Wednesday July 11, 1787
Mr. RANDOLPH'S motion requiring the Legislature to take a periodical census for the purpose of redressing inequalities in
the Representation, was resumed.
Mr. SHERMAN was against shackling the Legislature too much. We ought to choose wise and good men, and then confide
Mr. MASON. The greater the difficulty we find in fixing a proper rule of Representation, the more unwilling ought we to be,
to throw the task from ourselves, on the General Legislature. He did not object to the conjectural ratio which was to prevail in
the outset; but considered a Revision from time to time according to some permanent and precise standard as essential to the
fair representation required in the 1st branch. According to the present population of America, the Northern part of it had a
right to preponderate, and he could not deny it. But he wished it not to preponderate hereafter when the reason no longer
From the nature of man we may be sure, that those who have power in their hands will not give it up while they can retain it.
On the contrary we know they will always when they can rather increase it. If the Southern States therefore should have 3/4
of the people of America within their limits, the Northern will hold fast the majority of Representatives. 1/4 will govern the
3/4 . The Southern States will complain, but they may complain from generation to generation without redress. Unless some
principle therefore which will do justice to them hereafter shall be inserted in the Constitution, disagreeable as the declaration
was to him, he must declare he could neither vote for the system here, nor support it, in his State.
Strong objections had been drawn from the danger to the Atlantic interests from new Western States. Ought we to sacrifice
what we know to be right in itself, lest it should prove favorable to States which are not yet in existence. If the Western
States are to be admitted into the Union, as they arise, they must, he would repeat, be treated as equals, and subjected to no
degrading discriminations. They will have the same pride and other passions which we have, and will either not unite with or
will speedily revolt from the Union, if they are not in all respects placed on an equal footing with their brethren.
It has been said they will be poor, and unable to make equal contributions to the general Treasury. He did not know but that
in time they would be both more numerous and more wealthy than their Atlantic brethren. The extent and fertility of their soil,
made this probable; and though Spain might for a time deprive them of the natural outlet for their productions, yet she will,
because she must, finally yield to their demands. He urged that numbers of inhabitants; though not always a precise standard
of wealth was sufficiently so for every substantial purpose.
Mr. WILLIAMSON was for making it the duty of the Legislature to do what was right and not leaving it at liberty to do or
not do it. He moved that Mr. Randolph's proposition be postponed in order to consider the following "that in order to
ascertain the alterations that may happen in the population and wealth of the several States, a census shall be taken of the free
white inhabitants and 3/5 th of those of other descriptions on the 1st year after this Government shall have been adopted and
every year thereafter. and that the Representation be regulated accordingly."
Mr. RANDOLPH agreed that Mr. Williamson's proposition should stand in the place of his. He observed that the ratio fixed
for the 1st meeting was a mere conjecture, that it placed the power in the hands of that part of America, which could not
always be entitled to it, that this power would not be voluntarily renounced, and that it was consequently the duty of the
Convention to secure its renunciation when justice might so require, by some constitutional provisions. If equality between
great and small States be inadmissible, because in that case unequal numbers of Constituents would be represented by equal
number of votes; was it not equally inadmissible that a larger and more populous district of America should hereafter have
less representation, than a smaller and less populous district.
If a fair representation of the people be not secured, the injustice of the Government will shake it to its foundations. What
relates to suffrage is justly stated by the celebrated Montesquieu, as a fundamental article in Republican Governments. If the
danger suggested by Mr. Govr. Morris be real, of advantage being taken of the Legislature in pressing moments, it was an
additional reason, for tying their hands in such a manner that they could not sacrifice their trust to momentary considerations.
Congress have pledged the public faith to New States, that they shall be admitted on equal terms. They never would nor
ought to accede on any other. The census must be taken under the direction of the General Legislature. The States will be too
much interested to take an impartial one for themselves.
Mr. BUTLER & Gen. PINKNEY insisted that blacks be included in the rule of Representation, equally with the Whites: and
for that purpose moved that the words "three fifths" be struck out.
Mr. GERRY thought that 3/5 of them was to say the least the full proportion that could be admitted.
Mr. GHORUM. This ratio was fixed by Congress as a rule of taxation. Then it was urged by the Delegates representing the
States having slaves that the blacks were still more inferior to freemen. At present when the ratio of representation is to be
established, we are assured that they are equal to freemen. The arguments on the former occasion had convinced him that
3/5 was pretty near the just proportion and he should vote according to the same opinion now.
Mr. BUTLER insisted that the labor of a slave in South Carolina was as productive and valuable as that of a freeman in
Massachusetts, that as wealth was the great means of defense and utility to the Nation they were equally valuable to it with
freemen, and that consequently an equal representation ought to be allowed for them in a Government which was instituted
principally for the protection of property, and was itself to be supported by property.
Mr. MASON, could not agree to the motion, notwithstanding it was favorable to Virginia because he thought it unjust. It was
certain that the slaves were valuable, as they raised the value of land, increased the exports and imports, and of course the
revenue, would supply the means of feeding and supporting an army, and might in cases of emergency become themselves
soldiers. As in these important respects they were useful to the community at large, they ought not to be excluded from the
estimate of Representation. He could not however regard them as equal to freemen and could not vote for them as such. He
added as worthy of remark, that the Southern States have this peculiar species of property, over and above the other species
of property common to all the States.
Mr. WILLIAMSON reminded Mr. Ghorum that if the Southern States contended for the inferiority of blacks to whites
when taxation was in view, the Eastern States on the same occasion contended for their equality. He did not however either
then or now, concur in either extreme, but approved of the ratio of 3/5.
On Mr. Butlers motion for considering blacks as equal to Whites in the apportionment of Representation.
Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, no. [New York not on floor] New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania no. Delaware, aye. Maryland,
no. Virginia, no. North Carolina, no. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS said he had several objections to the proposition of Mr. Williamson. 1. It fettered the Legislature too
much. 2. It would exclude some States altogether who would not have a sufficient number to entitle them to a single
Representative. 3. It will not consist with the Resolution passed on Saturday last authorizing the Legislature to adjust the
Representation from time to time on the principles or population and wealth or with the principles of equity.
If slaves were to be considered as inhabitants, not as wealth, then the second Resolution would not be pursued. If as wealth,
then why is no other wealth but slaves included? These objections may perhaps be removed by amendments. His great
objection was that the number of inhabitants was not a proper standard of wealth. The amazing difference between the
comparative numbers and wealth of different Countries, rendered all reasoning superfluous on the subject. Numbers might
with greater propriety be deemed a measure of strength, than of wealth, yet the late defense made by Great Britain, against
her numerous enemies proved in the clearest manner, that it is entirely fallacious even in this respect.
Mr. KING thought there was great force in the objections of Mr. Govr. Morris: he would however accede to the proposition
for the sake of doing something.
Mr. RUTLIDGE contended for the admission of wealth in the estimate by which Representation should be regulated. The
Western States will not be able to contribute in proportion to their numbers; they should not therefore be represented in that
proportion. The Atlantic States will not concur in such a plan. He moved that "at the end of years after the 1st meeting of the
Legislature, and of every years thereafter, the Legislature shall proportion the Representation according to the principles of
wealth and population".
Mr. SHERMAN thought the number of people alone the best rule for measuring wealth as well as representation; and that if
the Legislature were to be governed by wealth, they would be obliged to estimate it by numbers. He was at first for leaving
the matter wholly to the discretion of the Legislature; but he had been convinced by the observations of [Mr. Randolph & Mr.
Mason,] that the periods and the rule, of revising the Representation ought to be fixed by the Constitution.
Mr. REID thought the Legislature ought not to be too much shackled. It would make the Constitution like Religious Creeds,
embarrassing to those bound to conform to them and more likely to produce dissatisfaction and schism, than harmony and
Mr. MASON objected to Mr. Rutlidge motion, as requiring of the Legislature something too indefinite and impracticable, and
leaving them a pretext for doing nothing.
Mr. WILSON had himself no objection to leaving the Legislature entirely at liberty. But considered wealth as an impracticable
Mr. GHORUM. If the Convention who are comparatively so little biased by local views are so much perplexed, How can it
be expected that the Legislature hereafter under the full bias of those views, will be able to settle a standard. He was
convinced by the arguments of others and his own reflections, that the Convention ought to fix some standard or other.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. The arguments of others and his own reflections had led him to a very different conclusion. If we
can't agree on a rule that will be just at this time, how can we expect to find one that will be just in all times to come. Surely
those who come after us will judge better of things present, than we can of things future. He could not persuade himself that
numbers would be a just rule at any time. The remarks of [Mr. Mason] relative to the Western Country had not changed his
opinion on that head.
Among other objections it must be apparent they would not be able to furnish men equally enlightened, to share in the
administration of our common interests. The Busy haunts of men not the remote wilderness, was the proper school of
political Talents. If the Western people get the power into their hands they will ruin the Atlantic interests.
The Back members are always most averse to the best measures. He mentioned the case of Pennsylvania formerly. The
lower part of the State had the power in the first instance. They kept it in their own hands and the Country was the better for
it. Another objection with him against admitting the blacks into the census, was that the people of Pennsylvania would revolt
at the idea of being put on a footing with slaves. They would reject any plan that was to have such an effect. Two objections
had been raised against leaving the adjustment of the Representation from time to time, to the discretion of the Legislature.
The first, was they would be unwilling to revise it at all. The second, that by referring to wealth they would be bound by a
rule which if willing, they would be unable to execute. The first objection distrusts their fidelity. But if their duty, their honor
and their oaths will not bind them, let us not put into their hands our liberty, and all our other great interests; let us have no
Government at all. Second, if these ties will bind them, we need not distrust the practicability of the rule. It was followed in
part by the Committee in the apportionment of Representatives yesterday reported to the House. The best course that could
be taken would be to leave the interests of the people to the Representatives of the people.
Mr. MADISON, was not a little surprised to hear this implicit confidence urged by a member who on all occasions, had
inculcated so strongly, the political depravity of men, and the necessity of checking one vice and interest by opposing to them
another vice and interest. If the Representatives of the people would be bound by the ties he had mentioned, what need was
there of a Senate? What of a Reversionary power? But his reasoning was not only inconsistent with his former reasoning, but
with itself. At the same time that he recommended this implicit confidence to the Southern States in the Northern Majority, he
was still more zealous in exhorting all to a jealousy of Western Majority.
To reconcile the gentleman with himself, it must be imagined that he determined the human character by the points of the
compass. The truth was that all men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree. The case of Pennsylvania had
been mentioned where it was admitted that those who were possessed of the power in the original settlement, never admitted
the new settlements to a due share of it. England was a still more striking example. The power there had long been in the
hands of the boroughs, of the minority; who had opposed and defeated every reform which had been attempted.
Virginia was in a lesser degree another example. With regard to the Western States, he was clear and firm in opinion, that no
unfavorable distinctions were admissible either in point of justice or policy. He thought also that the hope of contributions to
the Treasury from them had been much underrated. Future contributions it seemed to be understood on all hands would be
principally levied on imports and exports. The extent and fertility of the Western Soil would for a long time give to agriculture
a preference over manufactures.
Trials would be repeated till some articles could be raised from it that would bear a transportation to places where they could
be exchanged for imported manufactures. Whenever the Mississippi should be opened to them, which would of necessity be
the case. As soon as their population would subject them to any considerable share of the public burden, imposts on their
trade could be collected with less expense and greater certainty, than on that of the Atlantic States. In the mean time, as their
supplies must pass through the Atlantic States, their contributions would be levied in the same manner with those of the
He could not agree that any substantial objection lay against fixing numbers for the perpetual standard of Representation. It
was said that Representation and taxation were to go together; that taxation and wealth ought to go together, that population
and wealth were not measures of each other. He admitted that in different climates, under different forms of Government,
and in different stages of civilization the inference was perfectly just. He would admit that in no situation, numbers of
inhabitants were an accurate measure of wealth.
He contended however that in the United States it was sufficiently so for the object in contemplation. Although their climate
varied considerably, yet as the Governments, the laws, and the manners of all were nearly the same, and the intercourse
between different parts perfectly free, population, industry, arts, and the value of labor, would constantly tend to equalize
themselves. The value of labor, might be considered as the principal criterion of wealth and ability to support taxes, and this
would find its level in different places where the intercourse should be easy and free, with as much certainty as the value of
money or any other thing.
Wherever labor would yield most, people would resort, till the competition should destroy the inequality. Hence it is that the
people are constantly swarming from the more to the less populous places; from Europe to America, from the Northern and
Middle parts of the United States to the Southern and Western. They go where land is cheaper, because there labor is dearer.
If it be true that the same quantity of produce raised on the banks of the Ohio is of less value, than on the Delaware, it is also
true that the same labor will raise twice or thrice, the quantity in the former, that it will raise in the latter situation.
Col. MASON. Agreed with Mr. Govr. Morris that we ought to leave the interests of the people to the Representatives of the
people, but the objection was that the Legislature would cease to be the Representatives of the people. It would continue so
no longer than the States now containing a majority of the people should retain that majority. As soon as the Southern and
Western population should predominate, which must happen in a few years, the power would be in the hands of the minority,
and would never be yielded to the majority, unless provided for by the Constitution.
On the Question for postponing Mr. Williamson's motion, in order to consider that of Mr. Rutlidge it passed in the negative.
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, no. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, aye. Maryland, no. Virginia, no. North
Carolina, no. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
On the question on the first clause of Mr. Williamson's motion as to taking a census of the free inhabitants; it passed in the
affirmative Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, aye. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no. Maryland, no. Virginia,
aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, no. Georgia, no.
The next clause as to 3/5 of the negroes considered.
Mr. KING. being much opposed to fixing numbers as the rule of representation, was particularly so on account of the
blacks. He thought the admission of them along with Whites at all, would excite great discontents among the States having no
slaves. He had never said as to any particular point that he would in no event acquiesce in and support it, but he would say
that if in any case, such a declaration was to be made by him, it would be in this. He remarked that in the temporary allotment
of Representatives made by the Committee, the Southern States had received more than the number of their white and three
fifths of their black inhabitants entitled them to.
Mr. SHERMAN. South Carolina had not more beyond her proportion than New York and New Hampshire, nor either of
them more than was necessary in order to avoid fractions or reducing them below their proportion. Georgia had more; but
the rapid growth of that State seemed to justify it. In general the allotment might not be just, but considering all
circumstances, he was satisfied with it.
Mr. GHORUM. supported the propriety of establishing numbers as the rule. He said that in Massachusetts estimates had
been taken in the different towns, and that persons had been curious enough to compare these estimates with the respective
numbers of people, and it had been found even including Boston, that the most exact proportion prevailed between numbers
and property. He was aware that there might be some weight in what had fallen from his colleague, as to the umbrage which
might be taken by the people of the Eastern States. But he recollected that when the proposition of Congress for changing the
8th. Article of Confederation was before the Legislature of Massachusetts, the only difficulty then was to satisfy them that
the negroes ought not to have been counted equally with whites instead of being counted in the ratio of three fifths only.
Mr. WILSON did not well see on what principle the admission of blacks in the proportion of three fifths could be explained.
Are they admitted as Citizens? Then why are they not admitted on an equality with White Citizens? Are they admitted as
property? Then why is not other property admitted into the computation? These were difficulties however which he thought
must be overruled by the necessity of compromise. He had some apprehensions also from the tendency of the blending of the
blacks with the whites, to give disgust to the people of Pennsylvania as had been intimated by his Colleague [Mr. Govr.
Morris]. But he differed from him in thinking numbers of inhabitants so incorrect a measure of wealth. He had seen the
Western settlements of Pennsylvania and on a comparison of them with the City of Philadelphia could discover little other
difference, than that property was more unequally divided among individuals here than there. Taking the same number in the
aggregate in the two situations he believed there would be little difference in their wealth and ability to contribute to the public
Mr. Govr. MORRIS was compelled to declare himself reduced to the dilemma of doing injustice to the Southern States or to
human nature, and he must therefore do it to the former. For he could never agree to give such encouragement to the slave
trade as would be given by allowing them a representation for their negroes, and he did not believe those States would ever
confederate on terms that would deprive them of that trade.
On Question for agreeing to include 3/5 of the blacks: Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, aye. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania,
no. Delaware, no. Maryland, no. Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, no. Georgia, aye.
On the question as to taking census "the first year after meeting of the Legislature"
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, no. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, aye. Maryland, no. Virginia, ay. North
Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, no.
On filling the blank for the periodical census, with 15 years," Agreed to nem con.
Mr. MADISON moved to add after "15 years," the words "at least" that the Legislature might anticipate when circumstances
were likely to render a particular year inconvenient.
On this motion for adding "at least," it passed in the negative the States being equally divided.
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, no. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, no. Maryland, no. Virginia, aye. North
Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
A Change of the phraseology of the other clause so as to read; "and the Legislature shall alter or augment the representation
accordingly" was agreed to nem. con.
On the question on the whole resolution of Mr. Williamson as amended.
Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, no. New Jersey, no. Delaware, no. Maryland, no. Virginia, no. North Carolina, no. South
Carolina, no. Georgia, no.
|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
July 11, 1787
|The Illinois Conservative