|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
August 11, 1787
Saturday, August 11, 1787
Mr. MADISON and Mr. RUTLIDGE moved "that each House shall keep a journal of its proceeding, and shall publish the
same from time to time; except such part of the proceedings of the Senate, when acting not in its Legislative capacity as may
be judged by that House to require secrecy."
Mr. MERCER. This implies that other powers than legislative will be given to the Senate which he hoped would not be given.
Mr. Madison and Mr. Rutlidge's motion was disagreed to by all the States except Virginia.
Mr. GERRY and Mr. SHARMAN moved to insert after the words "publish them" the following "except such as relate to
treaties and military operations." Their object was to give each House a discretion in such cases. On this question;
New Hampshire, no; Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, no; Delaware, no; Virginia, no;
North Carolina, no; South Carolina, no; Georgia, no.
Mr. ELSEWORTH. As the clause is objectionable in so many shapes, it may as well be struck out altogether. The Legislature
will not fail to publish their proceedings from time to time. The people will call for it if it should be improperly omitted.
Mr. WILSON thought the expunging of the clause would be very improper. The people have a right to know what their
Agents are doing or have done, and it should not be in the option of the Legislature to conceal their proceedings. Besides as
this is a clause in the existing confederation, the not retaining it would furnish the adversaries of the reform with a pretext by
which week and suspicious minds may be easily misled.
Mr. MASON thought it would give a just alarm to the people, to make a conclave of their Legislature.
Mr. SHERMAN thought the Legislature might be trusted in this case if in any.
Question on 1st part of the section down to "publish them" inclusive: Agreed to nem. con.
Question on the words to follow, to wit except such parts thereof as may in their Judgment require secrecy."
New Hampshire, divided. Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, no; Delaware, no; Maryland,
no; Virginia; aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, no; Georgia, aye.
The remaining part as to yeas and nays,- agreed to nem con. Art VI. Sect. 8 taken up.
Mr. KING remarked that the section authorized the 2 Houses to adjourn to a new place. He thought this inconvenient. The
mutability of place had dishonored the federal Government and would require as strong a cure as we could devise. He thought
a law at least should be made necessary to a removal of the Seat of Government. Mr. MADISON, viewed the subject in the
same light, and joined with Mr. King in a motion requiring a law.
Mr. GOVERNR. MORRIS proposed the additional alteration by inserting the words "during the Session, etc."
Mr. SPAIGHT. This will fix the seat of Government at New York The present Congress will convene them there in the first
instance, and they will never be able to remove; especially if the President should be a Northern Man.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS such a distrust is inconsistent with all Government.
Mr. MADISON supposed that a central place for the seat of Government was so just and would be so much insisted on by
the House of Representatives, that though a law should be made requisite for the purpose, it could and would be obtained.
The necessity of a central residence of the Government would be much greater under the new than old Government.
The members of the new Government would be more numerous. They would be taken more from the interior parts of the
States; they would not like members of the present Congress come so often from the distant States by water. As the powers
and objects of the new Government would be far greater than heretofore, more private individuals would have business
calling them to the seat of it, and it was more necessary that the Government should be in that position from which it could
contemplate with the most equal eye, and sympathize most equally with, every part of the nation.
These considerations he supposed would extort a removal even if a law were made necessary. But in order to quiet suspicions
both within and without doors, it might not be amiss to authorize the 2 Houses by a concurrent vote to adjourn at their first
meeting to the most proper place, and to require thereafter, the sanction of a law to their removal.
The motion was accordingly molded into the following form: "the Legislature shall at their first assembling determine on a
place at which their future sessions shall be held; neither House shall afterwards, during the session of the House of
Representatives without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor shall they adjourn to any other place
than such as shall have been fixed by law".
Mr. GERRY thought it would be wrong to let the President check the will of the 2 Houses on this subject at all.
Mr. WILLIAMSON supported the ideas of Mr. Spaight.
Mr. CARROL was actuated by the same apprehensions.
Mr. MERCER, it will serve no purpose to require the two Houses at their first meeting to fix on a place. They will never
agree. After some further expressions from others denoting an apprehension that the seat of Government might be continued
at an improper place if a law should be made necessary to a removal, and the motion above stated with another for
recommitting the section had been negatived, the section was left in the shape in which it was reported as to this point. The
words "during the session of the Legislature were prefixed to the 8th section, and the last sentence "But this regulation shall
not extend to the Senate when it shall exercise the powers mention in the _____ article" struck out. The 8th. section as
amended was then agreed to.
Mr. RANDOLPH moved according to notice to reconsider Art: IV. Sect. 5, concerning money bills, which had been struck
out. He argued (1) that he had not wished for this privilege whilst a proportional Representation in the Senate was in
contemplation, but since an equality had been fixed in that house, the large States would require this compensation at least. (2)
That it would make the plan more acceptable to the people, because they will consider the Senate as the more aristocratic
body, and will expect that the usual guards against its influence be provided according to the example in Great Britain. (3) The
privilege will give some advantage to the House of Representatives if it extends to the originating only, but still more if it
restrains the Senate from amending. (4) He called on the smaller States to concur in the measure, as the condition by which
alone the compromise had entitled them to an equality in the Senate.
He signified that he should propose instead of the original Section, a clause specifying that the bills in question should be for
the purpose of Revenue, in order to repel the objection against the extent of the words "raising money," which might happen
incidentally, and that the Senate should not so amend or alter as to increase or diminish the sum; in order to obviate the
inconveniences urged against a restriction of the Senate to a simple affirmative or negative.
Mr. WILLIAMSON 2ded. the motion
Mr. PINKNEY was sorry to oppose the opportunity gentlemen asked to have the question again opened for discussion, but as
he considered it a mere waste of time he could not bring himself to consent to it. He said that notwithstanding what had been
said as to the compromise, he always considered this section as making no part of it. The rule of Representation in the 1st.
branch was the true condition of that in the 2nd. branch. Several others spoke for and against the reconsideration, but without
going into the merits. On the Question to reconsider:
New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, aye; Delaware, aye; Maryland,
no; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, divided; Georgia, aye.
Monday was then assigned.
|The Illinois Conservative