CHAPTER 7 | Document 8

Records of the Federal Convention

[1:323; Madison, 19 June]

Mr. King, wished as everything depended on this proposition, that no objections might be improperly indulged agst. the phraseology of it. He conceived that the import of the terms "States" "Sovereignty" "national" "federal," had been often used & applied in the discussion inaccurately & delusively. The States were not "sovereigns" in the sense contended for by some. They did not possess the peculiar features of sovereignty. They could not make war, nor peace, nor alliances, nor treaties. Considering them as political Beings, they were dumb, for they could not speak to any forign Sovereign whatever. They were deaf, for they could not hear any propositions from such Sovereign. They had not even the organs or faculties of defence or offence, for they could not of themselves raise troops, or equip vessels, for war. On the other side, if the Union of the States comprises the idea of a confederation, it comprises that also of consolidation. A Union of the States is a union of the men composing them, from whence a national character results to the whole. Congs. can act alone without the States--they can act & their acts will be binding agst. the Instructions of the States. If they declare war, war is de jure declared, captures made in pursuance of it are lawful. No acts of the States can vary the situation, or prevent the judicial consequences. If the States therefore retained some portion of their sovereignty, they had certainly divested themselves of essential portions of it. If they formed a confederacy in some respects--they formed a Nation in others. The Convention could clearly deliberate on & propose any alterations that Congs. could have done under ye. federal articles. and could not Congs. propose by virtue of the last article, a change in any article whatever: And as well that relating to the equality of suffrage, as any other. He made these remarks to obviate some scruples which had been expressed. He doubted much the practicability of annihilating the States; but thought that much of their power ought to be taken from them.

Mr. Martin, said he considered that the separation from G. B. placed the 13 States in a state of nature towards each other; that they would have remained in that state till this time, but for the confederation; that they entered into the confederation on the footing of equality; that they met now to to amend it on the same footing, and that he could never accede to a plan that would introduce an inequality and lay 10 States at the mercy of Va. Massts. and Penna.

Mr. Wilson, could not admit the doctrine that when the Colonies became independent of G. Britain, they became independent also of each other. He read the declaration of Independence, observing thereon that the United Colonies were declared to be free & independent States; and inferring that they were independent, not Individually but Unitedly and that they were confederated as they were independent, States.

Col. Hamilton, assented to the doctrine of Mr. Wilson. He denied the doctrine that the States were thrown into a State of nature He was not yet prepared to admit the doctrine that the Confederacy, could be dissolved by partial infractions of it. He admitted that the States met now on an equal footing but could see no inference from that against concerting a change of the system in this particular. He took this occasion of observing for the purpose of appeesing the fears of the small States, that two circumstances would render them secure under a national Govt. in which they might lose the equality of rank they now hold: one was the local situation of the 3 largest States Virga. Masts. & Pa. They were separated from each other by distance of place, and equally so by all the peculiarities which distinguish the interests of one State from those of another. No combination therefore could be dreaded. In the second place, as there was a gradation in the States from Va. the largest down to Delaware the smallest, it would always happen that ambitious combinations among a few States might & wd. be counteracted by defensive combinations of greater extent among the rest. No combination has been seen among large Counties merely as such, agst. lesser Counties. The more close the Union of the States, and the more compleat the authority of the whole; the less opportunity will be allowed the stronger States to injure the weaker.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 7, Document 8
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.

Easy to print version.