[Volume 1, Page 358]
CHAPTER 12|Document 3
John Adams, Notes on Debates in Congress5--6 Sept. 1774Diary 2:123--26
Mr. Duane then moved that a Committee should be appointed, to prepare Regulations for this Congress. Several Gentlemen objected. I then arose and asked Leave of the President to request of the Gentleman from New York, an Explanation, and that he would point out some particular Regulations which he had in his Mind. He mentioned particularly the Method of voting--whether it should be by Colonies, or by the Poll, or by Interests.
Mr. Henry then arose, and said this was the first general Congress which had ever happened--that no former Congress could be a Precedent--that We should have occasion for more general Congresses, and therefore that a precedent ought to be established now. That it would be great Injustice, if a little Colony should have the same Weight in the Councils of America, as a great one, and therefore he was for a Committee.
Major Sullivan observed that a little Colony had its All at Stake as well as a great one.
This is a Question of great Importance.--If We vote by Colonies, this Method will be liable to great Inequality and Injustice, for 5 small Colonies, with 100,000 People in each may outvote 4 large ones, each of which has 500,000 Inhabitants. If We vote by the Poll, some Colonies have more than their Proportion of Members, and others have less. If We vote by Interests, it will be attended with insuperable Difficulties, to ascertain the true Importance of each Colony.--Is the Weight of a Colony to be ascertained by the Number of Inhabitants merely--or by the Amount of their Trade, the Quantity of their Exports and Imports, or by any compound Ratio of both. This will lead us into such a Field of Controversy as will greatly perplex us. Besides I question whether it is possible to ascertain, at this Time, the Numbers of our People or the Value of our Trade. It will not do in such a Case, to take each other's Words. It ought to be ascertained by authentic Evidence, from Records.
. . . . .
Mr. Henry. Government is dissolved. Fleets and Armies and the present State of Things shew that Government is dissolved.--Where are your Land Marks? your Boundaries of Colonies.
We are in a State of Nature, Sir. I did propose that a Scale should be laid down. That Part of N. America which was once Mass. Bay, and that Part which was once Virginia, ought to be considered as having a Weight. Will not People complain, 10,000 Virginians have not outweighed 1000 others.
I will submit however. I am determined to submit if I am overruled.
A worthy Gentleman (Ego) near me, seemed to admit the Necessity of obtaining a more Adequate Representation.
I hope future Ages will quote our Proceedings with Applause. It is one of the great Duties of the democratical Part of the Constitution to keep itself pure. It is known in my Province, that some other Colonies are not so numerous or rich as they are. I am for giving all the Satisfaction in my Power.
The Distinctions between Virginians, Pensylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders, are no more.
I am not a Virginian, but an American.
Slaves are to be thrown out of the Question, and if the freemen can be represented according to their Numbers I am satisfyed.
Mr. Lynch. I differ in one Point from the Gentleman from Virginia, that is in thinking that Numbers only ought to determine the Weight of Colonies. I think that Property ought to be considered, and that it ought to be a compound of Numbers and Property, that should determine the Weight of the Colonies.
I think it cannot be now settled.
Mr. Rutledge. We have no legal Authority and Obedience to our Determinations will only follow the reasonableness, the apparent Utility, and Necessity of the Measures We adopt. We have no coercive or legislative Authority. Our Constituents are bound only in Honour, to observe our Determinations.
Govr. Ward. There are a great Number of Counties in Virginia, very unequal in Point of Wealth and Numbers, yet each has a Right to send 2 Members.
Mr. Lee. But one Reason, which prevails with me, and that is that we are not at this Time provided with proper Materials. I am afraid We are not.
Mr. Gadsden. I cant see any Way of voting but by Colonies.
Coll. Bland. I agree with the Gentleman (Ego) who spoke near me, that We are not at present provided with Materials to ascertain the Importance of each Colony. The Question is whether the Rights and Liberties of America shall be contended for, or given up to arbitrary Power.
Mr. Pendleton. If the Committee should find themselves unable to ascertain the Weight of the Colonies, by their [Volume 1, Page 359] Numbers and Property, they will report this, and this will lay the Foundation for the Congress to take some other Steps to procure Evidence of Numbers and Property at some future Time.
Mr. Henry. I agree that authentic Accounts cannot be had--if by Authenticity is meant, attestations of officers of the Crown.
I go upon the Supposition, that Government is at an End. All Distinctions are thrown down. All America is all thrown into one Mass. We must aim at the Minutiae of Rectitude.
Mr. Jay. Could I suppose, that We came to frame an American Constitution, instead of indeavouring to correct the faults in an old one--I cant yet think that all Government is at an End. The Measure of arbitrary Power is not full, and I think it must run over, before We undertake to frame a new Constitution.
To the Virtue, Spirit, and Abilities of Virginia We owe much--I should always therefore from Inclination as well as Justice, be for giving Virginia its full Weight.
I am not clear that We ought not to be bound by a Majority tho ever so small, but I only mentioned it, as a Matter of Danger, worthy of Consideration.
Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Edited by L. H. Butterfield et al. 4 vols. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1961.
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