Article 5

Document 3

Charles Pinckney, Observations on the Plan of Government

1787Farrand 3:120--21

The 16th article proposes to declare, that if it should hereafter appear necessary to the United States to recommend the Grant of any additional Powers, that the assent of a given number of the States shall be sufficient to invest them and bind the Union as fully as if they had been confirmed by the Legislatures of all the States. The principles of this, and the article which provides for the future alteration of the Constitution by its being first agreed to in Congress, and ratified by a certain proportion of the Legislatures, are precisely the same; they both go to destroy that unanimity which upon these occasions the present System has unfortunately made necessary--the propriety of this alteration has been so frequently suggested, that I shall only observe that it is to this unanimous consent, the depressed situation of the Union is undoubtedly owing. Had the measures recommended by Congress and assented to, some of them by eleven and others by twelve of the States, been carried into execution, how different would have been the complexion of Public Affairs? To this weak, this absurd part of the Government, may all our distresses be fairly attributed.

If the States were equal in size and importance, a majority of the Legislatures might be sufficient for the grant of any new Powers; but disproportioned as they are and must continue for a time; a larger number may now in prudence be required--but I trust no Government will ever again be adopted in this Country, whose Alteration cannot be effected but by the assent of all its Members. The hazardous situation the United Netherlands are frequently placed in on this account, as well as our own mortifying experience, are sufficient to warn us from a danger which has already nearly proved fatal. It is difficult to form a Government so perfect as to render alterations unnecessary; we must expect and provide for them:--But difficult as the forming a perfect Government would be, it is scarcely more so, than to induce Thirteen separate Legislatures, to think and act alike upon one subject--the alterations that nine think necessary, ought not to be impeded by four--a minority so inconsiderable should be obliged to yield. Upon this principle the present articles are formed, and are in my judgment so obviously proper, that I think it unnecessary to remark farther upon them.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 5, Document 3
The University of Chicago Press

Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1937.

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