf are the Electors.

Madison. I am in favor of entrusting the Right of Suffrage to Freeholders only. It is a mistake that we are governed by English attachments. The Knights of the Shires are chosen by freeholders, but the members of the Cities and Boroughs are elected by freemen without freeholds, & who have as small property as the Electors of any other country. Where is the crown influence seen, where is corruption in the Elections practiced-not in the Counties, but in the Cities and Boroughts.

Franklin. I am afraid that by depositing the Right of Suffrage in the freeholders exclusively we shall injure the lower Class of freemen. This Class possess hardy Virtues and great Integrity. The revolutionary war is a glorious Testimony in favor of Plebeian Virtue-our military and naval men are sensible of this Truth. I myself know that our Seamen who were Prisoners in England refused all the allurements that were made use of, to draw them from their allegiance to their Country-threatened with ignominious Halters, they still refused. This was not the case with the English Seamen, who, on being made Prisoners entered into the American Service and pointed out where other Prisoners could be made-and this arose from a plain cause. The Americans were all free and equal to any of their fellow citizens-the English Seamen were not so. In antient Times every free man was an Elector, but afterwards England made a Law which required that every Elector should be a freeholder. This Law related to the County Elections-the Consequence was that the Residue of the Inhabitants felt themselves disgraced, and in the next Parliament a law was made, authorizing the Justice of the Peace to fix the Price of Labour and to compel Persons who were not freeholders to labour for those who were, at a stated rate, or to be put in Prison as idle vagabonds. From this Period the common People of England lost a great Portion of attachment to their Country.


See also James Madison's Notes for August 8


Gorham. The Qualifications (being such as the several States prescribe for Electors of their most numerous Branch of the Legislature) stand well. Gentlemen are in error, who suppose the Electors of Cities may not be trusted. In England the members chosen in London, Bristol & Liverpool are as independent as the members of the Counties of England. The Crown has little or no influence in City Elections, but has great influence in Boroughs, where the Votes of Freeholders are bought & sold. There is no risk in allowing the merchants & mechanicks to be Electors; they have been so time immemorial in this Country & in England. We must not disregard the Habits, usages & Prejudices of the People. Propose a window Law in New England and you would offend the People; propose a Poor Tax in Old England, and it would in like manner offend the People. So if you exclude Merchants & Mechanicks from the list of Electors you will offend them.

Question respecting qualification of Elector & between Resident, Inhabitant with residence of 3 years.

Morris proposed that Freeholders only shd. be Electors of Reps.

Rutledge proposed Residence for 7 years in the State.

Mason. I am in fav. of Residence being a qualification of Representation, otherwise a stranger may offer and by corruption obtain an Election. Without this security, we may have a Borough system and Eng. Corruption. After several votes the Question settled as in ye Constitution.


14 years Residence after naturalization being proposed as requisite to be chosen a Senator of the U. S.-it was said to be illiberal.

Morris. Liberal and illiberal are relative and indefinite Terms. The Indians are the most liberal of any People, because when Strangers come among them, they offer their wives and daughters for their carnal amusement. It is recommended that we throw open our Doors, and invite the oppressed of all Nations to come & find an asylum in America. It is true we have invited them to come & worship in our Temple, but we have never proposed that they should become Priests at our Altars. We should cherish the Love of our Country and exalt its honour-these are wholesome Prejudices in its favor. Foreigners cannot learn our Laws or understand our constitution under fourteen years. Seven years are requisite to learn to be a shoemaker, & double this Term will be necessary to learn to be an American Legislator; and it will require at least fourteen years to eradicate native attachment & the affections of Education.

Franklin opposed to fourteen years. It will be illiberal. We have many good friends in England and other parts of Europe who ought not to be excluded.

Wilson, opposed to fourteen years.


Endorsed "Federal Constitution Speeches in Genl. Convention 1787"

K. We have power to propose anything, but to conclude nothing.

We may expect the approbation of Congress and hope for that of the Legislatures of the States. It is not so sure as some Gentlemen believe it to be, that the Power of the States is the idol of the People, and that they are unwilling to see established a general or national Govt. A citizen of N. Jersey who may be gratified by being called so, will not feel himself degraded by being called a Citizen of the U. S. The object of our Convention is to increase the power of the general Govt. and that too at the expense of the State Govts.

It is not requisite, nor expedient, that the Rights or power of the People should be diminished-they have already given powers sufficient both for the State & general Govt. and all that we are called upon for, is to make a right Division of these Powers between the General and the State Governments. Whether we regard the Power, which makes the Laws, or that which interprets them, or that by which they are carried into execution, nothing further is necessary then a proper division of each Department between the Genl. and the State Govts.

The organization of the State Govts. will remain, or may be altered by the States respectively. Our business is to organize the General Govt., to divide it into Legislative, executive & judicial bodies; and to do this on safe Principles, neither giving to either too much power, nor too little, beginning with the Legislative and causing the judicial & executive power to be co- extensive. To constitute the Legislature of a free Govt. it must rest upon the Power of the People, and be created by them-not like the Power of Congress, which rests upon the States & is unsound because it rests upon a single unbalanced body. Moreover it is unequally composed, the Equality of Votes is a Vicious Principle that cannot be endured-tho' with the actual Powers of Congress, it has hitherto been borne, the badness of the Principle is such that the large States will not consent to enlarge these Powers-if further Powers be given, the National Legislature must be appointed in Proportion to the numbers & wealth of the several States. It must also be divided into two Branches-by this means it may be balanced, which is impracticable with one Body.

And tho' to restrain and balance the Powers of the Legislature it must be divided, the contrary is true with the Executive. Division of the Executive destroys Responsibility the members contend with each other, or combine for bad purposes-the first Triumvirs at Rome, and afterwards the Consuls prove that this will be the case.

The Judiciary must be independent, and its powers co-extensive with those of the Natl. Govt.


(1) Reprinted from the Life and Correspondence of Rufus King (N. Y., 1894), Vol. 1, pp, 587-619. Back

(2) Probably at the time of the publication of the Madison report. Both this copy and the original notes are in the possession of the Editor. Back

(3) The vote in Journal is 8 yeas-Mass. Con. N.Y. Del. Virg. N. Car. S. Car. Geor. Nays Penna. & Mar. Back

(4) Id est-according to the Ratio of the Census. Back

(5) Objections to a general or national Govt.

See p. 212, Madison Papers. Elliot's Debates, vol. v.

The Convention does not possess authority to propose any reform which is not purely general.

2. If the possessed such power it wd. be inexpedient to exercise it, because the small States wd. lose their State influence or equality, and because the Genius of the people is of that sort that such a Reform wd. be rejected.

Answer (R. King) The States under the confed. are not soverign States they can do no act but such as are of a subordinate nature or such as terminate in themselves-and even these are restrained-coinage, P. office &c they are wholly incompetent to the exercise of any of the gt. & distinguishing acts of sovercignty-They can neither make nor receive (embassies) to or from any other sovereign-they have not the powers of injuring another or of defending themselves from an Injury offered from one another-they are deaf, dumb and impotent-these Faculties are yielded up and the U.S. in C. Assd. hold and possess them, and they alone can exercise them-they are so far out of the controul of the separate States yt. if every State in the Union was to instruct yr. Deleg., and those Delegates within ye powers of the Arts. of Union shd. do an act in violation of their Instructions it wd. nevertheless be valid. If they declared a war, any giving aid or comfort to the enemy wd. be Treason; if peace, and capture on the high seas wd. be piracy. This remark proves yt. the States are now subordinate corporations or societies and not sovereigns-these imperfect States are the confederates and they are the electors of the magistrates who exercise the national sovereignty. The Articles of Confedr. are perpetual Union, are partly federal & partly of the nature of a constitution or form of Govt. arising from and applying to the Citizens of the U.S. & not from the individual States.

The only criterion of determining what is federal & what is national is this, those acts which are for the government of the States only are purely federal, those which are for the government of the Citizens of the individual States are national and not federal.

If then the articles of Confedr. & perpetual union have this twofold capacity, and if they provide for an alteration in a certain mode, why may not they be so altered as that the federal article may be changed to a national one, and the national to a federal? I see no argument that can be objected to the authority. The 5th article regulates the influence of the several States and makes them equal-does not the confed. authorize this alteration, that instead of this Equality, one state may have double the Influence of another-I conceive it does-and so of every Article except that wh. destroys the Idea of a confedy. I think it may be proved that every article may be totally altered provided you have one guarantying to each State the right of regulating its private & internal affairs in the manner of a subordinate corporation.

But admitting that the Arts. of Confed. & perpet. Union, or the powers of the Legis. did not extend to the proposed Reform; yet the public Deputations & the public Danger require it-the system proposed to be adopted is no scheme of a day, calculated to postpone the hour of Danger, & thus leave it to fall with double ruin on our successors-It is no crude and undigested plan; the child of narrow and unextensive views, brought forward under the Auspices of Cowardice & Irresolution-It is a measure of Decision, it is the foundation of Freedom & of national Glory. It will draw on itself and be able to support the severest scrutiny & Examination. It is no idle experiment, no romantic speculation-the measure forces itself upon wise men, and if they have not firmness to lookit in the face and protect it-Farewell to the Freedom of our Government-our military glory will be tarnished and our boasts of Freedom will be the scorn of the Enemies of Liberty. 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.