|Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention
By James Madison
June 9, 1787
Saturday June 9, 1787
MR. LUTHER MARTIN FROM MARYLAND TOOK HIS SEAT IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Mr. GERRY, according to previous notice given by him, moved "that the National Executive should be elected by the
Executives of the States whose proportion of votes should be the same with that allowed to the States in the election of the
Senate." If the appointment should be made by the National Legislature, it would lessen that independence of the Executive
which ought to prevail, would give birth to intrigue and corruption between the Executive and Legislature previous to the
election, and to partiality in the Executive afterwards to the friends who promoted him. Some other mode therefore appeared
to him necessary. He proposed that of appointing by the State Executives as most analogous to the principle observed in
electing the other branches of the National Government; the first branch being chosen by the people of the States, and the 2d.
by the Legislatures of the States; he did not see any objection against letting the Executive be appointed by the Executives of
the States. He supposed the Executives would be most likely to select the fittest men, and that it would be their interest to
support the man of their own choice.
Mr. RANDOLPH, urged strongly the inexpediency of Mr. Gerry's mode of appointing the National Executive. The
confidence of the people would not be secured by it to the National magistrate. The small States would lose all chance of an
appointment from within themselves. Bad appointments would be made; the Executives of the States being little conversant
with characters not within their own small spheres. The State Executives too notwithstanding their constitutional
independence, being in fact dependent on the State Legislatures will generally be guided by the views of the latter, and prefer
either favorites within the States, or such as it may be expected will be most partial to the interests of the State. A National
Executive thus chosen will not be likely to defend with becoming vigilance and firmness the National rights against State
encroachments. Vacancies also must happen. How can these be filled? He could not suppose either that the Executives would
feel the interest in supporting the National Executive which had been imagined. They will not cherish the great Oak which is
to reduce them to paltry shrubs.
On the question for referring the appointment of the National Executive to the State Executives as proposed by Mr. Gerry:
Massachusetts, no. Connecticut, no. New York, no. New Jersey, no. Pennsylvania, no. Delaware, divided. Maryland, no.
Virginia, no. South Carolina, no. Georgia, no.
Mr. PATTERSON moves that the Committee resume the clause relating to the rule of suffrage in the National Legislature.
Mr. BREARLY seconds him. He was sorry he said that any question on this point was brought into view. It had been much
agitated in Congress at the time of forming the Confederation, and was then rightly settled by allowing to each sovereign State
an equal vote. Otherwise the smaller States must have been destroyed instead of being saved. The substitution of a ratio, he
admitted carried fairness on the face of it; but on a deeper examination was unfair and unjust. Judging of the disparity of the
States by the quota of Congress Virginia would have 16 votes, and Georgia but one. A like proportion to the others will make
the whole number ninety. There will be 3 large states, and 10 small ones. The large States by which he meant Massachusetts,
Pennsylvania and Virginia will carry every thing before them. It had been admitted, and was known to him from facts within
New Jersey that where large and small counties were united into a district for electing representatives for the district, the large
counties always carried their point, and Consequently that the large States would do so. Virginia with her sixteen votes will be
a solid column indeed, a formidable phalanx. While Georgia with her Solitary vote, and the other little States will be obliged to
throw themselves constantly into the scale of some large one, in order to have any weight at all. He had come to the
convention with a view of being as useful as he could in giving energy and stability to the federal Government. When the
proposition for destroying the equality of votes came forward, he was astonished, he was alarmed. Is it fair then it will be
asked that Georgia should have an equal vote with Virginia? He would not say it was. What remedy then? One only, that a
map of the U. S. be spread out, that all the existing boundaries be erased, and that a new partition of the whole be made into
13 equal parts.
Mr. PATTERSON considered the proposition for a proportional representation as striking at the existence of the lesser States.
He would premise however to an investigation of this question some remarks on the nature structure and powers of the
Convention. The Convention he said was formed in pursuance of an Act of Congress that this act was recited in several of
the Commissions, particularly that of Massachusetts which he required to be read: that the amendment of the confederacy
was the object of all the laws and commissions on the subject; that the articles of the Confederation were therefore the proper
basis of all the proceedings of the Convention. We ought to keep within its limits, or we should be charged by our
Constituents with usurpation, that the people of America were sharp-sighted and not to be deceived. But the Commissions
under which we acted were not only the measure of our power, they denoted also the sentiments of the States on the subject
of our deliberation. The idea of a national Government as contradistinguished from a federal one, never entered into the mind
of any of them, and to the public mind we must accommodate ourselves. We have no power to go beyond the federal
scheme, and if we had the people are not ripe for any other. We must follow the people; the people will not follow us.
The proposition could not be maintained whether considered in reference to us as a nation, or as a confederacy. A
confederacy supposes sovereignty in the members composing it and sovereignty supposes equality. If we are to be
considered as a nation, all State distinctions must be abolished, the whole must be thrown into hotchpots, and when an equal
division is made, then there may be fairly an equality of representation. He held up Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania
as the three large States, and the other ten as small ones; repeating the calculations of Mr. Brearly as to the disparity of votes
which would take place, and affirming that the small States would never agree to it.
He said there was no more reason that a great individual State contributing much, should have more votes than a small one
contributing little, than that a rich individual citizen should have more votes than an indigent one. If the ratable property of A
was to that of B as 40 to 1, ought A for that reason to have 40 times as many votes as B. Such a principle would never be
admitted, and if it were admitted would put B entirely at the mercy of A. As A. has more to be protected than B so he ought to
contribute more for the common protection. The same may be said of a large State which has more to be protected than a
small one. Give the large States an influence in proportion to their magnitude, and what will be the consequence? Their
ambition will be proportionally increased, and the small States will have every thing to fear. It was once proposed by
Galloway and some others that America should be represented in the British Parliament and then be bound by its laws.
America could not have been entitled to more than 1/3 of the number of Representatives which would fall to the share of
Great Britain. Would American rights and interests have been safe under an authority thus constituted? It has been said that if
a National Government is to be formed so as to operate on the people and not on the States, the representatives ought to be
drawn from the people. But why so? May not a Legislature filled by the State Legislatures operate on the people who choose
the State Legislatures? or may not a practicable coercion be found. He admitted that there was none such in the existing
System. -He was attached strongly to the plan of the existing confederacy, in which the people choose their Legislative
representatives; and the Legislatures their federal representatives. No other amendments were wanting than to mark the orbits
of the States with due precision, and provide for the use of coercion, which was the great point.
He alluded to the hint thrown out heretofore by Mr. Wilson of the necessity to which the large States might be reduced of
confederating among themselves, by a refusal of the others to concur. Let them unite if they please, but let them remember
that they have no authority to compel the others to unite. New Jersey will never confederate on the plan before the
Committee. She would be swallowed up. He had rather submit to a monarch, to a despot, than to such a fate. He would not
only oppose the plan here but on his return home do every thing in his power to defeat it there.
Mr. WILSON hoped if the Confederacy should be dissolved, that a majority, that a minority of the States would unite for
their safety. He entered elaborately into the defense of a proportional representation, stating for his first position that as all
authority was derived from the people, equal numbers of people ought to have an equal number of representatives, and
different numbers of people different numbers of representatives. This principle had been improperly violated in the
Confederation, owing to the urgent circumstances of the time. As to the case of A and B, stated by Mr. Patterson, he
observed that in districts as large as the States, the number of people was the best measure of their comparative wealth.
Whether therefore wealth or numbers were to form the ratio it would be the same. Mr. Patterson admitted persons, not
property to be the measure of suffrage. Are not the Citizens of Pena. equal to those of New Jersey? does it require 150 of the
former to balance 50 of the latter?
Representatives of different districts ought clearly to hold the same proportion to each other, as their respective Constituents
hold to each other. If the small States will not confederate on this plan, Pennsylvania and he presumed some other States,
would not confederate on any other. We have been told that each State being sovereign, all are equal. So each man is naturally
a sovereign over himself, and all men are therefore naturally equal. Can he retain this equality when he becomes a member of
Civil Government? He can not. As little can a Sovereign State, when it becomes a member of a federal Government If New
Jersey will not part with her Sovereignty it is in vain to talk of Government. A new partition of the States is desirable, but
evidently and totally impracticable.
Mr. WILLIAMSON, illustrated the cases by a comparison of the different States, to Counties of different sizes within the
same State; observing that proportional representation was admitted to be just in the latter case, and could not therefore be
fairly contested in the former.
The Question being about to be put Mr. Patterson hoped that as so much depended on it, it might be thought best to postpone
the decision till tomorrow, which was done nem con.
The Committee rose and the House adjourned.
|The Illinois Conservative