Thursday, July 26, 1787
Col. MASON. In every Stage of the Question relative to the Executive, the difficulty of the subject and the diversity of the
opinions concerning it have appeared. Nor have any of the modes of constituting that department been satisfactory. 1. It has
been proposed that the election should be made by the people at large; that is, that an act which ought to be performed by
those who know most of Eminent characters, and qualifications, should be performed by those who know least. 2.That the
election should be made by the Legislatures of the States. 3. by the Executives of the States. Against these modes also strong
objections have been urged. 4. It has been proposed that the election should be made by Electors chosen by the people for that
purpose. This was at first agreed to, But on further consideration has been rejected. 5. Since which, the mode of Mr.
Williamson, requiring each freeholder to vote for several candidates has been proposed.
This seemed like many other propositions, to carry a plausible face, but on closer inspection is liable to fatal objections. A
popular election in any form, as Mr. Gerry has observed, would throw the appointment into the hands of the Cincinnati, a
Society for the members of which he had a great respect; but which he never wished to have a preponderating influence in
the Govt. 6. Another expedient was proposed by Mr. Dickenson, which is liable to so palpable and material an inconvenience
that he had little doubt of its being by this time rejected by himself. It would exclude every man who happened not to be
popular within his own State; though the causes of his local unpopularity might be of such a nature as to recommend him to
the States at large. 7. Among other expedients, a lottery has been introduced. But as the tickets do not appear to be in much
demand, it will probably, not be carried on, and nothing therefore need be said on that subject.
After reviewing all these various modes, he was led to conclude, that an election by the National Legislature as originally
proposed, was the best. If it was liable to objections, it was liable to fewer than any other. He conceived at the same time that
a second election ought to be absolutely prohibited. Having for his primary object, for the pole star of his political conduct, the
preservation of the rights of the people, he held it as an essential point, as the very palladium of Civil liberty, that the great
officers of State, and particularly the Executive should at fixed periods return to that mass from which they were at first
taken, in order that they may feel and respect those rights and interests, which are again to be personally valuable to them. He
concluded with moving that the constitution of the Executive as reported by the Committee of the whole be reinstated, viz.
"that the Executive be appointed for seven years, and be ineligible a 2nd time"
Mr. DAVIE seconded the motion
Dr. FRANKLIN. It seems to have been imagined by some that the returning to the mass of the people was degrading the
magistrate. This he thought was contrary to republican principles. In free Governments the rulers are the servants, and the
people their superiors and sovereigns. For the former therefore to return among the latter was not to degrade but to promote
them. And it would be imposing an unreasonable burden on them, to keep them always in a State of servitude, and not allow
them to become again one of the Masters.
Question on Col. Masons motion as above; which passed in the affirmative.
New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, not on floor; Connecticut, no: New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, no; Delaware, no;
Maryland, aye; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye; Georgia, aye.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS was now against the whole paragraph. In answer to Col. Mason's position that a periodical return of the
great officers of the State into the mass of the people, was the palladium of Civil liberty he would observe that on the same
principle the Judiciary ought to be periodically degraded; certain it was that the Legislature ought on every principle, yet no
one had proposed, or conceived that the members of it should not be re-eligible. In answer to Dr. Franklin, that a return into
the mass of the people would be a promotion, instead of a degradation, he had no doubt that our Executive like most others
would have too much patriotism to shrink from the burden of his office, and too much modesty not to be willing to decline
On the question on the whole resolution as amended in the words following- "that a National Executive be instituted, to consist
of a single person, to be chosen by the National legislature for the term of seven years; To be ineligible a 2nd time with power
to carry into execution the national laws, to appoint to offices in cases not otherwise provided for, to be removable on
impeachment and conviction of malpractice or neglect of duty, to receive a fixed compensation for the devotion of his time to
the public service, to be paid out of the National treasury". It passed in the affirmative
New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, not on floor; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, ay; Pennsylvania, no; Delaware, no;
Maryland, no; Virginia, divided; Mr. Blair and Col. Mason aye, Gen. Washington and Mr. Madison, no. Mr. Randolph
happened to be out of the House. North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye Georgia, aye.
Mr. MASON moved "that the Committee of detail be instructed to receive a clause requiring certain qualifications of landed
property and citizenship of the United States in members of the Legislature, and disqualifying persons having unsettled
Accounts with, or being indebted to the United States from being members of the National Legislature". He observed that
persons of the latter descriptions had frequently got into the State Legislatures, in order to promote laws that might shelter
their delinquencies; and that this evil had crept into Congress, if Report was to be regarded.
Mr. PINCKNEY seconded the motion.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. If qualifications are proper, he would prefer them in the electors rather than the elected. As to debtors
of the United States, they are but few. As to persons having unsettled accounts he believed them to be pretty many. He
thought however that such a discrimination would be both odious and useless, and in many instances unjust and cruel. The
delay of settlement had been more the fault of the public than of the individuals. What will be done with those patriotic
Citizens who have lent money, or services or property to their Country, without having been yet able to obtain a liquidation of
their claims? Are they to be excluded?
Mr. GHORUM was for leaving to the Legislature, the providing against such abuses as had been mentioned.
Col. MASON mentioned the parliamentary qualifications adopted in the Reign of Queen Anne, which he said had met with
Mr. MADISON had witnessed the zeal of men having accounts with the public, to get into the Legislatures for sinister
purposes. He thought however that if any precaution were to be taken for excluding them, the one proposed, by Col. Mason
ought to be new modeled. It might be well to limit the exclusion to persons who had received money from the public, and had
not accounted for it.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. It was a precept of great antiquity as well as high authority that we should not be righteous overmuch.
He thought we ought to be equally on our guard against being wise over much. The proposed regulation would enable the
Government to exclude particular persons from office as long as they pleased. He mentioned the case of the Commander in
Chief's presenting his account for secret services, which he said was so moderate that every one was astonished at it; and so
simple that no doubt could arise on it. Yet had the Auditor been disposed to delay the settlement, how easily might he have
effected it, and how cruel would it be in such a case to keep a distinguished and meritorious Citizen under a temporary
disability and disfranchisement. He mentioned this case merely to illustrate the objectionable nature of the proposition. He was
opposed to such minutiae regulations in a Constitution. The parliamentary qualifications quoted by Col. Mason, had been
disregarded in practice, and was but a scheme of the landed against the moneyed interest.
Mr. PINCKNEY and Gen. PINCKNEY moved to insert by way of amendment the words Judiciary and Executive so as to
extend the qualifications to those departments which was agreed to nem con.
Mr. GERRY thought the inconvenience of excluding a few worthy individuals who might be public debtors or have unsettled
accounts ought not to be put in the scale against the public advantages of the regulation, and that the motion did not go far
Mr. KING observed that there might be great danger in requiring landed property as a qualification since it would exclude the
moneyed interest, whose aids may be essential in particular emergencies to the public safety. Mr. DICKENSON, was against
any recital of qualifications in the Constitution. It was impossible to make a complete one, and a partial one would, by
implication, tie up the hands of the Legislature from supplying the omissions, The best defense lay in the freeholders who
were to elect the Legislature.
Whilst this Source should remain pure, the public interest would be safe. If it ever should be corrupt, no little expedients
would repel the danger. He doubted the policy of interweaving into a Republican constitution a veneration for wealth. He had
always understood that a veneration for poverty and virtue, were the objects of republican encouragement. It seemed
improper that any man of merit should be subjected to disabilities in a Republic where merit was understood to form the great
title to public trust, honors and rewards.
Mr. GERRY if property be one object of Government. provisions for securing it cannot be improper.
Mr. MADISON moved to strike out the word landed, before the word "qualifications." If the proposition should be agreed to,
he wished the Committee to be at liberty to report the best criterion they could devise. Landed possessions were no certain
evidence of real wealth. Many enjoyed them to a great extent who were more in debt than they were worth. The unjust laws
of the States had proceeded more from this class of men, than any others. It had often happened that men who had acquired
landed property on credit, got into the Legislatures with a view of promoting an unjust protection against their Creditors.
In the next place, if a small quantity of land should be made the standard, it would be no security; if a large one, it would
exclude the proper representatives of those classes of Citizens who were not landholders. It was politic, as well as just, that
the interests and rights of every class should be duly represented and understood in the public Councils. It was a provision
everywhere established, that the Country should be divided into districts and representatives taken from each, in order that the
Legislative Assembly might equally understand and sympathize with the rights of the people in every part of the Community.
It was not less proper that every class of Citizens should have an opportunity of making their rights be felt and understood in
the public Councils. The three principal classes into which our citizens were divisible, were the landed the commercial, and
the manufacturing. The 2nd & 3rd class, bear as yet a small proportion to the first. The proportion however will daily
increase. We see in the populous Countries in Europe now, what we shall be hereafter. These classes understand much less of
each others interests and affairs, than men of the same class inhabiting different districts. It is particularly requisite therefore
that the interests of one or two of them should not be left entirely to the care, or the impartiality of the third.
This must be the case if landed qualifications should be required; few of the mercantile, and scarcely any of the
manufacturing class, choosing whilst they continue in business to turn any part of their Stock into landed property. For these
reasons he wished if it were possible that some other criterion than the mere possession of land should be devised. He
concurred with Mr. Govr. MORRIS in thinking that qualifications in the Electors would be much more effectual than in the
elected. The former would discriminate between real and ostensible property in the latter; But he was aware of the difficulty
of forming any uniform standard that would suit the different circumstances and opinions prevailing in the different States.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS 2nd the motion.
On the Question for striking out "landed":
New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, aye; Delaware, aye; Maryland,
no; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye; Georgia, aye.
On Question on 1st part of Col. Mason’s proposition as to qualification of property and citizenship," as so amended:
New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, no; Delaware, no; Maryland, aye;
Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye; Georgia, aye.
The 2nd part, “for disqualifying debtors, and persons having unsettled accounts," being under consideration.
Mr. CARROL moved to strike out "having unsettled accounts".
Mr. GHORUM seconded the motion; observing that it would put the commercial and manufacturing part of the people on a
worse footing than others as they would be most likely to have dealings with the public.
Mr. L. MARTIN. If these words should be struck out, and the remaining words concerning debtors retained, it will be the
interest of the latter class to keep their accounts unsettled as long as possible.
Mr. WILSON was for striking them out. They put too much power in the hands of the Auditors, who might combine with
rivals in delaying settlements in order to prolong the disqualifications of particular men. We should consider that we are
providing a Constitution for future generations, and not merely for the peculiar circumstances of the moment. The time has
been, and will again be, when the public safety may depend on the voluntary aids of individuals which will necessarily open
accounts with the public, and when such accounts will be a characteristic of patriotism. Besides a partial enumeration of
cases will disable the Legislature from disqualifying odious and dangerous characters.
Mr. LANGDON was for striking out the whole clause for the reasons given by Mr. Wilson. So many exclusions he thought
too would render the system unacceptable to the people.
Mr. GERRY. If the arguments used to day were to prevail, we might have a Legislature composed of public debtors,
pensioners, placemen and contractors. He thought the proposed qualifications would be pleasing to the people. They will be
considered as a security against unnecessary or undue burdens being imposed on them. He moved to add "pensioners" to the
disqualified characters which was negatived.
New Hampshire, no; Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, no; Delaware, no; Maryland, aye;
Virginia, no; North Carolina, divided; South Carolina, no; Georgia, aye.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS. The last clause, relating to public debtors will exclude every importing merchant. Revenue will be
drawn it is foreseen as much as possible, from trade. Duties of course will be bonded, and the Merchants will remain debtors
to the public. He repeated that it had not been so much the fault of individuals as of the public that transactions between them
had not been more generally liquidated and adjusted. At all events to draw from our short and scanty experience, rules that are
to operate through succeeding ages, does not savor much of real wisdom.
On question for striking out, "persons having unsettled accounts with the United States."
New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, aye; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania, aye Delaware, aye; Maryland,
aye; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye; Georgia, no.
Mr. ELSEWORTH was for disagreeing to the remainder of the clause disqualifying public debtors; and for leaving to the
wisdom of the Legislature and the virtue of the Citizens, the task of providing against such evils. Is the smallest as well as the
largest debtor to be excluded? Then every arrear of taxes will disqualify. Besides how is it to be known to the people when
they elect who are or are not public debtors? The exclusion of pensioners and placemen in England is founded on a
consideration not existing here. As persons of that sort are dependent on the Crown, they tend to increase its influence.
Mr. PINKNEY said he was at first a friend to the proposition, for the sake of the clause relating to qualifications of property,
but he disliked the exclusion of public debtors; it went too far. It would exclude persons who had purchased confiscated
property or should purchase Western territory of the public, and might be some obstacle to the sale of the latter.
On the question for agreeing to the clause disqualifying public debtors.
New Hampshire, no; Massachusetts, no; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, no; Pennsylvania no; Delaware, no; Maryland, no;
Virginia, no; North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, no; Georgia, aye.
Col. MASON observed that it would be proper, as he thought, that some provision should be made in the Constitution against
choosing for the seat of the General Government the City or place at which the seat of any State Government might be fixed.
There were two objections against having them at the same place, which without mentioning others, required some precaution
on the subject. The first was that it tended to produce disputes concerning jurisdiction. The second, and principal one was
that the intermixture of the two Legislatures tended to give a provincial tincture to the National deliberations.
He moved that the Committee be instructed to receive a clause to prevent the seat of the National Government being in the
same City or town with the Seat of the Government of any State longer than until the necessary public buildings could be
Mr. ALEX. MARTIN 2nd the motion.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS did not dislike the idea, but was apprehensive that such a clause might make enemies of Philadelphia and
New York which had expectations of becoming the Seat of the General Government.
Mr. LANGDON approved the idea also, but suggested the case of a State moving its seat of Government to the national seat
after the erection of the public buildings.
Mr. GHORUM. The precaution may be evaded by the National Legislature by delaying to erect the public buildings.
Mr. GERRY conceived it to be the general sense of America, that neither the Seat of a State Government nor any large
commercial City should be the seat of the General Government.
Mr. WILLIAMSON liked the idea, but knowing how much the passions of men were agitated by this matter, was
apprehensive of turning them against the System. He apprehended also that an evasion might be practiced in the way hinted by
Mr. PINKNEY thought the seat of a State Government ought to be avoided; but that a large town or its vicinity would be
proper for the Seat of the General Government.
Col. MASON did not mean to press the motion at this time, nor to excite any hostile passions against the system. He was
content to withdraw the motion for the present.
Mr. BUTLER was for fixing by the Constitution the place, and a central one, for the seat of the National Government.
The proceedings since Monday last were referred unanimously to the Committee of detail, and the Convention then
unanimously Adjourned till Monday, August 6, that the Committee of detail might have time to prepare and report the
Constitution. The whole proceedings as referred are as follow:
I RESOLVED, That the Government of the United States ought to consist of a supreme legislative, judiciary, and executive.
II. RESOLVED, That the legislature consist of two branches. [June 22 - June 23]
III. RESOLVED, That the members of the first branch of the legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several
states for the term of two years; to be paid out of the public treasury; to receive an adequate compensation for their services;
to be of the age of twenty-five years at least; to be ineligible and incapable of holding any office under the authority of the
United States (except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the first branch) during the term of service of the first
branch. [June 25 - June 26]
IV. RESOLVED, That the members of the second branch of the legislature of the United States ought to be chosen by the
individual legislatures; to be of the age of thirty years at least; to hold their offices for six years, one third to go out biennially;
to receive a compensation for the devotion of their time to the public service; to be ineligible to and incapable of holding any
office, under the authority of the United States (except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch)
during the term for which they are elected, and for one year thereafter.
V. RESOLVED, That each branch ought to possess the right of originating acts.
Postponed 27. [July 16 - July 17]
VI. RESOLVED, That the national legislature ought to possess the legislative rights vested in Congress by the confederation;
and moreover, to legislate in all cases for the general interests of the union, and also in those to which the states are separately
incompetent, or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual legislation.
VII. RESOLVED, That the legislative acts of the United States, made by virtue and in pursuance of the articles of union, and
all treaties made and ratified under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the respective states, as far
as those acts or treaties shall relate to the said states, or their citizens and inhabitants; and that the judiciaries of the several
states shall be bound thereby in their decisions, any thing in the respective laws of the individual states to the contrary,
VIII. 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 three,
Massachusetts ...... eight,
Rhode Island ....... one,
Connecticut ........ five,
New York ........... six,
New Jersey ......... four,
Pennsylvania ....... eight,
Delaware ........... one,
Maryland ........... six,
Virginia ........... ten,
North Carolina ..... five,
South Carolina ..... five,
Georgia ............ three.
But as the present situation of the states may probably alter in the number of their inhabitants, the legislature of the United
States 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 United States 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, namely-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.
IX. RESOLVED, That a census be taken within six years from the first meeting of the legislature of the United States, and
once within the term of every ten years afterwards, of all the inhabitants of the United States, in the manner and according to
the ratio recommended by Congress in their resolution of April 18, 1783; and that the legislature of the United States shall
proportion the direct taxation accordingly.
X. RESOLVED, That all bills for raising or appropriating money, and for fixing the salaries of the 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 by the second branch; and that no money shall be drawn from the public treasury, but in pursuance of
appropriations to be originated by the first branch.
XI. RESOLVED, That in the second branch of the legislature of the United States, each state shall have an equal vote. [July
XII. RESOLVED, That a national executive be instituted, to consist of a single person; to be chosen by the national
legislature, for the term of seven years; to be ineligible a second time; with power to carry into execution the national laws; to
appoint to offices in cases not otherwise provided for; to be removable on impeachment, and conviction of malpractice or
neglect of duty; to receive a fixed compensation for the devotion of his time to public service; to be paid out of the public
treasury. [July 21]
XIII. RESOLVED, That the national executive shall have a right to negative any legislative act, which shall not be afterwards
passed, unless by two third parts of each branch of the national legislature. 18 [July 21]
XIV. RESOLVED, That a national judiciary be established, to consist of one supreme tribunal, the judges of which shall be
appointed by the second branch of the national legislature; to hold their offices during good behavior; to receive punctually, at
stated times, a fixed compensation for their services, in which no diminution shall be made, so as to affect the persons
actually in office at the time of such diminution.
XV. RESOLVED, That the national legislature be empowered to appoint inferior tribunals.
XVI. RESOLVED, That the jurisdiction of the national judiciary shall extend to cases arising under laws passed by the
general legislature; and to such other questions as involve the national peace and harmony.
XVII. RESOLVED, That provision ought to be made for the admission of states lawfully arising within the limits of the
United States, whether from a voluntary junction of government and territory, or otherwise, with the consent of a number of
voices in the national legislature less than the whole.
XVIII. RESOLVED, That a republican form of government shall be guarantied to each state; and that each state shall be
protected against foreign and domestic violence. 23.
XIX. RESOLVED, That provision ought to be made for the amendment of the articles of union, whenever it shall seem
XX. RESOLVED, That the legislative executive, and judiciary powers, within the several states, and of the national
government, ought to be bound, by oath, to support the articles of union.
XXI. RESOLVED, That the amendments which shall be offered to the confederation by the convention ought, at a proper
time or times after the approbation of Congress, to be submitted to an assembly or assemblies of representatives,
recommended by the several legislatures, to be expressly chosen by the people to consider and decide thereon.
XXII. RESOLVED, That the representation in the second branch of the legislature of the United States consist of two
members from each state, who shall vote per capita. 26.
XXIII. RESOLVED, That it be an instruction to the committee, to whom were referred the proceedings of the convention
for the establishment of a national government, to receive a clause or clauses, requiring certain qualifications of property and
citizenship, in the United States, for the executive, the judiciary, and the members of both branches of the legislature of the
With the above resolutions were referred the propositions offered by Mr. C. Pinckney on the 29th of May, and by Mr.
Patterson on the 15th of June.
|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
July 26, 1787
|The Illinois Conservative