|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
June 11, 1787
Monday June 11, 1787
MR. ABRAHAM BALDWIN FROM GEORGIA TOOK HIS SEAT. IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
The clause concerning the rule of suffrage in the National Legislature postponed on Saturday was resumed.
Mr. SHARMAN proposed that the proportion of suffrage in the 1st. branch should be according to the respective numbers of
free inhabitants; and that in the second branch or Senate, each State should have one vote and no more. He said as the States
would remain possessed of certain individual rights, each State ought to be able to protect itself: otherwise a few large States
will rule the rest. The House of Lords in England he observed had certain particular rights under the Constitution, and hence
they have an equal vote with the House of Commons that they may be able to defend their rights.
Mr. RUTLIDGE proposed that the proportion of suffrage in the 1st. branch should be according to the quotas of
contribution. The justice of this rule he said could not be contested. Mr. Butler urged the same idea: adding that money was
power; and that the States ought to have weight in the Government in proportion to their wealth.
Mr. KING & Mr. WILSON in order to bring the question to a point moved "that the right of suffrage in the first branch of
the national Legislature ought not to be according the rule established in the articles of Confederation, but according to some
equitable ratio of representation." The clause so far as it related to suffrage in the first branch was postponed in order to
consider this motion.
Mr. DICKENSON contended for the actual contributions of the States as the rule of their representation and suffrage in the
first branch. By thus connecting the interest of the States with their duty, the latter would be sure to be performed.
Mr. KING remarked that it was uncertain what mode might be used in levying a national revenue; but that it was probable,
imposts would be one source of it. If the actual contributions were to be the rule the non-importing States, as Connecticut
and New Jersey, would be in a bad situation indeed. It might so happen that they would have no representation. This situation
of particular States had been always one powerful argument in favor of the 5 Per Cent. impost.
The question being about to be put Dr. Franklin said he had thrown his ideas of the matter on a paper which Mr. Wilson read
to the Committee in the words following-
Mr. CHAIRMAN, It has given me great pleasure to observe that till this point, the proportion of representation, came before
us, our debates were carried on with great coolness and temper. If any thing of a contrary kind, has on this occasion
appeared, I hope it will not be repeated; for we are sent here to consult, not to contend, with each other; and declarations of a
fixed opinion, and of determined resolution, never to change it, neither enlighten nor convince us. Positiveness and warmth on
one side, naturally beget their like on the other; and tend to create and augment discord and division in a great concern,
wherein harmony and Union are extremely necessary to give weight to our Councils, and render them effectual in promoting
and securing the common good.
I must own that I was originally of opinion it would be better if every member of Congress, or our national Council, were to
consider himself rather as a representative of the whole, than as an Agent for the interests of a particular State; in which case
the proportion of members for each State would be of less consequence, and it would not be very material whether they
voted by States or individually. But as I find this is not to be expected, I now think the number of Representatives should bear
some proportion to the number of the Represented; and that the decisions should be by the majority of members, not by the
majority of States. This is objected to from an apprehension that the greater States would then swallow up the smaller. I do
not at present clearly see what advantage the greater States could propose to themselves by swallowing the smaller, and
therefore do not apprehend they would attempt it.
I recollect that in the beginning of this Century, when the Union was proposed of the two Kingdoms, England & Scotland, the
Scotch Patriots were full of fears, that unless they had an equal number of Representatives in Parliament, they should be
ruined by the superiority of the English. They finally agreed however that the different proportions of importance in the
Union, of the two Nations should be attended to, whereby they were to have only forty members in the House of Commons,
and only sixteen in the House of Lords; A very great inferiority of numbers! And yet to this day I do not recollect that any
thing has been done in the Parliament of Great Britain to the prejudice of Scotland; and whoever looks over the lists of public
officers, Civil and military of that nation will find I believe that the North Britons enjoy at least their full proportion of
But, Sir, in the present mode of voting by States, it is equally in the power of the lesser States to swallow up the greater; and
this is mathematically demonstrable. Suppose for example, that 7 smaller States had each 3 members in the House, and the 6
larger to have one with another 6 members; and that upon a question, two members of each smaller State should be in the
affirmative and one in the Negative; they will make Affirmatives 14 and Negatives 7... And that all the larger States should be
unanimously in the Negative, they would make, Negatives 36, In all 43 Negatives.
It is then apparent that the 14 carry the question against the 43, and the minority overpowers the majority, contrary to the
common practice of Assemblies in all Countries and Ages. The greater States Sir are naturally as unwilling to have their
property left in the disposition of the smaller, as the smaller are to have theirs in the disposition of the greater.
An honorable gentleman has, to avoid this difficulty, hinted a proposition of equalizing the States. It appears to me an equitable
one, and I should, for my own part, not be against such a measure, if it might be found practicable. Formerly, indeed, when
almost every province had a different Constitution, some with greater others with fewer privileges, it was of importance to
the borderers when their boundaries were contested, whether by running the division lines, they were placed on one side or
the other. At present when such differences are done away, it is less material. The Interest of a State is made up of the
interests of its individual members. If they are not injured, the State is not injured.
Small States are more easily well and happily governed than large ones. If therefore in such an equal division, it should be
found necessary to diminish Pennsylvania, I should not be averse to the giving a part of it to New Jersey, and another to
Delaware. But as there would probably be considerable difficulties in adjusting such a division; and however equally made at
first, it would be continually varying by the augmentation of inhabitants in some States, and their fixed proportion in others;
and thence frequent occasion for new divisions, I beg leave to propose for the consideration of the Committee another mode,
which appears to me, to be as equitable, more easily carried into practice, and more permanent in its nature.
Let the weakest State say what proportion of money or force it is able and willing to furnish for the general purposes of the
Let all the others oblige themselves to furnish each an equal proportion.
The whole of these joint supplies to be absolutely in the disposition of Congress.
The Congress in this case to be composed of an equal number of Delegates from each State.
And their decisions to be by the Majority of individual members voting.
If these joint and equal supplies should on particular occasions not be sufficient, Let Congress make requisitions on the richer
and more powerful States for farther aids, to be voluntarily afforded, leaving to each State the right of considering the
necessity and utility of the aid desired, and of giving more or less as it should be found proper.
This mode is not new, it was formerly practiced with success by the British Government with respect to Ireland and the
Colonies. We sometimes gave even more than they expected, or thought just to accept; and in the last war carried on while
we were united, they gave us back in 5 years a million Sterling. We should probably have continued such voluntary
contributions, whenever the occasions appeared to require them for the common good of the Empire. It was not till they
chose to force us, and to deprive us of the merit and pleasure of voluntary contributions that we refused and resisted. Those
contributions however were to be disposed of at the pleasure of a Government in which we had no representative. I am
therefore persuaded, that they will not be refused to one in which the Representation shall be equal, my learned Colleague
[Mr. Wilson] has already mentioned that the present method of voting by States, was submitted to originally by Congress,
under a conviction of its impropriety, inequality, and injustice. This appears in the words of their Resolution. It is of
September 6. 1774. The words are "Resolved that in determining questions in this Congress each Colony or province shall
have one vote: The Congress not being possessed of or at present able to procure materials for ascertaining the importance of
On the question for agreeing to Mr. King’s and Mr. Wilson’s motion it passed in the affirmative.
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, ayr. New York, no. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no. Maryland, divided.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
It was then moved by Mr. Rutlidge, 2ded. by Mr. Butler to add to the words "equitable ratio of representation" at the end of
the motion just agreed to, the words "according to the quotas of contribution." On motion of Mr. Wilson seconded by Mr. C.
Pinckney, this was postponed; in order to add, after, after the words "equitable ratio of representation" the words following
"in proportion to the whole number of white and other free Citizens and inhabitants of every age sex and condition including
those bound to servitude for a term of years and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing
description, except Indians not paying taxes, in each State," this being the rule in the Act of Congress agreed to by eleven
States, for apportioning quotas of revenue on the States, and requiring a Census only every 5-7, or 10 years.
Mr. GERRY thought property not the rule of representation. Why then should the blacks, who were property in the South,
be in the rule of representation more than the Cattle and horses of the North.
On the question: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York. Pennsylvania, Maryland Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina
and Georgia were in the affirmative: New Jersey and Delaware, in the negative.
Mr. SHARMAN moved that a question be taken whether each State shall have one vote in the 2d. branch. Every thing he said
depended on this. The smaller States would never agree to the plan on any other principle than an equality of suffrage in this
branch. Mr. Elsworth seconded the motion. On the question for allowing each State one vote in the 2d. branch.
Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, aye. New York, aye. New Jersey, ay. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, aye. Maryland, aye.
Virginia, no. North Carolina, no. South Carolina, no. Georgia, no.
Mr. WILSON & Mr. HAMILTON moved that the right of suffrage in the 2d. branch ought to be according to the same rule
as in the 1st. branch. On this question for making the ratio of representation the same in the 2d. as in the 1st. branch it passed
in the affirmative:
Massachusetts, aye. Connecticut, no. New York, no. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no. Maryland, no.
Virginia, aye. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
Resolution 11, for guarantying Republican Government and territory to each State being considered: the words "or partition"
were, on motion of Mr. Madison, added, after the words "voluntary junction:"
Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye. Connecticut, New Jersey,
Delaware, Maryland, no.
Mr. READ disliked the idea of guarantying territory. It abetted the idea of distinct States which would be a perpetual source
of discord. There can be no cure for this evil but in doing away States altogether and uniting them all into one great Society.
Alterations having been made in the Resolution, making it read "that a republican Constitution and its existing laws ought to be
guaranteed to each State by the United States" the whole was agreed to nem con.
RESOLUTION 13, for amending the national Constitution hereafter without consent of National Legislature being considered,
several members did not see the necessity of the Resolution at all, nor the propriety of making the consent of the National
Col. MASON urged the necessity of such a provision. The plan now to be formed will certainly be defective, as the
Confederation has been found on trial to be. Amendments therefore will be necessary, and it will be better to provide for
them, in an easy, regular and Constitutional way than to trust to chance and violence. It would be improper to require the
consent of the National Legislature, because they may abuse their power, and refuse their consent on that very account. The
opportunity for such an abuse, may be the fault of the Constitution calling for amendment
Mr. RANDOLPH enforced these arguments. The words, "without requiring the consent of the National Legislature" were
postponed. The other provision in the clause passed nem con.
RESOLUTION 14, requiring oaths from the members of the State Governments to observe the National Constitution and
laws, being considered.
Mr. SHARMAN opposed it as unnecessarily intruding into the State jurisdictions.
Mr. RANDOLPH considered it as necessary to prevent that competition between the National Constitution and laws and
those of the particular States, which had already been felt. The officers of the States are already under oath to the States. To
preserve a due impartiality they ought to be equally bound to the National Government. The National authority needs every
support we can give it. The Executive and Judiciary of the States, notwithstanding their nominal independence on the State
Legislatures are in fact, so dependent on them, that unless they be brought under some tie to the National System, they will
always lean too much to the State systems, whenever a contest arises between the two.
Mr. GERRY did not like the clause. He thought there was as much reason for requiring an oath of fidelity to the States, from
National officers, as vice versa.
Mr. LUTHER MARTIN moved to strike out the words requiring such an oath from the State officers, viz "within the several
States" observing that if the new oath should be contrary to that already taken by them it would be improper; if coincident the
oaths already taken will be sufficient.
On the question for striking out as proposed by Mr. Luther Martin: Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, aye. New York, no. New
Jersey, aye. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, aye. Maryland, aye. Virginia, no. North Carolina, no. South Carolina, no. Georgia,
Question on whole Resolution as proposed by Mr. Randolph;
Massachusetts, ay. Connecticut, no. New York, no. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, aye. Delaware, no. Maryland, no.
Virginia, ay. North Carolina, aye. South Carolina, aye. Georgia, aye.
Committee rose and House adjourned.
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