Genuine Information II
January 1, 1788
Mr. MARTIN’S Information to the House of Assembly, continued.
When contrary to our hopes it was found, that a majority of the members of the convention had in the committee agreed to the system, I have laid before you, we then thought it necessary to bring forward the propositions, which such of us who disapproved the plan before had prepared—The members who had prepared these resolutions were principally of the Connecticut, New—York, Jersey, Delaware and Maryland delegations.—The honorable Mr. Patterson, of the Jerseys, laid them before the convention—of these propositions(a)I am in possession of a copy, which I shall beg leave to read to you.
These propositions were referred to a committee of the whole house.—Unfortunately the New—Hampshire delegation had not yet arrived, and the sickness of a relation of the honorable Mr. M’Henry, obliged him still to be absent, a circumstance, Sir, which I considered much to be regretted, as Maryland thereby was represented by only two delegates, and they unhappily differed very widely in their sentiments.’
The result of the referrence of these last propositions to a committee, was a speedy and hasty determination to reject them —I doubt not, Sir, to those who consider them with attention, so sudden a rejection will appear surprising; but it may be proper to inform you, that on our meeting in convention, it was soon found there were among us three parties of very different sentiments and views.
One party, whose object and wish it was to abolish and annihilate all State governments, and to bring forward one general government over this extensive continent of a monarchical nature, under certain restrictions and limitations:—Those who openly avowed this sentiment were, it is true, but few, yet it is equally true, Sir, that there was a considerable number who did not openly avow it, who were by myself, and many others of the convention, considered as being in reality favourers of that sentiment, and acting upon those principles, covertly endeavouring to carry into effect what they well knew openly and avowedly could not be accomplished.
The second party was not for the abolition of the State governments, nor for the introduction of a monarchical government under any form; but they wished to establish such a system as would give their own States undue power and influence in the government over the other States.—A third party was what I considered truly federal and republican—This party was nearly equal in number with the other two, and were composed of the delegations from Connecticut, New—York, New—Jersey, Delaware, and in part from Maryland; also of some individuals from other representations.—This party, Sir, were for proceeding upon terms of federal equality; they were for taking our present federal system as the basis of their proceedings, and as far as experience had shewn us that there were defects, to remedy those defects, as far as experience had shewn that other powers were necessary to the federal government, to give those powers—They considered this, the object for which they were sent by their State, and what their States expected from them—They urged, that if after doing this, experience should shew that there still were defects in the system (as no doubt there would be) the same good sense that induced this convention to be called, would cause the States when they found it necessary to call another; and if that convention should act with the same moderation, the members of it would proceed to correct such errors and defects as experience should have brought to light—That by proceeding in this train, we should have a prospect at length of obtaining as perfect a system of federal government, as the nature of things would admit. On the other hand, if we, contrary to the purpose for which we were intrusted, considering ourselves as master—builders, too proud to amend our original government, should demolish it entirely, and erect a new system of our own, a short time might shew the new system as defective as the old, perhaps more so—Should a convention be found necessary again, if the members thereof acting upon the same principles, instead of amending and correcting its defects, should demolish that entirely, and bring forward a third system, that also might soon be found no better than either of the former, and thus we might always remain young in government, and always suffering the inconveniences of an incorrect, imperfect system.
But, Sir, the favourers of monarchy, and those who wished the total abolition of State governments, well knowing that a government founded on truly federal principles, the basis of which were the Thirteen State governments, preserved in full force and energy, would be destructive of their views; and knowing they were too weak in numbers, openly to bring forward their system, conscious also that the people of America would reject it if proposed to them, joined their interest with that party, who wished a system, giving particular States the power and influence over the others, procuring in return mutual sacrifices from them, in giving the government great and undefined powers as to its legislative and executive, well knowing that by departing from a federal system, they paved the way for their favourite object, the destruction of the State governments, and the introduction of monarchy—And hence, Mr. Speaker, I apprehend, in a great measure, arose the objections of those honorable members Mr. Mason and Mr. Gerry. In every thing that tended to give the large States power over the smaller, the first of those gentlemen could not forget he belonged to the ancient dominion, nor could the latter forget that he represented Old Massachusetts; that part of the system which tended to give those States power over the others, met with their perfect approbation; but when they viewed it charged with such powers as would destroy all State governments, their own as well as the rest—when they saw a president so constituted as to differ from a monarch, scarcely but in name, and having it in his power to become such in reality when he pleased; they being republicans and federalists as far as an attachment to their own States would permit them, they warmly and zealously opposed those parts of the system. From these different sentiments, and from this combination of interest, I apprehend, Sir, proceeded the fate of what was called the jersey resolutions, and the report made by the committee of the whole house.
The jersey propositions being thus rejected, the convention took up those reported by the committee, and proceeded to debate them by paragraphs —It was now that they who disapproved the report found it necessary to make a warm and decided opposition, which took place upon the discussion of the seventh resolution, which related to the inequality of representation in the first branch.—Those who advocated this inequality, urged, that when the articles of confederation were formed, it was only from necessity and expediency that the States were admitted each to have an equal vote; but that our situation was now altered, and therefore those States who considered it contrary to their interest, would no longer abide by it. They said no State ought to wish to have influence in government, except in proportion to what it contributes to it; that if it contributes but little, it ought to have but a small vote; that taxation and representation ought always to go together; that if one State had sixteen times as many inhabitants as another, or was sixteen times as wealthy, it ought to have sixteen times as many votes; that an inhabitant of Pennsylvania ought to have as much weight and consequence as an inhabitant of Jersey or Delaware; that it was contrary to the feelings of the human mind—what the large States would never submit to; that the large States would have great objects in view, in which they would never permit the smaller States to thwart them; that equality of suffrage was the rotten part of the constitution, and that this was a happy time to get clear of it. In fine, that it was the poison which contaminated our whole system, and the source of all the evils we experienced.
This, Sir, is the substance of the arguments, if arguments they can be called, which were used in favour of inequality of suffrage.—Those, who advocated the equality of suffrage, took the matter up on the original principles of government—They urged that all men considered in a state of nature, before any government formed, are equally free and independent, no one having any right or authority to exercise power over another, and this without any regard to difference in personal strength, understanding, or wealth—That when such individuals enter into government, they have each a right to an equal voice in its first formation, and afterwards have each a right to an equal vote in every matter which relates to their government—That if it could be done conveniently, they have a right to exercise it in person—Where it cannot be done in person but for convenience, representatives are appointed to act for them, every person has a right to an equal vote in choosing that representative who is entrusted to do for the whole, that which the whole, if they could assemble, might do in person, and in the transacting of which each would have an equal voice—That if we were to admit, because a man was more wise, more strong, or more wealthy, he should be entitled to more votes than another, it would be inconsistent with the freedom and liberty of that other, and would reduce him to slavery—Suppose, for instance, ten individuals in a state of nature, about to enter into government, nine of whom are equally wise, equally strong, and equally wealthy, the tenth is ten times as wise, ten times as strong or ten times as rich; if for this reason he is to have ten votes for each vote of either of the others, the nine might as well have no vote at all, since though the whole nine might assent to a measure, yet the vote of the tenth would countervail, and set aside all their votes—If this tenth approved of what they wished to adopt, it would be well, but if he disapproved, he could prevent it, and in the same manner he could carry into execution any measure he wished contrary to the opinion of all the others, he having ten votes, and the other all together but nine—It is evident, that on these principles, the nine would have no will nor discretion of their own, but must be totally dependent on the will and discretion of the tenth, to him they would be as absolutely slaves as any negro is to his master.—If he did not attempt to carry into execution any measures injurious to the other nine, it could only be said that they had a good master, they would not be the less slaves, because they would be totally dependent on the will of another, and not on their own will—They might not feel their chains, but they would notwithstanding wear them, and whenever their master pleased he might draw them so tight as to gall them to the bone. Hence it was urged the inequality of representation, or giving to one man more votes than another on account of his wealth, &c. was altogether inconsistent with the principles of liberty, and in the same proportion as it should be adopted, in favour of one or more, in that proportion are the others inslaved—It was urged that though every individual should have an equal voice in the government, yet, even then superiour wealth, strength or understanding, would give great and undue advantages to those who possessed them. That wealth attracts respect and attention; superior strength would cause the weaker and more feeble to be cautious how they offended, and to put up with small injuries rather than to engage in an unequal contest—In like manner superior understanding would give its possessor many opportunities of profiting at the expence of the more ignorant.—Having thus established these principles with respect to the rights of individuals in a state of nature, and what is due to each on entering into government, principles established by every writer on liberty, they proceeded to shew that States, when once formed, are considered with respect to each other as individuals in a state of nature—That, like individuals, each State is considered equally free and equally independent, the one having no right to exercise authority over the other, though more strong, more wealthy, or abounding with more inhabitants—That when a number of States unite themselves under a federal government, the same principles apply to them as when a number of individual men unite themselves under a State government—That every argument which shews one man ought not to have more votes than another, because he is wiser, stronger or wealthier, proves that one State ought not to have more votes than another, because it is stronger, richer, or more populous—And that by giving one State, or one or two States more votes than the others, the others thereby are enslaved to such State or States, having the greater number of votes, in the same manner as in the case before put of individuals where one has more votes than the others—That the reason why each individual man in forming a State government should have an equal vote is, because each individual before he enters into government is equally free and independent—So each State, when States enter into a federal government, are entitled to an equal vote, because before they entered into such federal government, each State was equally free and equally independent—That adequate rep—resentation of men formed into a State government, consists in each man having an equal voice either personally, or if by representatives, that he should have an equal voice in choosing the representative—So adequate representation of States in a federal government, consists in each State having an equal voice either in person or by its representative in every thing which relates to the federal government—That this adequacy of representation is more important in a federal, than in a State government, because the members of a State government, the district of which is not very large, have generally such a common interest, that laws can scarcely be made by one part oppressive to the others, without their suffering in common; but the different States composing an extensive federal empire, widely distant, one from the other, may have interests so totally distinct, that the one part might be greatly benefited by what would be destructive to the other.
They were not satisfied by resting it on principles; they also appealed to history—They shewed that in the amphyctionic confederation of the Grecian cities, each city however different in wealth, strength, and other circumstances, sent the same number of deputies, and had each an equal voice in every thing that related to the common concerns of Greece. It was shewn that in the seven provinces of the United Netherlands, and the confederated Cantons of Switzerland, each Canton and each province have an equal vote, although there are as great distinctions of wealth, strength, population, and extent of territory among those provinces and those Cantons, as among these States. It was said, that the maxim that taxation and representation ought to go together, was true so far, that no person ought to be taxed who is not represented, but not in the extent insisted upon, .to wit, that the quantum of taxation and representation ought to be the same; on the contrary, the quantum of representation depends upon the quantum of freedom, and therefore all, whether individual States, or individual men, who are equally free, have a right to equal representation—That to those who insist that he who pays the greatest share of taxes, ought to have the greatest number of votes; it is a sufficient answer to say, that this rule would be destructive of the liberty of the others, and would render them slaves to the more rich and wealthy—That if one man pays more taxes than another, it is because he has more wealth to be protected by government, and he receives greater benefits from the government—So if one State pays more to the federal government, it is because as a State, she enjoys greater blessings from it; she has more wealth protected by it, or a greater number of inhabitants, whose rights are secured, and who share its advantages.
(To be continued. )
(a) These will be inserted in some future number, with some remarks on them.