Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
August 18, 1787
Saturday, August 18, 1787

IN CONVENTION

Mr. MADISON submitted, in order to be referred to the Committee of detail the following powers as proper to be added to
those of the General Legislature.

  • "To dispose of the un-appropriated lands of the U. States".
  • "To institute temporary Governments for New States arising therein".
  • "To regulate affairs with the Indians as well within as without the limits of the U. States
  • "To exercise exclusively Legislative authority at the Seat of the General Government, and over a district around the
    same, not exceeding ______ square miles; the Consent of the Legislature of the State or States comprising the same,
    being first obtained".
  • "To grant charters of incorporation in cases where the public good may require them, and the authority of a single
    State may be incompetent".
  • "To secure to literary authors their copy rights for a limited time".
  • "To establish an University".
  • "To encourage by premiums and provisions, the advancement of useful knowledge and discoveries".
  • "To authorize the Executive to procure and hold for the use of the United States landed property for the erection of
    Forts, Magazines, and other necessary buildings".

These propositions were referred to the Committee of detail which had prepared the Report and at the same time the following
which were moved by Mr. Pinkney: in both cases unanimously.

  • "To fix and permanently establish the seat of Government of the United States in which they shall possess the exclusive
    right of soil and jurisdiction".
  • "To establish seminaries for the promotion of literature and the arts & sciences".
  • "To grant charters of incorporation".
  • "To grant patents for useful inventions".
  • "To secure to Authors exclusive rights for a certain time".
  • "To establish public institutions, rewards and immunities for the promotion of agriculture, commerce, trades and
    manufactures".
  • "That funds which shall be appropriated for payment of public Creditors, shall not during the time of such
    appropriation, be diverted or applied to any other purpose, and that the Committee prepare a clause or clauses for
    restraining the Legislature of the United States from establishing a perpetual revenue".
  • "To secure the payment of the public debt".
  • "To secure all creditors under the New Constitution from a violation of the public faith when pledged by the authority
    of the Legislature".
  • "To grant letters of mark and reprisal".
  • "To regulate Stages on the post roads".

Mr. MASON introduced the subject of regulating the militia. He thought such a power necessary to be given to the General
Government. He hoped there would be no standing army in time of peace, unless it might be for a few garrisons. The Militia
ought therefore to be the more effectually prepared for the public defense. Thirteen States will never concur in any one
system, if the disciplining of the Militia be left in their hands. If they will not give up the power over the whole, they probably
will over a part as a select militia. He moved as an addition to the propositions just referred to the Committee of detail, and to
be referred in like manner, "a power to regulate the militia."

Mr. GERRY remarked that some provision ought to be made in favor of public Securities, and something inserted concerning
letters of marque, which he thought not included in the power of war. He proposed that these subjects should also go to a
Committee.

Mr. RUTLIDGE moved to refer a clause "that funds appropriated to public creditors should not be diverted to other purposes."


Mr. MASON was much attached to the principle, but was afraid such a fetter might be dangerous in time of war. He
suggested the necessity of preventing the danger of perpetual revenue which must of necessity subvert the liberty of any
Country. If it be objected to on the principle of Mr. Rutlidge's motion that public credit may require perpetual provisions, that
case might be excepted: it being declared that in other cases, no taxes should be laid for a longer term than ____ years. He
considered the caution observed in Great Britain on this point as the palladium of the public liberty.

Mr. RUTLIDGE'S motion was referred. He then moved that a Grand Committee be appointed to consider the necessity and
expediency of the United States assuming all the State debts. A regular settlement between the Union and the several States
would never take place. The assumption would be just as the State debts were contracted in the common defense. It was
necessary, as the taxes on imports the only sure source of revenue were to be given up to the Union. It was politic, as by
disburdening the people of the State debts it would conciliate them to the plan.

Mr. KING and Mr. PINKNEY seconded the motion.

[
Col. MASON interposed a motion that the Committee prepare a clause for restraining perpetual revenue, which was agreed
to nem. con.]

Mr. SHERMAN thought it would be better to authorize the Legislature to assume the State debts, than to say positively it
should be done. He considered the measure as just and that it would have a good effect to say something about the Matter.

Mr. ELSEWORTH differed from Mr. Sherman. As far as the State debts ought in equity to be assumed, he conceived that
they might and would be so.

Mr. PINKNEY observed that a great part of the State debts were of such a nature that although in point of policy and true
equity they ought, yet would they not be viewed in the light of federal expenditures.

Mr. KING thought the matter of more consequence than Mr. Elseworth seemed to do, and that it was well worthy of
commitment. Besides the considerations of justice and policy which had been mentioned, it might be remarked that the State
Creditors, an active and formidable party, would otherwise be opposed to a plan which transferred to the Union the best
resources of the States without transferring the State debts at the same time. The State Creditors had generally been the
strongest foes to the impost plan. The State debts probably were of greater amount than the federal. He would not say that it
was practicable to consolidate the debts, but he thought it would be prudent to have the subject considered by a Committee.

On MR. RUTLIDGE'S  motion, that Committee be appointed to consider of the assumption etc.

New Hampshire, no; Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, divided; Delaware, no; Maryland,
no; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye; Georgia, aye.

Mr. GERRY's motion to provide for public securities, for stages on post-roads, and for letters of marque and reprisal, were
committed nem. con.

Mr. KING suggested that all un-allocated lands of particular States ought to be given up if State debts were to be assumed.
Mr. Williamson concurred in the idea.

A Grand Committee was appointed consisting of transfer hither the appointment and names of the Committee. [The Come.
appointed by ballot were Mr. Langdon, Mr. King, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Livingston, Mr. Clymer, Mr. Dickenson, Mr. Mc.Henry,
Mr. Mason, Mr. Williamson, Mr. C. C. Pinkney, and Mr. Baldwin.]

Mr. RUTLIDGE remarked on the length of the Session, the probable impatience of the public and the extreme anxiety of
many members of the Convention to bring the business to an end; concluding with a motion that the Convention meet
henceforward precisely at 10 O’clock, A. M. and that precisely at 4 O‘clock, P. M. the President adjourn the House without
motion for the purpose. and that no motion to adjourn sooner be allowed.

On this question
New Hampshire, aye, Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, no; Delaware, aye; Maryland,
no; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye; Georgia, aye.

Mr. ELSEWORTH observed that a Council had not yet been provided for the President. He conceived there ought to be one.
His proposition was that it should be composed of the President of the Senate, the Chief-Justice, and the ministers as they
might be established, for the departments of foreign and domestic affairs, war finance and marine, who should advise but not
conclude the President.

Mr. PINKNEY wished the proposition to lie over, as notice had been given for a like purpose by Mr. Govr. Morris who was
not then on the floor. His own idea was that the President should be authorized to call for advice or not as he might choose.
Give him an able Council and it will thwart him; a weak one and he will shelter himself under their sanction.

Mr. GERRY was against letting the heads of the departments, particularly of finance have any thing to do in business
connected with legislation. He mentioned the Chief Justice also as particularly exceptionable. These men will also be so taken
up with other matters as to neglect their own proper duties.

Mr. DICKENSON urged that the great appointments should be made by the Legislature, in which case they might properly be
consulted by the Executive, but not if made by the Executive himself. This subject by general consent lay over; and the House
proceeded to the clause "To raise armies."

Mr. GHORUM moved to add "and support" after "raise." Agreed to nem. con. and then the clause agreed to nem. con., as
amended.

Mr. GERRY took notice that there was no check here against standing armies in time of peace. The existing Congress is so
constructed that it cannot of itself maintain an army. This would not be the case under the new system. The people were
jealous on this head, and great opposition to the plan would spring from such an omission. He suspected that preparations of
force were now making against it. [he seemed to allude to the activity of the Governor of New York at this crisis in
disciplining the militia of that State.] He thought an army dangerous in time of peace and could never consent to a power to
keep up an indefinite number. He proposed that there shall not be kept up in time of peace more than a thousand troops. His
idea was that the blank should be filled with two or three thousand.

Instead of "to build and equip fleets"-"to provide and maintain a navy" agreed to nem. con. as a more convenient definition of
the power.

"To make rules for the Government and regulation of the land & naval forces," added from the existing Articles of
Confederation.

Mr. L. MARTIN and Mr. GERRY now regularly moved "provided that in time of peace the army shall not consist of more
than one thousand men."

Genl. PINKNEY asked whether no troops were ever to be raised until an attack should be made on us?

Mr. GERRY. If there be no restriction, a few States may establish a military Government.

Mr. WILLIAMSON, reminded him of Mr. Mason's motion for limiting the appropriation of revenue as the best guard in this
case. Mr. LANGDON saw no room for Mr. Gerry's distrust of the Representatives of the people.

Mr. DAYTON. Preparations for war are generally made in peace; and a standing force of some sort may, for ought we know,
become unavoidable. He should object to no restrictions consistent with these ideas.

The motion of Mr. Martin and Mr. Gerry was disagreed to nem. con.

Mr. MASON moved as an additional power "to make laws for the regulation and discipline of the militia of the several States
reserving to the States the appointment of the officers." He considered uniformity as necessary in the regulation of the Militia
throughout the Union.

Gen. PINKNEY mentioned a case during the war in which a dissimilarity in the militia of different States had produced the
most serious mischief. Uniformity was essential. The States would never keep up a proper discipline of their militia.

Mr. ELSEWORTH was for going as far in submitting the militia to the General Government as might be necessary, but
thought the motion of Mr. Mason went too far. He moved that the militia should have the same arms and exercise and be
under rules established by the General Government when in actual service of the United States and when States neglect to
provide regulations for militia, it should be regulated and established by the Legislature of U. S. The whole authority over the
Militia ought by no means to be taken away from the States whose consequence would pine away to nothing after such a
sacrifice of power. He thought the General Authority could not sufficiently pervade the Union for such a purpose, nor could it
accommodate itself to the local genius of the people. It must be vain to ask the States to give the Militia out of their hands.

Mr. SHERMAN 2nds. the motion.

Mr. DICKENSON. We are come now to a most important matter, that of the sword. His opinion was that the States never
would nor ought to give up all authority over the Militia. He proposed to restrain the general power to one fourth part at a time,
which by rotation would discipline the whole Militia.

Mr. BUTLER urged the necessity of submitting the whole Militia to the general Authority, which had the care of the general
defense.

Mr. MASON. had suggested the idea of a select militia. He was led to think that would be in fact as much as the General
Government could advantageously be charged with. He was afraid of creating insuperable objections to the plan. He withdrew
his original motion, and moved a power "to make laws for regulating and disciplining the militia, not exceeding one tenth part
in any one year, and reserving the appointment of officers to the States."

Genl. PINKNEY, renewed Mr. Mason's original motion. For a part to be under the General and part under the State
Governments would be an incurable evil. He saw no room for such distrust of the General Government.

Mr. LANGDON 2nds. Gen. Pinkney's renewal. He saw no more reason to be afraid of the General Government than of the
State Governments. He was more apprehensive of the confusion of the different authorities on this subject, than of either.

Mr. MADISON thought the regulation of the Militia naturally appertaining to the authority charged with the public defense. It
did not seem in its nature to be divisible between two distinct authorities. If the States would trust the General Government
with a power over the public treasure, they would from the same consideration of necessity grant it the direction of the public
force. Those who had a full view of the public situation would from a sense of the danger, guard against it. The States would
not be separately impressed with the general situation, nor have the due confidence in the concurrent exertions of each other.

Mr. ELSEWORTH considered the idea of a select militia as impracticable; and if it were not, it would be followed by a
ruinous declension of the great body of the Militia. The States will never submit to the same militia laws. Three or four
shilling's as a penalty will enforce obedience better in New England, than forty lashes in some other places.

Mr. PINKNEY thought the power such an one as could not be abused, and that the States would see the necessity of
surrendering it. He had however but a scanty faith in Militia. There must be also a real military force. This alone can
effectually answer the purpose. The United States had been making an experiment without it, and we see the consequence in
their rapid approaches towards anarchy.

Mr. SHERMAN, took notice that the States might want their Militia for defense against invasions and insurrections, and for
enforcing obedience to their laws. They will not give up this point. In giving up that of taxation, they retain a concurrent
power of raising money for their own use.

Mr. GERRY thought this the last point remaining to be surrendered. If it be agreed to by the Convention, the plan will have as
black a mark as was set on Cain. He had no such confidence in the General Government as some gentlemen professed, and
believed it would be found that the States have not.

Col. MASON thought there was great weight in the remarks of Mr. Sherman, and moved an exception to his motion "of such
part of the Militia as might be required by the States for their own use."

Mr. READ doubted the propriety of leaving the appointment of the Militia officers in the States. In some States they are
elected by the legislatures; in others by the people themselves. He thought at least an appointment by the State Executives
ought to be insisted on.

On committing to the grand Committee last appointed, the latter motion of Col. Mason, and the original one revived by Gel.
Pinkney:

New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, aye; Delaware, aye; Maryland,
divided; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye; Georgia, aye.

Adjourned
The Illinois Conservative