|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
July 6, 1787
Friday July 6, 1787
Mr. Govr. MORRIS moved to commit so much of the Report as relates to "one member for every 40,000 inhabitants" His
view was that they might absolutely fix the number for each State in the first instance; leaving the Legislature at liberty to
provide for changes in the relative importance of the States, and for the case of new States.
Mr. WILSON 2nd the motion; but with a view of leaving the Committee under no implied shackles.
Mr. GHORUM apprehended great inconveniency from fixing directly the number of Representatives to be allowed to each
State. He thought the number of Inhabitants the true guide; though perhaps some departure might be expedient from the full
proportion. The States also would vary in their relative extent by separations of parts of the largest States. A part of Virginia is
now on the point of a separation. In the province of Maine a Convention is at this time deliberating on a separation from
In such events the number of representatives ought certainly to be reduced. He hoped to see all the States made small by
proper divisions, instead of their becoming formidable as was apprehended, to the Small States. He conceived that, let the
General Government be modified as it might, there would be a constant tendency in the State Governments to encroach upon
it. It was of importance therefore, that the extent of the States should be reduced as much and as fast as possible. The
stronger the Government shall be made in the first instance the more easily will these divisions be effected, as it will be of less
consequence in the opinion of the States whether they be of great or small extent.
Mr. GERRY did not think with his Colleague that the large States ought to be cut up. This policy has been inculcated by the
middling and smaller States, ungenerously and contrary to the spirit of the Confederation. Ambitious men will be apt to solicit
needless divisions, till the States be reduced to the size of Counties. If this policy should still actuate the small States, the large
ones could not confederate safely with them, but would be obliged to consult their safety by confederating only with one
another. He favored the Commitment and thought that Representation ought to be in the Combined ratio of numbers of
Inhabitants and of wealth, and not of either singly.
Mr. KING wished the clause to be committed chiefly in order to detach it from the Report with which it had no connection.
He thought also that the Ratio of Representation proposed could not be safely fixed, since in a century and a half our
computed increase of population would carry the number of representatives to an enormous excess; that the number of
inhabitants was not the proper index of ability and wealth; that property was the primary object of Society; and that in fixing a
ratio this ought not to be excluded from the estimate.
With regard to new States, he observed that there was something peculiar in the business which had not been noticed. The
United States were now admitted to be proprietors of the Country North West of the Ohio. Congress by one of their
ordinances have impoliticly laid it out into ten States, and have made it a fundamental article of compact with those who may
become settlers, that as soon as the number in any one State shall equal that of the smallest of the 13 original States, it may
claim admission into the union.
Delaware does not contain, it is computed more than 35,000 souls, and for obvious reasons will not increase much for a
considerable time. It is possible then that if this plan be persisted in by Congress, ten new votes may be added, without a
greater addition of inhabitants than are represented by the single vote of Pennsylvania. The plan as it respects one of the new
States is already irrevocable, the sale of the lands having commenced, and the purchasers and settlers will immediately
become entitled to all the privileges of the compact.
Mr. BUTLER agreed to the Commitment if the Committee were to be left at liberty. He was persuaded that the more the
subject was examined, the less it would appear that the number of inhabitants would be a proper rule of proportion. If there
were no other objection the changeableness of the standard would be sufficient. He concurred with those who thought some
balance was necessary between the old and new States. He contended strenuously that property was the only just measure of
representation. This was the great object of Government, the great cause of war, the great means of carrying it on.
Mr. PINKNEY saw no good reason for committing. The value of land had been found on full investigation to be an
impracticable rule. The contributions of revenue including imports and exports, must be too changeable in their amount, too
difficult to be adjusted, and too injurious to the non-commercial States. The number of inhabitants appeared to him the only
just and practicable rule. He thought the blacks ought to stand on an equality with whites; But would agree to the ratio settled
by Congress. He contended that Congress had no right under the articles of Confederation to authorize the admission of new
States; no such case having been provided for.
Mr. DAVY, was for committing the clause in order to get at the merits of the question arising on the Report. He seemed to
think that wealth or property ought to be represented in the 2nd branch; and numbers in the 1st branch.
On the Motion for committing as made by Mr. Govr. Morris.
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, aye. New York, no. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no. Maryland, divided.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
The members appointed by Ballot were Mr. Govr. Morris, Mr. Gorham, Mr. Randolph, Mr. Rutlidge, Mr. King.
Mr. WILSON signified that his view in agreeing to the commitment was that the Committee might consider the propriety of
adopting a scale similar to that established by the Constitution of Massachusetts which would give an advantage to the small
States without substantially departing from a rule of proportion.
Mr. WILSON and Mr. MASON moved to postpone the clause relating to money bills in order to take up the clause relating
to an equality of votes in the second branch.
On the question: Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, no. New York, aye. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, aye.
Maryland, aye. Virginia, aye. North Carolina, no. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
The clause relating to equality of votes being under consideration,
Dr. FRANKLIN observed that this question could not be properly put by itself, the Committee having reported several
propositions as mutual conditions of each other. He could not vote for it if separately taken, but should vote for the whole
Col. MASON perceived the difficulty and suggested a reference of the rest of the Report to the Committee just appointed,
that the whole might be brought into one view.
Mr. RANDOLPH disliked the reference to that Committee, as it consisted of members from States opposed to the wishes of
the smaller States, and could not therefore be acceptable to the latter.
Mr. MARTIN and Mr. JENIFER moved to postpone the clause till the Committee last appointed should report.
Mr. MADISON observed that if the uncommitted part of the Report was connected with the part just committed, it ought
also to be committed; if not connected, it need not be postponed till report should be made.
On the question for postponing moved by Mr. Martin & Mr. Jennifer
Cont. New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, aye.
Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, no.
Massachusetts, New York, divided.
The 1st clause relating to the originating of money bills was then resumed.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS was opposed to a restriction of this right in either branch, considered merely in itself and as
unconnected with the point of representation in the 2nd branch. It will disable the 2nd branch from proposing its own money
plans, and giving the people an opportunity of judging by comparison of the merits of those proposed by the 1st branch.
Mr. WILSON could see nothing like a concession here on the part of the smaller States. If both branches were to say yes or
no, it was of little consequence which should say yes or no first, which last. If either was indiscriminately to have the right of
originating, the reverse of the Report, would he thought be most proper, since it was a maxim that the least numerous body
was the fittest for deliberation, the most numerous for decision.
He observed that this discrimination had been transcribed from the British into several American constitutions. But he was
persuaded that on examination of the American experiments it would be found to be a trifle light as air. Nor could he ever
discover the advantage of it in the Parliamentary history of Great Britain. He hoped if there was any advantage in the privilege,
that it would be pointed out.
Mr. WILLIAMSON thought that if the privilege were not common to both branches it ought rather to be confined to the
2nd, as the bills in that case would be more narrowly watched, than if they originated with the branch having most of the
Mr. MASON. The consideration which weighed with the Committee was that the 1st branch would be the immediate
representatives of the people, the 2nd would not. Should the latter have the power of giving away the people's money, they
might soon forget the source from whence they received it. We might soon have an aristocracy. He had been much
concerned at the principles which had been advanced by some gentlemen, but had the satisfaction to find they did not
generally prevail. He was a friend to proportional representation in both branches; but supposed that some points must be
yielded for the sake of accommodation.
Mr. WILSON. If he had proposed that the 2nd branch should have an independent disposal of public money, the
observations of [Col Mason] would have been a satisfactory answer. But nothing could be farther from what he had said. His
question was how is the power of the 1st branch increased or that of the 2nd diminished by giving the proposed privilege to
the former? Where is the difference, in which branch it begins if both must concur, in the end?
Mr. GERRY would not say that the concession was a sufficient one on the part of the small States. But he could not but
regard it in the light of a concession. It would make it a constitutional principle that the 2nd branch were not possessed of the
Confidence of the people in money matters, which would lessen their weight and influence. In the next place, if the 2nd
branch were dispossessed of the privilege, they would be deprived of the opportunity which their continuance in office three
times as long as the 1st branch would give them, of making three successive essays in favor of a particular point.
Mr. PINKNEY thought it evident that the Concession was wholly on one side, that of the large States, the privilege of
originating money bills being of no account.
Mr. Govr. MORRIS had waited to hear the good effects of the restriction. As to the alarm sounded, of an aristocracy, his
creed was that there never was, nor ever will be a civilized Society without an aristocracy. His endeavor was to keep it as
much as possible from doing mischief. The restriction if it has any real operation will deprive us of the services of the 2nd
branch in digesting and proposing money bills of which it will be more capable than the 1st branch. It will take away the
responsibility of the 2nd branch, the great security for good behavior. It will always leave a plea, as to an obnoxious money
bill that it was disliked, but could not be constitutionally amended, nor safely rejected.
It will be a dangerous source of disputes between the two Houses.
We should either take the British Constitution altogether or make one for ourselves. The Executive there has dissolved two
Houses as the only cure for such disputes. Will our Executive be able to apply such a remedy? Every law directly or indirectly
takes money out of the pockets of the people. Again, what use may be made of such a privilege in case of great emergency?
Suppose an enemy at the door, and money instantly and absolutely necessary for repelling him, may not the popular branch
avail itself of this duress, to extort concessions from the Senate, destructive of the Constitution itself. He illustrated this
danger by the example of the Long Parliament's expedients for subverting the House of Lords; concluding on the whole that
the restriction would be either useless or pernicious.
Dr. FRANKLIN did not mean to go into a justification of the Report, but as it had been asked what would be the use of
restraining the 2nd branch from meddling with money bills, he could not but remark that it was always of importance that the
people should know who had disposed of their money, and how it had been disposed of. It was a maxim that those who feel,
can best judge. This end would, he thought, be best attained, if money affairs were to be confined to the immediate
representatives of the people. This was his inducement to concur in the report. As to the danger or difficulty that might arise
from a negative in the 2nd where the people would not be proportionally represented, it might easily be got over by declaring
that there should be no such Negative; or, if that will not do, by declaring that there shall be no such branch at all.
Mr. MARTIN said that it was understood in the Committee that the difficulties and disputes which had been apprehended,
should be guarded against in the detailing of the plan.
Mr. WILSON. The difficulties and disputes will increase with the attempts to define and obviate them. Queen Anne was
obliged to dissolve her Parliament in order to terminate one of these obstinate disputes between the two Houses. Had it not
been for the mediation of the Crown, no one can say what the result would have been. The point is still sub judice in England.
He approved of the principles laid down by the Honorable President, [Dr. Franklin] his Colleague, as to the expediency of
keeping the people informed of their money affairs. But thought they would know as much, and be as well satisfied, in one
way as in the other.
Gen. PINKNEY was astonished that this point should have been considered as a concession. He remarked that the restriction
to money bills had been rejected on the merits singly considered, by eight States against three, and that the very States which
now called it a concession, were then against it as nugatory or improper in itself.
On the Question whether the clause relating to money bills in the Report of the Committee consisting of a member from each
State, should stand as part of the Report-
Massachusetts, divided. Connecticut, aye. New York, divided. New Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, aye. Maryland,
aye. Virginia, no. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, no. Georgia, divided.
A Question was then raised whether the question was carried in the affirmative: there being but 5 ayes out of 11 States
present. The words of the rule are, (see May 28).
On the question: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South
Carolina, and Georgia, aye.
New York, Virginia, no.
[In several preceding instances like votes had sub silentio been entered as decided in the affirmative.]
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