|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
July 16, 1787
Monday July 16, 1787
On the question for agreeing to the whole Report as amended and including the equality of votes in the 2nd branch. It passed
in the Affirmative.
Massachusetts, divided. Mr. Gerry, Mr. Strong, aye. Mr. King, Mr. Ghorum, no. Connecticut, aye. New Jersey, aye.
Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, aye. Maryland, aye
Words entered in the Journal July 16.
The whole, thus passed is in the words following viz. "Resolved that in the original formation of the Legislature of the United
States, the first branch thereof shall consist of sixty five members, of which number New Hampshire shall send 3.
Massachusetts, 8. Rhode Island, 1. Connecticut, 5. New York, 6. New Jersey, 4. Pennsylvania, 8. Delaware, 1. Maryland, 6.
Virginia, 10. North Carolina, 5. South Carolina, 5. Georgia, 3.
But as the present situation of the States may probably alter in the number of their inhabitants, the Legislature of the U. S. shall
be authorized from time to time to apportion the number of Representatives; and in case any of the States shall hereafter be
divided, or enlarged by, addition of territory, or any two or more States united, or any new States created within the limits of
the United States, the Legislature of the U. S. shall possess authority to regulate the number of Representatives in any of the
foregoing cases, upon the principle of their number of inhabitants, according to the provisions hereafter mentioned, provided
always that representation ought to be proportioned according to direct taxation; and in order to ascertain the alteration in the
direct taxation, which may be required from time to time by the changes in the relative circumstances of the States:
Resolved, that a Census be taken within six years from the 1st meeting of the Legislature of the United States, and once within
the term of every 10 years afterwards of all the inhabitants of the U. S. in the manner and according to the ratio recommended
by Congress in their Resolution of April 18, 1783, and that the Legislature of the U. S. shall proportion the direct taxation
"Resolved, that all bills for raising or appropriating money, and for fixing the salaries of officers of the Government of the
United States shall originate in the first branch of the Legislature of the United States, and shall not be altered or amended in
the 2d branch; and that no money shall be drawn from the public Treasury, but in pursuance of appropriations to be originated
in the 1st branch.
"Resolved that in the 2nd branch of the Legislature of the United States, each State shall have an equal vote."
The 6th Resolution in the Report from the Committee of the whole House, which had been postponed in order to consider the
7th and 8th Resolutions, was now resumed. See the Resolution.
The 1st member: "That the National Legislature ought to possess the Legislative Rights vested in Congress by the
Confederation." was agreed to nem con.
The next: "And moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent; or in which the harmony of the
United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual legislation," being read for a question.
Mr. BUTLER calls for some explanation of the extent of this power: particularly of the word incompetent. The vagueness of
the terms rendered it impossible for any precise judgment to be formed.
Mr. GHORUM. The vagueness of the terms constitutes the propriety of them. We are now establishing general principles, to
be extended hereafter into details which will be precise and explicit.
Mr. RUTLIDGE, urged the objection started by Mr. Butler and moved that the clause should be committed to the end that a
specification of the powers comprised in the general terms, might be reported.
On the question for a commitment, the States were equally divided.
Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, aye. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, no. Maryland, aye. Virginia, aye. North
Carolina, no. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye: So it was lost.
Mr. RANDOLPH. The vote of this morning [involving an equality of suffrage in 2nd branch] had embarrassed the business
extremely. All the powers given in the Report from the Committee of the whole, were founded on the supposition that a
proportional representation was to prevail in both branches of the Legislature. When he came here this morning his purpose
was to have offered some propositions that might if possible have united a great majority of votes, and particularly might
provide against the danger suspected on the part of the smaller States, by enumerating the cases in which it might lie, and
allowing an equality of votes in such cases.
But finding from the preceding vote that they persist in demanding an equal vote in all cases, that they have succeeded in
obtaining it, and that New York, if present, would probably be on the same side, he could not but think we were unprepared
to discuss this subject further. It will probably be in vain to come to any final decision with a bare majority on either side. For
these reasons he wished the Convention might adjourn, that the large States might consider the steps proper to be taken in the
present solemn crisis of the business, and that the small States might also deliberate on the means of conciliation.
Mr. PATTERSON, thought with Mr. Randolph that it was high time for the Convention to adjourn; that the rule of secrecy
ought to be rescinded, and that our Constituents should be consulted. No conciliation could be admissible on the part of the
smaller States on any other ground than that of an equality of votes in the 2nd branch. If Mr. Randolph would reduce to form
his motion for an adjournment sine die, he would second it with all his heart.
Gen. PINKNEY wished to know of Mr. Randolph, whether he meant an adjournment sine die, or only an adjournment for the
day. If the former was meant, it differed much from his idea. He could not think of going to South Carolina and returning
again to this place. Besides it was chimerical to suppose that the States if consulted would ever accord separately, and
Mr. RANDOLPH, had never entertained an idea of an adjournment sine die; and was sorry that his meaning had been so
readily and strangely misinterpreted. He had in view merely an adjournment till tomorrow, in order that some conciliatory
experiment might if possible be devised, and that in case the smaller States should continue to hold back, the larger might then
take such measures, he would not say what, as might be necessary.
Mr. PATTERSON seconded the adjournment till tomorrow, as an opportunity seemed to be wished by the larger States to
deliberate further on conciliatory expedients. On the question for adjourning till tomorrow, the States were equally divided.
Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, no. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no. Maryland, aye. Virginia, aye. North
Carolina, aye. South Carolina, no. Georgia, no. So it was lost.
Mr. BROOME thought it his duty to declare his opinion against, an adjournment sine die, as had been urged by Mr. Patterson.
Such a measure he thought would be fatal. Something must be done by the Convention, though it should be by a bare majority.
Mr. GERRY observed that Massachusetts was opposed to an adjournment, because they saw no new ground of
compromise. But as it seemed to be the opinion of so many States that a trial should be made, the State would now concur in
Mr. RUTLIDGE could see no need of an adjournment because he could see no chance of a compromise. The little States
were fixed. They had repeatedly and solemnly declared themselves to be so. All that the large States then had to do, was to
decide whether they would yield or not. For his part he conceived that although we could not do what we thought best, in
itself, we ought to do something. Had we not better keep the Government up a little longer, hoping that another Convention
will supply our omissions, than abandon every thing to hazard. Our Constituents will be very little satisfied with us if we take
the latter course.
Mr. RANDOLPH and Mr. KING renewed the motion to adjourn till tomorrow.
On the question. Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, no. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no. Maryland, aye.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, divided.
On the morning following before the hour of the convention a number of the members from the larger States by common
agreement met for the purpose of consulting on the proper steps to be taken in consequence of the vote in favor of an equal
Representation in the 2nd branch, and the apparent inflexibility of the smaller States on that point. Several members from the
latter States also attended. The time was wasted in vague conversation on the subject, without any specific proposition or
agreement. It appeared indeed that the opinions of the members who disliked the equality of votes differed so much as to the
importance of that point, and as to the policy of risking a failure of any general act of the Convention, by inflexibly opposing it.
Several of them supposing that no good Government could or would be built on that foundation, and that as a division of the
Convention into two opinions was unavoidable; it would be better that the side comprising the principal States, and a majority
of the people of America, should propose a scheme of Government to the States, than that a scheme should be proposed on
the other side, would have concurred in a firm opposition to the smaller States, and in a separate recommendation, if
Others seemed inclined to yield to the smaller States, and to concur in such an act however imperfect and exceptionable, as
might be agreed on by the Convention as a body, though decided by a bare majority of States and by a minority of the people
of the United States. It is probable that the result of this consultation satisfied the smaller States that they had nothing to
apprehend from a union of the larger, in any plan whatever against the equality of votes in the 2nd branch.
In the transcript the vote reads: "Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina [Mr. Spaight, no], aye-5;
Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, no-4; Massachusetts, divided, [Mr. Gerry, Mr. Strong, aye; Mr. King, Mr.
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