Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1

[Volume 2, Page 248]

Document 1

Records of the Federal Convention

[2:239; Madison, 9 Aug.]

Art. VI. sect. 1. taken up.

[Article VI, Sect. 1. "The times and places and manner of holding the elections of the members of each House shall be prescribed by the Legislature of each State; but their provisions concerning them may, at any time, be altered by the Legislature of the United States."]

Mr. Madison -- & Mr. Govr. Morris moved to strike out "each House" & to insert "the House of Representatives"; the right of the Legislatures to regulate the times & places &c. in the election of Senators being involved in the right of appointing them, which was disagreed to.

Division of the question being called, it was taken on the first part down to "but their provisions concerning &c"

The first part was agreed to nem. con.

Mr. Pinkney & Mr. Rutlidge moved to strike out the remaining part viz "but their provisions concerning them may at any time be "altered by the Legislature of the United States." The States they contended could & must be relied on in such cases.

Mr Ghorum. It would be as improper take this power from the Natl. Legislature, as to Restrain the British Parliament from regulating the circumstances of elections, leaving this business to the Counties themselves--

Mr Madison. The necessity of a Genl. Govt. supposes that the State Legislatures will sometimes fail or refuse to consult the common interest at the expense of their local conveniency or prejudices. The policy of referring the appointment of the House of Representatives to the people and not to the Legislatures of the States, supposes that the result will be somewhat influenced by the mode, This view of the question seems to decide that the Legislatures of the States ought not to have the uncontrouled right of regulating the times places & manner of holding elections. These were words of great latitude. It was impossible to foresee all the abuses that might be made of the discretionary power. Whether the electors should vote by ballot or vivâ voce, should assemble at this place or that place; should be divided into districts or all meet at one place, shd all vote for all the representatives; or all in a district vote for a number allotted to the district; these & many other points would depend on the Legislatures. and might materially affect the appointments. Whenever the State [Volume 2, Page 249] Legislatures had a favorite measure to carry, they would take care so to mould their regulations as to favor the candidates they wished to succeed. Besides, the inequality of the Representation in the Legislatures of particular States, would produce a like inequality in their representation in the Natl. Legislature, as it was presumable that the Counties having the power in the former case would secure it to themselves in the latter. What danger could there be in giving a controuling power to the Natl. Legislature? Of whom was it to consist? 1. of a Senate to be chosen by the State Legislatures. If the latter therefore could be trusted, their representatives could not be dangerous. 2. of Representatives elected by the same people who elect the State Legislatures; surely then if confidence is due to the latter, it must be due to the former. It seemed as improper in principle--though it might be less inconvenient in practice, to give to the State Legislatures this great authority over the election of the Representatives of the people in the Genl. Legislature, as it would be to give to the latter a like power over the election of their Representatives in the State Legislatures.

Mr. King. If this power be not given to the Natl. Legislature, their right of judging of the returns of their members may be frustrated. No probability has been suggested of its being abused by them. Altho this scheme of erecting the Genl. Govt. on the authority of the State Legislatures has been fatal to the federal establishment, it would seem as if many gentlemen, still foster the dangerous idea.

Mr. Govr. Morris--observed that the States might make false returns and then make no provisions for new elections

Mr. Sherman did not know but it might be best to retain the clause, though he had himself sufficient confidence in the State Legislatures. The motion of Mr. P. & Mr. R. did not prevail

The word "respectively" was inserted after the word "State"

On the motion of Mr Read the word "their" was struck out, & "regulations in such cases" inserted in place of "provisions concerning them". the clause then reading--"but regulations, in each of the foregoing cases may at any time, be made or altered by the Legislature of the U. S. This was meant to give the Natl. Legislature a power not only to alter the provisions of the States, but to make regulations in case the States should fail or refuse altogether.

Art. VI. Sect. 1--as thus amended was agreed to nem. con.


The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1, Document 1
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.

© 1987 by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2000