Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3

Document 9

Luther Martin, Genuine Information

1788Storing 2.4.14--15, 16, 28--34, 45

You have heard, Sir, the resolutions which were brought forward by the honourable member from Virginia; let me call the attention of this House to the conduct of Virginia, when our confederation was entered into--that State then proposed, and obstinately contended, contrary to the sense of, and unsupported by the other States, for an inequality of suffrage founded on numbers, or some such scale, which should give her, and certain other States, influence in the Union over the rest; pursuant to that spirit which then characterized her, and uniform in her conduct, the very second resolve, is calculated expressly for that purpose to give her a representation proportioned to her numbers, as if the want of that was the principle defect in our original system, and this alteration the great means of remedying the evils we had experienced under our present government.

The object of Virginia, and other large States, to encrease their power and influence over the others, did not escape observation: the subject, however, was discussed with great coolness in the committee of the whole House (for the convention had resolved itself into a committee of the whole to deliberate upon the propositions delivered in by the honourable member from Virginia). Hopes were formed, that the farther we proceeded in the examination of the resolutions, the better the House might be satisfied of the impropriety of adopting them, and that they would finally be rejected by a majority of the committee; if on the contrary, a majority should report in their favour, it was considered, that it would not preclude the members from bringing forward and submitting any other system to the consideration of the convention; and accordingly, while those resolves were the subject of discussion in the committee of the whole House, a number of the members who disapproved them, were preparing another system, such as they thought more conducive to the happiness and welfare of the States--The propositions originally submitted to the convention having been debated, and undergone a variety of alterations in the course of our proceedings, the committee of the whole House by a small majority agreed to a report, which I am happy, Sir, to have in my power to lay before you; it was as follows:

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7. That the right of suffrage in the first branch of the national legislature, ought not to be according to the rule established in the articles of confederation, but according to some equitable rate of representation, namely, in proportion to the whole number of white, and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three-fifths of all other persons, not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians not paying taxes in each State.

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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 not 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 may 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 altogether 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, etc. 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 an equal voice in the government, yet, even the superior 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 representation 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 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 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; 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.

It was urged, that upon these principles the Pennsylvanian, or inhabitant of a large State, was of as much consequence as the inhabitant of Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or any other State--That his consequence was to be decided by his situation in his own State; that if he was there as free, if he had as great share in the forming of his own government, and in the making and executing its laws, as the inhabitants of those other States, then was he equally important and of equal consequence--Suppose a confederation of States had never been adopted, but every State had remained absolutely in its independent situation, no person could with propriety, say that the citizen of the large State was not as important as the citizen of the smaller, the confederation of the States cannot alter the case. It was said, that in all transactions between State and State, the freedom, independence, importance and consequence, even the individuality of each citizen of the different States, might with propriety be said to be swallowed up, or concentrated in the independence, the freedom and the individuality of the State of which they are citizens--That the Thirteen States are thirteen distinct political individual existences as to each other; that the federal government is or ought to be a government over these thirteen political individual existences, which form the members of that government; and that as the largest State is only a single individual of this government, it ought to have only one vote; the smallest State also being one individual member of this government, ought also to have one vote--To those who urged that the States have equal suffrage, was contrary to the feelings of the human heart, it was answered, that it was admitted to be contrary to the feelings of pride and ambition; but those were feelings which ought not to be gratified at the expence of freedom.

It was urged, that the position that great States would have great objects in view, in which they would not suffer the less states to thwart them, was one of the strongest reasons why inequality of representation ought not to be admitted. If those great objects were not inconsistent with the interest of the less States, they would readily concur in them, but if they were inconsistent with the interest of a majority of the States composing the government, in that case two or three States ought not to have it in their power to aggrandize themselves at the expence of all the rest--To those who alledged that equality of suffrage in our federal government, was the poisonous source from which all our misfortunes flowed, it was answered, that the allegation was not founded in fact--That equality of suffrage had never been complained of by the States as a defect in our federal system--That among the eminent writers, foreigners and others, who had treated of the defects of our confederation, and proposed alterations, none had proposed an alteration in this part of the system: And members of the convention both in and out of Congress, who advocated the equality of suffrage, called upon their opponents both in and out of Congress, and challenged them to produce one single instance where a bad measure had been adopted, or a good measure had failed of adoption in consequence of the States having an equal vote; on the contrary, they urged, that all our evils flowed from the want of power in the federal head, and that let the right of suffrage in the States be altered in any manner whatever, if no greater powers were given to the government, the same inconveniences would continue.

It was denied that the equality of suffrage was originally agreed to on principles of necessity or expediency, on the contrary, that it was adopted on the principles of the rights of men and the rights of States which were then well known, and which then influenced our conduct although now they seem to be forgotten--For this the journals of Congress were appealed to; it was from them shewn, that when the Committee of Congress reported to that body the articles of confederation, the very first article which became the subject of discussion, was that respecting equality of suffrage--That Virginia proposed divers modes of suffrage, all on the principle of inequality, which were almost unanimously rejected; that on the question for adopting the article, it passed, Virginia being the only State which voted in the negative--That after the articles of confederation were submitted to the States by them to be ratified, almost every State proposed certain amendment, which they instructed their delegates to endeavour to obtain before ratification, and that among all the amendments proposed, not one State, not even Virginia, proposed an amendment of that article, securing the equality of suffrage--the most convincing proof it was agreed to and adopted, not from necessity, but upon a full conviction, that according to the principles of free government, the States had a right to that equality of suffrage.

But, Sir, it was to no purpose that the futility of their objections were shewn--when driven from the pretence that the equality of suffrage had been originally agreed to on principles of expediency and necessity, the representatives of the large States persisting in a declaration, that they would never agree to admit the smaller States to an equality of suffrage--In answer to this, they were informed, and informed in terms the most strong and energetic that could possibly be used, that we never would agree to a system giving them the undue influence and superiority they proposed--That we would risque every possible consequence--That from anarchy and confusion order might arise--That slavery was the worst that could ensue, and we considered the system proposed to be the most complete, most abject system of slavery that the wit of man ever devised, under the pretence of forming a government for free States--That we never would submit tamely and servilely to a present certain evil in dread of a future, which might be imaginary; that we were sensible the eyes of our country and the world were upon us--That we would not labour under the imputation of being unwilling to form a strong and energetic federal government; but we would publish the system which we approved, and also that which we opposed, and leave it to our country and the world at large to judge between us, who best understood the rights of free men and free States, and who best advocated them; and to the same tribunal we would submit, who ought to be answerable for all the consequences which might arise to the union from the convention breaking up, without proposing any system to their constituents.--During this debate we were threatened, that if we did not agree to the system proposed, we never should have an opportunity of meeting in convention to deliberate on another, and this was frequently urged--In answer, we called upon them to shew what was to prevent it, and from what quarter was our danger to proceed; was it from a foreign enemy? Our distance from Europe, and the political situation of that country, left us but little to fear: Was there any ambitious State or States, who in violation of every sacred obligation was preparing to enslave the other States, and raise itself to consequence on the ruin of the others? Or was there any such ambitious individual? We did not apprehend it to be the case: but suppose it to be true, it rendered it the more necessary that we should sacredly guard against a system which might enable all those ambitious views to be carried into effect, even under the sanction of the constitution and government: In fine, Sir, all these threats were treated with contempt, and they were told that we apprehended but one reason to prevent the States meeting again in convention; that when they discovered the part this convention had acted, and how much its members were abusing the trust reposed in them, the States would never trust another convention. At length, Sir, after every argument had been exhausted by the advocates of equality of representation, the question was called, when a majority decided in favour of the inequality--Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina and Georgia voting for it--Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, and Delaware against it; Maryland divided. It may be thought surprising, Sir, that Georgia, a State now small and comparatively trifling in the union, should advocate this system of unequal representation, giving up her present equality in the federal government, and sinking herself almost to total insignificance in the scale; but, Sir, it must be considered that Georgia has the most extensive territory in the union, being larger than the whole island of Great-Britain, and thirty times as large as Connecticut. This system being designed to preserve to the States their whole territory unbroken, and to prevent the erection of new States within the territory of any of them: Georgia looked forward when her population, being increased in some measure proportioned to her territory, she should rise in the scale and give law to the other States, and hence we found the delegation of Georgia warmly advocating the proposition of giving the States unequal representation.

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With respect to that part of the second section of the first article, which relates to the apportionment of representation and direct taxation, there were considerable objections made to it, besides the great objection of inequality--It was urged, that no principle could justify taking slaves into computation in apportioning the number of representatives a State should have in the government--That it involved the absurdity of increasing the power of a State in making laws for free men in proportion as that State violated the rights of freedom--That it might be proper to take slaves into consideration, when taxes were to be apportioned, because it had a tendency to discourage slavery; but to take them into account in giving representation tended to encourage the slave trade, and to make it the interest of the States to continue that infamous traffic--That slaves could not be taken into account as men, or citizens, because they were not admitted to the rights of citizens, in the States which adopted or continued slavery--If they were to be taken into account as property, it was asked, what peculiar circumstance should render this property (of all others the most odious in its nature) entitled to the high privilege of conferring consequence and power in the government to its possessors, rather than any other property: and why slaves should, as property be taken into account rather than horses, cattle, mules, or any other species; and it was observed by an honourable member from Massachusetts, that he considered it as dishonourable and humiliating to enter into compact with the slaves of the southern States, as it would with the horses and mules of the eastern. It was also objected, that the numbers of representatives appointed by this section to be sent by the particular States to compose the first legislature, were not precisely agreeable to the rule of representation adopted by this system, and that the numbers in this section are artfully lessened for the large States, while the smaller States have their full proportion in order to prevent the undue influence which the large States will have in the government from being too apparent; and I think, Mr. Speaker, that this objection is well founded. I have taken some pains to obtain information of the number of free men and slaves in the different States, and I have reason to believe, that if the estimate was now taken, which is directed, and one delegate to be sent for every thirty thousand inhabitants, that Virginia would have at least twelve delegates, Massachusetts eleven, and Pennsylvania ten, instead of the number stated in this section; where the other States, I believe, would not have more than the number there allowed them, nor would Georgia, most probably at present, send more than two--If I am right, Mr. Speaker, upon the enumeration being made, and the representation being apportioned according to the rule prescribed, the whole number of delegates would be seventy-one, thirty-six of which would be a quorum to do business; the delegates of Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, would amount to thirty-three of that quorum--Those three States will, therefore, have much more than equal power and influence in making the laws and regulations, which are to affect this continent, and will have a moral certainty of preventing any laws or regulations which they disapprove, although they might be thought ever so necessary by a great majority of the States--It was further objected, that even if the States who had most inhabitants ought to have a greater number of delegates, yet the number of delegates ought not to be in exact proportion to the number of inhabitants, because the influence and power of those States whose delegates are numerous, will be greater when compared to the influence and power of the other States, than the proportion which the numbers of their delegates bear to each other; as for instance, though Delaware has one delegate, and Virginia but ten, yet Virginia has more than ten times as much power and influence in the government as Delaware; to prove this, it was observed, that Virginia would have a much greater chance to carry any measure than any number of States, whose delegates were altogether ten (suppose the States of Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode-Island, and New-Hampshire) since the ten delegates from Virginia in every thing that related to the interest of that State would act in union, and move one solid and compact body, whereas the delegates of these four States, though collectively equal in number to those from Virginia, coming from different States, having different interests, will be less likely to harmonize and move in concert. As a further proof it was said, that Virginia, as the system is now reported, by uniting with her the delegates of four other States, can carry a question against the sense and interest of eight States by sixty-four different combinations; the four States voting with Virgina, being every time so far different as not to be composed of the same four; whereas the State of Delaware can only, by uniting four other States with her, carry a measure against the sense of eight States by two different combinations--a mathematical proof that the State of Virginia has thirty-two times greater chance of carrying a measure against the sense of eight States than Delaware, although Virginia has only ten times as many delegates: It was also shewn, that the idea was totally fallacious which was attempted to be maintained, that if a State had one thirteenth part of the numbers composing the delegation in this system, such State would have as much influence as under the articles of confederation; to prove the fallacy of this idea it was shewn, that under the articles of confederation the State of Maryland had but one vote in thirteen, yet no measure could be carried against her interests without seven States, a majority of the whole concurring in it; whereas in this system, though Maryland has six votes, which is more than the proportion of one in thirteen, yet five States may, in a variety of combinations, carry a question against her interest, tho' seven other States concur with her, and six States by a much greater number of combinations, may carry a measure against Maryland, united with six other States. I shall here, Sir, just observe, that as the committee of detail reported the system, the delegates from the different States were to be one for every forty thousand inhabitants; it was afterwards altered to one for every thirty thousand; this alteration was made after I left the convention, at the instance of whom I know not, but it is evident, that the alteration is in favour of the States which have large and extensive territory, to increase their power and influence in the government, and to the injury of the smaller States--Since it is the States of extensive territory, who will most speedily increase the number of their inhabitants as before has been observed, and will therefore, most speedily procure an increase to the number of their delegates--By this alteration Virginia, North-Carolina, or Georgia, by obtaining one hundred and twenty thousand additional inhabitants, will be entitled to four additional delegates, whereas such State would only have been entitled to three, if forty thousand had remained the number by which to apportion the delegation. As to that part of this section that relates to direct taxation, there was also an objection for the following reasons, it was said that a large sum of money was to be brought into the national treasury by the duties on commerce, which would be almost wholly paid by the commercial States, it would be unequal and unjust that the sum which was necessary to be raised by direct taxation should be apportioned equally upon all the States, obliging the commercial States to pay as large a share of the revenue arising therefrom, as the States from whom no revenue had been drawn by imposts; since the wealth and industry of the inhabitants of the commercial States will in the first place be severely taxed through their commerce, and afterwards be equally taxed with the industry and wealth of the inhabitants of the other States, who have paid no part of that revenue, so that by this provision, the inhabitants of the commercial States are in this system obliged to bear an unreasonable and disproportionate share in the expences of the union, and the payment of that foreign and domestic debt, which was incurred not more for the benefit of the commercial than of the other States.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3, Document 9
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

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