|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
July 2, 1787
Monday July 2, 1787
On the question for allowing each State one vote in the second branch as moved by Mr. Elseworth, Massachusetts, no.
Connecticut, aye. New York, aye. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, aye. Maryland, aye. Mr. Jenifer being not
present Mr. Martin alone voted. Virginia, no. North Carolina, no. Sourth Carolina, no. Georgia, divided. Mr. Houston, no. Mr.
Mr. PINKNEY thought an equality of votes in the 2nd branch inadmissible. At the same time candor obliged him to admit that
the large States would feel a partiality for their own Citizens and give them a preference, in appointments: that they might also
find some common points in their commercial interests, and promote treaties favorable to them. There is a real distinction
[between] the Northern and Southern interests. North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, in their Rice and Indigo had a
peculiar interest which might be sacrificed.
How then shall the larger States be prevented from administering the General Government as they please, without being
themselves unduly subjected to the will of the smaller? By allowing them some but not a full proportion. He was extremely
anxious that something should be done, considering this as the last appeal to a regular experiment. Congress have failed in
almost every effort for an amendment of the federal System. Nothing has prevented a dissolution of it, but the appointment of
this Convention; and he could not express his alarms for the consequences of such an event. He read his motion, to form the
States into classes, with an apportionment of Senators among them, [see art. 4, of his plan].
Gen. PINKNEY. was willing the motion might be considered. He did not entirely approve it. He liked better the motion of Dr.
Franklin [which see Saturday June 30]. Some compromise seemed to be necessary: the States being exactly divided on the
question for an equality of votes in the 2nd branch. He proposed that a Committee consisting of a member from each State
should be appointed to devise and report some compromise.
Mr. L. MARTIN had no objection to a commitment, but no modifications whatever could reconcile the Smaller States to the
least diminution of their equal Sovereignty.
Mr. SHARMAN. We are now at a full stop, and nobody he supposed meant that we should break up without doing
something. A committee he thought most likely to hit on some expedient.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS thought a Committee advisable as the Convention had been equally divided. He had a stronger reason
also. The mode of appointing the 2nd branch tended he was sure to defeat the object of it. What is this object? To check the
precipitation, changeableness, and excesses of the first branch. Every man of observation had seen in the democratic
branches of the State Legislatures, precipitation in Congress changeableness, in every department excesses against personal
liberty private property and personal safety. What qualities are necessary to constitute a check in this case?
Abilities and virtue, are equally necessary in both branches. Something more then is now wanted. 1. The checking branch
must have a personal interest in checking the other branch, one interest must be opposed to another interest. Vices as they
exist, must be turned against each other. 2. It must have great personal property, it must have the aristocratic spirit; it must
love to lord it through pride. Pride is indeed the great principle that actuates both the poor and the rich. It is this principle
which in the former resists, in the latter abuses authority. 3. It should be independent. In Religion the Creature is apt to forget
its Creator. That it is otherwise in political affairs, the late debates here are an unhappy proof. The aristocratic body, should
be as independent and as firm as the democratic. If the members of it are to revert to a dependence on the democratic choice,
the democratic scale will preponderate.
All the guards contrived by America have not restrained the Senatorial branches of the Legislatures from a servile
complaisance to the democratic. If the 2nd branch is to be dependent we are better without it. To make it independent, it
should be for life. It will then do wrong, it will be said. He believed so. He hoped so. The Rich will strive to establish their
dominion and enslave the rest. They always did. They always will. The proper security against them is to form them into a
separate interest. The two forces will then control each other. Let the rich mix with the poor and in a Commercial Country,
they will establish an oligarchy. Take away commerce, and the democracy will triumph. Thus it has been all the world over.
So it will be among us.
Reason tells us we are but men: and we are not to expect any particular interference of Heaven in our favor. By thus
combining and setting apart, the aristocratic interest, the popular interest will be combined against it. There will be a mutual
check and mutual security. 4. An independence for life, involves the necessary permanency. If we change our measures no
body will trust us; and how avoid a change of measures, but by avoiding a change of men? Ask any man if he confides in
Congress, if he confides in the State of Pennsylvania. if he will lend his money or enter into contract? He will tell you no. He
sees no stability. He can repose no confidence. If Great Britain were to explain her refusal to treat with us, the same
reasoning would be employed.
He disliked the exclusion of the 2d. branch from holding offices. It is dangerous. It is like the imprudent exclusion of the
military officers during the war, from civil appointments. It deprives the Executive of the principal source of influence. If
danger be apprehended from the Executive what a left-handed way is this of obviating it? If the son, the brother or the friend
can be appointed, the danger may be even increased, as the disqualified father, etc., can then boast of a disinterestedness
which he does not possess. Besides shall the best, the most able, the most virtuous citizens not be permitted to hold offices?
Who then are to hold them?
He was also against paying the Senators. They will pay themselves if they can. If they can not they will be rich and can do
without it. Of such the 2nd branch ought to consist, and none but such can compose it if they are not to be paid. He
contended that the Executive should appoint the Senate and fill up vacancies. This gets rid of the difficulty in the present
question. You may begin with any ratio you please; it will come to the same thing. The members being independent and for
life, may be taken as well from one place as from another.
It should be considered too how the scheme could be carried through the States. He hoped there was strength of mind
enough in this House to look truth in the face. He did not hesitate therefore to say that loaves and fishes must bribe the
Demagogues. They must be made to expect higher offices under the general than the State Governments. A Senate for life
will be a noble bait. Without such captivating prospects, the popular leaders will oppose and defeat the plan.
He perceived that the 1st. branch was to be chosen by the people of the States: the 2nd by those chosen by the people. Is not
here a Government by the States? A Government by Compact between Virginia in the 1st and 2nd branch; Massachusetts in
the 1st and 2nd branch, etc. This is going back to mere treaty. It is no Government at all. It is altogether dependent on the
States, and will act over again the part which Congress has acted. A firm Government alone can protect our liberties.
He fears the influence of the rich. They will have the same effect here as elsewhere if we do not by such a Government keep
them within their proper sphere. We should remember that the people never act from reason alone. The Rich will take
advantage of their passions and make these the instruments for oppressing them. The Result of the Contest will be a violent
aristocracy, or a more violent despotism. The schemes of the Rich will be favored by the extent of the Country. The people
in such distant parts can not communicate and act in concert. They will be the dupes of those who have more knowledge and
intercourse. The only security against encroachments will be a select and sagacious body of men, instituted to watch against
them on all sides. He meant only to hint these observations, without grounding any motion on them.
Mr. RANDOLPH favored the commitment though he did not expect much benefit from the expedient. He animadverted on
the warm and rash language of Mr. Bedford on Saturday; reminded the small States that if the large States should combine
some danger of which he did not deny there would be a check in the reversionary power of the Executive, and intimated that
in order to render this still more effectual, he would agree that in the choice of the Executive each State should have an equal
vote. He was persuaded that two such opposite bodies as Mr. Morris had planned, could never long co-exist. Dissentions
would arise as has been seen even between the Senate and House of Delegates in Maryland, appeals would be made to the
people; and in a little time, commotions would be the result. He was far from thinking the large States could subsist of
themselves any more than the small; an avulsion would involve the whole in ruin, and he was determined to pursue such a
scheme of Government as would secure us against such a calamity.
Mr. STRONG was for the Commitment; and hoped the mode of constituting both branches would be referred. If they should
be established on different principles, contentions would prevail, and there would never be a concurrence in necessary
Dr. WILLIAMSON. If we do not concede on both sides, our business must soon be at an end. He approved of the
Commitment, supposing that as the Committee would be a smaller body, a compromise would be pursued with more
Mr. WILSON objected to the Committee, because it would decide according to that very rule of voting which was opposed
on one side. Experience in Congress had also proved the inutility of Committees consisting of members from each State.
Mr. LANSING would not oppose the commitment, though expecting little advantage from it.
Mr. MADISON opposed the Commitment. He had rarely seen any other effect than delay from such Committees in
Congress. Any scheme of compromise that could be proposed in the Committee might as easily be proposed in the House;
and the report of the Committee when it contained merely the opinion of the Committee would neither shorten the discussion,
nor influence the decision of the House.
Mr. GERRY was for the Commitment. Something must be done, or we shall disappoint not only America, but the whole
world. He suggested a consideration of the State we should be thrown into by the failure of the Union. We should be without
an Umpire to decide controversies and must be at the mercy of events. What too is to become of our treaties, what of our
foreign debts, what of our domestic? We must make concessions on both sides. Without these the Constitutions of the
several States would never have been formed.
On the question "for committing," generally:
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, aye. New York, aye. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no. Maryland, aye.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
On the question for committing "to a member from each State."
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, aye. New York, aye. New Jersey, aye, Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, aye. Maryland, aye.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
The Committee elected by ballot, were Mr. Gerry, Mr. Elseworth, Mr. Yates, Mr. Patterson, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Bedford, Mr.
Martin, Mr. Mason, Mr. Davy, Mr. Rutlidge, and Mr. Baldwin.
That time might be given to the Committee, and to such as chose to attend to the celebrations on the anniversary of
Independence, the Convention adjourned till Thursday.
|The Illinois Conservative