Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
June 18, 1787
Monday June 18, 1787.


On motion of
Mr. DICKINSON to postpone the 1st. Resolution in Mr. Patterson's plan, in order to take up the following viz-
"that the Articles of Confederation ought to be revised and amended, so as to render the Government of the U.S. adequate to
the exigencies, the preservation and the prosperity of the Union" the postponement was agreed to by 10 States, Pen: divided.

Mr. HAMILTON, had been hitherto silent on the business before the Convention, partly from respect to others whose
superior abilities, age and experience rendered him unwilling to bring forward ideas dissimilar to theirs, and partly from his
delicate situation with respect to his own State, to whose sentiments as expressed by his Colleagues, he could by no means

The crisis however which now marked our affairs, was too serious to permit any scruples whatever to prevail over the duty
imposed on every man to contribute his efforts for the public safety and happiness. He was obliged therefore to declare
himself unfriendly to both plans. He was particularly opposed to that from New Jersey, being fully convinced that no
amendment of the Confederation, leaving the States in possession of their Sovereignty could possibly answer the purpose. On
the other hand he confessed he was much discouraged by the amazing extent of Country in expecting the desired blessings
from any general sovereignty that could be substituted. As to the powers of the Convention, he thought the doubts started on
that subject had arisen from distinctions and reasoning too subtle.

A federal Government he conceived to mean an association of independent Communities into one. Different Confederacies
have different powers, and exercise them in different ways. In some instances the powers are exercised over collective
bodies; in others over individuals, as in the German Diet, and among ourselves in cases of piracy. Great latitude therefore
must be given to the signification of the term. The plan last proposed departs itself from the federal idea, as understood by
some, since it is to operate eventually on individuals. He agreed moreover with the Honorable gentleman from Virginia. [Mr.
Randolph] that we owed it to our Country, to do on this emergency whatever we should deem essential to its happiness. The
States sent us here to provide for the exigencies of the Union. To rely on and propose any plan not adequate to these
exigencies, merely because it was not clearly within our powers, would be to sacrifice the means to the end.

It may be said that the States can not ratify a plan not within the purview of the article of Confederation providing for
alterations and amendments. But may not the States themselves in which no constitutional authority equal to this purpose
exists in the Legislatures, have had in view a reference to the people at large. In the Senate of New York, a proviso was
moved, that no act of the Convention should be binding until it should be referred to the people and ratified; and the motion
was lost by a single voice only, the reason assigned against it being, that it might possibly be found an inconvenient shackle.

The great question is what provision shall we make for the happiness of our Country? He would first make a comparative
examination of the two plans-prove that there were essential defects in both, and point out such changes as might render a
national one, efficacious. The great and essential principles necessary for the support of Government are:

(1) An active and constant interest in supporting it. This principle does not exist in the States in favor of the federal
Government. They have evidently in a high degree, the esprit de corps. They constantly pursue internal interests adverse to
those of the whole. They have their particular debts, their particular plans of finance, etc.All these when opposed to,
invariably prevail over the requisitions and plans of Congress.

(2) The love of power. Men love power. The same remarks are applicable to this principle. The States have constantly shown
a disposition rather to regain the powers delegated by them than to part with more, or to give effect to what they had parted
with. The ambition of their demagogues is known to hate the control of the General Government. It may be remarked too that
the Citizens have not that anxiety to prevent a dissolution of the General Government as of the particular Governments. A
dissolution of the latter would be fatal; of the former would still leave the purposes of Government attainable to a considerable
degree. Consider what such a State as Virginia will be in a few years, a few compared with the life of nations. How strongly
will it feel its importance and self-sufficiency?

(3) An habitual attachment of the people. The whole force of this tie is on the side of the State Government. Its sovereignty is
immediately before the eyes of the people; its protection is immediately enjoyed by them. From its hand distributive justice,
and all those acts which familiarize and endear Government to a people, are dispensed to them. (4) Force, by which may be
understood a coercion of laws or coercion of arms. Congress have not the former except in few cases. In particular States,
this coercion is nearly sufficient; though he held it in most cases, not entirely so. A certain portion of military force is
absolutely necessary in large communities. Massachusetts is now feeling this necessity and making provision for it. But how
can this force be exerted on the States collectively. It is impossible. It amounts to a war between the parties. Foreign powers
also will not be idle spectators. They will interpose, the confusion will increase, and a dissolution of the Union ensue.

(5) Influence. He did not mean corruption, but a dispensation of those regular honors and emoluments, which produce an
attachment to the Government. Almost all the weight of these is on the side of the States; and must continue so as long as the
States continue to exist. All the passions then, we see, of avarice, ambition, interest, which govern most individuals, and all
public bodies, fall into the current of the States, and do not flow in the stream of the General Government. The former
therefore will generally be an overmatch for the General Government and render any confederacy, in its very nature
precarious. Theory is in this case fully confirmed by experience. The Amphyctionic Council had, it would seem, ample
powers for general purposes. It had in particular the power of fining and using force against delinquent members.

What was the consequence? Their decrees were mere signals of war. The Phoenician war is a striking example of it. Philip at
length taking advantage of their disunion, and insinuating himself into their Councils, made himself master of their fortunes.
The German Confederacy affords another lesson. The authority of Charlemagne seemed to be as great as could be necessary.
The great feudal chiefs however, exercising their local sovereignties, soon felt the spirit and found the means of
encroachments which reduced the imperial authority to a nominal sovereignty. The Diet has succeeded, which though aided
by a Prince at its head of great authority independently of his imperial attributes, is a striking illustration of the weakness of
Confederated Governments.

Other examples instruct us in the same truth. The Swiss cantons have scarce any Union at all, and have been more than once
at war with one another, How then are all these evils to be avoided? Only by such a complete sovereignty in the general
Government as will turn all the strong principles and passions above mentioned on its side. Does the scheme of New Jersey
produce this effect? Does it afford any substantial remedy whatever? On the contrary, it labors under great defects, and the
defect of some of its provisions will destroy the efficacy of others. It gives a direct revenue to Congress, but this will not be
sufficient. The balance can only be supplied by requisitions, which experience proves can not be relied on.

If States are to deliberate on the mode, they will also deliberate on the object of the supplies, and will grant or not grant as
they approve or disapprove of it. The delinquency of one will invite and countenance it in others. Quotas too, must in the
nature of things, be so unequal as to produce the same evil. To what standard will you resort? Land is a fallacious one.
Compare Holland with Russia, France or England with other countries of Europe, Pennsylvania with North Carolina. Will the
relative pecuniary abilities in those instances, correspond with the relative value of land. Take numbers of inhabitants for the
rule and make like comparison of different countries, and you will find it to be equally unjust. The different degrees of
industry and improvement in different Countries render the first object a precarious measure of wealth.

Much depends too on situation. Connecticut, New Jersey and North Carolina, not being commercial States and contributing
to the wealth of the commercial ones, can never bear quotas assessed by the ordinary rules of proportion. They will and must
fail in their duty. Their example will be followed, and the Union itself be dissolved. Whence then is the national revenue to be
drawn? From Commerce? Even from exports which notwithstanding the common opinion are fit objects of moderate
taxation, from excise, etc., etc. These though not equal, are less unequal than quotas.

Another destructive ingredient in the plan, is that equality of suffrage which is so much desired by the small States. It is not in
human nature that Virginia and the large States should consent to it, or if they did that they should long abide by it. It shocks
too much the ideas of Justice, and every human feeling. Bad principles in a Government though slow, are sure in their
operation and will gradually destroy it. A doubt has been raised whether Congress, at present have a right to keep Ships or
troops in time of peace. He leans to the negative. Mr. Patterson’s plan provides no remedy. If the powers proposed were
adequate, the organization of Congress is such that they could never be properly and effectually exercised.

The members of Congress, being chosen by the States and subject to recall, represent all the local prejudices. Should the
powers be found effectual, they will from time to time be heaped on them, till a tyrannical sway shall be established. The
general power, whatever be its form, if it preserves itself must swallow up the State powers. Otherwise it will be swallowed
up by them. It is against all the principles of a good Government to vest the requisite powers in such a body as Congress.
Two Sovereignties can not co-exist within the same limits. Giving powers to Congress must eventuate in a bad Government
or in no Government. The plan of New Jersey therefore will not do. What then is to be done? Here he was embarrassed.

The extent of the Country to be governed, discouraged him. The expense of a general Government was also formidable;
unless there were such a diminution of expense on the side of the State Governments as the case would admit. If they were
extinguished, he was persuaded that great economy might be obtained by substituting a general Government. He did not mean
however to shock the public opinion by proposing such a measure. On the other hand he saw no other necessity for declining
it. They are not necessary for any of the great purposes of commerce, revenue, or agriculture. Subordinate authorities he was
aware would be necessary.

There must be district tribunals; corporations for local purposes. But cui bono, the vast and expensive apparatus now
appertaining to the States. The only difficulty of a serious nature which occurred to him, was that of drawing representatives
from the extremes to the center of the Community. What inducements can be offered that will suffice? The moderate wages
for the first branch would only be a bait to little demagogues. Three dollars or thereabouts he supposed would be the utmost.
The Senate he feared from a similar cause, would be filled by certain undertakers who wish for particular offices under the

This view of the subject almost led to him despair that a Republican Government could be established over so great an extent.
He was sensible at the same time that it would be unwise to propose one of any other form. In his private opinion he had no
scruple in declaring, supported as he was by the opinions of so many of the wise and good, that the British Government was
the best in the world, and that he doubted much whether any thing short of it would do in America. He hoped Gentlemen of
different opinions would bear with him in this, and begged them to recollect the change of opinion on this subject which had
taken place and was still going on. It was once thought that the power of Congress was amply sufficient to secure the end of
their institution. The error was now seen by every one. The members most tenacious of republicanism, he observed, were as
loud as any in declaiming against the vices of democracy. This progress of the public mind led him to anticipate the time,
when others as well as himself would join in the praise bestowed by Mr. Neckar on the British Constitution, namely, that it is
the only Government in the world "which unites public strength with individual security."

In every community where industry is encouraged, there will be a division of it into the few and the many. Hence separate
interests will arise; there will be debtors and creditors, etc. Give all power to the many and they will oppress the few. Give all
power to the few and they will oppress the many. Both therefore ought to have power, that each may defend itself against the
other. To the want of this check we owe our paper money, installment laws, etc. To the proper adjustment of it, the British
owe the excellence of their Constitution. Their house of Lords is a most noble institution. Having nothing to hope for by a
change, and a sufficient interest by means of their property, in being faithful to the national interest, they form a permanent
barrier against every pernicious innovation, whether attempted on the part of the Crown or of the Commons.

No temporary Senate will have firmness enough to answer the purpose. The Senate [of Maryland] which seems to be so
much appealed to, has not yet been sufficiently tried. Had the people been unanimous and eager, in the late appeal to them on
the subject of a paper emission they would have yielded to the torrent. Their acquiescing in such an appeal is a proof of it.
Gentlemen differ in their opinions concerning the necessary checks, from the different estimates they form of the human
passions. They suppose seven years a sufficient period to give the senate an adequate firmness, from not duly considering the
amazing violence and turbulence of the democratic spirit. When a great object of Government is pursued which seizes the
popular passions, they spread like wild fire, and become irresistible.

He appealed to the gentlemen from the New England States whether experience had not there verified the remark. As to the
Executive, it seemed to be admitted that no good one could be established on Republican principles. Was not this giving up
the merits of the question? For can there be a good Government without a good Executive? The English model was the only
good one on this subject. The Hereditary interest of the King was so interwoven with that of the Nation, and his personal
emoluments so great, that he was placed above the danger of being corrupted from abroad, and at the same time was both
sufficiently independent and sufficiently controlled, to answer the purpose of the institution at home. One of the weak sides
of Republics was their being liable to foreign influence and corruption. Men of little character, acquiring great power become
easily the tools of intermeddling Neighbors. Sweden was a striking instance.

The French and English had each their parties during the late Revolution which was effected by the predominant influence of
the former. What is the inference from all these observations? That we ought to go as far in order to attain stability and
permanency, as republican principles will admit. Let one branch of the Legislature hold their places for life or at least during
good behavior. Let the Executive also be for life. He appealed to the feelings of the members present whether a term of seven
years, would induce the sacrifices of private affairs which an acceptance of public trust would require, so as to ensure the
services of the best Citizens. On this plan we should have in the Senate a permanent will, a weighty interest, which would
answer essential purposes. But is this a Republican Government, it will be asked? Yes, if all the Magistrates are appointed, and
vacancies are filled, by the people, or a process of election originating with the people.

He was sensible that an Executive constituted as he proposed would have in fact but little of the power and independence that
might be necessary. On the other plan of appointing him for seven years, he thought the Executive ought to have but little
power. He would be ambitious, with the means of making creatures; and as the object of his ambition would be to prolong his
power, it is probable that in case of a war, he would avail himself of the emergence to evade or refuse a degradation from his
place. An Executive for life has not this motive for forgetting his fidelity, and will therefore be a safer depository of power. It
will be objected probably, that such an Executive will be an elective Monarch, and will give birth to the tumults which
characterize that form of Government.

He would reply that Monarch is an indefinite term. It marks not either the degree or duration of power. If this Executive
Magistrate would be a monarch for life; the other proposed by the Report from the Committee of the whole would be a
monarch for seven years. The circumstance of being elective was also applicable to both. It had been observed by judicious
writers that elective monarchies would be the best if they could be guarded against the tumults excited by the ambition and
intrigues of competitors. He was not sure that tumults were an inseparable evil. He rather thought this character of Elective
Monarchies had been taken rather from particular cases than from general principles.

The election of Roman Emperors was made by the Army. In Poland the election is made by great rival princes with
independent power, and ample means of raising commotions. In the German Empire, the appointment is made by the Electors
and Princes, who have equal motives and means for exciting cabals and parties. Might not such a mode of election be devised
among ourselves as will defend the community against these effects in any dangerous degree? Having made these
observations he would read to the Committee a sketch of a plan which he should prefer to either of those under
consideration. He was aware that it went beyond the ideas of most members. But will such a plan be adopted out of doors? In
return he would ask will the people adopt the other plan? At present they will adopt neither. But he sees the Union dissolving
or already dissolved. He sees evils operating in the States which must soon cure the people of their fondness for democracies.
He sees that a great progress has been already made and is still going on in the public mind. He thinks therefore that the
people will in time be unshackled from their prejudices, and whenever that happens, they will themselves not be satisfied at
stopping where the plan of Mr. Randolph would place them, but be ready to go as far at least as he proposes. He did not
mean to offer the paper he had sketched as a proposition to the Committee. It was meant only to give a more correct view of
his ideas, and to suggest the amendments which he should probably propose to the plan of Mr. Randolph in the proper stages
of its future discussion. He read his sketch in the words following: to wit,

I. "The Supreme Legislative power of the United States of America to be vested in two different bodies of men; the one to be
called the Assembly, the other the Senate who together shall form the Legislature of the United States with power to pass all
laws whatsoever subject to the Negative hereafter mentioned.

II. The Assembly to consist of persons elected by the people to serve for three years.

III. The Senate to consist of persons elected to serve during good behavior, their election to be made by electors chosen for
that purpose by the people. In order to this the States to be divided into election districts. On the death, removal or resignation
of any Senator his place to be filled out of the district from which he came.

IV. The supreme Executive authority of the United States to be vested in a Governor to be elected to serve during good
behavior, the election to be made by Electors chosen by the people in the Election Districts aforesaid. The authorities and
functions of the Executive to be as follows: To have a negative on all laws about to be passed, and the execution of all laws
passed; to have the direction of war when authorized or begun; to have with the advice and approbation of the Senate the
power of making all treaties; to have the sole appointment of the heads or chief officers of the departments of Finance, War
and Foreign Affairs; to have the nomination of all other officers (Ambassadors to foreign Nations included) subject to the
approbation or rejection of the Senate; to have the power of pardoning all offences except Treason; which he shall not pardon
without the approbation of the Senate.

V. On the death, resignation or removal of the Governor, his authorities to be exercised by the President of the Senate till a
Successor be appointed.

VI. The Senate to have the sole power of declaring war, the power of advising and approving all Treaties, the power of
approving or rejecting all appointments of officers except the heads or chiefs of the departments of Finance, War and foreign

VII. The supreme Judicial authority to be vested in Judges to hold their offices during good behavior with adequate and
permanent salaries. This Court to have original jurisdiction in all causes of capture, and an appellative jurisdiction in all causes
in which the revenues of the general Government or the Citizens of foreign Nations are concerned.

VIII. The Legislature of the United States to have power to institute Courts in each State for the determination of all matters
of general concern.

IX. The Governor, Senators and all officers of the United States to be liable to impeachment for mal- and corrupt conduct;
and upon conviction to be removed from office, and disqualified for holding any place of trust or profit. All impeachments to
be tried by a Court to consist of the Chief or Judge of the superior Court of Law of each State, provided such Judge shall
hold his place during good behavior, and have a permanent salary.

X. All laws of the particular States contrary to the Constitution or laws of the United States to be utterly void, and the better
to prevent such laws being passed, the Governor or president of each State shall be appointed by the General Government
and shall have a negative upon the laws about to be passed in the State of which he is Governor or President.

XI. No State to have any forces land or Naval; and the Militia of all the States to be under the sole and exclusive direction of
the United States, the officers of which to be appointed and commissioned by them.

On these several articles he entered into explanatory observations corresponding with the principles of his introductory

Committee rose & the House Adjourned.
The Illinois Conservative